So this past week had some interesting things occur—well, interesting to me. First it was a week of huai le (broken) like my water purifier and fire/CO2 detector (I’m more concerned with the latter). Sunday I was carelessly peeling an apple with a knife (because I either peel fruit and vegetables, boil them, or scrub them with soap—for an apple I think peeling is the best way to go). Well I sliced my finger and blood started going everywhere. I quickly ran to get my handy-dandy Peace Corps Medical kit and let it explode all over my bed in an effort to find something to constrict the blood flow. Two bandages and medical tape later I felt good about blood not being able to seep through. It actually was not a bad cut, but the next day I took the bandages off and it was still bleeding. I sent the medical office a casual email inquiring about stitches in the hopes that they wouldn’t get concerned and call me. Of course they are good doctors and nurses and so I received a call. It did not require stitches like I thought, but I have come to take a little extra care here since I do not want anything weird to happen to me in China. And I certainly never want to have to go to a hospital here if I can help it.
Then this week I have been sick with a head cold. I had some interesting cure suggestions from my students and fellow teachers, including drink something hot, wear more clothes and the general take care. I guess there isn’t as much advice for colds as, let’s say pregnancy. Janice told me all the interesting advice and care her students and fellow teachers took with regards to her pregnancy last year. One, her fridge was full of eggs. All of her students brought her eggs since, supposedly, she should eat a lot of eggs during her pregnancy. They also gave her lots of sugar. Whenever she went out her students would never let her carry anything and would say what she should and shouldn’t eat for the health of her baby. After she had her son they gave her different foods that she should eat after having a baby to bring good health and return of a good body. Very interesting. I am glad that I will not have to deal with that here. I don’t know what Janice did with all of those eggs!
So I am not sure how much of this has made it over to Western news sources, but there have been some extra bad feelings with regards to Japan over here. As you all know the relations between China and Japan are not good. Recently, though, there have been some territorial disputes between the two countries. In response to this there have been some student protests/demonstrations in Chengdu and Mianyang. Students have been in marching the streets and they destroyed a store that sold Japanese products smashed anything that is from a Japanese company (like Toyota, Nikon, etc.) and got into a few brawls with police leaving several injured. The demonstrations have been more pronounced in Chengdu than Mianyang, but my school was concerned the students might do something they shouldn’t, so they put it in lockdown. The students have not been allowed to leave the school all week. This past weekend we had classes so the students were forced to remain on campus. But every student I’ve talked with has no intention of demonstrating. Many are irritated by Japan, but they were not considering doing anything to anger the police. And one student I talked with was seeing it my way in that these students aren’t hurting Japan, but are hurting Chinese people by destroying their shops and belongings. The excitement of it has already died down, at least over here (not sure about Chengdu).
This week I was able to visit the primary school with Vivi and it was a whole different world than the preschool. It looked like my high school. There was no playground. It was five stories and enclosed. We watched one first grade class that took place in a lecture hall. The students were engaged during their math lesson but it was just so different than a western first grade class. Plus there were maybe 50 kids in the class. We did chat with some first grade students who were very energetic and quite willing to engage us in conversation. Vivi asked them what time the school day ended and they could not come to a consensus, though they’d been in school for about two months. Some said 4:30, another 4:40, and still a third said 5. It just made us laugh.
Another day I received a package from home which was really exciting! My parents sent me some books for students, hot chocolate and chili packets for the approaching cold weather, videos about preschool in the US for Vivi and a dog calendar for Kerry. Kerry loves dogs! When I gave him the calendar he was so excited and started showing everyone in the office the pictures. It was so funny.
Besides giving a gift and receiving some from my lovely parents, I received some meat this week. Yes, meat. One of my students went to Mianyang to visit her mother in the hospital and brought me back a bag of cooked meat that is apparently special for Mianyang. I also received some dried meat from Media after her trip to her family’s home in a different province when she went to honor her father in the one year anniversary of his passing.
One thing that was rather interesting when I met up with Media was something she told me about the teacher standards in China with regards to health. She was on her way to get some medical tests done in order to obtain her teaching certificate. What kinds of medical tests I wanted to know. Blood tests, chest x-rays, no facial or physical abnormalities, and no diseases. These are some of the guidelines for teaching in China.
Speaking of teaching in China, there is a student who has attached herself to me. Her name is Xu Fanya and she messages and calls me, I think, everyday. I see her almost every time that I step foot from my apartment. Her English is very poor I am afraid to say, but she is motivated to improve. She is also very sweet and I often go walking with her so she can practice her English with me. One evening as we were walking another student who I do not know says Hello Katie. I ask her if she wants to join us, which she does. This student’s name is Jane and her English is very good. More than this, she is actually an interesting person who pays attention to the news and is informed and curious (she asked me what the difference was between using no more vs. not more and I had no idea—any ideas back home?) I really enjoyed chatting with Jane and we have made plans to play badminton one day soon. Is it bad that I prefer to hang out with some students over others? I never turn down a student that wants to talk with me, but I enjoy my time with some more than others. I think that’s only human.
On a similar note about teaching I also had my second Chinese tutoring lesson. We covered more about food, but Eliam left some books and I copied all of the vocabulary I didn’t know so that I could study later. I mostly prefer to study vocabulary alone, but I seek Eliam’s assistance in pronunciation and correct sentence structure. Hopefully in the coming weeks we can speak more Chinese and practice my listening and speaking.
Later this week Janice and I had the first English Corner. Since it was the first one we led it instead of the student leaders. There were maybe 50 students that came, but we are expecting these numbers to multiply in the coming weeks. Since it was the first meeting and we were interested in getting students interested in returning we simply played some icebreaker games. First, as students were coming we played telephone, which was hilarious. I made the first sentence intentionally long (the red balloon floated over the purple elephant on the green grass). It ended completely wrong. Then we had the students introduce themselves. Later since there were more students we split into two groups and played again. This time I chose a student to make the sentence. The sentence, which was wrong at the end but not by too much, was ‘he’s just not that into you’ because the student had recently seen the movie. The next activity we paired the students and they had to talk about themselves until they found three things in common with each other (and they were not allowed to use obvious things like we are both from Sichuan—where 99% of the English students are from). The last activity was “I am going on a picnic” in which we were again in two groups and each person had to say what they were bringing to a picnic that started with the first letter of their name (i.e. my name is Katie and I am bringing a kite). The next student must say the name and item of the people before her. So the last person must say every persons name and item. This last one was a bit difficult for some and Janice and I could see some of the better English speakers (like Vienna and Jane) getting annoyed with some of the students whose English was not as proficient, which if they are to become teachers they need to learn how to deal with.
During English Corner there was a small earthquake (maybe 4. something), but I missed it! I mean that I didn’t feel the earth shake. I was too preoccupied with what I was instructing the students, but Jane had stopped me to say there was an earthquake. At first I didn’t believe her but then I saw students pouring out of their dorm, so I knew it was true. I wonder how often earthquakes occur in Sichuan. I just hope there is no repeat of the 2008 earthquake that happened in Sichuan. This reminds me of when I had dinner with a student of mine this week named Monica and she was talking about the year 2012. Many Chinese students believe that the world will end at that time because of this movie. Monica said she was 50/50 about it. I said I didn’t care.
Other than English Corner we have also set up an English library in my apartment. Janice and Mark had all of these books in their apartment from their organization and they were in desperate need of space. Their organization agreed that they could donate the books, but we found out that it is very inconvenient for students to borrow books from the library. The desire was for students to be able to read English books at their own pace and to be able to take them as they wanted, so that is where my apartment came in. My office space is now a makeshift library for students and teachers to come and borrow books. The library is divided into fiction, nonfiction, magazines, English help, teaching resources, music (for piano practice), and movies/games. As I am writing this three teachers and a student came by to have a look and they all left with at least one book. I have no limits on how many books the students/teachers can take, but I ask them to leave their name, number, book title and date they checked out the book. They can keep the book until the end of the semester and must return it then. The library will be open Fridays 1:30-4:30, but if there is another time the student/teacher wants to come by they can just call ahead to be sure that I am home. I think this will be a good thing.
And the last thing to occur was that Vivi had never seen American money until I showed her some. I happened to have a one, five, ten, twenty, quarter, and dime. Strangely enough I had no pennies. I let Vivi keep a dollar and a quarter, and I also showed her the other contents in my wallet—the most intriguing to her being my library card. It turns out that there are no public libraries in China. Vivi was shocked that we are able to borrow books for free in America. She was also surprised when I said that there were really no limits to how many or how long one could borrow a book. She said it makes her all the more interested in visiting America in the future. But I think that eventually China will adopt the public library concept. Maybe. All I know is that my life and childhood would have been drastically different without public libraries.