Monday Janice, Mark, and I hosted a Halloween party at my house for some students and teachers and it was so much fun. It was the first time any of them had celebrated the holiday and it was fun to watch their reactions to the games and festivities. The evening started with Mark scaring the girls as they came to my house. The students entered my darkened apartment to the sounds of Michael Jackson’s Thriller to help set the mood. Once all of the students had arrived everyone introduced their costumes in a “fashion show.” Two students were dead people, one a children’s talk show host, another a rabbit, a witch, a rich person, and a student. Janice was a butterfly holding Charlie as a puppy. Mark was a TV star and I was Li Bai the poet. I started the evening carrying a cheap bottle of baijiu until it slipped from my belt and shattered on the floor filling my apartment with the stench of strong liquor. Why the alcohol? Because Li Bai was known to be a drunk. Mark and I chose a winner of the costume contest (the witch) and her prize was…instant noodles.
Next we played ‘pin-the-nose on the pumpkin’ which was my variation of ‘pin-the-tail on the donkey.’ This game caused an eruption of stifled giggles as the students meandered all over my apartment blindfolded. Following this fun activity we bowled. I had partially filled bottles of water at one end of my apartment and using Mark’s soccer ball the students attempted to bowl. Then came the real fun. Trick-or-treating. Janice and I sought some teachers that lived on campus to hand out candy (Kerry, Vivi, and Media). We taught the girls the trick-or-treat song “Trick-or-Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat” which they chanted at each door. The teachers had just as much laughter and joy as the girls, with Kerry choosing to scare them and Media handing out some fruit that she bought. The last apartment was Mark and Janice’s (Mark detoured the trick-or-treating and went home to hand out candy) and then we headed back to my place with the teachers to have the second half of the party.
For the second half I read everyone an Arthur book on Halloween so that they could better understand the holiday. Then we had a piñata so nicely made into a pumpkin by Janice. She made it extra strong so that everyone was sure to have a few swings at it. During the party there were plenty of snacks of peanuts, sunflower seeds (two must-haves at all Chinese parties), pumpkin seeds, oranges (which I drew faces on), cookies (one homemade by Janice and which resembled fingers), dried fruit, bananas, lollipops made to look like ghosts, coke, juice, and the favorite of Mark, Janice and me…hot apple cider! It wasn’t the greatest cider—just apple juice and cinnamon but it tasted great to us.
After the piñata was destroyed I brought out the bell peppers. For what? Why for carving, of course. It is rather difficult to find pumpkins like we have in China. They have pumpkins, but they look different and aren’t good for carving. It would also be a bit expensive to buy multiple whole ones. Instead I got a bell pepper for everyone to carve. The teachers were appalled that I was wasting perfectly good peppers, so I told them that they could take them home and cook with them if they preferred which many of them did. The students made really nice carved peppers and Janice had tea candles for them to put in them and we turned the lights out and it was a beautiful site. Be sure to check out the pictures at Windows Live.
We finished the evening by me telling a story in which they had to touch weird items but I said it was body parts. They found it rather strange but after a bit they got into it. I added the story to the end of this blog entry and the items I used. When the party was over the students helped to pick up the trash and Janice stayed to help a bit more since the next day the Peace Corps doctor was coming to visit and would be coming to my apartment!
Dr. Gao came by around noon Tuesday to see me. First my apartment, which was clean. But it turns out that she was mainly looking to see that I kept my medicine in a clean, dry area. Check! That my water filter was working. Check! That my fire/CO2 alarm was in a proper location. Bu hao! (not good). I had to move it to a different location. Then she proceeded to ask me some questions to gauge my physical and mental well-being. I seemed to have checked out there, too. One question she asked was “on a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your happiness level in Jiangyou. 1 is depressed, 10 is content.” I said 9. Later she said she was surprised how happy I am here. I’m not sure what that means.
When we finished the questioning and viewing the apartment section of the visit we met Kerry and Eliam to have lunch downtown courtesy of the college. I thought it was going to be a little lunch, but no. It was a really nice lunch with tons of delicious food. We had some time to kill before the tour of the Jiangyou People’s Hospital so we drove around Jiangyou and I saw places I had yet to see. The tour was boring for everyone but Dr.Gao. Basically she got a layout of the facilities and determined whether it met basic standards. If there is anything seriously wrong with me I will go to Chengdu, but for emergencies or lab tests I will go to the hospital in Jiangyou—let’s hope I never do, though.
Other things this week…there was this student that kept texting me constantly (how she got my number I do not know) and her English was atrocious. I got that she wanted me to help her and her friends with their English, so I said fine meet me at my office. They met me and I took them to my apartment to look at some English books. I had them read a Berenstein Bear book which they struggled through and then they borrowed some English books with Chinese translation in it. At one point I was wondering what was wrong with these students that were extremely hyper and fidgety. One question found me my answer: “How old are you?” “we are 15” well that explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain how the 15 year old middle school students that go to this college got my phone number. Oh wait, I gave it to them! Nevermind.
So this week and next week are midterms for my two sophomore classes. They are all so nervous! I have been getting texts and messages on QQ since I gave them the rubric last week. The first class mostly did well. A few did terribly but I am going to give them a makeup of sorts in which I ask them a some questions and they answer and if they can then I will increase the grade some. Because I believe the students were just very nervous or didn’t understand the directions. The rest of the class ranged from 70-100 with most students earning around 80. They were asked to speak with a partner about a trip they will go in the future. They must ask and answer questions, use at least two idioms correctly, and cover the topics discussed in class (transportation, packing, reservations, directions, different meals, and restaurants). The second half of the semester for the sophomores will cover the theme of fun (sports, TV, computers, parties, holidays, music and movies). I have yet to decide on a final. The freshmen will only get through the travel theme and their final will be the midterm of the sophomores.
And we had the second English corner this week. The student-leaders chose topics from this book that I borrowed from the Peace Corps library called Conversation Inspirations. They chose three topics: 1. what is an ideal age to get married. (Answers were around 25-30, as soon as possible, and I don’t want to get married); 2. What is the best way to discipline a child (answers were across-the-board on this from beat them to well I will treat my child like a friend with respect and discuss the mistake with them); and 3. What was your favorite toy as a child (most of them were in Chinese so not sure. One girl said she only had one toy. And many said they like bears or wished they had a bear). The time in English corner certainly gives me a chance to learn more about my students and China.
Also this week a student stopped by the office and asked me how she should interview for a job. She was seeking a part-time job teaching English at a preschool. I said she should mention how she will teach the kids. She then asked how she should teach them. I suggested making it very engaging and to sing songs. She said she didn’t know any English children’s songs, so of course right there in the office I taught her some. I taught her “head shoulders knees and toes,” 2 different five little monkeys songs and the hokey pokey. What was funny to me was that during this time not one teacher looked up from his/her desk while I was singing and dancing in the office with this student. It made me smile. I figured that they either didn’t notice or what was more likely that they have grown accustomed to the strange new foreign teacher (me) and decided this was just one more odd thing I decided to do. But I didn’t realize the students didn’t know any children’s songs in English, so I think I will have a lecture on it before the end of the semester since all of my students are preschool and primary school teachers-to-be. So if you have any suggestions of songs I can teach the students please send me an email. I would love to hear what some of your favorite songs were from childhood—namely those that teach something.
Finally, I am now the proud owner of a washing machine! Well I don’t own it, the school does, but it is in my apartment and I can now was my clothes and sheets in it for the next two years which is very exciting. That is just one more thing I can check from my list. I imagine it will take me the entire first year to get my house set up. The next thing to do is figure out the heater in my bedroom which I will try to accomplish this weekend.