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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teachng about Invitations

The weather this week has been quite nice and I have spent most days walking with my friend Zhang Ju (Allie) who is leaving at the end of this month to live with her husband in a neighboring city, since they are having a baby. It is quite common in China for husbands and wives to live in different cities. This is the case for many teachers in my college, because it’s difficult to find decent jobs in the same city. So in the spirit of her leaving, and because she finds walking relieves her pregnancy nausea, we have been walking in the afternoons and enjoying the beautiful spring weather and flowers. It is quite amazing. I had no idea that weather affected my mood so much. I guess in Florida where it is warmer and sunnier than in China I didn’t notice.
This week I have been teaching my lower-level students about inviting—how to make an invitation and to accept and refuse the invitation. I started class by asking the question, ‘If you could invite any 4 people (dead, alive, famous, not famous or even not real) who would you invite and why? I invited Harry Potter. My students invited: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Premier Wen Jiabao, President Obama (because he is so handsome, many say), President Hu Jintao, some famous Chinese singers and actors, their best friend, their parents and siblings, and two invited me! Next I discussed with the students some structures for giving an invitation. They were: ‘would you like to…; are you busy…; what are you doing…; do you want to…with me? and a few others. In a few classes when I was giving hypothetical examples, such as ‘Would you like to eat dinner with me?’ the entire class would answer ‘yes!’ which always threw me off a bit (and make me laugh). In one class, though, it was particularly amusing and well, rather awkward. They, like other classes, answered my hypothetical examples. When I asked ‘are you busy…’ they said yes. I decided to go with it since they seemed rather lively and talkative today, which isn’t always the case, so I asked ‘oh, why are you busy? What are you doing?’ One student trying to be funny replied ‘sleeping.’ This is a favorite answer amongst Chinese students. If you ask them what their hobbies are, they will likely include sleeping in the list. Years of hard work in grade school has left them exhausted in college. Anyways, I then went on to the next structure and asked “what are you doing for the holiday?” they all answered ‘sleeping’ this time. I responded that it seems they all like sleeping very much, which resounded in a round of giggles. Then the next structure is where it gets interesting. I started to say ‘do you want to…with me’ and this student, trying to be funny, said ‘sleep!’ my face turned crimson and I quickly said you cannot say that. This is when it becomes awkward. I realized that they didn’t know what was wrong with that…um…invitation, so I wrote xingjiao (the Chinese word for sex) on the board. There was a moment of silence while the students figured out the pinyin (the roman characterization of Chinese since I cannot write in Hanzi—Chinese characters) followed by gasps and giggles. As strange as that moment was, it made my day.
So, on Monday this week I had two visitors which was very exciting since that doesn’t happen often (Jiangyou is a bit out of the way). Two other Peace Corps volunteers, Angel and Gareth, stopped by just for the day. Gareth volunteers in Chongqing but she is doing a special teacher-training program and just teaches winters and summers when teachers aren’t in class. She uses the time in-between, when the rest of us teach, to help the Peace Corps with things and manages different programs. She had been visiting other volunteers to work out some of these programs—including a “Green English Curriculum” which was started by volunteers a few years ago, but is being revamped and enhanced by Gareth and Erin (another volunteer in Chongqing). It is a curriculum that focuses on the environment while at the same time furthering English language ability. A few other volunteers have been helping with edits and adding low-level and icebreaker activities (including me). Other volunteers have been working with a resource account where volunteers can post their golden lessons and activities for other volunteers to see. We are trying hard to not ‘reinvent the wheel’ but it seems to have taken China 14 and 15 volunteers for this to come about and we China 16s are furthering the idea. In a few years we hope that future volunteers can spend most of their time on developing relationships and secondary projects, instead of lesson planning.
Getting back to Gareth and Angel, Gareth was visiting Angel about some Peace Corps project and they decided to stop by on Monday since Angel didn’t have class. It was great. They watched my 11 am class and gave me wonderful feedback and advice, which I used later that day. Then as we were heading to lunch we ran into Teacher Wang who insisted we eat in the Teachers’ Dining Room, which I do everyday and it is free. Since Gareth and Angel aren’t teachers at the school, I insisted it was not appropriate and we would eat outside of the school. But he insisted harder and we all went inside. He joined us, as did Zhang Ju. They were all so excited to meet these other foreigners, and kept asking me later in the week when they might return and whether other friends of mine might visit. Gareth and Angel said they felt so welcome, which is one reason why I really like the school I teach at.
I must apologize that this is short, but the weather is much too nice for me to sit inside this Saturday and write a blog. Happy Easter!

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