Since I can no longer post new posts here without using my friend’s computer, I have moved to tumblr. However, my computer blue screened and started beeping at me several hours ago so bear with me, again.
First off, the proxy on my computer is broken. So I’m writing from my friend’s computer and crossing my fingers that I can get a new proxy because I currently cannot get into my gmail account or my wordpress account on my computer! So if you are trying to talk to me via gmail, my apologies for never answering! Also, I wrote the following post before my proxy died, so a LOT more has happened since the following post:
I did not go to Suzhou last weekend. My three day weekend was spent as follows:
First we had a teachers’ banquet (at which I ate little to nothing because it was dish after dish of seafood and odd stuff…the green beans came out and we got all excited because green beans are pretty basic, but then even those were crazy tasting). Still, the banquet was nice because we got to meet some of the other teachers from our school, both international, Korean, American and Chinese.
After said banquet we went out:
Eventually we went to the best place for dancing. It’s called 八八酒吧bābā jiǔbā, “88 Bar”, and it’s fairly big so you don’t feel like you’re dancing elbow to elbow with everyone. Unfortunately, I think I danced a bit too hard, because my foot was hurting by the end of the night. It hurt enough that I didn’t want to go to Suzhou because I knew we would be walking around everywhere. Fortunately, we also made new friends that night (more on that later).
Sunday Morning Doctor’s Visit
I needed to get my foot x-rayed anyhow because I was actually supposed to be able to take my boot off this week, so going to the hospital was inevitable regardless. Our friend Ken who kind of takes care of everything for us here was nice enough to take me to the hospital. It was a process!
- First you had to wait in a line to tell a person in a booth which type of doctor you needed and pay that person.
- Then we went to wait in line at the bone doctors’ room where one of the doctors took a look at my foot (there were two doctors in the room and about a gazillion people too), wrote down a few things and sent us to go to another booth where you paid for x-rays.
- Then you go to a whole separate building, waiting in another line to get x-rayed, then sit and wait an hour for the x-rays to develop. This was actually not so bad though because Ken and I traded English and Chinese. X-ray is X-光guāng (guāng means light), and Ken’s favorite new word was tornado (he adorably kept saying it over and over again in the taxi on the way back).
- After an hour, they handed you a bag with your x-ray in it and you headed back to the first doctor in the other building to look at it. Fortunately he just said that I needed to wear my boot for another month and a half and use my foot less.
My doctor from home had given me a cd of my past x-rays too, and I was happy to see that when I compared my last one from home with this new one, that the fracture really has filled in. It’s clearly not fully healed, but at least it doesn’t look worse even though it hurts!
Learning to Make 饺子 jiǎozi with Ken
So Ken invited me over to his house to learn how to make jiǎozi (even though I felt like I should be the one treating him to lunch seeing as he spent the whole morning at the hospital with me! But he insisted, so I brought him a T-Shirt from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que). He had asked what I like/don’t like to eat, and I told him that I don’t like seafood 海鲜 hǎixiān. When he picked me up, he was carrying a bag of shrimp and asked if I like shrimp. I gave him a puzzled look and said hesitantly that I had told him that I don’t like seafood…he responded by saying that shrimp are river food. Aiya! 6 stories up in Ken’s apartment, Ken handed his girlfriend the bag of shrimp and she put them in the sink. At which point I realized that they were actually still alive because they started hopping so high that two of them actually escaped the sink!
Sitting on tiny little benches at a low table, Ken started rolling out the jiǎozi dough into flat little circles and showed me how to fold in the ingredients. We made some 35 jiǎozi, there was the bowl of shrimp (which I ate two of out of politeness, even though I hate shrimp and especially dislike eating things whose little eyes and feet I have to rip off in order to consume) and this really really delicious Korean dish which was basically little strips of pork cooked on a flat open grill thing (read: bacon) that you stuck in a lettuce leaf with a sliver of garlic and rolled up…probably the best thing ever.
It was fun because the food was fun, but also because Ken can speak English pretty well but his girlfriend can’t. So it was nice to talk to them because I could use Chinese and listen to Chinese, but if I got hung up on a question, Ken could help me out! It was also fun because they had music playing, and Chinese people love random acts of singing. It happened the last time I was in China too; people just aren’t embarrassed to bust out singing, any place, any time. No one gives you a weird look or anything and I love it.
Part II to come. But in closing, I totally bought a pint of yoghurt yesterday by accident. I meant to grab milk, but they’re both in a blue carton, the second Chinese character in milk and yoghurt is the same, and I can’t honestly remember yoghurt ever coming in a giant carton in the states. So you can imagine my surprise when yoghurt poured out over my cereal this morning. Granted, it was vanilla yoghurt and egg and milk puffy star cereal so the combination was not so bad, but still…surprising.
Also, I bought a drink today that had the following ingredients: Water, Fermented Milk, Sugar, High fructose corn syrup, Apple juice concentrate, food additives and food flavor. The characters on the front of said drink mentioned the words lactic acid germ, drink and life. Who knows.
- Soooo, happy Teachers’ Day: today I had to take a box of live snails away from one of my students.
- In response to “write an entry about three things you like about yourself”, one of my Korean students said the following: “I like my toes because they are cute. They have hair growing out of them like insect antennae.” It’s amazing the things that they can articulate when just the other day he was trying to figure out how to describe a hippo to me and said that it was a giant rodent that runs through the jungle…
- Oh and also, my younger Korean boy totally calls Elephants “ele-pants”, I keep correcting his pronunciation, but secretly wish every child called them that ’cause it’s super adorable
Things are a bit better and a bit worse. I have now met all of my students/classes from both schools. In total, I teach 21 classes. 2 at the Korean school every day but Friday, and 3 different classes each day at the Chinese school. Added to my list of names are: Magic, QQ (I actually have two QQs) and Honey (a boy). Just in terms of generally cool names that aren’t super popular in the states, I also have a Benson, a Rex and Felix. Oh and Racr answered when I said “Racer” today so, well, so that…Here is the breakdown of the most popular names from my classes:
- 10 Erics
- 9 Lilys
- 8 Tonys
- 7 Marys and 7 Lucys
- 5 Jackies, 5 Candys, 5 Wendys and 5 Cicis
- 4 Julies, 4 Julias, 4 Robins, 4 Cindys, 4 Cherrys and 4 Leos
- 3 Sunnys
- 2 Bruces, 2 Kittys, 2 Gretas and 2 Angels
On the whole, all of my 4th grade classes have been fairly good, even the worst one. But the second and third graders seem to be a mixed bag. Today I had a perfectly lovely second grade class, yesterday I had a perfectly miserable one.
And I mean, second graders are still second graders…in my “perfectly lovely class”, one boy kept crawling under his chair to wear it as a hat, even when I swapped it out for a smaller stool, one boy kept trying to kiss the girl sitting next to him, and another had a pen explode in his mouth and also managed to get ink all over his friend’s face as well. So I mean, lovely has become relative.
There also seems to be a huge range of understanding between the classes. Almost all of my 4th grade classes are at about the same level, but my third and second graders keep surprising me with what they know or don’t know. It makes it hard to come up with lessons because you’re really not sure what’s going to work until you start teaching it. So you pretty much have to have a million different things prepared and hope that enough of them work to fill 40 minutes.
Sadly, I made my first kid cry today. Whenever kids start playing with something at their desk, I might give them one warning if they put it away immediately, but usually I will just take whatever they were playing with. Well this kid had a whole pile of origami that he kept pulling out, and finally I took all of it. He immediately burst into tears, then promptly began to ignore me and moments later was back to making mischievous faces so I didn’t feel sooo bad.
My Korean kids are kind of hilarious.
- What kind of animal would you be if you could pick one? “Cat, I love this animal because cat is very cute and lovely. But she doesn’t love me so I’m sad.”
- Who would you like to meet if you could meet anyone? “Angelina Jolie, She’s big lips and powerful body. I love her but she love Pitt. I’m sad.” and “Lady Gaga, she’s fashionable and a few crazy. Her face very special.”
- What would you bring with you on vacation? “Girlfriend, very very useful. When I bored she will talk with me.” and the other one said “Girlfriend, She is very lovely, I love her. I will marrie my girlfriend but I don’t have girlfriend so I’m sad.”
If only they weren’t sad after everything they write! They also when I asked their favorite seasons today said “I’m Fallman and he’s coolboy” sooo now I can never uninvision them as superheroes.
To end on, my roomie friend Ashley likes to play tennis and wanted to join the club down the road from us but they never called her back. So tonight I walked over to the club and played with her until these two sisters came and I asked the one to fill in for me. It was really fun because they were both Ashley and the one sister were pretty good at tennis and they played under the lights with bats flyin around and whatnot, pretty cool! Also cool because I got to speak some Chinese with the other sister (Named Rainbow)!
Aaaand of course, some photos:
Just to start things off because I feel like I’m going to die from severe franticness, I currently have 28 bug bites. 8 of which literally just happened in the last ten minutes. Most of which are on my leg. See picture number one.
With that out of the way, back to Shanghai. Aside from taking more Chinese classes and getting lectures on what to expect when teaching English (most of which has not actually been the case!), we also went to the Shanghai Museum which was pretty awesome. My favorite exhibits were the seals, the minority clothing and the calligraphy.
We also went to Old City and on a cruise where we could see Shanghai at night best. And finally, the Chinese acrobats show, where we sat in the first two rows. I “lucked” out and ended up first row, dead center. Which was awesome except for when they wrapped their arms in long ribbons hanging from the ceiling and swung out into the audience…I don’t think I’ve ever ducked lower in my life.
The last few pictures are from around Zhangjiagang. I realllly like it here. It’s a lot bigger than I expected, but still pretty quiet and smallish. I would just really appreciate for the bikes, motorbikes and cars to STAY OFF the sidewalk! I almost got run over a few times today because they don’t always honk to warn you!
A closing comment: I may or may not have eaten five slices of processed cheese last night. I was craving cheese and browsing the snack section of the corner store not really expecting to find anything cheese flavored when lo and behold: sandwich cheese. And while the food we’ve had here has by no means been lacking, when you have a craving and aren’t really expecting it to be fulfilled, processed cheese suddenly tastes like extra sharp cheddar.
What better sentence to start describing my teaching experience in China than the following:
Today is Saturday and we have class. Yes! Class was cancelled today! (I wrote this post this morning, got to class this afternoon only to find out they only had class for the high schoolers instead) Oh and also to add to that, they didn’t tell us that we would have class until last night. Hilariously the girl who told us had known for three days but “didn’t want to make our day sad”…so she waited till the absolutely last minute to tell us. We very politely told her to please let us know right away in the future (she took us to an awesome Cantonese restaurant last night [it had tea that literally tasted like Grape Nuts!] and then to get our nails done though so we couldn’t really be mad at her).
Us getting our nails done:
Anyhow, back to classes:
I’m a little bummed out that a lot of the kids have been laughing at my boot….granted, it does look rather ridiculous, especially since I have worn a dress every day so far, but even after I explain that I broke my foot in both Chinese and English, they still point and laugh. Hooray for elementary teasing.
Sadly I do not have any students named Skywalker. At orientation, one of the teachers who was giving us lectures said that he had one with that name and it was probably the best I’d heard. So far the most interesting names I have in my classes are:
- Power, which was interesting since he was one of the bossiest in the class
- Claoten…really….I can’t even guess where he got that…Maybe Clayton? But he and everyone around him even pronounced it like Clow-ten and spelled it Claoten
- Dabby, were they maybe going for Dobby from Harry Potter? Or maybe Debby?
- I also have a Rooky, I even spelled out Rookie and Rockie to see if that’s what he meant, but no, he meant Rooky…
- One of my older Korean students also changed his name to Victory (he was initially Sam)
- The final puzzler was Racr, which both she and everyone around her kept pronouncing like “rice” but that she insisted was spelled Racr and even when I asked her in Chinese she said it wasn’t rice…Baffling…
- Oh and also Stone…and one of the other English teachers said she had a Stone in her class as well. Naturally.
So my first day of classes were as follows:
- Korean school: 2 students age 10 and 11. I had to give them English names and gave them a list to pick from…they picked Josh and Nancy…and then practically stopped speaking for the rest of the class. Very cute, very polite, but so very shy and it was hard to tell whether they couldn’t understand what I was saying or if they could, but were just too shy or didn’t know how to answer.
- Korean school: 2 students, both 16. They are probably my favorite class because their English is the best and I didn’t have to struggle getting them to speak as much. Still very shy, but they told me all of their hobbies, who they like to listen to (Lady Gaga and Beyonce: “Their music if very special”), what they like to watch (Prison Break is super super popular here), where they would like to go in the world (Thailand and the Grand Canyon) and a bunch of other things (one of them loves Mila Jovovich, the other likes female vampires). When I asked if they wanted to know anything about me, they asked if I was married, if I liked jogging (“It’s good if you’re fat”), and if I liked makeup (I really didn’t have a lot of makeup on, but I did have a frilly dress on…when I asked him why he thought I might like makeup he said because I was pretty though so I was far less offended after that)
- Chinese school: 34 fourth graders. AHH! It was hard to come up with lesson plans because they didn’t tell us the ages or levels of English we had until the day before and even then, nothing can really prepare you for 34 Chinese elementary school kids. This class was pretttty disciplined and fairly good at English, but it was hard going from teaching just two students to 34. Think: having some activities planned and then watching as each one explodes in your face because either their understanding is not high enough, the activity takes too long with that many kids for their attention span to be held or else it’s an activity where you want to go around the classroom and talk to each kid but either the other half of the class comes over to your side of the room to talk for whatever kid you’re talking to, or they just explode with noise on their side of the room so that you couldn’t hear who you’re talking to if you tried.
- Chinese school: 26 third graders. This class was the best of the three I had at the Chinese school the first day, maybe because there were a few less kids, or because I had the class before them as prep, but either way, they were quieter and more helpful than the other classes.
- Chinese school: 34 second graders. Heavens. By the end of the class I was practically shouting over them. It was kind of like being in a younger Irish dance hardshoe class when they’re all pounding on the floor with their shoes at the same cacophonous time, except that they didn’t stop making noise when you told them to. Clapping rhythms seemed to quiet them the most completely, but the silence would always literally last for about 30 seconds before I was shout-talking again. I threatened to tell their teacher about a gazillion times but they seemed rather unfazed by it. One of the other English teachers in my group said she literally ended up going and getting their Chinese teacher in the middle of class though and that the minute the Chinese teacher walked in, they were dead silent. This will be a challenge.
I only see the students at the Chinese school once a week and the Korean students we see every day, so that makes it a little easier. I’m excited though, and actually had a lot of fun even though it was a bit rough!
My second day was farrrrr better. Probably because I had a better idea of what NOT to do and it also helped that I didn’t have any second graders. My last class of fourth graders was by far the most fluent and most well behaved. I have been writing a mark up on the board for every time a class won’t quiet down (with the threat of telling their regular teacher if they get too many marks), and all of the classes got at least 5 marks but my last class only got one!
Also, for whatever reason, maybe I was just noticing because they were the calmest so I had a clear enough head to notice, but this seemed to be the most diverse looking class. One little guy actually was the first I’d seen with really curly hair and freckles and how cute is this: his name is seriously Lucky. So adorable.
I really am having a good time and think I’m going to like teaching a lot. One of the harder things with the littler classes is actually for me not to speak Chinese. I’ve actually made up a rule in my head that I am allowed to talk to them in Chinese before and after their classes start because it’s so hard to tell them to use English when I’m totally loving being able to understand them discuss everything and help each other in Chinese! I even had a dream last night where I thought the kids had woke me up because I had a late class and were all standing in my room speaking to me in Chinese…it was kind of annoying because I seriously thought they were there and just wanted to sleep, but interesting too.
To end on, I had one of the classes make name tags (then promptly ran out of paper), here is one little guy’s:
The first night we went to a Sichuanese restaurant, read: HOT 辣là。 Like, make your lips fall off hot. Here are some pictures of some of the less fiery ones:
The Sichuanese restaurant also included a performer who changed masks at lightning speed:
And here’s my roomie and I outside the Sichuan restaurant:
We also ate at a vegetarian restaurant that did a fantastic job of making everything taste like meat:
And finally, in the Old City we had the following:
I feel like I’ve been eating a huge amount of food, but when I actually think about it, it has been more that we have been eating for longer periods of time than I’m used to, but not really huge portions of scum food. Over a two and a half hour dinner, I usually end up drinking some 18 cups of tea and eating a handful each of green beans, asparagus and cucumbers, a few pieces of various kinds of meat in various kinds of sauces, a dumpling (Shanghai is known for their 小笼包 xiǎo lóng bāo, which are soup dumplings that you nibble a corner off of, suck out the soup and then eat, super super delicious), three little slices of watermelon, some sort of doughy or glutinous bread roll type thing that usually has a hint of sweet or a hint of meat in it, two pieces of scrambled eggs and usually an attempt at one choose your own adventure type dish (I confess that I haven’t been super adventurous past the yak meat…but it’s hard when you truly hate seafood).
They actually had French fries at breakfast this morning and I had to cave and get some and ended up getting more because they were some sincerely sensational fries. They weren’t soggy, they were lightly salted and honestly besides loving fries in the first place, it was nice to have something that didn’t have sauce on it for once. We stopped at a truck stop on our way to ZJG, and while it was some seriously classy food compared to truck stops back home, it waaas a bit cold and all kind of in a lot of water…
One of the English teachers here that we live with taught here last year and showed us this little Uighur restaurant literally a 3 second walk off of campus that has a huge variety of really good food for about a dollar each dish. I would imagine we’ll be eating there very very frequently.
To end on, here is a link to one of my roommate’s blogs, she has a video of what our rooms look like as well so definitely check it out!