Tag Archives: China

English Teacher in China : Days 4-6

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

Chinese School:

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:

I got a raid plug-in. This is a pile of dead bugs. I am less itchy.

Giant "smoothie" from the school cafe

I forgot to add this script from the Shanghai Museum and it's beautiful so I had to add it now!


Food Highlights

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:

Course one

Yin Yang dish

This was actually full of chicken

Eaten with some regret because the yaks we rode last time I was here were so beautiful...turns out they are also incredibly tasty!

The Sichuanese restaurant also included a performer who changed masks at lightning speed:



If you look closely, you can see the back of the mask changer, he walked out into the restaurant

No Mask...but within like a half a second

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:

Fish at the vegetarian restaurant

And finally, in the Old City we had the following:

The alley smelled like horse manure outside this restaurant and so did this soup

Corn flakes and popcorn...we wondered why

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!

Random post of Random

Orientation week was monster busy so the following post includes some random thoughts I wrote down throughout the week…I’m now in Zhangjiagang so I have lots to report on that as well, but for now, here is a week full of thoughts:

Sooo China.  Hello!  Let’s start with the airport terminal in Chicago and how silly I felt when I had pictured in my head that I would be on the plane with mostly non-Chinese people…why I made that assumption, I’ve no idea, but it was certainly not the case, and it was kind of nice because it gave me my first taste of being surrounded with the language before even leaving the country.

The flight actually felt quite short to me minus one very long minute when I half woke up in whatever REM cycle it is where you’re kind of paralyzed and freaked out in my head a little bit because my half-dream state had me thinking I really was paralyzed, that the plane was going down and that, well, that really wasn’t a good thing.  Otherwise the flight was good and I even watched an adorable movie set in China/in Chinese.

I brought the most stuff of everyone in my group….I was already embarrassed by my one massive suitcase but was hoping I would see others with the same…not the case.  Everyone else who I met at the airport in our program had less luggage.  Oh well…on a fun note, walking out of customs you kind of felt like you were famous or something because you walk down a roped off path lined with people holding signs, I’ve never had a sign held for me at an airport before!

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon/night sleeping and then woke up at 4am, went for a walk with my roomie around 6 and then had breakfast at 7 (this has not happened since…now we wake up at 7:30).  I had forgotten how many flavors I missed from my last visit to China!  However I will post a “first week of food in China” entry later with pics of food and more about restaurants.

So there are about 40 participants from our program, four of us going to Zhangjiagang and about six who are staying in Shanghai…one poor girl is going to the middle of nowhere by herself and she doesn’t know any Chinese…as you can imagine, we’re all tryin to be extra nice and helpful to her…

And oh right, it’s monster hot here.  It doesn’t help that it was all lovely and cool in New York just before I got here, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s  never typically this horribly humid there.  I am actually looking forward to the wet and cold winter at this point just as a reprieve from my hair fluffing up into a giant fro and my face melting off.  However, I have been hearing more and more from people here that it snows very little and that it doesn’t even get much colder until the end of October!

So here’s something great, my Chinese is 80 times better than last time I came to China!  Last time I could read about 25% of the characters on signs around the cities, but now I recognize about 60% and can figure out another 10% from context.  I’m still complete rubbish at tones but these are actually better than last I was here as well.

I currently have a habit of formulating sentences in Chinese in my head to say to people and then find that either I end up standing mute or English comes out of my mouth instead.  Frustrating, but it’s getting better.  My roommate in Shanghai has helped because we’re about the same level of Chinese and so I’m really comfortable talking to her.  She’s a bit better at actually putting words to sentences in the presence of Chinese people, I’m better at characters and vocab.  So we make a pretty good team when trying to talk to anyone.

I am best at Chinese when I am isolated from everyone in our group and confronted with a stranger actually.  I think it’s because I know I don’t have the crutch of some of the others in the group and I’m less nervous because this stranger doesn’t have any expectations of how well my Chinese should be.  We had our physical exam today and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to communicate with each of the doctors (we had to see literally six different doctors who all did different things, including an ultrasound…)

I will try to make less scattered posts in the future, but I’m trying to make up for the past week without overwhelming everyone by jumping back and forth!

I will leave with a picture of our house here in Zhangjiagang:

Excitement for this, nerves for that

Things that I’m getting excited about:  

Fruit!  If it’s anything like my experience in Xi’an, then I’m really excited to get fresh fruit on the sidewalk…especially pears!  I got a huge chunk of watermelon on my way home from class one day in Xi’an and it was probably the most amazing night ever

Karaoke!  We only did this once when I went to China last time, but I loved it (I honestly think my hip was bruised the next morning from whacking a tambourine against it) and fully plan on going any time that I am asked this year

The Movies!  We also only went once when I was last there (we saw Pirates of the Caribbean!) but it was kind of a cool theater, and I actually love watching anything with subtitles

Tea!  I drink tea everyday all day now anyway, but only when I remember to make it…I’m excited to automatically have it at every restaurant I go to!

Ok so little to no one is probably going to be excited with me on this one, but public squat toilets!  Haha kidding, but only sort of because, yes they are usually smellier and the idea seems gross, BUT, picture going to a public restroom in a big city, do you sit right down on that toilet seat or do you attempt to hover because you’re grossed out by how many people have been in this bathroom in the last hour alone?  Chances are, you probably hover, and I have to be honest, if I’m hovering anyhow, it’s a whole lot easier to hover over a massive hole in the ground than an actual toilet…I am NOT, however, looking forward to the lack of TP at public restrooms…that’s kind of super 麻烦 máfan…and cannot deny that I am very very happy that our apartments will have Western toilets…

Chopsticks!  I learned how to use chopsticks as a girl scout when I was about ten.  I haven’t used them with much frequency since because I mean, America is forks aplenty, but I am fully of the opinion that food (that is not soup…) is more fun when eaten with them.  Also, my mum got me this really beautiful set of colored ones for Christmas this past year:

pretty, no?

…and I’m excited to use them more often.  Would it be super lame for me to make a chopstick holster so that I can carry them around to restaurants?  Probably…I’d also probably stab myself with them…

Traveling!  ZJG is fairly close to Suzhou, which is supposed to be gorgeous and has been called “the Venice of the East”.  I’m hoping that I can travel a bit further too, I would love to go back to Yunnan province and seriously any place with mountains.  I was absolutely in heaven every time we went through hilly/mountainy places last time I was in China.

Another weird thing that I’m kind of excited about is joining the gym in ZJG.  Everyone I’ve talked to from there or blog posts I’ve read about ZJG talk about how nice the gym is, haha.  I’ve never belonged to a gym before since A, I dance nearly every night of the week and B, I’m a chicken when it comes to public places where you have to ask people how things work…BUT, I think in this case, I will be less embarrassed to ask people about stuff around the gym because it will be a good way to practice my Chinese, and if it’s a dumb question that I’m asking, I can pretend that I meant to ask something completely different but that it came out wrong with my Chinese!

Things that I am nervous about:

Teaching!  I’m excited, but I’ve been doing such an opposite-type job for the last two years and I keep forgetting that oh right, I’m no longer going to be behind a computer this year, but in front of a classroom full of kids…who will be trying to speak to me in my native tongue…possibly poorly…and instead of laughing at how adorable their grammar structures are, I will have to criticize them.  I’m so very bad at criticism!

Bikes!  I know I’m probably going to get one because it’s going to be the easiest way to get places, but 嗳呀 àiyā am I scared of biking in places where there are cars….and this is gonna be ten times the amount of cars than I’m used to, driving mostly without the rules I’m used to cars following…

Bartering!  I hate this, I realized I hated it less than I thought I was going to when I went last time, but still, I would rather pay an extra dollar than have to argue for ten minutes over a pair of socks and worry whether or not I got ripped off.  I do recall it being slightly fun on some occasions because it felt kinda cool to bring something down in price even if you probably could have brought it down even cheaper, but it’s definitely not on the first list of things I’m super excited about

Cell phones and banks…I’m not really sure why, but I get confused any time I read about how the systems work in China.  These are already on my list of things I will be asking friends to help me with….


I will probably think of about million more things I’m excited/nervous about, but for now, I’m excited about my cast coming off in 3 more days!  Irish dance camp!  Annnnnd, most of all, my brother’s wedding!