Monday, November 27, 2006


So, where was I? I think I was talking about Thanksgiving and then I got interrupted by a trip to escort Alice home. Right. So Thanksgiving was great. We had a good time at the hotel and I think everyone was encouraged by the whole experience.

Friday morning I got to wake up and teach class, but I didn't let that ruin my mood. I told them my experience and then did a lot of review and talking with them. The week before I had covered cards games and had taught them to play Uno, so after class some of them asked to borrow my Uno cards for a birthday party. I'm spreading the culture! After that, I had to camp out in my apartment and prepare a two hour lecture to give that night. Originally I had chosen "History of the English Language" as my topic because I had read something interesting on it and I wanted to share it. But as I was preparing earlier in the week I realized that the vocabulary was just too far over their heads. So here it is Friday and I need to choose another topic and prepare a PowerPoint presentation. What topic to choose?!? Baseball, naturally. So I spent most of the rest of the day from 10am until 5pm working on preparing that. I thought I did a pretty decent job. I had pictures and explained all the basic rules, it was a work of art. We had cancelled English corner on Thursday night due to Thanksgiving, so I figured all those people might come to Friday night's edition. I grabbed the two gloves, bat, and softball that we have here and made my way over to the classroom. When I got there I found ten students there studying. They all seemed pretty surprised to see me. Basically, it was nothing like what the Friday night lecture usually looks like. I called Kiwi, the student in charge of the lectures, and asked her if I was supposed to be doing one that night. Apparently when we had cancelled Thursday night, they had also cancelled Friday night as well. Oops. So back I went to my apartment to put on something more comfortable and wait for Derek and Jeremy to come hang out. We ended up watching one of Derek's students in the school talent show, eating dinner, and watching Indiana Jones the rest of the night.

Saturday we got up and were drinking coffee. Before we could even begin to wonder what to do for the day, we got a call saying that we had a friend who wanted to go down into the water. Well needless to say, we were excited. We started cleaning Derek's apartment, cleaning his bathtub, and boiling water. We only have hot water in the early morning and late at night, so the water was pretty freezing. Anyhoo, once everyone from across town got over here, we realized that we didn't just have one friend who wanted to go in, but TWO. So we found another towel and a change of clothes for him. Now our Family is two siblings stronger and we spent lunch and the afternoon celebrating our new brother and sister. We ate lunch at Happy Guy's and told him why we were celebrating. He was really happy for us. Last week he requested that we Study some with him so he's very interested in these things. Saturday night, Angelyn and I had lunch with two students from our school, Grace and Sahara. They're girlfriend and boyfriend, and they're a lot of fun to hang out with. Sahara actually spells his name Sohoro, but I'm pretty sure he just doesn't know that it's wrong. After that Angelyn and I came home, escaped from Bushes Guy who randomly comes out of the bushes and asks to play with us, and then relaxed the rest of the evening.

Sunday morning I ended up going across town for the Meeting because I never get to go visit with those students. We had a lot of fun, ate lunch, and then I went to Darla's apartment to hang out. Because she wasn't here until October and she lives all the way (30 minutes at most) across town, I don't know her well and never get to hang out with her. We had fun visiting and whatnot. Around 3:30 Derek, Angelyn, Keri, and Janis showed up and we all watched Major Payne together. I'm not sure what Keri and Janis thought of it, but we ferners were all cracking up. We ate dinner, hung out some more after that, and then finally made our way home.

Yesterday (Monday), after lunch some of us went across town to the Korean market. It's just a series of streets/alleys with all of these shops crammed in. I bought some gloves without fingertips so I can keep my hands warm while writing on the chalkboard in class. We also bought some Christmas lights and Angelyn bought a big blanket to keep her visitors warm when she has company. We just browsed a lot and hung out with Wind and Alice. We came home around 5, had class at 6, and then hung out and Studied with a few students after that. Then I started writing my Thanksgiving update, which was interrupted when Angelyn and I took Alice to her dorm, and now I think I'm pretty much caught up.

The "weekend trip" part of my last blog didn't make it in, so I should probably explain the title of my last entry. Sometime last week I decided that I need to go visit some friends in Ningbo, so I'm planning on leaving this Wednesday night on a trip to the coast. The trains and planes and buses from here to there don't quite always line up, so I'm taking an overnight train to Wuhan and flying to Ningbo a couple of hours later. To come back I'm taking a train from Ningbo to Hangzhou and then another from Hangzhou to Shiyan. The overnight train is about 7 hours, the plane is 1 hour 20 minutes, and the trains home should be about 26 hours. Good times! Too bad they don't allow foreigners in the Shiyan airport or I would be able to cut out a good chunk of my travel time. Oh well, adventures are waiting to be had. I should be leaving here late Wednesday night and getting back sometime Monday. Hopefully nothing will be late and I won't end up missing a flight or train connection or anything.

Today has been a normal day. I had lunch with the guys and we talked about things for Sunday. I caught the bus home at 3 and now I'm listening to a chain saw as some guys trim the trees outside. Oh! How could I forget?!? I got a package from my loving mom this morning and it contained... Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups! HA! It's a good day in China.

Thanksgiving and a weekend trip

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone. I think the week leading up to it was horrible in terms of culture shock and homesickness, but the actual event was quite enjoyable. I started it off by sleeping late, which actually isn't an uncommon thing when you usually have nothing to do before lunch. Then a load of us got together to teach some students the ancient art of American football. We had two teams of 13 and were confined to playing within the goalie box at one end of the soccer field. Needless to say, there wasn't much running. We were playing two hand touch, but with that many people in that small of a space there's just nowhere to run to. Plus, I think the complexity and number of rules was a little too much for their Chinese minds to absorb in one session. After most of the group left to go to class or eat lunch, we found some more students standing around watching us and formed a nice game of ultimate frisbee. That went over much better because the basic rules are don't run with the frisbee and don't let the other team catch it. It was a lot of fun and, more importantly, we got to run a lot and warm ourselves up. It was cold that day!

After eating a good lunch Derek, Jeremy, Michael Li, and I all headed into town to run some last minute errands. Amazingly, all the stores weren't closed on Thanksgiving! Derek and Jeremy got off the bus at the Wonderful Supermarket to hunt down some butter while Michael and I went to check on the turkeys. We had arranged for a restaurant in town to find us a couple of birds and cook them for us. Everything turned out pretty good, although a bit pricier than expected. Then we all made our way back to the automobile school to hang out and watch the ladies cook. It was like a little piece of America, the guys sitting around doing nothing in particular while the ladies labored away and talked themselves to death. At 5, some of us went to pick up the turkeys and we all met at Yanliang Hotel, the swankiest place in town. We had a fantastic party. Most of the Family was there, including a few faces that I've only seen once or twice this year. We played mahjong and Uno, visited, watched Derek act all hyper and ask all the girls in Chinese if they wanted another boyfriend, ate turkey and dressing, stood in a big circle and took turns saying what we were thankful for, and just had the grandest time ever.


I know you can't tell, but I just took a two hour break from typing this. Angelyn and I escorted Alice back to her dorm across town and then decided to enjoy the night and walk home. The bus ride there took 30 minutes and the walk back took an hour and a half. Now it's 1:00, my legs are tired, and I'm ready for bed. I'll fill in more details in the morning. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Changing seasons

Tonight was a good night. After an hour of taiji, Angelyn and I went over to the Lewis' for jambalaya and general merriment. We hung out, chatted, laughed at things, and enjoyed a nice movie. Casablanca. It was pretty good, I'd never seen it before. The dinner was great, but the crowning moment of the evening was when she brought out the homemade cinnamon rolls she had made for dessert. I can't really describe how awesome they were, you just need to know that they were. Awesome.

On our way home I noticed a few things. Mainly, it's a lot colder here now. A week or two ago, I was still wearing short sleeve shirts and leaving my door and windows open. Now I'm bundling up and using the heater. With the door and windows closed, of course. I've come to love using my awesome army jacket as an awesome housecoat. Anyhoo, it's cold, it's getting colder, and apparently snow is already in the forecast. I heard a rumor that it was supposed to snow last night and it's once again supposed to snow tonight. BUT, according to my internet weather thingy on my computer, the temperature has been hovering around 50 all day today and should do the same tomorrow. The leaves are falling off the trees in droves today, probably helped along by the light wind and rain. It's just helping everything seem more like autumn, finally.

Well, I think I've had it for tonight. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Friday I have class and a 2 hour lecture that I haven't prepared, so don't expect an update before Saturday. Until that time, make sure you chew every bite 25 times before you swallow.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Needed: Holiday Cheer

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'm in China. It's really no fun at all here in China. No one knows much about Thanksgiving. They know it exists, so they know to ask me to tell them more about it. Of course, then I just depress myself describing a family get together with grandmother's dressing, all the kiddos running around, crisp, cool, (clean) air outside and familiar sounds and smells wafting all over the place. Somone nailed it on the head when they said there's no place like home for the holidays. The End.

Now, don't go thinking that I'm sinking into a deep depression or anything. I'm making it through life here. But it still stinks to high heaven to be here for Thanksgiving when there are going to be more than 60 people (counting babies) in Cleveland, MS this week for the Neal/Neely/Geer Thanksgiving blowout. And when you expect to be smelling nice things cooking in every home, you can only smell Chinesey things. Again, don't go thinking I don't like Chinesey foods. But it's waaaaay different than the 24 Thanksgivings I had in America. Of course, this is the 2nd one I've done in China so at least I knew to expect these feeling in advance.

So you're probably wondering what I've been doing to ward off this bout of holiday melancholy. Well let me tell you! Last week I made the mistake of teaching about Thanksgiving in my Tuesday night class. So the rest of the week I was having what we call a "bad China week". I didn't really care to be here. Most Chinese people aroused a desire to scream when they yelled hello at me, and I usually felt like punching them. Needless to say, that's not the best attitude to have. So, after some time spent in seclusion at home, some more time spent in company with foreigners, lots of Contemplation, and some phone calls from home, I'm back in the game. Yesterday I woke up and felt a little cruddy physically, but otherwise I felt in good spirits. After lunch with the guys and a trip to the plant market to buy something to spruce up my apartment, I came home and promptly felt worse. I ended up having to postpone my Tuesday evening class. I'm not really sick yet, but I feel like I might be getting sick soon. Mainly I had zero energy and I was pretty sure I couldn't stand or sit through two periods of class and be the teacher at the same time. And since you have to be standing or sitting in the room in order to teach class (let's not get into teaching by satellite, that's just not an option), I felt it was wise to postpone. Thankfully, I am paired with a Chinese coteacher for my Wednesday morning class, so I just called him up and he's teaching alone this morning. Thanks to that, I was able to go to bed incredibly early last night and sleep way past 9 this morning. I feel mostly better today. I have energy, at least.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. As foreigners, we get the whole day off. Any classes and lectures we have are cancelled. Too bad that's the one day of the week when I have nothing scheduled. Oh well! I didn't teach last night or today. That should make up for it. We reserved a party room at the nicest hotel in town, got two turkeys from Xi'an, got a restaurant in town to cook them for us, planned a flag football game with some students for in the morning. It should be a fair approximation of a true American Thanksgiving. Except that instead of green bean casserole we'll have stir fry. But that's okay. I'll take what I can get.

Here's where I would put something I'm thankful for, but I'm going to save that for tomorrow. It's not Thanksgiving yet, people!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A look into the soul of a Chinese student

A good way to really get to know students here is by assigning them a writing assignment. The words just flow out onto the page and you start to think that maybe there is something going on inside those heads of theirs. When you communicate in broken English long enough, you begin to automatically think of your students as unintelligent or slow in the head. It's not something you intend to happen, it just shows how important language can be. So when they start writing, you begin to think that maybe they're interested in asking more than "Can you use chopsticks."

The Thursday before Halloween, I gave a cultural lecture about Halloween. This is a weekly lecture that the foreign teachers do on a rotating basis. It just happened that I had the honor of covering Halloween. Angelyn had a class at the same time, so she decided to bring her class over to listen to my wonderful lecture. For homework she asked them to write about three things that they learned from my lecture. Today was the next time that she had those students in class, and I proudly bring to you some of the things that were written about my Halloween lecture.

"When I came in the class of English Corner, I was moved by the strong atmosphere of studying English. There were so many people in the class, and the speaker speaked English very fluencly and loudly. The listener were swoon in the voice of the speaker. So I decided to improve my oral English. I though I would speak English fluency one day."
- Victor

"Last class we went to the English Corner with the teacher. It was a rewarding experience for me. The most interesting thing that day was the speaker told us the Halloween. In the middle of his speech he turned off all the lights, closed all the doors. Then it was dark in the classroom. He told us a story in a very low voice, some lovely but horror pictures on the screen. We all listened him very quietly, concentrated ourselves on his speech. Then he louded his voice which made many girls into screaming. I was also frightened by him. He turned on the lights and laughted. He just played a joke on us. I was terrified by him, but I think he is a lovely person. I love his speech and his joke."
- Ellen

"People throw eggs at someone's house. They also throw toilet paper. They throw it in a tree and it will unroll. Then throw it again and again. At last, the trees are covered with white paper. It looks so exciting and wonderful!"
- Amanda

"The most interesting thing I have heard is that people throw eggs and toilet papers at the tree. I don't understand why they do this. But I think it's wonderful!"
- Kasey

"Today a foreign teacher are giving a talk about Hollow day which I haven't heard of before. It's interesting and mysterious to me. But the professor said it's a common festivel in US, just like spring festivel in China. People are excited and carazy that day. The professor is humorous and lively. But there's still lots of things I can't understand. I think this is culture shock."
- David

And now, my favorite account of that night's lecture. I never get tired of reading it!

"The lecture is about 'all Hollow day'. Through the lecture I knew the special Day in America. And it is interesting and funny. When I walk into the classroom, I was shocked by the scene. There is so many students in the classroom. I can't stop my step. I choose a seat in a corner and sit down quietly. In the class, I have not said a word because I was attracted by the perfect pronunciation of the teacher. Good time always run away quickly. The class is over, but don't want to leave...
Through this class, I understand a lot of things. Firstly, I must improve my oral English because there is still a distance between the teacher and me. I can do better. Second, I must learn more about American culture. It can lead me to the way of succeed."
- Romeo

Romeo, oh Romeo. How true. The way of succeed is obviously through knowledge of American culture. Not. It does feel nice knowing that I can make people swoon and that my perfect pronunciation is captivating, though.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New neighbor

So Monday night Derek and I were hanging out and talking in my apartment. As usual, the door was wide open because the only people in the building are the four of us ferners. Around 11:30 or so, we heard some people stomping their way up the stairs and what sounded like German being spoken. Having lived in this building with foreigners two years ago, I knew that we no longer had free reign in the building. Turns out, there was only one German person coming up the stairs, but there was a Chinese person who (sorta) speaks German helping out. So now we have a new German neighbor. Her name is Yvonne, she speaks English fluently, she recently graduated and this is her first stop on the world trip that she's taking. She sold her apartment and car and is planning on travelling until she runs out of money. She's taken a job here as a German teacher for the next three months. Since this is an automobile school, lots of students take German and Japanese in hopes of getting a job with a big car company. Anyhoo, she's really nice and I'm pretty sure she's glad that there are other foreigners around she can hang out with. She's kind of doing things on the fly, so she really had no idea what to expect when she arrived.

That's the scoop for now. I may post again later today. I'm getting together some pictures and I'm still trying to figure out how in the world to get a video on this thing. If you know, please share with me.