Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Visiting the Pearl Tower

During my last video call with my parents, they pointed out that for all they know I'm not even in China. I hadn't taken pictures of any landmarks or had visited any important places.

Well not anymore! Today I went with Charlotte and her boyfriend Andrew to the Pearl Tower. Although it was not an enjoyable experience, I'm still glad I went...which are conflicting viewpoints, I know.

Anyway, I'm going to back up. I met Charlotte and Andrew outside the subway and we went to lunch first. We found an Element Fresh in this HUGE mall right in the shadow of the Tower. I had a tandori chicken wrap that was amazing. Then we headed over to the tower.
The tower is gigantic. It seems like it's larger than it should be, for some reason. At least to me. When I look at it, I imagine it's sort of like a diagram of a molecule that for some reason muted into a skyscraper. The closer you get to it, the more wrong it seems to me.

I don't have a picture of ME in front of the building to prove I was actually there, but here is a picture of Charlotte and Andrew.
So there are different prices depending on where you want to go in the tower. Charlotte sort of made the decision for all of us, since I couldn't make up my mind either way. We were going to spend the 150RMB (about $21) to get package A. That involves visiting the main view deck (the middle bubble) as well as the highest you can go (the tiny bubble at the very top of the picture above) and a ticket to the museum at the bottom of the tower.

They got in line in front of me and got their tickets. I was immediately behind them in line and when I asked for the same thing the woman behind the counter said "No! Too many people!" and refused to sell me the same ticket. She instead sold me a 100RMB ticket, which gets you to the main viewdeck and the museum. Needless to say, I was a little miffed.

As soon as we went into the building, we were split up and I didn't end up seeing them again. That really frustrated me. The main reason I haven't been doing a lot of touristy things is that I wanted to do them WITH someone. I personally believe it's not as much fun by yourself. Here I was out with new friends trying to have some fun and I ended up spending the rest of the day alone. It was no ones fault, but it still makes me angry.

The entire day seemed to involve waiting in lines. I hate lines. And I hate crowds. Chinese people have a different idea of proper line manners and personal space too. Which is fine if you are used to it, but after a month I'm still not. Having at least three complete strangers touching me and pushing me for the better part of two hours while entire families cut in front of me in line is NOT my idea of fun. There was also a small kid in FRONT of me who gaped at me with her wide open mouth and eyes making me feel like a freak and a small kid in BACK of me who delighted in bouncing his head off of my butt (no, I am not joking).

FINALLY I made it to the main observation deck, which did have a pretty cool 360 degree view. It's 263 meters up and the day was pretty clear, so I got some neat pictures. Although most of my pictures were taken pointed downwards, this rather awesome shot of two of the tallest buildings in Shanghai was taken looking straight out of the window.

After walking completely around the inside observation deck twice and once around the half way outside view deck (which was very windy), I decided to head back down. Which meant waiting in a line AGAIN.

Once I got back downstairs I was tempted to just walk out and go home. I'm glad I didn't. The museum ended up being my favorite part. At first is was a lot of exhibits with mannequins showing life in "old shanghai". There were some very cool displays. I'm going to put them up in a facebook album and connect the link later. One of my favorite things was a replica of an old shanghai alley that you could walk through.
The museum showed how much Shanghai has changed over the years, especially in monumental locations like Nanjing Road and the Bund. They also spent time explaining the opium wars and how that changed Shanghai too.

After I got out of the museum my feet and ankles were hurting really badly. It was about 4pm and I had been out of the apartment since 8am. I texted Charlotte to say I was sorry I was leaving, then headed back home. Quick stop at Carrefour then back to my apartment.

Now I said it wasn't enjoyable, which isn't altogether true. I liked the museum and the view. But the waiting in line, the being shoved around and the being separated from my friends severely marred the day. I'm still glad I went because now at least I can cross something off my list. Go to the Pearl Tower? Check!

Next....I dunno...maybe the Bund at night?

This is a picture I snapped on my way out of the Pearl tower. Just thought it looked cool...

Anyway, much love!
-Stephanie

EDIT: The album is up on facebook. More pictures from today can be found HERE.

Monday, 29 September 2008

PingHe Party

So on Saturday I had work in the morning, then ran quickly out to Puxi to meet up with that woman from City Weekend. Getting out of the subway I was rather lost and didn't want to be too late, so I just grabbed a cab. Once I arrived (after some trouble with elevators that only went to certain floors) I got immediately down to proof-reading. It took me about two hours to do what she said normally takes three and they pay by session and not by hour...whoo! She said she'd let me know the next time they needed me. On the way out, I paid attention to my surroundings and found a super easy way to get back to the subway. I just need to get out of the right exit from the station!

I took the subway and bus back, though thinking about it now I should have taken a cab instead. Although I made it back only 5 minutes later than I thought the party was going to start, there was apparently a warm up band. That band was led by one of my favorite students; a boy named Jackey. I was really upset to have missed it, and asked him to tell me the next time he performs.

The "party" ended up being a show. There were some absolutely adorable kids doing dances, singing songs, putting on skits. (One thing that seriously amused me was some kids singing "It's a Hard Knock Life" when these students are almost all from very well to do families.) Some high schoolers did some hip hop dancing. Some teachers sang the famous "Beijing Welcomes You" song.

The stage was huge and was setup almost overnight. One of the first performances I saw was 25 people playing piano. Twenty-five pianos! Five grands and twenty uprights. Dang.

There was a rather huge audience. I am guessing it was most of the students and teachers and probably a lot of families as well.

One rather strange performance (in my opinion) involved soldiers in uniform doing a song in a kind of sign language. It was just odd to see these men in uniform with stoic faces using sign language to a very floaty sounding song. After they were done they marched off stage, got into formation and marched away. There was even some pyrotechnics! Two fireworks were set off from the back of the audience and a shower of sparks came down from the stage and the side of the school for the final number. As promised, June was able to get me some crabs from the school. Four of them! Yum. I reheated two of them in my steamer on Saturday for dinner and will probably have the other two for lunch today. I took some video of the performances, but my last video didn't work so well on blogger. I might later upload them to youtube instead.

Tomorrow afternoon I have plans to hang out with Charlotte. Paul and Kyle, Drew people who are studying in Nanjing, should be in Shanghai starting on Wednesday. I am really looking forward to seeing people from home.

That's all for now I suppose!

Much love!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Some Pretty Things

Yesterday I received this wonderful card from Bonnie. I laughed so hard when I got it. It's absolutely adorable. (And in case you can't tell, that is not a picture on front, but an actual piece of knitted-ness on some toothpick needles. SO CUTE.) This card is made even funnier if you know the story of the first pair of socks I ever knitted (excessive rum might have been involved). I feel so loved! A package on Thursday and a card on Friday!
And here is a picture of a bracelet I made last night for Zeno. I wanted to say "thank you" for letting me borrow her flyswatter and also "sorry" since one of my classes broke a huge chunk out of her flyswatter. Oops. She seems to like it a lot. I like it too! For you chainmaille people out there, it's a normal mobeius pattern, I just put beads on the closed rings.
Today I am running over to the City Weekend office to check out that proof-reading business, then I need to rush back in time for the PingHe 27th night party. I'm still a little unsure as to what the whole party is about, but I'm expected to be there and it will also give me chance to see my students NOT in class.

The Jabberwocky exercise seems to be going over ok, though I have had to explain things over and over sometimes. Some kids have really excelled at it, and not always the ones I expected, which makes me happy. When we did tongue twisters I found an easy way to get kids interested. I told them any student that read one aloud to the class got an extra point on their homework. Little grade-grubbers jumped at the chance. ;-) They also taught me a tongue twister in Chinese, but I don't know what it means. To the dictionary!!!

As a side note, I finally found a way to get the lady behind the counter in Family Mart to stop talking to me in English. I bought a Chinese magazine (I wanted to practice my reading and writing and thought it would be more interesting and up to date than a text book). Suddenly now she always speaks to me in Chinese. :-D

Friday, 26 September 2008

A PACKAGE!!!

So yesterday after work I went to a restaurant called "Element Fresh" (which was delicious, by the way) with Charlotte. We were planning to meet at the front gate. When I got there, there was a bit of a hub-bub and one of the guards pointed at me excitedly and then ducked into the guard hut. Charlotte looked at me and said "I think they have something for you."

Out he came with a box in his arms. It was indeed a package! From my fabulous friend Cori! Charlotte and I only had a limited time for dinner, so I left the package at the guard hut while we had dinner, but came back later to excitedly rip it open.
What a lovely package! I think I shall destroy it with love. As Cori said she had to do, there was a ton of paper work on it saying what was in the package and so on.
Here are the contents of my first package received in China. Two boxes of cheez-its, a ginormous bag of smartfood popcorn and a book called "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". Cori is right, it is a good book. I am already on chapter four. I feel bad that Cori went through all the trouble to send me Cheez-its when I have now discovered that I can buy them here, but I am sure they will taste better because they are from a friend and they came in a package and they are from the good ole' USA. Obviously, I am quite happy to have so many Cheez-its.

I have already collected some items for Cori's return package. Now I just need to find a post office! Ned told me there is one near the Carrefour, so I should do some exploring since I have next week off.

Thank you so much for the package Cori! It means a lot to me and I will send you yours as soon as I have everything together! :-)

Another Food Post

Just a couple food related things that have been happening...

On Friday of last week they served crabs in the school cafeteria. Yum! I happened to be sitting with Jane at lunch and we were both sitting and talking and eating and I started eating my crab (which was DELICIOUS, by the way) and I noticed she kept looking at me rather strangely. I thought maybe I was making a mess of myself. Turns out she had never seen a foreigner eat crab before. Apparently she would very rarely even see a foreigner "brave enough" (as she put it) to put crab on their tray, but then they would chicken out and not eat it. I think it's just cuz foreigners aren't used to eating it Chinese style. You kind of have to munch and crunch and separate shell from meat with your tongue and teeth. And they eat the meat in the body, not just the legs. And that was what I was doing. I think doing so gained me some bonus points. She told a bunch of other Chinese teachers about it and I think I somehow became cooler because of it. And here I was thinking I was just eating lunch. There is some party for the school happening on Saturday and usually they give the Chinese teachers crabs as a gift and the foreign teachers fruit. June said she's going to ask if I can get crabs instead. :-)

You will never guess what I found in the imported section of Carrefour....CHEEZ-ITS! I swear they were not there before. I looked! Maybe it's something they only have once in a while or something. Anyway, I suppose I should take Cheez-its off my wish list. Even if Carrefour only has them once in a while. it will satisfy my cravings. Still can't find Smartfood anywhere, though I will keep my eyes open.

I just want to note that I know I've been talking about Western food like egg salad and cheez-its and the like. For those thinking I'm not getting enough Chinese food, keep in mind that lunch every week day is at the school cafeteria and more than half of the time if I make dinner I make Chinese food (usually dumplings).

The other day at the school cafe, the fruit for the day was a lime. Or at least I thought it was a lime. It looked like a lime. It was green like a lime. Then I noticed another teacher open their's up and inside was...an orange! I have never seen an orange with a solid green skin. It was rather yummy. I bought some the other night at the Carrefour and had one for breakfast yesterday. It tasted really sour though, when the one I had from the cafeteria was very sweet. Hopefully the rest I bought are ok.
What is that? A lime!?
Nope! A yummy orange. :-)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Big Small Nice Boring!

Today's class was based entirely out of a half of a page in one of the books we have. It says "Give big, small, nice and boring a break!", and then listed a bunch of synonyms that are far more interesting. I typed it all up and added even more words like happy, bad, sad, good-looking, and interesting. I wrote up flashcards with some of the words on the lists.

In class I split the students into three groups and gave them each a stack of the cards and told them to separate them by meaning just by guessing and no using dictionaries. Dear lord. When I said no dictionaries you would think I cut their arms off. One group had to be reminded three times that I wasn't blind. I mean come on, if both hands are under their desk and their eyes are glued to their laps I could pretty much guess that they aren't deep in thought. Another group got really into it and was doing things like finding familiar parts of the words, or seeing if it sounded like other words they knew.

Then I passed out a sheet with all the words on it and told them to hold on to it when writing and to try and use some of the new words.

Then we played a game! I wrote the basic words "big" "small" "nice", etc on the board and split the class into two groups lined up facing the blackboard. The person in front of each group got a flyswatter. I would call out one of the new words (ex: amiable instead of nice). The first person to slap the correct word on the board got a point for their team. They got REALLY into it. Especially when I made the last question worth 4 points so that either team could win. It also made me happy because the winning team didn't want one of students on their team and he ended up scoring the winning point. :-)

I've only taught this lesson to one class so far, but it was with my most uninvolved, least disciplined, and least respectful class. Since things went pretty well for that group, I'm excited to teach it to my more enjoyable classes.

The game went well. When I asked if they enjoyed it I got a loud chorus of "YES!" I told them if and when we did new words again, we could play again. It was nice to find that there is SOMETHING that can get my class of rocks to respond. It was also good because I practiced a little of getting respect from them. I waited until the whole class was quiet before I read the new word. After they noticed that, students were quieting down their classmates so that they could listen to me.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

All Things Work Related

So yesterday I had a teacher sitting in on my full class. She left a little early but was there for the almost the whole period. I just got my feedback now. She said I seemed very natural in front of the students, smiling, and encouraging. She also thought it was good that I was explaining the different styles of music and talking about slang. Her advice was to have more student interaction and to tell more about the bands to get the students interested. When it comes to student-student interaction, I try to do it more in the half classes. It's nearly impossible in the full class in my opinion. I feel a little better and little less nervous about having multiple teachers sitting in on my afternoon class now.

Next week we get a full week off for the national holiday. I have no plans as of yet. I need to get out of the apartment and do SOMETHING or I might go stir crazy. When we come back, I agreed to cover some classes for another teacher on Monday and Tuesday. It works out that I would have each half of the 10th grade for two class periods, and then class B and D once each. I'll probably pick a 2 hour or so video and show half in each big class, but that still leaves me with something fun to do with class B and D. The reason I would be showing a video and doing something fun is A) I'm further ahead in the lesson plan than the other teachers and B) the students are going on a vacation (I think to Xi'an) for the rest of the week after Tuesday, so it makes no sense to start something new. Now I just need to pick a video. After Tuesday I have no class for the rest of that week, but I'm still required to come to work. Who knows what I'll do to fill my time.

I think I got a part time job as a proof-reader. Pete (my friend that lived here and left shortly after I arrived) alerted me of the position and I e-mailed the woman. I'll be going in this Saturday to check things out. It would be a three hour session every other week. It's not for the money so much as to have something to do and to meet some new people.

Yesterday at the end of work there was a spontaneous trip to a sushi restaurant with me, Zeno, June, Mrs. Luo (the head of IB), and a woman that people call Shopping (because her Chinese name sounds like shopping and she likes to shop!). It was fun to hang out with some work people outside of school. The sushi was delicious too. I had some trout that was especially yummy. The restaurant was one of those ones with the sushi train on a conveyor belt that twists and turns around the restaurant and you grab whatever you want and pay based on how many plates you have leftover. Someone treated us all to dinner, but I'm not sure if it was Mrs. Luo and Shopping...

I'm killing time now until my afternoon class. The music I am going to play in that class is taking forever to load.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What the heck??

Something kind of weird has happened.

Remember when I said that I found that ring of metal in my food? Well, me being a weirdo I kept it. I put it in my top drawer of my desk in the organizer in a slot that was just the right size for it.

Today I noticed it was missing. What the heck??

I have other stuff in my drawer that I suppose you could consider worth stealing, like a stapler and an exact-o knife. But why a random circle of metal?

Did someone take it because it actually has some value that I don't know about?
Did someone take it so I wouldn't sue the school because I found metal in my food?
Either way, that means someone went through my desk.

Or am I just crazy and I forgot that I moved it somewhere else?
This is highly likely. I can be very absent minded. But if so, where is it?

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Pink

The Good

-
I went shopping and out to lunch with June yesterday (Jane and Zeno couldn't make it). Here is a picture of her wearing the new necklace she bought.-We ate delicious soup dumplings that are a famous Shanghai food. You drink the broth out with a straw, then rip into the dumpling and eat. Yum.
-After a day of walking around the markets I have quite a bounty. And cheap too! Everything you see below cost me (total) under $25 America. Tons of beads, jewelry thread, new pliers, a whole package of 100% wool yarn, pair of needles, clasps and metal rings. Last night I couldn't help but get started and ended up making a necklace that I am wearing right now.
-I figured out a good use for the sinks of my balconies. FOOT BATHS! After all my walking this weekend when I got home on Sunday I filled one with hot water and some body wash and just had a lovely soak.

-So on Saturday I started up my computer and guess what? The speaker works fine! I have no idea what the problem was in the first place, but now I have sound in both speakers again.

The Bad

-On Friday, I went with Charlotte, Lisa and Amy to get our work visas. I am calling this a bad only because we had to sit around and wait for FOUR HOURS.

-Coming home from the Jazz festival I hit my head on the ceiling of the bus. OW.

-This is a 6 day work week. Ugh.

-Teachers are going to be observing one of my classes on Wednesday and Tuesday. I am stressed out about this.


The Pink

-I am labeling this last section "The Pink" because nothing terribly ugly happened this weekend, so this section is kind of a "Mixed Blessings" section. I am calling it the pink because of a laundry accident I had this weekend. I accidentally washed a new red shirt with the rest of my laundry. Although there was some damage, most of my laundry made it out unscathed. The worst of it was my new white shirt has become my new pink shirt. If it was an even pink I wouldn't really care, but it's got spots on it. Here is a picture of the culprit and the damage. (All the laundry looks more pink in real life.)
-Another mixed blessing was that I had people wanting to take pictures with me again yesterday. Including a monk, oddly enough. I am calling this a mixed blessing because it always amuses me and makes me feel a little special that people want to take pictures with me, but at the same time it gets annoying fast and does tug at my insecurities that maybe people just want a picture because they think I look weird.

-Today I was a part of the flag raising ceremony because my students asked me to. They wanted a foreign opinion about the SanLu milk problem. They said to state my opinion, but to not be too critical of China. I ended up saying something along the lines that it made me nervous but that I hoped that this would make companies more careful and honest in the future. I'm glad they felt that they could ask me, but I can't tell if it went ok or not.

-Today marks my anniversary. I have been in Shanghai for exactly a month. I'm not really sure why I consider this a mixed blessing. I've made it this far, I suppose, but I'm still far from coming home. Time seems to have sped up and slowed down at the same time.


I should get back to worky works, I suppose.
Love,
Stephanie

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Soggy Shanghai Jazz

Yesterday I went to a jazz festival with Lucy and a bunch of her friends. Some of them I met two weeks ago, some I was meeting for the first time, including a girl named Azure that seemed to take a liking to me rather quickly and spent part of the concert lying down with her head in my lap asking me questions.

I met up with them at the subway station for the Jing'An temple. We went to the park there, and it almost immediately started raining. We sat in the rain for a bit, then went to wait in line only to discover that we couldn't get in until later. Lucy and I went back to the subway station and had a quick late lunch at a Thai restaurant (I had seafood curry that was quite good). On the way back, Lucy went to talk to some scalpers about getting extra tickets for some friends of her's. We pretended not to know each other since, as a foreigner, I've got "RICH AND GULLIBLE" written in neon letters across my forehead and I didn't want her to get overcharged. Lucy also told me that the Chinese word for scalper is "黄牛” or "yellow cow", and it understandably isn't very polite.

It had stopped raining at that point so we went inside, met up with our friends and had a seat pretty close to the stage (it was a big field and we were sitting on a mixture of a blanket one person had brought, magazines, and free cheapy plastic ponchos that they were handing out). Here is the stage.
While we sat and waited for the music to come, we all eyed the sky warily. Eventually it started to pour again. I took my cheapy plastic poncho and wrapped my purse up in it. I was more worried about my books and camera than me getting wet. The crowd turned into a sea of umbrellas. A white guy came on the microphone and announced in both English and in fabulous Chinese (which made me insanely jealous of course) that he was sorry for the delay and things would start soon. Here is a few members of the first band that played, rocking out in sexy plastic ponchos.
I stayed until around 830pm. I watched 4 out of the 6 bands scheduled to play. My favorite was probably the second band, from Belgium. I've included a video clip I took of them playing. It's not the best quality.


Here is me and Lucy enjoying the festival during one of the breaks in the rain.
With the rain and all the people, the field got churned into a massive lake of mud. I don't know if my sneakers will ever recover. I also discovered at a rather inopportune time that my umbrella leaks (meh, I bought cheap one. I suppose I should spring for a better one.) The concert was delayed and the rain was on and off for the whole concert. All in all, I had a great time. :-)

Side note:
In my post from a week ago, I posted a picture of the tallest building in China being blocked out completely by smog or clouds or fog. While I was waiting at the exact same spot for the bus again, I figured I would take another picture, this time where you can see the building I am talking about.
Anyway, that's all for now I suppose. I've got lunch and shopping with Zeno, June, and Jane so I should really get a move on.

Much love!
Stephanie

Friday, 19 September 2008

Stuffed With Mooncakes!

I am positively stuffed with mooncakes. Yesterday June gave me one that had a conconuty kind of filling and an egg yokish center. Today one of my students (Linda) gave me one that apparently has red wine in it. It's rather delicious. *nom nom* I'll have to find her in the hallway and thank her.

I wanted to post because I am in a good mood. Last night was actually terribly boring. Dad jokingly mentioned egg salad when I talked to him this weekend, but since then I had a hankering for it. I figured I would hard boil my last two eggs and make some egg salad for dinner. I figured "I know how long you need to boil an egg....3 minutes, right? That's how long an egg timer is for..." Oh dear. After boiling and cooling I gave my eggs a whack on the counter only to get half cooked eggness everywhere. Very sad. Dinner ended up being a plain cheese sandwich.

But today is going well. I finished my lesson plan for next week and I am excited for it. Here is a quick overview.

Day One: Discussion about happiness: short term and long term. Homework: Do something that makes you happy, to report about in next class.

Day Two: Book exercises. Music and emotions. What music gives you what emotions? Start of music review.

Day Three: Overused words. Give students new words that are are synonyms for boring overused words. Have them guess the meaning in groups. Play game to test new vocab.

Day Four: Use the poem Jabberwocky to practice guessing the meaning of new words. Also, tongue twisters!

Full Class: Listen to 5 different songs:

Burn, by Usher
Innocence, by Avril Lavigne
Good Riddance, by Green Day
Leave Out All the Rest, by Linkin Park
Hotel California, by The Eagles

Discuss differences between types of music and songs. Brainstorm terms to use to describe each song. Homework, write a music review for some or all of the songs.

Also, one of my students asked me today if I would be her guest on a pretend talk show that will be part of the opening flag ceremony on Monday. She is going to talk to me after my next class. Just the idea that she thought of me made me happy.

This afternoon I am getting my foreign experts card and applying for my residency card. I hadn't thought much about it since I got here, but it's good to know that the school is on top of things.

I am also happy because this weekend has lots of socialness. Saturday morning is my meeting with the person from CT who I met on Shanghai Expat, Saturday afternoon is the jazz concert in Jing'An temple with Lucy and friends, and this Sunday I am going out with Zeno and June for lunch and possibly shopping.

The only thing I am a little nervous about is that next week about three teachers are going to be sitting in on one of my classes. It's when I have the whole half class, so the students are a little harder to control, but since I am doing music they will hopefully all be paying attention and be talkative and have fun.

Well, don't want to go on and on.

Love and mooncakes!
Stephanie

Thursday, 18 September 2008

College Trips and Pen Tricks

Last night's college talk was not in fact a college fair but a presentation by some people from Brown and UPenn talking about the admissions process for international students and then talking about their schools. A lot of my students were there, and I know that most of them probably didn't understand a third of what was said. The women talking spoke a million miles an hour and made references to obscure things. It was interesting and informative...but only if you could understand. I asked my first class today if any of the students that went yesterday had questions about the talk. One student asked what "literature arts" were. He misheard "liberal arts". If he didn't even get that, how was he supposed to understand the 10 minutes that the woman randomly talked about Odysseus?

Hearing them talk about applying for colleges and why their schools were the best made me homesick for Drew so much. I had such an amazing time in college and I am very jealous of all my friends that are still in school.

I'm still having a lot of trouble with Class A. Today most of them didn't have their homework done and after working for about 10 minutes on what I assigned them to do, they just started chatting in Chinese. It's so frustrating. I've been reading my TESOL books and some online ESL resources for ideas.

It seems like all of my students have some at least basic ability with pen spinning. I've included a video I found of some pen spinning in case people don't know what I'm talking about. When I first noticed it I thought it meant the students weren't paying attention but now I realize that it's just a habit like tapping your foot. In an effort to connect with my students and to show them that I'm not afraid to look like an idiot while learning (in hopes to give them more confidence to not worry about looking like idiots if they made English mistakes), I've been asking them to show me how to do it. Wish me luck.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Some Interesting News

Nothing big interesting has happened in the last two days, but some small things did I thought I would mention in bullet/list form.

-In one class yesterday, my students were freaking out about a moth being in the class room. After repeatedly missing it, I finally gave it one good whack out of the air with my attendance sheet and it landed directly into the trashcan halfway across the room. The students clapped.

-I was pissed yesterday because I thought my headphones were broken (music only came out of one side). Turns out there is a problem with my computer. Music only comes out of one speaker. Crap. That is harder to fix. I am going to try to talk to the computer teacher in the high school and see if he can help me.

-Today at lunch I found a ring of metal a little larger than a quarter in my cauliflower. Gross. If I die of some mysterious disease in the next day or so, you know why.

-After school today, I am going with June and a bunch of the older students to a college fair. We are leaving around 430 and not getting back until 9. I hope it's not boring, but to be honest I would probably just be watching Star Trek if I stayed at my apartment.

-The Connecticut person I met on Shanghai Expat asked me to go to coffee on Saturday morning. This person lives close by, so I hope we hit it off.

That's all for now I suppose.

Love and dumplings,
Steph

Monday, 15 September 2008

My First Wish List

So, people have already been asking me what I would like from home, and though I haven't thought about it too much, there are a few things that come to mind.

-Swiffer cloths
I'm serious. Mom says I'm weird because I want cleaning supplies, but my apartment gets so dusty and my broom seems to just push it around. I haven't found swiffers yet, so I'm beginning to doubt they have them here.

-Reese's peanut butter cups
Mmmm....peanut butter and chocolate. Nuf said.

-Uni-ball Vision Elite Bold Pens
Again, I know I'm a dork because I'm asking for pens, but I can't find them here. I know Emily at least will understand. It's my favorite brand of pen not only because it writes very well but it has sentimental value. Preferably black and/or red ink, though other colors are good too.

-Smartfood popcorn and/or Cheez-its
Two of my favorite cheesy snacks and I can't find them even in the imported section or gourmet stores.

EDIT: I have now found Cheez-its in Carrefour...still no update on Smartfood.

-Pictures of friends and family
I didn't pack nearly enough pictures. If you send me a package or even just a letter, I would love to have more pictures or decorations to make this place feel like home.

-Deodorant
Becky says the deodorant here is crap, though I haven't tried it for myself. She's been here for three years, so I'm inclined to trust her. At home I usually used Secret, though I'm not picky.


That's all I can really think of right now. Of course anything else you think of or think I would like would be very much appreciated. Mail is just fun to get, especially when it comes from across an ocean.

Of course to anyone that sends me a package, I want to send one in return, so please let me know anything you would like from China. There are tons of funky snacks and candies, amazing teas, fun clothes and accessories, touristy souvenirs of all kinds, and of course tons of cheap DVDs for movies and tv shows. Let me know what kind of stuff you would be interested and be sure to give me your address if you think I don't have it.

Here is the post with all my contact info including address.

Well THAT Was Random

So Sunday afternoon I set out with the intention of looking for a guitar. I hopped on a bus to the Science and Technology Museum and headed down to the subway level to look for the fabled market I had heard so much about. It was there. And it was a labyrinth.

I walked around in what felt like circles for quite a while. I only found ONE shop with musical instruments. I pulled a guitar off the shelf and gave it a strum, checked the tension on the strings, if the neck was straight, all that jazz. Seemed like a decent guitar but the strings certainly needed to be changed. Asked for a price. 1,200 yuan. Yessh. I put the guitar back and left without even trying to bargain. If the guy was starting that high the lowest I probably could have gotten him was around half that with a LOT of effort. I was not in the mood. Besides, Andrew (Charlotte's boyfriend) told me of a music shop he found in Puxi that he said he would give me the address for. I suppose that will be my next plan of action.

I was feeling a little hungry but didn't feel like going back to my apartment yet. I figured I would take the subway to Nanjing Road, get something quick to eat and maybe a bubble tea to drink, wander around a bit and then come home. I got off the subway at People's Square and just started walking in a random direction.

I couldn't have been walking more than 5 minutes before I heard "HELLO!" I thought it was just another person trying to sell me something or one of the people that just likes it when a foreigner says Hello and then they run away laughing. I looked up and it was two Chinese women under an umbrella. I said 'Hello' back and instead of them giggling at me, one of them said 'Where are you from?'. I told them. They asked a bunch of questions like why I was in China and I told them I was teaching and how old I was and where I went to college and why I could speak some Chinese. I found out they were from Harbin (of all places!) and they were visiting. There were two guys with them. One woman was in her mid-twenties I think, the other was still in high school. One guy was still in high school and the older guy was a taxi driver (and I think he was from Shanghai). We were talking and joking and I realized I was just following them since I had no plans to go anywhere in particular.

The whole experience was surreal. Somehow we ended up in a teahouse. We did a tea tasting and the high school guy translated anything I couldn't understand about what the woman was saying. I showed off that I knew the correct way to hold my tea cup and taste the tea (my class went on a tea tasting in the 2004 trip). The whole time all four of them were asking me questions about America and about me and about teaching and what I though of China and where I had been before and my family. After we were done having tea, the tea lady told me and the other two girls to pick out a container and which tea we liked best. I picked out a black container and the ginseng tea we had tried first. I am still unsure if I had to pay extra because of the tea or if I was just buying the container or what the deal was, but hey. It was good tea and a fun experience.

The lady also brought in a pee pee boy. For those who don't know, you soak a pee pee boy in cold water. Then, you can test your water to make sure it is hot enough to make tea by pouring it on his head. If it's hot enough, he will "pee" water everywhere. The other four didn't recognize it when she brought it out, but I knew well enough what it was and hid behind my purse. She said we could have two free pee pee boys. I tried repeatedly to get someone else to take them (I already have three at home and told them as such!) but the taxi driver just picked up the two, put them together as if making them a pair, handed me one and kept the other. He said that whenever he looked at his, he would think of me. The lady also gave us each a good luck charm.
Here is a picture of my fancy black container with ginseng tea, the green container my peepee boy came in, my pee pee boy, and the good luck charm (it has bells on it!). I think for the time being I will hang up the good luck charm in my cubicle since it looks so sad and bare.

After we left the teahouse, they asked me what I wanted to do next. I said I was hungry. I hadn't eaten for a while and the whole reason I went to Nanjing Road in the first place was to have something to eat. They asked if I minded if we all ate dinner together. I said of course not! We ended up going out for hot pot (I can't get enough hot pot). The place we went to was so crowded it was ridiculous. The restaurant was kind of set up like a forest with fake trees and giant mushroom things and fake rocks. We waited for like a half hour before we got a table.

The taxi driver guy bullied me (all in fun of course) to get a bottle of beer. If I don't like beer by the time I get back to America, I don't think I'll ever like it. Dinner was delicious of course. The new weird food for me for the evening was duck heart. Kind of tasted like liver. They taught me new Chinese words for things and asked me how to say somethings in English. Like ladle and kabob. I also corrected them and explained the difference when they thought drunk and hungover meant the same thing. When I told them I had never seen hot pot in America, the guy told me I should start up a hot pot restaurant when I went back home and he would come work for me. He also paid for dinner, which was very generous of him. I think I am beginning to understand. Splitting the cost of dinner isn't a usual occurrence. The person who does the inviting or organizing of the meal usually pays. Since he asked if we could all eat together, chose the restaurant and picked out all the food, he paid for dinner.
Here is a picture of all of us at dinner. The picture isn't the best, but the waitress couldn't seem to get my camera to work so no one (except me, apparently) was expecting the picture. After dinner, the woman said we should all go to the Bund, but I was tired and my poor footsies were hurting and I still had a long way to get home. I also knew I might have a webcam date with my parents (which I did!). We exchanged e-mail addresses and the high school guy gave me his phone number, we all had some hugs and then I went off on the subway.

Like I said, the whole experience was rather surreal. I mean, I decided to go to Nanjing Road cuz I was bored and hungry. No other reason. And if I had turned left out of the subway station instead of right, I never would have met them. Instead I had a fun and completely random adventure and met some new people. Of course I was cautious and careful since they were new people and I don't know anything about them, but I also don't want to let paranoia keep me from having some truly fun experiences I couldn't have anywhere else.
I took this picture while I was waiting for the bus. This is taken of the PuDong skyline looking down Century Avenue. First of all, I thought it just looked cool. Also, it is nearly impossible to see, but almost in the dead center of this picture is the tallest building in China. There was so much clouds/fog/whatever that all it is is a dark shadow. Below is a picture I found online of the building I am talking about. It's the financial capital building or something like that.
On my way home I got a text from mom saying she and dad were free to chat if I was. I set up my webcam when I got back to my apartment and talked to them for a while. They were both cooking stuff and they set up mom's computer on the table so it kind of felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table at home watching my parents cook. It made me very happy. I watched some Star Trek after I got offline and then went to bed.

I just got a phone call from Lloyd (one of the people I met on Monday), who invited me over for beers and swimming with some of the other people from the Monday group. I sadly turned him down as I am very sore and tired and smelly and my apartment is a wreck and I have papers to grade. I told him to please keep me in mind the next time they got together and maybe I would be "less lame". The phone call made me very happy though. I couldn't tell if they liked me or not, so I am going to take a second invitation to hang out as a good sign.

Anyway, I am double posting in one day again and this is very long so I am going to finish up before I get boring (if I haven't already!).

Much love,
Stephanie

Friday-Saturday Recap

Friday night karaoke was fun. I sang "Chasing Cars", "Bitch", and "Yesterday". One guy from the high school department sang (and this is no exaggeration) half of the songs that played in the room I was in. He wasn't a bad singer, but he didn't seem to remember the tempo to most of the songs he picked.

Saturday I went shopping in the morning. I had found a recipe for these (note, this is the picture from the recipe, not of the ones I made):

They are a super easy recipe to make. It's just softened cream cheese with garlic power, refried beans and cilantro rolled up in a tortilla. Then you cut it into slices and dip 'em in salsa. I was able to find everything I needed from the Pines store and the imported section of Carrefour. I brought them to the party at the foreign teacher's apartment in Puxi and they were a hit. I can't wait for another excuse to cook.

The party was fun. I met Charlotte's boyfriend Andrew, Joshua (who I think was a friend of Lisa's) and Karen (who was a contact of Mimi's but who was meeting her for the first time). Other people took pictures at the party, and once they post them somewhere I'll steal one to show you all. This party also affirmed my earlier belief that Becky and Chris (the Canada couple who are actually qualified teachers) are very very cool people. They have been to over 50 countries and have seen and done some pretty crazy stuff. I could listen to them forever.

At around 12:30 AM, everyone was like 'We should go to a club!' I was tired and no mood to go to a club but since everyone was going (including the people I was going to travel to half hour back to campus with), I went along. We got to the club, SQUEEZED through a billion people to the back of the club. I hung outside talking to Andrew for a bit. Around 15 minutes later Chris, Becky and Stephanie were like, 'Umm...this sucks. We're leaving.' So we caught a cab back to campus.

The cab ride back was amusing. We talked to the cab driver in Chinese about where he was from and where we were from and all that jazz. I was glad to find a nice cab driver. Most of the cab drivers in Harbin were always ready for a quick conversation in Chinese and that's where I honestly got a lot of my practice. Here, when I try to talk to the cab drivers they just ignore me most of the time. This guy was fun though.

We got back around a bit after 2. I puttered around my apartment before going to bed around 3am.

Sunday was an adventure in and of itself so I think I am going to post it as a separate entry.

LOVE!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Pictures of the School

First, here is my oh-so-professional name tag (including my Chinese name) over the edge of my cubicle.Here is a picture of my cubicle as viewed from walking in the door to the office. As I said, it's rather sad and empty right now. It looks worse than it is since all the books I have are in the corner and you can't see them from this angle. The only real personal thing I have hanging up right now is a picture of Emily that she sent to me (in my first and only piece of mail so far. Thanks EM!!!). The guy standing up in the back in the light blue shirt is actually one of my students.
This is something really cool about the High School I forgot to mention in an earlier post. It's open in the middle. Right in the middle of the school the ceiling just opens up and there is a mini forest. I've heard bugs chirping in it and everything. And it's awesome when it rains. It feels like I'm going for a walk outside whenever I go to class.
Here is a view of the high school from the front. There is only around 200 (I think?) students in the high school, so it's small compared to the rest of the school.
Last, but not least, here are the signs on the front of the school, declaring it an IB school.

Knitting Update: The Deuce

Here are some more finished squares (I have to slow down or this blanket is going to be finished much too quickly).



I have no idea why this picture is rotated differently. This square is yarn from the MacPhail family.

This is made from the skein of yarn from Patty Chung from Kamatics.


This was made with a skein from the Morton family. :-)

Friday, 12 September 2008

Two Weeks Down, ??? Left

So right now in class I am doing paraphrasing and trying to teach the kids the difference between doing research and just plan old cheating/copying. To make it more interesting, I am having them practice paraphrasing/summarizing bios on either Avril Lavigne, Yao Ming, George Bush (for the politics people), or the movie KungFu Panda (which they all seem to love). I told them if they focus in class and get a lot done, no homework for the long weekend. So far two of my four classes have done very well on it.

I also said that if they did well in class that in the last five minutes if they wanted I would show them a video of me sword fighting (since a lot of my students really perked up when I told them I did stage combat). Class A, which is the class I often have the most difficulty with actually said they would rather keep working than stop and watch a video. That surprised me. Class D said they wanted to watch the video and they gathered round and oooed and aaahed in all the right places. They asked me questions like "Are you really hitting him?" or "Are those knives real?" (which gave me the opportunity to teach them the names of the weapons...ha!) What really made me happy was when a boy in Class D came to talk to me after class. He asked if he put a new club together, would I be willing to teach the students stage combat. Of course I said yes. How exciting would that be? Teaching stage combat in China. Bringing the dorkiness of TMT to a far distant country.
Last night the foreign teachers were treated to dinner by the school. We went to a fancy spancy place with a GIGANTIC round table with a lazy susan in the middle that rotated by itself. Of course since the table was so huge, you had to wait a while for something to get back to where you were if you missed it on the first try. There was TONS of food. I ate tongue (beef, not duck again) without realizing it. It was good. I can't even remember what I ate, there was so much variety. There was sushi, fish soup, some sort of noodle and seafood thing on a shell, lamb in a pot, chicken, duck, peanuts, tongue, beans, seaweed, mushrooms, tons of prawns, fish, corn, eggs, and of course moon cakes (to celebrate the mid-autumn festival). And I am probably forgetting a lot. Everything I tried was delicious. I was glad to get the chance to talk more with Adam, Mimi and Lisa, who are the three foreign teachers that live off campus in an apartment in Puxi. They were all very nice and fun to talk to.

Tonight is the karaoke and dinner celebration. That should be fun. I am looking forward to it. Tomorrow I am going to a party at Lisa, Mimi, and Adam's apartment with the other foreign teachers. On the 20th I am going to a jazz festival with Lucy and the friends we went to the park with. Yay! Social!

I get a three day weekend because of the mid-autumn festival, so I think I am going to go on a mighty quest for a guitar. Someone suggested I go to the market under the science and technology museum. I think I'll check that out.

The Mid-Autumn festival is supposed to be a time when you get together with your family and friends, eat moon cakes and look at the beautiful moon.

For the first time since I got here, I am FREEZING. The air conditioner in the office is turned to "arctic" and I am wearing a sleeveless shirt and flip flops. YIKES.

Again, I apologize for the lack of pictures. I finished two squares since my last knitting post. Maybe I'll put those pictures up soon.

Much love!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

"Teacher, what's a kink?"

Oh dear. Twice in the last two days has something happened that I had to kind of side step.

Yesterday during the "How To" presentations, a girl started up her power point presentation on how to make sushi. The first picture was an arrangement of sushi that was none too subtly arranged to look like....erm....male genitalia. She didn't say anything about it and no one in the class even cracked a smile when it came up on the screen. I have a hard time believing that not a one of them noticed, but a harder time believing that if they did notice that they wouldn't react. Afterwards I asked her if she had picked that picture on purpose. She just looked at me confused and said, "Yes, I picked out all the pictures in the presentation." I dropped the issue. Maybe Chinese students are just wired differently...

Today in class, a girl meant to write "kind" on the bored, but she wrote "kink". She was in the middle of her presentation, so I waited until she was done before I corrected her. One of the students in the class who is nearly fluent (and sometimes acts like he is my teaching assistant without me asking him to) raised his hand and asked what a kink was. I briefly thought about giving him the complete answer before deciding I didn't want to be known as the teacher that discusses fetishes in class. I told him it could be used for kink in your hair or kink in your neck then we moved on to the next subject.

Ahh...the weird humor of being a teacher.

Happy National Teacher's Day!

Today is National Teacher's Day in China. Some students from one of my classes came into the office and gave all the teachers roses, so now I have a pink rose and a white rose on my desk. In my first class today, one of my students when I was in the middle of saying something said, "Happy Teacher's Day Stephanie!!". It threw me off track for a minute before I smiled and said thank you. Tomorrow the school is treating us to dinner and on Friday we are going to KTV for karaoke (oh dear).

I find it ironic that shortly after making that post yesterday saying that the foreign teachers couldn't seem to care less about me, I got a text message from Stephanie saying they were all at Blue Frog ad I should get there ASAP. It was a pretty nice evening (other than the fact that my bacon potato soup was completely devoid of flavor). Tentative plans were made for a possible party at the apartment where three of the teachers live.

After dinner I went to Carrefour. I wanted to get some speakers for my computer for when I get around to playing music in class, and some new headphones since the ones I have used for three years were literally falling apart. They were having some items on super discount sale so I bought some tupperware, a water bottle (I get so thirsty since they don't give us anything to drink other than soup at lunch), a cutting board (5 RMB!), and a basket thing for my dirty laundry. The headphones were actually the most expensive thing I bought. Yikes. On the way home I picked up three new DVDs from the woman that Stephanie swears by. I was surprised that she only charged 5 RMB a movie. It was 8-10 most other places I've gone and I didn't even haggle with her. I watched Prince Caspian before going to bed.

So, the foreign teachers suggest I get an Ayi. Ayi is Chinese for aunt, and in this case it means a cleaning woman. Stephanie's Ayi charges 25 RMB an hour to wash her floors and windows and bathroom and clean the dishes. It's a good deal, and my floors do get dusty disturbingly fast, but I don't really like the idea of someone being in my apartment when I'm not there. And I wouldn't want to be there looking at her while she cleans for me. The whole idea doesn't really sit right with me. I've always taken care of my own stuff, or been part of a household that shared responsibilities. But then again...when in Rome....right?

Kellie and I have been sharing thoughts about being a new teacher. It's nice to talk to someone that feels the same way I do. Since most of the teachers here have been at it for a while and the only other new teachers here teacher children, it's not the same experience. I am trying to convince Kellie to come visit for the holiday we both have coming up in the end of September. (DOOOOOOOOO IT Kellie!!!)

Teaching is going well for the most part. Some students did their "How To" presentations yesterday and some were really good. I still sometimes feel like a fraud when I teach though. The beginning of each week is frightening since I am teaching everything for the first time, but when I get to the end of the week and I am repeating the same class I feel more comfortable. I like having one on one time with the students. Finishing class early and letting the start their homework usually turns into a good thing. They feel more comfortable asking questions one on one and I can give them individual advice, encouragement or praise. Of course some students just take the oppertunity to talk or sleep or goof off, so I can't do it too often.

I'm rambling and I need to prepare for tomorrows classes, so I will talk to you all later.

I need to find something interesting picture wise to put up. Hmmm...

Love,
Stephanie

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

SUGGESTIONS?

So, I want to show movies and tv shows and play music in my class. Anyone have any ideas?

I want to use mostly recent stuff so that they can be relatively up to date on new stuff.

They are 15 years old, so it should be appropriate for their age. It should also be appropriate for school.

When it comes to songs, I would prefer if they were pretty straight forward as to what they are about without a lot of symbolism and allusions. And preferably have a catchy tune and be easy to sing along with.

Mmmmmmmm....social.

It seems like every foreigner in the area I live in has a family. I always see a mother and father cycling down the street with at least one kid with them. Whole families out to eat. Families shopping. Families families everywhere, and not one of them is mine. Not only does it make it make me homesick and sad seeing families together when I am alone, but it means its hard for me to make friends with other foreigners in the area. I can't walk up to a couple with a stroller and say "Hey! Cute kid! Wanna go get some drinks??"

There is a website called Shanghai Expat which is pretty useful. It has recommendations on which restaurants and stores to go to, events that are coming up, advice about what to do and what not to do while in Shanghai...etc. In a moment of loneliness and frustration, I made a quick post on the forum saying I was looking for people in JinQiao (the neighborhood I live in) to hang out with.

I started my post with "I am not looking for a boyfriend or a tutor or a job!" I wanted people to know that I honestly just wanted people to hang out with...no ulterior motive.

Well, I have gotten two responses so far. One was from a woman named Carol who invited me out to dinner and drinks last night with her and 4 other people. We went to a Thai restaurant near the school. I am a little unclear still as to who already knew each other and who was new (other than me). Carol and one of the guys was from Singapore. The other girl was from Canada, and the last two guys were from America (Ohio and South Carolina). I think I was the youngest person there, but everyone seemed relatively young and I had a good time. The woman from Canada lives SUPER close to me and invited us all over from lunch on Thursday. I may actually be able to go with my classes the way they are.

The other response I got was...get this...from someone from Connecticut! They are originally from Farmington and have been in Shanghai for a few months. They don't live in JinQiao, but they are only about 20 minutes away by bus. We'll probably try to get together soon.

At school, I still haven't hung out with the foreign teachers much. I still plan on trying to reach out to them . Maybe cook a nice big dinner (as well as I can with my kitchen) and invite them all over. I just feel like I am trying to dig my way into a group that is already set in it's ways.

With the Chinese teachers, June and Zeno invited me out for dinner on Monday night, but I already had those plans with Carol. June asked if I had plans for this weekend (we get monday off for the Mid-Autumn festival).When I told her no, she said that maybe me her and Xeno could go get some steamed dumplings. I said that we should go to a craft shop she mentioned to me earlier and they can pick out stuff they like and I could make them some jewelry. (She has liked all the jewelry that I made and brought with me)

So, that's my story. I am making an effort to make friends.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Emotions

My emotions are really starting to bug me. I can't seem to have an emotion lately without it being to an extreme.

I don't know if it's because I'm adjusting or everything is so new or it's just because I am stressed and tired, but I can't seem to just be OK.

I am either completely paranoid, wracked with worry, utterly depressed, beyond freaking out, aching with homesickness, super excited, or ecstatically happy. I can't seem to level out and just be ok or content. If you mapped my emotions for the past two weeks it would be a series of spikes and lows like a damn EKG or lie detector.

It's exhausting to live like this.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A Day in the Park

Yeesh! I miss a day or two because I'm very busy and important and SOME people start freaking out. Here I was thinking I was being boring by posting so often. Anyway, I have a lot to talk about so this entry will probably be much too long.
So first off, I ended up going to that play with Xeno and Jane, two Chinese teachers from my office. We got a bit lost on the way, but still got there early enough to get front row seats. I enjoyed the play and could understand a good amount of it. Xeno was trying to translate for me in the beginning, but I told her it was ok. I didn't want her to have to do that for the whole play and I wanted to try and figure it out for myself. It was about a married couple and their mothers. The man was from northern China and the girl was from Shanghai. The boy's mother was very traditional and frugal. She wanted the girl to help with the housework and wanted them to have children. The girls mother was very rich and high fashion. Everyone butted heads a lot. There were pieces of the play I understood perfectly. But then there were parts where I was completely lost and asked Xeno about afterwards. It was a fun evening. But Saturday was even better!
Guess what I found? NATURE!!!
This Saturday, Lucy invited me to hang out with a bunch of her friends. For a while it looked like it was going to be canceled because the weather has been bad recently, but it turned out to be a lovely day. We all met in front of the Science and Technology museum and walked a short walk to Century Park. Now I know where I can go if I need some nature. It's about a 20 minute bus ride away and I have to pay to get in, but hey. It's nature.
This is a picture of me and Lucy. I realized yesterday that other than relatives, I have been friends and kept in touch with her longer than anyone. Also, I am wearing the new bag that I bought in the sports store.
I can't remember everyone's name, but it was a LOT of fun. I am so glad I brought my camera. We had a ton of fun taking pictures. Mostly involving us jumping.Here is everyone except WeiXi.
Here is everyone except Weixi doing various Olympic sport poses. I am doing a terrible job at portraying basketball.
This is everyone preparing to roll down the hill all together. I opted out since the ground was wet.
We walked around the park for a bit before sitting on plastic and newspaper in the grass and eating snacks. We ended up playing Mafia, and they were surprised I knew the game. I ended up being the judge. Then I taught everyone how to play "Never Have I Ever". They seemed to like it. After that was when we started taking a ton of pictures.
We walked around some more (Lucy and I were singing a lot as we walked around) until we got to the lake edge. Then there was some dancing and fooling around. One of the last things we did in the park was stand in a circle and took turns dancing in the middle.
After leaving the park, Lucy and Weixi left because they were tired, but the others invited me to go get hotpot for dinner. I was having such a good time that I went. After a little confusion about where to go, we got to the restaurant. This hot pot was different from the other times I've had hotpot. Instead of a bowl over fire or some coals, it was the bowl of spiced broth with the coals in a fluted bowl in the center.
One of the boys ran outside to get lamb barbecue as an appetizer, then the food and beer showed up and we started to eat. It was very good. We played a few drinking games. One was 007. You pointed at a person at the table and said "ling" (chinese for zero), then that person pointed to another and said "ling", then that person pointed to one more person and said "qi" (chinese for 7). THAT person was supposed to stay still and look composed while the two people next to them mimed jumping away. There was another similar game where you did the same thing except said "huai" "dao" and "quan" (meaning boat), and the last person pointed at was supposed to salute while the two people next to them mime rowing and say "heipa heipa heipa" (or something like that. I forget). And if anyone in the whole routine messes up, you have to drink. What got confusing was when you played both games at the same time. People couldn't remember if you were supposed to salute or just sit there or row or what. We also played "Never have I ever" as a drinking game for a while.
Another drinking game involved slapping the table and clapping (in the "we will rock you" rhythm). Each person had a move or gesture that represented them. One of the ones I used was the "i'm so adorable" fingers in your dimples face. You had to do your gesture, then do the gesture of someone else to pass it on, all the while not messing up the clapping or waiting too long to make a gesture. If no one was making a mistake it got faster and faster. During one very long round of the game that got impossibly fast, one girl ended up just pointing to the person she wanted to pass it to, completely forgetting to make a gesture. It was hilarious.
We also said what we would do if we had 5 million RMB (yuan). Everyone else said their answer in English for my sake. I ended up going last and I said my answer in Chinese. I said I would buy my parents a boat, then I would buy myself a car, then I would travel to England, Italy, and Australia. They all clapped and laughed.
All in all it was a really good day. They said I was invited whenever they decided to have another outing like that. I still miss people from home A LOT, but yesterday felt so normal. It was nice to just hang out and relax with some people.
I'm still frustrated when it comes to my Chinese. Everyone I was hanging out with yesterday had much better English than I do Chinese. I think my listening is getting a bit better because I'm surrounded with Chinese so often nowadays, but I'm still so nervous when it comes to speaking it. Ah well. Nothing better than practicing I suppose.
I'm still drudging through my letters. Still freaking out about classes even though things are going well so far. Still feel lonely when I'm in my apartment (which seems like way too often). Still can't imagine how I am going to be able to keep these kids learning for a whole year. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed. Still have a messed up sleep schedule....but yesterday was a good day. And if I keep having good days, then the hard things will seem easier.Here is one last picture of Lucy and WeiXi jumping, just cuz I like it so much.

Much love,
Stephanie

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A Longer Update

So, I thought it would be a good idea to have my students write me an introduction letter and then I would write a letter back to each of them. Anyone see a problem with this plan?

....did I mention I have 62 students total? Yep. That means I have to write 62 letters. I am about halfway through writing them at this point. I need to have 3/4 of them done by Monday, but the other 1/4 can wait until Wednesday.

I am worried because my students are behaving so well. Randy says after 5 weeks of being angels they will go crazy. Is that supposed to make me feel better? It is truly scary to stand in front of 15-31 students and teach. I feel so outnumbered. I feel like I'm going to run out of ideas very quickly on what to teach them. When I think of how much responsibilities I have in front of me, I feel a little ill.

In the letters they have written to me, there have been some really nice comments. One girl said she loved my smile. Many students have said that I seem fun and they like my class. Again, I don't know if this is them sucking up or what. I hope they believe what they write. I have been writing down some important things about each student from their letters. I hope that way I will show them that I think of them as individuals and not just one class. I also hope that by respecting them, they will respect me. I also sneakily put my birthday in my introduction letter as a way to make them think of putting their birthday in theirs. Most of them wrote it and now I know many of their birthdays. :-)

I forget if I told anyone other than my parents, but I was upset because the website I was using to watch episodes of Doogie Howser doesn't work here in China. I was so upset. On Tuesday when I was walking back from the Blue Frog with Stephanie and Charlotte, Stephanie stopped to look at some DVDs. You would not believe what was on the top of the pile. Doogie Howser! All four seasons! The quality isn't amazing but it was SUPER CHEAP. Now I can get my Doogie Howser fix.

I have been here for about two weeks now and I haven't done laundry once. I should really do it tonight. Randy said that on Thursdays some of the foreign teachers like to go to his apartment to play poker. I don't really like poker, but it would be a way to get me out of my apartment and being social.

This friday a lot of the Chinese teachers are going to a play. They gave me a ticket and said I should come. The play is entirely in Chinese. Of course I want to be social and go because they are being so nice to invite me, but I worry about being annoyed or bored at a play that I can only understand about half of.

I've started to get a blister on the middle finger of my right hand. I was trying to figure out why because when I write the pen rubs on my ring finger. Then today I figured out why. 1. When I write on the board with chalk, it hits that finger and 2. When I use chopsticks it rubs against that finger. Oh well!

Sorry that I haven't posted pictures in a while. The batteries in my camera died. I can't plug my battery charger in here, and I haven't gotten around to getting new batteries yet.

Anyway, I have class in a few minutes. My last class of the day. This is the class where I do accents from all over the US. The other 3 classes loved it. Wish me luck.

I am going to end this post by saying thank goodness for my years of Improv teaching me to be quick on my feet and for CIBA for making me get used to speaking in front of a crowd. I don't know if I could do this job otherwise.

Much love everyone,
Stephanie

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Day Three

An excerpt from my one of my students introduction letters:

"Today's lesson which you taught us is very interesting, it's not like the other foreign teachers. I feel so relaxed that it makes me have more confidence to say something."

What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Second Day: Going Better So Far

Yesterday was so bad. I was freaking out in my apartment. I tried to distract myself by watching a movie, but all I had was "The Kite Runner". A Chinese teacher lent it to me. Good movie, but it made me even more depressed. I walked down the hall to talk to Stephanie just to get out of my room and out of my head.

She was very nice and very considerate, but other than that, she couldn't help me much at the time. She told me that she was really depressed her first semester, which didn't make me feel better. She couldn't tell me much about teaching at the high school since she teaches primary. She offered to hang out and watch a movie or go out to eat or something, but I was in state to be social. She did, though, send me a text message today to check up on me, which I really appreciate. Me, her, Charlotte and maybe some other teachers are going to the Blue Frog after work to hang out.

I couldn't sleep at all last night. This morning I hate half of a peanut butter sandwich and felt like I was going to throw up. I had some tea, which made me feel a little better. I really hope that once I get into a routine, I'll feel less freaked out about each day. And I hope I start sleeping better. Getting barely any sleep or no sleep at all is starting to drive me insane.

When I walked in the office today I was afraid someone was going to be like, "Where the heck did you go yesterday?" But no one seemed to notice that I had left early. Either that or the Chinese belief in "face" is saving me from an uncomfortable confrontation. As for my classes today, the first one went very well. The second class (which was with the same group of students that was in my horrific last class yesterday) went ok. They were still pretty quiet, but I did what I could to get them to talk. They loosened up a bit and laughed when I demonstrated different American accents (southern, boston, new york, etc). And when we talked about brainstorming I tried to get really excited about every answer they gave me, which made more of them talk.

One thing that made me feel better was the letters. Most of my first class today already handed in their introduction letters (only one student from the second class had finished hers). And most of them made a reference to how much they were looking forward to my class, or that they liked the way I taught already. One student talked in length about how he agrees with me that language learning happens best in a relaxed environment and that he was so happy to hear a teacher say that for the first time. I don't know if any of what they wrote is just them trying to suck up to the teacher or if they actually believe what they wrote, but it was very encouraging to read.

I think one of the things I need to work on most is having enough prepared for class. I don't want to ever run out and have to look at a sea of silent faces again. It's nice that I have to teach the same thing 4 times. True, it gets repetitive, but after doing it once I have a better idea what works and what doesn't. How much time each thing takes. Etc etc...

I choose this job over the other offers I had in different cities or different schools or even over a job at the primary section of THIS school because I love the IB program and the type of students it attracted in my high school. It's frustrating to get here and find out that a lot of these kids are here because their parents forced them to and they would rather be somewhere else.

Anyway, I hope this isn't depressing to read. But things are going better today. I'm doing what I can. I feel like I am trying to get through a dark tunnel or climb a huge mountain. I can't imagine being able to do the whole thing, but looking at it piece by piece is making it easier to manage.

Monday, 1 September 2008

First Day

Well, today went from good to horrible.

I am probably overreacting because I am so stressed out, but I feel really panicky and nervous right now.

The opening flag ceremony was short and relatively interesting. The principle talked for a while and I didn't understand much of it. Then the new teachers introduced themselves. I mentioned graduating from an IB high school and that I was looking forward to being their teacher and friend.

My first class went really well. I ran out of stuff that I had planned only halfway through the class, but then we had a good discussion. The class asked me a lot of questions about me, and I asked them questions.

My second class went ok. I ran out of stuff again and was hoping to have another discussion. They asked me some weird questions like what sort of alcohol I liked to drink, so i tried to steer the conversation away from that. Only about 3 students were talking and the rest were quiet.

My last class for the day went horrible. It started out fine, but when I again tried to start a discussion, they just sat there. After a little while I asked if they were asleep. When one girl said yes, I asked them all to stand up and do 5 jumping jacks. Some did half assed jumps, some just waved their arms, and some just stared at me. I waited for most to move at least a little and then I told them they could sit down again. I tried again to get them to talk, but I got the same response. So I told them to start their homework, packed up my stuff and left.

Thinking back, I should have asked them to start their homework and then gone around to talk to them one by one quietly. But I just panicked. I couldn't stand being in the room anymore with them just staring at me. And now I am freaked out about going back tomorrow. I feel physically sick.

I am probably making this sound much worse than it is, but I feel terrible right now. I hope things get better soon. I wish I had someone from home to talk to and hug me and make me feel better.

I can't give up. If I fail at this, the only thing I will ever think of in the future when faced with a new problem is how I gave up. So I need to keep fighting and get through this. Some how.