Thursday, 30 October 2008

Medieval Plays and Slapping Games

So I am apparently making up for not posting since Sunday by posting three times today. Whoo!

This morning we started with the medieval plays. Some good things, some bad. I was a little disappointed that they hadn't put more effort into the plays since it was their only work this whole week. I told them as such. I was also sure to point out the things that I liked too. I know people have a tendency to remember the bad comments and forget the good, so I'm trying to be careful with what I say.

I recorded all the plays on my camera but they haven't all been copying off onto my computer. I don't know which end the problem is on.

I handed out the sign up sheets for what activities the students want to do for next week. So far I have a TON of people for clothing and food and NO ONE for building a trebuchet. Yeesh! I thought teenage boys would be more excited about the idea of destroying things. If I don't get any students signing up for that, I will have to scrap the whole idea and focus on the other stuff. Oh well. I would be a little disappointed about not helping build a trebuchet, but it would certainly make things a little easier for next week.

After we finished with the plays and me explaining what they need to do this weekend to prepare for next week, I told the students they could go back to the high school building (we were in the theater) if they wanted, class was over a few minutes early. Most opted to stay and hang out and asked me to play a game! :-)

It was a strange version of rock, paper scissors. If you lost you had to put your hand down on the table. As more and more people lost, you stacked your hands up. The last person with one free hand got to slap the pile of hands. Everyone tries to pull their hands away to not get slapped. We played a few rounds. I got one good slap directly on the back of my left hand from one of my students (who was very apologetic) but otherwise escaped the game unscathed. I'm taking it as a good sign that they wanted me to join their game, instead of a covert attempt to beat me up. :-D

Tonight their is a halloween party at the main school building. I think I will go to check it out. I brought my halloween costume to work just in case.

Friday night I am going out with Lucy and her friends and Charlotte to a club for Halloween. Charlotte said I could spend the night in her apartment so I don't have to go all the way back to Pudong late at night after drinking. I also got the e-mail today and the Shanghai Halloween pub crawl is getting a third bus so I am off the waiting list and can go! I asked Iris (the girl I met like....4 weeks ago?) if she wanted to go with me. Hopefully she's still free. There will also be people there that I met at the wine tasting. I hope I have fun!

It's still raining. Bah.

Much love,

Heraldry Galore

Some pictures of the heraldry my students did:

This is the board right outside of my office. I love seeing people standing in front of it and looking at all the pictures. (If you click on the picture you can see a larger version).

I couldn't fit all of grade ten on one board, so this is Class C. I also put on the pages from the packet I gave them explaining what each symbol means.

This is from one of my favorite students. He likes to say "Holy Crap" so he made it his motto.

This was the best coat of arms from my class, IMHO. Very good drawing and a lot of though went into the symbols. He explained them all in class, but it was a bit personal, so I'm not going to write it here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Wordy Update

Things have been going mostly well. This week in class the students first had to show their shield and explain it to the class. Then I put them into groups and gave each group a story to learn and turn into a play by the end of the week. Sadly, I decided against Chaucer since some of my students are just no where near that level of English yet. I found a book in the school library that had European folklore in shorter and easier versions. The three stories they are doing are Beowulf, the Sword in the Stone, and How Finn Found Bran. To make sure they understand that these aren't the original, I also printed out excerpts from the original text of each so they could see how much it has changed.

I gave a quiz yesterday about everything we learned last week. Since their first monthly test was oral, this was the first "test-ish" thing we had done in class. I felt so teachery. Some students did very well, others poorly. Out of a possible 20 points, the lowest score was 9. One thing that amused me was the answers to the question "Why did knights use heraldry?" When I got multiple students during the test who confessed they forgot what heraldry meant, I told them it was the same as the coat of arms, what they drew over the weekend. I got a surprising amount of students that wrote that a coat of arms was what knights used to "protect their arms". Grading tests was funny. I also had a student that mixed up "herald" and "halberd" so he said the definition of a herald was a long pole with a blade like an ax. Ahh... medieval humor.

I asked the school for funds for projects for next week. Stuff like cloth for clothes, ingredients to make food, and wood... for my pipe dream hope to make a trebuchet. I haven't really gotten a clear answer as to if I'm getting anything and if so, how much. I hope I'll get enough to do something fun. I think doing something with your own two hands is one of the best and most interesting ways to learn. I still remember how confused I was about DNA until we built models in class. It all clicked. Then again, I am a tactile learner.

Class C never ceases to amaze me. Today when I passed out the stories and pointed out the fact that this was their classwork and homework for the rest of the week (aka, more done in class means less homework) they all immediately started working. The room was silent. Ahh bliss. I'm glad that every day I teach Class C, they are my last class. I end the day on a positive note.

So my bike broke again last week. The pole leading to the seat bent. It was my own dumb fault. I tried to bend it back with a hammer, which resulted in a twisted piece of metal that could be taken for abstract art. I bought a new pole and seat at Decathalon (kinda like Dick's Sporting Goods) and put them on last night. I was so excited to have it fixed and I was going to go a'riding around today. And know what? It's raining. BAH.

I hung up the shields my students drew and they have been getting a lot of attention. It makes me smile every time I see people standing in front of the board and looking at them.

I also am going to ask my students if they want to have a student design a coat of arms for the whole 10th grade and then put them on a t-shirt. The senior students started screen printing t-shirts as a business idea. Such a lucky twist of fate should not be ignored. I am going to ask the students starting tomorrow if they would want to buy t-shirts so I can get back to the seniors about whether or not they are getting in a huge order.

This post talks A LOT about school stuff cuz I've been busy with it a lot lately. It's been on my mind a lot.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Getting Lost Makes My Feet Hurt

Yesterday I was a big big bum. I practiced guitar, sewed, did some laundry...that was about it. It was a rainy day and I didn't feel like doing anything.

This morning I did some quick grocery shopping. I splurged on a few things I have been wanting. I bought a box of stuffing since Dave posted about stuffing and it made me want some. I also treated myself to a fancy gouda cheese (but only a small block of it).

Today I wanted to go to Puxi to the craft market I had gone to with June to get some stuff to make a Halloween costume. I think I've decided to go with being a jester. Today I bought some ribbon that matches the jester hat I bought and some jingle bells. If I can just find some plain t-shirts in different colors, I can cut them up and sew them back together to look like a jester shirt. I haven't been able to find plain t-shirts ANYWHERE. I have less than a week to find them.

Anyway, I met up with Charlotte outside of the subway. I went out of the wrong exit and wandered around for ten minutes before I realized I was in the wrong place and had to go back. Once we met up, we went to lunch at Subway. I got a roasted chicken sandwich with bacon and honey mustard. Twas good! Then we proceeded to try and find the craft market for the next three hours.

I kid you not. We took a taxi to the place I knew it was near and walked around and around down one street and up the next and got very lost and then looked at a map and then wandered around some more. We stopped at a bunch of other shops, bought some little things. Charlotte tried on a wig, which was hilarious. We laughed at a little dog wearing sneakers. We got some bubble tea. Finally we found the craft market. I bought the ribbon and bells and also some more yarn. The bag of yarn and needles below cost 17 kuai altogether. Sweet deals!
After that we took a cab back to her apartment and I finally go to see where she lived. Then I took the subway back. I ended up taking line 8 to line 4 just cuz I wanted to skip having to deal with People's Square (I usually take line 2). People's Square is such a bother. There is ninety million people there all the time, you have to walk three miles to get to the next subway line, and you get shoved around like cattle. I'd rather spend more time waiting for my stop than deal with that.

I picked up something at a 2kuai store (kinda like a dollar store!) that I need to share with you. Here it is:

If you can't read it, it says "In order to make your little nose more clearer, more beautiful and full of happiness, this product is necessary for your nose!" It also says "Anti-Germ and Stink-Proof" in the corner. The back is just as much fun:

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this week for classes. I hate feeling unprepared but I always seem to end up doing things last minute. My feet and legs are killing me.

I suppose that's it for now. Hope all is well with everyone!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Wine Tasting

The wine tasting last night was super fun and DELICIOUS.

After work I went with a bunch of the high school teachers out for sushi again. I feel a bit bad whenever I hang out with them because try as I might to follow the conversation, one of them usually has to translate a lot for me. I feel like a social burden. Bah. After dinner, the principle drove me to the subway so I wouldn't have to wait for the bus.

I found the restaurant without much trouble and then stood around for a few minutes before the woman organizing the event saw me looking lost and confused by the door. The setting was really cool. A high, rectangular bar table off in a private room. The opened up a bottle of wine for those who were there early, so we sipped on white wine and chatted. Everyone I met was really nice. The standard greeting to another expat seems to be: "So how long have you been here?" There were severe differences in how long people had been in Shanghai. Hannah, the person organizing the event, has been in China for 7 years. Heather (I think that was her name?) actually arrived two days after me.

I was a bit worried about how serious this was going to be since at each setting there was a sheet of paper with things like "Nose, Body, Color, etc" and room for you to write down your comments. Considering the only wine tasting I've really done before was the "Hey! This is how you do a wine tasting!" in my senior year of college, I was afraid of looking like a total wine n00b. In actuality, most of the people around me had never been to a wine tasting either. Alicia, the woman sitting to my right, actually started up a list of wine "buzz words" on the back of her sheet of paper and checked them off if people said them. Those sitting around her made suggestions. My contributions to the list were delicate, subtle, delightful and tangy. We had fun mixing and matching them to come up with the snobbiest comment. Ex: It starts with a warm, spicy oak flavor, with delicate tangy fruit undertones.

The wine itself was very good. After the initial white wine, the rest were all reds. I usually prefer white, but I liked everything I tried. And the food was AMAZING. I only took a picture of the first red wine and the first dish of food. I didn't want to be weird taking pictures all night. The only thing I remember about the first wine is that it was a merlot. The food paired with it was all fish. Yum.
Look at the fancy schmany servings with that delicate dollop of sauce and the tiny lemon wedge. It was all so tasty. The second dish of food included a stuffed cherry tomato, a tiny slice of quiche, and some spicy beef on a teeny skewer (I'm not complaining about the proportions, I just thought everything was so cute). The third dish and fourth dish was marinated artichoke heart, olives, three different cheeses with a sprinkling of walnuts, curried pear jam, bread and butter, and a collection of sliced meats that included prochuttio (is that spelled right?), turkey, italian sausage and something else that I'm forgetting. Everything tasted SO GOOD. I had never had cheese with walnuts before and it was probably my favorite thing I ate that evening. If you have never mixed walnuts and cheese, you should go do that right now. The wines were all good. I remember liking the third one best, but since I didn't write down any comments about it, I don't remember why!

I took the subway back to PuDong and then took a cab since it was 11:30. It was a late night and I am pretty tired right now, but it was definitely worth it. I'll probably take a nap this afternoon for a recharge.

I told the people sitting next to me (whose company I enjoyed immensely) to look me up on facebook. Hopefully I will be seeing them again.

I need to get to class now!


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Murphy's Law is a Bitch

So yesterday Charlotte decided to join me on a trip out to see my taichi teacher. We had dinner at Zentral, since she was craving some western food. I had a yummy tuna melt. Then we walked to the courtyard with the dancers.

On Monday when I saw him, he kept saying something about 6:30, so I assumed he meant he wanted me to arrive at that time, so we arrived at 6:30. No one was there... We sat for a bit then walked completely around the block. When we got back it was a little before 7:30, which is the time I had arrived every time before. The dancers were there and setting up. I talked for a bit with the first guy I danced with that first night, and danced one waltz with him. I tried calling the taichi man on the number that he called me on, but after talking to two women who answered the phone, they just hung up on me. Of course the first and only time I try to bring someone with me, he doesn't show up.

I'd go again tonight, but I am going to a wine tasting event I found on an expat website. I'm hoping to meet some new people. It's a small wine tasting, only 16 people (I had to reserve a seat). Wish me luck, and yummy wine! Unfortunately it goes until 10pm and it's in Puxi so it will be a late night for me, but I really do need to get out of my apartment more.

Yesterday I had a class with all of Class One (A and B), the 15 visiting Arizona students and the foreign teachers. About 50 people total. A daunting task. Plus we were doing pubsinging so I had to SING in front of all these people. The class overall went ok, but my students were being a bit more unruly than usual, so it didn't make me look that good in front of the guests. Plus the class started with a bang and then kind of fizzled out. I should have switched the order of the songs and put Rattlin Bog at the end. The students had a lot of fun and laughs doing that, and then got bored with the other two I picked. *sigh* I suppose I expect too much. My students can't have a great time in my class 100% of the time.

Today for lunch the fruit was a pomelo...a kind of grapefruit. The flesh of the fruit looked like the inside of a tauntaun from Star Wars. Tasted kind of sour, but overall good. It's similar to a grapefruit apparently. Oh! I also found out that I've been eating pig's feet for weeks without knowing about it.

In completely unrelated news, I am practicing "Of Angels and Angles" by the Decemberists on the guitar. If you have not heard this song, you should go listen to it right now because it's lovely.

The midterms got pushed back a week so now I have to reorganize what we're doing in class.

Yesterday marks two months here.

Much love,

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Why Stephanie Should Not Be Allowed To Have Face Paint

Umm...yeah. Bad things happen when I get bored.

My reference:

Lords and Ladies of Pinghe

Yesterday I was happy to get an unexpected letter from Emily Schmidt from Drew! I didn't even know she was reading my blog and I got a letter out of the blue! *waves* Hi Emily! She sent me some pictures from my last few days in the US when I went with her and other friends to Cori's cabin in Maine. I immediately hung them up in my cubicle. They are perfect because now I can look at my friends AND nature while at work.

Last night I finished my example shield/heraldry/crest. Here it is:
So the fox represents cunning and wit. I have him walking away from a tree in spring and towards a tree in autumn because I believe the spring of my life is ending and I am walking towards the autumn and living in the summer. Or some such symbolism. The flowers mean hope and joy, the ivy means everlasting friendship. I put them together because I think hope and joy comes from friendship. The phoenix is rebirth, the quill is academic focus, the two blue teardrops are for two sadnesses I've had in my life, but the drop of gold is for hope of a good future. The squirrel means I love the woods. :-) What do you think?

I've had a mix of super interested and totally apathetic students with the medieval stuff. I suppose that's the best I could ask for. I talked to one class today about doing other medieval stuff: making clothes or food and learning to sword fight, etc. They seemed to respond well. They suggested making a video instead of doing a live performance. I thought that was a good idea.

Today I got some fun reactions when I talked about different jobs in medieval times. When I talked about being a jester, I put on a jester hat I bought at Carrefour and juggled for them. Some students laughed, some gasped. For one class I left the hat on for the whole class and jingled my hat at them when they weren't paying attention. I tried to teach one brave student in each class the juggling basics.

Last night I finally went back to practice taichi. The man who was teaching me scolded me for not practicing everyday after I had some trouble remembering parts of the form. Charlotte expressed interest in joining me. Hopefully she'll be able to come tomorrow.

Today I wrote up the writing midterm for grade ten. Writing tests is so weird for me. I still don't feel like a teacher, even after being here for two months.

Today I spilled my entire bowl of soup on my pants. NOT COOL. Luckily I live on campus so once I finished eating I went back and changed into another pair of jeans.

Anyway, I need to find some jousting videos online for classes later this week. This afternoon I am doing pubsongs in class. Wish me luck and participating students!

Fare thee well,
Lady Stephanie

Monday, 20 October 2008

Brunch in Puxi

So on my way off campus yesterday, I ran into one of the visiting foreign teachers on her way out. I was able to offer her some assistance since she was trying to tell her friend how to tell a taxi driver how to get to the school. I ended up talking on the phone with the cab driver and he understood right away. Things like that make me feel good.

I met up with Lucy and we went to an "Element Fresh" in Puxi. I'd been to Element Fresh in Pudong, but not for breakfast yet. I had pancakes, bacon, and a fruit smoothie. All delicious! We chatted and caught up since we hadn't seen each other since the jazz festival. We also talked about getting together for Halloween.

After that we went to a French Expo a few blocks away. We walked up and down the row of booths, stopping to look a few times at things that looked interesting, but we didn't end up buying anything. After stopping for a quick bubble tea, we parted ways since I need to finish getting ready for classes today. I made a quick stop at a book store on my way back to the metro. Here is my bounty:
I bought a book on learning Chinese. It's higher level. Looked like a good mix of stuff I already know and stuff I still need to learn. I also bought the bright orange book on the right which is full of familiar fairy tales. I am trying to read "Snow White" at the moment. The first sentence, once I translated all of it, is lovely: "bright clean white snowflakes fluttered in the sky". It sounds better in Chinese though. Snowflakes are literally "snow flowers", and fluttered is a loose translation for 飞舞 , which means "fly, dance". Also pictured is some new sudoko, since I am ripping through the book I brought, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Chinese. I am setting my sights high!

Today I started teaching the middle ages. I found a way to make sure my students pay attention. I told them I would probably give them a quiz on it. I'll probably instead have them play a trivia game and count participation as a quiz grade, with an extra point or two for the team that wins.

I really wish I had some real costumes or armor or weapons to bring in and show them. *sigh*

I can't seem to keep myself from worrying too much. Are my students learning? Are they interested? Will I run out of stuff to talk about in class today? Am I grading fairly? Do they understand me? I feel more comfortable in front of a class now, but the more I do this, the more I find to worry about.

Bah. I need to work on stuff for class.

Love and hugs,

Saturday, 18 October 2008

A Day With Zeno and Other Stuffs

Soooo....some stuffs.

Friday at the staff meeting one of the teachers handed out bracelets that he had bought in Xi'an for all the female teachers. Here's the one I got.
Friday after work I wheeled my bike the mile or so it took to get to the side street I THOUGHT had the bike repair people on it. I went to a woman selling magazines, held up the detached pedal and said "Wode zixingche you yige wenti, wo yinggai qu nali?" (My bike has a problem, where should I go?). She pointed me down a street that had a guy fixing shoes...not bikes. I asked him and he told me to go to the next street over. There I found a guy busy fixing a hole in a bike tire for a gentleman dressed for work. Bingo! I was content to wait until he was done, but the guy getting his tire fixed noticed me waiting and asked the guy to fix my bike first since it would be faster. How nice! The guy came over and after a few wrong size bolts he reattached my pedal. The cost? THREE KUAI. ROCK ON. That's like...44 cents. I know where I'm going if and when I need more bike repairs.

After that I biked over to Carrefour since I was running low on foodstuffs. For the first time I really took a look deep into the fresh food (veg, fruit, meat, etc) section of the store. You can buy ANY part of ANY animal in that section. I swear. They had pig heart and ox tail and duck tongue and stuff that didn't even look like it came from this planet. It was so cool. I need to look for recipes on line. I saw some lamb chops that looked like good quality and they were pretty cheap.

There was also a Halloween section set up in the Carrefour where they usually have the "bargain buys". They had some fun stuff like a mask of a skull smoking that had "End of the smoker!" and "Smoking cause you harm!" written on the face. I couldn't find anything that I would want to use a costume, though I could not resist buying an eye patch and pirate flag because they were super cheap and everyone needs a pirate flag.
You must excuse this picture. I took it right after I woke up this morning and um...yeah. It's just weird looking.

I woke up this morning to a phone call from my taichi teacher! I explained why I had not come last week and that I would be there Monday. I hope he understood me. When I gave my phone number to him and one of the women I met among the dancers, I asked how I would know it them when they called. They said they would all call me "XiaoMi". "Mi" is the Chinese word for "rice", so I use it as my family name. "Xiao" means small. It's pretty common to call someone "small [family name]". Like XiaoChen or XiaoWang. The only thing is...."xiaomi" or "small rice" means millet. I am sure to them it's just a nickname, but whenever I hear it, I think they are calling me millet. Hehe.

Today Zeno and I went to Puxi. There was a flea market-esque thing that she wanted to go to and I asked if I could come. First we went to a North East Chinese food restaurant. Zeno is from outside of Beijing and most of my time in China has been spent in the North, so we were both craving some northern Chinese food. She brought me to her favorite restaurant and we shared a bunch of dishes, including gubaoru (deep fried pork with a sweet and sour sauce)! My favorite! I had told her and the other teachers it was probably my favorite Chinese food and none of them knew what I was talking about. I'm glad the restaurant had it, so now they know I wasn't just making it up or pronouncing it wrong.

After lunch we went to the restaurant that was having the second hand sale thing. The only thing I bought were these four shield pins. 15 kuai for all four.
They were too perfect to pass up. Plus, there are four of them and I have four classes. I figured when I have the students design their own shields I will have the students vote on the best shield for each class and the winner gets one of these pins. Zeno bought a cute cover for her transportation card that has her favorite cartoon character on it. After that we came back to campus.

I like Zeno a lot. Mostly because she makes me laugh and she laughs at my jokes. Two very important things in a friend. :-) I hope she likes me too. She lives on campus and it would be nice to have someone to hang out with in Pudong. I didn't think she liked me at first because on the day I met her I chose the cubicle next to her and the first thing she said to me was that the cubicle on the other side of the office was open. I thought she was subtly telling me she didn't want me to sit near her. Bah. I'm probably just paranoid. I just get lonely sometimes. It's hard starting from scratch with no one I know around.

On a different note, I want to know how the heck my apartment gets so messy so fast. It's only me living here! Yet my sink fills up with dishes and the floor gets covered in dust. Everytime I clean I think maybe I should go get myself an ayi, then after I'm done cleaning I think "Meh, that wasn't so bad."

Right now there are fireworks going off in the courtyard on the building next door. It is VERY LOUD.

Tomorrow I am meeting Lucy for lunch. This will be a tiring weekend! Two trips to Puxi in a row? I also need to finish preparing for next week classes. I only have about two and half out of four classes planned.

I'm getting rambly. That's my sign to end this entry.


Thursday, 16 October 2008

Terrific Tests and a Broken Bike

So Monday as I was riding home from doing taichi and dancing, one of my pedals felt a little wobbly. When I got home I gave the pedal a wiggle, only to have it come straight off the bike!! On closer inspection I found out that there was a bolt missing. In the moment I remembered hearing a tinkling of metal hitting the ground while I was riding but I thought I had just hit something. Oh dear. I don't think this was a pre-existing problem (aka, I don't think the guy I bought it from had noticed it was loose) and hopefully this will be easily fixed. I have to stay late today to make sure I finish up the monthly test in time, so I will hopefully be able to take Bikey over to one of those side shops tomorrow and get it fixed. I feel bad because with my lack of transportation I haven't been back to meet up with the dancers since Monday. I hope they don't think I abandoned them.

The tests so far have been going well. What I liked best about them is it means I get 10 minutes alone with each of my students. I get to find out a little more about them and see what they are like by themselves instead of just a part of the larger class. What seems to work best for class discipline so far is if I am a bit of a hardass when I am in front of the whole class, but super patient and friendly with individuals. I'm learning as I go. In a month I'll probably think differently.

One thing that I have been noticing bit by bit is student using things they have learned in my class. When we discussed the song "Innocence" by Avril Lavigne, I had to explain that innocent didn't just mean "not guilty", but that it also meant "child-like". Since then I have heard students using the term "innocent" in the way I explained to them. Also, after I taught them more interesting ways to say big, small, nice, boring, happy, sad, etc...I've been seeing the vocabulary pop up in their writing. It always puts a smile on my face. Makes me feel like maybe I'm doing something right.

I just finished putting together a guide of what different symbols mean in heraldry and family crests. I think I will use the Drew University crest (below) as an example when I teach my students about crests. This weekend I will be drawing my own and will be sure to take a picture for all of you.
I think I've decided to teach my students "What do you do with a drunken sailor?" and "Rattlin' Bog" when we do pub songs. Both are repetitive, upbeat, and silly. Also, with "Drunken Sailor" they can make up their own words to the song. I think I might want to do a third song if we have enough time...maybe "Wild Rover".

I'm making a power point about medieval life. So far I've covered food, education, the black plague, and clothes.

My mind kind of went blank and this entry is rather boring so I'm going to end it here...


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Don't Make Me Go Medieval On Ya

So yesterday I was minding my own business and trying to plan out what to do in my classes for next week when I heard June and Zeno talking and mention my name. I perked up my head and they said that I was too far ahead of them and I needed to spend time on something else so that they could catch up. June about Chaucer and other medieval stuff?

ARE YOU SERIOUS? So much win. I can't believe that they WANT me to teach my students about medieval things. Hopefully teaching something I am this passionate about will make my students more interested. I always enjoyed classes more when the teacher got excited about what they were teaching. They said I need to spend at least two weeks doing this stuff. I figured I would spend the first week on Medieval life to get them interested and to learn the background, and then spend the second week on the Canterbury Tales.

I am trying to figure out how to make this the most interesting. I have already started a powerpoint presentation about different medieval weapons and armor. I think I will teach them about the symbolism in heraldry and have them design their own coat of arms. They all want to learn songs in English, so I can teach them a few pub songs. I am trying to think of a good movie to show, but the best thing I can think of at the moment is "A Knight's Tale".

Any suggestions from my medievally friends?

Last week I was feeling a bit down on myself with this whole teaching thing, but being able to teach about Medieval things brings a whole new life to this.

Much love,

Sunday, 12 October 2008


So today I met up with Charlotte in Puxi. We had some Japanese food for lunch and then wandered around for a while. We would literally get to a street corner and then debate which way to go based on which way looked the most interesting. I got some rice paper so I can practice calligraphy. I also found a super cool yarn shop. It is on the corner of Fuzhou road and Yunnan road. I am writing that to remind myself when I forget later and want to go back.

After that we headed to the "music street". I thought we would be walking up and down that street and looking in every shop before I was satisfied and would pick a guitar. Nope! Second shop we went into I found it. I fell in love with this black beauty for only 580RMB ($85). I figured for a decent guitar I was going to have to spend around 500, so I felt ok with the price. I checked for the things I know to check for like string tension, but I'm no expert (like Davey Booney!). Seems like a good guitar to me for the price I paid. I also got some new strings for when the ones that are on it now die, and the store gave me a free soft carrying case to get it home.
Isn't he pretty? I think I have decided to call him "影龙" or "yinglong" which means Shadow Dragon. I thought it was fitting for a guitar as sexy and hardcore as he quite obviously is.

I figured I would throw some other pictures in for the hell of it. I made this bracelet yesterday for June to thank her for the teacup she got me. Her wrists seem tiny to me, so I made it tiny. I hope it fits ok.
It seems like there are fireworks every night here coming from SOME direction. Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I watch. Tonight the view off of my balcony with the fireworks and the full moon was just too pretty not to take a picture.
I have noticed that since now I have a bike, walking anywhere seems tedious. Even walking to the bus stop today felt like: "WHAT? I have to walk WHERE? That'll take me almost 11 whole minutes!!"

I think tonight I will be playing my new guitar. Tomorrow I have to see if I can remember how to teach.

Love from me a Shadow Dragon,

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Don't Drink The Milk!

For those of you who haven't heard, there has been some issues with Chinese milk recently. A powdered milk called Sanlu was causing kidney stones in children and there were four deaths.

If you want to read more about it, you can check it out HERE.

Keeping that in mind, THIS story is hilarious and depressing to me. A UK business secretary drank some Chinese milk on the news to show his support for Chinese products. Nine days later he was diagnosed with a kidney stone. I am fully aware this could be a ploy or a honest mistake and he already had the stone or some media work up, but if it IS true, it's just too ironic not to share.

In related news...I can't remember the last time I had milk. And now I want some.

TaiChi Lessons

So last night I did indeed return at 7:30. Luckily for me they did mean at night. When I first showed up I didn't see any familiar faces, so I wheeled over and had a seat. I had barely sat down when the guy who wanted me to meet his son came over. He asked if his son could come and speak English with me. I said sure. While we waited for him to show up, they invited me to dance some more. I danced with two new guys too. One of them led me in some complicated waltz-ish dance. I am proud I was able to keep up. I got complimented on my mad dancin' skillz.

The son showed up and looked to be 23, even though I knew he was 28. He seemed kind of embarrassed to be there. He and I talked very little, but he did ask for my AIM screen name, which I gave him. I threw in my e-mail address for good measure. Why not? He seemed nice and he was cute too. ;-)

There was a mother there who kept dragging her little girl over to me to speak English. The girl seemed genuinely frightened of me, but after a few tries she said hello, how are you, my name is Jenny, and then sang the Barney "I love you" song.

When I went on Thursday night there was a man who came over and told me I should learn Taichi. When I saw him there again last night I went over to ask when people did taichi. I figured if they were there dancing sometimes, maybe a group got together and did taichi. He immediately started teaching me right then and there. After a while he said he had to go home and we made plans to get together again this morning.

I woke up at 7am today (on a Saturday!) and after getting ready I biked over to the same spot. The man was dressed in a taichi outfit. Here is an example for people who don't know what I am talking about. Note: this is not a picture of the guy who was teaching me, but he does kind of look like him
We practiced for a bit where the people had been dancing, but then when a lot of people started showing up (to stare at the western learning taichi I guess), we moved to a more secluded place. We practiced for a little over an hour. He doesn't speak a word of English (well...other than the few words I taught him today. Hehe!) so he gave me all the explanations in Chinese. It's rather cool.

He asked if I had eaten and invited me back to his place to have breakfast. I didn't feel comfortable going to his house alone so I said I wasn't hungry but thanked him. I told him I would come back Monday night.

I hope this lasts. He hasn't mentioned anything about payment. He did ask me how much I make, but then again every Chinese teacher I've had has said Chinese people are really blunt when asking about salaries.

Learning taichi in China while practicing my Chinese? How cool is that?


Friday, 10 October 2008

Dancing In The Moonlight

After being ripped off in that teahouse scam, being constantly badgered with "HEY LADY, WANT WATCH?", and having every older couple that comes up to me start telling me how hungry they are and they just need 10 kuai to eat dinner, I was feeling a bit upset and suspicious of everyone new that tried to start a conversation with me. Luckily last night I had a rather positive experience. I hope it stays that way.

I took Bikey (which I am only calling that until I come up with a better name) over to Carrefour to get that gel seat. After that I decided to go riding around. I made a huge square around the school and then just started cycling down BiYun road (the main street that I live off of and Carrefour is on). I figured I would head down that street for about a half hour then turn back so I could meet Laibond at the appointed time. I had only started down that road for a while when I heard music and saw a bunch of couples doing ballroom dancing outside on this square in front of some shops. Having taken dance for nine years and a ballroom dance class my last semester in college, I was curious.

I pulled up and sat back on my bike and watched for a bit, trying to stay on the outskirts and blend in. One of the dancing couples noticed me and with big smiles they waved me over. No one there could speak a word of English so all of the conversation below was in Chinese. They asked if I could dance, I said a little, but that it wasn't the same. When a new song started, the guy beckoned me onto the dance floor and led me for some odd variant of swing dancing. I also danced with him for a rumba and a waltz. I am thankful for my class in ballroom dance teaching me the cues when following or else I would have made a fool of myself. In between dances he asked where I was from, what I was doing in China, how old I was...etc. After dancing and feeling very much the center of attention (a crowd had started to gather), I wheeled my bike over to a bench and started to write in my journal and watch the others dance.

The man I had danced with came over and asked to see my journal. He looked at the page I was writing and said he could understand any of it. I showed him the last page in it, where I had been writing down useful words and phrases in Chinese. When he saw that, he took the journal and wrote "I am a Chinese person" and his name. I took the journal and wrote "I am American" and my Chinese name. Then he wrote that America was great, I wrote that China was great. He wrote that America was very advanced, I wrote that China was beautiful. If me dancing drew a crowd, then my writing and reading Chinese made me VERY popular. There was a circle of people standing around me sitting on the bench. Everybody wanted to write something down to see if I could understand it. Finally, the guy said he wanted me to come back tomorrow (today) at 7:30 to talk to his son, who is 27 and can speak English. Since I didn't have any plans, I agreed to come back.

The part of me that has been taken advantage of in China one too many times is wondering if maybe he wants me to marry his son or something, but hopefully they just find me interesting and want to chat. I hope things work out with this group of people because I would love to have a spot that close where I can just bike out to on random nights when I feel like dancing or practicing Chinese with Shanghai people. One guy who talked to me briefly gave me the impression that sometimes they do taichi there too, but maybe I misunderstood.

Oh dear. Something just occurred to me. Using military time is pretty standard here. I REALLY hope that they meant they wanted me to come back at 7:30 at night and NOT 7:30 in the morning. I will feel like a jackass if I find out they were waiting for me this morning. Oh dear.

After all that dancing business, I met up with Laibond for dinner. We ended up going to Blue Frog. We chatted about Drew and Drew people, what we were doing, etc. We also had a few tangents in the conversation that reminded me of talking to my father, where one of us would say some non sequitur and the other would take it and run with it. One involved a Scandinavian pirate named One-Eyed Pete whose ship was a unicorn that sailed the 8th sea. Hanging out with him made me laugh a lot. We stopped at Carrefour after dinner since he was looking for something and I need more dinner-y items. After that we parted ways and I rode my bike back home for bed.

I need to firm up my lesson plan for next week before work gets out. So far I think it will be skits for class one, testing in class two, fill in the blank comics in class three and for the whole class I can't decide if I want to do the "linking words and phrases" lesson or stick with Wall-E. Classes C and D still haven't seen the end so I could do some fun exercises relating to Wall-E with I have Class A and B, and take my period with class C and D to finish. I dunno. Bah.

Anyway, that last paragraph was convoluted and confusing which is my sign to wrap this up.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

Video: China Apartment

Please excuse my voice, I am very stuffed up.

A Package From My Parents

So I had just left work when I got a call on my cell from June saying the front gate was asking for me, I had received another package. YAY! ANOTHER PACKAGE! SO MUCH LOVE!

This time it was from my dear ma and pa. Boy oh boy was I surprised when I lifted this thing up. Dang it was heavy. I found out that the reason why was because my mom had packed my yearbook! I think that's honestly what I was most excited to receive. As soon as I saw that in the package, everything else was forgotten until I went through the book page by page. At the very end, my mom had made up a nice personal page and had glued it onto the back cover. I thought it was sweet.
This is the majority of the package. Popcorn, reeses, candy corn/pumpkins, some halloween themed paper plates and napkins (my mom wants me to have a cocktail party!), some deodorant, pens, swiffers...basically my wish list and then some. :-)
For some reason I forgot to put these in the first picture. The latest issue of Drew Magazine! She also sent me a loaf of DELICIOUS pepperidge farm cinnamon swirl bread. I wish I had a toaster but I will make due.
After looking at everything in the package (and eating a peanut butter cup), I hung up my new decorations on the balcony window. Spooky, no?

This package arrived at the perfect time. I have been feeling crappy lately being all bored at work, bored in my apartment, sick, and feeling frustrated with my students. Talking with Mel (the CT person I met up with Tuesday) she said that someone told her that the second month usually marks the second stage of homesickness/culture shock. It usually involves boredom, frustration, and sometimes even psychosomatic responses like making yourself sick. Bah. I hate being a textbook case, but maybe it's true.

Anyway, THANK YOU SO MUCH MOM AND DAD. Getting mail is one of the best feelings in the world. And this package was equal parts fun and useful.

Tonight I have plans with Laibond (hopefully!).

I want to run to Carrefour before he gets here and get that gel seat for my bike.

Much love,

Bored + Sick = Not Fun

So my students left for Xi'an on Tuesday afternoon. Work has been quite boring. The most interesting thing that happened at work yesterday was being the invigilator at the mock IB math exam. I had received an e-mail earlier from my group leader saying that a student cheated in one of the earlier exams and that the students were angry that s/he didn't get caught. So I turned on my paranoia and for the entire two hours of the exam I just scanned the students. If one of them cheated, they deserve a medal. Giving that test gave me horrible flashbacks of taking the IB exams myself.

Something non-worky that happened at work yesterday was the older woman in my office (whose name I don't know and who can't speak much English beyond 'hello' and 'thank you') came over and asked me to fix her necklace. Apparently it has become known now that I can make and fix jewelry. Since I don't have much to do at my desk and June had the jewelry thread we got at the handicraft market, I restrung the necklace first thing that morning. In the afternoon the woman came back to my desk and asked me if I could redo it. There are very slight differences in sizes of the beads that I hadn't noticed. She wanted the big ones in the middle. I cut the thread, she organized the beads the way they wanted them, and I strung it again. She stood over my shoulder and watched intently. We had a limited conversation, including her saying that I worked very quickly and that this was very troublesome. I told her I didn't think it was troublesome and I liked doing it. She and another teacher (a young Buddhist woman who sits by the window) said I should go into business making and fixing jewelry. :-)

June also bought me a teacup in old city. It is mostly plain with a lovely red flower on it. I left it on my desk since it was a present and my desk is still achingly empty and boring. I should bring some tea in to leave in my desk when the desire strikes.

I am still feeling like crap. Last night I think I slept better than I have the past few nights. I'm taking that as a good sign. June is sick too. Talking to people from home makes it sounds like everyone I know is sick! Oh cold season. How you can cross borders like no one else.

The most exciting thing that happened last night was I almost had dinner plans. Yep. You read that right. Turns out a guy I went to college with (Laibond, for those that know him) is randomly in Shanghai for an expo. I found that out through Facebook (Stalkerbook!) and IMed him. We made plans to get together, but his work went late so we rescheduled for tonight. Hopefully he can make it tonight cuz I think he is booked for the rest of his stay.

Well, as boring as things have been lately, I sure have been writing a lot. I am going to stop now until something interesting happens.


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

My New (Old) Bike!

So today I went out and did the thing that all cool kids in Shanghai should do. I bought a bike! When I first got here, I asked Pete what a good price was for a bike. He said if I wanted to get a bike, I could get one for as cheap as 300RMB, but if I wanted a half-way decent one, I needed to pay around 500RMB.

I found a guy on an expat website who was selling his 18-gear bike for 450 RMB($66) that he bought two months ago for 750RMB. Whoo! It also included a basket, tire lock, and bell that he bought and installed later. I met up with him at the Carrefour and after awkwardly riding the bike around for a bit (I haven't ridden a bike in years!), braking, feeling the tires, watching him demonstrate that it could indeed smoothly change gears, I handed over the dough. He said I was doing him a favor because he bought a new bike and what use would he have for two bikes? Now I just need to hope that he was being honest and this is a decent bike. He is trying to sell a bunch of other stuff on the website, so if this bike falls apart tomorrow, I can always spam his wall warning other people not to buy his stuff. Hehe!

I had to run into Carrefour and buy a wrench because the guy was roughly two feet shorter than me and the seat needed to be adjusted. After that I spent a while wheeling around the Carrefour parking lot looking like a moron.

I am too lazy to take a decent picture right now, but here is the picture he was using to sell the bike. It looks only a little more worn than that in real life. You can see my fancy basket and bell and stuffs. I bought one of those wrap around locks because I don't really feel safe using just a tire lock. They can still just pick up the bike and walk away. I think next I'll be buying a gel seat (saw 'em at Carrefour!) because even just the short ride back to the apartment was owwy. Charlotte said her bike broke and she bought it to one of the many side repair shops I've seen and the entire repair job cost 5RMB! So even if there is a few repairs I might need to do in the future, it shouldn't break the bank.

Isn't he cute? He needs a name. Any ideas?

Man, I haven't ridden a bike in forever. It was fun. I really hope this is a decent bike. I still feel rather crappy today. Once I feel better I'll probably go for a nice long ride and scope out my neighborhood on a wider scale. I can also time how long it takes me to get to the nearest subway stop so I can stop waiting forever for the bus. Currently the bike is in the bathroom by my kitchen. That bathroom has turned into my mud room. That's where I put my shoes, my umbrella (when it's wet) and now my bike.

I also finally met up with that CT personal I met on SHexpat (as she called it). We went to Blue Frog for dinner and drinks. We talked about EVERYTHING. She was a rambler, which I liked. It seems like most people I meet here are so tight lipped, it was nice to have a real back and forth conversation. We made tentative plans to go to an art museum or something to hang out again. She's only like 15 minutes away by bike. Finally someone that lives near me!

Anyway, I haven't been sleeping well lately so I am rather exhausted. I should sign off and get to bed.

Love from me and my yet unnamed semi-new bicycle!

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Coolest Pen!

So today this woman from the school comes by to drop a small box off at my desk. Hmm...intrigued I opened it to find this sincerely cool pen.
To start off with, it has the school name on it. Very nice!
Flip it over and guess what?! A laser pointer! So cool. But that's not all!!!
Screw it open and it has a USB! Maybe I am just easily amused but I really like this pen.

So I know the old saying goes that one should never shop when hungry, but I would like to add an addendum that when in China, one should never shop while hungry AND homesick. Or else this happens:
I am sufficiently ashamed of myself. I mean, yes, I did also buy some fresh fruit, chicken, rice, and more traditional Chinese foods, but for some reason as soon as I hit the imported goods section I couldn't help myself. *sigh* I gotta wean myself off this kind of stuff.

I commented on a classified ad on an expat site on a guy selling his bike. We should be meeting up tomorrow and if the bike looks ok, I'll probably buy it. Whoo.

I felt fine all day, but I started feeling very sick when I got home. My throat is sore, I have a headache and feel very tired and achy. I'm having some tea now. I hope I feel better by morning.

Lots O' Love,

What Kind of Test Do YOU Want?

So today I tried something new (even though ALL of this teaching stuff is new to me) and I think it went very well.

This morning I played a game with my students where they picked a category (Such as "Animals" or "Things That Start With 'R'") and they had to help one student on their team to guess the 5 words on the other side. It went pretty well, although we did get yelled out once by the administration because the seniors were taking their mock IB exams and we were being too loud. I take that as a sign that my students were having fun. ;-)

The new thing I tried happened by accident. The game finished up early and I still had time left in class. I decided to talk to the students about something I was trying to figure out: their monthly test.

I am required to give them a test, so I had already decided to do an oral test since I figured they would already have a lot of written ones and could use a break from that. Today I posed a questions to my students: What kind of test do YOU want.

Instead of a chorus of "NO TEST! NO TEST!" like I was afraid of, I got some very intelligent and good answers. One of my students suggested we do it in the style of the oral section of the English proficiency test they'll have to take to go to college in the US. It involves a self-introduction, choosing a random topic, then a short Q and A with the examiner. The rest of the class chimed in with suggestions for topics, how long each section should be, whether they wanted to do it in front of the class or individually, whether they wanted to do it alphabetically or randomly.

I feel really good right now because not only do I no longer have to worry about what kind of test to give, but I feel like I connected a bit with a class that I have had some trouble with in the past. Hopefully they think it was a positive experience too.

As a COMPLETELY RANDOM side-note, I had the weirdest dream last night. I dreamed that China had a secret government program to help preserve the panda population. That secret program involved turning foreigners into pandas. Friends that had some to visit me were slowly turning in pandas. Weird.

Anyway, I need to go check the AV room to make sure the movie I am showing my next class works.

Talk to y'all later!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Milestone

This week is a milestone. I have now been in China longer than I ever have before. Before, the longest I had been in China was 5 weeks. This is my 6th week here.

Last night Paul/Benno and Kyle came over to hang out. I made a fine dinner of dumplings, steamed rice, and sauteed shrimp with garlic. We did much chatting, laughing, drinking of rum, and watching of "Kung Fu Panda" (a rather enjoyable movie). We also sat out on my balcony for a long time having a good talk.

I took them to my DVD lady, then they went back to the hostel. We didn't end up getting together again today and they are already on their way back to Nanjing. I can't wait for the chance to go visit Nanjing and see them again. It really made me feel more like myself to see people from home, and it was nice to have people I could relax around.

Today I had tons of dishes to do (just finished). I'm going to try and finish correcting the last of my reports and do grading and a lesson plan today so I can relax tomorrow before work again on Monday. Tomorrow I am supposed to get paid (automated deposit). If I do, I have grand plans to buy fancy frivolous things. Like a dish drying rack and a new set of sheets. Craziness! Next...a bike!

It took a while, but I now have a picture of me in front of a Shanghai landmark. Charlotte took this picture of me in front of the Jinmao tower and the World Financial Building on Tuesday.

And for bonus points, here is a picture of Iris, Andrew and myself at the Windows bar on Thursday night.
Well, that's all for now. On to grading!


Friday, 3 October 2008

The Shanghai Aquarium

So, some people from Drew are studying in Nanjing University. For the national holiday, they decided to visit Suzhou and...Shanghai! YAY!

It's been over a month since I've seen anyone from home, so to see two of my favorite people from college made me very happy. There was much hugs and reminiscing. We got together briefly on Wednesday. We ate at a Sichuan restaurant on Nanjing Road and then went to the other side of the river and looked out on the Bund. That last part happened by accident because for some reason the subway stop we wanted was shut down and we skipped right over. Instead of ending up AT the Bund, we got the first stop on the other side of the river. Huh.

Yesterday they decided to go to the aquarium and were happy to let me tag along.
The aquarium was ok. It was packed, as I should have expected. Getting close enough to the displays to actually see anything was a chore. Once when I was relatively close to the front, a young girl in her mother's arms yanked on my shoulder with surprising strength. When I turned around to see what the heck had grabbed me, the mother pushed in front of me. Grrr.

Otherwise the aquarium was good. And being able to enjoy with friends made it even better. There were many tanks with tons of tiny bright colored fish that Paul/Benno and I kept referring to as "Sprinkle Fish".The aquarium really liked the "go through a clear tunnel with fish all around you" idea. This is a picture from the first one that you walked through. Or rather, were pushed through roughly by the people behind you. You can tell I am not kidding about how many people were there.

There was a second tunnel that was very long and you stood on a moving walkway or "Travellator" as the sign named it. It went roughly .0001 miles an hour. I don't know if that is the normal speed or if having 400 people on it makes it go that slow.

It was in the second tunnel that I saw my favorite fish:
After we finished the aquarium, we waited outside for some other Drew people to come out (who got there later than us). Then the five of us sharing a mutual desire for sushi (and no the irony does not escape us) went to the mall nearby for some delicious Japanese cuisine. Then we had DQ for dessert. Yum!

I went back with them to their hostel to hang out for a bit. First time I was ever in a hostel. Even though the entrance looked skeev-tastic, the inside was actually very nice! This brand of hostel is actually in a lot of places, so I might look into it if I travel. We left there and met up with Charlotte, Andrew and their friend Iris. I liked Iris immediately and we shared phone numbers so hopefully later there will be hanging out.

We went to a yummy bar/restaurant called "The Spot" and then later went to a bar called "Windows". I quite liked the "Windows" bar. The drinks were ridiculously cheap but tasty. There was a table for pool, the music was good, and the bathrooms were decent. I will definitely be going back. We made friends with some other people at the bar and bought each other shots and played pool. Well...other people played pool and I cheered them on. Sadly, the bar was in Puxi and no one else was from Pudong, so I had to take the 20+ minute taxi ride back by myself at nearly 2am. Possibly with the help of a little "liquid courage", I struck up a conversation with the cab driver in Chinese. Notice to Chinese language learnings: cab drivers make excellent practice partners.

Here is an equally terrible and adorable picture of me with Paul/Benno (on the left) and Kyle (on the right) waiting outside the aquarium for the others to come out.'s good to see familiar faces.

Much love!