We’ve had two more good days to prove to us we’re having a good time here in China!
Yesterday was uneventful but pleasant. I taught sixth graders all day and had a lot of success with the vocabulary review and sentence games I played with them. Most students are eager to participate, especially when I break out the stamps, and even if they aren’t participating, they are not disruptive. They all get excited when I walk in the classroom and just want to say “hello, teacher!” at the top of their lungs when I say hello to them at the beginning of class.
After classes, Duncan and I decided it was time to get some American food so we went to Pizza Hut. Pizza Huts here, however, are not the Pizza Huts back in America. When I think American Pizza Huts, I think of a crummy restaurant with OK pizza. Pizza Hut in China, however, is a fancy restaurant where you take dates you’re trying to impress.
We ordered the Chinese equivalent to a meat lover’s pizza (it was called Pork Belly BBQ) along with my blue margarita and Duncan’s caramel Bailey’s. It was all amazing! I forgot how much I love butter and didn’t realize how little of it I’ve had since being in China until I was eating the garlic-butter pizza crust. To finish our celebratory meal, we decided we needed an American dessert as well and ordered a chocolate brownie bread pudding with vanilla ice cream on top.
Despite the couple in the booth across from us “sneakily” aiming their smart phone cameras at us (by pretending they were taking pictures of themselves), our meal and Pizza Hut experience was wonderful. On the way home, we stopped at a convenience store and found a guy with cicadas in tiny cricket cages (think Mulan) hanging from the ceiling over the counter. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture.
To end a good day, we video chatted with our other American couple friends living and also teaching English in Beijing and began planning a trip to visit them. Our school has decided that they can move Mid-Autumn festival even though the rest of the country has off that holiday so we work this Thursday and Friday but at the end of this month is National Day and we get a week off. That week, I believe we are going to take a trip to Beijing, see the touristy sites there, and then head off somewhere else with our friends. The ultimate destination is yet to be determined.
Today was a gloomy day. It hasn’t been smoggy but it’s like London outside – constantly slightly drizzling and fog everywhere. I had seventh graders all day today and ended up having a lot of fun in my classes. Since today’s classes were only the second time I’ve seen each of these groups of kids, I decided it was a good time to do vocabulary review with them as well. I played the create-a-sentence game with them using vocabulary they should have learned last school year and then played a word relay race game with them. All classes got really involved in the competitions and the 45 minutes went by very quickly and efficiently. There was no misbehavior in any of today’s classes either; they just got really loud a couple of times because they were excited. By the afternoon, I had figured out a couple of tricks to get them to quiet down quickly without me getting angry with them. I keep thinking of some advice I was given about letting the kids know that I care and every time I’ve started getting frustrated with some students or a class, that thought has helped me stay calm and manage the classes more effectively.
Today I also had my first international students class. For some reason, the Eastern Bilingual School, on top of teaching K-12, also has a couple of classes for international students mainly from Mongolia. There are less than twenty of them, but with the exception of one American teenager, all of them are in their twenties or older. They are here to primarily learn Chinese so they can pass the Chinese language exam for foreigners, but they can also elect to take my English class once a week.
Prior to the class I had heard both that the international students spoke excellent English and that they spoke no English. So, uncharacteristically of me, I went into the class without anything prepared and decided to just wing it with them until I figured out what level they were at and what goals they have for my English class. After talking to them, they decided that they want to spend the classes focusing on correct pronunciation and their conversational skills. Though the first half of the class was very stressful for me because I was unprepared, by the end of it, I was enjoying it and I now have many ideas on how to engage them as adults with varying levels of English ability.
We spent the rest of the evening in QLH (the coffee shop) talking with our Chinese friends about culture, pop culture, movies, language, idioms, important American movies, and the Socratic teaching method. It’s been very fascinating giving advice to our Chinese friends but then realizing how Western our advice is. They cannot go at problems with our advice, because the whole situation is completely different because of the differences in cultures.
We also finally figured out how to “repay” our Chinese friends for all of their help in our adjustment to Baoding and China! Since two of them are English majors and hope to pursue careers related to mastery of the English language and culture, we are going to make lists for them of idioms, useful slang, and helpful American classics of books and movies. They are very excited.
They also got very excited when we told them Duncan and I are dancers and I showed them a clipping from this year’s Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure, North Carolina with us doing the famous lift in the background. They were so excited, I gave them a copy and we signed it when they asked for our autographs. Maybe that was a mistake because now they are a little convinced we’re famous in America and in China.
Before we left the coffee shop, it started pouring outside and we waited the storm out until it had calmed down. Because of the rain, most of the restaurants had closed and street vendors had packed up but we found a lady who sells kabobs still open and we got dinner, in the misty rain, on the way home. They were delicious as well!
To end this post I want to tell two funny stories about the Chinese language:
1) Recently, one woman near me kept repeatedly saying what sounded to me like “jigalo”. I could not understand what she was saying in Chinese and started laughing to myself and kept wondering, “surely, she is not talking about what I think she is talking about” but she just kept repeatedly saying it! Finally, I asked and it turns out she was saying “zhe ge lou” which means “this building”. Phew!
2) We went out to lunch with an American foreign teacher recently and he asked for a bag “to-go” by saying “da bao”. Duncan asked him if the “da” was the same “da” as in another phrase and if the “bao” was the same “bao” as in a different phrase. Our friend said he didn’t know and turned and asked the waitress. What ensued was a conversation in Chinese that I swear sounded like “da ba da da ba da bao” for at least a minute as they went back and forth talking about the different “da”s and “bao”s and clarifying each other’s pronunciation and intended meaning. I started laughing and even another Chinese woman in the restaurant started laughing because of how absurd the conversation sounded. I wish I had recorded it but I’m sure you can imagine how comical it was.
Tomorrow is my third lesson with the fifth graders. Wish me luck!
Wan an! (Good night!