Another week has flown by without a hitch and we are both very happy. We have seen none of the winter weather that the States have experienced this week but I’m sure it will get here soon enough. The frigidity of the wind we experienced a couple of weeks ago has yet to return and though still frequently chilly, it has been rather pleasant outside when we’re all bundled up under the blue skies. When we arrived in Baoding we were warned that the smog would be at its worst in the winter, and though still very possible, we have seen more blue skies and good-weather days since it officially became winter than at any other time since we’ve been here. Hopefully this isn’t a fluke and the nice weather will continue.
Time has slowed as the routine has settled in. A day feels like a day and a week feels like a week and what was rapidly changing excitement as been quietly replaced by contemplative observance. But having said that, I must remember not to take life here for granted. I have been slacking on the upkeep of this blog because of the regularity of the routine we have settled into (and the boredom that has accompanied this routine) but I am going to try harder to be more frequent with my posts.
I have frequently noted the dirtiness and filth of Baoding as a constant presence in our lives. The dust and dirt that fills the air, coats the walls and floors, and invariably, settles into our clothes (and our lungs). Do not mistake this constant filth, however, as a sign that no cleaning happens here. Constantly at the school there is a cleaning lady mopping, kids sweeping, and men raking leaves. Out on the streets of Baoding there are cleaning people in the street and on the sidewalks sweeping up trash and dust; there are even big trucks that just circulate the city spraying water on the streets and attempting to collect some of the ever-present dust. All of this “cleaning” however seems to be as futile as attempting to pick up a bucket of water using a snowflake.
This week we found out that before our teaching schedule ends for the semester on January 10th we are expected to give all of our classes an exam of sorts and to turn in the grades to the school. When I informed by eighth graders of this in classes this week, they refused to believe me. Up to this point, my class has been characterized in their minds by the absence of repercussions that would make good behavior and attention to learning completely unnecessary. When I told them that in January they would be given an oral exam by me, they flat-out refused to believe me as if it was some trick I was pulling over them to try to get them to behave. Even after explaining that this week’s class would be spent practicing the questions I am going to ask them for the exam and while I was walking around the classroom asking individuals questions, they did not take me seriously (one kid tried to cut my hair while I was talking to the kid behind him and several other kids emptied two bottles of lotion so they could make little toilet paper pelts to throw around the room).
Despite these usual frustrations resulting from the discipline problem (that all and only foreign teachers experience in China), I enjoyed talking to some of my eighth grade students with high English abilities. One boy and I had a rather humorous interaction in the middle of class while he was trying to learn the word “latte” in English by repeatedly demonstrating the mixture of milk and coffee. When I told him that’s just called “coffee with milk” he told me that was a bad name and it needed a better name. When I asked him if he meant “na tie” in Chinese he got excited and was thrilled to learn “latte”. His favorite drink is a latte.
Another girl, with a very high English level, asked me if I liked “bad students” and when I said no, proceeded to point to one boy in the back of the classroom and tell on him: “That boy is doing his homework in your class. He is a bad student. We don’t like him. Do you like him?” I told her that it was ok, seeing as he was doing his English homework and he wasn’t being disruptive to the class. She refused to accept this and was astounded when he was able to answer a question of mine with very good English when no one else could. At the end of class she came to the front of the room as I was packing up and said “I love you, teacher” in English and then speaking as fast as she could in Chinese. When I imitated her by saying “shenme, shenme” (“what, what” in Chinese), the whole class laughed and I got a hug from her and a resounding “good bye, teacher” from the class. My eighth grade students proved to me this week that they don’t dislike me; they just find English class boring and pointless (and one class even told me as much at the beginning of class).
Early this week our motorbike, Kuai Long, got a flat back tire. After leaving it at QLH for a couple of days because we didn’t know where to take it to get it fixed, Johnson and Samantha asked a pharmacist next door where to go, and it turned out some guy on the street corner next to QLH repairs bikes. While we were there waiting for him to repair the whole (which only cost 5 Yuan/ less than $1) a group of older guys had congregated and were playing a local pastime, mah jong. Though the picture isn’t the quality I would have liked and I was unable to capture the best moment, when they all broke away from the game laughing and wishing each other farewell, this shows a bit of what life is like at night for local friends:
When we went to the covered alley for dinner one night this week, our bread lady told us we were her favorite laowai and we also discovered a new kabob place. You go up and pick the kabobs that you want and put them on a tray, the guy sticks them in a vat of boiling water, seasons them, and hands them over to you in a bag. The vendor we went to was super friendly and we have since been to visit him twice.
Some students from Duncan’s high school sent our students handmade Christmas cards. Here are two of our favorites:
We also found out that we are about to have a lot of days off for the holidays, and as soon as we get those dates specified, we are going to do a lot of traveling (which will, hopefully, lead to much more interesting and exciting posts).
Thank you for reading!
Until next time,