Another week of teaching has flown by and we’re spending the weekend in Baoding. The weather (in the classrooms) is no longer the stifling heat it was the first couple of weeks we were teaching and is progressively getting cooler. Though not time for our winter coats just yet, the evenings (especially on Kuai Long) necessitate a little something more on our arms.
Remarkably, we still haven’t found facemasks yet. You would think that with the smog being so bad so consistently that they would be easy to find and relatively cheap but this is, unfortunately, not the case. In the near future we may be pooling our money with two other friends to buy a case of high-quality masks off of Taobao. We just can’t go the entire year without facemasks of some sort (especially considering the smog gets even worse in Baoding winter).
My eighth grade classes were enjoyable this week – something that I’m very relieved about. I taught them the same Hoobastank song lesson that I used on my seventh graders and it seemed to be successful. I also learned that the students are much more engaged in class if I begin by asking them personal questions such as “How was your holiday” and it encourages them to use their English in a natural and individually constructed way rather than just using the memorized sentences they’ve learned in their classes. I’d like to believe that it will encourage them to want to talk to me and in turn will motivate their English learning.
I was certainly encouraged when in several of my classes, some students took the conversational style I started the class with and were asking me how to say certain words in English. I’m not exactly sure what was going on but in one of my eighth grade classes, students kept drawing turtles on their paper and asking me what the English word was. As soon as I told them “turtle” they all immediately pointed to one kid in the back of the class and said, “his name is turtle!” Right after that, they spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to say, “Dinosaurs with small eggs lived in a big forest”. (I figured this out through pantomiming, drawing on the board, and having students write the desired characters in my phone’s Chinese-English dictionary.) They seemed quite content when I wrote down the dinosaur sentence so I assume that’s what they were after though why, I have absolutely no idea.
When I asked another class what their favorite music was they kept telling me about some artist that is very popular in China and in Korea. They did not, however, know the English word “Korea” and so they pulled out a map and started pointing to Korea over and over again. And, again, another class, wanted to know how to say “Popsicle”.
After one or two classes, I realized that asking the kids what their favorite music and computer games are at the end of class was super successful and I did it with all my classes, including some seventh grade classes. I was very amused by the favorite music answers I got in every single class of eighth graders – Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, PSY (Gangnam Style), Backstreet Boys, and Avril Lavigne. Who would have thought that Avril or Michael Jackson would have been on their list of favorites. Their favorite computer games were always – LOL (a DOTA game), CF (Cross-Fire), Angry Birds, and Plants vs Zombies. I was surprised that none of them knew what WOW (World of Warcraft) was seeing as it is pretty popular in China as a whole.
After classes were done for the week, we went out for dinner with a whole bunch of other foreign teachers at a restaurant called “Philly Story”.
It’s so much fun to hang out with this group because we have Americans, a British guy, an Australian guy, Chinese people, and one Chinese guy that has lived in New Zealand, South Africa, and, of course, China. It really is an outstanding group of people with so many interesting stories to share and with such great perspectives on life. Really, it is a unique type of person that decides to embark on an adventure such as this and as I meet more and more interesting people doing the same thing as us, I’m encouraged to think, “Hey, maybe we’re interesting people too!”
But speaking of food, earlier in the week we found a new restaurant that ended up being pretty cool! It’s a hot-pot place, which in our book is always a good thing, but it ended up being a nontraditional hot-pot place which was even better They take a glass hot-pot dish, stick a melon inside of it, and then they put all sorts of delicious meats and vegetables inside the melon. The one we got came with chicken and celery inside the melon but we also ordered a side of mutton slices to cook in the hot-pot. If you put the meat inside of the hot-pot dish, it takes on the taste of the melon but if you put the meat inside of the melon it, interestingly enough, takes the flavor of the meat. We will definitely be going back there again!
Today started out as any normal Saturday in Baoding should start – with coffee and fireworks. We slept in a little bit and headed to QLH planning on having a quiet day of planning and hanging out when all of a sudden we hear what sounds like the rope of a bomb going off and then hundreds of fireworks exploding. We look out the window and, sure enough, people down the street are setting off these fireworks on the sidewalk in between cars (because the sidewalk also means the parking lot in China). The best, though, was when one guy had a whole roll of firework tape that he accidentally lit all at once, and he threw it and ran across the street before it started going off. You could see his eyes from down the road they were so big!
And for one more food story, tonight we went out to eat at a Sichuan style restaurant we frequent. We ordered our usual stir-fried green beans and rice but we also decided to try a new meat dish and they brought us “hua cha” (flower tea). The meat dish and the tea was good and the green beans were great as usual. Last time we went we got a “special friend price” (a discount they gave us because we’re frequent patrons), but this time I got a juice box with my change! It seems to be a normal box of peach juice but the lady behind the counter looked so pleased with herself I couldn’t not take it. Maybe it will be a midnight snack.
For some unhappy news, happy baozi man’s food tent and neighbors have been missing recently and we’re quite saddened by our lack of baozi from him. We do, however, believe he will return and when he does we will tell him “we missed you” and “women hui lai” (we have returned!)
For some happy news, Duncan has started drinking coffee with me, which is a dream come true for me, so to celebrate (and to prepare for the coming winter) I bought a coffee maker for the room! I also got a “special friend price” on it from QLH because I’m probably keeping their business alive despite the new competition down the road.
To everyone in Asheville, go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the leaves for me before it starts getting too cold. I hear Nutcracker rehearsals are starting soon and, with me already missing dancing, I’m sad that I am not there to participate. If anyone knows of some phenomenal Nutcracker ballets to see here in China, let me know. I need to continue my annual Nutcracker tradition even if it’s just as a spectator.
Have a lovely weekend!