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Posts tagged “china

To the Smoggiest and the Sootiest

(still in) Jiangmen, China

July 4, 2011

Since it's an entry about smog I thought we'd start with some rare sky color: wow, blue! We hiked up to a nearby Buddhist Temple tucked in the hills a little outside the city. The sun came out for a bit and blasted through, thank Buhddha!

Is it a love poem to Los Angeles? Well, perhaps it could be, but as far as smog goes…China currently wins the undesirable prize! Sure the U.S. has its pollution problems, indeed many, but I do know that when I’m in Los Angeles, the smog does not take away a blue sky (dull blue perhaps yes), nor do I feel like I can reach out and grab the sooty cloud. In L.A., you may be aware that the air isn’t so clean, but you can’t physically see it unless you’re out of the city looking in (mmm…the line of haze) or if you’re talking about the black soot that collects on backyard furtiture…also pretty alarming. But here,well, the Chinese (with help from the U.S. of course…when was the last time you bought something NOT made in China?? ha) have taken it to a new level! You really see the smogularity…it’s all around, even at night the headlights pick up the pollution particles! Smog soup! Ahh… I see “Progress’s” hazy offspring: SMOOOOOGY! Filthy, grimy, tangible grains of that toxic stuff entering your ears, eyes, mouth, and nose all day long… would ya like a taste? I get it for free! Or at the cost of convenience and a sprawling “global” marketplace I suppose.

you didn't think that was just fog did you? but hope! these kids may bring future change woo!

building sites surrounding the kindergarten. out of control. there are at least 20 of these massive blocks within site. construction dust too yay!

I realize you can only do so much to tread lightly (and really the earth will indeed have the last laugh: a la George Carlin: “The Earth is fine. The people are fucked!”)…but when your environment is seriously detrimental to your health and wellbeing, me thinks there is a problem.  When I first arrived in China, I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing…people actually live in this?! But don’t they realize they are walking in a polluted cloud?! So this is what fast-forward, mass-population development looks like! Alright! Sometimes the smog is so thick I feel like I should be doing freestyle (“frontcrawl” for you british folk) through it. The stuff is so noticeable it has its own distinctive personality. Some days the sun blasts through and shows blue sky but mostly the smog is visibly there: Some days it keeps to itself, stretching out endlessly like a giant white-gray mat, sometimes  it hovers above like a depressing Eeyore cloud and other times it invasively engulfs. It’s almost impressive how unapologetically gray the sky can be. Climb to the top of a mountain and you’ll see only a white sky: oh! look at the view? there’s some trees aaand…um…i think there’s a mountain over there? the horizon is invisible, the landscape a mystery. What is out there?! Factories? People just trying to live? Yep.

sooo many motorcycles. and always parked (sometimes driven) on the sidewalk.

hurry! get there!

I’ve heard the smog described as “fuzzy” (pet the air?) and even “abusive” which I can now attest to, especially when I’m not in a good mood! I also read a story of a New Zealander who came to visit China and was subsequently hospitalized with lung problems, oy.  Luckily(??) life in L.A. has well-prepared my once pink lungs, but there are times when I just cough, shake my head and wonder what in the hell I am doing here. But no matter, for now, wherever I roam, the smog hovers there, like an old, loyal, chemical-enshrouded friend. Unfortunately this rat race for more, more, more! faster, faster, faster! still eagerly continues from what I can see.  I do hope and believe this next generation is going to make some big changes and I’m hoping to take a small bit of involvement in education. I already know some of the Jr. High kids are  interested in environmentalism and learning how they can help, so next year, I’m going to start a Roots and Shoots (check out the site!) group at the school and can’t wait to put some sustainable ideas into action!

Chinese are great at creating little parks to walk in...if only that air was as clean and tidy.

I’ve adjusted and accepted the gray to some extent and cherish those days after a big rain when the true blue sky says hello after a long absence. “Allergies”seem to be increasing. My host brother and I swap stuffy noses, and sore throats. “Has it always been like this…have you ever known anything different? when did this happen? ” “No,I remember when i was a child i could see the stars at night…so many stars!” “And the sky? ” “Yes! yes! It was blue! But now….” “Oh, you mean that gray, smoky haze we’re sitting in….” Even the other day when I excitedly commented to my student that the sky was blue he sadly responded “yes, but you can never see the stars at night.” People do remember what it was like…now the key is getting them to want to help change what’s happening!

wow! color! i feel better already! after a big rain: see...sometimes it is blue! notice the "phantom" motorcyclist in front decked in protective gear. i really need to photos of the masks though

But currently, people just bundle themselves up against the smog with scarves, masks, gloves, goggles…it’s like a little protective fashion statement. The masks even come in an array of designs, my favorite being the ones that make you look like you have a monster face, or giant smile hahaha). But I will say that it is odd to me that while people obviously don’t like the smog and do what they can to protect themselves (besides protective gear, the Chinese are also fantastic for planting trees in any available space which definitely makes some areas more tolerable) they mostly all still hop in their cars and on motorcycles to get around! The shortest distances too! It seems to be that if you can afford a car or motorcylce, you have one. The city is dead flat too, and really it’s a tiny place. Where have all the bicycles gone?! Ahh, the costs of convenience.  I know industry is the main contributor here, but the hoards of motors purring and exhaust pipes spewing on daily basis is mind-boggling. There area lot of people in China..and it all adds up…that cloud at street level could definitely be reduced.

Remember the city-skyline photo from my last entry? A day later and the smog had crept back. Obviously this is around sunset, hard to capture that crazy purple haze, but you can still see it hovering...just waitin for tomorrow

After riding around on my bike all day, my throat gets sore, my eyes, squinting and stinging,get sooty fragments blown into them and I’m constantly cursing the mass of motors. Damn… I really need to get one of those masks! Then I will officially be a local. I’ve already adopted the sun umbrella on occasion and you should see my awesome bicycle raincoat. If the pollution don’t kill ya, the sun is sure to scorch ya and cook ya well done! My brother, knowing I was going to China, actually gave me a gas mask as a joke but I often wish i had it! Insane. My boogers aren’t completely black so i feel like there’s  a little room before complete toxic-smog takeover begins, ha.

a day in Macau

on the way to work. Misty or?? This is the newer part of town hence the massive apartment blocks. Chinese McManions, skyscraper style

China has such a long, amazing history, I find it sad that you can’t come to China now and NOT talk about its cloud of pollution.  I hate the thought of smog ruining any part of the world, but to live in the extreme of it really makes you step back…or step inside a filtrated room, with 20 house plants, to grab a breath of fresh air and throw up your arms between coughs to say: outrage! Let’s change this! I hope that once China sets their sights on sustainability, they will go to it with the same enthusiasm they are giving to capitalism! How the heck did i end up here anyway? haha For now I’m hoping for a big rain and some strong winds: ahh, the cleaning broom of mother nature.

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Sick and Tired of…

Jiangmen, China

June 1 – June 27, 2011

….BEING SICK AND TIRED!! Where has you been?! Sorry dedicated followers (1? 2 of you?) for my absence! Somehow I managed to be sick for nearly a month, and as for that other month of  blogging drought…I have no excuse…but I could think of a few: busy corralling the little children (little children?! Why yes, didn’t I mention? I am now teaching Kindergarten…2-6 year olds…yes…2! subject for another entry indeed.)? Busy studying Chinese? Busy writing songs on my guitar to sing to the little children? Busy “playing” tai chi? Busy sweating more than seems humanly possible? Yes! Sure! All of em!

a few views around the city pre-sickness. if you stand on a corner long enough something interesting always flies by. i love it

But anyway, I’m back, and I hope to give you a couple more entries before summer break (ahh…now I really love teaching…summer break?! Remember that?!). I’ve finally stopped sniffling, snotting, coughing, and bathroom racing, and i can hold a conversation without excusing myself half-way through, hooray! The first bout of sicky-ness was some stomach bug that kept deceiving me: I’d feel fine one day and the next day I’d go back to school and wham! Nooot ok, NOT ok. The tidal wave of nausea hit during one class and just when I think I will have to race for the toilet, where has my T.A. gone?! No one is here! I can’t leave these 4 year olds alone (usually I have a T.A. and at least one mom in the class)! Ok, 10 more minutes…I can make it. Sweating, sweating. Breeeeathe. And then I look up. My T.A.? No! it’s the Principal and she’s watching my class through the window…ok…energy! Look normal!

Feeling healthy and having fun on a lil bike ride with some of my jr. high students and awesome teacher-friend Sharon!

Luckily I made it through without embarrassing myself or living the kidlettes in the lurch. someone came back and I took my cue and sprinted out trying not to look insane “ok. Class is over…goodbye!” It’s funny, usually at home, people can tell you’re sick “ohh, wow you don’t look so well. You should go home.” But here I’m white, and white is white. Ha. Do I look pale to you? I really don’t feel well. “Hmm, no, just a bit tired.” And then I glance at myself in the bathroom mirror and think I look shockingly like Mozart in the last scenes of Amadeus. Although my host brother did comment at dinner one day that I looked like a “flat tire” hahahahaha. I then proceeded in zombie fashion to the school clinic where I curled up on a bed made for someone half my size (kindergarten remember). No one quite knew what to do with me…I was just happy to be horizontal.

Cute little kiddies at the Kindergarten lining up for the flag raising.

Eventually I biked home to escape the curious eyes of strangers and wanted to be invisible. But of course I was not. My family kept knocking on my door, calling to take me to the hospital. I know they were just worried about me and i should be happy to have someone so concerned, but all I wanted to do was sleep! And it’s different here, you don’t go see a doctor, you go to the hospital for any little illness and I tell you people here are alarmists! My host family couldn’t understand, even with a cold, why I didn’t want to go to the hospital, take more medicine or get an IV. What?! No wonder crazy diseases are breaking out in China. That and perhaps the lack of soap in the public bathrooms. I’m not against medicine of course, but only if I reeeeally need it. I’m also used to living in a family where you generally tough it out these kinds of things out.

I'm just across the way from this apartment and every day i can't help but take a window size glance and peer into someone elses life, if just to watch them sort beans on the ledge.

I will always accept offers of “tao yao” though. That is the Chinese herbal medicine. I think the use of this has transitioned into using western medicines similarly which seems quite dangerous. People here do take herbal medicine a lot though still and there are special pharmacies selling all sorts of roots, leaves, funguses, anything plant or animal you can imagine….pretty awesome. At one point all peoples had traditional medicine practices and a thorough knowledge of what plants could help with what illnesses. But most of it was oral, passed down and has since been lost.  Chinese medicine is incredibly unique in that way, it was written and recorded and people still greatly use and understand these medicinal practices today. I definitely respect it. I love seeing people picking plants and flowers in the park because they know some special tea or food dish to make from it. That is definitely a connection with nature many of us in the west have lost.  Many people also doubt the effectiveness of traditional medicines, but hey…the Chinese are the longest surviving culture in the world…they must be doin something right! Plant medicine hurrah!

Dear Buddha, please take the illnesses far from me!

Much of Traditional Chinese Medicine  is preventative practice as well; you visit a doctor even when you are in good health to track your yinyang…get a full check of your energy, your pulses and you catch a deficiency before it weakens your body, rebuild yourself with herbs and certain foods.  Chinese Medicine looks to foods to heal and I dig that! And because my host father is awesome, he always makes tao yao when I’m not feeling well. So this I always agree to take (or drink as it were: all the roots or leaves etc are boiled into a tea…usually very earthy and bitter…drink up!)  But besides the herbal assistance, I like my body to fight any little bugs off itself. Antibiotic resistance ain’t good, and I hate what antibiotics do to your body anyway. I waited a week for the ceasefire…I really wanted my body to win the battle, but it seemed to be a long drawn-out war in my innards. A week of wretched illness and missing work…and it still persisted. So in the end, my dear friend Sharon gave up most of her day to help me communicate with a doctor (see, even if i did go to the hostital it’s not so simple…anyone speak english?? anyone? Thank goodness for good friends!), go through all the hospital schtuff, tests galore (can you poo into this tiny cup that is smaller than a shot glass? Thanks. Lid? No, we don’t have lids. How about a plastic glove then? Greeeeat.)

A weekend away in Guangzhou. The rains swept away the smog and what a city-skyline site! More on this trip another time

And in the end I did in fact have to give in to the all-powerful bacteria-killer, which as I feared, came with it’s own set of awful side-effects that made me feel like a dim-witted zombie, constantly about to pull a muscle, for a week  (For real tho, I would never take Levoquin again….that stuff really messed with my body…). And in the aftermath of the Intestinal Stomach War, my poor defenseless body and ravaged immune system could only take so much. Those snotty little kids and smoggy skies were like a relentless army on attack and a head cold it did cannon blast me with. Ahhh, to have a cold in the heated humidity of summer…ugh.  Two weeks of fighting and fiiinally, the mucus has retreated, the fatigue has fled and now I’m feeling like I have some semblance of energy again…welcome back me! I apologize for the absence! And if you’re in California you will also be able to really “welcome back me” because I am in fact coming home to the U.S. of A. for summer time! But for now, it’s still all about China (mystery sicknesses included) on this here blogitron. Next entry: “Meet my friend: senior smog”.

a sunset glow photo for ya


Tai Chi Me: Martial Arts Madness and ‘hey! i made the paper!’

Jiangmen, China

April 22, 2011

Up early to welcome in the day with Tai Chi Chuan

So in an attempt to gather all things local culture, I started doing, or as they say here “playing” Tai Chi in the local park square, the place for activities ranging from ballroom dancing, Chinese Jazzercise (a term i obviously created…ha), concerts, all sorts of Tai Chi forms and people generally mingling about. At all hours of the day Donghu Park is filled with  people singing, playing music and performing all kinds of varied and some-quite strange-looking exercise routines. The place gets packed! Often there are even official concerts, contests (i’ve seen choral contests and even a ballroom dance contest, oh yes) and movies playing on a big screen for people to come sit and watch outside for free.  Nice!

dance! the square at night draws in the locals to come have a play

another view of the square at night. notice all the people on the left doing tai chi

The mornings and nights are when the action really happens and the place comes alive…there are masses of people everywhere! I love it! In the mornings, people are up to welcome the sun with tai chi chuan (actually “Taiji Quan” in Chinese…well…actually it’s 学太极 (i think that’s right!)) and i talked to one woman who practices from 7 to 10am every morning! Impressive…i’m still sleeping ha. I went for a run in the morning and there were groups of people all over the park practicing, letting the chi flow. People definitely like to get up and about.  At night people haven’t gone home to plunk themselves in front of a television…although i’m sure some do, but instead they mostly come in droves to the park square  for a bit of exercise.

some of the ladies in my group

Just a short trip around the square and you’ll see people wielding fans and swords practicing different forms of Taiji or Kung Fu, others jump around wildly in a kind of exercise dance, some people sing and others walk around clapping…. whatever you like…you can find it here and just join right in! No pay…just people getting together to exercise, sing, dance, chat and enjoy each others’ company….get some “fresh” air and a bit of energy moving.

inside the park now. people gettin into the martial meditation everywhere you look

Each group has it’s own teacher so you just kinda stroll up and welcome yourself to the class and begin learning. My host family helped me find my current Taiji (dat’s Tai Chi remember) group with the most awesome Shifu (“master” or “teacher”)…i love him…cracks me up.  But most importantly Teacher Li is an incredible master of Taiji! Whenever i watch him i just say “yes! ahh…soo amazing…woow..yes…incredible! i want to look like that!” But in contrast to his vast skill, looking so grounded and conected with the universe, at every break he lights up a cigarette!  He’s given up offering me one hahaha. During one of these breaks while he watches and corrects our form he jumped in to lead with his superior skill, cigarette and cell phone still in hand…classic.

He’s been practicing for over 30 years and the smooth perfection of his motions shows it. The man is tiny but he could kick my ass, he’s kinda that perfect Chinese Martial Arts Master stereotype. Love it. The depth of his knowledge is incredible. Every time I’m gawking at another group doing a different form, he will see my interest and immediately start showing me how to perform it! I can’t wait until i get a sword (“jian”). ha. Learning the full ins and outs of the style is  a bit tricky as the only english he knows is “Ok??” “Ok, ok!” “no! no!’ “uh-yesah” (yes) and “bye bye!”  and well, we all know my Chinese is anything but fluent.  But it’s amazing how much you can understand just visually focusing on the form and copying. Simple Chinese worded/guessing game/body-language-assisted conversations are also helpful.

i was a bit late getting out. i think this place is usually packed in the mornings

But even for my complete lack of skill Teacher Li seems to have taken a real interest in helping me (most of the people who do Tai Chi nowadays are older…and not typically a foreign American girl!) and he often takes me aside for private teaching and instruction which i desperately need! Trying to focus on the form is one thing, but i can’t even remember what comes next! oh dear…. And when he does take me aside, don’t look now but  i’ve  immediately got a crowd of onlookers! As they circle around, baffled and interested by what they see, i try to remember that this is supposed to be relaxing! ha…i usualyl just start laughing and making fun of my awkward movements set in contrast against the master.  But people do seem really interested! I’ve been the feature of many a cell phone photo ha. The older people seem very excited that I have an interest in something so traditional and Chinese and usally excitedly start talking to me in Chinese once i’ve finished. Just smile and nod…smile and nod.

workin with my Shifu, Teacher Li

Once, when i finished one of the forms, everybody clapped! I guess i’ve made some progress! There’s also a few people who come back to check up on me and make sure to proclaim “hen hao!” (“very good!”) to which i point to my teacher and say “ta hen hao! (and then point to myself) Wo bu hen hao!” (my teacher is good but i’m not!) Haha.

I think people are half perplexed/shocked by the sight of the young white girl doing tai chi and half mesmorized by the strength and finesse of my teacher. Watching him makes me want to practice tai chi the rest of my life…especially once you move into the more advanced forms, it looks so hardcore and you can really see the relation of the moves, once a fighting form, turned into steady meditation. If you do tai chi quickly, it looks like kung fu and some of the forms can be practiced with contact. Woooah…be cool to get to that point!

say "yea!" Chinese Jazzercise

And maybe word got around, because the next thing i know a photographer ffrom the local newpaper has come to take photos. At first i noticed another person standing to stare  but then he began fervently snapping photos with a fancy camera. Ok, man…let me in on this…this ain’t free entertainment!..i want one of those photos! Ken came over to chat and was so incredibly nice, showed me his newspaper badge and he could speak some english!

Later that night, Teacher Li, the photographer  Ken and I all went out for tea, chatted and a week later he sent me the link! Ken is a great guy and I thank him for all the great photos, the article and for being such a lovely stranger, now friend! People loveto go out for tea here.  Late at night, take your friends, go  to a restaurant, sit around eating dim sun…all sorts of little bite sized foods…chatting and of course, and drinking lots of tea…way better than a bar! Teacher Li often invites me to go drink tea with him after class and we’ll go with some of the other people in the class..big groups getting together to eat…so Chinese!  Of course no one can speak english, but it really doesn’t matter…amazing how food and drink can make anyone socialize in some form or another.

so badass. i watch in awe with concentration face #3

I’ve never done a martial art but have always been interested so was pretty stoked to see that the opportunties were more than ample to get started! I love the combined strength and style of a sport with the balance, flexibility and inner meditative strength of a dance. I’m diggin’ it for sure. If you can find someplace to learn tai chi locally, i highly recommend it. It’s slow, graceful and challenging…i’m  always sweating by the end and definitely find myself relaxed (well, when i’m not laughing or cursing myself for messing up). I started with the most basic form, #24, and am now workin on 42, 48 and 88 if you’re really keen to check it out!

i couldn't quite get this one. haha...it's all just a lot of fun with friends at the end

The beginnings of Tai Chi, this healing and martial art, are a bit shrouded in mystery;  no one is quite sure when it began or who founded it. Well, there are facts but they are all up for debate.  We do know it started in China and that for many years students were taught in secret by their masters. Sneaky… but one master evtually decided to make his style, the  “Yang” form available for the public. He shortened and simplified this form and is what you see most people practiciing today. It soon became a daily routine for many Chinese and it’s awesome to see it still living strong and spreading round the globe.   It’s pretty sweet to get out in the evening, play some Tai Chi, practice my Chinese and make some new friends. Let let the power of the Qi guide thee!

The online article! Check it out! Hilarious…

http://www.jmnews.com.cn/bw/bwhd/disp.aspx?data_id=45678595


Teacher Teach Me! (On teaching in china and being a jr. high celebrity)

Jiangmen, China

April 12, 2011

Warning: Long and rambly…maybe i should split it into two entries…

School Day Begin!

just a sampling of my students...they couldn't all fit in this pic! and some were a bit reluctant to join in

So I had a feeling it might be a bit like this…I’m uh…well, ya…I’m a bit of a celebrity around here. I may have missed my chance at movie stardom…but now I’m a Jr. High School Star (city-stardom is coming along too, oh yes)! Oh, you’d like me to sign your homework paper for you? You want my email, my MSN, my QQ (Chinese version of MSN chatting), Facebook (wait…you can’t even get facebook in China!), “anything teacher please!” Hahaha. I’m surprised people haven’t started bringing out the camera phones. You see, I’m a rarity in these parts, a desperately desired commodity, but curious oddity none-the-less: an American girl in China…light skin, curly-crazy hair (speaking of hair) and the ability to speak English!

at the jr. high. a gathering of some sort...


Jiangmen, the tiny town of 4 million in which I currently reside does not boast a tourist industry (industry? Yes. Lots of factories for sure, but tourists are not interested in seeing where their cheap goods come from or experiencing the resulting smog of “development” that blankets this region), so I’m pretty much like a glowing beacon of whiteness. Which is decidedly inconvenient when I’m aware that I look like bumbling idiot most of the time (illiteracy does that to a person): Hey! Everyone look at me pretending to read a label in the grocery store again! Now watch as I try to communicate with someone! Ok, now everyone turn because, look out! She’s trying to eat something! Oh lord…how I love to emphasize all of my social blunders. Hopefully this hopeless stage blunders to an end soon.

living up to and beyond my foreigner duties. quick snap a photo! (my host brother and I pretending to do tai chi)

As for the celebrity status, well, that may be here to stay; daily routines become exciting cameo appearances, “halloos!” follow me around. I might as well walk around with a flashing neon sign above my head or draped in an American flag with a statue of liberty head-band. The way people gawk, stare and giggle, you’d think I already was! Actually maybe they’d pay less attention cause they’d just pass me off as a crazy person…hmmm. But unlike Africa, people here thankfully don’t overwhelm me in a chorus of “white-lady!” calls. Well, I do get people saying “hellooo!” a lot (and yes…mostly men and kids/teenagers) but that I can easily ignore, smile, nod or respond depending on the sincerity. Actually because people often don’t say anything but instead overwhelm the air with their curiosity, nervousness and excitement it makes me really feel that celebrity status; bizarre for someone who finds themselves utterly dorky and unworthy of such immediate praise.

 

a spot where i like to chill out/hide on campus. the chinese are very good at making attractive rest/leisure spaces!

And because I’m a teacher (daoshi), while I’m on campus I get the FULL force of A-list celebrityness. I think that given the chance, the students might actually swarm me to ask questions and get my autograph…oh wait…that has happened! I’m teaching at Jingxian Jr. High School (7th and 9th grade) and at Zi Cha Primary School (1st grade). The little kids who are insanely adorable….I kinda want to take a few of them home with me (one little boy almost had me in hysterics when I made a comment that the “chocolate car” in our book was “mmm…yummy!” he responded “teacher’s yummy!” and being one of the few kids that excels he clearly knew what he was saying! classic). The little ones generally start hopping around and going crazy when I arrive…shouting out “hallo! Halloooo! Haaaalllo!” constantly. But much more than that in a conversation and they are lost. For these 1st graders, English is their third language. The local language in Cantonese, then they learn the national language, Mandarin…and then…English…phew…I’m amazed they can speak even a little bit and some of them have an impressive reading ability.

this dude was soo excited about getting this pic...notice kids goofing in the back

Surprisingly, I really enjoy teaching the jr. high kids (even though I recall telling myself that should I ever want to teach I should avoid jr. high like the plague) because we can actually have a conversation; the kids have a genuine interest in America and what I’m all about and on the other hand I can ask them about their own interests and discuss China.

But it was the very first day that I got a taste of my newly acquired celebrity status. I should first mention that the lines between teacher and student are much more blurred here than in the U.S. Teachers office? Teachers lunch room? Umm…no. No privacy…they’re all swarmed with students!  You also have to remember, there are A LOT of people in China…think of the amount of people at a normal school in the U.S. and then triple it! But although these lines seem blurred, students definitely recognize the evevated status aof their teachers and are very respectful…of course some of them are little brats…but it’s Jr. High…whadya expect? they just want to get chatty with their friends and eat junk food…haha…universals?!

 

oh my daily walk from the jr. high to the primary school. "here she comes again!"

But let’s return to that first day, and the first few weeks while we’re at it. Cafeteria…a hustle and bustle of noise as one would expect (some kids go home for lunch…the lunch break lasts 2 1/2 hours because people take a nap after lunch…the Chinese siesta! Who knew?!) and being my first day, I grabbed my food and sat down at a table. Little did I know that the teachers sit in my area that I was not in…I was completely surrounded within seconds of sitting down…I would get the food halfway to my mouth and another question would be fired at me as another mass of children descends on my table to see if this new, rare creature was not rumor but was indeed real! Bombarded with questions, pointing, touching, shoving to get a space and a look…this was my first school lunch in China…welcome to Jr. High stardom. We all know that little bit of funny celebrity aura we feel around our teachers when we’re younger…and especially when you see them doing something “normal”…”oh my gosh I saw her in the supermarket! And then she bought food!” “no way! Did you watch her eat! What was she wearing!” hahaha. But as a foreigner and an American at that (Chinese LOVE America) it’s like they’ve watched me on TV their whole lives and now have the chance to talk in person…ahhh! Guess that’s it…i’m a representative for all they fantasize about in the U.S….oh boy…haha

another class! i should have set the lens wider!

The first few weeks while I was teaching the 7th girls would come up to me after class and ask for me to write my name on their paper. My name? Sign it? Just write it out? OK sure! I would do different designs and they’d get all excited. Some of the boys even get just as starry-eyed and their nervous energy while their asking me my favorite sport or if I really know how to play guitar, shows their adorable innocence. Sometimes it wouldn’t happen, no one would approach me after class, and I’d think…huh…guess that class wasn’t as excited as the one before…but I think it’s just shyness…once one person approached…15 others would follow…all giggling and hanging onto my every word. So cute…how can you not get a little energy high from that?! Still…I’ve never been comfortable in positions of authority and to be thrust to the head of the class and immediately revered like a star is totally insane! No really! I’m just as weird, insecure and nerdy as you guys…really! Of course, part of you has to love it and I’ve gained the wonderful sense that anything I can do for them will be great…exciting even! Need a self-esteem boost? Come to China and teach!

explaining a few things with pictionary art. a few of them complimented my pictures (now that's a strech!) and added their own embellishments after class haha

So now that we know I’m a school celebrity, what am I actually doing?! Well, teaching…you know…English…and to a whole lotta kids. I should have guessed….China: population 1 billion. Average class size: 50+ kids. “So how big will my class be?” I innocently asked before my first day of teaching (note: I still had no idea what the hell I was actually going to be doing at this point). Also note: I’ve learned to be skeptical of every promise or guarantee I receive…especially in a place where the majority of people start their sentences with “I think that….” or “Maybe this….”. So when I heard “oooh I think 50 kids in a class…but…um…no…I think they are so too busy…so together…we put two together…I think 100, 110…100…no more than 110…ok?”…well, can you feel my eyebrow of skepticism rising? 100 kids! Whoa! What! Are you going to stack the desks or hang them from the ceiling?? And then I saw my classroom which was more like a lecture hall, complete with a massive screen, projector and microphone (still, I have no idea how or what exactly I’ll be teaching…class starts the next day). Oh dear…good luck! After one week of that they halved the class size (now I was just winging it with power point presentations I put together to learn new vocabulary and little conversation exercises).

After another week they moved me to teach the 9th graders (50 kids in class and in a normal sized classroom yay!) because they have an oral exam in May. I now have 6 classes a week at the Jr. High…that is 6 different classes. So that’s 300 kids, yow! But easy to prepare for since it’s the same lesson all week (is this making sense?). At the primary school, I have 2 different classes i teach twice a week…so there’s 100 more kiddies! Remembering names is pretty much impossible but I’m starting to get to know a few of them who come up and chat after class (this is apart from the crowd mass wanting my autograph and email haha).

this post needed some color. cool laterns hanging in a restaurant off of a buddhist temple

Teaching is going great and even when I think the class has been boring kids come up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it! Definitely gives ya a boost…I thought I might be getting a fan club when I couple of students brought me little presents and one even wrote me the sweetest letter saying that she “feels happy” because I “teach with a smile”. The kindness and welcoming spirit I’ve received here has been amazing and clearly a bit overwhelming at times. For now…teacher must rest. But really…who wants a signed photo? hahaha