Wednesday, October 31, 2012 0 comments

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  To tell you the truth, it doesn't feel much like Halloween today; I'm celebrating plenty this year but not on the actual day.  The Halloween get-together was last weekend; I'm dressing up and showing pictures in my writing classes, but that's on Monday and Thursday.  However, it's a beautiful, sunny, pleasantly cool day; I even got to spend a few hours of it outside talking to a Chinese friend, Jay.  I didn't want to come back inside, but I had a lot I needed to get done. (I might as well have stayed out, I still didn't get anything done.)

Another good point of the day: I finally found postcards with pictures of this campus!  I haven't been to any of the major tourist sights in Wuhan, so I've been having trouble finding any, but there they were--right in the display case of just by the entrance to the grocery store I go to all the time.  Had they always been there??  So, I'm writing postcards and hope to get them sent off soon, so those of you who I promised postcards to can watch your mailbox.  Well, don't start just yet; it might take a couple of weeks for them to make it over there.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 0 comments

Chinese Signs

I think the photos are finally working on the blog!    It's working on my end, anyhow.  So, let me know if you can't see this.

To celebrate, I'm posting one of the signs I saw over the weekend.  You can't beat Chinese signs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 0 comments

A Day with Friends

One of the great blessings of living in Wuhan is that I am not alone.  Now, living in China, with 1.3 billion and some odd people, "alone" is relative--but even though I surrounded by people and students on a regular basis, it's different to have people with the same background and the same language and the same goals to connect with.  I'm grateful for the family I meet with on Sundays, and I'm grateful for the larger family here that meets once a month or so.

This past Saturday, one of the American teachers, Susan, hosted a Halloween potluck get-together on her campus; although not everyone could come, I enjoyed catching up with several people that I had met before: Tammy, who I met in training; Brian, Alanna, and their daughter, Abby, who I met in Memphis last spring; and several of the Harding grads who I was stuck in the Beijing airport with in August. I wore a costume to the party, but there were only a few of us who did.  (My lazy, requires-little-
effort costume this year was as a fortune teller, except I didn't have a crystal ball, so mostly I just looked weird.) Laura made a great Chinese popstar--complete with Chinglish lyrics, Alanna had borrowed a dress that looked like a Roman goddess, and of course among the children we had Minnie Mouse and a princess.  Anyhow, we played cards, ate, sang, and talked.

After we left the official party, we drifted outside. One by one most people headed home until a group of eight of us were left.  I had my Settlers of Catan set in my bag, just in case we found someone to play with, and sure enough there were some like-minded people in this group.  We sat on the ground out in an open concrete area at the end of the soccer field near some people roller-blading.  We had eight people and a four-player game, so we played partners.  Finally, playing Settlers in China!  I feel like I'm really back. To make it even better, Tammy and I won.

By the time we'd played one game, the sun was getting low and the ground was getting hard, but nobody was ready to go home just yet.  So, we made plans to meet again in about an hour to eat and go bowling. That gave us just enough time to catch a taxi, rush home, change clothes, rush out again, catch another taxi, and meet up.  To tell you the truth, it almost wasn't worth trying to get home.

We met on Ming Zu Da Dao, a nearby street.  Da Dao means 'avenue', and I just learned how to pronounce it correctly.  We, surprisingly quickly for such a large group of people, decided to eat a quick supper at McDonald's so we could get on with bowling.  Only things are never quite so simple in China.  It wasn't finding a McDonald's--we chose it because it was within sight just down the street.  No, once we got in line, it came out that they were out of buns.  Completely.  A McDonalds. Without buns.  We held a quick conference outside about going elsewhere, but there wasn't anything else quick nearby.  So, chicken nugget night for everyone! (Except those few brave souls who ordered wraps and regretted it).

Next, we followed Eric, who's lived her awhile and knows his way around, up to the sixth floor of the Seven Days Inn building.  Through the open doors, we could see a skating rink in full swing, but when we got to the ticket window, we found that for some reason the bowling lanes were closed for the evening.  Eric, who speaks a lot more Chinese than the rest of us, could understand they were closed, but he didn't understand the explanation of why.  Oh, well.

At this point, Micah, who was fighting a head cold, gave up and went home. That left seven of us still looking for something to do.  Skating got voted down, so we split up and took two taxis and a bicycle to Guanggu, the big huge wonderful mall I've mentioned before.  Turns out, there's an arcade there.  So, we all got ten yuan (about $1.40) worth of tokens and played for a while.  There were car racing games, mortal kombat type games, those things with the claws that tempt you to try to get some rather ugly stuffed animals, dance dance revolution, etc.  Most of it looked like it was installed in about 1998.  Or maybe earlier.  And, being China, there were of couse a few bizarre games.  One that I remember particularly was a small round table attached to a hinge.  The video behind it showed a story going on; the scene was a wedding reception in a hotel ballroom.  At a certain point, you (playing the bride), must flip the table as hard as you can.  You earn points based on how much damage and disorder you cause--the cake goes flying, the waiters duck for cover, the table dominoes into the next two, dishes breaking everywhere.  At the end it turns out the reason for the bride's table-flipping tantrum was that the groom is discovered in a closet with a bridesmaid.  The entire game is just that one flip of the table, but it was worth watching just for the oddity of it.  Matt, one of our group, got a score in the top ten of all time.

Laura and I left around ten; the others were about out of tokens, so I figure they left soon after.  It took awhile to find a taxi, being a Saturday night, but I made it home eventually. It was a good day.  

Friday, October 26, 2012 0 comments

English Party 2

Tonight, we had our second "English Party".  This was the second group from class 1103, including Serena, Tina, Cindy, Smile, Blanca, Alice, Ruth, and Alissa.  I hoped going in that it wouldn't be too awkward for Micah with a group of all girls, but I think it went fine.  The only time the issue came up was when we were discussing what game to play--one of the girls suggested Truth or Dare, and Micah vetoed that immediately.   Probably not the best game to play with your students, anyhow. :)

The girls then started describing a game they like to play to us.  The more the described, Micah and I looked at each other.  Mafia.  Turns out Chinese students play Mafia as well; it's funny sometimes what odd things turn out to be international and other things you would think would be aren't.  So, we came to an agreement on the rules (they didn't have a doctor in their version, although another group of Chinese people we talked to later said that they usually did), passed out cards, and played about seventeen times.  Now, I know Mafia is extremely popular with most young people, but frankly, I've always found it quite boring.  I'm always happy if I get out early, as it's much more interesting to watch than to sit with your eyes closed time after time.  Besides, every other time I've played in the states, it's been with a large group, and I've never been anything but a townsperson.  Here in China, however, I seem to have some luck being a policeman.  I just prefer games that give more chance for getting to know the people you're playing with.  After that, we did play a quick game of spoons, as well.

Anyhow, it was fun, but I should have cut them off at fewer games.  We went on the close the evening in what has now become traditional, Jello and group photos.  
Saturday, October 20, 2012 0 comments

English Parties!

As a teacher who wants to make an impact on my students outside of just lecturing on the idiosyncrasies of written English, I feel that it's important to get to know them as more than just a name on a roll.  I want them to feel like we're accessible.  Added to this, the students are always curious about the lives of foreigners, and generally eager to take any opportunity to practice their English.  The perfect solution seems to be hosting "English parties."

One blessing this year is that Micah and I have many of the same students; he teaches them oral English while I teach them writing, so we can host the parties together instead of having separate events.  It's really nice to have someone to share the role of host with; if I need to run to the kitchen for something, I don't feel like I'm abandoning my guests, and I don't have to buy the drinks, cookies, and popcorns every weekend.  It's also a blessing that I, at least, have these students for the entire school year, intead of just one semester (I'm not sure about Micah's schedule).

In each class, there are between 21 and 24 students; since the goal is getting to know them personally, we're inviting seven or eight students at a time--three parties with each class.  Also, with a smaller number, we can play games as a group and fit comfortably in my smallish living room. So, nine parties all together.  I'm having the students sign up in class on one of three dates for their class, so that I can be sure to get an even distribution and all.

Tonight, we had the first group--seven students from 1103: Sharon, Charlie, Sheldon, Dreamcatcher (yes, he chose that name himself...even other Chinese students realize that it's weird, and they think names like Smile, Echo, and Seldom are acceptable...), Jessie, Andy (a girl), and Blare (also a girl).  We had a lot of fun spending time with them--Sharon is very intelligent and has good English; she's the class know-it-all but when I need some information from the students, I'm grateful for her because she always knows what's going on, or will find out.  Dreamcatcher does seem a bit dreamy; it often seems like I've just called his thoughts back from someplace else.  He also has some pretty interesting big hairstyles.  Charlie and Sheldon (he chose the name because he likes Big Bang Theory) are fairly quiet, but good-natured.  Charlie is always smiling.  While most of the boys seem like teenagers, Sheldon seems like a Chinese businessman, with his leather jacket and   stockier build.  Jessie is sweet; Micah accidently mixed her up with another student, Jessica, at first, and teased her throughout the evening calling her different names. Andy, despite her tom-boyish name, is thin and delicate; she usually wears pink or something lacy; Blare on the other hand does have a more tom-boyish air, usually wearing a plaid shirt.

We sat around in the living room to talk for a while; I had some chips ahoy and oreos, orange juice and coke  (different from American students, they drank the orange juice and never even touched the coke), and the students brought some fruit and candy with them.  After awhile, we moved to the dining room table, where we taught them to play Spoons.  (For those of you unfamiliar, it's a card game in which you pass cards around trying to get four of a kind; when someone does, they grab a spoon from a pile of spoons in the center of the table. When one person grabs one, everyone else should, too. Like musical chairs, there's one less spoon that there are players, so someone isn't fast enough and doesn't get one.  That person gets a letter; when they spell out "spoon", they're out. It's usually quite a violent game.)  I was afraid they would be too shy for this rather competitive and rough and tumble game, but no such problem--they caught on quick, and by the second round they were diving over the table and playing tug of war just like my high school youth group playing.  Micah started cheating by looking at Blare's cards part way through, and was caught by Andy, who was next to him; he defended himself by making a counter-accusatin that she was the one cheating; he and Andy and Blare spent the rest of the game teasingly accusing each other of cheating.

At the end, I brought out some Jello I'd made (not far enough in advance, however, which is why I waited until the end to serve it--giving it time to set); they'd never seen or heard of such a thing, so it was a fun and novel experience.  They seemed to enjoy it.  Micah was, of course, playing with his as he ate it with his feet propped up on a stool--several pulled out their camera phones and started taking pictures of him.  I teased him afterwards that he would become famous for jello-eating with all the photos of his masterful techniques...We had a really fun night with our students; I hope the rest of the parties go as well!  
Thursday, October 18, 2012 0 comments

Writing Lesson 10: Look Around

The 10th writing lesson focused on organizing by space, which mostly means describing places.  The previous paragraph-writing exercises had organized details mostly chronologically, but in this lesson the students had to think spatially.

When writing a description of a space/place, you can organize your details from left to right, right to left, bottom to top, top to bottom, edges to center, center to edges, near to far, or far to near.  Probably other ways, too, but that's enough to cover most situations.

For my examples, I used four pictures and a video.  First was a picture of a group of friends (Me, Smith, Lokey, and Kim in the corn maze from October 2009 if anyone's interested); my example paragraph described the scene from left to right.

The second example was a picture of a dining room from a home interior website; in this case, I wrote a description from the outside in--describing first the walls and windows, then the furniture along the wall, then the rug in the center of the floor, then the table and chairs in the center of the rug, and finally the odd vases in the center of the table.

The third example was a paragraph I found online from a 1957 book, Talents and Geniuses, by Gilbert Highet--it was a description of a filthy subway station.  I found a photo of a station in New York City that matched the description pretty well.  His description was a perfect example for top-to-bottom organization: first the glaring light bulbs, the paint peeling on the ceiling, the crusted white tiles on the walls, the gum spots on the pavement, the gleaming steel rails, the sludge of debris below the tracks.

My next example was a photo I took during my trip to Anhui Province during the October holiday; standing in one of the large public squares of the little town of Jiuhuajie, the scene unfolds in layers: the ponds in the foreground, then the arc of buildings, then a lower ridge with temples silhouetted above it, then the higher, more distant ridge pale against the evening light.  So, organized by distance.

My last example was a video.  My senior year of college, I bought a new comforter for my bed, and as I usually feel the need to do with any new purchases, I had to show Mom.  (By the way, Mom, I bought a new purse the other day--it's gray suede and has striped fur on the side! Remind me to send you a picture!) But instead of taking a picture that time, I took a quick video standing in the middle of my dorm room and turning in a circle.  Somehow the video has survived the intervening seven years (has it really been that long??).  It provided an interesting way to describe a place--left to right while spinning.  Also, college students here are usually really curious about what college life is like for American students; the video was a great jumping-off point for a discussion of the differences in university life on either side of the Pacific.

For the rest of the class period, I put up a photo of a room from an interior-design google search, or rather, Bing search, as google often doesn't work well here (I'm going through Google withdrawals! Bing just can't compare...and I NEED my maps!!).  I used a different picture for each class; I'm finally learning to vary my journal assignments; now I'll only have to read twenty-something descriptions of each picture instead of seventy-something of the same one.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 2 comments

Writing Week 9: PB&J How-to

Week nine was the second paragraph lesson; this time, organizing by process.  Really, practicing writing directions on how to do something.  As usual, I tried to have some fun with it rather than just lecturing the entire time; for one activity, I had the students plays the old game where one was blindfolded, the second students then moved somewhere else in the classroom, and the third had to give verbal directions to the blindfolded person on how to arrive at the other person.

Other examples including giving directions based on a map of central Beijing, drawing a simple frog step by step, and watching a howdini video on how to make and decorate a butterfly cake, thinking through the directions in each case and how to express them in English so as to be clearly understood.

The final example was the highlight of the class--how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I brought bread, peanut butter, jelly, knives, plates, orange juice, and cups to class; four students in each class volunteered and I instructed them step by step in making the sandwiches.  The final step was to cut the sandwich in fourths and share with their classmates.  This may sound like a bit of a silly example, but most of my studens had never even heard of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, much less made or tried one.  Most liked it; a few didn't.  However, most had fun trying a new food that I explained to them was the staple of many American children's diet.  (Although I didn't confuse them by enlightening them as to the staple of my childhood diet--it wasn't jelly with my peanut butter on the sandwich).