Thursday, November 29, 2012 0 comments

New Ink for the Printer

Well, it doesn't seem quite real yet, but today was the last writing classes of the semester.  How in the world have thirteen weeks passed already?  Normally, I'd still have another month to go, but we double up the first four weeks to end early, for the sake of one of my Chinese coteachers who is expecting a baby in December.  I thought today would be crazy since I was trying to fit in two lessons, exam review, taking up papers, and making various announcements, but I actually had a bit of time to kill (which I did by making them listen to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") in both classes.  Of course, the semester isn't really "over" for me, I've still got piles and piles to grade before it's really over.  Which is, of course, what I should be doing now, but I'm not.  I did a solid hour of grading earlier today, though!

What I'm doing right now is printing stuff.  I finally got around to ordering more ink for my printer, so I'm finishing up all those little decorative projects that got put on hold when I ran out of ink a month ago.  Now, I will finally fill that weird white hole in the living room wall collage you've been seeing in all the pictures.  I've also printed several Christmas decorations--I think I'll put them on the living room window.  I just wish I could spend more time in the living room to enjoy the decorations--it's hard to get it really comfortably warm in there.  I spend most of my time holed up in my dining room with the door closed--the heater in here works great for heating just one room.  Anyways, enough whining; I could pull the plug-in electric heater in there if I really wanted to sit in there so bad.  

I've also been printing more decorations with Good Words...I need to be reminded of them more often, and work on memorizing more.  I really like the stuff I found on Flourish Cafe; if you click on Flourishing Abode and then printables, there's some really cute stuff.  She also has a ton of great stuff on the Cafe side, if you want to pay for them.  I'm always amazed by the internet--the opportunity to find so many interesting people making so many interesting things.  I often feel a bit guilty that I haven't learned more--there's so many things I want to learn, to study, to know--and it's all out there, if I would just dedicate myself to learning it all.

Here's some stuff I edited with pixl-o-matic.  I added the words with my paintshop program.  Unfortunately, I'm using a buggy old version from computer-before-last; I have a newer version I bought with my last short-lived computer, but I couldn't find the cd to load it on this one.  One of those annoying situations in which I remember moving that cd around and it being in the way, and then once I needed it, it didn't turn up in eight months.  Sigh.  Anyways.  So, the stuff:

Monday, November 26, 2012 0 comments

Cribs--Jerry Style

Sooo, some well-meaning, I'm sure, Chinese English teacher assigned his or her students the project of interviewing a foreigner.  The interview must be videoed (is that a word?), and be 7-8 minutes long.  They could work in groups of two or three.  This much I've gathered, because I've been bombarded by requests from students in my mythology class to do interviews.  I've lined up three groups so far, and done two of the interviews (next one tomorrow night); hopefully I'll avoid any more.  Oh well, it's at least a way to spend a bit more time with my students.

I did the first interview last week; it was a bit awkward as they hadn't really prepared anything and were trying to figure out what to talk about.  They even asked me at one point, "So, what do you want to talk about?"  I don't know, it's your interview.  However, they did invited me to go eat with them afterwards, and they showed my another hot pot restaurant on campus, so that was definitely worth it.

The second interview was Monday night.  This was was with my student Jerry.  Jerry is easily my nuttiest student.  He seems as if he's going to explode with excitement at any minute, whether the cause of the outburst is my Christmas tree or the exploits of Odysseus.  At least I never have to worry in my mythology class that no one will have an opinion or comment to contribute--on the contrary, I have to find ways to cut him off once he gets on a roll.  He is always the last to leave, and usually walks all the way down the stairs to the door with him, still asking questions.  I don't know that I've heard many people who can talk faster than Jerry, especially not switching back and forth between Chinese and English is the same sentence without stopping for breath. Not that I'm complaining--it's great to have an enthusiastic student.  All of this is just to warn you that he's not entirely mentally stable...

However, he is creative.  He decided that sitting on the couch talking (as my other students have done) was boring.  So, he came up with the idea of doing the interview like an episode of "Cribs", you know, the one where they visit the homes of celebrities and are given a tour.  And he does nothing halfway--he even started out in the stairwell with an intro, and then I had to open the door (all rehearsed), and then show him around.  Fortunately, the girl who was with him doing the video was also quite good.  She was panning in and out and making it look quite professional.  Altogether, we got nearly twenty minutes of footage; I don't know how exactly he plans to edit it for his assignment.  The interview part at the end (which involved moving furniture around to make a Barbara Walters-esque set, with the Christmas tree in the middle, and the whole "please welcome our next guest..." dialogue) was fairly boring, and is a really long section of tape I don't feel like editing at the moment,  but the "Cribs" part I'll share.

Flickr wouldn't load the whole thing, so I had to split it into three parts:
Jerry hosting Cribs 1
Jerry hosting Cribs 2
Jerry hosting Cribs 3

So, there's a guided tour of my apartment, or at least the parts I would let Jerry in. :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012 0 comments

"Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree..."

And now that Thanksgiving is over, I can decorate for Christmas!  Last Sunday after our morning meeting, I tagged along with Micah when he said he was craving ice cream.  We went to the Dairy Queen near Walmart, and of course, being a southern woman, I can't be that close to a Walmart and not go in.  And right inside the door, Christmas decorations!  Of course, Christmas isn't a holiday here, but it sounds like fun to those Chinese people who know about it, and it's starting to catch on--at least, the Santa Claus and snow men part.  No nativity scenes...I'd kind of like one to display, just as a
conversation starter.

Anyhow, the decorations here are dollar-store quality at best, but at least they are colorful and festive. I grabbed a basket and dived into the Christmas decor.  Micah looked around a bit with mild interest and then wandered off, but I was trying to find colored lights under the piles of white lights by then.  Now, in the states, I'm not much on tinsel; there are other less plastic ways of decorating.  But here, bring on the metallic green, gold, and red! I found some colorful balls, some felt ornaments, and one actually cute little Santa Claus.

I already had a good start on Christmas stuff; Carrie, the teacher who lived here before me, had left some stuff--a two-foot (ish, I didn't measure it) silver aluminum tree and some white lights and ornaments.  Here's a picture of my cute little tree (thanks, Carrie!) with the ornaments I bought.  I hung up white lights on the window and scattered Santa hats, but as I did all of the above with knock-off scotch tape, it's all falling down and looks tacky at the moment, so I'll take pictures of all that when I've got time to redo itproperly--with MORE scotch tape!

 In the meantime, here's my tree lighting up the room:

Saturday, November 24, 2012 0 comments

Thanksgiving in Wuhan

Since a few people had to work on Thursday, we had our big feast today (Saturday). I got up early this morning (well, relatively, at eight...but I didn't go to bed until two, so it felt really early...) to get started cooking. Micah came over mid-morning to bake his pumpkin pie; he doesn't have an oven.  Meanwhile, I got the carrots going and mashed my sweet potatoes.  We were about twenty minutes later leaving than we meant to be, and then had trouble getting a taxi, but we still ended up being some of the first ones there.

The Myers and the Lus hosted--they live across the hall from each other, so we could use both of their kitchens and living rooms.  We split the cost of the turkey--they are quite expensive here; chinese people don't eat turkey, so it's a specialty item at Metro (a bit like Sam's club; caters to foreigners).  The side dishes we brought potluck; I took glazed carrots with bacon and sweet potato casserole.  They both turned out even better than I expected; you never know because sometimes ingredients are a bit different here.  I have a few carrots left, but the sweet potatoes were cleared out fast.  I should get some more pecans while they have them and freeze them so that I can make more later, maybe for Christmas.

There was so much good food...two or three kinds of dressing, green bean casserole, bread, turkey, ham, tacos, deviled eggs (which I'd never eaten much of before, but am starting to like), sweet potatos, and plenty of other stuff. I had a piece of Micah's pumpkin pie for dessert--I love pumpkin pie. :)  Later, I snacked on a bit of Eric's no-bake cookies.

There were probably thirty to forty people there; of course the best part of Thanksgiving is spending time with family and friends.  While I am far away from family, I did get to talk to my grandparents and to my mother over skype, and having such a big party today with friends made it truly seem like a holiday.  I got to spend quite a while catching up with Ron, who I worked with in Jingzhou, who is visiting in China this month.  I also spent time with several of the workers who live at nearby campuses; we really need to get together more often to shop or play games.

After we ate, several people started up a big game of the card game golf (ask my mom or Sue if you're curious--they're experts.  Well, you could ask Dad or Doug, too, but you're more likely to get a good explanation from the first two :) )  I didn't play this time, but I watched the game as I spent some time talking with others.

It was a wonderful day.  The only problem is that now I just want to curl up with a blanket and look at my Christmas tree--but I need to get busy writing exam questions for the final for my writing class.

Edit: Alright, sorry for the rather haphazard placement of pictures.  The internet is being cantankerous tonight, and if you only knew how long it's taken me to get them on here at all...
Friday, November 23, 2012 0 comments

English Party 7

After a weekend off, tonight I hosted our seventh English Party.  Now we're starting on class 1104; we'll have the other two groups of them over next weekend. This was our smallest group so far; just four students: Bertha, Seldom, Wind, and Xiaobei (yes, they choose their own names...I know.)

Anyways, we followed our usual format; if you're following the blog, you know the usual by now. We had a good time, as usual; Xiaobei is a bit nutty and we all gave him a hard time; he and Micah got into a stand-off refusing to tell each other their birthdays.  Xiaobei insisted he was very clever; Micah said
it was sneaky instead; every time Micah would insult him, he would say, "My heart is broken!" very dramatically.  We all told him he wasn't going to have much heart left by the end of the night.

Chinese students usually love to sing; it's not unusual at a party for somebody or everybody to end up singing.  It typically starts in some sort of game: "The loser has to sing a song!"  Xiaobei lost at Uno twice; and I don't remember exactly how all it went but it came down to that Micah should sing a
song, but he refused unless Xiaobei sang all three of the songs that he owed us by now.  Usually that puts an end to the "sing something!" conversation, but not with Xiaobei, of course.  He sang his three songs: two very silly ones, and one that was actually pretty good.  Fortunately, I had the video camera ready, and he's a ham and didn't mind.  So, Micah had to sing his song; he grabbed my Faith and Praise book and sang something out of there.  I got that on video, too, but I have to work with him the rest of the year so I won't put it on here.  (Xiaobei will never know, and wouldn't care if he did). And then they all looked at me, so I sang "I'll Fly Away."

Blogger is for some reason not loading my videos, so here are links to the videos instead: 

The video of Micah singing broke. :(  Oh well, here's a picture of him with the broken reindeer antlers:



I found pecans!  I had been keeping an eye on the nuts at the grocery store and the farmers' market, but I never saw pecans or anything of the sort.  I figured they must not have them around here, so I was trying to think of a subsitute to use when making sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving.  Walnuts, maybe?

But I went to the little grocery store right by the school gate to look at the walnuts and such, and there they were!  Pecans!  Unfortunately, they weren't shelled, so I spent a couple of hours picking the meat out, but I was happy to have them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 0 comments

The Bird of Wuhan

The most common type of bird on campus is sky blue and black, and quite large; I see them all the time.  I don't remember ever seeing this kind of bird before, but they're really pretty.  I've been wanting to get a picture of one of them ever since I got here, but it seemed whenever I saw one up close I never had my camera ready.  Finally, this morning, a few came along and perched for a moment in the trees in front of my building.  I grabbed my camera and tried to not to scare them off by opening the window.  I got this shot, not that great, but at least you can see it, before they flew off.

Edit: One of the other American teachers here in Wuhan already found out: it's an Azure-winged Magpie.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 0 comments

Week 15: Definition Paragraphs

And finally...drum roll please...the last paragraph lesson!  This final type of paragraph organization is definition.  I thought this one might be a bit boring, but, as it turns out, I found some quite good material online to supplement what the book taught; I think this is the most thorough and well-thought-out explanation of the concepts that I've done yet.  Which means, it probably was boring.  But anyways...

I won't bore you with all the details of the lesson.  The main gist is to practice writing paragraph that explain the meaning of something: a concept, a holiday, a ceremony, a type of person, an occupation or role.  Objects usually end up just being a description.

Anyhow, the fun part of class was, as usual, after the main lesson.  I made a rather weak tie-in: "I am defining the meaning of a holiday: Thanksgiving."  Really, it was more of just a description...

The students, having already studied English for about eight years now, have of course already heard of Thanksgiving and know the basic idea, so I didn't repeat the whole Pilgrim and Indian story; they heard it last year.  I focused more on what we do on the actual day.  I showed them pictures from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; they were really impressed with the humongous balloons. I also showed them how to trace your hand and make a turkey drawing, which they thought was cute.

Food is always a popular point of discussion; Thanksgiving food especially so, because they don't eat turkey here.  None of my students have ever seen or tasted a turkey.  Also, food here (since you're going to have to eat it with chopsticks) comes to the table already cut into bite-sized pieces. I think the photo I've gotten the biggest reaction out of both in Jingzhou and here is the photo of the whole roasted turkey on the table from Thanksgiving 2009.

I also explained the wishbone tradition, which they thought was just a bit gross, really--pulling on a slimy bone. Probably, I haven't done it myself in years.

Then, of course, it's always good to try to focus minds on the important things in life.  I taught them the phrase "count your blessings,"  and gave them a few minutes to think of things they were thankful for, then I had them take turns telling the things they are thankful for.  You do have to specify that you can't just say "I'm thankful for my family and friends," but intead should be specific.  What about your friend are you thankful for? What does your mother do that makes you thankful for her?  They did really well, though; my students in Jingzhou needed prodding to say more than two or three words, but my students here I more often have to try to cut off; they'll talk and talk.  One students did try to butter me up by saying he was thankful for me and for the English parties I've been organizing.

And one last picture for you...Thanksgiving 2001.  Is 2001 really eleven years ago already?

Anyways, happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Monday, November 12, 2012 0 comments

Classification in Week 14

Only two more ways to organize paragraphs left, including this one!  I never realized how many someone could come up with.  However, I do agree with with those who put the curriculum together that it is good for the students to get this practice.  As you would expect of students writing in a second language they're not totally comfortable yet, their writing tends to be formulaic and vague; hopefully, looking at different ways to organize their thoughts will help them to write more specifically and clearly.  The vagueness was so bad in their last assignment, though, that I think I need to work specifically on that again at some point.

Anyhow, the 14th (out of 16) lesson of the semester was on organization by classification.  Basically, writing about things in categories. I really liked the examples in the book for this one (the examples, to me, seem to be hit or miss; some don't seem to be very clear illustrations, but this week's were): one example began "There are three kinds of book owners. The first..." Another began "Every educated person has at least two ways of speaking hsi mother tongue. The first..."

I began class with the boring lecture part, reiterating the ideas from the book and going over the vocabulary; I had a little bit of nerdy fan by using the four Hogwarts houses as my first example.  I used another example I found online about the sections at the local video store; it was a bit of an ode to a bygone era--it's hard to find a video store now that everyone uses netflix or gets movies online.

To wake everyone up after the lecture, I had them all get up and move into groups; I wrote paragraphs about the groups of students in the classroom as they organized themselves by birth month, home province, and favorite color.  They always enjoy any opportunity to goof around a bit.

Finally, I gave them a simple personality test to fill out; it was the one that divides people into four groups: lions, otters, golden retrievers, and beavers.  The version I used gave personality traits of each in the categories of relational strengths, strengths out of balance (weaknesses), communication style, relational needs, and relational balance (what to do to overcome the weaknesses).  Just to give you an idea, the first part, relational strengths, for each were:

Lion: takes charge, problem solver; competitive, enjoys change, confrontational
Otter: Optimistic, energetic, motivators, future oriented
Golden Retriever: warm and relational, loyal, enjoy routine, peace-maker, sensitive feelings
Beaver: Accurate and precise, quality control, discering, analytical

It turned out to be a good activity for vocabulary; there were several of the adjectives in the questionaire that they were unfamiliar with, so I spent a while explaining terms; once they had finished, I took a poll of how many we had of each type; we had about five lions (including three of the boys), quite a few otters, a good number of golden retrievers (predictably, many of the sweeter girls), and one beaver.  Blare was looking around bemusedly; was she the only one? Of course, she might not have been; when I tallied up the answers there were about three people who never answered.

Their journal assignment, which I gave them the last ten minutes or so of class to start on, was to discuss whether they agreed or not with the results of the personality test; which traits were accurate? which were not?  Of course, I reminded them that a test with only four types was overly simplistic; many would fall somewhere between the types.   Finally, what is the value of having different personality types? How do they work together?

Hopefully, reading this assignment, I'll be able to get to know my students better! Oh, by the way--I took to quiz myself while the students were working on their journals (I don't know why it didn't occur to me to do that ahead of time), and it turns out I'm a  beaver.  Not surprising, really, and now at least Blare isn't alone.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 0 comments

English Party 6

Saturday night was our sixth English party, finishing up class 1106.  We had a bit of confusion at the beginning; they had thought their group was next weekend, while I had them down for tonight, but we got it all figured out and had the party anyhow, albeit starting about a hour late.

This group was much calmer and a nice relief after the wild people we hosted the night before; however, they were also some of the students whose spoken English is not quite as fluent as some of the others, so the onus of keeping the conversation going fell more on Micah and me than usual.  We had a good time, though, and once we moved to the games, everyone was able to relax and have a good time.  We played Uno and spoons again; both are simple and everyone seems to like them. Then Jello as always,cranberry this time.

From left to right: Dennis, Kay, Helen, Lily, Armstrong, and Deric.

Saturday, November 10, 2012 0 comments

Half a Lifetime Ago

Last week, one of my Chinese friends, Jay, and I were talking about high school.  He was curious about what kind of things American students do in high school--Chinese students don't really have much chance for extracuricular activities.  I tried to explain marching band to him--I think he got the general idea, but it's like nothing they've ever seen here.

Then today, someone I went to high school with posted an old photo of all of us as seniors, in our band uniforms, back in 2001, and someone else pointed out that a video of our freshman show, Liturgical Dances, from 1998, was on youtube.  I wish the rest were, too, but anyhow, here's that one.  I had fun watching and reminiscing a bit.  Then, when I was writing the title for this post, it occured to me that I was fourteen when I marched in the show in the video.  Half my life ago.  It's weird; I'm just twenty-eight, but it seems like since my last birthday I've had a bit of a preoccupation with how old I am.  I guess it's just the realization that you're supposed to have so much fun and do so much while you're "young", and I see the end of my twenties coming fast.  Have I done enough?  Am I where I should be by this point?  Which direction should I go from here?  It's just a little sad sometimes that I don't fit in to "the young people" any more.

Friday, November 9, 2012 0 comments

Pizza and Shopping with Friends

It was a dark and stormy night...well, not quite.  It was a drizzly, cold, it was still morning when the story begins...It was a drizzly, cold morning...that's a bit better...Anyhow, Micah had invited Kevin and me to meet up at Papa John's for lunch, and I called Tammy and invited her along. The plan was to leave at eleven to take the bus, but of course I was running late, and then we had a bit of a mix up when Micah was waiting for me at one gate and I was waiting for him at the other.  On a side note, he's already caught on to my tendency to run late; he says we're going on Katy-time. He's also realized he should tell me to be somewhere ten minutes before I'm really needed. I really have improved some, though--I have got myself in the habit of being to all my classes ten to fifteen minutes early.  But meeting friends at a specific time still eludes me.  Especially before noon.

Anyhow, we finally did get on a bus and we did finally arrive at Guanggu.  Across the roundabout from the mall is, well, another mall--this one has H&M and C&A (some of my favorite European clothing stores), as well as a Papa John's.  I had brilliantly forgotten my umbrella yet again, so I wore my scarf Muslim-style (it seems somehow derogatory to put it like that, but I'm not sure how else to describe it).  Micah tried to share his umbrella, but it wasn't a large one and it's difficult winding through a crowd, up and down two flights of stairs.  Fortunately it was only a steady drizzle at this point.

We found Tammy easily at the entrance to Papa John's, and Kevin came in just a few minutes later.  We ran into Matt and Autumn Moore, who just happened to be there that day, too.  The food was pretty good--they do have the garlic-butter sauce here, and we orderd a bunch of it to drown everything in.  Another nice thing about both Papa John's and Pizza Hut here is that it's a regular thing to order pizzas half and half; they even advertise doing it.  So, we got a large pizza half Chicken-bacon-ranch, half Supreme.  We got a small half Italian sausage, half vegeterian.  It was nice to try several different things; I wouldn't have ordered the Chicken-bacon-ranch just for myself, but it turned out to be really good, and I'll definitely order it in the future.  Tammy also pointed out some fine print in the menu which offered free refills on drinks, so we all got coke; we bugged the waitress for refills of the small glasses they tend to use here so many times she just brought the pitcher and left it on the table.

Kevin had to leave for a meeting right after we ate, but Micah, Tammy, and I stayed and shopped for a while.  Micah shopped seriously; Tammy and I are built very differently from Chinese women and thus can't really buy clothes, but we looked at shoes, scarves, hats, and bags, and partook in my favorite shopping activity when I can't fit into the clothes being offered--making fun of ridiculous things.  Chinese fashions being a bit different from American, there's always plenty of material.  Yellow snakeskin leggings?  Bright orange slacks for men?  Green, purple, and orange patterned sweater (for men!) that American men would only wear to one of those most-horrific-holiday-sweater parties (even though it wasn't holiday)?

Tammy had already bought a pair of shoes before we met up with her, and while we were in H&M I found a pair of yellow tennis shoes (men's, but they don't look masculine) on clearance for only 70 yuan (ten dollars ish), and a white toboggan for only 30 (five dollars ish).  Tammy's shoes were also mens; Chinese women tend to have smaller feet on average than Americans, so anyone who wears a nine or above in America often has a hard time finding women's shoes; fortunately, many of the men's shoes are pretty androgenous, so on occasion you find something wearable.

We then went up to C&A; they had tons of great scarves, but I have to limit myself--I already have more scarves than any one person really needs.  It's a bit of an addiction.  Micah tried on jackets, while Tammy and I drifted between giving him our opinion and being blinded by a display of women's sweaters and jackets in violent shades of construction-cone orange and not-quite-ripe lemon.  With a bit of purple mixed in.  As we wandered up by the register, we hit the jackpot--they've murdered cookie monster, big bird, and some orange muppet and made bags!

We headed home soon after; it was too rainy to stay outdoors, Micah announced he was shopped out, and I needed to get back to get everything ready for the evening's English party.

English Party 5

English party five was a continuation of class 1106.  Now, we're having these parties to get to know our students...I don't think we really meant we wanted to get to know them this well.  Crazy only beings to cover it.  With most groups, we talk about a wide variety of topics; this group had one thing on their minds: dating.  We especially got to hear Sarah's views, because, as we teased her good-naturedly, she never really stops talking.  To tell you the truth, all of the students in the group might not be crazy, but she, her best fried Delphine, and the lone boy in the group (who we found has been friend-zoned so badly that he may never climb out), Tom, definitely are. Oh, and Malak, too.  She left before the others as she had a date; from the way it sounds her boyfriend is a brave man; I wouldn't want to fight her.  

We followed the usual format of sitting in the living room, eating and chatting. Sarah expounded on her plans to get back together with her exboyfriend, the girls abused Tom, and had some choice words about somebody elses' ex.  We then tried to distract them with games; we played Uno and Spoons.  Unfortunately for Tom, he didn't get to play much; we were playing elimination on both--in Uno he won, so he was out quickly, and in Spoons, he lost quickly and was out.  So, he ended up being a go-fer, fetching snacks from the other room.  I was the ultimate loser of Uno; the last four or so of us played on forever; so long that everyone else got bored and wandered away.  Spoons, on the other hand, is my game; I won both games.  

Once they left, Micah and I looked at each other and just said, "Wow."   

From left to right: Sarah, Delphine, Blare, Candy, April, Jody, and Tom in the front.  
Thursday, November 8, 2012 0 comments

Cooking Night with Micah and Veronica

I love Chinese food, but I can't cook it (to tell the truth, I've never really tried, since eating out is quite cheap here).  So, when I cook, it's American or Italian food.  I'm still in the process of readjusting to cooking in China and taking stock of the available ingredients, but I already know several favorites that work just fine here.  However, I rarely want to bother with a big meal just for myself; I'll just eat peanut butter and crackers alone. So, Micah and I have cooked together twice now--the first time, we invited our friends, the Myers, to eat pasta and garlic bread with us; this time, we invited our waiban (the person from the foreign affairs office in charge of us foreign teachers--she's the one we call when things go wrong), Veronica.  

Not all Chinese people really like American food, but Veronica loves it.  It's fun to cook for someone for whom nearly anything you cook will be a novelty; there are several western restaurants here, but most are expensive and besides they are all either a pizza place or a steak place, which leaves plenty of things out.  I made meatloaf and glazed carrots, and Micah made broccoli with a lemon sauce and deviled eggs (he makes them differently from the usual recipe--I usually don't care for them, but these were really good).  We found some french bread at Carrefour the day before, and that turned out to be authentically good. 

Overall, it was one of the best meals I've had recently; I'm looking forward to the leftovers after I buy more ketchup for the meatloaf (it's good, but would be so much better with just a bit more...).  I really do enjoy entertaining in my home; good thing, as I'm doing a lot of it these days. 


Two More "Weddings"

Today, I did the week 13 lesson with my other two classes--including acting out the wedding.  Again, no one wanted to volunteer to be the bride or groom (although in my last class, all the girls were staring pointedly at one particular girl, and those close by were elbowing her--she must have a thing for some boy in the class), but I think it's all the funnier when it's random.

Here's some pictures from classes 1103 and 1104:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 0 comments

My Vacuum Cleaner

Alright, this may be a little bit weird, but I'm excited about it.  I bought a vacuum cleaner today!  With all of these English parties, my living room carpet was getting to be a mess, and a broom just wasn't cutting it.  So, I found a cheap little vacuum at Carrefour; isn't it cute?  It even rolls, has more than one attachment, and best of all, the cord retracts with the push of a button! :)  


The Week 13 Wedding

For weeks, we've been practicing writing different kinds of paragraphs in my writing class.  Which frankly, gets a bit boring now and then--so, I like to have an activity that gets students participating now and then.

This week's topic according to the syllabus (well, actually, not according to the syllabus--I swapped a couple of weeks around so that this lesson wouldn't fall the week of Halloween) is Comparison/Contrast.  Certainly a useful type of paragraph...

I decided that we would compare/contrast something fun.  How about American weddings vs. Chinese weddings? So, it's wedding week in writing!  The students are usually really curious about American culture and customs, and nothing gets them talking like romance--students here don't date in high school, so when they get to college the dating scene is new and bewildering.  I sent out a facebook message a few days ago asking if I could borrow anyone's wedding pictures for examples--thanks to everyone who responded!

I rushed through the boring part of the lesson from the textbook, and then showed a power point discussing various wedding customs (clothing, the ceremony, cake, bouquet/garter, throwing stuff as they leave, etc.) illustrated with scenes from the beautiful weddings of several friends.

Then came the really entertaining part--I made them act out a wedding ceremony in class.  I had printed up detailed scripts for them to look at (and keep, to use for their assigment later). I wrote all the parts on little slips of paper and had them draw--if anyone wanted to volunteer for the major parts they could (no one so far has volunteered), but I didn't want to waste ten minutes of class arguing over who had to do what.  By including the seating of the mothers and grandmothers, and a reading by the brother of the bride, I managed to come up with enough parts for everybody, with the guests being imaginary.

I took a lacy white scarf to stand for a veil, and candles and a lighter to act out a unity candle lighting (which of course, the center candle woudn't light--that's why I don't want that particular little part in my wedding if I ever get married; something always goes wrong.) I wished I had something to use as bouquets; I gave them balloons to hold but it didn't work very well, as they turned out to be water balloons and thus quite small.  Maybe I'll come up with something better before I teach the lesson again tomorrow.

I was the wedding director, of course.  I lined everyone up, and we went through the processional, and then the ceremony.  They all got the giggles during the "You may kiss the bride" part.  Of course the two students randomly picked didn't even consider it; in fact, I'm not sure they ever even let their eyes meet.

I think the students had fun; we'll see when I get their assignment back if they learned anything.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012 0 comments

English Party 4

And, yet another party--this one starts class 1106.  This group seemed quite friendly and familiar, probably mostly because it included Roger, who we have gotten to know quite while outside of class and consider a friend.  I think his familiarity with us led the other to feel less shy and more familiar as well.  Everyone gave Lance, the other boy, a hard time because they said he's always eating.  He did seem to be the one enjoying the snacks the most; whenever anyone else didn't want to finish something, they would hand it off to him.  It's rather useful sometimes to have a bottomless pit in a group of friends. :)

So far, we had played spoons and mafia with our students; I successfully avoided mafia this round--we'd just played it the night before, and I only have so much patience for mafia in one weekend.  So, this time, we taught them to play Uno.  It's pretty simple, and it's a game most Americans know how to play, so it seemed like a good thing to play.  Also, Lance knew how to play, and was able to speed things up by giving an explanation in Chinese.  We didn't bother keeping score, but rather played elimination--keep playing until only one person is left, who is the ultimate looser.  They also reminded me of the colors in Chinese--I can always remember red (hong), yellow (huang), and green (lü), but I always forget blue for some reason. (It's lan).  

The fourth group, from class 1106, from left to right: Alice, Nancy, Echo, Lance, Micah, Emily, Roger, Natalie, and Cassie.  

Also, here are videos from the night:
Getting intense!
Down to three...
The final showdown
Friday, November 2, 2012 0 comments

English Party 3

With our third English party, we finished with class 1103.  This group included (left to right): Allen, Linda, April, Francs, Jessica, Ives, (Micah), and, in front, Aiden.  

This was another good group; we played several more rounds of mafia--I was on a streak of being the policeman.  Unfortunately, I was wearing my orange button-up shirt (those of you who've known me awhile probably remember it--it's been one of my favorite for years; I know I saw a picture of me wearing it back in 2006 the other day); the problem was that it is made of very rustly fabric.  Aiden, who was sitting with me on the couch, kept figuring out which part I was because he could here me move.  So, between games, I ducked into my dressing room (yes, I have a dressing room--I have an extra bedroom attached to my bedroom that I use as a huge walk-in closet.) and switched shirts so that I could be more stealthy.  A couple of games in a row, Aiden and I were policement together, and we made a great detective theme--once we ended the game quickly by guessing the two killers on our first two tries.

Then, of course, we finished with spoons, Jello, and all.  
Thursday, November 1, 2012 0 comments

I'm Awake

Sometimes I don't realize just how much time I spend alone.  It seems the interactions I do have with people are of the type that take a lot of social energy--teaching, trying to make myself understood in Chinese to shopkeepers and waitresses, lesson-planning and strategizing, trying to find the right words to talk with someone about the most important things, in occasional meetings with colleagues.  It seems like I'm tired after all these interactions, so I don't notice that really each is not too long.  

I've been in a bit of a weird mood these past few weeks; probably just the normal culture shock period kicking in, as it started just over a month in.  I was tired of Chinese food, tired of learning the language ( I don't think I learned a single word in the last three weeks), tired of answering the phone, tired of lesson planning, even tired of traveling, or planning to travel.  Just tired. So, as I usually do, I escaped into the world of stories; it all started with Star Trek on a rainy evening, then wandered into the Narnia series, then on into Harry Potter (still trying to dig my way out--I love it, but goodness, you get pulled into that world, and it's hard to get out again), then into a "How I Met Your Mother" marathon.  I did my work, but in any gaps of time, I didn't think; I tuned out.  I was just living for the next chance to tune out again.  

Anyhow, over the last few days I feel like I've woken up.  Suddenly learning Chinese seems like a worthwhile, nay, necessary pursuit--I'm really tired of the same three dishes I know how to read on the menu.  I've figured out two more just today.  I'm looking forward to next week's lesson; I've got several ideas I can't wait to try.  I want to spend time with people.  I want to get busy figuring out a trip to take during the winter holiday.  I want to let myself think again.  

Culture shock and adjustment is an odd thing.  

Halloween in Class

The twelth class just happened to fall the week of Halloween--and we ESL teachers rarely miss the chance to work in some American culture by enthusiastically celebrating a holiday.  And isn't the power point background I found online cute?

The lesson itself was pretty straight-forward; writing about cause and effect.  The normal power point, vocabulary, lecture, examples, etc.  However, I rushed through the lesson.  "Anybodygotanyquestions?No?Okay,nextthing..." On to the fun part!

First, because I am an English professor, I introduced them to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven".  I love it.  "While I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."  I had to memorize the first stanza in the sixth grade, and I still remember bits of it.  However, the poem is extremely long, and the old-fashioned English way beyond their level.  So, while in general I don't find the Simpsons to be very academically helpful, they did the Raven in the first Treehouse of Horror episode years ago.  I think I remember watching it when I was in high school, even.  I hoped that by showing "The Raven" acted out as a story, at least my students would get the gist of it, even if they didn't get the full impact.  I did read the first stanza out loud to them, and even though they didn't know all the words, they could appreciate the alliteration and rhythm of the words.  Amazingly, however, I couldn't find the video on youtube; here's the link I used: The Simpsons' "The Raven."

When I lived in Jingzhou, I found an small but appropriate pumpking to carve, and took a jack-o-lantern to class.  Unfortunately, I didn't find one this year.  Still, I wore my fortune teller costume to class (although, still not locating anything to serve as a crystal ball, I mostly just looked unidentifiably weird). Although several of my students took pictures of me, somehow I never took one, so no pictures, sorry.

I showed a slide show of pictures; we talked about pumpkins and costumes; I tried to explain Trunk or Treat to them, but I don't think they quite got the point of that.  I also explained bobbing for apples, and at the end I played "Monster Mash" for them.

Finally, their journal for the week was a bit different: instead of something practicing the skills I'd just taught (like a responsible teacher would assign, and I normally do), I gave them this story starter, and told them to finish it:

One Halloween my friends and I were going trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Down the street from us was an old deserted house that everyone thought was haunted. My mother said, "Don't you dare go near that house!" Naturally, her warning made us even more curious. We went to the house and rang the bell. There was no answer. We tried the door. It was unlocked, so we entered the house. The door slammed behind us and...

I found it online somewhere; I don't remember where now; so, no copyright infringement intended...I'm really looking forward to reading their stories; they seemed more excited about this journal assignment that usual, too.  At least they shouldn't all be the same thing!  

Finally, one of my example pictures: my Halloween costume from 2006, at a party at the Bible School in Florence: