Monthly Archives: June 2012

Things I will miss in China

Here’s the second part–despite the truth of the first post, there are many things that I will truly  miss after I leave China.  Here are some of them.

  1. Having restaurants and markets within short walking distance
  2. Cheap and delicious restaurant meals
  3. The shopkeepers who line the block around the school and let me practice my Chinese
  4. My kindergarten kids!
  5. The fun middle school classes who ask questions, use English in class, and do hilarious skits to practice their English
  6. My apartment, despite its plumbing flaws
  7. The man and woman who make the chicken sandwiches across from the school
  8. The man from the fried chicken and french fries place that always chats with me and patiently tries to understand my Chinese
  9. My weekly lunch dates with my girls from class 22
  10. Playing rambunctious games of Settlers of Catan with the foreign teachers and dishing about our week
  11. My students that I’ve tutored to study abroad–Volcano (Aiden), Chris, Eileen, Echo, Victoria, and Peco
  12. Seeing my kindergarten kids walking together to the playground and having them all shout my name at the top of their lungs and hug my legs as I go by
  13. Walking into class 5 (middle school) and having the kids run up to me and ask what we’re learning today
  14. Pretty much every student in class 18 (middle school)
  15. Learning random Chinese words from hearing students say them in class
  16. The cheapness of taxis
  17. The sushi chefs from our weekly sushi restaurant who chat with us as they prepare the food
  18. The adorable couple who own the Taiwanese restaurant and the staff there that laughs when we order the same thing every time
  19. Kenneth, the man from Hong Kong who owns the honey shop and chats with us when we stroll past his store.  A kind, wise person.   He was the hardest so far to say goodbye to.
  20. The guy who gives us haircuts and talks to us about his dream of opening a hair salon in Los Angeles
  21. Being able to go home and take a nap at lunchtime if I need to
  22. Making coffee for my tutoring students
  23. Being able to take a train to just about any other city
  24. Street food
  25. Countless milk tea shops
  26. The old man and woman who sell us fruit at the outdoor market and always sneak extra fruit into our bag as a gift
  27. Chinese babies
  28. Sharing and hearing travel stories with other people
  29. Making friends unexpectedly
  30. Hot Pot on cold nights
  31. The Muslim restaurant with the little boy that always runs around the tables
  32. Julia, the kindergarten teacher from Xiao class 5
  33. Watching people ride on their bikes with strange objects, like trees
  34. The thrill of a fast, frightening taxi ride
  35. The familiarity of able to call any older woman I’ve just met “Auntie”  (ayi)
  36. The mojito place in Beijing on a hot summer day
  37. Letting my cat out at night to go gallumphing down the empty hallway and back
  38. The guard at the east gate who always smiles and waves at us as we go in with our grocery bags, and sometimes asks us what we’re making for dinner
  39. The pretty girl that we buy fruit from just down the street
  40. The lady who used to have a restaurant next to the school and gave us food from her own table so that we could try new things
  41. Eating the amazing meals that Jerry’s mother makes
  42. Hanging out with Jerry…but, maybe we’ll be hanging out with him in the U.S. as well once he begins university there!
  43. Peking Duck
  44. Meeting people from so many places in the world
  45. Those moments where I recall, again, the excitement I felt about being in a different place when I first stepped off the plane in Beijing
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Things I won’t miss in China

This is the first installment of a two-part post on the things I won’t miss and the things I will miss after I leave China.  Some are a bit amusing to me albeit annoying, others are far weightier.  Here they are, in no particular order:

    1. My leaky kitchen sink that floods the kitchen every time I wash dishes
    2. My nightly mosquito search and destroy missions before bed
    3. The heavy duty industrial Shijiazhuang dust that is everywhere
    4. Floors that are impossible to clean
    5. People who look at my feet
    6. People who stare at my grocery basket to see what foreigners buy
    7. Flip-flops being disdainfully referred to as “Japanese-style slippers”
    8. Awkward teacher-training meetings
    9. The absence of cheese
    10. Relying on public transportation
    11. Teaching untouchable wealthy children who don’t experience much discipline
    12. Teaching children who make so much noise that the responsible, attentive children in the class can’t hear and participate above the noise
    13. The adjective “interesting”
    14. Taxi drivers who tell you to get out and catch a taxi across the street if they’re not already going the same direction as your destination `
    15. Living one door down the hall from my boss’s office
    16. Waking up on weekdays and some weekends to the sound of students and school employees in the hallway outside my apartment
    17. Not being able to see the sky most days because of the pollution
    18. The assumption that I don’t know grammar because I teach oral English
    19. The CCTV cameras that watch me enter and leave my apartment and apartment building
    20. Cooking on a stove that takes many brave and dangerous clicks of a lighter to get lit properly
    21. Drivers who speed on the wrong side of the road to get in front of cars stopped at traffic lights
    22. People who push onto elevators instead of letting you get off first
    23. People who cut in line
    24. Employees with microphones who shout the prices and sale items at you as you walk by a store display
    25. The ER
    26. Keeping my blinds closed so that the high school students can’t see into my apartment from across the courtyard
    27. Shoe prints in inexplicable places on my apartment walls
    28. Students who shout “hello teacher!” at me in Chinese, and then immediately shout “she doesn’t understand that!” in Chinese….every.single.day.  I understood that since two years ago.
    29. Being told that a 7th grader is too young to know right from wrong
    30. Working on the weekend to make up for getting a few days off for a holiday during the week
    31. Rampant xenophobia
    32. Running out of my arsenal of Chinese phrases right after a local tells me my Chinese is good
    33. Kids peeing in grocery stores, parks, on sidewalks, and pretty much any place else that’s not a toilet
    34. People who appear to show hospitality but who really just want free English lessons
    35. Feeling conspicuous every time I step out my door

The next (and not so depressing) list will be posted shortly, so stay tuned!  I wanted to save the best things I want to remember for last.


Exam Time

Last week after Friday’s classes, I was elated: the classroom part of teaching here is finally over.  It was a hard week of review–hard because the students didn’t seem to realize I was doing it for their benefit and didn’t pay extra attention–but it was tempered with the happy thought that we were almost finished. There were moments during that week, however, where I was able to feel a tinge of sadness that I would be leaving some of these kids who have become a source of some joy to me.

Some classes are really fun to teach, and I am a different person when I am with them than when I am with a terrible class. The good classes are the ones who pay attention and actually love learning, the bad ones hate being told anything.  I am able to be freer and joke more with the good classes, because I know that I have their respect, but with the bad classes, I can’t show much of that side of me, because if I loosen up much at all they walk all over me, and don’t hesitate to show their disrespect.

By my last class on Friday, I had worked up so much energy in the sheer anticipation of almost being done, that I was a far quirkier teacher than I usually am, and had them in stitches the whole class period.  It was kind of like an out of body experience, to be honest.  I’m pretty sure they couldn’t believe how much energy I had, because I’m usually not that chipper with them on Friday at 4:25 pm.

This past week, I’ve been giving the final oral exams to my students.  I have written 3 tests so that the students can’t listen in on the previous student and copy their answers (cheating is unbelievably rampant).  Each student has 2-3 minutes to answer my questions, correctly pronounce some sentences, use two vocabulary words correctly in a sentence, and describe a picture.  That’s it.  It’s a short test, but that’s necessary in order to get through all the kids.  I got through something like 325 kids this week, and that’s not quite half of them.  Testing is easier than teaching in the classroom–I can save my voice and some energy, but it’s still draining to do 3 class periods in a row.  I am grateful to sit down though and do more listening that speaking so that I can really gauge each student’s progress.

In the Oral English teachers’ classes at this school, only 20 points of their final grade is obtained.  The Chinese English teachers’ classes make up 80 percent of their grade, which is probably another reason why we don’t matter that much to the administration or students.  10 points of the final grade is for class behavior and participation, and 10 points is for the actual exam.  By this time in the year, for most students, I can take one look at their faces and know exactly what behavior score they should get.  Last semester, it wasn’t as easy to remember, so I was slightly more generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt.  It may have satisfied my sense of justice and dignity to give low behavioral scores to the students with awful attitudes and behavior in class, but it felt even better to give high marks to those who  deserved them. Some students have improved a lot this semester, and their grades show it.

Next week, we will finish the exams, and if any students are absent and miss the exam, then we have another week of contract left for them to make it up.  I am hoping that I can finish all of the testing next week so that we will have a free week to just relax, pack, and say goodbye to all of our favorite people and places in the city.  Only three more weekends left in China.  I can hardly believe it.