Yes, we have no bananas

I just got back from the English teacher’s room.  A student phoned me about an hour ago and asked if I was free.  I told her I was and she asked me to come to the teacher’s room and I told her I’d be there in about 15 minutes.  So, Shujie and I walked over when we arrived at the teacher’s room two of my students presented me with a fruit basket (pictured below) because it was “Teacher’s Day”.  Yes, they have a teacher’s day.

Of course, any day I don’t teach is teacher’s day (no classes today) but it was nice.  The basket weighed about 50 pounds, give or take, because of all the bananas.  How are we going to eat all those bananas?  And I couldn’t give any away because all the English teacher’s got identical baskets of fruit.  It was very thoughtful but wouldn’t cash have said it much better?

So here we are at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.  When last I wrote on Monday I was feeling a little (or a lot) depressed about my textbooks.  Yesterday (Tuesday) I had one class at 8AM.  It is so hard to talk for 90 minutes.  I have to get these kids to talk.  It’s funny but to listen to the Chinese English teacher’s talk, you’d think all the kids spoke in English in class, asked questions, and even though they’re not the brightest students the English is flowing fast and furious.

Do I believe them?  Of course not.  I would love to be invisible and visit one of their classes.  If I go then they won’t be who they really are so I can’t prove I’m right, but let’s just give me the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Yesterday afternoon I got the listening exercises from my English teacher contact (or co-worker or whatever).  I came back to the apartment and listened to them.  If the reading didn’t depress me enough, the listening pushed me over the edge.  “Same sex partners”, “piety”, “Jewish burial customs” are just a few of the terms that are spoken in the dialogues I sampled.  There is no way that these kids will understand after 5 listening’s to the speaking or 500 listening’s.  I’ll have to explain the whole thing because they don’t know enough to make an educated guess about what they’re listening to. I had Shujie listen and she understood about 50% so if she understood 50% how are these kids supposed to even understand 10%?  June (my English teacher contact) and Shujie both say I should just uses the pieces that are suitable for my level.  Ha and ha.  There is nothing suitable.  Tomorrow I will throw these listening exercises at them to just see that it plays out like I think it will.  Blank stares and wandering eyes.

I’ve got a real dilemma here.  I need to figure out what to do.  I could probably teach the concepts in the book but the reading and listening exercises that they are to learn from are just too hard.  I can’t (or won’t) develop my own hundred reading passages and record myself using different voices to create 100 different listening passages.  I won’t sweat it today but worry about it next week.  I might just trash the whole thing and the class will basically be having the students give little speeches every class.  They’ll have to write and speak and listen.  I’ll give tests based on what the students spoke about.  It’s not a bad idea.  It has nothing to do with the books they gave me but it might not be a bad idea.  They’ll have to listen to each other and they’ll have to ask questions to be able to create their little speeches.  The more I type this out I like it.  Please send your cards and letters letting me know what you think.

I asked my class yesterday how many of them would show up to a “movie night” once every two weeks.  I was surprised that about half of them raised their hands to indicate yes.  Whether that translates into actual attendance remains to be seen but I was pleased at the response.  So I’ve got myself a room (the language lab) and will do this every 2nd week on a Tuesday evening beginning September 20th.  If you’re in the neighborhood feel free to stop by and see a film.  I don’t know which one I’ll show first.  I’m quite tempted by “The Wizard of Oz” but I don’t want to turn them off if they think it’s too childish or silly.  I know Shujie didn’t like it when she saw it but that was shortly after she came to Canada.  “Rocky” is also a possibility (another movie Shujie didn’t like and she likes most films).  I’ll wait a bit before “The Godfather” and “Lawrence of Arabia”.  Those will be a problem since they run 3+ hours and the students have to be back in their dorms by 10:00 at night.  I’ll start at 7 so that doesn’t give me enough time.  They have dinner at 6PM so starting earlier than 7 is a problem.  There isn’t a pizza place in town so I can’t ask them to skip dinner and bring in pizza (which is a great idea).  One of the English teachers had the brilliant idea to show the long films in 2 showings.  Sorry, I don’t do that.  I have too much respect for the movie to do that.

This morning we were picked up at 7AM by Wang Jing (my boss?) to go to Zhenjiang so I could submit to medical tests so they could get my residency permit.  What a joke!  It was like a clinic where you went from room to room for the different tests.  You could smoke in the building so that puts the medical aspect into question.  They did blood but they didn’t want my urine.  All the other people there gave urine but I guess there is no interest in foreigner’s urine.

They did an ECG, an ultrasound, a chest xray, and various other things.  There was an eye test where the eye chart is a bunch of capital E looking things in 4 different positions getting smaller with each line.  You indicate whether the opening of the E is up, down, left or right.  It took me a while to catch on to what they wanted.  The examiner would point left when the E opening was on the left so I thought he wanted me to look left.  The good thing about this test is eliminates the good guessing of letters that you know so well that are used in eye tests.

They took my heartbeat, blood pressure, weight, and height.  They poked me and they looked at my legs.  I really don’t know what they can tell by poking me or looking at my legs.  It was weird.

Oh yes.  After the chest xray the technician told Wang Jing and Shujie that I had had surgery.  What an Einstein!  I have a huge scar on my chest that goes up pretty high from my heart surgery.  When they told me I couldn’t help but laugh.

After this adventure we came back to Jurong and Shujie had them drop us by the travel agency.  We’re going to Nanjing for the long weekend and she wanted to see what they offered by way of tours.  They offered nothing since Nanjing is so close and that was fine with me.  I don’t think we need an organized tour.  There seems to be plenty of interesting sounding temples and museums to visit.  I booked a hotel this afternoon and we’ll go Friday and come back Monday.  This means I’ll be eating Western food at American chain restaurants sooner than I thought but I’ll suffer through it.

The travel agency is where you can buy train tickets from Nanjing.  We enquired as to the price of the high-speed train from Nanjing to Beijing and how long it would take.  We would take a taxi to Nanjing, a train to Beijing, and then either a bus to Baoding or a taxi to Baoding or a subway to the other Beijing train station and then a train to Baoding to visit her mother and son.  We’ll be going to Baoding around October 1st as it’s the National Holiday and I get a week off.

Anyhow, the high-speed train takes 4 hours.  The journey is over 1000 kilometers.  A one-way ticket is about $70.  That’s not cheap.  We could take the “normal speed” train that takes 11 hours.  A seat is about $27.  You can get a bed (which is in a kind of communal place) for about $42.  I have to be frivolous and do the high-speed train.  I’ve ridden a Chinese train for a 12-hour ride and it’s hell.  Four hours is pretty impressive.  Of course, we could crash but I don’t think there have been any problems with this line.  Yet.  (Just joking).

I bought a printer in Nanjing last week and it was acting funny.  When I would go to print something it wouldn’t print and the monitoring software kept saying it was waiting on the printer.  I would then unplug the printer and plug it back in and then it would work for the print job.  However, I would have the same problem with the next print job.  There was a HP store beside the travel agent and Shujie said we should go in and she would ask them.  I figured that they wouldn’t be able to help and we’d just have to call technical support.  She was talking to the guy and after a while (all Chinese conversations take a while) she turned to me and said he (the man in the store) would come over at 1 in the afternoon.  I asked how much this would cost (silly question to ask the woman who haggles over 15 cents with taxi drivers) and she told me it wouldn’t cost a thing.  He was doing it because Chinese people are helpful.  I couldn’t wrap my head around this, as it is truly foreign to me as a Westerner.  How can you take off from work to go help someone who isn’t paying you?  It truly is an interesting concept.

I asked Shujie would you tip the person who was performing this act of kindness.  She told me that there may come a time that they need you to perform a small act of kindness for them and this time may never come, but if it did they hoped that you would be able to perform it.  Seriously, she said you wouldn’t tip (they don’t do money tipping here) but you might make them a small gift.  Shujie said if he were helpful and nice she’d give him a small bottle of fish oil.  Yes, fish oil, the gift that says it all.  I couldn’t figure that one out (who wants fish oil?) and I laughed but she was quite serious and explained to me that they couldn’t get quality fish oil in China and to make a gift of fish oil from Canada would be quite nice and if he didn’t really want it, someone in his family would.  She told me that some Chinese would invite the favour-giver to lunch or dinner but we weren’t going to do that.  Anyhow the printer somehow started working before he came here (weird) so we’re holding on to our fish oil.

From there we went for our 2nd visit in Jurong to KFC.  I hate KFC and I was starving.  I wanted Western food.  When we were finished I asked Shujie to hit something or me the next time I suggested something so stupid.  She should remind me to think about how bad I’ll feel after eating that poison.  It was nasty.  I really have this jones for McDonald’s but there is no McDonald’s in Jurong.  I suspect I’ll have a Big Mac or two this weekend.  It’s so strange.  You wouldn’t catch me dead at a McDonald’s in North America but put me in Asia and I’ll eat it.  Having a jones for a Big Mac (and I had one last week and still have it) is very strange.

I hope I don’t have many spelling or grammatical errors because I really don’t like proofreading this musings and I’m not very good at it.  However, if I catch them later I’m embarrassed and ashamed.

I’m ready to start showing some visuals.  I did that little film clip and now it’s time to introduce part of my apartment.  To show it all in one sitting would be too time-consuming.  So here we go with some of the highlights of our abode and there will be more to come.  Please enjoy and eat your hearts out.

When the school sent me a picture of the toilet that’s when they had me.  For some they get you at “hello”.  For me, they get me at the toilet.

The beautiful toilet that hints at the beauty of Jurong

The shower (words can't do it justice)

I am trying to get a wall to wall image of the entire bathroom.  Yes, that’s right.  You can see the wall on the right and the other wall on the left.  Spacious?  I think not.

The shower and the toilet must be friends

Two views of the kitchen.  Beyond the fridge is the bedroom entrance and behind the fridge is the front door.

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah (Part II)

And now, looking out my front door.  Y’all come back now.  We’re talking hospitality, Chinese style.

From my door across the miles across the hall

And she's buying a stairway to heaven

  1. Elyse said:

    I laughed.

  2. Tomas said:

    What a nice day to start reading one of Martin’s journey … very refreshing … Since, I’m not into school these days … but learning a language has never been one of my high points in school … since I am deaf (85% loss), verbal Language is out of the question … except visual, I can do … hence, Latin – 4 years … Yike! … what am I supposed to do with that …LMAO … anyway, I learned the language by putting words to an object, places or things … then filled in the between … just a thought … I told my Lass about the clinical setting you have experienced … she laughs, especially the smoking and “After the chest xray the technician told Wang Jing and Shujie that I had had surgery” …. LMAO … I wished I had that type of apt for the first time, on my own … mine was terrible … the toilet is in the same room as in the kitchen, where I could stir the beans while doing my number 2 …. ah, those were the days …

    Thanks, Martin, for these wonderful stories of the Teacher’s Adaption to China, the Easy Way …

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