It’s always a party

As time goes by I learn more about this weird place.  It’s weird since it’s so different.  I’m not talking right and wrong, I’m just talking different.  I’m learning to ask better questions so I can learn more and some things just leave me scratching my head in wonder.  I hear what’s being said, my brain can process it, but I just can’t catch the logic in it.

One of my 1st year classes has me on the verge of seeing if I can trade them in on another model.  I hate giving up but they won’t ask questions.  They don’t understand and when you ask if they understand, they say nothing.  So I go around and ask a question and the answer is inevitably “I don’t know” so I ask why didn’t they ask.  They have no reply.  I’m in a culture where students asking teachers questions is not the norm, but I am making progress in my other classes but this class is good for the garbage.  I’d like to take a few of the students with me but I am seriously considering seeing if I can drop them.  They, as a class, are a waste of my time and I’m not helping them since they don’t want to be helped.  Why not slot me in where the majority of students care?  That makes sense.  That’s probably why they don’t do it.

Shujie was talking to a teacher yesterday and learned something that blew me away.  You don’t have to go to or pass high school to go here.  High school in China costs money.  If you’re kid is an idiot, why spend money?  When it comes time to look for a job no one wants to see a high school diploma.  So you can just fast forward to college (this is a business), the student can enter and probably get a diploma to show a prospective employer.  Weird stuff.  Naturally I can’t ask the students since that would be embarrassing but I’d love to know.

Monday was tutoring with Beata and my goodness, she is getting better.  I no longer get a headache trying to decipher her words.  She told me her classmates have noticed her speaking better.  She’s no Lawrence Olivier, but she’s getting better.  And in all serious, that’s a better payment than money.  I’m really glad it’s working out.

Monday night was the first of the every second week English speech contest.  They call it an “English Party”.  No pizza, no beer, what kind of party?  So I was one of the judges along with Shujie and one of my 2nd year students.  Their boss teacher whose idea this was couldn’t be a judge since she doesn’t speak English.  I give her credit for being there the whole time.  The other 2 English teachers who were supposed to be there had other engagements (maybe) so I’m the only teacher.

The topic was “My favourite thing”.  We get seasons, mothers, dogs, and so on.  One girl was talking about her mother and broke down.  I felt awful but no one moved.  I don’t know if her mother was dead and it was too late to show her mother that she’s a good daughter who loves her, or that she was just feeling guilty.  I always thought the Jews wrote the book on making their kids feel guilty but they may have stole some parts from the Chinese.

So after 29 speeches we handed in our scores.  A girl named Mandy (a very nice young lady) won.  I was selected to give her the prize.  I think it was a bottle of shampoo (the writing was in Chinese) and a gift card to something.  I asked my pal Eric (one of my students) who bought the prize.  I assumed it was the boss teacher.  Ha and Ha.  He told me David did.  David is a student.  It seems the plan is that each time we do this a student buys the prize.  How tacky and cheap and offensive and stupid.  If the boss teacher wants this (and only she does), then she should be buying the prizes.  I can’t believe they ask the students.  Weird place.

It was called an English party but there was no dancing, no beer, no pizza, and I wanted to know what the party was.  So for entertainment they got Brad Pitt and Sunny up to the front to sing.  I give them credit.  Here’s a snippet of their performance.

They want me to come up with the next topic.  I’m leaning towards homosexuality.  I figure that will get me out of the having to come up with topics part of the game.

Last night was movie night and I showed the “Unforgiven” which I love.  Of course.  One boy wanted to know if it was black and white or colour.  I told him colour so he was happy and I also told him the best movies are in black and white.  Ah, to be young again.

I think the story is reasonably able to follow although some of the language was over their heads, which was fine.  I think they enjoyed it.  I’m not getting big turnouts and I think the reason is just plain laziness.  If they come to an English movie they have to listen in English and read the English subtitles.  It will help them but so many of them are just plain lazy.  It’s absurd.

After one of my classes yesterday a student approached me to tell me that she couldn’t come to the movie that night.  I thought that was very nice since she’s a regular.  She told me she was going with 2 other women to a party but not a fun party.  I’m pretty good at Chinglish so I whipped out my dictionary and found the word I wanted and showed her in Chinese.  I was right.  She was going to a Communist Party meeting.  I guess it’s normal, but it’s weird to me.  So aside from where she was going, the other point is just how thoughtful and polite many of they can be.  I love good manners.  I think it says a lot about a person.

Before the movie started 3 boys invited me out for a day next Saturday (the 26th) to some place near Nanjing where there are hot springs.  I accepted and Brad Pitt will be driving.  He actually lives in Jurong and has a driver’s license.  I was very flattered they asked me.  I’m glad that there are students who are comfortable with me who aren’t interested in taking advantage of my kindness, but still want to learn.  It is a nice feeling.

I have no classes today because the freshman classes (which I have 2 of this afternoon) have their exercise march.  Don’t ask me what that means because I won’t understand until after I see it.  I know every class must exercise at 6:30AM twice a week and everyone exercises at 1PM every day (M-F).  They’ve been practicing and I think it’s just showing off how well they can do their exercises.  Weird stuff.  This is a weird place.

We had a visitor last night.  It was a bat.  Shujie was freaking out and we got it in the living room and closed the door.  This morning I knocked it to the floor and we bagged it and threw it out.  We don’t get many visitors but I’m not sure we really want bats as visitors.

If nothing else, it’s interesting around here.

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