Monthly Archives: December 2011

Friday  night was the “Christmas Party”.  We went for dinner with the members of the English department, the Korean teachers, the Japanese teachers, and some office staff whose jobs I’m not quite sure of.

We started with dinner and it was awful.  Shujie got them to make me pepper steak and fried rice.  The rice was fine but the steak was pretty bad.

The head of something or other gave a little speech and handed out gifts to the foreigners (scarfs), and then he disappeared to another occasion or maybe to visit his girlfriend.  I think you should stick around for this foolishness.

It seemed that people were enjoying themselves except for my upstairs neighbor Chin Ho.  I sat beside him at dinner and I think he wished he was somewhere else.  I can’t figure him.  I asked him if he liked the school and he told me, “not really”.  He then told me that he would probably renew his contract for next year.  I couldn’t figure that out as why wouldn’t he move to another school.  He didn’t want to discuss it there and maybe someone would overhear.  Paranoia is everywhere.

We then went to KTV which is what the Chinese call Karaoke.  Don’t ask me because I don’t see how they fit.  I asked Shujie and she doesn’t know either.  The Japanese left after a few songs but the people who stayed seemed to enjoy themselves.  I entertained with my rousing version of “House of the Rising Sun”.  I asked Wang Jing if it was appropriate for me to do it at the New Year’s Eve show and she said, “yes”.  So I’ll do it.

The pictures are of Shujie and my archenemy June dancing.  Then there is Wang Jing singing a tune.  Then Shujie and Christy who is head of foreign affairs and Wang Jing’s boss, (and teaches English sometimes).  I can’t say we’re fond of her either.  We love Wang Jing and Shujie likes June which is nice for her.

I was told we were invited out next weekend by someone’s boss (he was at the dinner) so his daughter who is home from University can practice her English.  I asked Shujie, “are we going Friday”?.  She said, “I don’t know”.  I asked if we were going Saturday and she said, “I don’t know”.  The Chinese don’t like to play more than 15 minutes in advance.  Okay, I’m exaggerating but never more than a day in advance.  It’s insane.

Then yesterday morning we get a call asking if we want to go for dinner that night.  So we went.  It was the man, his wife, his daughter, Wang Jing, June, Shujie, and 3 Japanese teachers, and Shujie and I.  I can’t figure it.  The girl is a nice kid and she asked for my phone number.  I’m happy to talk to anyone who can speak any English.  I told her that she could teach my classes on Tuesday and she believed me.  They are so gullible.

Dinner was fine as they ordered me something I could eat.  It was BBQ lamb legs and rice.  It was pretty good.  It was a painless evening but I’ll be damned if I could understand how all these people fit together.  I’ll say one good thing about this man.  On Friday night I told Shujie I couldn’t sit at his table if he was smoking so he put out his cigarette.  And then last night he never lit up.  So he has good manners and moves up in my book.

I ordered some sports jerseys online and they sent me the tracking number.  However they couldn’t be looked up.  They phoned Saturday and asked about our address since I had entered it in English (like their website wanted) but that was a problem in China and confused them.  They also didn’t have some of what I ordered and had no idea when they would be getting it.  I just cancelled the whole order.

Then I bought more DVD’s on the weekend.  One of the companies didn’t have everything we ordered so they made an executive decision to send us things we didn’t ask for as a replacement.  Go figure.

You can deal with wonderful people here who are efficient and honest, and you can deal with a bunch of pond scum.  It’s weird.  I’m losing my basic trust in people since I never know what I’ll end up with up.  I’m beginning to understand why Shujie is so paranoid about people trying to cheat her.

Tomorrow it’s back to work for a full schedule.  I’m not excited.  We’ve put our deposit down on our Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia trip so that’s something to look forward to.

I’m a little concerned that people won’t laugh next Sunday night at my singing (screaming).  If they don’t I’ll be devastated.  If they laugh, I’ll be very happy.  Maybe they’ll think I’m being serious and they shouldn’t laugh.  But I’m so silly I can’t see how anyone could think I was being serious.  It’s a different culture and I’m the strange white guy.

So it Christmas.  I heard Christmas music on the school grounds which threw me since we are all atheists here.  Shujie tells me that people here just treat it as a festival so they can be happy.  There is no day off so what’s to be happy about?

I got several “Merry Christmas” emails and I just thanked them.  I didn’t want to get into a religion discussion since they basically don’t know anything since they never learned it.  But it’s the thought that counts and that’s sweet.

I also get a charge out of the “Happy Silent Night” greetings.  I think that’s Chinglish for “Christmas Eve”.  It’s a learning experience.  It can be a hoot, and that’s good.



I love this movie.  I’ve always loved this movie.  It’s mesmerizing.  It’s colourful.  It’s music is outstanding.  The acting is terrific (especially Malcolm McDowell).  The language invented is simple to understand yet fascinating.  I only have good things to say about it.

In my continuing quest to expose students to something different I showed this movie on Tuesday night with Chinese subtitles.  I have no idea what they were like but I lost 50% of my audience in the first hour.  That’s okay, we don’t all like the same things.

I think some of the girls were embarrassed by the sex and nudity.  Some boys said they had to leave early (but why come to a movie if you have to leave early)?  I had a very few students who actually said they liked it.  I figured it wouldn’t be a smash hit, but there would be more that enjoyed it.

One student told me that Chinese are conservative.  Okay, some are conservative.  Some are liars.  Some are corrupt.  Some are criminals.  It takes all kinds.  The object of the movies is to expose this people to things they never may have seen.  But so be it..

I had bought 50 films as I mentioned and about 30 of them were Blu Ray.  I tested the computer we use in the place we show movies with a “Blu Ray” movie I bought here.  Ha Ha.  No Blu Ray and it didn’t work.  I was rather disappointed so we sent them back and our money will be returned.

I shopped online last night and found them all and ever a few more.  I’ll never be able to show all these but what the hell, they’ll see something different.  I’ve been told that the students must be back in their dorms by 10PM so that makes a problem for when I want to show longer films such as “Gone With the Wind”.  I might make that a Saturday special.  10PM?  Crazy.

I have quite a varied collection and I’m trying to expose them to different things but their pea brains are programmed to like colour films of the last 2 or 3 years.  They need to expand their minds and their horizons, which is not an easy task.

I was asked to come to the office by Wang Jing and she asked me to do a lesson plan for the next semester by December 26th.  It was December 21 when she asked.  I laughed.  Chinese like to do things at the last minute but I like some early notification.  The lesson plans are dumb since I don’t follow them and they are a work of fiction.  I told her if someone emailed me the forms, they’d have them by the New Year.  Guess what?  No forms yet.  Hence, no lesson plans.  Boo Hoo!

Some of these kids are so stupid they should be shot.  It’s amazing the similarity between middle school and this college.  I gave the students a reading I did (Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears) and they had 2 weeks to practice.

When it came time to read in class I asked who didn’t practice.  Let’s get the first group of losers out of the way.  One boy said he didn’t practice.  I asked why and he replied that he lost his sheet.  I pointed out that he sees me 3 times a week so he could have easily got another sheet.  That was a tough one.  Everyone else came to practice.

I keep telling them they can’t fool me.  It’s not because I’m so smart but it’s because English is my language and it’s a language to mangle for them.  If they go to the front of the class and read like they’ve never seen it before, I know.  I stop them and ask them again, “did you practice”?, and they say, “no”.  I tell them to sit down.  Stupid lying sacks of dirt.  Why didn’t they practice?  They didn’t have time.  You know playing basketball and computer games in your free time takes up a lot of that time so homework goes to the bottom.  I’m pleased with the ones that practiced (about 75%).  Some can be painful to listen to, but it’s good practice and they do improve.

My classes I see only once a week I don’t have time to have them read in class.  It would take the whole class.  I ask them to email me their reading.  With a midnight deadline on Wednesday I had received 3 by 7:30PM.  I wrote them and told them to not bother coming to class if they couldn’t bother doing this.  Suddenly my mailbox was flooded.  A lot of these were ones I rejected last week because they sucked.  Now the new ones for many of the students were the exact same as they sent last week (I’m not a moron), and many were worse than before because they were done at the last second.

I don’t have the desire to point out who is an idiot and who is lazy and who can’t cheat to save their lives so I told them to forget this.  It’s not worth my time and if they don’t’ care, I don’t care.  I told hem if anyone wanted to participate (I’ll still do it with those that want).  No one volunteered.  They can’t see beyond their noses and the possibility that being able to speak a little clear English might give them a leg up.  Should I be surprised?  I guess not.  This is a 4th rate college.  There are a lot of good kids here, but there are a lot of useless pieces of garbage who are taking away from my air supply.

I started my “Teacher for 10 minutes” program yesterday.  One student picks a topic (anything they want) and they talk on it for a minute or two.  Then they engage the class in questions.  In one class I had my worst student go first (luck of the draw) and I thought he was brilliant.  It was only about “what do you like to do on the weekend” which is fine.  But he would come out with remarks like, “speak English” that had me rolling in the aisles.  I love to be impressed.

In another class the student talked about the coming New Year vacation.  It was brilliant in it’s own dishonest way.  She had choreographed the whole thing.  I was impressed.  She spoke for 2 minutes and then she would ask certain students questions.  She wouldn’t ask for volunteers but call them by name.  The students stood up (they never stand for me) and they gave her answers.  Very slick.  However, she had notified those students that she would be asking a certain question and they should have their answer ready.  It was too slick.  The big giveaway was when one of the students picked up a paper after hearing the question and started reading from it.  I don’t think she would have fooled me because it was too smooth.  But I give her full marks for at least being clever.  When I asked her if her students were “planted”, she admitted it.  So she’s honest.  At least she’s cheating and using her brain.  So she’ll pass because she gave it some thought on how to succeed.

I also sometimes have students come to the front of the class and give them something to talk about for a minute or two.  It might be animals; it might be what would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow.  The sweet thing about the die tomorrow is the student who says they would find a friend to look after their parents.  If a North American child said that, they’d be laughed out of class.  Personally I was touched by it.

I called one boy to the front and he said, “no”.  I said, “why no” and he told me he wasn’t prepared.  I told him no one is prepared because no one knows the questions.  He said he didn’t feel like talking.  That’s okay.  I don’t feel like giving him a passing grade so he fails the semester in my class.  I’m easy.  If you make an effort, even a small one, you pass.  If you sit at the back talking to your friends or not paying attention and never participating, you fail.  I have no exam.  It’s a speaking class.  IT’s based on their day-to-day work.  I don’t know how some of these marks will appear to them.  Will I be my own subject on the report card or rolled into the “Englsih mark”.  If I’m rolled in I’m sure my failures won’t count because this is first and foremost a business and it’s not good for business to fail students.

On New Year’s Eve there is a part.  It’s like a show and Wang Jing asked me if I wanted to participate.  I laughed as I can’t sing and I can’t dance.  I told Shujie and she suggested I do my deadly version of “House of the Rising Sun”.  I improvise and go overboard.  You might think it’s stupid or you might laugh your guts out (Shujie’s friends did when we visited in October).  So I think I’m going to bite the bullet and do it.  My hope is to show the teachers that they don’t have to be afraid of the foreigner.  The kids aren’t but the teachers lack any friendliness.  Shujie will attempt to film it so we’ll see what will happen.

We are also invited to a “Christmas Party” tonight.  Let’s see, there is officially no religion in China.  I don’t celebrate Christmas.  But they think foreigners do this so they are trying to be nice.  We were invited 2 days ago (why the hurry?) and we’ll go.  It’s dinner (I’ll eat a bowl of rice) and then off to KTV (Chinese Karaoke).  I could try out my version of “House of the Rising Sun” and see how they react.  If they don’t smile, I won’t do it.  If they laugh, I’ll do it.  I know my students will laugh but they know I’m a little off-center.

In the “if it doesn’t rain, it pours” department, Estella called last night to invite us to a party tonight (Friday).  I had to decline because of our previous commitment.  I’ve never been invited anywhere by the school and now this.  The school should have taken the foreign teachers out at the beginning of the term (there is me, a Korean teacher, and a Japanese teacher).  But I guess they’re corruption fund to cover those expenses.

We are looking forward to it since it’s getting out.  Wang Jing will be there and we’re quite fond of her.  Christie, the bitch she works for, will be there and we have no use for her.  She’s a liar, and she takes money from students.  I don’t know if the other Chinese English teachers will be there.  They are nice I guess (but they lie like rugs) and the head of the department is a moron (and that’s giving her the benefit of the doubt), but things can change when you’re outside the school environment.

So that’s that for now.  Only 3 weeks until vacation and we are in the process of booking our Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia tour.  I guess it sounds exciting to those in North America but if you want to go for the least expense, you stay close to home.  And this is home.

I don’t.  The title is a lie.  But if I want to be a real Chinese person, I think I have to start lying a little more.  Shujie tells me that everyone tells “white lies” and they’re not bad.  I’m too simple.  You lie or you don’t lie.  Why make something more difficult where you have to measure the lie to see if it qualifies as a “real lie”.  It’s a bunch of crap to me.

Another quiet week.  Last Tuesday I did not go to my class at 1:30 since a student told me that they would not have classes during the week, as it was “practice week”.  At 1:31 I get a phone call from the lovely Estella asking where I was.  I told her I was at home as her class didn’t have any classes with me this week.  Ha Ha.  I got fooled again.  It was next week (now this week) that there are no classes.  So, from now on I will only take direction from the liaison student who should inform me.  I can’t be listening to everyone, even those I trust and respect.  It’s better if the source is just one person.

So 2 of my classes are gone this week for practice week.  My 1st year accounting class and my 2nd year environmental class have “practice”.  Don’t ask.  I am going with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy because something will get screwed up in the translation.  Last week my other 1st year class told me on Wednesday that they wouldn’t be in class on Thursday as they were having “practice week”.  I said, “but its Thursday tomorrow” and they told me that on Thursday and Friday they had “practice week”.  I told them that it sounded like “practice 2 days” and not “practice week”.  I need to learn the lingo better.

They want me to give marks.  I was asked by Wang Jing about the exam I’d be giving and I said, “what exam”?  I told her I do oral English which means people talk and I’d need approx.. 10 minutes with a student to have this “oral exam”.  I have 150 students so that’s 25 hours.  Do they have time?  She got my point.  I said I judge them on their day-to-day performance and her concern is “where is the backup”.  With an exam, if you give a student a lousy mark you can say they blew the exam.  Yes, it’s a CYA world here too.  I told her I would have comments for all the students to “justify” my marks.  I told her that in one class I expect 40% to fail.  Call it my revenge.  If you don’t ask any questions, and you don’t volunteer any questions, you blew it.  So that stupid girls who hide at the back will get their just rewards.  If your English stinks but you are listening and making an effort to speak you can expect an excellent mark.

I told my classes this and the class where 40% will fail apparently don’t believe me.  I have my spies.  Also their head teacher had a meeting with them and told them that I get annoyed when they miss classes for school reasons (a lie because I don’t), and that I’m too serious.  I guess I should just be a goof-off.  These sort of things leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I’d like to let it slide like water off a duck’s back but it’s not working yet.  This idiot teacher (who I don’t know but who knows all about what I’m like) told the class they should be nice to me since I’m a foreigner.  These people are crazy.  If this idiot wanted to know “the truth”, he would schedule a sit down with me and Wang Jing to discuss things.  I always thought that you should get to know a person a little before commenting on their behavior.

I worry I’m running out of things to say.  I have been talking non-stop in class for more than 3 months.  There is less than 1 month to go before winter vacation and when we return there are 4 ½ months left.  I will survive.

I guess my biggest complaint is that these young people who are about 20 are too stupid to take advantage of having a foreign teacher to talk to.  They are too stupid to be in a classroom where they can say whatever they want and it doesn’t leave the room.  They refuse to take advantage of their opportunities.  I’m the only teacher here who will write “fuck” on the blackboard.  I am the only teacher who will say, let alone discuss, homosexuality.  I like to think we are all living and breathing people with minds, but a lot of these kids have the living and breathing down, it’s the minds that need the work.  I will survive.

Julie came on Saturday for “tutoring” at 10:30.  She brought some software to download streaming movies from the Internet but it isn’t working for me.  Shujie invited her for lunch and she stayed until 5:30.  I felt like Carol Burnett.  I wanted to put my pajama’s on and pull out the couch.  But Shujie told her to stay as long as she wanted to as there is no heat in the dormitories so she was in one of the few places around here where you can be warm.  So, it was the right thing to do.  I like that we can lend her the Chinese books Shuie reads and lend her movies because she appreciates them and is a good kid.

When Beata came last Monday she came with gifts.  She’d been home for the weekend and her father bought some stuff for her to give us.  I think it’s food things that will never touch my lips, but it is truly the thought that counts.  I thought it was nice and I was touched.  I said please give me your father’s phone number so I can call and thank him.  Not really me, but Shujie.  So she did.  But, apparently in China if Beata delivers the gifts then we just have to thank her and she passes the message along.  I wanted to do it my way.  So Shujie was kind enough to call and to mention a few things that I wanted her to say such as he has a lovely and polite daughter who has improved immensely and is a hard worker.  Parents usually only here when they’re kids are bad.  They should here when they’re kids are good.

Yesterday, without warning, the dreaded Lisa (Shujie’s arch enemy) knocked on the door.  She had a piece of cheesecake for me that she brought from her weekend in Nanjing.  I thought it was very nice of her.  When she left Shujie said she shouldn’t have come without calling ahead.  Lisa had explained that her cellphone was dead (she had to put more money on it) and there is nothing wrong with stopping by to deliver something.  Shujie said what if no one was home, and I said, then no one would be home.  Who cares?  It started to get testy and I suggested that she not mention Lisa again and I not mention her either.  We’re never going to solve this so we should agree to disagree and so be it.

My Tuesday movie nights will undergo a change starting tomorrow.  They are still English films but the subtitles will be in Chinese.  It’s not exactly what I want, but I love film and if this will bring more kids in then it’s good.  The first movie will be “A Clockwork Orange” which I totally love and may be over their heads.  I bought about 50 movies online this weekend (about $100) so I have quite a supply ready to go.  Will we get more students?  I think so and I hope so.  I hope I’ve picked movies that they haven’t seen.

Last week was “Million Dollar Baby” and a boy sat beside me.  A nice kid but I don’t want anyone sitting near me since I cry at movies.  I don’t want to fight it off but I had to.  Even if it was the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen it.  I look forward to some of our future films that I think they haven’t seen that will give them a different view of America.  I got “Precious” so they can see the ghetto life and I got “The Hangover” so they could see stupid American comedy.  Sometimes due to the translation it hard to bring the culture across.  Shujie and I watched “Casablanca” last night.  After 20 times I’m still mesmerized by it.  But even with Chinese subtitles she missed a lot due to the snappy dialogue.  I’m laughing at the funny parts and she’s not even smiling.  And when Sam plays “As Time Goes By” she wants to know if it means the same as “Time Flies”.  I said no but that’s how it was translated.

We hope to have our vacation trip booked this week.  It’s looking like a 10-day visit to Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.  They’ve never been on the top of my list of places to see, but they’re close, and they’re warm.  I think I can live with that.  I think I need to get away from here before people start to annoy me.  After all, it’s easier to annoy a teacher who is “too serious”.  What the hell does that mean?  Bunch of morons!

What’s with these matches?  Everything is a match.  I’ve heard of soccer matches but it seems like every sort of contest here translates to “match”.  I wish they’d say “contest” but I can’t buck the whole country.  So on Sunday night we went to a “singing match”.

It was in honour of December 9th.  C’mon, y’all know December 9th, a day that will live in glory.  December 9th is the anniversary of the “December 9th Movement” which occurred on December 9, 1935.  Student protests were held to protest the Kuomintang government’s collaborating with the Japanese invaders and making secret details.  If you want more details, you could look it up.

Now I know this because I looked it up.  When Estella (pictured below with me the night of the match) told us December 9th I asked her what it was.  She had no idea.  So I had to look it up.  It’s good they’re commemorating something that students have no idea about.  As far as I know, the Chinese government didn’t shoot and kill any students a la Tiananmen.

Different groups sang patriotic songs.  I know they were patriotic since Shujie told me.  Many of the singing groups wore costumes.  Army costumes.  I guess that would have given me a hint.  As a Canadian it’s really weird to see people dressed up like army to perform.  I mean, if I’m going to see the show of “South Pacific” I expect to see uniforms.  In day-to-day life, I don’t expect it.  But this country has been through hell in the past so I guess it’s important.

The match was held in the gymnasium and it was freezing.  Everything is freezing except our apartment.  Shujie keeps telling me we live in the south but that’s no help.  Cold is cold.  No indoor heating in buildings makes the buildings sometimes colder than outside.  So I sat and froze through 6 groups and then we left to have dinner.

I only had my Iphone so this video of the singing will have to do.  Trust me, they’re wearing uniforms and the people moving around are “peasants” and are dressed as such.  Go team go!

The power went off this morning while I was writing this before class.  As usual it was Wang Jing to the rescue and it was fixed before 9AM.  Thank goodness she always helps.  She wasn’t even at school today but she got the “fix-it guy” to come over.  There was something broken in the main electrical panel of the building and he replaced it.  It’s too cold to be without electricity.

Class was terrible.  I only have this class once a week and it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve seen them.  I can’t remember what I did last class with them and there is no continuity.  I tried to do a song with them but no one would talk.  I then told them it was back to the book since they had broken our unspoken contract.  That’s the contract where I throw out the textbook and try to do different things, and they try.  Try, they didn’t.  I gave in at the end as things picked up after my threat (that wasn’t really meant to be a threat).  I’m really tired of wasting my time explaining that they have to talk.  It’s the only time they can talk English, and it’s the only class where they can say whatever they want.  They need to take advantage of this.

One of the boys in the class, Danny, who I like had borrowed my “Rain Man” DVD.  He said it wouldn’t play on his computer.  I was quite surprised and I had lent DVD’s to other students without any issues.  I told him to come to the movies tonight (Million Dollar Baby) and he could talk to someone I’d lent a movie to.  I have lent to 3 students I think.  When I gave the list of students to Shujie she had an irrational fit and has left the building.  I was going to leave but she said she would go.  That’s fine with me.  She should go.  She should go to a psychiatrist.  It’s ridiculous.

There is one student who she HATES.  Why does she hate her?  I don’t know and I don’t think she knows.  I have a suspicion that she thinks this little girl is interested in me (ridiculous) but I have no other ideas.  It’s totally irrational.  She feels I have no respect for her (Shujie) if I stay in contact with this girl.  I told her that she can’t pick my friends for me.  It’s a no win.  This is even crazier than Sayoon and that was pretty crazy.  The only way to make Shujie happy is for me to just ignore this girl (who I rarely see) and not talk to her at all.  It’s so stupid I have no words for it.  But you can’t buckle under when you’re spouse says, “don’t be friends with this person”.  It’s okay if she doesn’t like her (or hate her) no matter how irrational it is.  But that’s her feeling.  I like the kid so I talk to her.  So Shujie is gone and at the moment as far as I’m concerned she can pack her suitcase and go.  I don’t need this stupidity in my life.  I don’t need to be told what a bad person I am for talking to this girl.  You’re probably wondering, “is that all there is”, and yes, that is all there is.  If it weren’t for this everything would be fine.  But every time it comes up it puts a strain on me and I start thinking she’s got mental problems.  I know no one is perfect but this is irrational stupidity.

The weekend was quiet.  It was cold so we weren’t out much.  That’s it to report on the weekend.  Pretty exciting, yes?

On Monday night (last night) there was another speech competition.  I hate these things.  We can do them in class.  I told Eric (a student) to tell his “boss teacher” that if she doesn’t show up again, I’m walking out.  I also asked him to tell her how stupid I think it all is.  I said I’d meet with her if she wanted, but I feel like I’m being roped into doing extra work for no pay.  I don’t mind extra work when it’s my idea, or it’s something the students want to do, but if it’s something so moron teacher wants, then they should pay.

I show my movies on Tuesday night.  I don’t expect to be paid for them.  I’ve made a change to the format.  It was English films with English subtitles but I’m switching to English films with Chinese subtitles.  A few students aren’t in favour of this, but the majority are.  This way they can understand the film much easier.  Teaching the English is important, but I love film too so I’d like to expose them to some different movies.

At the speeches last night we had to pick a winner again.  It’s idiotic.  We can’t have repeat winners so we have to come up with a new one every time.  Dumb.  I wanted to give it to one boy who said he didn’t like the topic so he didn’t prepare anything.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  I like that.

We gave it to Nine.  She’s a lovely girl who is quite likeable, polite, always has a smile, and is just one of the people I enjoy seeing every day.  She was quite surprised (the speech wasn’t that great), but she was touched.  So it was the right choice.

Two weeks ago they got nine to do a little singing.  Here she is:

If I’m down to posting about once a week, sometimes twice, something is amiss.  My life is too normal.  I was a posting fool in Korea since I had complaints up the ying-yang.  Where are my complaints?  Am I happier?  Am I mellower?  Am I more tolerant?  Are things better here?  I’m trying to analyze it.

As I wrote before, my life has settled into “the usual”.  Just like you go to work, eat, maybe watch TV or play on the computer or read, and then go to sleep, my life isn’t much different.  I don’t watch TV but I do watch the occasional movie.

I eat dinner.  That’s a big shock.  I thought I’d love 40 pounds by the New Year by I don’t think I’ve lost anything.  I have chicken or steak for dinner and a potato that’s bigger than your head.  I think the potatoes are on steroids here.  I eat lunch.  It will be a sandwich or some rice.  I’m even eating an apple for breakfast, which is the most I’ve eaten for breakfast on a regular basis for years.

This normalcy is killing me.

Now there is the odd annoying thing that happens but it doesn’t annoy me as much as it would have at one time.  Yesterday I got a phone call at 1:33 in the afternoon from a student asking me where I was.  Why wasn’t I in class?  I said, “excuse me but class doesn’t start until 2”.  Ha ha.  The jokes on me.  They changed the schedule in the afternoons and everyone except one person was notified.  Guess who that one person was?  You win!  It was me.

Shujie asked Wang Jing whose responsibility it was to let me know what was happening.  Wang Jing is such a sweetie.  She said she would be sure that I knew about these things in advance.  But it’s not her job.  It was the job of the imbeciles in the English department.  However, since Wang Jing knows I think they’re imbeciles she’ll handle it.  I don’t want to discuss teaching with them, but I can handle them informing me of time changes.  Beware the scary foreigner!  Bunch of jerks.  But I’m cool with it.  What’s wrong with me?

We didn’t go anywhere last weekend and we won’t be going anywhere this weekend.  Shujie says it won’t be fun if the weather is too cold (about 6 or in the 40’s in F).  So we hang out again.  The excitement mounts.  There is a singing match on Sunday night that we’ll go to.  That means singing contest.  They don’t use the word contest but match.  It should be interesting for me and some of my students are competing.

Last Saturday we went for coffee with Julie (one of my tutoring students) and her friend.  Then Danny (a boy in another class came wandering by) and he joined us.  We were in the coffee shop for about 3 hours and it was quite nice.  Except it was cold since there is no heat in there.  There is no heat in the dormitories.  But I’m told I live in the south so it’s not needed.  Not needed?  It’s freezing.  The south means Florida.

Sunday we had coffee with Estella and she bought.  She was quite happy to buy so since the coffee at the student coffee shop is so cheap I let that happen.  She also bought popcorn with sugar on it.  Gross.  We spent about 90 minutes with her.  As I’ve said, we both really like her.

When she came to the Tuesday movie last night, she wore her pajamas.  If you look up cute in the dictionary, you’ll see her picture.  She always puts a smile on my face.

I showed “Goodfellas” last night.  I’m not sure how it went over.  I don’t think it was a hit.  I loved it.  I love it more each time I see it.  Estella said she won’t be able to sleep because of the violence.  It’s tough finding the movie that can show a story that’s easy to follow and the English isn’t too difficult.  I try.  I don’t know what next week will bring.

Shujie thinks we should stop for a couple of months since it’s so damn cold in the room (no heat of course).  I hate to stop although we aren’t getting overflow crowds.  I think we get a maximum of 15 viewers.  Lazy people who don’t want to try and advance their exposure to English.  I can lead these horses to water, but I sure can’t make them drink.

The big month holiday starts mid-January so that isn’t too far off.  We’re waiting for the travel agency to get some information about some tours.  We’ll probably either go to Hainan in the south of China, or Thailand, or the Philippine’s.  I’m psyched and something tells me I’ve mentioned this before.  Of course, a trip to Baoding is part of all this since it’s “family time”.  It’s good that I like Shujie’s family and they like me.

I can’t believe how easily I’ve settled in.  I have no “adult” friends.  My friends are about 20 years old.  Can students be your friends?  I’m starting to think they can.

Last week I played “Lola” in class and went over the words.  One girl almost understood it but the others were quite taken aback when I explained that Lola was a man.   They don’t get classes like this in school.  But music is good.  They enjoyed the tune so that helped.  Today I’ll do “Richard Cory” by Simon and Garfunkel, which is pretty simple.  I hope they like it.  I’d like to do “Sounds of Silence” but I’m not sure I know what it means.  I’d also like to do some 60’s protest songs but they might require too much explaining.  Of course I could just do the “Fish Cheer”.

“Give me an F”

“Give me a U”

“Give me a “C”

“Give me a “K”

“What’s that spell?”

And so on.  It might work.  I like to test the limits.

So sorry, no complaints once again.  Life is still fine.  I’m having fun and I’m learning.  Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get them to talk, but when they do talk I get to learn something.  It’s my motivation for getting them to talk.  But I really have no idea why some of them are here.

I’m waiting to find out if they want marks from me for these students.  They don’t.  I’m a very difficult marker and I have no problem failing those who make no effort.  I’m not sure the school wants that.   Most marks are basically the results of exams and I can’t do an exam.  I just would give a mark based on day to day.  Nah, they don’t want my marks.

Or something like that.  It’s been a quiet week.  I’ve been tired, again.  I need to sleep in the morning.  I can’t believe the music is defeating me again.  It’s so unfair.  I hate it.  The students hate it.  Why do they think these silly exercises will help the students?  Because they’re stupid.  They should make me the Education God.  If they do that the classes will be more interesting and the students might learn more instead of practicing their memorizing skills all the time.  But I shouldn’t get my hopes up for that promotion.

Mondays are “tutor Beata” days.  She’s such a sweetie.  With her horrendous accent she comes in, she speaks English (and I can understand her better so I think she’s improving), she’s always trying to talk, and she’s so little and cute.  Of course that doesn’t make her stand out.  I think out of 140 students I have one fat kid.  This isn’t North America.

Beata told me that she leaves school the end of January.  I know this is her last year but I should she’d be around until the end of June.  But apparently they send them off to work so she is going to work in a city about 30 minutes from here.  Originally she was going to Shanghai.  She said she had a job there and a boyfriend but she feels that this job that’s closer will offer her a better opportunity to learn things.  She thinks that in 5 years time she wants to open her own shop.  All I can say is “good for her”.  Go where you think you have the best chance to succeed and advance yourself.  Smart girl.

Monday night was speech not and the “boss teacher” wasn’t there.  I was told she wasn’t invited since we were giving the prize for best effort and she knows no English.  The kids were noisy but I didn’t say anything except for one time telling them they were rude.  I’m not there to be the police.  I told Eric (a student who seems to be in charge) that I’m not coming anymore unless the “boss teacher” is there to play policeman (or policewoman).  I also said I wouldn’t take part if there were more “winners and losers”.  If they want they can have a draw and give a prize.  But I don’t want to judge and try and come up with 29 categories so we can attempt to get a new winner every week.

It appears that next week there was a change of heart in the “boss teacher”.  The kids had a choice between doing a speech on homosexuality or sex.  I think they voted for sex.  What that means, I couldn’t say.  But I look forward to it.  I’m curious as to what they’ll say.

What’s strange about the kids here is that if you ask them to sing in front of the class, they will.  In North America that would never happen.  Here, it’s no big deal.  Okay, so and so is going to sing a song and so and so sings a song.  Weird.  It’s nice but it’s really weird for me to see.

As for my classes this week they were more of the same.  I can’t understand the kids who won’t try to speak.  It’s been 2 months with me so they know I don’t belittle anyone who tries and I’m very positive.  I’ve gotten a few kids to speak and once they do it, the next time is easier.  I’ve given up forcing people to lie and say they understand what I’ve said, or what I’ve read.  If they put up their hand and ask, then I think it’s great and I always say, “there’s a smart person who’s going to ask a question”.  If someone doesn’t want to ask, I won’t spend time letting them know how stupid they are not to ask.  I’ll just work with those who care.  Time is short.  I’m not their father and they are supposed to be some kind of adults.  Some are and that’s good and I’m there to help.  Some aren’t and to hell with them.

It’s nice when I see that I have the trust of the students.  I had one boy tell me after he saw me talk to a Chinese English teacher, that he didn’t like her.  Chinese kids don’t say that.  I was flattered he told me, and I told him that I didn’t like her either and neither does Shujie.  I tell them that what’s said in the class, stays in the class.

One of the many myths I’ve discovered isn’t true is that Chinese children always do what their parents say, and they never lie to their parents.  Yes they do.  We’ve been discussing “Should children always listen to their parents” and while there is nothing earth shattering that has come up, it lets me know that I shouldn’t assume anything.

Tuesday night we showed “The Wizard of Oz”.  I was pleased to learn that some of the kids had seen it and most who hadn’t did enjoy it.  I had one boy who I’m fond of ask me before if there would be Chinese subtitles.  I told him no, but I assured him he would love the movie.  He didn’t.  Fantasy isn’t his thing.  I asked him what he liked and he told me killing and war.  That surprised me since he’s a decent, well-mannered kid.  I told him that next week I’d show a special movie for him thinking that I’d show “Gladiator”.  When I opened the case at home, there was no movie in it.  That was it for my war like movies.  I felt terrible.  I asked him the next day if he liked gangster/criminal films and he said yes so I have “Goodfellas” waiting for him.  He’ll love Joe Pesci.

The weather dipped on Wednesday as expected and I’m freezing when outside.  I bought gloves and today I bought a hat.  I have one girl who had a muff on to cover her hands the other day.  She’s so freaking cute.  I think it’s supposed to start climbing the next few days and then it’s back to the cold.  You’d think I was from Texas and not Toronto.

Shujie and I aren’t going anywhere this weekend.  We’re pretty much out of reasonably close places worth visiting.  I don’t want to hang around here every weekend but there is no point in going away just to go away.  We do want to make a semi-major trip in February during my one-month’s vacation (lunar new year).  We will start looking into it in a few weeks.  Thailand is sounding real nice right now.

Our big plans are to have coffee with a student on Saturday (tomorrow) and coffee with a different student on Sunday (Estella again).  I told Estella she could pay and she was quite thrilled.  I just may pick her up and put her in my pocket one day.

I think with the colder weather travelling won’t be happening so much for us.  I think we’ll have to find another DVD store and I’ve got lots of books.  I like the feel of an actual book more than an ebook, but being able to download books is great.  I’m almost a native.  I think tomorrow night we’re hitting a Chinese restaurant (who would have thunk it) but Shujie assures me it has black pepper steak.  Of course, that doesn’t mean a lot since it still might taste like garbage.  But I can hope.