So, what is the answer?

It is so hard to find out the correct answer to a question here.  Is it my English?  Is it their English?  Is it a plot to confuse me?  I don’t know.

If I ask 3 Chinese people the same question, I’ll get 4 different answers.  It’s annoying.  However, now that I’ve learned this I take every single answer with a grain of salt.  That’s a lot of salt.

I asked a student if they saw the mark I gave them for the semester or was it rolled into a total English mark.  He assured me that it was just 1 mark for English.  I asked a girl in my other class and she assured me that they get 3 English marks, one of them being mine.

I now believe that they see my mark as a standalone mark.  How do I know this?  Because the kids who failed are asking me about a “make-up exam”.  They want to take my make-up exam.  How sweet, but children, I don’t have an exam or make-up exam.  It seems that here, at this fine institution of higher learning, if you fail a course (or exam), you can take a make-up exam and try to pass.  What a joke.

I must admit I don’t want anyone to flunk school because they failed a class they never wanted in the first place (English), so I went to the office to see how important passing the semester was.  I was told (and who knows if it’s right) by Wang Jing that it’s your final mark (end of June) that counts.  That’s what I thought.  I wrote my failures and told them that.  However, if students won’t participate they will fail at the end of the year, and then it’s on their head.  Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind and pass them, but I really don’t want to.  I’ll have to think on this.

I do have one girl who I failed start to make an effort.  She’s even moved by herself from her seat at the back of the class.  Maybe some of them “get it”.  It’s nice.  I thought she was just a fat slug (and fat here is nowhere near fat in the west), but it looks like I may have misjudged her.  I’m glad about that.

My Tuesday electives at the other campus were kind of weird.  Whereas last week I had a class of 40 and a class of 50, this week I had a class of 49 and a class of 33.  Do I care?  Not really.  Do I understand what’s going on?  Not really.  The elective is once a week for 15 weeks so I’ve got 2 down, 13 to go.  I’ll never teach them anything anyhow.  There’s just too many of them.  So I won’t get my shorts in a knot and I’ll just ride it out.

Things are going very well with Eleanor, the new English teacher.  Shujie and I have become good friends with her and she’s been for dinner a couple of times.  This is good as Shujie has someone to cook Chinese food for.  Tonight we’re having dinner at her place so she reciprocates which is good.  It’s nice to have someone to speak “normal” English with, and it’s good for Shujie to have another English voice to practice with.

On Tuesday I was planning on showing “Sixth Sense” as my movie of the week.  I verify on my computer that the film works and the Chinese subtitles work.  However, this week the Chinese didn’t work on “Sixth Sense”.  I was getting so frustrated.  I had brought a “back up” movie with me.  It was “Edward Scissorhands” and the Chinese worked fine.  So I left it to the students.  They could have “Sixth Sense” but with English subtitles, or “Edward Scissorhands” with Chinese subtitles.  I would have be on them choosing “Edward Scissorhands” but just to prove I know nothing, about 90% voted for “Sixth Sense”.  I was pleased and I believe the film was a success and everyone enjoyed it.

The next night Shujie and I visited our “movie room” and I checked every DVD where you can set the subtitles through the playback program on the computer and not on the setup that comes on the DVD.  Every one was fine except for one so that was good.  No more surprises.

Tomorrow at 1PM I’m making a special movie showing of “Gone With The Wind”.  I have to do it this way because it’s 4 hours long and the students must be back in the dorms by 10PM without exception.  Many of them sounded put off by 4 hours but I told them, and they knew, that often a bad 90-minute movie feels like 20 hours, and a good long movie feels like a few minutes.  I then actually tried “selling” the movie.  I taught a little about slavery and the civil war.  I think we’ll get more than 15, but I never predict right so we’ll see.  I know I’m looking forward to it though.

I will do one other selling of a movie this year.  Before Schindler’s List, I will do a class on the Holocaust.  Very few Chinese are aware of it and I think it’s important to know about it.  Movies are a simple way to learn some history.  It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.  I think if one student says to me after that movie that they didn’t like it because it’s in black and white, I’ll punch them in the face.

Julie, the girl I tutor, has seen it and feels it’s excellent and worth showing.  I like her so much and believe she has a working brain (although in many ways she’s just a confused little kid), that today I lent her “Citizen Kane”.  I’m curious when we meet next week what she’ll tell me she thinks about it.

Shujie and I went for Shao Kow last Sunday.  It was too cold on Saturday.  It was delicious, as usual.  I wonder when this winter of forever will end.  It’s funny, but today Julie asked me when I thought winter would end.  I think the answer is “never”.  I can’t wait to start complaining about the heat.

Yesterday Shujie and I went to Nanjing.  We’re not crazy about it but we needed a couple of things that are cheaper when bought in the big city such as my insulin.  I also bout a 1TB hard drive to use for backups.  I’ve never done a backup but now I have.  It’s amazing how inexpensive electronics become.  They were selling 3 brand names that I knew well so it wasn’t some Chinese crap although they’re probably made in China.

Along with this I brought a Subway sandwich home with me for dinner.  What a lovely treat.  We also went to Pizza Hut for lunch and since I was starving I enjoyed it.  When it came time to pay, our debit cards didn’t work due to some problem.  So Shujie was going to go find a bank to get it resolved while I’m held hostage.  But in another of those “I can’t believe how nice these people are” scenes, the store manager told Shujie that he would lend her the money, pay the bill, and when her and I resolved the problem we could come back and pay him back.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  Amazingly nice.  I think amazingly stupid too, but just way above the call of kindness.  Shujie wasn’t comfortable with that and left her Visa card there (the Visa card doesn’t work at Pizza Hut in China).  These little things constantly amaze me.

Life lacks excitement at the moment but I’m not complaining.  The job search has started and hopefully something good will come along very shortly.  I still have no complaints and consider myself quite lucky to have ended up at this fourth-rate school.  I have someone who watches out for us (Wang Jing), I’m left alone to teach what I want and how I want, and I like the students as people and they are reasonably quiet during class.  So I know where I can be moderately successful and I’ll stick to that.  I know the environment I need.  I’m having fun so since the pay is awful (by North American standards), I should have fun.

I looked a little at my Korean blog the other day.  Holy Cow!  WTF was I doing there?  I must have been insane.  I know hindsight is 20/20 but still, why couldn’t I take a hint when I would moan out my day’s pain in words every night?

Life is still good and I still appreciate it.  I miss family but that’s it.  I miss some food that I love, but that’s survivable.  And I’ll see family in the summer.  Day to day life is critical.  If my marriage is good, and I enjoy my work, I have nothing to complain about.  God, I make myself sick with this “sweetness”.

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