The medical joke and the judging speeches joke

Joke as in many things in China are a joke.  Right now I am wearing my Bobby Orr knockoff jersey, which is a fine example of Chinese workmanship.  Shujie says what do I expect but I do expect clothes that don’t fall apart.  I don’t expect the best quality but boy; these jerseys I bought (most of them) are crap.  The colours bleed, the numbers and crests fray, and they look ratty after a few washings.  Oh well, live and learn.

I got the official schedule for the May 1st holiday yesterday which surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting it so soon.  We get Monday and Tuesday off and since Tuesday is the holiday, there are no classes.  Since they are giving Monday then Saturday will contain Monday’s classes.  Luckily I don’t work on Monday’s so that’s 5 days.  So I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

Shujie mentioned going to Xian to see the Terra-Cotta warriors, one of the great things to see in China.  After serious discussion (I’ve seen them but would be happy to go again because they are so interesting), she said they were discovered in the 70’s and she’s never seen them so that means she really doesn’t care.  So that idea went in the trash.  Why go if she doesn’t want to go.  I don’t understand how you could not want to go, but I’m not Chinese and I don’t understand a lot in any culture be it Western or Eastern.

This past Monday we went to Zhenjiang so I could get my medical exam so I’d have the form that shows I’m fine to send to Baotou and the new school.  They need that for my official invitation.  It cost 400RMB (about $80) and they will reimburse me, but what a joke.  They take a vial of blood (I think it only is to check for Aids).  They do a chest x-ray but I’m not sure they look at it.  They do an ultrasound and the technician actually seemed serious about her job.  They do an EKG and I guess you pass if you don’t have a heart attack while it’s happening.  They do an eye exam, which consisted of me looking at one pattern, and telling them the number I saw.  They do the “internal exam” which means they listen to my heart with a stethoscope and bang on my chest.  The whole thing is a ridiculous cash grab and you pass if you’re breathing.  I think if you’re dead, you still have a 50% chance of passing.  If you’ve been cremated that lowers your chances of passing to 10%.  So we have the form and it’s winging it’s way to Baotou.

The movie on Tuesday was “12 Angry Men”.  I love that.  I think most of the ladies enjoyed it and were interested in seeing another culture at work.  No boys came as it would have interfered with their playing computer games.  Next Tuesday I’m showing “Precious” which will be a real eye-opener for those that come.  I admit I’m disappointed in the total numbers I’ve had this year, but on the other hand, I appreciate those that come regularly just to watch a good movie they would never have known about, maybe pick up some English, or just to see another culture.

My student Julie who I “tutor” gets movies from me every week that I won’t be showing the general public because there are only so many weeks.  Last week I asked her if she wanted a movie with no Chinese or English subtitles and she said yes.  I gave her “Reservoir Dogs” and she loved it.  She’s the girl I imagined when I had my movie idea.  How was I supposed to know that there would only be one of her kind.

I mentioned to her that out of 150 students I’ve had, she’s the only one who ever asked me for extra time.  I think it’s strange that no one but her wanted to take advantage of a chance to improve their spoken English one on one.  I asked her what she thought (as I trust her to tell me the truth), and she doesn’t understand it either.  So she gets conversion, she gets movies; she gets books (good American books translated into Chinese).  It’s a good deal for her.  I’m hoping next semester at the new school I will have a better audience at the movie nights (which I plan on continuing).

On Wednesday I was asked to be one of the judges at an English speech contest at the other campus.  Naturally I didn’t want to do it, but I said yes because besides being humourous, I’m a nice guy.  There were 5 English teachers from here (the other 4 were Chinese English teachers) plus me.  If I had little respect for the Chinese English teachers before, I have even less respect now.

First off, the audience made too much noise when the speeches were being given.  I told Wang Jing she should tell the MC to ask people to stop talking and she said, “okay” and then did nothing.  One of the judges was talking on her phone during some speeches.  One was doing text messages.  Why should students be polite and have manners when this is what they are seeing.  I was disgusted.

Even with all the chatter going on, I will say something nice about the students.  When the speaker froze because they forgot something the audience would break out into applause.  I thought that was so nice and kind and what I like to see.  That’s the type of Chinese manners I expected, not this talk when others are talking.

I was, and I kid you not, the only person who actually listened to all 21 speeches.  One girl’s speech contained a racist anecdote, which naturally only I noticed.  Was the girl aware of what she was saying?  No, of course not.  They copy things blindly off the Internet without understanding them.  The Internet can be a great resource but used indiscriminately it can be a curse.

As I said, 21 speeches.  Two of the speeches were identical.  What is this, Chinese minds thing alike?  No, I don’t think so.  How about Chinese student’s copy off the Internet.  Naturally I was the only one who noticed this too.  I can’t say I was impressed.

On a bright note I thought the best speech was given by a girl talking about what she expected by coming to college and what’s she’s gotten out of it and learned (life-wise) from being here.  No Internet involved.  It was well-put together and I was fascinated.  Another girl quoted from Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” in her speech and I was blown away.  How did she know Bob Dylan?  I asked her after if she liked Bob Dylan and she said, “so-so”.  But still, it was interesting to hear her quote him even if no one there understood as not many Chinese are aware of Bob Dylan.

The next two weeks will see me not give classes except to my moronic elective once a week students and I only have to do that once since the 2nd week has the holiday.  I’ve given my regular students a “big” assignment.  I gave them an outline of “Romeo and Juliet”.  Most of them know the story without having read it.  They are to go away in their groups of 5 or 6 people and develop a script of anything they want as long as it sticks to the outline.  Then after I see the scripts they go into rehearsals.  They must memorize their lines.  I’m rather excited by this and the students are too.  They don’t have to sit in the classroom (can’t have 6 groups in one room working) and they can go anywhere to do this.  I think they’ll enjoy being creative and they will have fun.  I told them that if they have questions or want me to come and meet with their group, just phone me and I’ll be on my way.  I threatened them with a zero for the whole year if they don’t do it but I don’t think that was necessary.  I’m sure they’ll do it.  I believe if you treat them like adults and give them responsibility, they will rise to the challenge.  But as I say over and over, what do I know?

I think I’ll survive the final two months.  I think I’m getting a little snarky with some students telling them they’re bad.  I am under no obligation because I’ve treated them with respect from day one and they’ve talked in class and not paid attention.  I have no reason to be nice to them anymore.  Then I have the other students who used to be bad but are now good and I tell them so.  I say, “you used to be bad but now you’re good”.  If you’re good, you should be told.  It’s not all about only mentioning the negative.

In my 5 years of ESL teaching, this will be the first job where I completed the year.  So, I can do it given the right circumstances.  I’m so glad I’ve enjoyed it and I’m hopeful that next year will bring me more in depth and intelligent conversations.  I can’t complain about here since they’ve treated us so nicely.  If only the students weren’t so damn useless.  Not all of them, but enough of them so that it’s difficult to have a good conversation in class.

I think everyone should do this.  It’s quite the learning experience if you want it to be.  And if you’re a frustrated actor or comedian, you have a captive audience.  I gave a great performance of “Romeo and Juliet”.  I played all the parts and I especially shone in the death scenes.  I love getting since laughs.  But I am humourous.

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