I ain’t marching anymore

Oh joy!  We got to wake up at 6AM every day for the last week.  Today might be the last day or perhaps tomorrow.  What’s the occasion?  It seems that freshman go through army training before they start classes next week.  They march, they shout, they march some more, they shout some more and they wander around.  They wear these silly track suits so they are easily recognized but I don’t think I’d go into war wearing a powder blue track suit.  I don’t think they fire guns, but they march.  Their instructors lead them (1, 2, 3, 4 over and over again).  I’m not sure what they are trying to teach them, but then again here I am at a school and I can’t figure out what they try and teach them here.

Here are some shots and a short video.  I keep hearing Phil Ochs in the background.

And of course, the video evidence:

Last Saturday night we went for dinner to a pizza place/bar that was supposedly for Westerners.  We were the only 4 Westerners and I was quite good about bargaining on the prices.  Karl ordered a Chivas and they brought him a full glass, the price being about $5.  Good price!  No Bloody Mary for me though.  I tried Vodka and Lemon Juice (not good) and Vodka with Peach Juice, which wasn’t bad.  The Pizza wasn’t too bad either.  We had a nice time.  They seem like nice people.

We invited them to join us on our overnight this weekend.  We leave about 7:30 tomorrow morning (it’s a private tour) and we visit some temple built in the Tibetan mode.  Now, I’ve been to Tibet so big deal, but this is supposed to be the number three temple in China.  I’ve been to number one and temples are great if they’re not crowded.  Then it’s off to the grasslands (I hope there is still some green grass).  We will enjoy the scenery and ride some horses.  I will be galloping across Mongolia (Inner Mongolia that is), imaging I’m Ghengis Khan or his brother Don.  Shujie has never rid a horse and she’s looking forward to it.

We will sleep in a Yurt which is a kind of Mongol tent.  We didn’t go for the private yurt which includes a washroom but a yurt that sleeps six to eight people.  We were told that we would be the only ones in the yurt (Shujie and I) and our friends will have their own yurt.  It’s supposed to be only a 5-minute walk to the washroom.  I’m sure it will be cold at night (about 0 Celsius).  I’m taking my winter coat and gloves and hat.  I will dress warm and I don’t think I’ll be having a shower Sunday morning.  Another big sacrifice for me in the name of adventure.  I’m looking forward to this.

After getting 100 students last week to my movie, I only got about 60 this week.  I’ll never figure out the patterns.  I showed “Million Dollar Baby” and I asked the students if they liked it.  Most said yes, but a few said no.  I asked them why and they said it was too sad.  Apparently Chinese like happy endings.  Welcome to the real world kiddies.

I have an issue to deal with next Wednesday which I am still trying to figure out how to do it.  I gave all six of my culture classes a short assignment to write 2 paragraphs.  One paragraph on what they like best in Chinese culture, and another of what they like least in Chinese culture.  So all my students (300 of them) had homework to hand in this week.  Never again as it’s just too much.  My culture students are 3rd year students and their writing is horrendous.  Actually it’s worse than that.  They can’t write sentences (or most of them can’t).  Many don’t understand what culture is (Great Thinking????).  It’s kind of sad and it’s too late for me to teach them how to write.  I will take my writing a little more seriously because I’d die of shame if my students were writing like these students next year.  (My writing students are 2nd year.)

They don’t study grammar here after the 1st year (go figure) but they do study British Literature and they have that class twice a week.  I think something is screwed up here.  But I can’t change anything, but then again, I don’t have to like it.

One of my students who was writing about what they liked best and least in Chinese culture turned in a paper where the English was perfect.  Idiot!  If you hand in a perfect paper, grammatically correct, then I know you copied.  Now I can’t really come out and say you copied without actual proof but these are really stupid kids at cheating.  They copy from the Internet.  So I typed in his first sentence and the first hit from Google was the article he copied from.

I know how I like to handle these things but I was looking for other people’s opinions.  Shujie’s was to let it go this time.  Everyone cheats and no one cares.  Some students told me when they get caught their teachers don’t do anything.  I can’t do that.  It’s my classroom and it’s my rules.  Other foreign teachers say “everyone cheats so just give them a zero on the paper and move on”.  What a place!  If no one gives a damn then how do they learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable?

My solution is to humiliate them in class.  Let everyone know they cheated, and they were really bad at cheating.  Give them a zero and let them know that if it happens again they get zero for the year so they might as well go home.  Other teachers tell me not to humiliate them in class as they will lose face and everyone will hate me.  I don’t believe that.  I’m quite charming.  And if I make an example of one, then others get the point.  I’m insulted and feel disrespected that some idiot student thought he could “fool me”.  I pity that fool.

In one class this week there was too much chatter and I kept asking them to be quiet.  If anyone tells you Chinese are polite, you can tell them they’re wrong.  It got to the point where I knew the next person I saw talking to a classmate was going bye-bye.  So one talked and she was thrown out.  It was unfortunate that it was that girl because her friend told me after class that she was just asking her friend if she knew a word in English because she wanted to answer a question.  I believe her but I had to make an example of someone.  Isn’t that natural with 22 year-old students?  Dumb!  Once she was expelled from class, everyone was quiet when it came to talking to their friends, but their class participation did not wane.

I am so friendly and smiling and joking in class but there is a line.  They will learn.  I just can’t tolerate the jerks and the idiots but fortunately there are only a few.  In one class I said, “I’m a nice guy”, and some idiot boy said, “I don’t think so”.  I told him, “I don’t like you either and you should care if I like you”.  I can see the writing on the wall for him.

I had a surprise email last night from Kimoko, a student from last year.  The subject was “I miss you very much”.  I was quite touched.  I did make a small difference last year.  That email made my week.  She did write something funny in it.  She told me she never realized how small I was until she got the new foreign teacher who is “big and strong”.  I thought that was kind of funny.  But she told me her classes are deadly boring and she misses my classes.  I was on cloud nine.

I had to stop and it’s now Sunday evening.  We had our overnight in the grasslands this weekend.  I will report on this in my next post, and there are even pictures to share.  Let’s just say I was exhausted and filthy upon our return.

I went looking for all the papers I have to mark and it appears I lost one classes homework.  How stupid can I be?  If I don’t find it before their class I’m going to tell them Shujie threw it out.  I can’t look like a total dolt in front of them, even if I am.

I’ve decided that about half my students are mentally challenged.  I’ve told them twice to email me their homework.  There should be one attachment containing all homework in it and the name of the document should be their name and class number.  The subject should be their name and class number.  I get multiple attachments in one email, or I’ll get three emails with an attachment for each little piece of homework, or I’ll get the homework typed into the email.  Are they just stupid?  And if they don’t understand or aren’t sure, they should ask.  They’re 21 years old (at least) but you have to lead them around by the nose.  I think a little maturity wouldn’t hurt but that’s one of the downsides of the 1-child policy.  Children are spoiled and many of them never have to do anything for themselves, including thinking.  I will survive this and hopefully it will stop being an ordeal.

That’s it for now folks.  Grasslands story coming soon to a page near you.


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