Friday, September 24, 2010

the little things

We've been in China now for almost two months.

It's strange to write that.

I love to travel, and have had the opportunity to go all over the place, but I've lived in the South all of my life, and in Irmo since I was eight years old. Even when I've been in a different place, Home has always been a warm climate, Southern food, and a laid back schedule.

Now Home is different.

And the difference I'm finding is in the little things. Like parmesan cheese. We can get noodles (believe me) and spaghetti sauce, but it's just not spaghetti without that little green tube. Or changing the thermostat. Rather than turning a knob or pressing an up arrow, I have a remote control all in Chinese.

Now, one of the big things that I was looking forward to losing for a year was my car. No more fill ups, oil changes, or insurance payments. But I also lost the freedom to hop in the car and just go do something. Whether it's going on a trip an hour away or to the grocery store, having a car simply makes traveling easier. Now the simplest errand requires at least a 2K commitment by bike.

I miss just hearing random conversations on the street that I can understand. We've been so busy with teaching that we still haven't taken any Chinese lessons, which means that all I can understand is the numbers 1-3, the word teacher, and the phrase "don't touch me." Now before jump to conclusions, assuming I was touching someone: "don't touch me" sounds like how we say "BMW." I was talking about driving a BMW in class and one of my students said "ha, don't touch me!"

There are great things about our Chinese Home too: people are way friendly and hospitable. I got birthday presents from my students, who I had only taught for around 3 days. And we don't get ripped off buying stuff just because we're Americans. Also, the Ramen situation in China is incredible. If you can't find a Ramen flavor you like in China, then you're the one with the problem.

The best thing about Home in China is getting to spend so much time with Corrie. We have the same teaching schedule, we ride our bikes to school together, and we watch Carolina games at midnight together. It's great to spend our days with each other, and Home provides that.

And for the record, I still don't miss my cell phone at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Justin Bieber Followed Me to China

I thought I lost him in Washington Heights.

I was wrong.

Maybe I should explain.

While teaching art at Dutch Fork Middle School, I came to learn that most middle school girls and some middle school guys have contracted what is termed, "Bieber Fever." After a short trip to the Urban Dictionary, it started to make sense. Every day during at least one class I had to endure listening to Justin sing about a love he lost or about how happy he was going to make some other girl. But it's middle school, you do what you have to do to keep them from mutiny.

Justin chilling at home

Then we went to New York to work with Dominicans in and around 183rd street, and I found that the epidemic had spread there too. Thanks to Grace Marie Ward and Alexa Hubright, I had to listen to kindergarten through 5th graders belting out "Baby, Baby, Baby Oh" and trying to keep up with Luda. If you don't know who Luda is, that's probably a good thing, but if you need to know, I suggest the Urban Dictionary. Once again, you do what you have to do to keep the kids entertained.

But the class that I teach in China is filled with 19 and 20 year-olds. Their English is really good, and they're very driven to learn and get good jobs. I thought I was finally safe.

I thought.

One day last week during a class break I went to the office for a minute. When I returned, one of my male students had taken my iPod from the speakers and plugged in his iPod. To my horror, he and another male student of 19 were singing along!

Disheartened, I did the only logical thing possible: I took the song Baby and wrote an English lesson based on the lyrics. It's actually a good song for an English class; phrases like, "I'm in pieces," and "shake me 'til you wake me from this bad dream," make for good idiomatic discussions. And a really good grammar lesson can come out of the phrase, "Don't need no Starbucks."

Anyways, teaching is going very well for Corrie and myself, in spite of Bieber Fever. We're really busy getting to know our students and preparing lessons. Once we have more time, we'll post more details, and maybe a new video!