October 11, 2010

Zebras in a Lion's Den

“Encourage them to open their mouths.”

That’s my mantra for teaching. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that figured out in time for my first two classes this morning. At least I have an objective to work towards.

I woke up feeling optimistic and rather calm about my classes, which was nice. I ate some Quaker oats for breakfast (yes, they taste the same here) and headed to school.

While we were waiting for the shuttle to pick us up from the apartment, we witnessed two people partaking in their daily lung cleanse – aka – hocking up the previous day and night’s nasties.

We also saw a poodle wearing sneakers.

This was the first pet we’ve seen since we arrived and it was wearing shoes. Strange.

Alex and I got lost on campus. We only spent an hour there on Saturday in our fuzzy mental state, so we really had no idea where to go. We finally found someone from the teaching office and then we were scolded for only being 10 minutes early (was I supposed to come earlier?)

“Negotiations” was my first class on the docket. Nearly 40 International Trade majors fit into the computer lab, with a handful more straggling in 10-15 minutes late.

I didn’t have a textbook for the course, so I spent my time introducing myself. I showed photos of my farm, NDSU, Rome and Washington DC. I included a lot of maps and spoke in short, simple sentences.

The students seemed interested in Europe particularly. I rambled through a 20-minute introduction then established class rules. I think next class I’m going to have them hand in their cell phones before it starts; they didn’t listen to that rule very well.

I took their mug shots (thankfully I got them all in before my camera died). They wrote down their Chinese character name on one side and their English name on the other. In that class, I have a boy called Emotion, another boy called Shiny, a girl called Sincere, and her friend is Cherry.

Oh well, at least no one in my first class was inspired by some action flick. I’ve got a group of boys in my Oral English 3 class who prefer to go by Iron, Hawk, and Rambo.

I encouraged them all to go online and look at English names to choose one or change it up. We’ll see if that happens for next class. Everyone I’m teaching is my age and almost all are the same height or taller than me. Uff, I feel like I don’t have much authority over them. I just have to remember that I have what they want.

After lunch in the cafeteria (rice, potatoes, and a piece of warmish chicken), we encountered two Americans! As soon as we saw each other, all four of us got a tremendous look of relief on our face. As Alex put it, we feel like zebras in a lion cage. It was fantastic seeing other zebras. They work at the university across the street and have been here for 45 days. We have their phone number from whenever we get a Chinese phone.

Tomorrow we’ll go to our office at the university to develop our course plans. I’m angry/overwhelmed because I have to make up 17 90-minute class periods before October 31 since I missed September. I don’t think the teaching office understands why we didn’t arrive on time. I guess I’ll work with the situation as best as I can – which seems to be the norm for living in China.

I came home tonight and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich. The Skippy thankfully tastes the same.

In the morning I’ll take a hot shower and my Herbal Essences will be the same color they always are and my Dove body wash will smell the same as it does at home. Never mind that I can’t read the bottles.

In a country where everything is so different, it’s nice to know that I have some carbon-copied things that are just like home.

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