09 December 2006

"Oh No, They Have Bathrobes For Costumes?"

I haven't done much blogging about my normal life recently, so this is a catch-up post covering the past two weeks.

  • Two Tuesdays ago our school had its bi-monthly rolling blackout. The last time this happened, we were given notice at 9 o'clock the night before. We were all out of luck because we couldn't make copies or anything ahead of time, but at least we were mentally prepared for it. This time we were given absolutely no notice. We showed up for school and we had no electricity at all. I didn't realize how much I depend on electricity until it abruptly was taken away--my computer, the copier, the printer, the heater, the bell, the gas stove. It was a miserable day. Thankfully, I had worn my long underwear and my warm coat, but some of our students didn't have enough clothing. It was so bad that we took our students out into the courtyard and made them run around even though it was English class. We played tag and had them do jumping jacks, which was hard to do with so many layers. For science, I scrapped my original lesson plan and had them do the same thing, but I made it "scientific" by having them take their pulse and measure the difference between their resting and active heartbeats. Needless to say, we appreciated the heater and all things electric much more the following day.
  • I recently downloaded a program that allows me to watch American TV over the internet. Talk about happiness in a software package. I've been able to watch Conan and The Daily Show from the night before when I get home from school due to the time difference. It's the little things in life... :)
  • At lunch the other day we had fluff (whipped cream) sandwiches. Strange but true. I put banana on mine and it was yummy, even though the bread was so sweet it might have just been dipped in sugar (Chinese bread is really sweet). So good!
  • One of the biggest surprises recently was the smell of freshly cut grass. Since most Chinese live in high rise apartment complexes, there is little (green) vegetation to be found anywhere, just a lot of cement. Outside of our school there is a small strip of grass and the other day it was cut. Imagine the smell of cut grass in December--it was oddly relaxing and for a second I forgot I was in China.
  • It's been raining on and off here for the past month--I can't say that I'm a huge fan of rain, especially since rain brings humidity and I think I dislike humidity even more than I dislike rain. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that it's December/Advent/winter and there is no snow in sight. I think it I will forever associate Christmas and snow and to have one without the other is somewhat surreal for me. It's funny how things can loose their meaning so quickly. I haven't driven a car in 4 months and I really enjoy that. I probably won't touch snow for another year--how crazy/cool/weird/strange is that?!?
  • While I'm on the topic of Christmas, I'll ask for some Thoughts about our upcoming Christmas play. In one week, the chaos that is our school performance will be finished. In the mean time, there is some serious preparation that needs to happen in the next few days. The whole thing is a huge ordeal, with ballet, singing, piano, and traditional Chinese flute pieces. The capstone to it is our school-wide Christmas play. Since we had complete freedom in the creation of the piece, the play speaks the Truth to all. We have a Mary, a Joseph, some angels and even a few shepherds. Our students have done a great job memorizing some speaking parts and the texts of the first and third verses of Silent Night. We are excited for the opportunity to share with our school community and we hope that the Message is clearly communicated. Please also remember our group in this upcoming week. Tensions are running high as the expectations for this production are significant and we are all dealing with the pressure in different ways. Clear leadership of the various parts of the program has been lacking which caused problems for the dress rehearsal this afternoon.
  • One funny story from last week's play practice--Our entire school of 80 students can fit on the stage of our school to rehearse (the actual performance will be at the neighboring school), it's a bit crowded, but it works. One of the little first graders got sick on stage last week and threw up on the child in front of her. The whole class just moved out of the way and continued with the practice since there wasn't much else they could do. Our Dean of Students proceeded to the take the child's fleece jacket and dry it off by standing in front of the air conditioner/heater. Then the ayi, the janitor lady, came up and sweep up the vomit with a broom. Not a mop, but a broom. All of us foreign teachers were sitting in the back watching the drying of the jacket and the sweeping of the vomit--what could we do? Although it should have been a serious moment given the nature of the situation, we were just collapsing in laughter given the comic (perhaps absurd?) nature of it all.
  • The best part of this whole Christmas performance may be the costumes for my students. The middle school students are shepherds and they have glorified bathrobes for their costumes. Flexibility is one of the HUGE life lessons that I'm learning here in China :) Check out the evidence below: (the costumes are being modified between now and Monday, so they won't look so much like bathrobes by then we hope!)

Three of the middle school girls during their first costume fitting as Mary and the shepherds.

One of our 8th graders who will also be a shepherd.

A 7th grader and me being hams for the camera.

Karri trying to fit one of the shepherds costumes properly.

Our Joseph goofing off with his best friend.

  • An exciting piece of news: We have three new students. While we are happy to have our enrollment increase, new additions at the middle of the semester proved to be a bit hairy. These students are all from Korea and speak little English and even less Chinese, the two languages of instruction at our school. In order to accommodate their needs, an ESL class needed to be created. I had the most flexibility with my schedule and since most of the students are in the middle school, I essentially became the ESL teacher overnight. We did some shuffling of students and schedules, and for the most part it worked out ok. My work load has done a 180 and I am starting from the basics. They have had a little instruction in English, so I didn't have to start with the alphabet or anything, but phonics and basic shapes, numbers, and time have been our topics this week. I am having to use my education as a teacher in a new way now--I am enjoying the challenge, but it is zapping what little energy I have these days. I have three hours of ESL a day so it's been great to see a little bit of progress already. I can't imagine what it will be like in a few months.
  • A highlight this weekend was singing on our worship team at fellowship. Our situation is very unique and I have had the opportunity to meet a few local friends through these gatherings. On Wednesday I will be meeting with one new friend for the first time. I am very excited for this chance to get to know my new friend better.
  • Christmas in China is a very strange version of Christmas. Many young people are celebrating the holiday, but the idea of Christmas is very new to China. The Santa Claus version of Christmas has been imported here and everywhere we look there are signs wishing a Merry Christmas, but the Reason for the Season is oddly absent. Similar to the wedding pictures from a few posts ago, cheesy/tacky is a good description for the decorations.
Example A:

"Have yourself a Xmas Merry" ;)

Example B:

This is the entrance to the import store (remember the escaping fish from a few months ago? Same store.) Note the "Merry Christmas" banner hanging from the ceiling--it reminds me of the kind of thing found at a birthday party or something. I feel like it should say "Happy Birthday", not "Merry Christmas."

Here's one funny story and two good English pictures to finish the night:
  • So a common topic of my blog is the variety of non-traditional English found here. One of my students got a new fake leather down jacket this weekend. What does it say on both the front and the back? "Kick some a**" He had no idea that it is a bad word in English, but we also don't allow profanity at school. Poor kid, I don't know what we're going to do.

"Bathe milk" and "wash hair milk", more commonly know as lotion and soap.

This was the package from my "Basket for airing clothing" which is "special in keeping the shape when cloths be dried" (that part isn't in this picture). I quote verbatim "It used for drying wool fabric, cushion and other small clothes, keep them in original shape/the design were basic on mechanics theory which stand firm, It's make by polystey fibre net cloth,/for letting in air , so clothes are more easy to be dried, It also can be use in and out door./the materials can be last long . It only take a small place to store after fold it up."

What can I say to that?


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