The first week of classes have come and gone. I still find myself in vacation mode, hoping to just make it through the days in order to relish in my three day weekends. And as displeasing as waking up at 6am is, my students really do make it all worthwhile.
This first week did not disappoint. I decided we would discuss the recent holiday, Spring Festival. I created a list of discussion questions and gave them a scenario. They needed to explain Spring Festival to a foreigner who has just arrived in China, and he/she has little to no knowledge of the holiday. I gave them a list of common words associated with the holiday and then left them to work in groups. Of course, I still have to walk around and monitor that they are indeed speaking in English and not Chinese. In addition, they needed excessive help with translating words from Chinese to English…”What do you call those things that go boom?”
Some of my students had intriguing things to say while others opted for the easy way out. Some chose to tell me about how boring their holiday was; “I slept, watched TV, ate dumplings…” hence, these kinds of answers put me to sleep! But other explained significant traditions and customs, as well as stories about playing cards and mahjong for money and winning or losing a significant amount. An interesting tradition I was informed of was during the first day of the lunar new year, the floor of the home is not swept for fear of sweeping away any good luck the family has gained in the first day of the new year. Some students told me stories about attending weddings; either sisters, brothers, or cousins getting married in hopes of having a healthy and lucky new year as well as marriage. I was told by some about depressing holidays because of relatives stricken by illness, or grandparents passing away. I still never know what to say when my students tell me something wholeheartedly upsetting. I usually respond by saying I’m sorry to hear that, but I still don’t know if this is a proper response in Chinese culture.
Overall, classes went well. In addition to discussion, I played a game towards the end of each class. We formed a circle, I threw a ball (in this case I didn’t have one so instead a piece of candy/chocolate), each time whomever was in possession of said ball must think of a word that begins with a letter of the alphabet. The first student starts with A, throws to someone else, and they think of a word that begins with B, so on and so forth until Z. The idea of the game is speed, but I didn’t let my students get away with words such as “cat, dog, eat,” instead required them to think of words a little more challenging. The students really starting getting into it, helping out their classmates by shouting out words. I decided if each students’ word was acceptable and then allowed them to throw to someone else. For the most part, the majority of my classes had a good time.
The best part of my week was when, in some of my classes I received quite a welcome. Either my students made “oohing and ahhing” noises as I entered the classroom, or they were very loud and enthusiastic in their responses to “good morning.” Some even told me how much they missed me, “long time no see…we missed you.” It’s really nice to feel appreciated like that. I did miss them too. I often eat lunch with several different groups of students, answering their incessant questions, and getting to ask a few of my own. So as much as I loved my vacation, it’s certainly nice to be back to a more consistent schedule.
In addition to my XISU classes, I have taken on some new private students. Tomorrow, I’ll be tutoring an 11 year old boy. Next week, I have a class with two sisters who seem to need a lot of work. I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone, utilizing an interesting combination of English & Chinese trying to effectively communicate with one of the sisters. I am unsure of the ages, but in Chinese fashion I am going to go with the flow and see what happens.
Teaching was interspersed with some movie and TV watching. I finally got around to watching Blue Valentine, a thoroughly depressing film about the ebb and flow of life, how we sometimes settle in love and marriage, in addition to the indecisiveness we sometimes find ourselves in. I don’t want to give too much away as I think it is certainly worth watching and drawing your own conclusions. As soon as they finish downloading, I’ll be watching The King’s Speech, True Grit, and 127 Hours. If my film theory classes taught me anything it’s to watch films that require a critical eye…thanks, Professor Turner!