Show Me A Good Time

Shanghai, what more can I say?

 

Well, in truth, probably a lot. Shanghai was a blast!

 

I left Shijiazhuang on Tuesday if last week, and this Tuesday was a particularly hay and gloomy day in Shijiazhuang so I was more than excited to leave. As I arrived at the airport that isn’t much bigger than the size of the Des Moines airport, I became slightly nervous. Why in the world was I flying on a plane, in China? The flying part doesn’t bother me very much at all; honestly, I truly enjoy flying it is an experience that has always been fun for me. The China part is what truly terrified me, but to my pleasant surprise the airplane put me at ease as it seated me comfortably and everything was smooth sailing. Well, everything aside from the middle seat and the overly nosey passenger sitting next to me, though those are things that you can even expect in the United States, so no worries.

 

On the first day that I arrived in Shanghai, there was only one goal. Find the Subway that will get us to our hostel. After riding the subway for roughly an hour (for those of you wondering, we did not get lost, the subway just takes that long) we found our destination. The best thing about our location is THERE WAS A McDONALD’S DOWN THE STREET. I understand that is a weird thing to say, but Cheeseburgers have been my biggest craving by far. We checked into our hostel first, but there was no way I was not getting some McDonald’s and fast. Our room was a triple, and what they don’t tell you about triples is that they are incredibly small. But, I am flexible so it is something that I was willing to deal with. I trudged on and went to get my cheeseburger. Then we met up with some fellow Drake Alums that were already in Shanghai and they told me about a place nearby where we could get a couple of drinks and some food. When we got there I instantly saw Cheeseburgers and I was entranced. So incredibly delicious was about the only way that I could describe the experience. That night we all basically chilled and went our separate ways; it was only the taxi ride home that upset me. Our taxi ended up being some ridiculous amount and we were probably given the run around.

 

The next day we all met up once again. This time the plan was Mexican. I personally am not a big eater of Mexican food, but I decided that I would join in, and I am incredibly glad that I did because the Mexican food was incredible to have here. You really don’t know how much you miss something until you have it again. Afterwards we went to the bund, which proved to be a pretty awesome experience. We took a ferry to the other side and got to soak everything in. At this point I had grouped up with some buddies who live in Chongqing, just chatting about both of our cities. We decided that we were going down to the French concession that night to get some more American food. I think at this point it is quite clear what I was interested in for the entire trip. That night a buddy and I checked out a bar and a club that was way too intense and headed back much later than we thought we would be.

 

The next day I got up and the others told us they had gone to a pretty awesome market where you could bargain for a bunch of stuff. One had bought some beats and instantly I was hooked. Before I left I had to check out this market, and I had to get some beats headphones. But today was a night of a pub crawl that we had agreed we were participating in. I reluctantly held my commitment (it was for a friend after all) and we headed down to meet everyone. The pub-crawl was to four bars and the atmosphere was different at all of them, but in truth I had an awesome time and really enjoyed seeing Shanghai.

 

The next day I awoke and promptly decided that I was going to the market. A fellow person from my school said that she was willing to go, and off we went. I loved being at the market, the people there would bargain so much with you and I was genuinely excited to buy things there. In that first trip I bought two pairs of beats headphones, Two Rosetta Stones (Spanish and Chinese), a soccer jersey, a t-shirt, some Ray-ban shades, and a Prada wallet. In total it was about a tenth of what they would cost in the United States. Truly unbelievable. That night we met up again with the people from Chongqing (this would be a running theme) and decided to grab some pizza and then head to a bar. I decided on Orange Juice for the night, but the atmosphere of the bar was pretty great. It was nice being somewhere in China where everyone spoke English. We lost track of time (me mostly from learning about rugby) and didn’t get home until around 1:30am.

 

The next day our final full day, I started to come down with a cold. However, I knew that I had to get some more McDonald’s before we left. Afterwards, the Chongqing residents gave me a call. I decided to meet up with them, and check out the market one last time. While there, I picked up another t-shirt, and another soccer jersey. Then I had to cut myself off. This trip was getting to be really expensive. That night we decided to grab dinner one last time as a group, and true to form I got a bacon cheeseburger and just enjoyed the flavors that I would be getting for the final time in a while.

 

This next morning we had an early flight back, that I think no one wanted to take part in, but we made it happen and headed back to Shijiazhuang.

 

One other thing I noticed. I am not sure if the Chinese airline workers were fearful of saying something to me, or if they simply did not care, but I was allowed to bring a carry on bag that was either two or three times the limit that it showed on all the signs. At no point did any of them say anything to me. Oh well, I will take it.

 

At any rate, thank you Shanghai for the experience. And until next time

 

Take care…

Uptown

Side jobs can be the most interesting experiences.

I went and worked at this company. The company was about one hour outside of the city, a very expensive taxi ride that I did not have to pay for. Once I got there, I realized that I was going to be teaching some adults English. It was a rather interesting experience. They were studying English from a children’s book, and this book talked about blind dating and a situation where a man and woman went on a date. Though it was good way for me to realize the major problem areas for Chinese people learning to speak English. The “th” sound at the beginning of words is one of the most difficult, and the letter “v”. However, we were able to get through it, and they bought me McDonalds after the session. The ride home was an experience all on it’s own. The general of the company, as they liked to call him” gave me a ride home in his Mercedes Benz SUV. I am quite convinced that there is some level of corruption involved with the company. But, everyone was really nice and there are no complaints from me.

I also, got the chance to see the TV show that I participated in, one of my friends here from Drake attempted to record the video, that should be posted relatively soon. I can only describe it as hilarity!

Currently, we are on break from classes. In China it is National Day, think the 4th of July for America. Everyone has his or her flags up in celebration of the day that Communism came to China in 1949.

Another word on side jobs, I went to another one recently. At this one, they wanted me to just engage in conversation with the students. They were all ages 16-18 and are trying to get into the University of Toronto. My topic was intended to be talking about parties, but I found that incredibly boring so I decided that I did not want to do that. Instead I asked them about their school now. They go to school from 7:30am until 9:30pm with roughly a 3 hour break thrown in there. They also go to school everyday of the week. It was rather fascinating to hear them talk about their school, because they recognize that it is tough and time consuming, but they are very flippant about it, simply thinking that is what students do. I tried to reiterate to them that in western culture they would have plenty of free time and would have to find things to do. I was also told about some of the rather interesting events that take place at their school. All in all, I was shocked with how open they were willing to be around me, but it was a very good experience for the both of us I believe.

I have played tons of basketball games since I have been here. And without questions there are trends. The first trend is the amount of traveling and double dribbling that occurs here is through the roof. Kids have watched basketball players, and tried to emulate their moves, even though they are unable to, therefore they blatantly carry while dribbling. The second trend is the selfishness of their play, If I pass the ball to someone who is even remotely close to the basket, there is no doubt that they will be taking the shot. I have practically stopped shooting and just pass the ball and play defense. And finally, the old men here play dirty. I had one old man that jabbed his forearm into my back the whole way down the court. Lots of pushing goes on, and they will charge directly at you in order to score a basket. Really some of the things have to be seen to truly believe. Still, I do enjoy the availability of basketball games here! Until next time

Take care…

Still Got It

I had two classes today, nothing problematic in that, but little did I know that I was in for one heck of a day.

 

My first class was American History. For the second straight day the monitor of one of my classes was not present. Slightly strange I thought, but no matter, there are about 40 other students that I CAN teach today. I walked into class with maybe five minutes to spare (the bus had been running late) and I attempted to quickly gather my things and start class. But, of course the media center would not open and I could not start my PowerPoint. Fortunately, one of the students quickly recognized my problem and sought to help me, I was relieved, and only to find out that he would have to travel across the school to solve the problem. But, fortunately we solved the problem and I got into my lecture, this topic was the American Revolution. From my experience with history, wars are always a favorite. Initially, the class was very engaged in the topic and seemed to want to know more. About a half-hour in, I felt the mood dying down. Typically that would not have been a problem, but we were just starting to get into the thick of things and the war was just getting interesting. Forty-five minutes in, I took a break and allowed the class to regain some energy. It was great news to hear from one student that he was still interested; he just couldn’t understand me when I said the names of important individuals (something I have to agree with, I can be an English nerd). I took some time and gathered my thoughts and promised to take it slowly, which successfully I did. I must say that it was one of my best classes. I enjoyed the material, and they enjoyed hearing it.

 

Next, I tackled my freshman course. I must say that they are very easy to please. I started the class by asking them about their favorite landmark. Typically this classes listening skills are incredible, however they really struggled to understand what I was asking of them. Most students thought that I was simply asking them to describe their hometown. A few people hit the question out of the park; I had to designate them as examples of answers that would be best. Of course, there are some kids who like to joke about the whole situation, but I tend to ignore them and their jokes are less funny as a result. For their class we focused on a discussion of American Money, and as expected they simply loved it. I showed them some money and compared it with Chinese money. Definitely something that I used from another class, but it ended up working very well and they liked it a lot.

 

My next adventure of the day would be by far the most interesting and also one of the longest. Gary, a student who I named and who works in the building I live in, had found a job that he needed foreigners for. I agreed, since he said that we would be paid some, and that it would be a rather short experience. Or, I should say that is what I thought Gary said. The problem is that Gary is a very excitable person. He tends to speak very slowly when speaking English, and the words that he speaks are some times made up. Oh well, we typically work through it anyway. Today was an exception. I met Gary after my class, and he changed his mind on the route that we were going to take at least four times. I have found that remaining firm with Gary is the best way to ensure that things actually get done. After Gary successfully decided to stick with the original plan, we were on our way. I arrived at the English station with a fellow former Drake student, Tyler O’Neil. Tyler speaks some Chinese, so instantly I thought the situation would improve substantially. The only problem is that I think that Tyler’s Chinese is actually better than Gary’s (go figure) so our problems would only continue. It was after getting on the TV set that we found out we weren’t being interviewed, but rather that we were going to be on a show dedicated to what I can only assume is a famous Chinese musician. Practically no one spoke English, but everyone (except for the angry producer) was friendly and cordial to us. We were given our lines, my line being much shorter than Tyler’s, and told to memorize them very soon. We thought we had a hold on that situation, and then they asked us to do sing-a-long songs IN CHINESE. My Chinese is still very poor, so there was absolutely no way that I would be able to accomplish this task. They got slightly frustrated that we were humming the songs, which is exactly what we were originally told to do, and told us we needed to sing the words; singing the words was not possible at all. My role for the show was that I would give the star, flowers after her performance. I had been given a line for this, but upon getting up to the stage there was no chance for me to deliver the line to the star. I was left to answer her question of where am I from, “Mei Guo” (America) and reduced to saying, “Okay” to whatever the host had asked me. Tyler had to be more of a spectacle for them and lip-synch songs that the main artist had performed. What an experience though! There seems to be very little coordination, and I still have very little idea as to what exactly that show is supposed to be. My only real complaint is that in total, Tyler and I were there for roughly seven hours. And at no point did the end ever seem insight. But, all in all it was fun, that is an experience that will never be replicated for sure!

 

Until the next time

 

Take care…

Say Something

What can I say? I have definitely been slacking on my posts.

All of my classes have now started. The Obama comments keep flowing (even though I am currently sporting a very scruffy beard), but I can’t complain. I spend a considerable amount of time preparing for classes that I should not be teaching (hello American Law, and American Tradition) but no complaints. In truth, the classes have taught me something about subjects I didn’t even know.

The freshman classes are the most humorous for me. Their English is probably the best in the entire school and they are not shy at all. I am routinely surprised at their capabilities, they know what to say, just stumble on their words. And the fact that they are extremely conciliatory drove me crazy. Doing an adequate judgment, my Chinese is far inferior to their English, but this point seems to miss base with them.

But back to my freshman courses, it is quite common for them to take their phones out during a break and take pictures of me. I am not really a shy person, but the act of having 50 people take pictures of you all at once can be a little too much.

One thing that I have focused on more than anything else is my activity level. Recently I have tried to devote some time each day to getting outside and doing something. This has led me to play tons of basketball games, play Ping-Pong, badminton, and volleyball (though I think because of a bum shoulder that is over). Through it all I have had fun, and the students have been more than welcoming.

I also started to attend this thing called English Corner. Basically it is students who get together to talk English. I have found that the students are extremely shy with me, to the point of simply staring and giggling. At the most recent English corner I was chatting with a few girls who were very interested in dating in America. I approached the topic very delicately attempting to not make one culture look inferior or superior. But, it quickly became apparent to me that they were less interested in the general statements of American Dating, and were far more interested in me personally. The questions then started to flow. Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have a Chinese girlfriend? Do you want a Chinese girlfriend? What do you find attractive? I dodged the questions masterfully, some things are private, and continued a friendly conversation.

I have also had the privilege of meeting some other foreigners since I have been here. There are two from America, a group from Switzerland, Russians, Hungarians, a guy from Barcelona, Koreans. China seems to have a lot of nations represented underneath it all. And considering that I am in a city that has few tourist sites, and is not universally beloved by the Chinese, I have been surprised by this representation.

Slowly I am learning the language, more than anything I get patronized and told that my pronunciation is excellent. I just take that as a symbol of Chinese kindness. I am adapting and that seems to be what really matters, right?

I will try to keep updating, but I must admit, it gets tough to remember. Anyway, until next time

Take care…

Teach U A Lesson

I had my first mishap in class on Wednesday. I had prepared this well thought out PowerPoint for my class in American Tradition. To be honest, I needed a PowerPoint to get me through the class. I realized that I am extremely ill prepared to teach a class in American Tradition. But, I told them very early on that whatever class they would assign me, I would teach it to the best of my abilities, and sure enough that is what I set out to do. I am probably overstating the greatness of my PowerPoint, largely because I viewed it as my crutch, a crutch if followed that would lead me to successfully get through a class period. A class period about a subject that I really don’t know a thing about, or at least regularly thinks about. Do you know what American tradition means? Do you ever think about American tradition?

 

My friend Guo Hui (Angela) who has been assisting me notified me that she wanted to sit in on my class. I said sure! She noted that she had wanted to learn about American Tradition in case she ever went to America. I get into class, plug my flash-drive in, and of course the PowerPoint can’t be opened. Immediately I know my fate, I am going to have to tackle this class without my PowerPoint. I am going to have to wing it for the entire class. Angela continues to attempt to get the PowerPoint to work while I grab my chalk, and prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.

 

I start to go, and immediately I am in the zone. I am talking about the Flag, Flag Etiquette, and the Declaration of Independence. Stuff I am sure that they would have thought completely boring, if they could only understand me. I am randomly asking questions, trying to make sure that their engagement remains. Which is undoubtedly tough because this class has around 50 students in it. More than double the amount I had in my first class. The students seem to be enjoying what I have to say, and I am able to coerce a few laughs out of them.

 

I trudge through anyway, and they offer up their take on American Holidays and what they believe those Holidays mean. Surprisingly, they are very close to the actual thing. I would have never expected it, but they pretty much knew their stuff. One interesting thing I was told was about Labor Day. Our holiday occurring on the first Monday in September, relates to their holiday which is on May 1st. One girl came up to me and said that the day for them is known as International Workers Day. Then she asked, “Why don’t Americans celebrate that day?” Of course there is no true answer. Then she asked, “Why do American’s celebrate their Labor Day in September?” Again I had no answer. I tried to explain that some American Holidays have dates that are selected rather arbitrarily; she seemed to be content with this explanation of events.

 

At the end of class we resumed one of my favorite exercises. Where I ask the students what they would like to learn from this class this semester. The answers were pretty standard from what I have heard so far. American culture, Holidays, Famous Americans, How does the average American live?  Then I got some questions that will be interesting to explore deeper. What is college life like for Americans? What are the economy and politics like? How do Americans view the Chinese? Afterwards I told them that they were free to leave the class as the time had come when class ends. Again, they were reluctant to leave, I believe that there cschedule tells them that class goes on for 40 minutes longer than my schedule tells me. Regardless, I sent them on their way to enjoy a free 40 minutes. Finally I had to wave in order to get them to realize what was truly happening between us, I was telling them that for the day, I was done.

 

Inevitably at the end of class, I got to meet the class monitor. She was a girl who was extremely apologetic about her inability to speak English very well. I reassured her that as English is not her first language; she has no reason to be ashamed about an inability to speak English very well. Then I told her that her English is infinitely better than my Chinese and there is no reason to worry. I also had some girls that were very interested in getting my number. They appeared to be hitting on me and then told me, “We really like your smile. You look like Obama!” I am sure that will not be the last time that I hear something like that, it seems easy for them to compare me to Obama. I just take it in stride and nod and laugh.

 

I had another productive day of teaching. It is very clear to me that teaching will be my favorite thing to do here, which is good, because that is the reason that I am here anyway. My classes make me look forward to the rest of the semester, because they are so interested in what I have to say!

 

I will try to post after my law class tomorrow but excuse me if my posts are late my Internet is awful!

 

Take Care…

Unforgettable

How do I even begin to describe it?

 

My first day teaching was a revelation. I never really saw myself as someone to impart knowledge upon others, but my class today easily changed my opinion of my teaching abilities.

 

I waited for the shuttle to take me from the campus that I live on to the campus that my classes are held on. The drive is about 10 minutes, enough time to let my thoughts develop and further plan out how my class would go. To be clear, I was more than ready. I had my 20 slides PowerPoint and enough knowledge in reserve to tackle the subject of American Politics.

 

I got off the shuttle only to be greeted by a member of my class. She was very nice, and like most other Chinese was very down on her ability to speak English (though if you ask me her English was great, go figure). She was also 24, and right then I realized that I would be teaching individuals who are older than me, time to step the maturity up. We went to class and the first thought I had was of intense heat! Now call it the lack of air conditioning or pressure, whatever I just embraced it.

 

Class started and I was able to get the students interested in talking. To me, instantly that was a success. I went over the basics about the class, and all that we would discuss in the semester, naturally there was a bit of lecturing involved and the students began to become more reserved. I instantly thought that I may be losing them and needed to draw them back in. So I made each student tell me what he or she wanted to learn this semester.

 

Popular answers: American Foreign policy, specifically what Americans think of China; American culture, what is cool in America; How to improve their English skills, both listening and speaking.

 

The class was back, and that was a positive turn of events. Going around and asking them to share what they had to say, I knew that they were invested. One girl told me that she thought I looked at Obama (not the first time I have heard that) and then quickly told me how much she liked Obama.

 

At the end of class one student took the opportunity to ask me some very tough questions. What do Americans think of Communism? Does the government control the media in the US? Is their corruption within the US government? What does the average American think of China? The questions were rather heady and in reality I told him that there is no concrete answer to what he is asking. I answered the questions as best as I can and he seemed satisfied with my answers.

 

I also got a bit of medical news. I went to sign my contract (for the second time) and my waiban told me about the results of my medical exam. Turns out I have hemangioma of my liver. I wont bore you with all the details, but here is a link to read about it: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/liver-hemangioma/DS01125 Might actually explain some things about me.

 

I was also given another class to teach. American History, I can handle that no problem.

 

Check back soon.

 

Take Care…

Easy to Please

Realizing that this is going to be a full year, in china, has been one of the most difficult adjustments. My bags are still packed as if I am expecting this journey to end tomorrow. Don’t let that fool you into believing that I am not having a good time here, this is far from the case. I am enjoying my time in China, mostly because I am given a lot of free time. A lot of time left alone with my thoughts, and it is amazing how wild and crazy your thoughts can be when you truly leave yourself alone with them. For most people who truly know me, it is not very far fetched to believe that I am a bit of a loner; for those at Drake this may come as a bit more of a surprise. I have frequently spent entire days in my room (notice I did not say trapped) simply because being alone in my room is enough for me and I do not yet feel the need to go out exploring the city. That will come, no need to rush or force it.

 

I had my first bout with sickness. A bit of congestion and some stomach pains were enough to sideline me for a couple of days. The most important caveat to come out of that experience was that I was able to deal with them. I simply picked myself up and kept going. I am much better now, and certainly much better for having gotten that one experience out of the way early on.

 

The ladies who manage the floor that I live on are sort of like maids. It took me about three days and meeting my designated helper Guo Hui (or Angela as she somewhat reluctantly told me to call her) to figure out this detail. Every morning they come and empty the trash and at least attempt to mop. Sometimes I object, sometimes they don’t bother asking. You could say that we have a great relationship in that sense.

 

I believe that I am supposed to start teaching classes next week, but at this point anyone’s guess is as good as mine. In fact I am not even sure exactly what the title of the class I will be teaching is. I believe it to be American Politics, but ambiguity reigns supreme in these areas. Oh well. Should not be a problem for me to handle. I am somewhat prepared for whatever is presented to me. I know that I will also be teaching Oral English for freshman, however they don’t start classes until the second week in September so I have time to wait for that.

 

All in all, the situation is manageable and I am very amenable to whatever is presented to me. At the end of the day, it’s China, isn’t that how I have to be anyway?

 

Take Care…