Tuesday, September 27

"chinese barbecue"

Last night, I took the girls that I lived with over the summer out to eat. At my request, we went to eat yang rou char, or lamb meat roasted on a stick over the fire at your table. It's one of the favorite things to eat among foreigners here in Yanji. You order from the various kinds of things to roast over your fire. Usually, we order about 10 small skewers of lamb per person and then some other stuff, like cow cartilage, hot dog type meat on a stick, the meat from the ear of a lamb, which has soft bones in it that you eat as well, and other stuff. One of the best things to get is thick slices of a bread like substance that you toast over the fire. They give you honey to dip it in, too. Mmm. Last night we also ordered some raw cucumbers to dip in hot pepper paste, some pickled sesame plant leaves to wrap around the meat after it's roasted, a hot noodle dish, and some fried rice, then we all share it. After you leave, you smell like char until you wash your clothes, but it's worth it. It was good to catch up with my roommates and hear a little about their summer vacation and their semester so far since I don't get to see them much anymore.

Since my beginner classes are having a hard time with how fast we're moving because they just learned how to read English two weeks ago, I told them I would be available last night in the cafeteria for anyone who wanted help. I had three students show up, and I just helped them with pronunciation and a few little grammar points. Of course, the ones who really needed it didn't show up, but maybe if I make it a regular thing, they will. One of the guys even went to the store and bought us four sodas to drink while we studied. My students are so cute.

Today, my co-teacher and I are doing interviews of all our beginner students. So far today, we have interviewed 16. It's too many for one day, but it does help put faces and information with their names since I don't have all their names down yet. My co-teacher is Korean American, so she does most of the interviewing in Korean and I just ask a few questions that they can understand and answer in English. Only three more interviews to go!

the forbidden city

After Angela's question about the Forbidden City, I decided to post a few more pics. I didn't actually take any really good ones, but here are a few of the outside, the inside, and the gardens.
It's called the Forbidden City because it used to be forbidden to everyone except for royalty.
It's just behind Tiananmen Square, right in the middle of Beijing. I had a great hostel to stay in just a ten minute walk from Tiananmen Square.

Sunday, September 25

grading is entertaining

In the intermediate class, we assign one creative writing assignment per week. Last week's was to write about what your childhood dream was. Here are a few that made me laugh.

This guy's dream was to become a famous soccer player. He wrote: "Soccer gave me so much laugh and happiness, but unluckily I wasn't strong enough so that I had to throw up my dream."

One girl titled her essay "My Gream" instead of "My Dream."

And, this one just made me smile: "At seeing the title, I was brought back my childhood. Also caused me to miss my dear grandmother. I can't describe how much she loves me. The love she gives me is so lofty that the sun will seem faint if you can put them together, also sea will seem paltry, the mountain appears tiny." (He goes on to say that whatever he does, he wants to give back to his grandmother for all the love she's given him.)

I've had a lot more funny ones, but I haven't written down what they were before I gave them back. We all agree in the conversational English department that grading these papers is more rewarding than it is a chore!

Tuesday, September 20

a picture from beijing

I was going to post something, but I decided to post a picture instead. This is a shot of people resting inside the Forbidden Palace. It's not raining at all...the umbrellas are a shade from the sun (which wasn't all that strong that day, but it's an Asian custom to shield themselves from the sun).

test time

This week, it's time to give our first unit tests of the semester. I made the intermediate test first. Since they've used the books before, there are old teachers' tests on the computer, so we can look through, cut and paste, and make one that suits us. It took relatively little time, even though I did make up some of my own questions and tailor it to my students. My intermediate class is so fun. I can talk to them at an almost normal speed, and I often find myself acting things out (like what it looks like to make a big deal out of something), or explaining words like disgusting. They are really good natured and they laugh a lot, so I have a really good time with them.

I have a good time with my beginners too, but I leave class a lot more drained. Today, for example, I was trying to teach them prepositions in a way that would involve them talking(it's supposed to be a conversation class). The idea was they would draw a bug on their paper, either in, on, under, or beside the box. Their partner was supposed to ask questions about where the bug was until they got it right. This might sound like an easy assignment, but even with me doing an example on the board and modelling it, most were clueless, just because their English isn't at a level to understand even the most simple directions yet. I was teaching prepositions, but I had to translate the words for draw, bug, ask your partner... everything. So, the test for the beginner class consists of pictures, choosing words to make a correct simple sentence, and choosing the right preposition in describing a picture. I know these guys are gonna make progress fast, though!

Thursday, September 15

small joys

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don't have any afternoon classes. It's wonderful. If I have any work to do, I take it home and do it there. Yesterday, I had my lesson plans for today finished, and just had a few papers to correct. I went home and finished those, then I cleaned my room a little and made some chocolate chip (cut up from a cheap chocolate bar) banana bread. I finally got my oven figured out and it turned out really well. I have Korean class in the evenings, starting at 6:00, so I threw together a quick dinner and it turned out to be one of the yummiest things I've eaten in a while. I had some chicken nuggets (from the local supermarket "deli") dipped in ranch dressing (ranch mix from home, mayo and yogurt), some corn on the cob (given to me by a friend), tomato and onion salad/salsa I made the night before, and thin sliced sweet potatoes tossed with a little oil and salt, then baked until crispy. Honestly, for a second, I thought I could be eating at Chili's in Texas. It was tasty.

I went to Korean class, for a walk around the track afterwards, then to bed early (since I'm getting up at 5:30 these days, I let myself go to bed as early as possible). Life is good.

Monday, September 12

bike taxis

These are the bike taxis that they use in some cities in China. We don't have them in Yanji, but I first saw them in Tumen this summer. They only cost one yuan (13 cents) per person. I thought they were so cute; they gave the city character. They also have them in Beijing, offering rides through the famous old alleyways of the city, but they're much more expensive there (at least at the rates they quoted for this tourist). I tried to take one to meet my friends just across Tiananmen square one night, and they wanted 20 yuan!

full swing

I started teaching my beginner classes this week and I started taking Korean classes last night, too, so I'm getting busier. The beginner students are freshmen who are required to take English, but have only taken Japanese in high school, so they start from the beginning here at college. They take 8 hours of conversation a week and then some grammar classes, too, so their first year of college is full of a flood of English. It's strange to be teaching college students the basics, since in Korea I taught these same things to 5 and 6 year olds, but I think our freshmen will learn quickly. Most of them are very eager.

My Korean class is at night, and is full of university students, mostly from the other university in Yanji. I was the first student in the classroom, and that really confused the other students who came in after me. They saw me there and they thought they had the wrong classroom, because they assumed the white girl would be the teacher and she obviously wouldn't speak Korean. But, they checked the room number and started filtering in. When they heard my first response in Korean to the teacher, they sorta laughed and murmured some things softly. The class was much easier than my classes in Seoul, so I'm thinking about moving up a level, but I might just stay because the next level is the highest one. The good thing was that even though I knew all the words, it was good to practice and think in Korean again. Maybe being at a lower level will increase my conversational ability.

Monday, September 5

going through pictures

I'm trying to organize some of my pictures, and I found this one that I took at a market here in Yanji earlier this summer. English translations of things are often funny, and both Chinese and Koreans are known for not always being what is known as tactful in Western culture. It's not uncommon for someone you really don't even know that well to tell you that you're fat, or you've put on weight. Of course, the often is also true. They will often tell you that you are beautiful, or wow, you must have lost weight this summer! They just say what's on their mind, especially regarding appearance. I'm sure, in some ways, we are just as shocking to them about some things that we don't do the same way their culture does. Anyhow, this name on the side of the store made us all laugh. I mean, who actually wants to shop in a store with this name?

Sunday, September 4

the first day of school!

Finally, the first day of school is here! The weekend was full of students returning and making the campus buzz with energy again. It feels good to be starting off a new semester! It's also kinda good that our freshmen don't start until next week, because they have some classes required by the government at the beginning of the semester. So, I only have one class today. It's a good way to ease in to the year.

I also don't start my Korean classes until next week, so this will be a relatively easy week. I'm gonna keep my office hours to get into a schedule and get some stuff done in preparation for the busy year ahead. People keep scaring me that the Korean class Monday through Thursday nights is gonna eat my lunch, but I am determined to get my Korean up to a fluent level!

One of the perks of working in the English conversation office is that we have fresh brewed coffee every morning! I know that might not sound like much to most of you reading this, but it IS! In China (even more so than in Korea) it's really hard to get fresh brewed coffee. I've become used to the mix kind, that comes in packets with cream and sugar already added. It's actually not that bad once you get used to it, but fresh brewed coffee is SO good! Our teachers who go home for the summer bring back big bags full for our office, so we have a good supply. Some teachers who left last year even sent some coffee beans for our office this year!

I've had a really good time getting to know the teachers in our office, and the new set of young German teachers (we have a German major at our university, too). I am really looking forward to getting to know the students and settle into this year!

Friday, September 2

money, money, money

I thought I had the money thing figured out until I went to Beijing and found a coin that I didn't recognze. It took me at least a month here to get to the point where I got a handle on the money, though. The first night here, I didn't even know what to call the money, because I thought it was yen, but people here called it renminbi or kwai. So, I finally just asked what the difference was and found out it was all the same. I was further confused when coins of different sizes and appearances, as well as different colored bills, all had the same value. There are at least two different coins and two different bills that all equal one kwai. Once I got that figured out, I learned about the smaller denominations. There are one mao bills, two mao bills, and five mao bills, but they can also be called jiao instead of mao and there are also coins that have the same values as those bills. But, it only takes 10 mao to equal one kwai instead of a hundred, like we're used to in dollars. There's a coin they use (in bigger cities, maybe?) that's called a fun, and it's smaller than a mao. I tried to pay with it in Beijing for something that was 2 kwai, but it didn't work. I knew the characters didn't match, but I didn't know what else it could be. So, I asked about this too and found out that it was really small and I couldn't even use it in Yanji. Crazy.

So, I'm getting this money thing down. Now, when I go to the market, I can ask how much things are, tell them how many I want, and understand when they tell me how much it is. Usually, the merchants don't speak Korean, so I've learned how to do this in Chinese. Yesterday, I was getting beyond my very elemental Chinese limits and I started mixing Korean and Chinese. I was even confusing myself. No wonder the lady couldn't figure out what I wanted. Oh, well, a little progress is still a good thing.