Sunday, October 30

language learning...

I've had a few people ask me recently about how my language study is going. I keep forgetting that I've been meaning to write a little about this process for a long time.

The first few months I was here, I didn't feel like I was getting any language practice. I got frustrated that the language I had learned was slipping away, so I decided that self-study wasn't getting me anywhere. I enrolled in a night class when the fall semester started through the community education office that is sort of a part of our school. The class I started going to was too easy, so I moved up a level. That level turned out to be quite frustrating for a few reasons. At first, the main reason was that the teacher was pretty boring. The second reason was that he started to use more Chinese words. On my second day of class, he went around the room and had us translate a Korean vocabulary word into Chinese (as if that's a good language learning technique, or a good way to spend class time). When he got to me, I translated it into English and he said, "No! Chinese!" He doesn't speak English, so he feels threatened when any English is spoken, but what was my alternative? It wasn't one of the approximately 17 Chinese words that I know. He continued to write Chinese characters on the board as explanations for words (he doesn't even really speak Chinese, he only knows some words and characters), but he wasn't even doing it for words that the Chinese students really even needed. One day, I went in and he had written three sentences on the board in Chinese and he wanted us to translate them into Korean. I almost got up and left, but I decided not to be rude. I did ask, in probably a not-as-polite-as-I-could-have-been manner if we were going to study Korean that night. The next day, I went to the office to drop the class, but they were only going to give me 60% of my tuition back. (I only paid 330 yuan to begin with, which is only about 40 bucks for a whole semester.) Also, the guy in the office told me that he would talk to the teacher and it would get better. The class did get better, and the other non-Chinese that is taking the class with me thanked me for talking to the office. So, I'm still in this class. The teacher hasn't gotten any more interesting, but it is a steady way to keep getting language practice. The problem now is that I have other commitments twice a week now, so I only go two nights out of the four. The class is at a slow enough pace where this doesn't make it any tougher on me, but I think the teacher sorta dislikes me now. Oh well.

I started asking around for tutors once I thought that I would quit the class,so now I also have two Korean language tutors. I intended to use them as a replacement for my class, but since I didn't quit class, I have both class and tutoring. One is an exchange student from South Korea and one is a Chinese-Korean from here in Yanji. They both have their different accents and ways of saying things, so I think I'm getting good practice. All we do is talk in Korean for an hour. (Actually, I do more listening since I'm not naturally much of a talker and it's obviously much harder in a foreign language, but it's still good.) I also ask them questions about the workbook homework that I do for my class. So, finally, I feel like I am making progress again in this language thing.

I am also attempting to learn some Chinese, but I want to do it right and learn the characters and not just how to say things, so it's slow going. I bought the Beijing University conversation book and it's pretty hard and progresses pretty quickly, so it might be about 10 years before I can finish the first book, but that's okay. I have a friend who comes over once a week to teach me some Chinese, but we mostly just talk about life, and that's okay, too. That's the real reason why I'm here.

Thursday, October 27

dictation answers

So, on the listening section, the beginner students have to listen to two sentences and write what they hear. The dictation sentences are:
1. She works near here.
2. Are they in your purse?

Here are some answers I got:
She wercks nuirer.
She works New York.
She works nere hire.
She walks Univer.

Are day nuer peas.
a ten you pass.
Are the in your porst.
Are they the bus.
Are the your forse?
are They your parents?

What can I say. Listening is hard.

Wednesday, October 26

beginner mid term: writing section

Yesterday's post was from my intermediate class. Today's is from my beginner class, who learned Japanese in high school and have never taken English before this semester. Here are some responses from this prompt:
Write about your mother or father. What do they look like? What do you like about them?

My mother is very pretty and very smart. She's tall and funny.
She loves me very much, so I love you too. She's forty four years
old. She's in the Korea.

My hometown is Yanji. Yanji is butyfur. Yanji has downtown, but
Yanji very cold. I don't like the weather.

My mother is very friendly. My mother is smart. My mother is very
fanny. My mother is very good looking. My mother is tall. So,
I like my mother.

My father like working. My mother like cooking. They are very
frindly. I like it. I like bed of my home. I don't like wall's
color. (Who asked about the house, anyhow?)

Tuesday, October 25

a great essay

I assigned a creative writing last week where my intermediate students had to write a story to go with one of the crazy headlines that I found online. This one was about the headline: 13 Year Old Ninja Captured, but she titled it The Surprising Weakness. All the names she uses in the story are names of past or current teachers. The victorious one is the sometimes feared director of our office. Usually, our students struggle with creativity, but this showed that it is possible to draw some creativity out of them.

The story happened in 2045. Japan had been controlled by Ninjas for
many years. The new Ninja was strong and bellicose, and they hated
endure. To be No. 1 the Ninjas wanted to capture America. But
American president Bush III had already made "Plan N" to deal with them.
Plan N went back to kill the Japanese president at his 20th birthday by using
the timing machine. Because the weakest time of the person was his last
day of 20th birthday. Lela, a young but clever girl accepted this
task. She was the youngest of the Texas Police.

So the story went back to the year 2005, YUST, China. The Japanese ws
studying here, and he had an interesting name: X man. Lela tried to search
for his information by working as a teacher. She couldn't expose herself
because the boy was still a 13 year old ninja and she was just 19 years old, she
couldn't beat him. Lela stayed at YUST as a teacher. She was so
beautiful that many teachers fell in love with her. Lela told them that
she would choose the strongest one who could beat X man. So they tried
their best, but unluckily, no one won. Abraham disappeared after the
fight, Mr. An got married with another one, and Emeric was badly hurt, his leg
was broken. The task was even harder. But the clever Lela didn't
give up. She found that the boy feared Hannah Pyon. On the last day
of his 20th birthday, she killed him with the help of Hannah Pyon.

After that, Lela understood one thing. Although a man was strong, the
English was more terrible. They were all frightened of English.

Thursday, October 20

can you believe it?

I can't! It's OCTOBER 21st and it snowed this morning! I had absolutely no idea that this was coming, but one of my friends said that it was forecasted on the internet. Anyhow, I was super happy to be surprised this morning. The first words out of my mouth (I don't usually talk to myself, this is reserved for special occasions such as an early snow) were OH MY GOSH!

So, I snapped a few pictures from my window for your viewing pleasure...not that they are great landscapes, or anything, but just to prove to you that it did in fact happen. Now, it's almost 11am and it's not melting. Wow! This ain't Texas!

I took the long way to the office this morning so I could walk outside and feel the snow hit my face. (It actually felt a little more like ice falling instead of snow.) Lovely. I got to the office and one of the teachers there shared my fascination with the snow, but most of the others sort of had a bah-humbug-i-have-to-walk-around-in-this-and-this-is-the-beginning-of-a-long-winter sort of attitude.

The weird thing is that the past few days, it's been warmer. Yesterday afternoon, I took a long walk in only pants and a long sleeved t-shirt, and now sitting in the office, I'm not cold at all (I have a shirt, sweater, and down vest on, though).

I know it will be a long winter, but snow is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 18

a checkup!

Our school announced last week that there was an arrangement with one of the local hospitals to give us physicals for 100 yuan each (about 13 bucks). So, I decided for that price, I should sign up. I skipped breakfast yesterday and today to get all these different tests run. Yesterday, I got my blood drawn. Today, I went to the hospital with another woman from the office and we got to pee in a cup (is there a way to do that without getting pee on your hand? just wondering), we got a sonogram (definitely first time for that!), an EKG (that felt totally weird to get all these points of my body suctioned or aliens had captured and were testing me), and an X-ray. It looks like I'm normal, although I'm still waiting for the results of the fluid tests. I guess next week, they'll go over the results with us. Can you believe I got all of that for only 13 bucks? I probably didn' t need it, but knowing I'm healthy might make my mom feel better. :)

I also got to eat one of my favorite meals for lunch, since we had to wait on the X-ray man to come back, we went across the street and ate at a Korean restaurant. I had sun du bu jigae (spicy soft tofu soup), then we went for a little walk. It's been really cold the past few days, already long john and coat weather, but today we were just wearing shirts and sweaters, and the sun is out to warm our skin. Beautiful day.

Sunday, October 16

heard in the office

"Those painted trees remind me of a french manicure."

Almost all of the trees in China have part of their trunks painted as a pest control technique. I don't know if this is effective or not, but I remember seeing it in Romania too. Anyhow, now I look at them and laugh, remembering the french manicure comment. And, it came from a guy, no less.

Friday, October 14

it's saturday

and saturdays are always good....
I got to talk to my sister this morning for a good long time. It's been a long time since we talked. I had cinnamon toast and an apple (that I just remembered I didn't finish, so it must still be sitting on my table half eaten...eww.) I got a good amount of sleep. I came to the office and got my inbox down to six emails, but I still have a lot to do.

Yesterday was a rather full day. I taught my two beginner classes (8am, 9am) and then went to watch the elementary classes in their English skit competition. That was fun. Lunch took forever because it was hot noodles and the line was enormous. Intermediate class at 1 (they performed memorized dialogues...they were cute), then a short break and a meeting to revise our midterm, which lasted until almost 5. (We have to give the same midterm test, so all the teachers have to agree and make the test together.) Then, at five, we took part of our beginner class out to dinner. We have to do interviews with all of our students, but with beginners, it's hard, because they don't know much English at all, and my beginner partner's and my Korean is just OK, but not great enough to conduct a fluent interview. So, we took the guys of the class out to dinner in two small groups. It was a good way to interact. We're having a baking night with the girls next week.

So, the longer I sit in the office today, the colder it gets and even though I have homework to grade and record, I think I will go home and accomplish these tasks later. I've got a good book to finish anyhow.

Thursday, October 13

haircut, etc.

Don't worry, I don't think I caught bird flu. I did get downtown on Saturday to get a haircut. I picked a random place on a street where most of the people speak Korean. They started out by shampooing my hair with no water and no sink. They just poured some shampoo on the top of my head and made an increasingly bigger shampoo cap on my head. They added moisture by strategically squirting it on, then they took me to the back to wash it out. They had to move me around until they found a sink that had hot water working, but thankfully they weren't completely out of hot water. They then straightened my hair, layer cut it, and finished it. The whole process took more than an hour, and only cost 20 kwai, or about $2.50. Amazing. The cheapest cuts here are only 5 kwai, less than a dollar. I almost went for one of those, but I figured an extra buck or two might be worth it. It was. I have a really good cut now, and with the layers, it takes much less time to dry, which will be handy for the winter when (I've been warned) there's the possibility of it freezing when you walk out the door, even if you don't go outside.

I spent the rest of Saturday back at home, under the covers reading. I imagined that the heat I trapped under the covers would make the achy body go away, and it did. I felt much better Sunday and this week even though I don't feel normal, I am doing well. I borrowed a small pile of fiction from a friend, and got a whole book read on Saturday and Sunday afternoon: The Secret Life of Bees. It inspired me to make some corn fritters (the first time ever) and cornbread for an office birthday lunch on Tuesday. We had chili, cornbread, corn fritters, and cupcakes. It was a near perfect lunch, just missing some sour cream to top the chili. One person even commented that perhaps cornbread is meant to be made by southerners, it was so good. I have to say, though, that after the frying those fritters and getting oil popped on my hand, I don't want to fry anything again for a long while.

Friday, October 7

nothing in particular

We only had two days of school this week. That was good. I've been spending more time in the office than normal, though, to get caught up on emails (still not done) and make tests. We're already getting our midterms ready and we have unit tests this week. Today, though, I'm finished with that stuff and I just came to check email. I somehow got stuck checking out other people's xanga sites (blogs that aren't blocked here), and now my hands are cold and it's time to step out into the sunshine.

Yesterday, it was really cold and drizzly. Today, I woke up to bright, beautiful sunlight, though! Yea. I was feeling a little achy last night, so I let myself stay in bed this morning (falling in and out of sleep while reading) until a little after 10. I thought I was feeling better until I actually left my room and walked up here to the office. My body is now saying it doesn't like being out of bed, so I might listen to it. I was going to go swimming tonight, but my swimming buddy and I decided I shouldn't. I might still go downtown to get a haircut, though.

I've read my way through my fiction supply, so last night I watched a movie since I didn't feel like reading non-fiction and I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything. Then, some friends came over and we watched another movie. Unfortunately, neither one was really worth watching. I need another book. I'm gonna have to check out my friends' collections.

Okay, I think I've mustered enough energy for a trip downtown, especially since there's sunshine today!

Wednesday, October 5

my holiday

We are at the end of a five day (weekend included) break for national day here in China. Most schools get a week off, but we have to go back to school Thursday and Friday. Here's my holiday recap, since I'm sure you were wondering.

Friday night: Turned down the chicken liver in the cafeteria for a tasty impromptu dinner with a student. Later, went with three other teachers to one of the best saunas (bath houses) in Yanji for a good soak. We decided we deserved a little extra that night and all got hour and a half massages. For only 16 bucks, it's hard to beat. We left total balls of jelly.

Saturday: Harvest day on the farm. Laundry later that night, then early to bed.

Sunday: Normal activities in the AM, shopping to stock up in the afternoon, a good nap, a movie at home, and reading. Good stuff.

Monday: Up early to get the beans cooking for Mexican night. Ultimate frisbee with another teacher and some students, shopping for meat in the meat market (first time there...the Chinese student who went with me even pulled up his jacket collar as a breathing mask). Mexican night with the conversation teachers. Homemade tortillas (we can't buy them), cheese smuggled in from the US, my beans, and all the fixins. Good, good stuff.

Tuesday: Day trip to Hoon Choon, a border town in China where you can see Russia and North Korea at once from a viewing tower. Good times travelling with four other teachers, fitting into one taxi to get us from the bus station to the border (only 150 yuan, or about 19 bucks for a two hour round trip taxi ride!).

Wednesday: Up early to get my unit tests made for this week, to get my portion of the midterm ready, and get a bit of grading done. Soaked up the last bit of sunshine outside this afternoon, then took a walk at dusk.

Tomorrow, back to work, but only two days left in the week!

Sunday, October 2

day on the farm

Yesterday, our school took a group of students (and five teachers) on a bus about an hour and some change away from here to volunteer on a farm that needed some help with the harvest. It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day, the first one in a while. We showed up on a farm of someone (not sure how the school knew them) and helped with their corn and soybean harvest.

In the morning, I helped with the soybeans, taking turns cutting the plants at the root with a sickle and stacking the small piles into larger piles for collecting. We broke for an extra yummy lunch at the farmhouse of rice and sidedishes (kimchi, tofu soup, cucumbers to dip in hot pepper paste). They had one side dish that was almost just like saurkraut with clear noodles in it. It was really good. Another American teacher and I sat next to the owner of the farm's brother at lunch (the owner of the farm is the little guy in shucking corn in one of the pictures). The other teacher speaks Chinese and I speak some Korean, so he took turns speaking in both languages (he's a Korean Chinese man.) I still find it amazing that normal farmers can speak two languages so well. We mentioned that to him and he brushed it off saying that one is the language of the country, so of course he speaks it, and one is just a small dialect language that he speaks with his family.

In the afternoon, some people went back to finish the soybean field, but I joined the team to shuck corn, then I went with a group up the hill to another field to cut down corn stalks with a sickle. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but soon I had a system down and was doing it pretty quickly. It gave me a lot of time to think. (I'm sure I thought some really profound thoughts, but right now I can't think of any to share with you.) We left late in the afternoon with sunkissed faces and tired bodies. It was a wonderful way to start off our three day break (for national day) and enjoy one of the last warm days of fall. Today, the cold winds of (what feel like) winter have been blowing all day and at 5:30 it's already pitch dark outside!

(I don't know why my pictures won't cooperate and go where I want them to, so you have to endure a post with a layout of pictures that's not so pleasing to the eye...sorry.)