Day seven...

0 visitors Monday, June 30
of rain.

Anna, Mark E, Loren, and I went to Shi Yi Xue Xiao tonight to hang out with Emmett one last time. We went to their favorite hole in the wall restaurant for some good food. Walking back to the school, Emmett saw a man Asian-squatting next to a vat of food... picking something out of his bellybutton.

On that note, my flight to Newark leaves tomorrow afternoon at 3:45. I'm looking forward to seeing many of you while I'm home for seven weeks! I plan to drive to Washington, D.C., Ohio, and upstate New York so let me know if you're going to be in any of those places and we'll catch up.
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Day six...

0 visitors Sunday, June 29
of rain.  We walked to Mei Zhou Dong Po with our umbrellas again.


You'd think Beijing wasn't experiencing its worst drought in fifty years or something.

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One day closer to Mei Guo

1 visitors
I'm now down to three days away from home and, staying true to form, I haven't packed anything yet. I have a small pile in the living room of things I've accumulated to bring back, but that's as far as I've gotten!

Loren and I made the trek to Ancient Culture Street and Silk Alley today with a mission. We failed the mission, but still brought back some cool stuff. Our first stop was the Hepingmen subway stop, where there are two stores that sell like-minded Chinese art. They'll customize scrolls with any passage you want and they sell carved nativities and some really beautiful things. We didn't buy anything from the first store, but the owner's toddler kept saying "Yesu ai ni" to us over and over. So cute! His Mom gave Loren and I some ribbon bookmarks on our way out. I bought a silver charm for a necklace from the other place. It has "恩典" (en dian) hanging vertically in silver Chinese characters, which means "grace."

We grabbed some lunch from Subway, then started to look for what we had come for - glass globes. The water is made out of china and each country is formed out of a precious stone. The labels are in both Chinese and English. We thought we could get them for about 200 yuan, but unfortunately only one store was selling them. They knew they had a monopoly on the globe market and refused to come down lower than 600 yuan, which is almost $100. We decided to try Jin Wu Xin, another market, some other time. There aren't too many foreigners there, so it's easier to bargain and get a better deal... they don't try to rip you off nearly so badly as Silk Alley. I picked up a chain for the silver charm and we headed back home.

A junior student stopped by for a little while to play cards with us. Can you guess which game? Uno, of course! Kevin left me the first two seasons of Prison Break and I've been getting into it since I have free time until my flight on Tuesday. I watched a couple episodes after the students left this afternoon, then we all ate chicken wraps (cheapest dinner ever - 3.5 yuan, or $0.50) and fruit at Joel and Mary's apartment. By all, I mean the six of us remaining. The boys entertained us with their mad mosquito-murdering skills during dinner. Killing them the old fashioned way with their hands eventually gave way to busting out the wen zi racquet (see the You Tube clip on the sidebar). We walked to see the new Pierce Brosnan movie (which is called 24 hours in Chinese, for some reason... not even close to the English title) but the two theaters we tried were only showing it in Chinese with English subtitles. Disappointing, but we ate Cold Stone to make up for it, then walked back under our umbrellas. Today marks the fifth day in a row of rain and lightning, which must set some kind of record for Beijing. It usually rains as many times in a month.

If you lived away from Western culture for ten months, what's the first thing you would do when you came back? So far, each returning team mate has hit up Taco Bell on the way home from the airport.
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And then there were eight

0 visitors Friday, June 27
The Fu team is slowly leaving and we're down to eight people, from twenty. Donna and Kevin leave on Saturday, Anna and I leave on Tuesday, and Joel and Mary leave on Wednesday. Loren and Mark E are sticking it out for the summer and the Olympics.

It's been a nice change of pace to be here without class responsibilities, just relaxing and getting organized. Anna and I went to Qinhuangdao, a city two hours away by train where the Great Wall meets the ocean, with a student on Sunday. We got our money exchanged with the help of a Chinese friend since they make it next to impossible for foreigners to exchange RMB by themselves, and even then with a $500/day limit. I've also seen Kung Fu Panda and Prince Caspian in the past couple weeks. The four remaining singles walked to dinner in a lightning storm last night for a good meal that cost 12 yuan ($1.70). Other than that, we've just been hanging out - reading, watching movies in the evenings, and playing my recently acquired Beijing-edition Monopoly.
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New video!

0 visitors Monday, June 23
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Once it was lost, and now it is found

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Two people on our team had their bikes stolen four times each this year, but my Giant is still in my possession. My expensive Kroptonite Kryptolok U bike lock served me well for ten months... until the key broke in half and I couldn't find the spare key. I put it on a shelf for the past few months hoping I could get another key made or bring it back to America and somehow get another key. So today when we were cleaning out our apartment of all the stuff we've accumulated and adding to the "free pile" for the new people in August, I came across the bike lock. I decided that it was silly to hang on to it when it was just taking up space, so I threw it out. On top of the lock, I emptied our bathroom trash, kitchen trash, and many other people threw their stuff away.

Later on, Anna found a key when she was cleaning out her desk drawer. She's like "hey, I wonder..." I had the same thought, but the lock was lying under lots of nasty garbage. Anna suggested yellow cleaning gloves and I pulled them on, starting to sort through the big community trashcan. And behold! the key that was lost was found and I no longer need to lug another expensive and heavy lock back to China.
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Student-isms of the day

0 visitors Saturday, June 21
"But I was still very happy, because I had had a very plenary and significative day."

"At last, I aimed at a CEO of a mautination company."

"Inconsciently, I become a costume designer."

"Multi-functional bathroom"

"an equipment to gather tervestrial heat"

"Because doctor may let these experience personally the human which the indisposition suffers to get rid of the pain."
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Phrase of the day

0 visitors Tuesday, June 17
In a student essay: "emptying the bowels."
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Good essay responses

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70% of my students responded to the below homework assignment stating that people are born innocent and must be taught evil (blank slate theory).  About 20% said that people are neutral at birth - they learn both good and evil.  Only about 10% said that people have evil and selfish desires from birth, which is an interesting position to take if you don't believe in a higher power.

Assignment - respond to the following statement: Rousseau believed that people are born innocent and must be taught to do wrong things.

"I disagree with that opinion because we are born with greed, envy, and such things like that.  And when we were children, we didn't have much virtue, it's taught to us by education and society.  Children know how to receive things from others but don't know how to contribute at all.  People are born not innocent because they have lust.  Because people have original lust, they society becomes worse and worse.  If everyone was innocent who learnt wrong things first?"

"We are just little in age, we begin to lie - to our parents, teachers, and classmates - but who teaches us to lie?  Ourselves.  It's our instinct to tell lies because we feel scared to tell the truth, so we lie to others, that is the evidence of we are not basically good."
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The story of Cupid

0 visitors Monday, June 16
A homework assignment was to summarize a Greek god and then retell the story in a modern way. The student wrote about a Roman god instead, but it's really cute. [Names and slight details changed.]

Cupid, the boy god of love, often played with his bow and arrows everywhere. One day, Apollo saw him and laughed at home. Deeply offended by Apollo's insulting words, he shot Apollo with a golden arrow through his heart, causing him to fall madly in love with Daphne. Then he shot Daphne with a leaden one, making her hate all suitors. Apollo couldn't hide his passion to Daphne and asked for love from her, but he received cold reject. At last, Daphne was changed into a laurel tree and Apollo was very sad.

A private story of _____
On September 7, 2004, the first day Joe spent in Ren Da Fu Zhong, Cupid also happened to wander in the school. He saw the clumsy Joe who was curious to anything in the new place for him, so he decided to play a joke on him. He shot Joe with a golden arrow which soon made him crazy. At exactly that time, he came to see a girl, who won the first prize in a math competition a year before while Joe won the second, so he became crazy on her since then.

However, our clever Cupid had already shot a leaden arrow through the girl's heart. No matter what Joe did for her, she didn't show any interest in Joe. Joe became annoyed, so he began to seize every possible chance to argue with her. Once during a snowball fight, Joe shot her so hard that her glasses were broken. After that in a geography class, Joe told all his group to score her zero so as to make her get the lowest score in their class. The girl cried sadly for days because of what Joe did. Then the girl told Joe "I dislike you" with anger, while Cupid saw all of these with a smile in a corner.

Then both of the classmates got bored. They didn't talk to each other for nearly half a year, until Cupid didn't want to see these any longer. He decided to end up this argument, so he at last shot another golden arrow to the girl in 2006. That summer when Joe's friends suggested him inviting the girl to go hiking, he even didn't think that she could agree. They had fun in the mountains and the girl talked a lot with Joe. Joe apologized to the girl for his bad behavior before and the girl forgave him with a sweet smile. Since then they treat each other more and more friendly.

A month before graduation from junior school, Joe got a chance of sitting beside her, and they began to know more about each other. The girl came to know the loneliness deep in Joe's heart and Joe came to know the sadness deep in the girl's heart. They shared their feelings about life and the world. Cupid was at last moved by the couple so he decided not to play jokes to others forever.
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Mary was granted a visa this morning, so she and Joel will be able to attend training together in July! And... we'll be adding a baby Hollins to the team in January or February!

Thanks to everyone who was thinking about this.
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Picture post

0 visitors Saturday, June 14
Don't put your Coke in the freezer and teach two classes before you remember it. Or else this might happen to you.

Joel and Anna showing off their Chinese silk.

Beijing sandstorm out my window.
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"Like friends"

1 visitors Friday, June 13
It's official - I'm now a legal resident of Beijing until August 19, 2009. I got my new work visa and Beijing residence permit for another year, so I'm all set to return in August for another year of teaching.

It's funny - last year at this time I only planned on spending one year here and then returning to the States to get a "real job." I didn't know that I'd love what I get to do here so much and I didn't think I'd ever be motivated to learn more Chinese than was absolutely necessary. But now the next few years are up in the air - I have no idea exactly when I'll finish my time here. Part of me feels like it would be cool to teach the Jr I students I had this year as more-mature Sr I students three years from now. But then again there's the pull and the pressure to get a job in the "real world" and join the ranks of people working for The Man in order to have enough money to retire on someday and not be penniless on the streets.

Every day here is an adventure. We had the biggest downpour I've seen in Beijing, and maybe ever. It started midway through my elective this afternoon. The sky blackened and a storm directly over us shook the building and sent down fire bolts from the sky. I saw too many people running around outside who looked like they had fallen into a swimming pool and I didn't want to ruin my leather shoes, so I put my socks and shoes into my bag and rolled my pants to my knees. All the students who were standing around waiting for the rain to let up thought I was really funny-looking and weren't afraid to say so. A student took pity on me and walked me to the building we live in under her umbrella. The water still came up to my ankles! Beijing isn't used to much rain and the drainage system is terrible. Later on, I set out to get some dinner and parts of the road were so flooded that the water was halfway up my bicycle tires!

There are many stories I could tell, but my favorites are about the students who are looking for a friend or who are too excited to show me around their city and share their country's 5000 years of history. Since China's one-child policy was passed in 1979, most students grow up without siblings or cousins close in age. Their classmates become their family and the we as foreign teachers often become their role models or their big brothers and sisters. It's so much fun to make cookies with them or play games from the U.S., like Uno (we added more rules and renamed it "Funo"), Skip-Bo, Phase 10, and Scum.

It's worth it to be here when I get encouraging e-mails like this from students:

"I think you are a good teacher and I want to talk with you about everything you like, like friends."
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Hunting mosquitoes

1 visitors Sunday, June 8
There's a new video up on You Tube of Loren hunting mosquitoes in our apartment. Check out the "China Cam" on the sidebar. :)
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Too good to pass up

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China has issued official instructions on how to cheer at the Olympic Games - accompanied by illustrations.

A cartoon issued to provide extra guidance on top of the "Olympic cheering practice" sessions that have been held for workers around Beijing for the last year shows a young girl in the approved postures.

In the first frame she is beginning to clap; in the second, doing a thumbs-up gesture; in the third, clapping again; and in the fourth, holding both arms up in the air.

In time, she also chants: "Aoyun! Jia You! Zhongguo! Jia You!" - meaning "Olympics! Add petrol! China! Add petrol!"

"Add petrol!", the nation’s favourite sporting chant, is more usually translated as "Go, Go!"

The cartoon is the joint product of the Communist Party’s spiritual civilization bureau, the ministry of education, the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, and state television, which has begun showing clips of schoolchildren showing how it is done.

The spiritual civilization's Beijing branch is responsible for ensuring the city’s citizens, who have always prided themselves on their down-to-earth manners, improve their standards of queuing, cleanliness, public hygiene and general politeness in time for the summer.

Li Ning, president of the Beijing Etiquette Institute, said the chants were flexible - individual athletes could be told to "Jia You," as could other nations apart from China, to show open-mindedness.

"Go Olympics! Go China! expresses the Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) Olympic spirit and is in line with general international principles for cheering," she said. "At the same time it encompasses characteristics of Chinese culture."

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0 visitors Friday, June 6
Two weeks before school is finished, I have a five-day weekend. The Gao Kao is a national exam for seniors in high school that basically determines which university they'll go to. As one student put it this week, "we spend twelve years preparing for a two-day test that determines our future." The Gao Kao is a crazy exam and a blog topic for another time. There was no school today for setup for the exam, and then the test is tomorrow and Sunday. Monday is a national holiday - Dragon Boat Festival. The Senior I students (10th graders) have important exams on Tuesday, so my classes were canceled.

We have to move out of our apartment. Even though Anna and I are both returning for a second year, the school uses our apartments between contract dates (July 16 - August 20) for international students and guests of the school. We're trying to find a way out of packing everything up and putting it in storage, but it's not looking good right now. It's amazing how much stuff we've accumulated in ten months - and we arrived with just three suitcases! Hurray for IKEA in Beijing!

I got up early this morning and started a thorough cleaning of our apartment, washing the kitchen walls, cabinets, floor and moving on through the rest of the rooms. Now I'm taking advantage of the extra unexpected time to get my grades ready to turn in. Some students are coming over on Monday from Class 11 to play some games and hang out, maybe watch a movie. They're a cool bunch of students with great English.

After we studied ancient Greece and Rome in 10th grade Western History class, I assigned my students a writing exercise. They were to choose any Greek god to summarize, then retell the story in a modern way. It's been a lot of fun to read through them, laughing from time to time at some of the interesting phrases and words creatively strung together. Here's one written about Zeus:

"Zeus is sad to be the god of the gods, but he is probably the dinner of his father. His father, the best god of the Mt. Olympia, is sad to be beaten by his sons, so he swallowed all his sons, but the Zeus' mother want to have a son. So she changed Zeus into a stone and hid Zeus in some place. The Zeus' father swallowed the stone and after the Zeus' adultness, he forced his father to drink a drug which can make the drinker puke all his sons that he has swallowed. The Zeus and his brothers fight against their father, and they won. Zeus replaced his father's place in the Mount Olympus."

All of my students choose an English name for my class. Here are some of the more memorable ones from this semester:

Porry Hartter
Wen Ye Like Ken Ye
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Wo de hanyu bu hao

0 visitors Tuesday, June 3
I made a huge mistake in class with my 10th grade students this afternoon. Chinese is a tonal language. This means that a sound can be pronounced four different ways - high, falling, falling/rising, and rising. Each one of these has a completely different meaning, so it's extremely important to get it exactly right.

I was explaining what a Russian czar (or tsar) was and I was trying to get them to pronounce the word correctly. I told the students that we don't have a good representation for the sound in English, so we use the weird combination of "zc" or "ts," but it's exactly the same pronunciation as a word beginning with "c" in Chinese. I used the very common family name "cao" as an example. I didn't actually say the word, I just wrote it on the board without the specific tone.

What I failed to remember was 1) the fact that high school students will twist anything and everything to make it off-color is a global phenomenon, and 2) "cao," said the right way, is one of the dirtiest words in the Chinese language. When the entire class erupted in tittering and laughter hidden behind their hands, I figured that I had done something really bad and ignored it... but I didn't realize just how bad until after class when I got out my dictionary!

Having never said anything really stupid in Spanish or Chinese (to my knowledge) thus far, I'm proud that I got this far before badly embarrassing myself. :-) Unfortunately, it was before 28 students and I'm sure I'll be the talk of the school this week!
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"It's a beautiful day..." - U2

0 visitors Monday, June 2
The sun rises at 4:47am, the weather is getting steadily warmer, we are swatting mosquitoes right and left, June is here. And with it, the school year is drawing to a close. My last day of class is June 20, and I leave for the States on July 1.

We had a photo scavenger hunt the other week. Pictures are here:

This has been a fun semester. My 10th graders this term had a higher English level, so I've enjoyed getting to know them better than the students I taught last semester. Two girls came over on Saturday afternoon and we made scones. Jojo is trying to start a hip-hop club at school and Sherry lived in Bedminster NJ for a year. Then Mark E, Andy, and I went to a student's house for dinner later on Saturday. James' father works for a government agency that controls civilian satellites. He showed us images from all over the world and talked about the role this agency plays in the earthquake disaster area. We had our usual big team meal and meeting on Sunday night and the food committee made French toast bake, eggs, scones, and cut up fresh fruits. It was a fun weekend.

In the ten days between the end of school and my return flight, I'm trying to decide where to travel to. The three choices are 1) Changbai Mountains, 2) Guilin, 3) Lhasa, Tibet. Anna and I also have to pack up our apartment and put all of our things in storage while we're away this summer since the school uses our apartments for international students and visitors. It's sure to be a busy month with grading several hundred papers/exams, moving, and traveling!
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