蒸饺 zhēngjiǎo steamed dumplings, Chongqing The title “moments of clarity” occurred to me a couple of months ago during my winter break, when I did indeed have some clarity, since there wasn’t much else to do except sit and think. Since it’s been a long time between my blog posts, I wish I had some of that clarity now. As I recall, said moments of clarity involved a sense of peace, and in general a clear idea of what I’m doing now in my life. In January I rented an apartment in the International Gardens complex, about 5 km from where I lived before at Sichuan University. It’s a compact one-bedroom, perfect for me and the dog, on the 15th floor or an elevator building. No more stairs up and down five flights several times a day. I’m actually much happier here; living in the middle of a university campus, I rarely ventured into the outside world, and our little enclave of foreign teachers lived behind a high fence with an alarmed gate and security bars on all the windows. Now, I’m in the middle of the busy city, in a much more residential area, with a completely different feeling from the internationalized area around Sichuan U. I’m enrolled as a student at the Southwest University for Nationalities, a 20-minute walk from my apartment, and I have 12 classes of Chinese each week. Since I was unable to renew my work visa, I got a student visa instead, hence
summer in Chengdu – alley I made a mistake recently: I tried to “teach” question forms and vocabulary in my Oral English class. I knew shortly after I began the lesson, presenting one carefully-prepared PowerPoint slide after another, that I was on the wrong track. For one thing, my explanations weren’t well thought-out or very clear; it was a mish-mash of the “W” question words everyone knows (who, what, when, where, why, which) and general guidelines for how to request information in English in both basic and polite forms. It was a yawn. My students’ eyes began to glaze over, and I realized that I was boring myself with my own lesson. What went wrong? First of all, it was a Monday morning. I remarked to my students, “You look tired today.” They did; they are mostly engineers for a Chinese company, required to attend a month of English classes for 42 class periods a week. They only have one free day, Sunday. Second, I teach two groups of 38 students, a huge class size for an oral or conversation class. Shortly after I left class, after returning the laptop computer and remote control for the projector to the A.V. department, I decided to rethink my entire approach to teaching Oral English. In 5 years of teaching in China, I’ve begun to wonder if you can “teach” speaking. Many of my classes have been geared toward test preparation, which means drilling students in vocabulary and sample responses for oral exams.
I was back in my home town for 6 days. When my students in China ask me to describe St. Joseph, Missouri, I don’t quite know what to say. I usually end up explaining that it was an important outfitting and supply center for pioneers traveling west in the mid-19th century, and that it was the starting point for the Pony Express mail delivery, which operated for a few years between St. Joseph and Sacramento, California. My dad, Gene, stepmother Bonnie, and my brother Kenton. The occasion for my return was my father’s 85th birthday. It was my longest visit in many years, and my first return to the USA since leaving for China in 2006. Three Joneses: Kenton, Dad, and Roger Family & friends at Starbucks Dad’s 85th birthday dinner, Texas Roadhouse After the birthday festivities, it was time to take the train to St. Louis to spend a couple of days with my brother Kenton. The weather has been incredibly hot and humid. Kansas City Union Station Next stop: Chicago. My train journey continues tomorrow. Tonight we’re getting some much-needed rest at the Pear Tree Inn in Fenton, outside of St. Louis. More later, after I get to Chicago.
Bin Laden is dead, at the direct order of Barack Obama. A man-hunt ends, but the killing doesn’t stop. Obama is bigger and more powerful than bin Laden could ever be, but who will stop him?