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At last, a respite

Published on September 30, 2009, by in Chengdu.

Wenhua park, Chengdu I made it. The classes are finished, and I’ve officially begun my 9-day holiday, beginning with National Day Oct. 1 and stretching through Mid-Autumn Festival. I did my first teaching observation this morning, and was quite impressed both with the teacher and the students. Then there was a noon meeting for the Going Abroad program, at which we may or may not have resolved anything. Then there was a pleasurable 2 1/2 hours with my own Sino-Australia program students. We talked about my own favorite topic – food – and I came prepared with a dozen different snack foods for them to sample, describe in English, and compare in a taste test. We had shredded fried squid, smelly black preserved eggs, dried fish, cookies, moon cakes, malted milk chocolate balls, rice crackers, and wheat wafers. The students had to tell about the ingredients, how the snack was cooked, and describe its color, taste, texture, and smell. Then their groups had to give a short “commercial” for their favorite snack. I think they enjoyed it. Oh yes, then I shared a printed recipe for plain old American meat loaf. Too bad I couldn’t show the video with the flamboyant chef who demonstrated it; maybe next time. I battled the holiday rush traffic (in a bus) downtown, where I shopped for pants for my 100-cm waist (no luck), then went to the Isetan grocery store for chicken, pork, broccoli, French bread, and Edam cheese. Home again, home again (jiggedy-jig).

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Diary of a Mad Teacher

Published on September 23, 2009, by in Chengdu, Teaching.

Jinli Street, Chengdu DIARY OF A MAD TEACHER If this is Wednesday, it means that my internet ADSL has finally been hooked up. It’s the 4th week of classes, which means that I’ve been deprived on my own internet connection for 5 weeks now. I’ve checked email sporadically on the computer in the teachers’ lounge, but as far as writing blog posts, fuggeddaboudit. Picture it: a classic scene, a textbook example of the class from hell. If I’d had my camera Tuesday afternoon I could have captured students in the throes of terminal boredom, brain death, not-giving-a-shitness, and complete disregard for educational or social conventions. I was perched on narrow table, facing my “class” of 4 students – the 5th was behind me at the front of the class, doing his own thing – gazing in wonder at this tableau: the student who was speaking had his fingers in a tent formation over his nose, giving his muffled voice a nasal whine; next to him a catatonic student was poised with his upper lip resting on the top of a water bottle, as if his head had stopped there on its way down to the desk. He was too lazy to either take a drink or move the bottle so he could comfortably have nap time. Not two feet from me, a female student sent endless text messages on her cell phone, oblivious that a class was taking place (or testing my patience), while her male companion rested his weary

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Week from Hell

Chengdu-Wenjiang Expressway   Right now I feel like I’ve been lying in the middle of this expressway, feeling tires roll over me as I sink into the pavement. It’s been the week from hell. Actually, two weeks. First there was the moving process – 7 trips by bus, taxi, and bicycle, then up 6 flights of stairs to my new home at Sichuan University. Then there was the dirt, and the musty smells, and the crud, and the streaked walls. I felt so, well, unclean whenever I was at home. Then Xiao Gou Gou was diagnosed with distemper. For 5 days now he’s spent all day at the pet hospital, locked in a cage with an IV drip in his leg. At 320 yuan ($45) a visit, the bills are adding up. He’ll live. Then there’s the internet situation. There is none. I had to pay 1,000 yuan in advance for a year of internet, with the possibility that it’ll be hooked up in about 2 weeks. At the moment, I’m in an internet cafe, staring at an oversize Great Wall monitor designed for the computer games that all the kids around me are playing as if their lives depended on it. Then, there are the classes – 6 of them. Doesn’t sound like much, but 4 of them are 2 hours 40 minutes, which is forever when you’re trapped in a classroom with 18-year-olds who don’t pay attention and can’t focus. And talk when I’m talking. And don’t have

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