Monday, February 28, 2011

New Artwork

Stainglass Tree and Rainbow Rice Paddies
Yes I know.  I haven't been blogging, but not much has been happening.  I did not think a post about my observation of how students staple papers differently than my method would be that interesting.  (BTW, I put a staple in the top left hand corner.  Students tend to put staples either in the top middle or top right hand corner of the paper.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Mistake

I have finished my first week of classes and made a mistake. 
The lesson plan for both the writing course and the freshmen oral English course revolved around Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).  I mistakenly forgot that not everyone in China celebrates Spring Festival.  There are ethnic minorities like the Hui people who practice Islam who don't celebrate this festival along with the majority of Han people.  My lesson plan was not culturally sensitive to the minority students in my class.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher Mode Burn Out

Whenever I leave the flat, I am almost always in teacher mode.  I go to class.  I go to the Tree House.  I advise clubs.  Students want more of my time.  They want me to start cooking club, knitting club, and writing club.  They want to spend as much time as they can with me.  They want to be my friend.  The boundaries between my personal life and my work life blur.  In China I don't have a personal life except when I am alone in my flat.  I am always in teacher mode, the conservative teacher who tries to get students to use their English to communicate with me.  They want to be my friend, but it is a one way street.  Can they really be my friend, a friend who listens to me, who challenges my thoughts, who understands me, who wouldn't judge me if I revealed all to them?  In China, I no longer have a personal life with actual friends.  My "friends," the people I socialize with, eat out with, do things with are my students. 
In Alabama, I rarely felt like I had community.  In Seattle, I finally found people I connected with, could talk with, could be social with, a community I felt like I belonged to, a community that understood me and didn't judge me.  This community was different from my work place.  It was my private personal life a community of friends where I could be me, reveal my thoughts and questions, do activities I like to do.
I am burnt out.  I have run out of energy to be the super social nice teacher friend.  Instead I feel myself running away unable to keep up the friendly persona that the students so love.  Now I am starting to gain the label of strict instead of easy going teacher who we all love and can talk to.  I am tired.  My mood has changed.  I feel like a therapist who is always listening to other people's problems and then they themselves now need their own therapist to talk to, but in China who can I talk to?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eggs on a Stick

Eggs on a stick are a common street food except in my city, so traveling and getting to eat these tasty treats was great.  Whose eggs do you think are tiny enough to put on a stick?  The shells of the eggs have lots of dark brown spots.
Today is the first day of my last semester as a teacher in Peace Corps.  For five years I've been a teacher and I am feeling AAAHHH... Can't believe that for the past five years I've been working as a teacher.  I spent five years being a chemistry graduate student, then looked for something new to do.  I've spent five years working as an English, physics, chemistry, and math teacher and have no idea what my next adventure will be, hopefully something new.  People go to school, get a degree then spend years working in one field researcher, teacher, engineer, worker in non-profits.  What happens to us who don't follow that path, who skip around going from one field to another?  Am I shooting myself in the foot by jumping around not settling into one career?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dog Fighting

At one of the parks I visited during spring festival there were performances.  There was a kung fu demonstration by men in their 60's.  There was a play about a drunken kung fu master where the actors lip synched their lines played over a loud speaker.  There was an arena with some type of animal show.  Would you believe that they actually had dog fighting and I am assuming cock fighting too since there were roosters in cages?  The dogs were muzzled as they fought.  It was disturbing.
Anyone know what kind of animal this is in the animal show?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring Festival

On Chinese New Year's Eve, we hung red posters on the doorways of family.  We made jiaozi (pork dumplings) and stayed up till midnight to set off fireworks from the balcony.  While watching the New Year's Eve performance online, my friends played cards while I knitted.
On New Year's day we visited a temple.  It was the first time I had ever visited a live temple, a temple that actually had people praying at it.  It was so smokey from the incense I could hardly breathe and I was "afraid" of getting separated from my friends.  I didn't have a cell phone on me and well, we all "look alike."  There wasn't a tall foreigner who stuck out, easy to find.
Then we visited two parks for the rest of the day until the evening.  Kaifeng is known for its lakes.  The first park had a lake full of pedal boats, a man made mountain with a waterfall, and lots of humans posing as ancient statues scattered around the park.  I would not want the job as a statue in China.  People get really close, almost touch you, throw things at you and have no respect for space.  All of the human statues had their eyes tightly shut.
The next park was a playground for kids and adults.  They had military obstacle courses everywhere as well as a huge playground that even adults could play on.  I was afraid of the deteroriating two story rope walls and tire walls, ladders and wooden fortresses made of rotting wood.  There was a spinning swing set merry go around where you use a crank to make it go.  As the adults sitting in the swings laughed while their male friend made the swing go round and round faster and faster, I cringed as I watched a toddler fall out of the seat and get hit in the head with a metal chair.  This playground was a law suit waiting to happen, but then I remembered it was China so...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back at Site

After traveling to Lanzhou to visit a friend, Kaifeng to celebrate Chinese New Year's, then Chengdu for in service Peace Corps training I am back at site.  Classes, freshmen oral English and sophomore writing, start on Monday.
So much has happened over these past few weeks, I don't exactly know where to begin.
If I still have a Chinese visa after COS (close of service), then I've got at least one week planned for a bike trip using Kaifeng in Henan province as my hub.  I will buy a $200 bike, leave my stuff at my friend's flat, and go from there.  If anyone is interested in biking China, let me know.  This will likely happen July/August, rainy season.  But oh well... 
Spending Spring Festival (Chinese New Years) with friends was like getting a taste of what my life would have been like if I hadn't been adopted into an American family.  Instead of being raised in the Christian religion, I would likely be a subconscious thinker and follower of Confucius, Buddhist, and Taoist ideas with a bit of superstition mixed in.  Instead of being a person who needs and wants alone time, I would have become a person who wants social time whether it is just sitting with people or actually engaging people almost every minute of the day.
Family opinion and advice are extremely influential upon a person.  People keep secrets to try to prevent this influence so that they can lead their own lives.  I have heard several stories of husband and wives not telling their families that they got divorced keeping this secret for years while still pretending to be married during the holiday times.  Why?  So that they can make their own decisions about their future instead of facing the criticism and pressure to get married again as soon as possible.