Wednesday, September 24, 2008

dragon cheesesteak

I would tell you that after ten days of Chinese submersion, I am not homesick, but my subconscious would tell you otherwise. The other night I dreamed I was in the underground supermarket here in Baoding, shopping for what, I'm not sure (probably for cucumber flavored Lays chips or tomato ketchup Bugles, both of which I have purchased). In the corner of the supermarket there was a Zero's Subs, a delicious toasted sub restaurant in Virginia. The Sub of the Month was called a "Dragon Cheesesteak," which is, I'm assuming, the Chinese version of the Philly Cheesesteak. Whatever it was, it looked delicious and if the dream had continued I probably would have ordered it. The dream was a little anticlimactic though, not as good as the dream I had a few nights ago when I took a trip to the Middle East with my friends, Hudson and David Sullivan (who don't know each other). The food has been amazing. Most of the IECS team's Chinese language knowledge involves eating food, boxing up food, or screaming for the waitress, "FU YEN!!" By the way, as I'm writing this I'm dipping Ritz crackers into Skippy peanut butter. I also ate KFC for lunch yesterday, and pizza for dinner. Okay, maybe I do miss America... but just a little.

I have now taught one full week of classes, and I really enjoy it. Sometimes the students' English speaking levels can be quite poor, making them difficult to communicate with, but it's still fun. They love to ask me about the NBA, the Beijing Olympics (sometimes even my thoughts on the slogan, "one world, one dream"), and they always ask me to sing a song; so far, all I've been able to come up with is "I got friends in low places," which isn't even a song I listen to very much and I only know the chorus, but they applaud it every time. I spend a lot of time enunciating carefully and writing words on the board they don't recognize. It has become a habit to do this, sometimes to a fault. I realized this the other day when I wrote the word, "diarrhea" on the board. Let me explain. All of my students are freshman and most of them do not have English names; so, much of my classtime so far has been spent on giving them English names. While the list of names goes around the classroom I usually give them an opportunity to ask me more questions. One of the students stood up and asked me, "Can you tell us an interesting story from your childhood?" I thought for a second, and only one popped in my head. I began to explain that this story was an "embarrassing" (which I wrote on the board) story. I told them that it happened when I was ten years old and was playing "baseball." I explained what the position of "catcher" is by acting out how a "pitcher" throws and how a catcher squats to catch the ball. I explained that my stomach began to hurt and that squatting is a poor position to be in when this happens. I then wrote the word, "diarrhea" on the board. Right then I realized that during all my years of Spanish class, my teachers and professors never told us how to say "poop," "feces," or "diarrhea." Why should I expect them to know these words in English? Yet I persisted. I also wrote "poop" on the board, and began to use motions. Blank stares. No one laughed. I started to laugh to myself, as I usually do when I'm enjoying an awkward situation. I quickly ended the story and asked if there were anymore questions. Next time I'll refrain from telling stories involving bodily functions.

Ryan and I are celebrities at the Hebei College of Finance. Students line up after class to have their pictures taken with us, and they love to have conversations with us. For example, they have a biweekly gathering where all the students can practice their English skills called "English Corner." Ryan and I attended this function for the first time last week upon request from the Dean of our English department.

"The students are very excited to meet you," Ms. Zhao told us, "They have been waiting for you." An understatement. Ryan and I arrived to a fleet of smiling, waving, and applauding students. We entered the library atrium and the students closed in. Hundreds of students fell silent. I turned to Ryan.

"I guess we need to say something to the crowd, maybe?" We turned to the masses.

"Hello, my name is Ryan," Ryan yelled out, enunciating carefully, "We are from A-mer-ica."

"And my name is Jon," I belted, "We are very excited to be your teachers this year. Please come and speak to us. We would like to talk to each of you." Maybe not the best choice of words, but it certainly was effective. The students then shuffled their feet to get within arms length of us and the questions began. Ryan then grabbed my arm, maybe thirty minutes later, at least that's what it felt like.

"Hey, it's 7:30. We should probably go," he told me. We had arrived at six. Yesterday we went to the English Corner again, but this time brought our two IECS friends, Emily and Amelia, because there are far more girls than boys. It was still overwhelming and we only stayed one hour this time, but it was still an effective time.

As Tim has already chronicled on his blog, life became extremely convenient as of last Saturday when the Baoding IECS team set out to buy bikes. While the rest of the team was content to buy "normal" bicycles (and rightly so), Tim and I decided to dip into the kitty a little and buy something nicer. Both of us had taken notice of all of the electric bikes being ridden all over the place, and we wanted a pair. You should read it on Tim's blog; he does a good job of telling the story. It involves some heckling, a little jealousy, and an abandoned apartment. Although, I did notice that it in Tim's version there's no mention of trading bikes every once in a while. I could have sworn that was part of the deal...

Thanks for thinking of me and the IECS team. We are making friends fast. A good example of this was a big dinner the other night with all five of us and some of our Chinese friends in a private room, which we had to spend 100 yuan to use; so, we were forced to over-order. There was a lot of food left when we were done; so, we decided to play a game in which the loser had to eat a dumpling. Afterward our bellies were stuffed, but we had big smiles on our faces. More times like this are to come. KTV tonight...

my bike.

1 comment:

LordOption said...

Good to hear you are enjoying yourself. Keep having fun and ride safe.