Friday, November 28, 2008

from Beijing with love

“I’d make out with Brad Pitt,” Ryan said as he picked up his pen. We had been sitting in our favorite coffee shop, the Blue Melody Coffee Bar, for about three hours. Tim and I had spent the previous hour communicating to the bartender and waitress by pictures on paper, while showing them pictures of our lives on our macbooks. This statement was the conclusion of a short conversation about how much we both loved Brad Pitt. Ryan, Tim, and I were lightly debating over which movie to watch tonight, and I had thrown in the possibility of the new Coen Brothers’ film, Burn After Reading. He had a grin on his face that told me he was kidding, but one can never tell with Ryan; I’ve found he’s full of surprises…

Ryan and I were asked to give lectures to all who wanted to attend, which meant that they would be chiefly attended by our students, as well as the rest of the English Department. Ms. Zhao, our boss, told us our lectures could be about whatever we wanted, as long as they were in English. While I strongly considered the history of video games, I settled on American Football. Two weeks ago I spoke to about 350 students about Football. I borrowed Ryan’s Virginia Tech jersey, explained the rules and the popularity of the NFL, and showed them pictures of the best team in the NFL; the Redskins. I also asked Ryan and Cameron (a friend and fellow teacher from California) to exhibit some of the rules and vocabulary I talked about. These included Cameron jumping offsides as I threw a yellow flag, and Ryan tackling Cameron… to the ground, much to Cameron’s dismay. I ended the lecture by showing some of the Redskins vs. Eagles game from this season. Last week was Ryan’s turn. He chose to lecture about the Wild West. It was amazing to see how little the students knew about both subjects. Everything we put on the screen and explained was new to them; the same could be said for me if I sat in on a lecture about obscure pieces of Chinese history. Ryan took advantage of his time up front, donning two six-shooters, a bandana, and a cowboy hat. See the video for the full effect.

These past couple weeks have been some of the busiest of my life, but, if asked, I probably couldn’t recall a quarter of what happened. It was just too fast. This past weekend our group traveled to Beijing to help some Chinese friends run an English Club, a place where Chinese students and friends and sing songs, play games, and learn about western culture, all with the purpose of improving English. It was Ryan, Tim, Amelia, Emily, Cameron, and I. We arrived just in time for English Club on Saturday afternoon. I helped by playing the guitar as we sang English songs, including a “new” song we introduced; Brown Eyed Girl. Before Club I told a girl the name of the new song we were going to sing.

"I can see her in my mind, and she is beautiful," she said.

After the music Tim explained the history of Thanksgiving, followed by a game of Charades. After Club we enjoyed a great Chinese meal with our Beijing friends. Later our energetic friend, Vicky, chaperoned us as we toured the business district. Beijing is a great place, complete with Coldstone (which we couldn't find), Papa John's, Subway, Starbucks, and a delightful hostel bar where the tenders don't really know how to make drinks correctly, but are open to correction. We also did some Christmas shopping in along a river, a part of town called Ho-Hi. If we were working, we probably would have whistled.

Thanksgiving was an interesting day. Our students took it upon themselves to bombard us with Happy Thanksgiving text messages. Emily counted over 40 on her phone. It was certainly a nice gesture, but somehow, many of them sent identical messages (a forwarding extravaganza, I assume). Amelia and Emily were gracious enough to cook the most American meal we could get our hands on; Mexican food. The chicken tacos were unbelievable, and most importantly, there was cheese. This weekend we travel to Lang Fang to celebrate Thanksgiving with the entire IECS teaching team. I'm looking forward to life slowing down a little next week. I'm also looking forward to going back to the underground supermarket; I've heard the workers are all now wearing Santa hats...

During each of my classes this past week, I asked my students to express what they are most thankful for. One bold young man named Kobe stood up and said with full confidence, "I'm thankful for the woman who will one day be my wife!" He wasn't done, "I'm also thankful to her parents for giving birth to such a beautiful girl."

Those are the days I live for.


Here's a view of the bus we take to school every day.


Anonymous said...

not really the WORST video ever...think about you a lot and talk to my Boss for you daily!!! B

Erin said...

I'm glad you are going to a place called Lang Fang. Yay Jon!


Ryan said...

“When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.”
“Only a master of evil, Darth.”

Was thinking about you guys a lot on turkey day. The Dark Knight comes out on dvd tuesday. I will watch it in honor of you and your affinity for dc. Tim said you got him to watch star trek...dubious.

Janet Phillips said...

I love the videos Jon!! Keep taking them!

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