An American from Paris in China
Life tidbits in Lanzhou.
Same old same old?
Well, a new school year has started and it seems I know what is going to happen, so it's slightly less exciting. I have my classes, I know most of the kids, I know the colleagues, they know me, they still think I'm the French teacher, I'm part of the landscape. All I can do is compare with last year. Teacher's Day? Wow, I got WAY more cute text messages type "Dear Teacher: Happy Teacher's day! I hope you will have nothing but joy and happiness in your life and you career." My cell phone kept vibrating the entire day. I entered my 8am class to a silent class, a red flower (oeillet?) on the desk and a cheerful "Happy Teacher's day!" Is it because the students are more familiar with me that they were way more demonstrative than last year? Not sure. But it was nice, it felt like I was doing my job right and it was appreciated.
Other nice points in the week. I finished all the paperwork for the PC I was supposed to do by the end of September. That, in itself, is an achievement. I booked the horse trip in Gannan, October break it is. I can't wait. To ride a horse for 3 days in the grasslands, be freaking cold, smelly and sleep in a tent. This is going to be an adventure.I've seen these grasslands covered in snow, I hope they're still green.
Other achievement: we printed a book with all the texts and photos of the Photo Club Members. It's a good 44 pages! The copies of the photos came out super crappy but after all it was 4 kuai for each copy so we can't really complain. The students were really really proud, showing off and all, and me too. I gave a copy to the vice dean, told her to read it when she has time and to let me know when and if we can have the show. The slightly worrying thing is students keep telling me they want to join the club this semester so I will have dozens and dozens of interview... for 10 seats. One student I didn't have last year and whom I interviewed and didn't select wrote and who is my student this semester, wrote in her "remarks" : " It was such a huge disappointment not to be selected for the photo club..." bla bla bla. I felt bad, but heh. Whatever. We'll see if she comes out stronger this semester?
I did participate in a new thing this past week. Speech Contest! Was called last week: "are you free on Saturday morning?" -"euhhh (scared) yes?" -"Could you be a special judge for the speech contest?" -(even more scared) "euh... ok? "
So I went. Wasn't so happy about it because I happened to have taught 80% of the contestant. Some are good friends. How am I supposed to be impartial? I even corrected some of their speeches for round 1 last semester!
But thank god we didn't have to grade. J, the other foreign teacher and I, were basically just there to be our white selves, and ask questions. "What is your top concern?" was the prepared speech question. 3 minutes. Then a 2 minute impromptu speech, then one question about each speech.
We were also there to make it all look good because, well, we were the only judge slightly in advance (as opposed to the others were 15 minute late) The highest judge (no name no name) closed his eyes a bunch of times and started trimming and cutting his nails while contestants were sweating and stressing out telling their speeches....
I do understand that that person has to go to these contests every year, but.... I mean, there's a minimum amount of respect to show no?
I was also very stressed out before because I was thinking "how on earth am I going to ask questions if I don't understand what they say?" It happened only once. "My top concern is kjghfelgzfuiefgiugfei" bla bla bla then after a good minute i understood "kjghfelgzfuiefgiugfei" was in fact "the process" (as opposed to the goal, with the example of climbing the mountain, a very typical Chinese thing)
It turned out to be way better than I thought, and I actually quite enjoyed myself. It was cool to see what the top concerns of the this generation of Chinese citizens are. Good ideas, mostly, but definitively quite unbearably superficial sometimes. And I'm not saying this like I would have done better, like, I suck at speeches, but... You can't really say "my top concern is fashion" without having a good back up thinking behind that.
You can't just say "my top concern is gender inequality" by developping for 3 minutes on "people should be more tolerant. If a girl wants to have short hair (looks at me with insistance), she shouldn't worry about what other think (oh I don't, darling, no worry). If a boy wants to have long hair, we shouldn't judge him". Ok. Gender inequality is slightly more problematic than this. It so happened that we were sent this TED speech just yesterday, so food for thought.
Which reminded of this Chinese movie NONE of my students ever heard of. Wonder why... I bought it at the DVD shop here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Mountain
Other chosen topics: -Time -Aimlessness -Job Hunting -Beauty -love -the environment (take at least 5 speeches in your face, go find different questions now!) -Love -Communication -Respect -Independance -To enrich myself in college -what to do next?
A terrible speech (just can't help it, I'm bad) was this tiny shy girl who had a very sweet but monotonous voice and talked about "humor" being her top concern. She did the unthinkable and ... started telling a joke. That, of course, no one got. And no one laughed. And, really it's not lying to say that she wasn't funny at all. Oh, well, she'll survive.
One environment and the one on love won. And they were good. Most were super confident and I was truly impressed. Of course I was also asked to come on stage and comment at the end, and I did tell them I was impressed and they were obviously far better at speeches than I was. I'm learning that when you have no choice and have to give a speech, making an ass of yourself is always the good way out.
After the speech was a banquet. I do not enjoy these banquets that much. I'm realizing I much prefer the company of my students. Because they do ask questions. There's something with officials at banquet. Only the foreign teachers ask questions. It's still a bit freaky to me, because I run out of questions when I get a few "yes" and "no" as answers. No developpement whatsoever.
My friends M and S told the other foreign teacher that I was going to show Grease in class and she practically had a heart attack. Whoops.
Oh, and one thing that also made me giggle this week: Wednesday, text message from L., a sophomore: "Hi Marthild, I really need your help. Do you know why God has put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Eden?" Oh, you're unlucky kid, S and M discussed this we me saying that the other foreign teacher's homework was SO HARD this week. "sorry L. I know this is for S.'s homework, I'm not going to do you homework!" "oh, you know that? Sorry ! :) " Whoops! Plus, seriously, do I have any idea???