Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shy Teacher

Today I had my first "real" classes, as in the first ones in which I had the class for the second time, had given them a reading assignment, and had to really teach them something. It was quite a lot of fun actually, especially when I give the students a creative outlet and let them surprise me. The reading, from the textbook, was about how Native American names are given to them as a way to describe someone's character. As suspected they haven't learned about Native Americans, so I gave a quick lecture on the culture, and then had them pick Native American-style names for each other and myself. I had two classes and was called Shy-Man and Shy-Teacher (they haven't really gotten past "shy" and "handsome" in describing me, although "friendly" might have been thrown in there once or twice), and they picked names like Naughty-Girl, Big-Head-Cat, Snoopy, and Tomato-Salad-Girl for each other. I also had them write about what they thought of the name given to them. An excerpt: "I'm really a naughty girl. Many classmates are afraid to play with me. In our life, we should have much smile and happy. So, I think, naughty is not my fault, but my advantage. Do you think so? I very like this name". I also found an appropriate New York Times article online about how Chinese students like to pick oddball English names in the classroom ( which I shortened and had them read in class, told them about Western names and gave them a list of their own English names with meanings (I had them share a few copies and mild chaos ensued), and had them describe Chinese names to me and think of some Chinese names for me. It's a scary idea at first, but I expect to find having total freedom in the classroom to be ideal. The students can also be really enthusiastic at times, and will do things like standing in unison to greet me when I enter the room and erasing the blackboard for me.

Last Saturday, I had dinner with Phillip and an English woman named Tracy who is teaching at a Zhangye middle school, both of whom are also going through OWDC for their jobs. Afterwards we went to my place and shared a bottle of baijiu, the popular and potent Chinese rice wine, which I was looking forward to trying. It's probably most similar to vodka but with a strange, vaguely fruity taste and a little stronger. It was a new experience for me to be hosting adults in my own apartment, fellow teachers no less. Only now am I starting to feel like anything resembling an adult, and I do enjoy the freedom and the idea of having my own money and lifestyle.

On Sunday I went shopping for a guitar, and surprisingly I found three or four shops. Generally they had to dust them off, and without fail all of the strings were completely slack as if ready for a lengthy storage. In one shop, the owner was giving a young girl a piano lesson, and both stopped the lesson to stare at me for the first five minutes as I tuned a guitar, until I finally told them to continue. I didn't find anything that grabbed me; that is, until I stumbled into the Rock and Roll Guitar Pub near the city square. There were maybe 7 or 8 university students in there sitting on stools and playing guitars, with their young guitar teacher running the store. The place was full so the (possible) owner insisted that one of the guys stand so I could sit, which I found a little embarrassing. Of course, as soon as I sat down with a guitar everyone stopped playing to watch me. Eventually they got brave enough to talk to me, since one or two could speak some English. They asked me to plug in an electric and play, and the owner sat down with his guitar to play along. Someone requested "Restaurant in California", so the two of us went through a rousing rendition of "Hotel California". This is the one Western rock song most revered in Asia (certainly Thailand), and he knew the solo by heart. The owner couldn't speak English but had his friend translate, and was quite excited about having me in his store and playing with me. We took some pictures together and exchanged phone numbers, and he wants me to come back, which I will. I did buy a guitar from him as well, a decent acoustic for about $50. The other foreign teachers have been a great source of help and outlet for my social life, but I will hopefully also make more Chinese friends as time goes on.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Dan....your travels sound soooo amazing!!! I think that maybe if I save enough money within the next the couple of months...or like the next six months...i may want to come visit. i hope you don't mind my imposition. anyway keep up the good english teaching. i'll talk to you soon!!!