24.7.13

Double Happiness.


Last weekend Seb and I went with the family out of the city and tried crawfishing. When we piled into the car I certainly didn't expect to be spending the afternoon hanging strips of meat into a pond off a bamboo pole, drinking green tea out of a pint glass and eating watermelon. But when in Chengdu...
That Monster in the middle is Seb's!

Sebastien and I were told one evening last week that we were invited to a dinner for our host father's cousin to fancy restaurant on campus. I'm a pretty big fan of places I can walk to so I readily agreed. He told us it was to commemorate his cousin's baby's first hundred days. Apparently it is a very important tradition in ensuring the heath and luck of the child. Alternatively you can choose to commemorate the first 40 days and arguably it's a tradition more popular in the north. When giving a gift for this event one typically gives clothing or toys for the baby or a monetary gift with the base rate 200 kuai (the equivalent of 33 US dollars)  This sum increases exponentially the closer you are to the family. Money for any holiday should be given in red envelops because the color is associated with luck and happiness. Even numbers are auspicious therefore you could give 400 kuai but not 5. Sadly we were only taught about the customs of gift giving the day after we celebrated this. Wah wauh. Jerks squared. But the food was great!


We're keeping good company here at Sichuan Normal University.
Originally, I thought there would be 19 of us because they called us the China 19. Turns out that's our year and there's a reason I wasn't named Einstein. (I'm not german, obvs)
They've spread out the 72 of us between three different Unis where we all study Chinese and learn how they want us to teach English. We're in class for about 6 to 7 hours a day, six days a week. Needless to say that in three short weeks we've already gotten pretty close with the 23 fellows at our school. The vibe is wicked positive because we naturally have a lot of common ground. Most folks within our group are experienced teachers, have lived abroad and have one or more other languages under our belts. I'm pretty excited by the opportunity to be around so many other teachers who understand why I want to be here, and as cheesy as it sounds, I'm excited to see what they have to teach me.

Language class: Whelp, due to uneven class sizes I had to do my bi-weekly Language evaluation with a different teacher. This put a few bruises on my ego because she was all geared up to test me on things we didn't cover. Colors? Fruit? Refrigerators and electric fans? Don't you want to hear all the adjectives I memorized?
I also had to face the fact that I've hobbled my progress by allowing my husband to order lunch for me. Neither does it help that our host family uses the local dialect around the dinner table. Unless I feebly interject something along the lines of, "I buy coffee at the store, everyday," I don't even get to do passive learning through listening.
My true gift where language acquisition is concerned is that I don't expect to understand everything. I can sometimes see my friend's eyes spinning as they attempt to translate whole sentences in their heads.  France taught me to focus on the one or two words I did comprehend and extrapolate.
Say it with me, 朋友 !
They've arranged things so we design a two week curriculum for students in pairs. This is really awesome on Peace Corp's part because we have support and p2p critiques even as they've given the tools and expectations to realize a course, rubrics, scopes and sequences. It's a lot of responsibility for us but just imagine our TEFFL trainer having 250 lesson plans to read and give feedback on. My counterpart is a rad guy and a capable teacher so we had a lot of good pre-teach sessions. Our students range from 13 to over 20.

We've done three days of teaching thus far. We taught together on Monday but today was my first Kessel run. I'm really proud of certain elements from my lesson but feel like I still have a lot of distance to cover before I'm satisfied with how I'm preforming. I'll teach again Friday and then again next Tuesday and Thursday.

All my students had English pseudonyms, save two. I scribed them a hearty list of tight-jean names like Chaz, Kipp and Chloe but one of the two wanted a T word name so we went with Tina. The other girl picked Katie because my counterpart actually had names like Mary and Jane on his list.
Truthfully, I had misgivings with according them Western names--it feels like a denial of self--but then I remembered how much fun it was to pick one in Spanish class. Especially for the kid who got to call himself Jesus.

More next week, until then sing Tom Petty songs in your head for me!
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