(Written on September 1st)
Yesterday was my birthday! The night before had been pretty terrible—the day was exciting, and we had fun wandering the towns and such, but there’s only so many stares and strange looks two people can get, while simultaneously dealing with a language barrier, overwhelming heat and humidity (and a lack of electricity with which to turn on the refrigerator for cold water), and the knowledge that in three days time they will be starting new jobs for which they have the bare minimum of information before they get a little down in the dumps. And then there was the cockroach. So…not so good for me. But I mentioned to my roommate and fellow foreign teacher at about 1:00a.m. that the next day was my birthday, and did I mention I have the best roommate in the world? Because at 1:30 in the morning, when I thought she was nicely killing another cockroach and making me keep my door shut so I wouldn’t have to look at it, she was making birthday decorations for my doorway.
Birthday decorations from my roomie!
The next morning I got a phone call from our waiban inviting us over for lunch at her apartment, which had gotten electricity back on that morning. We lazed around, realized at the last minute we should probably bring something—we still don’t know the Chinese customs, but in the States the guest usually brings something, so we grabbed the box of dove chocolates we’d bought to snack on, tied a ribbon around it, and ran out the door. Lunch was some very tasty Chinese dishes home cooked by her husband. We had rice (of course), greens, some kind of meat with something that looked like celery but might have been sweet potato stems, something else with black mushrooms (I choose to call all fungus mushrooms because it sounds more palatable that way), steamed egg (like an omelet but just steamed in a bowl), chicken feet, and some other food that I can’t remember right now. I tried the chicken feet. It was weird. Also very spicy. But mostly the food was amazing, and they toasted my birthday with orange juice.
We spent some time lesson planning in the afternoon, and came up with a preliminary plan that should hopefully work for all age and language levels. Of course, we didn’t even have our schedules yet, let alone our textbooks, so we were really flying blind. We also wrote up a list of class rules, activities for those with less English and more English, a short list of interesting slang to teach the students, some songs for different language levels, and a crazy long list of idioms with which to start each class. Because we are awesome, we have more than sixty idioms on our list. I would type them all out for you but I’m too lazy for that, so here’s a picture of the first two pages of the list in my notebook.
I think we’re up to 70 or more now!
We’re also trying to come up with some good tongue twisters, so if you know any fun ones, send them along! So far we have:
- She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
- Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers.
- Six sick sheep. (Is there more to this one?)
We wandered around campus looking for wifi, which was pretty silly considering most of the power to campus was still off. But we found the English resource room and checked it out, and worked on our lesson plans a bit more, by which I actually mean I read The Boxcar Children. I am liking the selection of books in there.
We went for dinner at what is probably the nicest restaurant in town, mostly because we figured they would at least have a menu and a waitress who could explain some of the dishes to us.
We ended up mostly guessing, and just agreeing to whatever the waitress suggested. We got some sort of spicy beef, a fish in broth (and when I say fish, I mean the whole thing dismembered in a bowl—we couldn’t figure out what some of the pieces even were), and some vegetables like bok choy.
Then for dessert we had little fried balls of taro paste which were super tasty.
At one point during dinner the owner came over to our table to make sure the foreigners were happy. Being the only two non-Chinese people in at least two towns makes us a teeny-tiny bit conspicuous, if you hadn’t gathered that already. He was nice, even if he did assume I spoke absolutely no Chinese and directed all his questions at my co-teacher.
We stopped at the supermarket, mostly because the only things left open were other restaurants, the supermarket, and karaoke, and spent a while looking for random, mostly unnecessary things like a mosquito-zapping light.
We wandered around campus for a bit looking for wifi now that the electricity was back on for the night, found some, couldn’t connect, and went back to our apartment and watched a bad quality copy of twilight on a laptop. All of twilight. Like, all the movies. Because it came on our dvd of fifty movies.
Then sleep happened.