Dragon Claw Beats Tiger Roar!

We were learning animal body parts (loosely defined) in class recently. In elementary school here the kids learn the basic body parts that most animals, and people have, nose, eyes, ears, mouth, head, fingers, etc. They don’t really do much in the way of animal specific body parts though.

We learned:
Dragon Claw
Panda Paw
Tiger Roar
Elephant Trunk

We went over other animals with the same body parts, and yes I know a roar is not a body part, but I didn’t want to do an animal sound class, so I snuck it in there.

When it came time for the review, we played a game much like Rock-Paper-Scissors, but with our new terms.

  • Thumb, pointer, & middle fingers held like a claw = Dragon Claw
  • Hands open wide with all fingers, & thumbs fully extended = Panda Paw
  • Hands cupped around mouth like a pretend megaphone = Tiger Roar
  • What you think it would look like = Elephant Trunk

You play with three at any given time. Panda is always a good idea to have in there because pandas.

Dragon Claw beats Tiger Roar
Tiger Roar beats Panda Paw
Panda Paw beats Dragon Claw

At this point the kids will question how a panda can beat a dragon. The answer, “Pandas are so cute, the dragon can’t bear to attack them, but tigers can, cause tigers are jerks.” If you don’t have a TA/translator in class, just point at the panda, and say, “Mo mo da [moe-moe-da],” it means, “Cute,” and the kids will understand why this idea works.

I have the class split into 4 teams, and I have them come to the front of the room to battle. The winner stays (max 3 fights), and the loser sits to let the next team go. If someone wins 3 fights, then they get to fight me for extra points for their team.

Works with pretty much any group of animal features/body parts, just come up with reasons the weakest can beat the strongest. Cute is an easy out.

Stupid Foreigner!

Earlier tonight I had a phone call from a number I didn’t know. Usually they are advertisements I don’t understand, but I decided to answer this one. This was a mistake. Buddy started his spiel, and at the first comma in his speech I interrupted, “I don’t speak Chinese, can I help you?” Apparently he has an issue with English, because he lost his mind at me when I spoke to him in English. He shouted into the phone, “Stupid foreigner, you are worthless to me!” Then he hung up on me.

I may be living in China, but you called my phone. Just another day in the life, just another day. 😐

10 Questions To Ask About Your ESL Job

       Well, you’ve decided you want to go and teach English, and you aren’t sure what you are doing. Join the club. Going overseas to teach English is fun, exciting, adventurous, tedious, and annoying all rolled into one. It’s just like your life in [wherever you are], there will be things you love, hate, like, dislike, and don’t really care about. 

       I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I thought I would share two cents worth of free advice with you. Before you say yes to the job, there are some questions you should ask. Once you have the answers, you can make a better informed decision on what to do.
1. Is the apartment shared with another teacher, assistant, or will it be a private apartment? 
       My school tried for a while to get me a roommate, and I kept saying no. Their reasoning (beyond it was cheaper for the school) was, “You will be lonely.” No I won’t, I am quite happy without a roommate. You just need to make the decision for yourself whether you want/don’t want a rommie. 
2. Who pays utilities?
       My deal is a max of 200 RMB each month paid for utilities. Don’t confuse a monthly maximum with a yearly maximum. If one month my utilities cost 75RMB, and the next month they cost 325RMB, I owe 125RMB for utilities. I wanted a yearly, but the response I got was less than polite. I decided this was not a hill on which I wanted to die, so I tabled it until the next contract negotiations. 
3. What does the apartment include? 
       Is there a washing machine, stove, oven, is it a bed/sleeping mat (not my favourite), couches, TVs, and so forth?
       Make a list of the must items for your apartment before you talk to the recruiter/company. Be sure it is there already for you. The main thing missing from my apartment was an oven (because oven cooking at home doesn’t seem to be super popular here), I bought a good toaster oven for $75. 
       Also, ask about the hot water. You want either an electric hot water heater, or a gas one. They do solar ones on the rooftops here, and they are terrible from what I’ve been told. Lukewarm in the summer, and not warm in the winter. 
4. How far is the apartment away from the school?
       My place is about 3km away from the school. There is a chance you will be offered an apartment on the school grounds with the local teachers. It will be more like a college dorm room with (maybe) a kitchenette. It never came up as an option, but I would say no if it was offered.
5. If the school is more than 1km away, do they offer a bike/bus money/transportation?
       I bought an electric scooter for myself here. They gave me a bike which routinely had something broken on it. Before I got the electric bike, I walked most everywhere I went. If it weren’t for the fact I sweat buckets from May until October I wouldn’t have bothered with the e-bike at all and just kept walking. 
6. Is there a yearly raise in your salary? 
       If yes, how much? Also, is there a cap should you stay long term?
       Mine will go up every year until it hits a cap in 4 or 5 years. You can always change companies when you get to China, but if you find a good starting company, maybe you can settle in for the long haul instead.
7. Important Quesion: What are the required teaching hours, and what are the required office hours when I’m not teaching? 
       Be sure you are getting the answer for both, otherwise you may arrive to find you have double the required hours each week with office hours.
       I have 0 required office hours, and about 17 teaching hours. Remember you will have to prepare for classes at some point, whether it is home/office time.
8. How many days each week do I have to work? 
       I have 5 days each week (M-F). During my last contract talk, they tried to talk me into 5.5 days each week. You may hold a different opinion than me on this, I know the company did. I told them I wanted two days off each week, and they said, “It is 1.5, it’s the same thing.” No it isn’t. 1.5 means it is only 1 day off to me. In the end, they gave 2 full days off each week. 
9. How much vacation time do I get through the year?
       Each year I get Chinese nation holidays, if the kids have good enough test scores. I can’t bank on these days until the afternoon of the day before. Also, keep in mind some “holidays” require pay back days during the weekends before/after the holiday. I also have about a month for Spring Festival, and a couple months for summer. 
10. What do you get paid during your holidays? 
       Some companies will pay you full pay, half pay, or a daily allowance so you don’t die. 
Here are a few things to remember:
  • If you get a job at a public school there will probably be 40-50 kids in each class. If it is a training school then probably 12-15 per class.
  • You will hear “maybe” as an answer quite often. My experience has been it does not mean, “Possibly,” it means, “I don’t know at all. I can’t rule it out, but I have no information about this to give you.” If you get maybe as an answer you can ask someone else, or you can sit back and wait to find out. Just don’t put stock in a maybe.
  • Don’t be afraid to put your foot down. There are a bazillion jobs in China for foreign teachers. They will have a harder time finding another you than you will finding another them. If you want it, and it is within reason, go for it. Don’t be a jackass, but be firm. They will hum, they will haw, but in the end they will probably meet you somewhere near where you wanted. 

Expedient Residence

I have been in China now for just under a year. I arrived Feb. 10, or 11 last year. I have had a good year. There have been some annoyances, there have been some likes, and some dislikes. Basically, life as usual for any place in the world.

To stay here, I need a new residence permit every year. This means I have to get a new Foreign Expert Certificate each year, and with it I am able to apply for another year’s residency. The expert certificate was supposed to take 7 days, or less, to get. It took the school’s contact just under a month to get it, because he is a procrastinator, and didn’t apply for until about 3 weeks after I signed the papers.

He isn’t our favourite person in the world. One of the other teachers found his pay was about 10% light one month. When he confronted this guy (who is the accountant, among other jobs), the guy reached in his pocket and pulled out a bundle of cash, the exact amount missing from the pay. He has shorted my pay, and taken money to speed up the internet, and he set up a slower service than he told me he was setting up for me. I could go, but let’s just say his scruple count is on the low side. 

Now, applying for the residency took a month last year. The other teacher here said it took a month both times he did it. The official turnaround time given is 15 days, but experience said otherwise. I was a little concerned, because I am leaving for Hong Kong on Feb. 1, and I wasn’t able to apply for this until Jan 16. They assured us at the police station it would be back in time, but I didn’t believe them. based on past experience.

If you are questioning my timing decisions for travel/renewal conflict, I was told at the latest we would be ready to apply for the new permit on December 30, so Feb. 1 was more than enough time away to get it back. 

While I was hopeful it would be returned on time, I was calculating how much money I would lose to cancelation fees for train tickets, and whatnot for the trip should my passport not be returned on time. I know I could get permission to travel/check into hotels in Mainland China while the police have my passport, but I am quite sure I cannot go to Hong Kong without my physical passport. Xiu Xiu called the police station the day after we applied to remind them to please be quick with my passport. Then she called a few days later on Monday to re-remind them. When she called back yesterday to re-re-remind them, they said it was there, and ready for me.

I couldn’t believe it when she told me it was back. I was happy, but still unbelieving. We picked it up, and sent a thank you message to the officer responsible for the expedited processing. I am very happy to have my next year’s residency out of the way, and now I have nothing to worry about until I renew my passport in Shanghai next December (A renewal I am excited about, because it will be good for 10 years).

I couldn’t believe it when they told her it was already back. I was pleased, but in disbelief. I am very happy to have my year’s residency taken care of now. I don’t have to worry about anything else until next December when I go to Shanghai to renew my passport. I am excited about the renewal though, it means I will have a 10 year passport this time!
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It Was a Long Week

I am not dead. I say this, because I felt I should start with a positive statement on this entry. Now, to the venting. I can easily say, this has not been the best week I have ever had. I guess part of the problem is, the couple of dogs who have taken up residence below my apartment window. They appear to be half owl, because they sleep during the day, and at night they like to make their noises. Is it wrong I think, “I hope someone eats them soon.”

In Fengxian, one of the more popular dishes is dog meat.

Each week I have 25 classes, children from grade 1, to grade 6. I like 24, of the 25 classes. They may get a little rowdy sometimes, and have moments of, “ugh,” but as a whole, they are good. I tell them to be quiet, and they will stop talking for quiet a while. Then there is the 25th class. It might be worth pointing out, I have no authority in the classroom as far as discipline goes.
– I will not hit the children like their teacher does.
– If I were someone who would hit the children, I am not allowed anyway. Only their regular teacher can.
– Stand in the hall/against the wall doesn’t yield any results, because the worst of the bunch don’t care.
– I am not allowed to assign homework, I am just there to practice spoken English.
So, yesterday (Thursday) was a particularly rough day with them, and I had it up to my eye teeth. I told them to be quiet, and one boy said, “Why should we listen to you, you don’t hit us, so we don’t need to listen.” Sparing you the rest of my nightmare, we went to talk to their regular teacher. I have now met the first person I dislike here. I have met people I am indifferent towards, not hot, not cold, just whatever, but I actively don’t like this woman. The translator did the talking, so I got the conversation after the fact, but the gist,

Teacher: “They aren’t bad when I am there, you are terrible teachers.”
Translator: “We have 25 classes, and 24 of them aren’t a problem. If it were us, then we would have a problem with almost all the classes.”
Teacher: “I don’t care about this. Go and talk to the headmaster, because you don’t have the authority to cancel the class. He deals with your company”
Translator: “Ok.”
Teacher: *Thought the mention of talking to the headmaster would scare her off*
Translator: “We won’t hit the kids, but we won’t put up with a class who doesn’t want to learn. If you don’t care, we will discuss the state of your students’ behaviour with the headmaster. You should teach them to behave in class without the fear of being slapped in the head.”

I was pleased with what she said to the teacher. The short version above doesn’t quite capture the condescension she had towards the two of us, but we were both quite irked (mildly put).

Anyways, this is really more of a vent than anything. I have a good life, and I cannot complain. I just had a less than stellar week, and if I were smart, I would focus on the good stuff. Therefore, I will end with a list of the good stuff from this week.

– Great girlfriend (Cheesy? Maybe. True? Yes)
– Found Lays Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips for a snack
– 24 good to great classes
– Lots of hugs from the kids
– Still loving my electric bike (scooter?)
– I made flour tortillas, which tasted perfect (the tortillas led to having some Mexican-esque food)
– Went to the movies to see Hercules, which ended up being halfway decent
– Had some great dumplings after the film
– Plenty of good coffee at the coffeeshop I go to
– Pretty much everything else in my life. 🙂

Venting complete, moving on

No Sit?

Today was the end of my summer vacation, which I plan on posting about sometime in the near future, cause nothing better than a summer vacation post in mid September. I am lazy some days :/.

Ok, so, today was the end of summer, or more accurately, the first day of classes. In the grade 1 class we were learning “stand,” and, “sit.” Stand worked swimmingly. In class 3, everyone sounded great with pronunciation, and shy of the 2 boys who were scared to death of the long haired, bearded foreigner, they were all giggling up a storm enjoying standing up 400,000 times while shouting, “Stand!” Then, we moved on to, “Sit.”

Oh, what a word it is. Now, the command to sit down, “Sit.” They all sat down, saying in unison, “Shit.” Crap, ok, lets work on pronouncing it. It always amazes me when everyone goes with the same mispronunciation. Kitchen, and chicken are another two I frequently hear turned around en masse. I listened to a choir of 6 year olds shouting, “Stand, Shit, Stand, Shit…” Eventually there was a small improvement in the way they were saying it, but I am quite sure next Monday we will need to work on it again.