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.


The Honourable Dad Presiding

Some day I might have a couple of kids, and odds are they’ll be fighting at some point. I’m gonna incentivize them to solve their quarrels on their own. If one of them comes to me, and says, “Dad my stupid brother/sister did this,” they will have the option of taking them to Dad Court. Dad court is not free. In Dad Court the plaintiff must pay the $0.50 court fee (fee goes up as they get older), and the loser of the case must give up their favourite toy for 3-14 days. 

Kid: “Dad! Jimbo did this!”
Me: “You taking him to judge dad? You got $0.50?” 
Kid: “No, I don’t.” 
Me: “Better solve it on your own without fighting then.”

Dad court.

Working with Kids

Today one of the kids from class came running up to me, “Hi, hi, hi, hi! How are you?” When I was opening my mouth to answer, the kid popped a lychee out of her mouth, all half chewed up, and crammed it into my open mouth, “This is for you!” Then she gave a great big grin, and her grandmother shoved a bunch of peaches into my hands, and off they went.

Thanks… I guess?

That Time The School Caught On Fire

Living abroad brings an abundance of new experiences. You get to see how the local culture changes how people react to situations. Sometimes the reactions are identical to what I would do, and sometimes they are night/day different. This is a story of one of those night/day differences. This is a story of the time the school caught on fire.

I must admit, I have never been in a burning building before. The plus side is, the building was made of concrete, so it wasn’t about to go up in flames. However, there is plenty to make enough smoke to kill an elephant; I’m getting ahead of myself.

It started like any other day. I went to school, had my classes, growled at naughty boys (I would say 90%+ of the naughty kids in my classes are boys), and taught English. The fun started during my first class of the afternoon. We were learning the months, and I started to smell smoke. I assumed it was coming in the window, because they burn trash here. I closed the windows… this was the wrong thing to do.

We continued with the months. Despite the windows being closed, the smoke smell was getting stronger. There was a hole in the concrete wall, drilled to run power cables through it. The hole was grey with smoke, and it was quickly starting to come into the classroom.

“I think we should take the kids down to the courtyard,” I said to the translator. She calmly said, “No, we need to stay here.” The headmaster came to the classroom door to say the same thing, “Stay here. Have the children do their homework.” We opened all the windows, but the smoke was still heavy in the air. My translator said, “It isn’t this room on fire, we must stay.”

Soon there was a rush of groundskeepers past the door. They took out the firehose on the wall (which I honestly questioned whether or not it was real before this point), and thundered up the stairs with it. Our smokey room with the dry floor then experienced two changes:
1. The smoke grew thicker, and blackened (Despite my protests, the translator would not allow the students to leave).
2. The floor became un-dry, very un-dry (At this point the translator told the students to put their feet up on their chairs so they don’t get wet feet). 

Finally the bell rang, and sweet freedom was ours. We should have had a machete to cut our way out of the smoke it was so thick. The staircase on our corner of the building had become a river from the firefighting attempts. The class on the other side of the stairs emerged from their fiery furnace as well, and we all exited through the second nearest staircase. The kids, and teachers all laughing about the experience.

This happened early in my time here. Should it happen again, I am going to tell the headmaster we will be having class in the courtyard. If there were a fire in a western school, there would be a fire alarm sounded. The students would have an orderly exit from the building. After the all clear was given, then the students would return to classes. My school decided to give the all clear while the fire was still burning 2-10 metres (6-30ish feet) from classrooms filled with children.

This is a story from before Xiu Xiu was my translator in class

Welcome Back Kotter

Vacation has come to an end, as has my first week back to school. Ugh, it was a long week. Nothing terrible, horrible, very bad, just long. I am happy to say, Friday night is here, and I have nothing to worry about until Monday morning, 8 am.

Here’s my week in a nutshell:

“Welcome back to school, good luck ditching vacation mode.”

Monday morning, I was a train wreck. There was no force in the world strong enough to make me want to go to school. I woke up, healthy as a horse, and cursed my luck to not be sick.

Pinkeye is my disease of choice. A little uncomfortable, but all in all, it is a free day feeling mostly healthy.

Monday is grade 1 day, the day requiring the most energy. The kids were sweet, and kind, and they are really well behaved, for the most part, but they are high energy. All in all, grade 1 is starting to be my favourite grade to have classes with as a whole. Monday night I died, all night.
“Hey, it’s Wed. night, how would you feel if your fridge died. Doesn’t matter. Dead.”

There was a power flicker, followed immediately by another power flicker in my apartment. The result, a burnt out lightbulb, and a very dead fridge. I wished, and hoped, and prayed it would just be a blip, by morning the motor would be buzzing away… but it was not meant to be. Long story short, I got a replacement fridge from the school at suppertime today (Friday). It could have been worse, but there were casualties reported. I lost the bananas I keep in the freezer for smoothies, so I’ll have to replace those for $2. The biggest loss was my cheddar cheese. The fridge didn’t just go, “not cold,” it went into a swampy sweat. The already grated cheddar cheese didn’t stand a chance.

*Sheds a Single Tear*

” Friday means Grade 6, pains in the neck, the lot of them.” 

There was a time last semester when grade 5 was the bane of my existence. By the end of the semester, it was grade 6. I remembered within 3 minutes why this was. I don’t beat the children. Might sound strange to open with, but their teachers punch, kick, throw things at, wallop, bop, slap, hit, and smack… among other things as a punishment. I refuse to do this. My classes are, at the request of the school, homework free. I am there to teach conversation English. So, upping the homework is not an option for me either.

Last semester I struggled to think of a way to keep grade 6 in line, because if I’m not hitting them, why would they listen. That isn’t my statement, it is exactly what one of the students said when I told them to sit down, be quiet, and pay attention. I finally *crosses fingers* came up with the solution to my unwillingness to participate in extreme corporal punishment.

Today I warned them, “Last semester, blah, blah, blah. It is not going to happen this semester. Anyone who does not want to obey the rules will have a letter sent home to their parents, which must be returned signed by their parents.” Xiu Xiu will be writing the letters in Chinese. One boy shouted out, “No, please just beat me, it would be easier than taking this letter home to my parents.” Hopefully knowing I am willing to communicate with their parents will put them into the learning frame of mind. 😀

“Sweet Freedom”

After school I got my new fridge, which was of course a used fridge they had already. I don’t care, it works.

Then, Xiu Xiu and I went to the movies. There were quite a few people there, but we still got pretty good seats to see Jupiter Ascending. It started off a little slow, and I questioned whether I was going to like it, but it delivered. I was very happy I saw it. Next week, Paddington Bear. It is a jackpot of foreign films this week!

Now, I have my weekend ahead of me. Here are the bullet points:

  • Morning market tomorrow to get 15-20 kg of potatoes, because I have a problem. No, because they are super cheap there, and I eat a lot of potatoes.
  • FoodLove with the girl who showed up at my door shortly after I arrived in China, “You help me with English, I’ll help you with Chinese.” I haven’t seen her since Sept. because she was busy at school.
  • All you can eat buffet with Xiu Xiu! If I did it everyday, it would be gluttony, but on Sunday, I shall call it a feast. 2 people, $20.
  • Whatever else comes my way.

I also decided to start a budget this week. I have the next two months marked out in a notebook, “how much I spent,” “total for the month,” and, “what the total should be.” I have actually been doing really well with it (I’m shocked too). Here’s hoping I can keep it up. 

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!

I’m Dreaming of Big City Supermarkets

Oh China, such interesting happenings in my days here. As I have said before, I am a super minority in my town of 1,000,000 people. In the whole town, there are 2 foreigners (before summer there were 4 of us). There is a guy from Australia, and myself. This of course causes curiosity when I am out of the house. People stare, people talk, people molest/pet/rub my belly (cause some people are dinks), people point, and people loudly exclaim, “Foreigner,” when they see me. To be fair, I am the first foreigner many people here have ever seen in person, and I am on a short list for other people who don’t spend time in the big cities.  I understand the curiosity. The belly thing only ever happened twice, and I do have a short fuse for future happenings. I am quite sure the next guy (both were 50ish men) will get his hand slapped like a 5 year old child reaching for a hot stove, I feel this is a fair reaction to being molested by strangers.
I digress.

All of these things, I don’t really mind (except my belly being handled by strangers), I enjoy the photos people want to take with me. I enjoy how some shops will offer me a foreigner discount, instead of the price going the other way as it normally does when I travel (See the story of buying my electric bike for an example of this. The same thing happened the other day with my heater). My life is good here, and I have no real complaints. I am comfortable, and I never go hungry.
My dream though, is to grocery shop without having my cart/choices scrutinized. Given the chance, I want to do a big trip, once a month to get the bulk of my food for the month, then pick up odds and ends at the farmer’s market after. I want to go to the supermarket, and walk out with 7, or 8 bags of groceries, and not be a spectacle. Not going to happen here. It is strange for people to have more than a bag or two of groceries, so, I keep it pretty scaled back for each trip. I guess it wasn’t even worth mentioning the bags, the number of bags isn’t really the point, it is the examination of my cart/basket.
Here is how I know my choices in the supermarket are being, judged/stared at/scrutinized(?) not really sure the right word. When I get a handful of things in my cart, people start to inspect them. I can see the disapproving looks of the grandmothers at my lack of vegetables in the cart (I do buy them at the farmer’s market, not a tonne, but enough to not die).
Shawn, you don’t know for sure people care what you are buying.
Yes I do. 
Beyond the looks into my cart, people will actually dig into my cart, move items to see what is below. They will lift things, and show them to their friends, and get a laugh, or a look, or whatever it may be. Old people, young people, never children though. I mentioned this to a Chinese friend, and they were surprised people would do this at all, let alone multiple times. The reaching into my cart doesn’t happen every time of course. It happens about 2-3 times a month.
Now, I realize it is curiosity. I am not upset at it, but when I am grocery shopping, sometimes I wish I were just a face in the crowd, nobody noticing, could buy my meat, junk food, and whatever else from the supermarket, and pay for it without attention. I like my small town, it has most everything I could want (coffee shop, supermarket with a couple imported items, and a hamburger grinder, 2 movie theatres, and a KFC to go to once or twice a month), but on occasion I think how nice a city would be where my side show appeal wouldn’t exist.
But, I do love the photo ops, when people shyly come up to ask if they can take a picture with me. I also do love the random hugs from kids on the street, although sometimes my heart stops when they see me, and run across the street without looking. I do get many smiles (Which I would characterize as genuine). So, I vented about grocery shopping, and now I am good.

Give the Gift of Receiving

Most, if not all, of us have had something offered to us which would fall under the category of an everyday kindness. Maybe it was someone offering us their seat on the train, or being allowed to go first through … Continue reading