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.

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Stop Spitting on the Floor!

I repeatedly have to tell this kids in my classes, “No spitting on the floor!” Today I heard one kid working a big snot ball out, “Snort,hock, hock, hock, hock.” I looked at him, and he knew I was going to growl if he spit it on the floor, but I was already all prepared in his mouth to spit. So he did what any of us would do, he pulled open the neck of his shirt, and spit it inside his shirt. He then patted his shirt against himself, and smiled at me to say, “See, I am well behaved.”

Not gonna tell me what to do…

… and vice versa. 

Living in another country can always lead to some entertaining, frustrating, or absurd situations. One of the “norms” in the culture in my small town (and China as a whole so I’ve been told) is the gal tells her fellow what to do. 

It isn’t a discussion, or a debate, just a simple, “You’s my man, now jump.” However, Bella doesn’t treat me like this. We have a back, and forth. I don’t make her decisions, and she doesn’t make mine. 

Now, as I have mentioned before, I live in an area with a population of 1,000,000 people. There are only two registered foreigners here. If someone wants the foreign monkeys to dance to draw attention to their school (whatever) the pickings are slim. 

Bella got a call the other day from one of her teachers from her school days. Her teacher was hitting the guilt, favour, respect train hard. “Bella,” he said, “you’re with the foreigner now, right? So, I need you to get him to come teach classes on Friday evenings at a small countryside school.” The intention was Bella would be embarrassed to say no, so he didn’t call to talk to me about it with her translating, he called to set up the whole thing so I would have no say in the matter. 

I have been made aware of this (my word) manipulation. I don’t care for it really. As I said before, we don’t make each other’s decisions. The old, “ask the girl to force the boy,” routine isn’t gonna fly here. It isn’t even gonna leap over tall buildings. 

She politely said, “I’ll have to ask him A. if he wants to, and B. how much he would want to charge.” Her former teacher’s response, “Why would you need to ask him? Just tell him he is doing it, and tell me how much you want him to charge (hoping for a price similar to hiring a local teacher rather than a foreigner).” Bella once again told him how I work, and she would have to call back. 

At first Bella was a little shy about answering for me like this, but it easier now because I have started her on the habit of making an obscene number of “he” statements. Her main concern was people would think she was talking. When it’s me, I have a bit more wiggle room to say nope. At least I take a little more wiggle room. 

Eyes on the Road

Here is what my day looked like.
School: “Hey Shawn, want to go to a small country school to do something?”
Me: “Not really.”
School: “Good, we’ll go at 4:00”
Me: “What will I do?”
School: “It’ll be simple.”
Me: 😐

*After We Finished The Things*

School: “Want to get in a car wreck on the way home?”
Me: “No.”
School: “Good, car wreck it is.”
*Blamo!!! Car wreck, because traffic laws are for dummies!!!*

Yes, I’m ok.
No, no hospital trip needed.
Yes, I’m glad my day is done.

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!
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7 Days Holiday, Kind Of…

October 1-7 is the National Day holiday, which of course means no classes. I like the idea of not having classes, but I am not a fan of how it is designed. I am not saying it is wrong, but I don’t like the design.

– We have a 7 day holiday (Yay!), it is how it is presented.
– It is of course a 5 day holiday, because 2 of those days are already my weekend (5 days is good).
– Because of the holiday, there are extra class days on Sunday Sept. 21, 28, and Oct 12, creating 3 weeks with 6 days of classes, instead of 5 (leaving 2 days of holiday after the 3 payback days)

Given the choice, I would far rather have just 2 days of holiday, and my weekends be left alone.

However, it is what it is. I will enjoy my time off, and try not to think about the 6 days of classes each week for 3 weeks. Get some reading done, bake, cook some BBQ sauces, and maybe take a day trip to the big city. It will not be a wasted week :).

First Day of School

The first day of school for any kid is a big day. It is one of the major life changes you find yourself going through. I have recently found the old family VHS tapes and transferred them to digital. I cannot remember my first day of school, so it is interesting to see how excited I am to be going to school. In this video I try to drive the car, but this wasn’t my first time trying to drive. When I was 3 or 4 my grandmother left me in the car for 2 minutes while she ran into our family’s gas station. This was enough time for me to get to the gear shift and put the car in drive. The car then drove itself into the Ice Cooler outside the store. The dent was in the ice cooler until they got rid of it in 2005 or so.

Shawn First Day of School