Testing, testing…

September 30, 2011

My kids write the strangest things on tests.

Some of them studied.  Some of them didn’t.  It’s pretty obvious who falls into which category.

I don’t know whether American teachers ever give F+ as a grade… but I sure do… because you’ve gotta distinguish between the kids who got 35% and the kids who got 59% somehow.

More about testing later.  For now, grading is still consuming all of my time.  Aaaaa!!!! Soooo time consuming!


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Happy Rosh Hashanah!

September 29, 2011

Had a great Rosh Hashanah here in Xiuning.  Baked round honey challah rolls.  I think they were my favorite thing I’ve made so far, but I ate them all before I had a chance to photograph.  Next time… 🙂

Today was just great.  I’ve been having 1-on-1 meetings with all of my students, and today I actually had interesting and organic-feeling conversations with a lot of kids.  Having good, solid conversations with them feels so good.  On top of that, I graded a ton of tests (more about tests later), and Sabrina and I combined our classes today to teach them the Cha Cha Slide and the Macarena.  Good times.  I was really happy with their dancing.  Although the boys and girls refused to even stand in the same row as each other, they all actually danced and even shook their hips in the Macarena.  Adorable.

It’s also the Chinese national holiday vacation starting now.  Four day weekend, heck yeah!

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Cha Cha Slide (and beyond)

September 28, 2011
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Well, just before dinner yesterday, I taught the Cha Cha Slide and the Macarena to 20 or so Chinese teenagers.  They ranged from girls who probably would’ve rather learned a cutesy dance to a love song to boys in basketball jerseys who asked if I could teach them to break dance, to other kids who probably just wanted to see the spectacle of ol’ 外教 here trying to teach a dance class.  The Cha Cha Slide, luckily, is accessible to all.  And even involves English language listening skills.

Yes, there will be a dance class.  The question is, what kind?  I think that a hip-hop class that would appeal more to the cool kids (the ones I’m always chasing away from the front of my room where they like to stand and smoke) would be more fun, but also much more difficult for me seeing as 1) I’ve only taken two or so hip-hop lessons in my entire life, 2) I was probably the worst dancer in the class for both of them, and 3) I would want to avoid teaching the kids any hip hop moves that are too suggestive of anything sexual… and that subtracts a large portion of the hip-hop move repertoire I learned in those two classes.

Doing a ballet-ish class would be the easiest for me since I’ve taken hundreds of those, so I do actually have some level of expertise and would be able to teach the kids good technique.  But I think that the group of students interested in a ballet class would be very small and would only include quiet giggling girls.  Plus, teaching good technique takes years, and the kids would probably get bored with me making them point their feet properly.  They don’t wanna audition for ABT, they just wanna dance.

So, I could teach something that’s kind of in between hip-hop and ballet, where they’d learn a few ballet-ish moves and a few hip-hop moves, but only in the capacity that those moves are thrown in with lots of standing and posing and walking in patterns… hm… then there’s always the issue of skill level.  Even if I audition for the best ones, will these kids be any good at 1) learning choreography and 2) putting attitude into their dancing?

Yup, these are the things I spend my day thinking about.

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Mixing languages

September 27, 2011
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Reading an article in the French journal “Le Monde” (online, of course), I stared a long time at the number “25.”



That’s not right.

Why is it not right?

Wu is Chinese.  But how do you say “wu” in French?  un deux trois quatre cinq.  Oh.  Yes.  Cinq.


On the flip-side, I’ve thrown in a few French numbers during tutoring sessions as well.  Numbers are always the hardest for me, in any language.  I can’t really explain it.  They just get so engrained in English that they’re shaky in any other language even after years of study.

But taking a step back from the main point of this story, please note that I am in the habit of waking up, brushing my teeth and setting up my computer while my coffee is brewing, making oatmeal, and then relaxing and reading the news in French and English.  Why is my life so good?

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September 26, 2011

There was a bat in Sabrina’s classroom today.  She came into my room to enlist my help in ousting the animal.

The sight in her room was incredible.  I wish I’d had a camera with me.

Her students were doing skits in class today, and each group had been given a prop to use in their skit.  When I walked into the classroom, all the kids were using their props (balls, sticks, a baseball glove, etc.) to swat at a terrified little bat that was racing in circles around the room.  We opened all the windows, and eventually it flew away.  But gosh, that first moment of stepping into a room full of children gleefully brandishing random items at a small bat… that was a pretty wild sight.

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Code Blue

September 26, 2011

Sunday was just a gloomy day.  There was the rain, my typical dizziness from the changing weather, the thought of a whole week ahead with no sign of my typical energy and enthusiasm.

I tried to bake my way out of the funk with some garlic rolls.

Even with 10 garlic rolls sitting on the table in front of me, I still felt little motivation to do anything else useful.

As dinner time approached, Sabrina and I talked and realized that we were both feeling about the same and wanted to make the easiest dinner possible.  Apparently the weather in Xiuning is great at taking people along with it in its mood swings.  So, we had a pretty pleasant dinner in our house and dirtied as few dishes as possible.  For our future convenience, we code named such mood dips.  Future lazy, useless days like yesterday will be known as “Code Blue.”

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On the laundry line

September 25, 2011
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As I hung my laundry out to dry yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice a hunk of marbled meat that had been hung up to dry alongside some bedding.  It’s still there today, actually.

When I mentioned to Doug and Aaron that there was a hunk of meat on the laundry line they shrugged and said just wait til it’s a grosser animal part and I come back on a windy day to find my laundry wrapped around it.  Then, they started… reminiscing… about a “pig face” from last year.

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Culinary discovery

September 24, 2011

Behind every great recipe is a great story.

Last night, I was cutting up chili peppers to go in one of our dinner dishes.  As I was doing this, Sabrina pulled a banana out of the fridge and pointed out that it was getting a little old.  I, never one to waste time when there is food to be eaten, immediately peeled the banana, used my fingers to remove the overly mushy parts, and ate the remaining pieces.  The capsaicin on my hands had transferred rather efficiently to the fruit, and thus, I found myself eating a spicy banana.  It was really good.

So, I had two ideas.  One: ice cream with spicy caramelized bananas (a little more difficult to make here, but will happen).  Two: chili chocolate chip banana bread.

Needless to say, I made some banana bread today.

I was a little conservative with the amount of minced chilli peppers I added because the last thing I wanted to end up with was something too spicy for me to eat.

As it is, this bread is awesome.  But, it tastes more like peppers than like spicy… if that makes sense.  Aaron, expert chef and taste tester, recommended I try using a cayenne powder next time if I want it to be spicier.  Will do.

If you want to join me in the quest for a spicy banana bread culinary masterpiece, my recipe from today is below and awaits your suggestions.  Tell me if you end up making something delicious!

Chili Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (modified from a classic banana bread recipe on simplyrecipes.com)

What you need:

  1. 4 medium bananas, preferably a little bit over-ripe
  2. Somewhere between ¼ and ⅓ cup oil
  3. ½ cup sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 1tsp baking soda
  7. Pinch of salt
  8. 1.5 cups flour
  9. 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  10. 1/3 of a large chili pepper

What you do:

  1. Mash bananas in a large bowl.
  2. Mince pepper.
  3. Wash hands well with soap and water to avoid imminent hands-on-fire sensation.
  4. Add minced pepper to mashed bananas and stir.
  5. Preheat oven to 170°C
  6. Stir in oil, sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  7. Taste.
  8. Stir in egg, and baking soda.
  9. Fold in flour.
  10. Fold in chocolate chips.
  11. Grease a pan.
  12. Pour batter into bread loaf pan. (I think it’s 4X8 inches)
  13. Bake for about 1 hour or until done.
  14. Take it out of the pan immediately and eat it as soon as it’s a tolerable temperature.
  15. Tell me how to improve this recipe.

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Biking in China

September 23, 2011

If I were to make a list of the ten things you need to know in order to completely understand me, somewhere on that list would be my intense fear of things that move, in particular, cars and bicycles, and especially when I’m the one who’s supposed to be controlling them.

Nonetheless, today, I rode a bike.

Aaron, Doug, Sabrina, and I all biked to “the dam” and a bit beyond.  As we passed fields of just-harvested rice, many burning in preparation for whatever crop comes next, water buffaloes tied to trees, and a man who appeared to be taking his horse-sized (I kid you not) pig for a walk, I understood much better why this area is considered rural.  That would probably be because it is rural.  I just spend all my time on the one main street and am oblivious to the farming that’s going on right behind the school.

The views were pretty spectacular.  But, I didn’t bring a camera.  In fact, I didn’t bring much of anything, because I figured the more stuff I had, the more possible distractions from my main goal: making it through the bike ride without injuring anyone.  Luckily my brain has matured a bit since the days when just the sound of a motorcycle was enough to send me veering off of a wide suburban road and crashing into some poor neighbor’s mailbox.  I’m no less afraid, but now I can control myself a little better.  Still have a long ways to go on that self-control-in-the-face-of-fear thing, though.  Long story short, I managed to stay on the road, even when crossing paths with some rather large farm vehicles.  Woot.

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Joint blogging

September 22, 2011
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For the past few days, Sabrina and I have been keeping a joint blog.  It’s a repository for our more silly and crazy stories, written with attitude and accompanied by janky illustrations.

So, if you want to read something sillier than plain ol’ rcintheprc, check out “The New Girls.”


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