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Heart and Seoul

September 29, 2012
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I’m here!  In Korea!  Where my blog is not blocked.  🙂

It is beautiful.  I absolutely love it.  Kind of want to teach in Korea now.  Things are pretty affordable, and delicious.  Every single meal I’ve had has been fantastic.  I’ll have to do some food posts soon.

In my first 30 or so hours here I did the following:

ate fried chicken (one of the most popular restaurant-types here, and so good!)

went to three cafés!  Got a local specialty at one: gelato on a waffle.

went to the music market, played an electric ukulele, and bought an awesome acoustic one.

went to a “multibang” to sing karaoke and play Wii.

went to the touristy area and watched them make a cool dessert.

went to a Korean restaurant!

went to a burger restaurant

went to a huge stationery store

saw some statues

and, best of all, I went to Taco Bell.

The closest Taco Bell to Huangshan.  I can’t believe I made it!


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Hey, let’s go to Korea!

September 27, 2012
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I’ve been quiet for a while, because I decided, along with Sabrina and our Changsha friend Marie, to go to Korea.  We bought the tickets on Monday night, I think, and since then, we’ve been scrambling to plan everything.  This afternoon, I’m catching a direct flight from the Tunxi airport to Seoul, South Korea.  😀

Why Korea, you may ask.  Well, Sabrina and Marie both have friends there, but as for me, I wanted to go somewhere different.  I first considered trying to go to Beijing, but this is the national holiday week, so all trains are sold out for everything.  Furthermore, it turned out that a flight to Beijing was more expensive than a flight to Korea.  So, Sab and Marie are letting me tag along.

The good news: the flight is direct, and was only $400 roundtrip.  I’ll get to see another part of Asia, which I won’t get to do during the Spring Festival Holiday, since I’ll once again be returning to America for that.  I’ll get to see the part of town that the suddenly wildly popular music video “Gangnam Style” is mocking.  And I have a whole week in Korea!!!

The bad news: it’s actually Thanksgiving Holiday in South Korea now, so a lot of stuff might be closed.

I’d better finish packing… and mastering this dance.

Gangnam Style!


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Hangzhou and West Lake

September 23, 2012
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This weekend, all four current Xiuning fellows went to stay with Doug (XZ’12) in Hangzhou.

Before leaving on the trip, I felt like I had a cold, and was a little worried about whether I’d be able to keep my energy up.  But it was AWESOME.

I’ve been to Hangzhou twice before, but on neither occasion did I get to see much of the city.  There’s still tons more to see, but at least this time, I got to go out on the lake.  杭州 is very famous for 西湖 (West Lake).

We rented a motor boat for an hour.  We think the max speed was 2km/h.  It cost us a total of 40RMB, which is under $7.  We drove it around the lake, where we saw some kayakers in training, and accepted a challenge to race a long boat being driven by one middle-aged man.  Obviously, we lost.

Also, seeing Doug was awesome!  His apartment is beautiful, and so comfortable.  He made pizza for us, just like old times.  It only could have been better if Aaron had been there too.  So, we shall edit him in in our memories:

Back home now, and looking forward to a crazy busy week!  National holiday + this school’s centennial celebration.  + Yom Kippur.


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Good week

September 19, 2012
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This week is crazy busy.  I’ve already had 46 individual student meetings (and I’ll have about 25 more tomorrow!), plus regular class and library and all that.  It’s been good though.  I’ve had a lot of great moments.

First, I did a lesson introducing the word “spectrum.”  That’s going to be a running theme throughout this semester in my class as we talk about opinions on issues in America.  I got 100% class participation!  Woot!  I told stories about people doing morally questionable things, or making hard choices.  I asked kids to draw a mark on the spectrum from bad to good to represent their opinion of these people.  And of course, they had to explain why they placed the person where they did.  Kids were raising their hands, volunteering to draw marks.  Their opinions were interesting and variable, and it was really cool to hear them speaking up.  Mind you, these are the kids with lower level English, who last year got away with minimal participation.  Now that I can tailor my lessons to their level, and now that they don’t have the advanced kids there to intimidate them with complicated sentences, they’re doing sooo much better!

Second, individual meetings have been going great.  I can see an almost unbelievable amount of improvement since last year.  That’s so exciting!  And, the kids are very cute in their meetings.  One student even brought me a picture she’d drawn of me. She really included a lot of accurate details.  Everything from the giraffe bag to the clog shoes to the flowered scarf in my hair.  Not sure where the lollipop came from though, and I’ve definitely never worn such a short skirt to class.

Also, tomorrow, a news crew is coming to film our classes.  So, that should be fun.


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Happy New Year!

September 16, 2012
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Happy Rosh Hashanah!  I’ve been eating apples and honey.  你呢?

Today, the weather was too beautiful to stay inside.  So, I went for a walk.  I didn’t get far, though, before I asked one of the local farmers if I could pick chrysanthemum flowers with her.  She said yes.  And that’s what I did for a good half-hour, until I felt like I was getting sunburned.  Next time, I’ll be better prepared.

It’s great to have such beautiful weather for Rosh Hashanah.  This will be the start of an excellent year.

 


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The New Girls

September 16, 2012
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Alright, the time has come.  I’m gonna post about the new kids.

First thing you gotta know is that, At Xiuning, regardless of their gender, one should call the first years “The New Girls” or “The New Gurls.”  That’s just tradition.  Not a very long-lived tradition (yet), but we’re working on making it so.

Second, you must know that we alternate between two boys and two girls each year.  That’s an older tradition, and is observed for more practical reasons: (1) boys and girls shall not live together, especially at a school, before marriage without party approval (oh, the impropriety!) and (2) being out in the middle of nowhere as virtually the only representation of all that is “foreign” and being in a place where men and women are still treated notably differently (men tend to be taken more seriously by the school and the students), it’s nice to have a gender balance.

So, this year, The New Girls are new boys.  They’re both fresh outta college, wonderfully enthusiastic, started learning Chinese from scratch upon joining the fellowship (just like we did!), are open to all the weird stuff that this place (and Sabrina and I) are gonna throw at ’em, and to top it off, they’re rather 帅.

Of course, the students are already in love with them.  They sing and dance in their open class, so the room is always packed to the limit with squealing girls.

There are many things that could be said about The New Girls, and I’m sure they’ll be appearing in many a future blog post, but for now, a video’s worth a thousand words, right?

Here’s a video that Alex and I, with lots of musical help from Sabrina, made about Gabe.  It’s probably not as funny to people who don’t actually know Gabe, but I think it still illustrates some important points about the New Girls.  We surprised Gabe with this video, and he loved it!  He wasn’t at all weirded out by the fact that we had borrowed (without asking) his hat, tank top, and clips from his vlogs.  If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, we’ve got two fun, outgoing, and above all, chill new 外教 this year.


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Notebook wisdom

September 14, 2012
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A Friend Is Someone Who Likes you.  That’s what the cover of my “Soft Memory” notebook tells me anyways:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that sentence… it’s just a very weird, incomplete description of friendship.  And that makes it funny.

But my favorite notebook of the month is definitely the “pipi caca” journal.

The front reads, “PIPI CACA/ What is you favorite season?  Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Wherever, Whatever, have a nice day.”

Yeah… I’ve been rather busy this week, so I’m doing a lazy pictures-o-notebooks post.  What can I say.  I’m tired, but all is well.


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Wrestling for Unity

September 14, 2012
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This past summer, I lived in New Mexico in a household quite different from the one I grew up in.  Every Monday night, we ate dinner while we watched Monday Night Raw, the wrestling show.  The one where they hit each other with ladders.  I remember thinking, as I relaxed on the couch, eating a chili dog, how totally different my life was at that moment compared to how it had been and would be in China.  It’s another world, I thought.
Cut to my first day of class, last week.  I asked my students what they did over the summer.  One student, Shaemus, raises his hand and says, “I watched Raw.”  He said it clear as could be, but I assumed he was mispronouncing the last word.

“You watched what?”

“Raw.”

“Raw…?”

” Raw.  American wrestling TV.”

I looked at him in silence for a moment.  “Me too.”

Not so different after all.

I now understand so much more about this student.  For one thing, I know where he found the name Shaemus.  And I also know what to talk to him about when he seems down.  “Hey Shaemus, I can’t believe AJ chose Daniel Bryan over CM Punk!  What did you think of that?”  Instant smile.


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Serenading students

September 11, 2012
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Every day, when class ends around 9:30, there is a mass exodus of students down the hill to their dorms and homes.  It’s a sight to see, so we decided to see it.  And to bring music.

Two nights ago, Sabrina played song after song on the ukulele, and the two of us sang for the kids as they poured out of classrooms.  Just trying to brighten their day, or at least their time between class and homework.  Last night, Alex joined us, and I did the ukulele playing.  Luckily the kids were too loud for my playing to be particularly audible.  I’ve only been practicing for two days, but it’s a pretty addictive instrument!  Looking forward to serenading the students again this evening.

And if you can’t imagine me enjoying playing an instrument (I don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to music), you can check out this (hopefully) unlisted YouTube video of me rockin’ out with a Xiuning favorite, Wagon Wheel.


You can hear Sabrina at the end.  She’s great.  Never had the courage to record myself singing before living with her.


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And back to 1, then 0

September 10, 2012
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The hedgehog pups didn’t make it.  At least they weren’t cannibalized by their mother.  It wasn’t just the babies that hedgehog mom wasn’t eating, though.  She didn’t seem to be eating much (or maybe any) of her food (fried eggs, grapes, and vegetables).  So, this evening, we took her out and released her into the wild.  Or as close to the wild as we could find.  There’s an awful lot of farmland out here.  Hopefully she’ll stay away from farmers and recover from the trauma of being captured, sold, and losing her pups.  We shall never know, but at least we didn’t throw her in the wok with vegetables.  That’s gotta count for something.


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