Hot Dog Delight

The TV didn’t work in one of my classrooms today, so instead of watching The Lion King, I helped students prepare for the big Arts Festival coming up on Monday.  They wanted me to help them sing a song called “My Thankful Heart.”  I’ve never heard of this song before, so it was interesting trying to teach it to them.  Luckily one of the students had it on his mp3 player, along with a copy of the lyrics.

I played the song over and over again during class, and students chimed in during the chorus.  A select few sang the song in its entirety.  Eight girls performed a dance.  When I asked a student why only 8 girls danced, why not more, he responded, “They are the most lovely, the most beautiful.  No boys.  Just girls.”

He said the song was for teachers, parents, friends.  He said it was a good song and asked if I liked it.  I told him it was wonderful, and that I liked it a lot.

The lyrics are below, for your enjoyment.  They don’t completely make sense, but it’s China, and English translations often don’t make sense.  The singer is a Chinese woman, and the melody sounds like an old-school Chinese song.  The words are nice, my students seemed to really like it, and they are kind of adorable when they sing in unison.  They definitely melted my heart today.

I came from fortuity,

Like a grain of sad dust

Nobody seem to know my frailty

Where did I come from,

Where’s my heart going

Who is calling me, waiting for me

Heaven to earth is wide,

But it’s hard to walk through

I see the world full of

Frustrations and toil

How much love I have,

How many tears I’ll weep

Get the heaven to know

I’ll never give up

Chorus:

My thankful heart, grateful to you

Keep me company,

Let me brave to be myself

My thankful heart, grateful to fate

Blooming of fading,

I’ll still cherish them

 

 

i came from fortuity,

like a grain of sad dust

nobody seems to know my frailty

where did i come from,

where’s my heart going

who is calling me, waiting for me

heaven to earth is wide,

but it’s hard to walk through

i see the world full of

frustrations and toil

how much love i have,

how many tears i’ll weep

get the heaven to know

i’ll never give up

my thankful heart, grateful to you

keep me company,

let me brave to be myself

my thankful heart, grateful to fate

blooming of fading,

i’ll still cherish them

Last week I had a great day.  My lessons went smoothly and my students were well-behaved, for the most part.  It made me feel proud to be a teacher.  I felt like I was on top of the world.

Then, as quickly as the day came, it soon left.  And I was greeted with an awful day.  One of the worst.  It was Monday.

Mondays are perhaps my most dreaded day of teaching.  Not only is it Monday, and I’m sad that the weekend is over, but I have what I consider my worst classes on Monday.

I start the morning with the class that wrote the apology notes.  The students have reverted back to their chatty selves.  While there are good students in the class, I am distracted by the talkers, and starting the week off with them isn’t something I look forward to.  I ran into the head teacher the other day and she asked me how her class was doing.  I told her they were quite talkative recently, and they don’t really like to listen when I talk.  She told me that the students are just excited, and they tell her that they love my class, but that she will talk to them about being good in oral English.  I felt a little awkward after she told me that, since I had just told her students that morning that even though I would be showing the rest of my classes a movie the following week, I wouldn’t be showing them a movie because most of them were too talkative, noisy, and did not listen.

Regardless, I don’t quite buy the whole being excited for oral English class excuse, which is something I get a lot.  Some of my students definitely have no interest in learning or practicing their English, and those are definitely the chatty ones.  I’m also not sure that being unable to contain excitement over learning new verbs and adjectives is really the reason why any of them can’t keep quiet for 40 minutes.  It would be easy to remove those students, the chatty ones who like to misbehave, but it’s hard to see which ones are actually talking.  There’s usually a general murmur in the class, and there are just so many students I can’t always determine which students are the perpetrators.

I did give that class a chance this week and told them that if they were all quiet for 5 minutes, I would show them the movie.  But they had to all be quiet.  If even one of them said a word, we wouldn’t watch the movie.  I said this in English and had a child translate in Chinese to make sure everyone understood.  Students were eager to start the clock.  I timed them, and after 1 minute, a student started talking and passing a note to another student.  After 1 minute.

Anyway, back to Monday’s schedule.  After the apology note class, I have a decent class.  They are fairly well-behaved so time usually passes quickly.  Then on to lunch.  After lunch, I have 2 of my worst classes, and then I end the day with a well-behaved class.

My worst classes…are the bane of my existence as a teacher.  They happen to be two of the top performing classes of the grade.  They are classes 2 and 4.  Kids in the lower-numbered classes (class 1, 2, 3, etc.) have better grades than students in the higher-numbered classes (class 20, 19, 18, etc.).  Classes are determined by test grades — math and science grades are of higher importance than English.  So while the students in class 2 and 4 may be smart when it comes to math and science, many of them could care less about learning English.  They’re quite chatty, obnoxious, bratty, and entitled.  They are accustomed to my rants and raves by this point.

I probably hit rock bottom as a teacher when I completely stopped teaching class 2 this week.  I wrote on the board, “I will listen to my teacher.  I will respect my teacher.  I will be good in class.” and I told students to write each sentence 50 times.  If students didn’t write each sentence 50 times in their notebooks, I wouldn’t let them in class the following week.  I even told them that the kids who weren’t in class had to do the assignment if they wanted to be let into class next week.  Children found this unfair.  And I guess it is unfair.  But I wanted the class, as a whole, to realize the error of their ways.  So I told everyone to do it, even though not everyone deserved to be punished.  I told the students that while they were writing each sentence, they should be thinking, really thinking about how they shouldn’t waste the oral English teacher’s time anymore, how important oral English really was.  I said I wanted everyone to think about it since I was tired of coming to class and having students talk through it.  I told them they were one of my worst classes.

I was fed up with the smirks, the laughs as I tried to lecture them about the importance of listening and being quiet.  Granted, it’s not fun being lectured.  I know this.  But I wanted them to at least take what I was saying to heart.  I wanted them to take it seriously and realize that being a teacher is hard.  And that I didn’t have to be there.  And that they were lucky they even had a foreign teacher to teach them oral English.  But I got laughs from several students instead, and that was more than enough to push me over the edge.

I’m sure certain students will rebel, and I will have to assert my authority again.  It is quite authoritarian, what I’m doing.  But Chinese students are used to such approaches.  It’s nothing new for them.  Most get it from their other teachers.  It doesn’t make it any more okay, but it does make it more acceptable to do while I’m in China.  One of the students came up to me after class and told me she was sad that they were naughty (they use the word ‘naughty’ to refer to misbehaving in class).  I told her I was even more sad!  She said that they are used to me yelling at them since I do it every week, but next week, I should try something different, a new approach.  She wanted to learn English and she told me I should just remove all the troublemakers.  I told her okay, but I would need her help in recording names and kicking students out.  I said I would be better next week and actually teach them something.

A part of me wishes I could take it back, and re-do the class.  But what’s done is done, and I have to live with my actions, as much as they make me cringe when I think about them.  I’ve become that teacher, the one that goes off on rants and commands respect!  Ugh.  I can only take solace in the face that next week is a new class, it will be a new day, and I can start clean.  I will be better.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a full body massage.  It was my second time getting the full body experience, but this time, there was an added treat.  For 60RMB and 1 hour, I got the ultimate experience:  a massage, a back scraping, and cupping.

I’m not really sure of the reasoning behind back scraping or cupping.  All I know is that it’s supposed to be good for you.  I was visiting a fellow volunteer in another town, and there were 3 of us altogether in a room.  We decided to go all out and experience the trifecta of massages.

I giggled and laughed throughout most of the massage part because my friends were joking around and also because the massage tickled, but overall it was nice.  I generally don’t like it when strangers, or anyone for that matter, touch me, knead my skin, or any of the like.  I am extremely ticklish and it usually ends up feeling uncomfortable rather than enjoyable, but I’m trying to break that habit while I’m in China, since massages are so cheap.

Anyhow, my masseuse massages my head, my neck, my legs, and I’m quite comfortable at this point.  Then she takes out this plastic contraption that looks like a back-scratcher with longer prongs, and proceeds to apply pressure down my spine.  She scratches my back, all along the spine and shoulder areas for approximately 20 minutes.  She uses force, and tells me that I have a lot of tension, a lot of negative energy coming from the shoulder areas.  I feel pain.  I feel like my skin is being scraped off my back and that if I were to look at it, it would be a bloody mess.  She asks if it hurts, I tell her yes.  She tells me that it’s supposed to.  It’s good for me.  It means that she’s getting rid of all the negative energies.  I want to cry, but I carry on with the experience with my eyes shut, trying to think happier thoughts.

She then applies hot oil on my back, and it feels good again.  She massages my back with the hot oil.  I’m really enjoying this part.  Her touch is soothing.  Little do I know, she is only prepping me for cupping.  Cupping is this crazy thing where they apply a cup of reduced air pressure to your skin.  They light the cup with a match so that it can suction and graft to your skin.  You can see what it looks like in the photos below.  I didn’t have a camera with me to document my own experience, but just imagine twice as many cups down that girl’s back and you’ll have an accurate picture of what I looked like.  There were cups running down my spine, as well as on either side of my back, and up my neck too.  I was cupped out.

She kept the cups on for approximately 10 minutes.  I thought that once the cups were on, it would feel relaxing.  I was wrong.  From the moment the cups touched my skin, until the moment she finally took them off, I was in pain.  Not excruciating pain, but I was fully aware of the hot, uncomfortable suction on my back.  I was relieved when it was over and she started peeling them off.

Apparently you are supposed to have cupping no more than once a month if you are healthy and every couple of weeks if you are suffering from an ailment, according to my masseuse.  Cupping leaves your back full of deep red, pink and purple circles, like this:

My back was sore for several days after, and the marks took about a week to finally disappear.  Even though I felt somewhat relaxed after the whole experience, I think I’m going to stick with plain, old massages from here on out.  Scraping and cupping are simply not my cup of tea.

For dinner tonight, I didn’t feel like the usual spicy Hunan Chinese food I get in the school cafeteria.  I wanted brain food, also known as junk food.  I’m in the process of applying to law school, so I wanted a sugar rush to keep me awake.  For some reason, I get really sleepy when I’m on the LSAC website, entering all my information in.  I also didn’t want to go back outside after coming into my apartment since it’s freezing out there, so I picked up a few treats after class to keep the energy high.

What did I decide on?  I got 2 packs of Oreo’s, one regular, one chocolate, a bottle of Jasmine tea, and 10 chicken nuggets with hot sauce, on a stick.

Let me first comment on the Oreo’s.  Chocolate cream filled Oreo’s “made with real cocoa” mind you, are fantastic.  I’ve never had them before, but after today, I’m a fan.  I think they’re even better than the original.  Yes, I said it.  Something is better than the original.  I don’t have a glass of milk to really decide.  I’m only eating them dry, but they’re exactly what I wanted.  The chocolate on chocolate combo is superb.  I couldn’t have asked for more when I decided on getting a sugary snack.

Jasmine tea is really good.  It might be the healthiest thing I purchased tonight, if it weren’t for all the sugar they added to make it taste so yummy.  Regardless, the word ‘tea’ by default, makes it healthy.  It does so in my mind anyway.

Lastly, the main course:  chicken nuggets, from a frozen bag, thawed and then deep-fried for my enjoyment.  All the kids are eating them.  They’re a pretty good deal, .50RMB for 1.  I tried them with hot sauce today, and they’re not bad.  I might like them better without, since I’m still not quite used to all the spicy foods here, but I felt more local getting them with.

The best part about getting chicken nuggets is that it comes with a stick.  They put the nuggets on a stick, like a kebab, but without vegetables…just chicken nuggets.  Since I got 10, they put the stick in the bag.  I think they give you a stick for sanitary reasons.  The Chinese rarely eat things with their bare hands.  There’s always a wrapper, a napkin, a plastic bag or a stick that separates the actual food from someone’s hands.  Or it just might be their love of eating meat, whatever meat it is, on a stick.  Lord knows I love it, whatever the reasons may be.  In my humble opinion, eating meat on a stick makes it taste so much better!

This week is round 2 of The Lion King.  I’m showing the rest of the film to all of my classes, and there are new observations to be made.

For those of you who may have forgotten, here’s a quick recap of things that happen after Mufasa’s death.  Simba runs away.  Scar tells the hyenas to kill him, but they don’t succeed.  Simba escapes, but everyone at Pride Rock thinks he’s dead.  Simba befriends Timon, the meerkat, and Pumba, the warthog.  They teach him the carefree lifestyle of Hakuna Matata.  Remember, it means no worries…for the rest of your days.  But life gets more complicated when Nala reenters the picture, and tries to get him to go back to Pride Rock.  They have all suffered since Scar has become king.  Simba and Nala have a little musical number, where they feel the love tonight, but reality hits when Simba must face what he’s been running away from.  In the end, with Nala, Rafiki, Timon and Pumba’s help, he reclaims his rightful place as king by defeating the evil Scar and his pack of hyenas.  The Circle of Life is restored to its original glory and all is right in the world.

The Lion King is a pretty amazing movie.  And in 2-D animation too!  Released in June of 1994, it is the highest grossing 2-D animated film of all time in the United States, grossing over $783 million that year alone.  It also ranks #27 on the list of highest grossing films worldwide.  The Lion King is timeless.  Even though I will have watched the movie in its entirety close to 20 times by the end of this week, I still love it.  It’s funny, charming, warm, deep, and meaningful.  It’s without a doubt my favorite Disney animated movie, and I’m glad of all the movies out there, I decided to show my kids this one.

My students love Timon and Pumba.  They were highly amused during Hakuna Matata, and they burst out in uncontrollable laughter when Timon and Pumba act as bait by doing a hula so that Simba and Nala can get past the hyenas at the end of the movie.  Check out the scene below:

It’s funnier this time around, and for some reason, because my kids like it so much, it’s made me really appreciate that scene too.  One boy, a little boy less than 4 feet tall with thick framed glasses also kept shouting “Hakuna Matata” at random parts of the movie, just because he liked hearing it out loud.  He shouted it during the battle between Simba and Scar and he also shouted it when Simba and Nala’s baby is being introduced to the kingdom.  It was precious, even though other students were clearly annoyed at his outbursts.

When Simba and Nala are frolicking in the jungle during Can You Feel The Love Tonight, my students had a number of noteworthy reactions.  Given that there were no real people on the screen and we were dealing with lions, animated lions at that, it was quite funny that my 7th graders squealed, giggled, laughed, moaned or emitted other strange  sounds.  Children would turn to their neighbors or friends and give each other embarrassed looks.  The best part was when Nala licked Simba’s face, and the two proceeded to nuzzle each other.  Awkward noises were at a peak.  One class had the most peculiar reaction.  Students erupted in applause at such moments during the movie and would yell certain names.  Apparently there was a budding romance between 2 of my students in that class, and their classmates were giving them both a hard time.  I had to ask a student to explain it to me at the end of class.  She told me that they were joking around and calling one of the boys Simba, and the other girl Nala.  I asked if they were really going out, and she said that the class suspected it, but nothing was confirmed.

I was surprised that 7th graders would already be dating!  They all seemed so immature, much more immature in terms of social relationships with the opposite sex than 7th graders back in the states.  It’s also against school rules to date each other, which is why there are tons of underground and secret relationships, especially among high school students.  I just thought, if my kids are squealing and moaning over lions showing affection toward each other, how could they be ready for a real relationship?  Things definitely move at a much slower pace here in China and boys and girls, for the most part, start dating at a much later age than in the states.

Anyhow, I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day so I can teach about love and romance and get even more awkward and embarrassed reactions out of my kids!  In the meantime, I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of the love tonight.

The only thing harder than going to work on a Monday after a long weekend is going to work on a Monday after Thanksgiving.  Thank goodness the week is almost over.  It’s been a long one!

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in China.  But they do have a fancy buffet dinner at the Sheraton Hotel for foreigners or anyone else who wants to spend 258RMB for an all you can eat dinner.  I had turkey, mashed potatoes, sushi, sashimi, scallops, crab legs, and lots of desserts.  I ate 4 plates of food, and 2 plates of desserts.  I had about 8-10 scoops (little scoops) of Haagen-daz ice cream.  I tried all the flavors since Haagen-daz in China isn’t cheap.  It’s around 60-70RMB for just a couple of scoops!  So of course I had to seize the opportunity and eat as much as I could.

To prepare for the event, I even went to the gym!  I started running again.  After running 10 minutes on the treadmill, I wanted to stop.  After running 20 minutes, I wanted to vomit.  But I pushed myself to run 10 more minutes after that for a total of 30 minutes, because it was absurd how out of shape I was!  I said in my head, “Dammit, Diane!  You can run for 30 minutes, just DO IT!” So I did.  But it wasn’t enjoyable.  And I was exhausted.  I’ve run 2 more times after that, and each time, it is just as painful as the last.  What a long and slow process, being fit is.  But as you are all my witnesses, I will be fit again…one day!

Anyway, I’m glad I started running again, because I think that night, I ate the most I’d ever eaten…in my life!  It was pretty intense.  A group of us from WorldTeach went.  There were 25 altogether.  We sat there for approximately 4 hours, eating, chatting, drinking, eating, resting, and then eating some more.  By the end of the night, I was definitely in a food high.  I had to breathe with my mouth open!  I’m not sure if this is TMI (too much information), but I did make a pit stop to the bathroom during the middle of the evening to free up some space, if you know what I mean (and if you don’t, I mean stuff passed through my system, the natural way).  I couldn’t help it!  It was unplanned, but it allowed me to eat some more, which I was grateful for.

Even though it was a pricey dinner, it was well worth it.  Without a doubt, I ate 258RMB’s worth of food!

Here is another special treat for you.  Entitled, “Written self-criticism,” a student’s apology note is below.

Teacher:

I’m sorry!  Went to and save the class we are too noisy, let you angry.  Here I apology of deep table watch.  After we can not again this.

Please accept our apologies.  finall sincerity.  The field is spoken: “I’m sorry!”

your student:  Jane