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Kaifeng, China – Part 3

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Finally getting back to blogging. Again.

One morning at breakfast in the campus cafeteria, while in Kaifeng, Jackie turned to me, kind of out of nowhere, and said, “Kristina.”  I gave him my full attention.  And he continued, “You know…when I first started in my position here, there was a teacher named Christina.” (I’m just assuming it wasn’t another Kristina with a Kay.)  “I think that’s a sign,” he said. “You should come back here to teach.”  We talked about it off and on during our time in China.  And to be honest, hardly a day goes past even now that I don’t think about it.  There are basically two things standing in my way at this point.  The mother.  And the fur family – you can’t really explain to cats & dogs (and a bird) that you’re going away for a year but that you’ll be back.  The mother has basically said she’s going to try to talk me out of it.  But it’s something I have to decide for myself and part of me thinks I just need to get away – far away – for a while.  I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, with the exception of my first year of college.  I need a change.  And if I’m going to do this – teach abroad – this is probably my last chance to do it – before I dive back into some sort of career in the U.S.

Anyway.  So to continue on with Kaifeng.

One of the days, we met up with a couple of the other (Chinese) English teachers on campus and they gave our dear guide Jackie a much needed break.  We spent the afternoon at an English “forum” – that’s what it was called when it was described to us but I’m not sure I’d call it a forum.  More like…. umm… a bunch of Chinese students coming to hang out with the Americans and practice their English?  It was really informal but a lot of fun.  We all sat around this big table and split off into small groups with 3-5 Chinese students to each American.  I ended up with a group of about 4 Chinese girls. We talked about so many random things.  Movies, music, school – specifically, the process for applying to graduate schools in the US as it’s something a few of the girls were planning to do – travel, and a million other things.

English Forum with two of the Chinese students

English Forum with two of the Chinese students

We had dinner with the English teachers and then, I’m not sure if it was planned this way intentionally or if it was just a happy coincidence but the university was having an English contest while we were there and we were able to attend one portion of it that evening.  I believe it was the Vice President of the university who, when he was giving his little introduction before the contest, mentioned that we were in the audience.  It was sweet.  I have no idea what he said, since it was all in Chinese, but I was sitting next to one of the English teachers and she told me that he was talking about us.

So at that point in the contest, which was kind of a big deal on campus, the contestants had already been through several stages and those we were seeing, were the best of the best.  Each contestant prepared a 3 minute speech.  Then they were given a random prompt and had to talk about it – a picture, comic, or short video clip (in Chinese) – for 2 minutes.  And finally, one of the judges, J.P., a Canadian guy who was living in the same place we were staying, asked them questions related to their two different speeches.

Throughout the contest, they had this screen up at the front of the auditorium that was streaming comments that the audience members made on Weibo – the Chinese answer to Twitter (which is blocked).  Most people were wishing their friends luck.  So when a message popped up talking about the “American boy,” it got our attention.  Turned out a girl in the audience had a crush on Dom.  It was the cutest thing.  Went on throughout the course of the contest.  Hilarious.  After the contest, the girl found Dom and they took a picture together but being the silly American boy that he is, he didn’t exchange contact information with her.  How cute of a story would that have been if they’d somehow ended up together?  She moving to the US or him to China?  Married?  All because she Weibo-ed about him at a university English contest. Hah.  Anyway.

One of the contestants came up to our group after the contest was over to introduce himself.  His English name is Patrick.  He was definitely one of the best.  He’d asked if we could talk before we left Kaifeng but we never were able to get together.  But we have kept in touch since then, through WeChat – another Chinese answer to the apps that have been blocked in their country.

The next day we went to a museum.  Most of which is now a blur in my head.  But I remember enjoying it at the time for what that’s worth.  That evening was a lot of fun though – we went to a “show with pretty lights” – that’s what I wrote in my journal that night anyway.  Hah. At this point in the trip, I’d been feeling pretty crappy for several days.  Mostly allergies, I think.  But that night, Zach gave me an…..interesting combination of medication – this will help with the sneezing, this with the congestion, this with…. Anyway…whatever he gave me resulted in a rather “high” Kristina.  But I was feeling better the next day so his concoction must have done the trick.

Back to the “light show.”  It was outside, at night, and was really unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.  The Chinese students who went with us knew the story they were depicting – a famous story in China.  But even for us, without knowing what was going on the entire time, it was simply fun to watch.

"the light show"

"the light show"

"the light show"

"the light show"

"the light show"

"the light show"

I’ll try to figure out where exactly this was (I still have the program) stashed away.

The next day, we went to a couple of embroidery…factories?  Basically a room full of women creating these magnificent works.

Jackie watching the intricate work

Jackie watching the women work

Hard at work

Women hard at work

Example of the final outcome

An example of the final outcome – hard to believe that’s all done with needle and thread

We were told they go through a course to learn how to do it…But I can’t imagine I’d ever have the patience or skill.

That afternoon we had a bit of free time.  After I took a short nap, we all went down to this cafe on campus.  And honestly, when I think of going back to Kaifeng, this is one of the places I can imagine myself hanging out.  It was just a little shop that served coffee as well as beer – nothing all that exciting.  But it felt like a place I’d be comfortable spending my afternoons or evenings.

Zach & Liz

Zach & Liz

By the way, you might notice something interesting hanging on the wall… An image on the front cover of a magazine from Sept. 11, 2001.  I wasn’t quite sure what this meant.  If they were showing that they cared? Or perhaps something not as nice.  I was told that there’s a lot of propaganda in schools about the U.S. and not all of it is kind, or true for that matter.  When I asked Jackie what he thought about it, he was just as confused as we were.

Fish bowl

Fish bowl

Kittens!

Kittens!

Just inside the door, there was a fish bowl and a box of kittens & their mother just kind of hanging out.  As you might imagine, I loved it.

After a while of just relaxing in the little shop with our beverages (I had an Americano and it was heavenly – as I mentioned in an earlier post, (good) coffee is not as readily available in China as it is in the U.S.) and the free Wifi, Dom & Dao went off to explore a bit.  They returned quickly though to tell us they’d found the bar J.P (the Canadian English teacher) had mentioned to us.  And we decided to check it out even though it was the middle of the afternoon and likely to be empty.

The Bar

The Bar

Well, as we discovered, it was not empty.  There were quite a few Chinese students who eagerly crowded around us after a few awkward moments of confused stares at the white people – and they were not shy about telling us they were skipping class to have a drink (or 20).  We stayed there for a couple of hours and had a couple of beers – very weak by our standards – and played drinking games with a group of about 10 Chinese students.  It was completely unexpected but a ton of fun.

After that, we made our way back to meet up with Dr. O and Jackie for dinner, which was then followed by some shopping with the girls from our first day in Kaifeng – a perfect way to bookend our stay in the lovely little city.

And that’s it for Kaifeng.  In my next post, which hopefully will follow within the next couple of days, I’ll write about Xi’an.

Until then —

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The Presentation

I’ve ranted about my TESL class a little bit but my presentation last week just kinda pushed me over the edge.

The professor structured the class so that the first half  of each class would be discussion and presentation led/given by the groups.  The second half is her time, as she calls it, which basically means she tells us about her research from her graduate work.  FYI, I don’t give a fuck about her research.

Anyway, last Thursday was my group’s turn.  We had to lead the discussion on two chapters from the book and then find & present a research article from a TESL journal.  Everything that could’ve gone wrong, did, it seemed.

  • With three people in a group (2 grad students, 1 undergrad student & all three working full-time or close to it), it’s next to impossible to find a time that everyone can meet.  Throw in a required meeting with the professor who thinks it’s okay to ask you to leave work early, and it’s just all kinds of fun.
  • After outlining most of the first chapter myself, and sending a PowerPoint presentation to the other members of my group, the professor then decided that we only needed to discuss that material (in other words, I’d done most of my group’s work by myself).  Also, one member of the group then decided it would be okay to basically take the credit for the PowerPoint when she met with the professor.  Fantastic.
  • When we got to class, we had issues with the connections and our PowerPoint didn’t get started until about 15 minutes into the class.
  • Part way into our discussion with the class, the professor decided we weren’t fully understanding a particular concept.  She decided to restate our argument, saying the same thing, and continuing to claim we didn’t understand.  (She’s from China and was basically just misunderstanding a word that we used).
  • One of the girls in my group basically chewed out the professor and said she was being inappropriate by interrupting our discussion.  I was partly mortified, partly impressed.
  • Even after we told the professor a number of times that we understood what she was saying and that we understood the concept, she still sent us an email after class that night to say that said:

The research paper is well chosen, related to the discussion topic closed, and presented clearly. The only thing that I would like to see improvement is to give an example of how double object in Spanish would have multiple meanings.

The chapter presentation ppt. and quiz questions are well organized. However, I did expect to see a clearer understanding of concepts in the chapter from the presentation…

Overall, well done and thank you for your hard work again!

She makes me crazy.

I sent an email to my advisor whining about how the professor changes assignment and project requirements on a weekly basis and is not teaching the class that I registered for (the class is called TEACHING ESL; she’s teaching Second Language Acquisition, with a heavy emphasis on theories and scientific research.)  My advisor asked me to come in and meet with her saying, “the department would certainly want to know the details.”

I haven’t responded, yet, but I have a feeling that I’ll be pissed off all over again after tonight’s class, so I’m sure I will be inspired to schedule a meeting.

TESL

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One of my classes this semester is called TESL: Theory & Methodology.

If you aren’t familiar with the acronym TESL, it stands for TEACHING English as a Second Language.

I don’t think the professor got the memo.  She has structured the class around her own personal and professional interests which have nothing to do with the actual teaching aspect of TESL.  Rather, the class is focused on research and data collection.  Which, I HATE.

Anyway, the only redeeming quality of her class is that there is an interesting group of students.

We have to work in groups (which I HATE–I don’t play well with others) to lead the discussion on assigned chapters and then present a research paper related to the topic of said chapters.  So a couple of weeks ago, one of the guys who was presenting told us the title of the article and then…

The author is Wigglesworth.  <giggle> Sorry. That’s just a really good name.

The entire class lost it.

We’re going to be awesome teachers.

Got Class?

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I’m taking two classes this semester:

“Scholarly Writing” & “Teaching ESL: Theory and Methodology”.

Before the semester started, I was nervous about Scholarly Writing and completely chill about the other because I’d taken the same class as an undergrad student, with a different professor.  In fact, I was looking forward to the TESL class because it’s a new professor who was just hired to take over the TESL program in the English department.

Well.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Scholarly Writing seems like it will be challenging but really good overall.  I liked the professor.  I knew a bunch of people in my class.  I’m actually almost looking forward to it now.

TESL?  The professor just finished her PhD and she’s apparently looking to make a name for herself.  The class, which is a split undergrad/grad level class, looks like it’s going to be more work than any other class I’ve ever taken–I’m talking undergrad, grad, etc.  The final project is going to be crazy.  I’m more nervous about this class now than the other.

Fantastic.