Friday, March 21, 2008

The Good Things

10) I can play mass effect whenever I want
09) I make a lot of money
08) Devin's coming to visit
07) I can buy pineapples for a dollar, and a bunch of bananas for two
06) I've been hitting the gym
05) I've got a working mp3 player, computer, and phone (okay the phone doesn't always transit my voice and when it does it sounds like I'm reporting from a hurricane, but it still sends text messages)
04) Several people will answer the phone when we call them and then answer yes when we suggest hanging out
03) I'm learning chinese
02) When I go to teach a classroom of third graders I forget every worry, every ache, every doubt. I'm in another place, I'm playing games, making jokes, and getting little kids to laugh and scream and whisper. I'm losing my voice from the yelling and hurting my knees with the jumping and I wouldn't change it for the world
01) Every morning, and every evening, and in the afternoon when we take a taxi together, she's always glad to see me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dust storms

Whether it's chance or the city's efforts to plant trees around the city, the weather these past few weeks has been glorious, with very little dust in the air.

Today, though, we're having our first dust storm, the air is a thick brown and the sun at noon is a diffuse glow.

Walking out in it, the grit gets in your eyes and on your lips.

More on this as it develops.

Oh yeah, and I went to an MLB exhibition game on Saturday, the first in China. It was nice, but sorry, NPR, there was no one doing tai chi out front.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chalk and Talk

Happy Michael Caine day everyone!

So my knees are starting to hurt a little bit. All those concrete stairs and my determination not to take the elevator has left them both a little sore. And of course there's the fact that when you're gawking at the skyline of a city where level sidewalks are rare, you tend to fall down a lot.

This doesn't mean I'm not getting in shape.

The other day I forgot my flash drive when I left to teach at the high school. The thing is that our lessons are run off a powerpoint. Say what you will about software designed to reduce every idea to a 5-word bullet point, but for language learning it's a ton better than chalk and talk.

Chalk and talk is the much derided teaching method of writing on the board and lecturing. Apparently kids can't learn when they're not interacting or something but the real problem for me is that I don't like turning my back on the kids. I turn around to write an example sentence and what starts as a mutter becomes a roar by the second word. I'm not going to say that teaching a room of fifty teenagers is like fighting a pack of ravening dogs but in reality it is exactly like that.

So powerpoint. I keep a backup on Sara's flashdrive, so I call and it turns out she's down on the first floor. I get to her classroom and as she's finishing copying of her presentation and ejecting the drive, the five minute warning bell rings. I am not supposed to be out of the class after that bell rings, and my classroom was on the fourth floor.

Here's the thing, I did all those stars, two at a time, at a run, and I didn't break a sweat. Two minutes later I was babbling away about Lupe Fiasco.

Beijing has changed me, I've become more arrogant, expecting everyone to treat me with respect my students do, I miss English speakers like you wouldn't believe, and I take cabs home just because I want ten extra minutes of video game time. But some things have gotten stronger in the process.

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