Technical Difficulties

For some unknown reason I am suddenly incapable of viewing wordpress.com from my computer. This could be the act of terrorists, or it could just be a problem with my internet. Whatever the case may be I’m working on a solution…sort of. I’m actually hoping it fixes itself.

IN OTHER NEWS!

I was robbed by a monkey and a baby last week. Actually “robbed” may be a bit extreme, but it pretty much sums up my feelings following the incident. My friend Matthew and I decided to visit this new bar/club that we had heard so much about. We made our way over there around 11 o’clock, which puts our arrival at time in the ballpark of 11:30. I’m not sure why I had to mention that…or am I? Either way, we got out of the cab and immediately were surrounded by people asking for money. Four of the individuals immediately caught my attention. The first two were women holding small children, probably around the age of 3 or 4. I honestly hate seeing kids in this situation, and in the past I have bought food or drinks for them rather then just handing over money. I mean that way I can make sure its benefiting the kid and not solely the mother (in case shes a lunatic). Now that may have been the course of action I took in this case, if it wasn’t for the other two individuals who caught my attention, the men with monkeys on leashes. Yes these men had pet monkeys, and frankly these monkeys were cool. I don’t know what kind of monkey’s they were, but they were small and they climbed on me. Usually these are the types of guys I would give some spare change but fate had other plans. I knew I had a few singles in my pocket and I reached down to grab them. However, I ended up pulling a few other bills (a 5 and a 10) out, and before I knew it the monkey man had the 5. I don’t know if he took it, or if I handed it to him in the visual-stimuli-overload induced confusion, but all I knew is within seconds he had it and I didn’t. In shock I turned my attention to the baby, who looked a little sad. I mean how can I justify giving the monkey money and not the baby. So I smiled and handed the baby the ten. I did my best to tell the mother to use the money for the baby, but I highly doubt she understood (my Mandarin is terrible). After that I scraped the monkey (who was at this time climbing on my head) off of me and headed inside, feeling pretty good that in some way I had helped out.
Drinks in Shanghai are pretty expensive, but often the cover is free, so my Matthew and I developed a little system. There is always a convenience store located somewhere in the vicinity of the target location, so we usually leave and buy a few beers from there, drink them on the sidewalk, and then head back inside. We did this within ten minutes of arriving at the bar. But immediately after leaving the bar we were approached by the same ensemble of baby mamas. It was a little ridiculous, especially since they had to cross the street and leave the crowded sidewalk in front of the club just to ask us for money. This time it was the baby who started climbing on me while the mother attempted to get money from the both of us. I was a little bothered by this, especially since the mother seemed to be encouraging the kid to use me as a jungle gym. 10 RMB can get you pretty far, it can definitely get your kid some food. I felt bad for the kid and I think we may have given them a couple more yuan, but it was still a very strange situation. As I stood up I saw the monkey and his owner crossing the street towards us. NO MONKEY! I said to him.
Its weird I feel bad about being so confused over such a situation. I mean I’m a big advocate for giving money to the less fortunate, but the way the mothers used their kids to get money just made me really mad. But who knows I mean maybe they wouldn’t get as much money otherwise, and in that sense they’re actually helping the kid more. Its very odd.

IN OTHER OTHER NEWS.

Classes are all going well. My kids are still awesome. I played a few new games with them that they all seem to like. Probably because they involve throwing a stuffed ball at the blackboard and, in most cases, at my head. But hey I’ll take a few hits in the name of education!

I have been frequenting East China Normal University, a local college a mile from my apartment, on my runs the past few weeks. The campus has a track which is great because it gives my legs a break from the roads. They also have a grass field, however after running on it for a week I returned on Wednesday to find it had been roped off. The mans always trying to keep a brotha down.

Thats all for now!

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Just another day…

You know those times in life when you feel like everything is as it should be? Days so perfect that even the work day can’t phase you? Well today would have been one of those days if my current line of work wasn’t teaching English to kids who would rather spend their Sunday doing just about anything. Yes, thats right, I work on Sundays…and Saturdays for that matter. The school I work for is strictly an English language program, and so it is scheduled around the average Chinese school week. Basically from Tuesday to Friday and I begin teaching at 5 PM and then Saturday and Sundays at around 9 AM. Monday, the day most people back home dread, is now my favorite day of the week, and I embrace the weekend like one might welcome the Black Plague.
My kids are awesome, and I honestly have a great time teaching them…but a few classes are a little more taxing then others. Two of my more “stressful” classes are on Sunday morning, and honestly most weekends end with me feeling like I need a bottle of whiskey just to wind down (I should note that I have never resorted to that). Yet tonight here I sit, totally relaxed, and overall pretty pleased with the way my day went. Theres a few reasons why:

Class 1: My first class consists mostly of kids aged 9-10 along with one 5 year old prodigy. The class is early, and generally really rowdy. I don’t blame these kids, I mean at their age I can’t imagine sitting still for 2 1/2 hours on a Sunday morning let alone attempting to learn anything (surprisingly they manage to retain alot). But today they were relatively calm. I mean there were a few hiccups, but overall they behaved really well. This could be because only 5 of them showed up…but whatever, it got my day off to a good start.

Class 2: This class is always good. I have this plastic tube in my classroom covered in wrapping paper. I have no idea what its for, maybe a pointer or something? Anyway we took a few minutes out of class to see who could balance this stick-thing on their finger the longest. The winner was :04 seconds. Way to go Dashel, this ones for you pal.

Class 3: These guys are tough. The class consists of 7 boys and 3 girls, and they’re all around 10-11 years old. I don’t prepare for this class, I brace myself for it. Even better, their attendance is nearly perfect, and the classroom is not big. Today was not a class, today was an orchestrated battle plan that had to be carried out precisely or else would be lost. I had been thinking of different ways to keep this class under control. The boys are the source of 99 percent of the disturbances, but given the limited space and lack of girls its difficult to seperate them from one another. Its tough to deal out any kind of punishment to trouble makers. For one thing, I don’t think kicking them out of class is an option. Its my understanding that the parents pay quite a bit of money for their kids to learn English, so they would probably just force them back into class or frankly “take business elsewhere”…which would probably result in me getting fired. No, aside from making them stand at their desk, stand at the wall, stand at the blackboard, theres not a whole lot I can do. So I have been carefully perfecting something I call the Eye of the Educator. As a child this was a look I recieved countless times from my teachrs…its that stare that says “I could explode on you right now, but mostly I’m just dissapointed in your actions. I really expected better behavior out of you. Frankly you disgust me”. Alright maybe not that last part, thats pretty harsh, but the rest of it is pretty accurate. Of course theres varying degrees of “The Eye”, and it all depends on the student. For male students, primarily larger individuals, you must give the “I could kick your ass kid, but I won’t because that would be morally depraved and most likely illegal”. Girls are tougher, they see right through The Eye. It has to be a little more subtle, it has to say “Come on, just read the damn question out loud and then I’ll ask the kid picking his nose next to you to answer it”. Its a delicate process, and I know it will take more tweaing, but today it worked. My third class was generally well behaved. No one had to stand, everyone paid attention when I told them too (for a few minutes) and side conversations ended when I said so (for a few seconds). Yes, everything was going great. I hoped it would last, in fact I prayed it would. I watched the clock even more mercilessly then my students did. We finally made it to the alotted break time. I had kept the students working a little longer today, and surprisingly they kept it together. We were well beyond the mid-point of the class, after break I only had to survive another 20 minutes and this would go down as a historic day in my books. And speaking of books…

The Dream Collapses: Leonardo DiCaprio shot me (or kicked me over, or what ever else they do to wake people up in that movie), snapping me out of my dream state, which immediately plunged me into the uncontrollable chaos that was “break time”. Two kids were fighting, a few others were swinging yoyos around like some kind of Midieval weapon, girls were weeping (it may have actually been me weeping…but thats not the point), it was utter insanity. EVERYBODY SIT DOWN! IN YOUR SEATS NOW! ORDER IN THE COURT! Everyone scrambled back to their desks, knocking eachother over, slipping on pencils. Finally everyone was sitting, and I could breathe a sigh if relief. Then my TA got blindsided by one of the students homework books. And then shit got real ugly…

It Didn’t Get Ugly: Yea after the book assault the class as a whole got pretty calm. I have no real explanation for it, but I wouldn’t rule out planetary allignment. Either way the rest of the class went by without a hitch, and when my students filed out the door I felt pretty good. For once I felt like that class was manageable and that The Eye of the Educator actually works, which left me hopeful that a similar result could be replicated in the future. “I thought that went pretty well” I said as I turned to face my TA, Lily. She looked pretty pissed…I’m pretty sure we weren’t on the same page.

Class 4: The kids in this class are just awesome. They’re aged 5-6, and they crack me up. That class went well.

Teaching is a lot harder then I thought it would be, but as tough as it is I really enjoy it. I now see why teachers talk about how rewarding their careers are. I’m not sure its something I can make a career out of, but right now it feels right. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

The kids on Halloween

Colin-2, Roaches-0

When I first moved into my apartment I noticed its last inhabitant (Marist Alum Justin Paulsen) had left a few useful things behind. For one, there was peanut butter, and frankly that was all I needed to survive my time in China, but thats not all I came across. A few weeks ago I found a huge jug of some chemical (later determined to be lye) under my sink. So, when my toilet got clogged shortly after, that fluid is what got it up and running again…I assume. I poured a lot of different stuff in there. But one of the things I never took much notice of was the large dark canister on the bathroom sink. At one point I may have looked at it, but the point is the drawing of a lightning bolt frying a few large insects never really registered with me…until last week.
Last week I turned on the light in my bathroom and what did I find? A little roach scurrying across the floor. Did I crush it? No, sorry but I have a heart. So i did what any moral person does…I wounded it, picked it up with some tissue, and dropped it out the window. Out of sight, out of mind. Little did I know that bugger was just the first wave. The “scout” if you will. Then last night I was doing laundry and noticed a roach, roughly 4 inches in length, attempting to hide under the washing machines drainage pipe. After a quick pursuit my enemy managed to retreat to its fortress under the sink. Clever girl.
I knew I was at war, and that my enemy should not be overlooked. And so I set up a battle station (I put the roach killing spray next to the toilet) and there I waited (I kept an eye out while I was…ya know) and waited (I peeked in the bathroom between episodes of How I Met Your Mother) but in the end the roach’s patience outlasted my own (I fell asleep).
After a restless night I awoke to find no sign of the roach. This meant one of two things, he had left for good, or he was hiding. Regardless I went about my day as usual, leaving my apartment relatively unattended. I returned from work around 8 o’clock, yet still my foe remained vigilant in his mystique. I went running and, after my return, I sat down to watch the HBO series John Adams. Around 11:20 I stepped out to get a snack from the local convenient store, and it was during this time that my enemies defenses came crumbling down.
I returned not ten minutes later to find that, now 6 inch, bastard scampering across the floor. He saw me, and I saw him, and he looked into my eyes, and I gazed into his…whatever they have. I threw my coat off and ran for the bathroom, grasping my sword (roach spray) in one swift motion before turning back to face my opponent (who seemed to have gotten stuck between my cable wire and wall). I lowered my weapon, and with the beast in my sights I cried out “DON’T TREAD ON ME!” (as I said, I had been watching John Adams). My adversary did not go down with out a fight, but by the time I lowered that spray can he was doing the backfloat in a puddle of liquid death.
Having faced such a worthy opponent, I saw it fit to pay him/her/it the proper respects (I picked him up on a piece of paper and dropped him out the window). Not since David and Goliath, Luke Skywalker and the Death Star, The 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team vs. The Soviet Union (yes, the whole Soviet Union not just the hockey team) has an epic battle ensued. And, as in those historical grudge matches, the underdog once again came out on top. Ok so maybe the roach was like an inch and a half long, and yes, I have to keep all my windows and doors open (its freezing out) because the fumes from the spray are making my light headed…but thats the price of victory NAY…the price of glory.