This will be short–our departure time for Zhangjiajie got moved up and I don’t have much time.
Life in Jishou has been good. Teaching has been better and better, though challenges seem to keep popping up. It’s not an easy task to make a lesson that gives students the feeling of learning, but also lets them do 80% of the talking. Especially when the materials that you have at your disposal include:
-An endless supply of unprecentedly brittle chalk
-Sparing use of a printer
Printing is out-of-pocket, and most students don’t have email, so you have to be a little creative. So far, my students have made presentations comparing American and Chinese Value systems, and worked together to tell a part of Oscar Wilde’s fable The Selfish Giant (the non-christiany part).
There are also increasingly apparent environmental challenges: from classes that change location without warning, to torrential downpours that make my voice completely inaudible, to passionate saxophonists playing Careless Whisper in the echoey alleyway below (and only careless whisper).
I hosted my first couchsurfers this week. Dario and Elena are an Italian couple ~2 weeks into a 6 month trip through China and Southeast Asia (follow their blog here). We went hiking in the hills, and out to dinner with one of my more enthusiastic students, whose dream is to go to Venice.
We sat in a cramped restaurant, eating Baozaifan and sipping sweet ginger tea. We talked about past travels, we explained why we don’t use the term “shemale” anymore, and we had just arrived at the subject of this year’s Jishou International Drum festival, when there came a peal of thunder. This wasn’t a warning of a coming storm, but an announcement of it’s arrival. We were shaken in our seats, and the sound was of a torn sky. And the sky did open, and the river swelled, and then the lights went out.
We ate by the light of telephone flashlights, then hospitably provided candles, and we walked home without umbrellas.
In the file of things I’m sure I don’t understand: Helen Keller Brand Sunglasses. There are advertisements everywhere for them. According to the company spokesman, the name was chosen because Helen Keller is a model of “optimism and philanthropy.” That doesn’t seem like quite a full picture to me, and I have to ask: Did they just want the headline? Or is there something else there?
Next, a website I’ve been keeping an eye on. When you don’t speak much of the language, it can be hard to get access to Chinese culture, and to Chinese music that isn’t generic pop. This website changes all that, showcasing Chinese art and music.
Finally, I’m not sure if I like the one-sidedness of this format, so I’m gonna ask you to participate a bit. Yeah, you. If you’ve been reading, and you like reading, leave a comment. I’ll ask a question each week to make it easier, so if you have a moment, give me an answer, or ask me a question, or both. All you need is an email. So, for this week:
What are you reading?