I received a request for more info about my daily life. I decided to do one of my picture every hour projects yesterday, which was unfortunately a rather dull day. But dull or not, here it is in photographic form!

8:30 Got to my first class of the day and found the midst of a three-legged race! They're always doing some kind of fun physical activity when I show up in the mornings.

9:30 Returned to the dorms where I usually run into this or a different pair of grandmas and babies. This time she was giving him a little ride on my scooter! Cuteness documented.

11:00 Got back from my second class and REALLY needed a nap after that ordeal. 

1:30 I slept through the next few hours, and woke up to Sushi. My lovely friends went to our favorite Japanese restaurant and brought me back food, so I ate it in bed while watching Southpark, mentally preparing for my 2nd graders.

3:00 Rode my bike home from the Primary school after a relatively successful 2nd grade class.

4:00 Walked home after a disastrous preschool class. Got a pep talk from the teacher about being more stern and ALMOST got a little choked up but didn't cry.

MISSING SCENES: Collapsed into  bed and slept for the next 3 hours.

8:00 Put on my fancy new shoes and went out to dinner with Liam, Erik, and Melon near the University we frequent.

9:00 Walked through here on our way to our scooters and home.

10:00 Snapped a quick self portrait for my 365 Days project and then went to bed.

Pretty broring, right? I promise next time I do this picture every hour feature I will choose a slightly more interesting day! Yesterday just happened to be one of those gray quiet sleepy days without a lot going on. They happen everywhere in the world.
What makes me say this?

Well, I received my first gift of an apple! 

And I've lost my voice, probably due to talking, singing, and reprimanding. 

I think my successes are finally starting to sliiiightly outweigh my failures. For this I must acknowledge and pay homage to the guidance of the mighty wise ones around me. Of course there is my mother, who was an educator for like 30 years, who is always there with some seasoned advice whenever I come to her with my novice teaching woes. I can't measure the amount of clever ideas and moral support this woman has doled out! Then there's my friend and fellow foreign teacher, Liam, who completely blew me away when he was kind enough to come to one of my hellish 3rd grade lessons last week. His experience really showed, they were like a different class with him! I'd go as far as to suggest he may be a child-whisperer. Anyway, I learned a ton of useful tricks from him, and in fact, this was the same class that gifted me the apple yesterday. I was also presented with a sticker featuring the portrait of a flirtatious anime girl, which I displayed proudly on the back of my hand (the kids really prize these things so it was a sweet gift). Maybe I'm too easily swayed with a sticker, but honestly, they're not bad kids... just too rowdy and a nightmare to teach! Sometimes I wish I could just play with the children all day instead of having to pretend to be some kind of disciplinarian....  

Probably not so real-teacherly, I was given the day off today after my first class when my pr-k teacher friend, Ruby, heard my raspy voice. It was really a wonderful thing, though, because I got to sit and watch her do the lesson, and I must say I learned quite a bit about teaching small children and my class in particular from this demonstration. I am amazed over and over again at how magical the simplest techniques can be with this age group! She has real skill, though, too, knowing how to have them moving around but not going wild, and getting them to perform the meaningful repetition I constantly strive for. She has told me before to have "competitions" which I scratched my head at, but I saw from her lesson how simple it can be! Hers was just having girls versus boys perform the song she taught (monkeys on the bed), and judge which group did better. As easy as that, and the children were entertained and picked up the song. On the other hand of the simplicity though, I witnessed that the children can comprehend far more complex instructions and questions than I had realized. 

Anyway, it got me pumped to do better with them. I feel sheepish about the fact that I think my salary is more than the average Chinese teacher because I don't think I deserve it. I have nothing on them beyond the coincidental fortune of having been born a native English speaker. I want to do better than that!! I want to become an awesome teacher who can problem solve any classroom management issue like my mom, wrangle hyper children like cowboy Liam, and entertain a bunch of 3 year olds while simultaneously teaching them English. In other words, I want to be able to call myself a "teacher" and feel like I live up to the title!
the panda effect 11/15/2010
photo by Michael Crowe on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/viking054
Being a foreigner in China, you are often exposed to what I like to call "the panda effect."  Pandas are one of those baffling creatures whose numbers are in decline because they sometimes don't care to breed in captivity. We put a male panda in with a female panda and say, "well, go ahead," and scratch our heads in confusion if they don't want to bone right then and there. I mean, why not? He's a panda, she's a panda. Shouldn't that be enough? 

As a foreigner in China, I sometimes feel like those pandas in that zoo. If I'm with some Chinese friends and we spot another foreigner, they'll push me towards him or her like parents do to their kids on the playground. Look, another little girl! Say hello! I hated it then and I don't care for it much now. Look, another foreigner! Say hello! 

There's one extremely awkward example I can think of where the panda effect was at its peak. I was stopped while shopping (which on its own is a huge offense) by an eager Chinese boy who said "Please wait a moment! My friend is from Wales! I just called him, he is running over here!" I blinked at him in surprise and confusion. I tried to get away. I explained that I'm not from Wales. It didn't matter, he was insistent. While we waited, he told me his friend is very strong and works out often and is very handsome. Oh brother, I thought, I know where this is going.... And in a few moments I found myself face to face with this other foreigner, the Chinese boy grinning like a proud papa. It turns out, he wasn't "running" to meet me after getting his friend's call, but was also doing his own errands, and he probably felt as accosted by this forced encounter as I did. We didn't have a whole lot to say to each other. We have no basic similarities beyond our skin tones and eye shapes. But from the point of view of this Chinese boy, why shouldn't he try to put us together? I mean, he's a foreigner, she's a foreigner. Let the sparks fly! I guess the assumption is that our mutual alienness in this land should unite us, and sometimes it does, but those meetings need to happen organically. Maybe if I were to run into this person again, we could strike up a normal conversation and size each other up for potential friendship, but as it was it was a typical awkward panda moment for both of us. I was relieved when I had an excuse to get away, and I think the guy from Wales was, too. 

My conclusion: It's one of those funny things we just have to put up with in our newfound status as a minority. We're an endangered species here, like the panda is on earth, so we get just as many fascinated stares and people wanting to watch us eat and interact. We also have to deal with the ocasional silly urge of our zoo keepers to toss us in a pen together and hope we will mate, without so much the benefit of an eHarmony profile! 
photo by chrismaverick on flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismaverick)
Little by little, my life here is starting to feel kind of "normal" to me. I realize I am a creature of habit, and I feel most comfortable when I have a routine established. I think I have that now and it is making a world of difference. There are still difficulties and things that frustrate me, for one my health. I don't think I have been truly 'well' since I've arrived, it's like I have one little affliction after the other. I had a cough that lasted a good month, and just as that is fading, I suddenly have sinuses that feel like they want to escape through my nose and ears. Right between my eyes there is this intense pressure and my ears are popping and squeaking, it's strange. I have a fantasy about drilling a hole on either side of the bridge of my nose and allowing a geiser of snot and air escape. Oh man that would be so so nice. 

I've been introduced to some interesting ideas on health and medicine held by the average chinese person, sometimes the exact opposite of what our western theories dictate. It makes me a little exasperated when I am handed another round of medicines from the pharmacist, as I have no idea what I'm taking, but I am at the mercy of the system here so I just take it. But a lot of advice I receive regarding my health comes from my Chinese friends. Cold drinks are bad for the health, especially women's health. You shouldn't drink while you eat. Illness comes from an imbalance of the body's yin and yang.  A woman on her period should only consume hot foods. And yesterday as I was eating an orange and my friend was reading my medicine box for me, she told me I shouldn't be eating that while I am sick and that oranges are bad for the health. This raised an eyebrow, but I just did what I usually do and said "Oh really? What do you recommend I eat?" Why, eat hot foods and drink hot water, of course (they tell you to drink hot water for everything, lord have mercy)..... Anyway, It's just one of those funny little differences. I grew up believing plenty of orange juice and vitamin C is a good way to boost the immune system and took it for granted as the truth. And now I am somewhere where oranges are bad for you! Who woulda thunk it. Of course that hasn't stopped me from continuing to eat my oranges, even though I KNOW it's an old wives tale that you can do anything about a cold after you've already caught it, but it just makes me feel better! My faith in it has power, it's like I can feel the vitamins rushing into my blood stream and fortifying my white blood cells with super armor or whatever. It's probably how my friend feels when she drinks her scalding water and imagines the healing properties getting to work in her body too. So I'm eating my oranges, chock it up as part of my culture. But I'm taking the mystery pills and drinking the hot water too because...might as well. When in China!
China being what it is, my access to wordpress has been suspended. Rather than cry over blocked blogs, though, I decided to just find a new place to host my thoughts and journeys! Taa daa! Welcome to my Weebly site!

And actually, I love this host. It's so much better than wordpress, so I hope you like it too. And if you are looking for an easy free website maker site, make the change to Weebly. So easy to use, great control over layout, and instead of just a blog you get a whole webpage!! Okay, I am sounding like a commercial, I promise they are not paying me to write this (but it would be nice if they would! haha)