Archive for March, 2012

Rainy Sunday

Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Hello!! Hope everyone is having a great Sunday afternoon! It's a rainy and cloudy afternoon here in Paris, much different from the great spring weather that has been here for most of the week.
And what a great week it has been!
Tuesday I met my friend Paula in between classes to go over some Portuguese. It's been an interesting experience bringing a fourth language into the mix because there are times I'm not sure whether I should think in French or Spanish. In any case I'm really glad I decided to start picking it up. It's a beautiful language to study and sometime it feels like a good middle ground between French and Spanish. So far so good.
I spent the time I had in between classes at the Jardin du Luxembourg, finishing Cafés de la memoire, so that I could meet my friend Brittany for a study group on the novel after classes.
Once home, I got a phone call from the parents :) They were checking in and wanting to make sure I received my care package. After I checked that it indeed had arrived in Paris and was ready to be picked up I grabbed my keys and practically sprinted out the door! As difficult as it was to carry such a big package up 6 narrow, winding flights of stairs, it was so worth it.


This was the care package of my dreams....



J Very happy indeed! My parents sent over my teeny suitcase (which I was really in need of for my upcoming trips and for the flight home), an extra towel, tons of healthy and nutritious goodies I miss from home (yes they have nuts and raisins in Paris but they are super expensive and I am really cheap haha!), Costco supply of gum, iTunes giftcard, Opti-free contact solution (this specific solution in Paris is ridiculously overpriced!), and some beauty supplies. ;) What I was most excited about getting was the big package of oatmeal (oatmeal is scarcely found here in Paris. You can find it at specialty health food stores but it will be quite expensive or you can find oatmeal flakes in some grocery stores. Oatmeal is just not a traditional breakfast food here in Paris), and black beans! (If you are a fellow vegetarian that <3s black beans you understand my sadness of living without black beans--you can not find them in Paris). My family knows me too well and I <3 them so much!! Best gift ever! (Looking forward to the clothes in my next care package!) And it was really fun opening it because my bff Karen was on skype with me at the same time so we opened it together haha!
After cleaning up  the mess that was unwrapping my package (I swear my room looked worse than the job my nephew does Christmas morning in our fmaily room!)

I miss this little guy <3
I got ready to go to the movies with Ayita, Gaby, and Alex. We went to go see Project X (french title: Projet X). In Paris new movies come out Wednesday as opposed to Friday like in the States. The movie was hysterical and the popcorn sucré was a great compliment to the film ;)  


Thursdays are always a really busy day for me-mostly spent on the metro. In between classes Allison, Wesley, and I got to know some of our francophone classmates better. Since most of them were English majors we decided to came up with our own game to get the most practice out of the languages we were studying. So as we talked about everything from school, food, films, TV shows(Skins, House, etc), slang, going out, and travel we spoke in French while our francophone friends replied in English. Beneficial to both parties involved. :) During our next class Allison, Wesley, and I came up with a list of English abbreviations we use in texting or fb chatting while, our Emilie and Clara came up with a list of French abbreviations and slang to give to us. They have a lot more abbreviations than we do and it was interesting to note how they tend to make their abbreviations....

mdr= mort de rire
ptdr= pété de rire
lol=lol
xptdr= extra « ptdr »
xlptdr= explosé de rire
vdm=fml
G=j’ai
ct=c’était
c/o ou cz=chez
pq/pk=pourquoi/ parce que 
ds= dans
ns= nous
vs=vous
t=t’es
tt=tout
WTF=WTF
OMG=OMG
bsx=bisous
pr=pour
BM=bibliothèque universitaire (=bibli)
(accent should be over m)ˆm=même  
C=sait/c’est
meuf=fille (familier) 
mec= garçon (familier)
nn-=non
avt=avant
dvt=devant
pdt=pendant
ac=avec
(je) ss=(je) suis
ts=tous
bcp=beaucoup
s/=sur
s/s ou /s=sous
st=saint
ste=sainte
càd=c’est-à-dire
tr=très
tps=temps
vrm=vraiment
qd=quand
RU=restaurant universitaire
slt=salut
kto=Le Catho=ICP
jtm=je t’aime
jtdr=je t’adore
jtb=je t’embrasse
jtbf=je t’embrasse fort
jtbtf=je t’embrasse très fort 
ms= mais 
ouf= fou
relou= lourd (« il est relou » -lourd=chiant)
avoir la dalle= avoir faim 
qqch= quelque chose
qq=quelque
qqn ou qn=quel qu’un
DTC=dans ton cul 
TG=ta gueule
DTG= dans ta geule 
C.O.D. =complément objet direct
txt=texte
Luco=jardin du Luxembourg
Galaf=Galeries Lafayette
Montpar= gar Montparnasse
La Motte= La Motte Picquet Grenelle
Troca=Trocadéro
Def=définition
kdo=cadeau 
tb= très bien
ui=oui
TGV=Train Grande Vitesse 
TGR=theme grammatical
PQR=Plan Cul Régulier
bjr=bonjour
bsr=bon soir ou brevet de la sécurité routière 
RAF=rien à faire
RAS=rien à signaler
HS=hors service

Yeah sooo many!!! It got be wondering why we do not have as many. Maybe its because the frequency of longer words is greater in the French language than in English. In any case there abbreviations are clever!
Friday was a gorgeous day and it seemed like everyone in Paris was out enjoying the parks. After going for a run and taking care of some errands I got ready to go meet Wesley, Allison, Clara and Emilie at O'Neils for some happy hour drinks. Keeping up with our language game, we had a great time! 

Clara and Emilie - they're so funny! 
Another friend joined us later  
Carolina came too!
so happy with their pizzas ;) 
Saturday was Saint Patty's day in Paris! I spent the better half of Saturday morning planning out my courses for next semester - yup its that time of the year again! I can't believe I'm already planning my courses for senior year! aaah! Initially, I should not have had much to plan because before I left I had planned out with my adviser what my senior year should look like - but of course planning for the semester is never as easy as it should be, especially when your a double major :/ 
After finally getting down what my schedule for fall 2012 will probably look like (packed!!!), let me just say I better enjoy my semester in Paris while I can because senior year is gonna kick me in the butt. Later, I headed out for a run then came back to get ready to partake in Saint Patrick's day festivities with Gaby, Alex, and Ayita. (Michelle was there in spirit haha!) 
All in all it was a pretty good week! On schedule for next week: my 1st soccer game experience in Paris and visiting Normandy Saturday-can't wait! 
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
-Liz 




Temple of Heaven (天坛)

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Last week, my roommate and I met a student who wanted a language partner to practice for the TOFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language. He needs it to apply to graduate school in the US). We agreed to meet twice a week so that he could practice conversational English and we could practice our Mandarin. Of course, his English is FLAWLESS…typical Tsinghua. He’s lived in Beijing for ten years and offered to show us some sights around the city, so on Saturday, we headed to the Temple of Heaven.

This is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest:

It was initially built in the 1400s for the emperor to pray for agricultural prosperity and opened as a park around 1920. You can read more about its history here, here, or here. In addition to tourists, many locals come to do tai chi or just take walks on the grounds. Groups of people were playing Chinese chess and card games that involved a lot of slapping down cards.

Fun to watch! Also, there were groups of people patriotic singing songs. For example, my personal favorite: 我爱你我的北京我的家园 (I love you my Beijing, my home). Watch it here and then wonder what exactly you just watched.

I was surprised at the size of the park… it was huge. I find it so interesting to think about the development of this city, and how much of the space is devoted to parks like this one. Sort of like Central Park in NYC, but bigger, and more of them! Also, there’s a central meridian that runs North to South through the city. It passes through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as through the Olympic complex in the North. Our Chinese friend told us it also runs through the Temple of Heaven park. Walking on meridian kind of gives you a harmonious and balanced feeling. It felt like we had stepped out of the city, since the park felt so peaceful it was hard to imagine that outside the gates was bustling Beijing craziness.

There’s an incredible amount of symbolism that went into the design of this temple. For example, a lot of the number 9 (doors that were designated for the emperor’s use only were decorated with nine rows of nine). Also, much of the architecture has to do with the intersection of square and round. Heaven was perceived to be circular, while the earth was square.

This is the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

It’s surrounded by a circular “echo wall.” You turn towards the wall and speak into it, and someone on the opposite side of the circle can hear you as if you were standing next to them.

The Circular Mound Alter:

This is the Center Heavenly stone in the middle of the alter. The number of marble tiles around the center ring is 9, then 18 in the second, all the way until the 9th ring, which has 81 tiles. Also notice the alter itself consists of 3 concentric circles.

If you can’t already tell, the air was “crazy bad” that day… this is a shot of the Hall  of Prayer for Good Harvests.

 

The Return of Photosky

Friday, March 16th, 2012

I think I’m sick AGAIN. Eurgh. Right now all the students seem to either be coughing, or have eye patches due to some contagious eye disease… I hate winter. Even though two of my favorite second grade boys classes are on Fridays, I did not want to go into school today. I scrapped my original lesson plan (a kind of intense one about similes and metaphors) and decided to just play scattergories to try to recover my voice. I forgot how into scattegories the students get and how much I have to yell to get their attention so that backfired but it definitely propped up my spirits.

When I entered 2.5 I immediately started teaching, but students told me to go look at the board. I turned around and saw this

DSC03225[1]

I thought that they had forgotten my Latin roots lesson, and it just about made my day.

Em in Asia! 2012-03-15 02:55:39

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

AS I was writing that last post, ANOTHER food present arrived. We just got an entire platter of expensive thinly sliced raw fish (횟) and sauce from another parent. Seriously?!

And now to brag a bit…

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

How fast can you read the following tongue twister taken from an episode of Pinky and the Brain (and shamelessly stolen from fellow ETA Ross “the boss”)?

Brain:  I must study the operation of the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kicker Factory in detail, Pinky.

Pinky:  But Brain, how will we, two small mice, convince the huge owner to let us inspect his enormous factory?

B:  We will introduce ourselves as the only thing guaranteed to gain the respect of any American businessman:  Japanese industrialists seeking to buy the company.

B: Now, remember, I am Mr. Kawasaki, and you are Mr. Hayasaka.

Kurt Sackett:  Welcome to the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kicker Factory.  I’m Kurt Sackett, senior supervisor.  Can I help you?

B:  Yes.  We are two tiny Japanese industrialists, seeking to buy this company.  I am Mr. Kawasaki….

P:  …And I am Mr. …uh… Turkey-Lurky.

B:  Turkey-Lurky?  Isn’t it Mr. Hayasaka?

P:  Where?  Poit!  Hmm, I must have missed him.

KS:  I am honored by your visit.  Let me show you our assembly line.  First, sheets of sheer synthetic sheepskin are slit into several Kicky-Sack shoe shapes in shapely shoe sizes by six sitting sheet slitters.

B:  I only see five sitting sheet slitters.

KS:  The sixth sitting sheet slitter’s sick.  His son Sammy’s subbing ’til the sick sixth sitting sheet slitter’s back, sitting pretty.

P:  You’re not the sheet slitter?

S:  No, I’m the sheet slitter’s son.

P:  Well…. You keep on slitting sheets until the sheet slitter comes.  Haheheheh!  Whooohaaah.

KS:  The Shoe Shaper then shapes the slit synthetic sheepskin sheets, and shoots out shoes through the chute.

KS:  Now, this is Mr. Plunkett, the new khaki sock plucker.  I had to fire our previous sock plucker.  He had a bit of an attitude.

B:  So, you sacked the cocky khaki Kicky-Sack sock plucker?

KS:  The second cocky khaki Kicky-Sack sock plucker I sacked since the sixth sitting sheet slitter got sick.

KS:  Whoops!  Don’t worry; just an electrical problem.  One of the Kicky-Sack sack pickers will have to flick the plug.

P:  Not the khaki sock plucker?

KS:  Oh my, no!  The Kicky-Sack sack pickers flick the plug.  The khaki sock plucker can’t reach the socket over the latex child perambulator fenders we use to line the treadmill.

B:  It might make more sense to have the sixth sitting sheet slitter’s son flick the plug, if the sack pickers and the sock pluckers are behind the rubber baby buggy bumpers.

KS:  I never thought of that!

B:  Of course you didn’t.

B:  And what, pray tell, is this?

KS:  Oh, this is the toy boat I won in the sack race at the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kicker Khaki Sock Factory picnic in Secaucus.

KS:  And finally, the Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kickers are inflated by our genuine Parker Packard pewter pressure pump.

P:  Look, Brain!  I mean, Mr., um, Turkey-Lurky.  It’s purple!

I’m Kawasaki, Pinky.  You’re Turkey-Lurky.

P:  Well, I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say about a person.

B:  I’ve seen all I need to see of the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kicker Factory.  [To Pinky:]  Pinky, we must take our leave, and sneak back under cover of nightfall.

B: Now, Pinky, here is the plan.  Remember, every step must be performed with precision!

B: You must slit the sixth sick sheet slitter’s son’s sheet, secure it next to the toy boat from the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kickers’picnic in Secaucus…

B: …stretch it past the sack pickers’ station and the sock plucker’s chute, and pick a sack, pluck a sock, and flick the plug…

B: …so I can put the pea in the plucked sock with the picked sack for ballast and bounce it off the rubber baby buggy bumper, into the Parker Packard purple pewter pressure pump.  Is that understood?

P:  Tra-lalala!

B:  Pinky, quiet!  I must be fooling myself.  This will never work.

P:  Oh, why not, Brain?  All I have to do is slit the sixth sick sheet slitter’s son’s sheet, and secure it next to the toy boat…

P: …from the Hackensack Socko Kicky-Sack Sack Kickers’ picnic in Secaucus, speed it past the sack picker and the sock plucker, and pick a sack, pluck a sock, and flick a plug.

B:  Why, yes, Pinky!  That was perfect!

P:  Poit!  Yes, and I have no idea what it means!

I gave every student one or two of the lines, as well as the previous line as an auditory cue. When students heard the previous line they were supposed to say their line, and so on, until the entire tongue twister had been said. I also pit the classes against each other and timed them. So far the class with the best time was class 2.2 (second grade girls) and they were able to do it in three minutes and fifty-eight seconds. My students are brilliant.

Feeling the Love

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

All week the new students’ parents have been bringing in gifts (food) to show their appreciation to the teachers. I am so full of bread, strawberries, and 떡 (rice cake) right now.

I feel so much more at home here this semester than last. Last semester whenever students used to come into the main office I’d look up, make eye contact, smile, and look back down. This semester students actually come up and talk to me while they’re waiting for other teachers – or better yet, sometimes I look down to look back up and see that they are in fact waiting to talk to me.

Today two of my second grade girls came in to talk to me and ask if I would practice conversation with them Tuesdays and Thursdays during the lunch period. You could tell they were nervous because they had actually prepared a script with their request that they were reading off of, and they told me they wanted to “get better at English and become closer with me.” My heart just melted.

Yesterday was a testing day but I came to school right after lunch because all of the female teachers were gathering and having coffee and snacks to welcome the new female teachers. We actually have three, all of which are fairly young, and can speak some English. They’ve actually been seeking me out to talk with me, which I’m still not entirely used to.

On top of that, I’ve actually had multiple groups of students come up to me and ask the title of my club activity and tell me that they were going to/had already signed up.

Speaking of club activities, for my first day I’m thinking about having my students play Kings (sans beverage). Basically, I’ll fan out a deck of cards in a circle and give every student 10 M&Ms to start with. They have to pull a card and do the command associated with the card’s number, and they can either lose an M&M by failing to follow a command or gain one by doing it correctly. Here are the commands so far:

2’s – Tell us your hobbies.
3’s – Take one M&M from someone.
4’s – Ask someone a question using a past tense [과거]. That student must answer. 
5’s – Ask a question using a future tense [미래]. That student must answer. 
6’s – Give one M&M to someone.
7’s – 7s. Here the student who drew the card must begin by saying the number 7, the next student in place must then say 14, the next must say 21 and so on. The first student who makes a mistake or doesn’t answer for 5 seconds loses and has to give up an M&M. The game continues on from the loser’s position.
8’s – Sing a line of a song (Korean/English) OR quote a movie (ENGLISH only)
9’s – Change direction : Counter clockwise to clockwise or vice versa.
10’s – Categories : Here the student who drew the card must name a category. The student next in turn must then name something within that category. Then the next student and so on… The first student who makes a mistake or doesn’t answer for 5 seconds loses and has to give up an M&M. The game continues on from the loser’s position.
Jacks – I have never: Students put up three fingers. Students must take turns saying something they have never done. EX: I have never been to Europe. Whoever HAS been to Europe must put a finger down. Whoever puts down all three fingers first loses and has to give up an M&M.
Queens – ???
Kings – ???
Aces – ???

If you have any ideas please let me know!

10 Things I’ve learned in a month

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
  1. When people make the HRRRRCCCGGGHHKK noise indicating they are about to spit, your immediate reaction will be to whip your head around to figure out what sort of human could possibly emit that noise. DO NOT DO THIS. Spit is eminent either way. The only thing that will happen if you watch is that you will actually see it fly through the air. Fight the urge to look. Today at the bus stop, a woman in her 70s spit about 2 centimeters from my right shoe while I casually looked left.
  2. The word “keyi” (可以) is the best. Say there’s a crazy line at the grocery store. One lane is empty but the cashier is counting cash and looking angry… Just say to her 我可以?(can I?) and it turns out, she says 可以!You can! You buy those Oreos. You deserve them. Bonus: if you ask a question with this word in it, people will usually use the same word to respond. So if you ask “can I do this?” the person will usually say “you can’t, Mandarinmandarinmandarin” but that’s okay, because you got the first part. Just raise your eyebrows and nod while saying “awwohhh” or something similarly noncommittal.
  3. Someone told me today that there are about 200,000 foreigners living in Beijing. Does that seem like a  large number to you? Because to me, that seems INCREDIBLY SMALL. Sure, it’s about 50x the size of my university, but there are a lot of people in Beijing. A lot.
  4. Which brings me to this. In America, the amount of space around your body that you would consider your “personal” space is directly related to the number of people around you. If you’re not in a crowd, I would estimate that space at around an arms length, and there’s a bubble that surrounds you outlining that space. If you’re in a crowd, maybe that bubble shrinks to about 6 inches. In China, whether you’re in a crowd or an empty sidewalk, your bubble ends where your body ends. You don’t have a bubble. If you aren’t physically occupying airspace, it’s definitely not implied as yours.
  5. You can buy Skippy’s peanut butter here in Gogurt-like tubes for 1.5RMB ($0.25), which is amazing, however a small box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is around $10/box. Bummer.
  6. Red bean is in everything. I honestly don’t remember seeing red bean at all in the US, maybe I just missed it? Anyways, it’s the filling for every desert dumpling, pastry, and bun you can imagine. That roll that kind of looks like it might be cinnamon? Red bean. Think that bread has chocolate in it? Okay, take a bite then. It’s red bean. Order a matcha milkshake (green tea)? They put red beans on top, right next to the whipped cream. That was the first time I actually saw those little guys not in a paste from. They’re really tiny, a little smaller than black beans, and sweeter.
  7. Our culture class professor told us yesterday that his generation (he is 29) considers Mao to be about 70% correct and 30% wrong. His parents and their generation are quite different; he said when he took his mother to visit Mao’s Mausoleum, she started crying about 100 meters from the building and was inconsolably sobbing by the time they actually got to the body because she was so moved.
  8. Beijing used to have insane underground tunnels! Check out this craziness. 
  9. Taking the bus is ridiculously easy! With your metro card, a ride is either 0.40 or 0.60RMB… I don’t remember which, but either way falls somewhere between a nickel and a dime. The stops are well announced both in Chinese and in English. This afternoon, there were several empty seats, but when a father and son got on with grandma and grandpa, two different girls around my age stood up from their seats and insisted to the grandmother 坐 巴 坐 巴! (Sit! Sit!)
  10. Watching small children (please note that by “small” I mean up to and including 10 or 11 year olds) go to the bathroom in public is a jarring experience, but not for the reasons one might think. The other day, as we were headed into our favorite bakery (to buy food that was inevitably full of red bean) I watched an adorable little girl pop a squat and urinate on the sidewalk in front of the shop. Okay, fine, just remember to avoid that spot. But then, you have to think: how many children are there in this city? And how often a day do they have to go to the bathroom? And that’s when you realize that the boots you’re wearing won’t be coming home with you.

The Cultural Iceberg

Monday, March 12th, 2012
Salut!! Hope your week is starting off well. It's been an absolutely gorgeous day in Paris today and I only hope that the weather does not get temperamental on us and finally decides to commit to Spring.
This morning during my Analyse des conflits contemporains (Analysis of contemporary conflicts) course we talked about the role culture plays in conflict resolution and what exactly culture means. While this is course is 3 hours long :/ my professor's lectures always keep my attention, especially her presentation of the cultural iceberg model.

This model is applied in the analysis of cultures towards the goal of conflict resolution. Essentially, what this model intends to show is that each culture has those things (language, art, music, food & drink, dress, arts, artifacts, etc) that are visible to someone who has never been immersed in that culture. These sorts of things can be learnt from books or the news, etc. But what is most important and of the most value (especially in conflict resolution) is the part underneath the water line-the invisible characteristics of that culture that are more difficult to understand without first hand experience (such as beliefs, norms, expectations, roles, assumptions, thought processes, values, concepts of beauty, rules of conduct, perceptions, and many more). This invisible part was what resonated with me especially since, I believe that as a student studying abroad this is especially true. It's the invisible part that I have been and continue to discover and bring into my consciousness. Before I came to Paris, the image of the city and its people I brought with me was much different than what I am sure I will take away from this experience in the end (I blame Hollywood haha!) These invisible parts are what add richness and dimension to the whole cultural experience and can make you stay much more enjoyable. Not too mention save you from any unspoken gestures that may get you in an awkward situation (a.k.a. watch who you smile too - they might take it more suggestively than you intended). Just a little something I muddled over in my mind since, I am halfway through my six months here. 

But enough with the school lecture. Once class let it out it was a beautifully gorgeous day that inspired me to go for a run along the Seine and take in some vitamin D! On my way to the metro I stopped to pick up some staples (Im always out of soymilk!) and then nabbed the 4 to Montparnesse Bienvenue to head home. While I shuffled through Montparnesse to get to the 6 who did I see?! Alex, Gaby, and Ayita :) I'm only mentioning this because coincidences like this almost never happen. Paris is a jam packed city with people bustling around everywhere, so you almost never run into someone you know in the metro or in the metro station. It was a pleasant surprise and we stopped to chat for a bit before I continued on my way. 
Once home I grabbed my sneakers and got ready to go. Everybody else seemed to be out enjoying the weather as well and I had a great run! It's been some time since I've gotten one in and it felt great to stretch my legs ;) Hope the weather stays this nice! I'm definitely a spring/summer girl! 

One last note! I realize that I never followed up on the expected visit of my friend Karen who was supposed to come for my second week of vacances. Well unfortunately, due to some passport troubles, Karen could not board her flight and will have to come in May instead. As disheartening as it is to be told your bestie can't make it last minute, the weather was terrible anyways. Plus as we know, I got sick. But on the bright side she will get to enjoy Paris in the height of the spring season. 

Well I got some homework to cram in before I meet Michelle and her mom and aunt for dinner and drinks. Her mom and aunt have flown all the way from Cansda for a visit - so sweet! 

Have a great day!!
-Liz 

Microcosom of Personality

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Receiving these notecards is, as always, so interesting. Not only do I learn a little about my new students, but I learn a little more about the students I’ve already taught and it helps me distinguish them and helps me see them as an individual student rather than a member of the class, which I’d like to think that I already do but when you teach eight hundred students, some of them only once every two weeks, sometimes some of them slip through the gaps and you find yourself not recognizing them. Hopefully with my new mug shot system (I took pictures of all of the students holding up a white board with their names on it – they say that Changpyeong is a jail, so the mug shots are rather fitting) and with these notecards I’ll be able to keep better track of all of my students.

It’s so interesting to see what students choose to share with me. I leave it very vague:

1. Hometown (not much room for creativity here)
2. Favorite music (genre/artist)
3. Hobby
4. **Random Fact**
5. What do you want to learn in this class
6. What is your goal for this year and the future [1st grade]/Name three things that make you happy [2nd grade]

As simple as it is, this separates out the students fairly well because even if a student answers every question with nary a thought, generally he or she has something (normally a hobby or music preference) that will give me pause. The student who wants to impress me, who wants to study English more intensely, who wants to make me laugh, or who really wants me to know him or her tends to be amazingly creative with his or her answers, and often has me immediately reaching for my camera to look for his or her picture.

It’s a really, really interesting way to while away a few hours.

Without further ado, some of my favorites…

2. Favorite Music:
“Sexy”
“My favorite music is hip hop. For example: Let’s get it started.”

3. Hobby:
“My hobby is go outside illegally” [he probably means break school curfew. probably.]

4. Random fact:
“I’ve never had a girlfriend”
“Changpyeong is garbage”
“I have met you before in English contest in Damyang”
“Learning how to draw pictures. I love magazine. I want to be a fashion businessman!!”
“I don’t know why I have to study hard.”
“I like ants and spiders.”
“I bought kimchi refrigerator.”
“My favorite animal is donkey.”
“I want to marry with TOP ㅋㅋㅋ and I love one piece.”
“My good point is height.”
“Today wish is eat real food (because I have a food poison disease) so I just eat rice and water.”
“I like word ‘metal’ and ‘tiger’.”
“My nickname is koala.”
“I’ll get new face. I’ll do plastic surgery. 쉿! It’s secret. Don’t tell anyone. I’ll live new life. Forget me.” [preeeettttty sure this is a joke...?]
“My face is look like moon.”
“I like “BREAD” my nickname is 빵순이. I love BREAD very much give me some bread right now!!”
“I’m unique.”
“My hobby is creating strange food. I love meat a lot.”

5. What do you want to learn in this class?
“I want to learn even profound topics, too (justice, philosophy…)”
“I want to learn about America’s roadside food.”
“I want to know foreign cute, handsome boys or men.”

6. What are your goals for this year/the future?
“I will be a super daddy”
“Becoming a master of NTS (National Tax Service)”
“My goals are going to Korea University and being rich man. Because I can do anything with money.”
“I’ll master hearing English.”
“My goals: traveling whole the world and making the finest Korean film.”
“I want to make a girlfriend.”
“I go to Yonsei University because I want to become a dentist, so, after 10 years if children have a decayed tooth, I treat them with kindness.”

6. What makes you happy?
“Success.”
“Your love”
“I will soon go to home.”
“Family. Friends. Freedom.”
“I’m proud of very very positive. Im thankful for something from little to big always. Maybe I’m most happy girl not this class but also this school. When I reading books, playing with cats, and do my best something I’m happy.”
“What makes me happy is chatting with my friend eating snacks, ice cream or noodle, and taking a walk with beautiful countryside landscape also makes me happy.”

There are so many more, but I can’t type them all, and I haven’t even finished teaching my intro lesson to all of the students. The more I teach the more optimistic I get – these kids are going to do something great one day. I’m excited to see how they develop over the next semester…

Update

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

I realized it’s been a while since I posted a long update… so here goes! This past week has been pretty routine… I’m getting into the groove of my classes and work schedule. I have class every morning from Tuesday-Friday from 8:00-9:40. I’m taking Chinese speaking and writing. My classes are pretty small… at most 10 kids. Our two teachers are both grad students I think, so the classes are pretty relaxed. We play games like charades and telephone. I’m definitely learning a lot, though… In my writing class, we memorized an inspirational poem last week, so if you ever wants to be serenaded with Chinese poetry, just let me know. I think the biggest difference between these classes and my classes at home is that what I learn in class STICKS. My brain is in survival mode and is hyperactively absorbing information. Definitely not as quickly as I would like though… usually whenever I open my mouth outside of the classroom, people just look at me and smile a little bit with a kind of “aww, nice try” look in their eyes.

My other two classes, Chinese philosophy and developmental psychology, are going well too, though they are both once a week classes, so I’ve only had three each. The first week, my psychology class was taught by an American professor, but the second week, I burst in to class (2 minutes late because I have to cross the campus in 10 minutes… I pedal like a madwoman believe me) to find a different professor… a Chinese woman. I knew I was in the right class because I recognized the students, so I sat down. The professor starts lecturing… in Mandarin. I understand about 1%. Fortunately, her powerpoint slides were in English, and she would drop in an English phrase every once in a while. The entire 2 hour and 25 minute class goes something like this: “Mandarinmandarinmandarin operant learning theory Mandarinmandarinmandarinmandarin.” I was keeping up with her lecture in the textbook (she was going pretty much out of the book thank goodness). I’m looking at the guy sitting next to me out of the corner of my eye trying to figure out how quickly I can befriend him without completely creeping him out. (Answer: pretty quickly! His English name is Joey and the next class he asked me how to pronounce the word ‘deoxyribonucleic.’ Friendship!)

Anyway, I survived the lecture, but I can say with certainty I really can’t think of an academic experience I’ve had that has made me more uncomfortable. You haven’t squirmed in your seat until you’ve sat through a lecture spoken at top speed in a language you barely understand. I can’t even begin to describe how jarring (in a positive sense of the word, if that’s possible!) it feels to function in an environment that isn’t American-centric. While I was sitting through that lecture, I was thinking about how absurd it would be to raise my hand and ask the lecture be taught in English. Would a foreign exchange student sitting in a class of native English speakers in America raise a hand and request that the professor switch to Mandarin? Absolutely not! After class, I emailed the professor and he said that some of the lectures will be in Chinese, but he didn’t anticipate it being a problem for me if I kept up with the reading. Wish me luck.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Tsinghua’s office of foreign student affairs runs a “buddy” program, which matches Chinese students with foreign students. I met my buddy a week ago. She’s a microelectronics major (right?!) and she likes yoga and swimming. Her name is Li Wei Tao, and she doesn’t have an English name yet. She mentioned that I could help her pick one, but oh my goodness, how is one supposed to go about naming a person?! I have no idea what name to give her, but maybe we’ll come up with something soon. We had dinner on Wednesday, and yesterday, we went shopping. She’s one of the most decisive people I’ve met here… seriously, she’s awesome. We went into a store and I told her I liked the outfit the model is wearing on the poster. One minute later she and a salesperson are holding clothing against me for size, and two minutes later, I’m in the dressing room wearing the model’s outfit. It was a little much for me (the pants were orange) and a little expensive to buy on impulse… it was basically the price equivalent of Gap at home. It’s also freezing here still, so I’m not exactly in spring fashion mode yet.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and I ended up buying a blouse for work. When you buy something in department stores, you tell the saleswoman you want it, she gives you a slip of paper, you take that to a cash register, they give you a second piece of paper, you take that back to the first sales woman, and you get your clothing. I have one word of commentary on this: typical. One of the things I’ve had to adjust to most since being here is the idea of process. Everything has its process, and some processes are less painless than others. We sometimes joke that we haven’t done enough waiting that day, and self-enforce some sitting around time.

In the basement of the mall we were in, there’s a grocery store with a ton of Western food. This is a key example of why I need a Chinese buddy… to show me secret grocery stores that are in the basement of shopping malls because really, who would even begin to guess that one? There’s  a food court in this grocery store, and we found:

Yumm! After we shopped, we went home, ate them, made fried rice and chicken wings, and watched Harry Potter. A nice Saturday afternoon.

Writing about the doughnuts reminds me of my favorite snack here: candied hawthorn berries! There are tons of vendors everywhere that sell them on the streets. They’re about $0.50/a stick. They look like this.  I’d describe it as a candy apple, but easier to eat, and more delicious. There’s also a stall near the apartment that sells something called zao gao (at least I think that’s the correct spelling). Gao = cake (I learned that word quickly!) Zao gao is similar to spice cake. It has some kind of dried fruit in it (haha that phrase “some kind of” comes up a lot in my life lately…. “some kind of meat,” etc). We first noticed it because there’s a line outside of the stall 24/7. This is one of the universal key indicators to finding great food. The other indicators are poor signage (check) and a menu with only one item on it (check!). We waited for about 15 minutes and when we got to the front we ordered one jin (about 1.1lbs) at 9.8/jin came out to under $2. They put it in a plastic bag and it’s steaming and perfect.

On Friday, everyone in our program went to KTV (karaoke!). It’s HUGE here… it’s a really popular activity to do with friends. Basically, you go in and get a private room. There’s an all you can eat buffet and tons of waiters everywhere.  It’s a weird experience. I sang some Gaga and some Black Eyed Peas (you guess what song)… 不好意思! It was a lot of fun and I could definitely see why you’d do it with close friends, but in front of our program coordinators? Embarrassing! Afterwards, we went to Sanlitun, which is an area of bars and clubs popular with foreigners. It was kind of crazy there, so we ended up heading back to our neighborhood. I realized that a bar I’d been reading about that is really popular for foreign students is on the same block as our apartments. It’s called Helen’s. All I’ll say is that you can get a lot of beer there for $1.50. It was SO WEIRD to walk in and see nearly all white people. My first reaction is to think to myself “what are you guys DOING here?!” and then I’m like oh, well, I guess I’m here too.

This post has motivated me to take more pictures… the fact that all I have to show for my week is a picture of some doughnuts is a little sad. Delicious, but sad.