Monday, November 28, 2011

Like Riding a Bicycle

I was worried that after such a long layoff from teaching, my last class had been in June, that I would have lost something from my ability to teach. My first classes were graduate students who had to take the class since they got bad scores on an English test they need to graduate. One class had students from a variety of majors with a fairly good command overall of English, several of the students were older than me and one in each class was married. The other class was all math majors, they were going to be primary or high school teachers, and their English was not as good. Really there wasn't much difference between teaching a class of graduate students and undergraduates when it comes to oral English. In fact, given that their test had nothing to do with oral English I was never really sure what help the class would be to them. But the class went smoothly, he old games and activities I had developed over the last several years worked for these classes as well, and mostly I was just happy to have something constructive to do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting Around (Part Two)

I've been gone for a while off my blog while I was having trouble getting my VPN to work in my new apartment, more on that in another post. I'm pretty far behind with what happened in the beginning of the semester but I'd like to catch up with that now. I've written before about how long a process it was to get to China this time, and now I want to talk about what happened when I finally got to China. Nothing, nothing at all happened. Despite my worries about being late, it was well after the semester had started by the time I showed up, the school was in absolutely no rush to give me any classes. I basically had a month off after showing up before I taught any classes. But that wasn't nearly as much fun as it sounds. First, I often didn't have my passport because of all the steps in getting a visa, and I didn't have a real visa until after I started teaching so I couldn't go to Hong Kong, or Maco, since those are both essentially international destinations.

I also didn't really know anyone at the school, there were a couple of other teachers living where I lived but they actually had classes and stuff to do. I was basically on my own with endless free time. Having some free time is great, I'll admit one of my favorite part about working in China is how much free time I have, but total unstructured free time is different. For me at least when I have nothing at all to do it becomes easier and easier just to waste day after day. After a while it gets hard to do anything. After weeks of having nothing to do I was starting to lose my mind. I really felt like I was going crazy just sitting around day after day. I lost all sense of motivation or interest in doing anything. By the time my classes actually started I was incredibly happy just to have something to do. And despite having actual work I also suddenly was able to get other things done more. While I had nothing at all to do I couldn't muster the energy to even clean my apartment, but when I finally had work cleaning it was easy. I just know that I don't want to have that much time off again.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Lights Stay On

One of the most constant annoyances in Alaer was that seemingly several times a week the power or the water would go out for most of the day. Slav even took to hording buckets full of water around his apartment at one point when a neighbor erroneously suggested that we were about to loose water for several days. At first I thought it was just an example of the usual low quality construction that permeates everything in China, I had similar problems from time to time in Changzhou as well, but in retrospect I think it was probably some sort of power or water saving measure. Given how the power never went out at night, and the water was almost never shut off in the morning, I think it was probably a brown out type situation where they just didn't have enough to go around so they shut it down to conserve. In Guangzhou this is, thankfully, not an issue. One of the advantages of living in a giant city is that the lights stay on. I haven't lost power at all, I only lost water for a few hours one night, and even the internet usually stays on, if only moving slowly. There are other nice things I could say about Guangzhou but for the moment I'm just happy to have lights, and AC.