On a Blustery Day in China…
I feel a little like Winnie the Pooh today celebrating a blustery Wednesday. It’s been incredibly windy all night and most of the day today. It’s also been a little rainy as well. There’s a cold front that’s pushing through with a vengeance, and it’s making it rather uncomfortable to be out and about in the intense winds. Just to let you know, my windows keep knocking against the sills due to the wind whipping and whistling through the apartment complex.
I haven’t done much today because it’s been a bit too much for me. I don’t really want to get wet, and I don’t have any plans for the day. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a bit less windy and rainy; though I wouldn’t mind if it’s cool. The temperatures for the last two weeks have been incredibly high and humid, making it rather unpleasant to walk around.
Perhaps that’s why I got sick on Monday.
Yep, that’s right. I managed to get sick in China again. It’s ridiculous how that happens. But if anyone’s going to do it, it’s going to be me. So I went out on Monday morning with Hugo and the other teachers to go to Hankou, one of the three districts of Wuhan. We live in Wuchang, and traveling by double-decker bus to Hankou takes about an hour and a half, so it was quite a long time to be crammed in a bus with probably 50 or so of your favorite Chinese.
We made it to Hankou, crossing over the Yangtze River in passing, and then we hopped off the bus only to have to divide and conquer two taxis to take us to the police station. When we arrived, we went up to the third floor to fill out our paperwork for the residence permits that we needed to make our stays in China legal. It was pretty simple; though China tends to ask you some seriously personal questions, including things like weight and religion.
We took our completed paperwork, passports, and other documentation down to the first floor to wait our turn with the odd assortment of other Americans and Africans waiting to get their documents in. It was pretty simple until Madson realized that they were planning to keep his passport for a few days. He’s run low on money and was waiting for a transfer from his parents via Western Union, so he asked Hugo how he would get his money without his passport. This conversation resulted in Hugo and Madson leaving for the bank while the rest of us finished up our paperwork at the station. Hugo told us to wait there until they were finished, and then we could go back to the campus.
So far I’d done fine. I didn’t eat much for breakfast, but I thought I could manage as long as we could go back to the campus and I could fall into bed. I wasn’t expecting to get sick, but Michael started talking about how hungry he was and how he wanted food. For whatever the reason, I started feeling odd and knew something was wrong while he asked me what kinds of foods I wanted. And then I knew I was going to throw up again.
I asked Stephanie to help me find a bathroom, but Sebastian was the one who went to ask the female officer sitting at the door where the restroom was. She was pointing the direction and talking to him as I started to walk that way, already afraid I wouldn’t make it there before getting sick. I was right. I threw up about a minute later, which shocked Sebastian, and the police officer escorted me to the back where there was a bathroom. I guess she thought I’d probably throw up again.
Luckily I didn’t throw up again, but I wasn’t feeling well, and now I was nasty. I wanted to wash off but couldn’t see a sink anywhere. So I simply stood there, feeling miserable until she came back with a mop. She said something to me that I obviously didn’t understand and then gestured for me to move out of the way. That’s when I realized there was a hose above the toilet that served as the “sink” and she was turning it on for me. She patiently waited until I’d rinsed myself off and was feeling a little better and then gestured for me to leave the bathroom.
I didn’t feel sick anymore, so I thought I’d try my luck waiting out in the air-conditioned front room again. We ended up waiting about 20 or 30 more minutes before Hugo and Madson finally returned. Hugo wanted me to go to the hospital, but I really just wanted to come back to the apartments and sleep. So we found taxis, got back to the bus stop, and settled in for the long ride back to the campus.
That was Monday.
Yesterday was my teaching day, and I was terrified of getting sick again. But instead of harping on that, I worked on coming up with a lesson plan for my 2 o’clock class. And before I knew it I was getting ready to hop on the bus and take the 30 minute bumpy ride to the other campus.
I got to class with about ten minutes to spare and started writing on the board and putting things out on my podium for class. My students were all talking to one another, and I simply tried to ignore it as I worked on calming myself down for class. For some reason, I get scared about teaching when I have to stand up in front of my students and talk to them about something as simple (and yet as complex) as American culture.
I started off with a discussion about culture. And this is how I did both classes. So it was fun to hear their responses when I started asking them what components they thought went into culture. When we talked about behavior, I mentioned how culture can influence even the littlest things, like staring, and proceeded to make a fool out of myself by acting out the scenarios where I’ve had Chinese people stare at me as I’m walking. The classes really enjoyed that and laughed at my gestures.
When we finally established that culture is not just defined by your country but by many facets (and I did teach my second class to say “y’all” since I’m Southern), I started them in on what I call the Four Corners Activity. It was pretty simple but a way to get them moving and talking, too.
I labeled pieces of paper with the words: Agree, Disagree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree. Then I put one page in each corner. My students had to move around as I read off each statement in a list I’d come up with. They went to whichever corner best represented their opinions on the statements. And I didn’t do just simple statements, either.
One of my first statements was “It is easy for foreigners to fit in in America.” I had to explain that statement a little, but before I knew it, my classes were moving around and picking sides. It was really a fascinating exercise, especially since I required each group to give me two reasons why they were in that particular corner. It was surprising some of the answers I got, including questions about discrimination and culture shock, but it also gave me a lot to think about in terms of what I should be teaching my students.
I think they had fun with the exercise, even though some of the statements were a little more difficult for them to understand. But I’ll probably keep that exercise around for future classes because it got them talking and thinking.
At the end of class, I had all the students fill out a questionnaire of 15 questions for me. It was fun because I got to pick random questions that I was interested in seeing how they answered. And now I’m looking forward to going over those answers and seeing what I can learn from them. It was also an easy way of taking attendance.
So overall, I think yesterday’s classes were successful, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I manage next week when I add two new classes to my repertoire on Monday. Though I’ll only be teaching these freshman classes for two weeks, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how well they respond to me and my teaching style.
I think that’s all I have to report. I need to go out sometime and get a few things from the store, but it’s such a dreary day I really would rather stay in and relax all afternoon. Perhaps I’ll work on boiling some eggs later so that I can have a little more protein in my diet.
I hope you’re all doing well, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Until next time –