I haven't written an entry here in so long, I don't even remember where I left off last time. I just returned from my History class, which was held outside today at an open-air tea house where we talked freely about history and current politics in China with two old, well-learned professors, enjoying what may be the last good day to sit outside drinking Jasmine tea this winter.
The weather turned bitter cold overnight a week and a half ago, dropping from about 15 C to 2-3 C. We even had snow for one minute one night, and snow comes to Chengdu in November about once a generation. But the weather here is so capricious that things are pleasant and cool again.
Finals overall went well, with satisfying marks in Speaking and Comprehensive courses, and just so-so in listening and reading. I'm still unsatisfied with my Mandarin proficiency, but then again, I'm not satisfied with my English level either, haha.
I'm growing more and more involved with my teaching position, too. Rather than feeling that i'm a student here with a gig for extra money, I now think of myself in China as a student of Chinese and an instructor in English. Last weekend, I met with each of my students outside of class, half to test them/gauge their English, and half to ask them what they wanted out of the class and out of me. Turns out, what the want/need is my time and my care. I heard another teacher say something brilliant earlier this month: "You will not teach these students English in this one semester. You just won't. It's not enough. But you can get them interested in English, and motivate them to learn it on their own."
I completely agree. So, at least every other Saturday, I will go to my students' campus and spend the afternoon meeting anyone who wants to show up and ask me questions about the English language, American culture, or just to chat in a new language. It sounds like a lot of time at first, but then again, it's my job, and while I can't teach them to speak English as naturally as I, my interest in their learning and lives is the best first impression of foreigners and new language as I can provide. I have no teaching experience, but I know enough to know that the stereotypical, disinterested, ex-pat foreign English teacher is not enough for these students. I felt myself becoming that sort of teacher, because I was so busy with other things. "I don't have time to plan this lesson--I'll just wing it." No, actually, I'll start caring about my students, thanks. I don't want to be that ex-patriot teacher guy. I don't like that guy...
I've been thinking a lot about what happens after China this week, and after graduation next year. Do I go to graduate school? Do I take time off and travel abroad? Do I join an NGO and work abroad? Do I find a job in the newspaper/reporting field, as my college education is preparing me for? Do I get TESL-certified and teach English in a village in (______)? What do I do?
I had so much I wanted to say here and have forgotten it all. Still in good health--although the sudden weather change has wreaked havoc on most people and I have many sick classmates, my immune system has (up until now) held up. Food is delicious and cheap here, but sometimes I don't sleep enough (surprise, surprise haha). Thanks everyone for keeping in touch with me and supporting me.
Oh, random thoughts:
I've separately made friends with a man from Turkey and one from Madrid, Spain, both studying at the same University as I. As part of my recent, insane push to become a polyglot within my lifetime, I've inquired to both of them to help start studying Turk and re-study Spanish, respectively. We'll see how that goes, haha.
Went on a group trip to a famous dam in this area and to Chongqing mountain. Confusingly unnamed, unlabeled and unclear photos from this day can be found here: http://s294.photobucket.com/albums/mm93/sterlingsin/Chengdu2009/Chongqing%20Mountain/
Also RE: photos ... I entered a photo contest held by the ASU Study Abroad Office, where the grand prize in each of the three categories won free train tickets for a week-long trip across Europe. The misleadingly-titled 1st Prize in each category earns a certificate and a goodie bag. I won 1st prize in the "Artistic Merit" category for the photo inserted into this post.
So I have a goodie bag waiting for me in America, and no trip to Europe
Also, I have signed up for my classes in America next Spring. A required Journalism class; and upper-division Journalism course I'm really interested in; a required English class; an upper-division English elective I'm really interested in (the development and theory of Transgender Literature and Culture); and a first-year Acting elective, because, why not? I feel like I'm not actively involved in creating art enough, maybe because I can only create in two genres (music and writing), and one of those is inherently introspective and hard to share (writing). So, I'm going to learn how to act. Doesn't everyone wish they knew how to act?
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