Monday, March 23, 2009

Through a Student's Eyes

The following is an only-slightly-edited paper that was turned into me for the assignment 'write a detailed description of one of your teachers.' If you're not a friend of mine, this might not do much for you, but it left Des and me in tears. I've included a recent picture of myself for reference.

Dave is a tall and big man. He has a large strong body with a small head. He does not have very dense hair on his head. But he has bushy eyebrows and big eyes. So he has big eyes, his eyes are shortsighted. I always have many questions about College English and the Art of Public Speaking. I always go to ask his question and stand beside his large strong body as a monster. I like standing his large body side because it looks just like bird.

There are dense brown moustaches on mouth. The brown moustaches has a little long. The appearance that Dave touches the moustaches is handsome curiously just like a supter start. His mouth is not very big with pink color as a cherry. Dave’s skin is more white than me as the Princess White Snow. His mouth matches with his nose. Dave’s hand with much meat. I think you have very great power. I can feel that when his interviews me, he shake hands with me.

Dave’s waistline is one time the size of me. Through Dave’s clothes, I can see your chest swell proud flesh. When he takes our class and he was so excited that his chest became electric motor. He feet are so huge that they can endure a heavy pressure. Dave is always wearing a blue-color shirt and brown-color overcoate like Helmet first. I don’t know whether Dave always wears the same trousers.

The first time I saw Dave was in front of building Eight. Dave made me surprised and frightened. He is too huge that maybe can crush me to pieces. After Dessire described her husband at class. He is tall, fat, bald and so on. I know Dave and Dessire has married. Dave is very humorous when having a class.

Dave’s personality is as lovely as his body. He always make all the student largh. He have expression used for overstating very much when speaking Maybe if Dave don’t give me many lovely and beautiful vocabulary, excited quiz and test, and difficult homework*, he will be a perfect man in

by [name withheld to protect those on Facebook]


*I have an in-class habit of always describing my quizzes, tests, handouts, and homework in glowing terms, hoping that my enthusiasm will rub off on the students. So far it hasn't.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hooray for Food Poisoning!

Well, maybe not quite "hooray." But a year or so ago, a friend of mine was robbed, and he sent an email (in the spirit of Matthew Henry) enumerating what he was thankful for on that occasion. I've been thinking about that email recently, particularly since I spent half of this week moaning and groaning and hanging out close to the bathroom door.

I don't know why I got sick. The popular Chinese phraseology would be that "I ate some not fresh food." That seems about right, although nothing that I had consumed in the 24 hours leading up to my attack of the plague appeared suspicious. For whatever reason, though, I did, and I've put together a little mental grist for just such a situation. I am thankful ...

• That I had only food poisoning, and not Sumatran Creeping Doom or flesh-eating disease or that thing I saw on Star Trek where your head turns into grape Jell-O.

• That although food poisoning can be lethal, it did not prove to be so in my case. I’m not even paralyzed! Not even from the waist down!

• That I was afflicted only with gastrointenstinal suffering, and not with breathing difficulties. I’ve had breathing problems before – worst feeling in the world.

• That I have a job where I can take time off if I’m sick, rather than being employed as a U.S. Marine or an enslaved salt miner or something like that where they make you work no matter what you feel like.

• That I had an illness that actually allowed me to do a lot of desk work, rather than being confined to my bed.

• That I could stay at home instead of going to a hospital and being put in a quarantine ward with nurses in HazMat suits. My insurance probably wouldn’t cover that.

• That I have an audiobook version of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (a modest 33 hours long), so that I could listen to something interesting even if I felt too sick to read. Some people can only listen to the radio or watch TV – two possibilities worse than silence.

• That I have an incredibly kind and loving wife who took care of me and made pitying faces at me all week instead of spending her time rereading the life insurance policy.

• That I have a lot of loving friends who live close to me and kept dropping by, asking about my health, offering me medicine, etc.

• That a lot of those friends are nurses, so their offers of medicine have actually helped me instead of making me shrivel up and die or go into raving delusions.

• That I live in a nice little apartment with a modern bathroom instead of in a tent out on the tundra somewhere.

• That I got better after only three days and was actually able to reschedule some of my classes, so I’m only a little behind.

• That my students sent me kind (if occasionally incoherent) messages wishing me good health and a speedy recovery and offering me sometimes dubious medical advice. They didn’t even seem to be too upset when I revived in time to teach a few English classes on Thursday.

In short, it really turned out great. In fact, writing this list has me half-convinced that it was some kind of a vacation.

Then again, that might just be the medicine talking.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Baby bump benefits

Last week, I accomplished a great feat. Last week, I succeeded in looking pregnant.

This is an important task in China because being pregnant (as long as it is accompanied by looking pregnant) comes with a few key benefits.

The most important of these is The Right to Sit in the Yellow Seat. You see, all buses in China have three sections:
1) The standing section--the sad domain of the majority of travellers. It is uncomfortable because of the terrible braking and veering that inevitably tosses you around, and it is especially bad when the bus is crowded because it means that you may end up practically plastered to the slightly inebriated gentleman or the woman carrying the live chicken (common occupants of the bus realm).
2) The normal seats (usually blue, green, or gray). This is the best you can hope for. People have been known to trample slightly inebriated gentlemen and women carrying live chickens for one of these seats.
3) The special seats (a.k.a. the yellow seats). These four or five seats are reserved for three types of people: Women with babies, old people (usually frail-looking old people), and pregnant women. Other people may sit in them, but they will be quickly be shown to the standing section by the ai-yi* if one of the privileged types boards the bus.

The other day, I got on the bus, saw that no seats were available, and tried to find a comfortable corner to stand in for the rest of my trip. With my coat on, I didn't think that I looked pregnant enough to try to take advantage of my new status. However, after she took my money, the ai-yi patted my tummy for confirmation and suddenly grabbed at the man sitting in the closest yellow seat. She indicated that I should sit and seemed to even apologize to me (I heard her say, "I didn't know!").

This weekend, I went shopping with some students and had to take a dreadfully crowded bus. I didn't think that the ai-yi could even see me, and I noticed that at least two of the yellow seats were already occupied with mothers carrying small children. Almost immediately, my two students called out in unison to the ai-yi, and she made her way to the last yellow seat, plucked out the student who had been sitting there, and told everyone to let me sit. I was very thankful to have a seat on that bus ride in particular, and afterward, I told my students how much I appreciated them speaking up. One of them responded, "No problem. It is your right!"

So, while prenancy in China does have a few disadvantages (such as being scolded by students any time I hop, jog, or use my cell phone), it definitely has its privileges. I just better not use my cell phone while I'm sitting in the yellow seat.


*Pronounced I.E., this is the woman that gives out bus tickets. Actually we use this Chinese word (which literally means "aunt") for almost any woman in a blue-collar job.