26 May 2007

懒惰

Being lazy in Beijing. Lately I've just been hanging around with my friends and sister, watching movies, eating well, giving into our irrational urges to eat western food. It's so strange that when I'm in the U.S., I really have no desire to eat purely American food, but after being here for two weeks I suddenly want to devour a hamburger.

Teaching this past week was alright; we are adapting slowly but surely to teaching the older students. I find myself often becoming frustrated with the fact that we can't make use of our knowledge to teach them anything more advanced, like how to form a complex sentence, or even carry on a basic conversation in English. There is such a large discrepancy between the best of the best in the class and the students who have had so little learning experience that they are ashamed to utter a sentence. This difference exists in any class, for sure, but is definitely more pronounced where we are teaching.

Onto our last week of teaching and interviewing! Dreading heading back home, because then I'll have to start studying for real.

20 May 2007

Caifang-ing

I'm lazy, so I'm going to post a paragraph from a previous email...

Last Friday the school was having an all day event, so we hung around the city all day. In the morning we went to Beijing University to interview people about their perception of migrant workers, and got a very wide range of opinions. Several of the people we interviewed were migrants themselves, who had come to sell their wares on the side of the road. One of the guys was a professor from Beida and Tsinghua, who ended up preaching to us for 30 minutes during which a huge crowd of Chinese people and students gathered around to listen. This goes on my list of things that are so random they happen only in China (or some other equally random place). In addition to the general lack of inhibition when intruding on someone's personal space--personal space is really only a western notion, or an American notion, where we have enough space to actually have our own room--Chinese people also have no problem reading over your shoulder when they are interested in what you are writing, especially when it's in English.

My friend (who was doing most of the interviewing) compared interviewing people to a cold shower: each time you do it doesn't make it easier the next time. But, unlike a cold shower, unexpected things can happen in interviews, and you can end up listening to a professor lecture about the GDP and property values when all you really asked about was how he felt about migrant workers. As soon as the professor found out that I was Taiwanese (I should really stop telling people this, but everyone seems so intent on finding out when I obviously don't look Chinese OR American), he kept emphasizing the fact that China's annual birthrate is 8 million, so that "in 3 years they can easily make a Taiwan, no problem." I sense a pretty uniform opinion here that Taiwan should be part of China. It actually is an interesting topic, and I would be more willing to talk about Taiwan if people here would stop attacking me directly when they speak.

About to plunge into a week of nonstop teaching and interviewing. So far so good!

17 May 2007

head, shoulders, knees & toes

Been in Beijing for 6 days now (has it only been that long? It feels like I've lived here for a month now). There is always such a huge thrill from being thrown into a foreign place and learning to find your way around to all of the necessary places. Granted, it is a lot easier knowing enough of the language to manage. :)

The place my friends and I live in is in the middle of a small, very old and run-down apartment complex near the electronics market sector of Beijing. Despite any initial thoughts of "ohhh man this is where we're living? We're really roughing it...", we've really grown to like the place. Every evening the complex begins to bustle with the sounds and scenes of nightlife, as people get off work and come to the small side-street restaurants for their yang rou chuanr fix, and in the mornings there is always someone playing chess in the street. It's a dusty little road that we live on, but I'm really growing fond of it.

Teaching has been improving exponentially. When we first started out with a fifth grade class, we were nearly clueless, but now we're starting to adapt. So far we've taught four classes (working with mostly body part vocab, and the song in the title is a hit so far), and next week we're going to be teaching about 20... so there is a lot of work to be done over the weekend! I suddenly have a newfound respect for all teachers in general, and especially those of older kids - middle school and above. They get so difficult after they've outgrown the wide-eyed enchanted phase of childhood.

More later. In short, I'm having a great time. :)

08 May 2007

China, again

Leaving tomorrow night for Beijing...eep! Very nervous, very excited, and just glad that my friend will be flying with me tomorrow so that when I arrive at the airport in BJ I don't feel completely isolated. Also having huge doubts about whether my Chinese is good enough for me to be doing this project... but I will have to cope.

Will write again, from an internet cafe somewhere across the world. =)

02 May 2007

Stress

I stress myself out too much. Even when I'm done with finals and on my way to China, I will still have a million things to stress about. I'll bet that even when I am 80+ years old and have fulfilled all my life dreams, I will still find something to stress out about, probably my grand kids' futures.

Man. I think the last time I wasn't stressed out about something was probably in elementary school -- but then I was probably stressed out about whether I would be able to open the pizza sauce packet on my pizza Lunchable at lunch time, and what my strategy would be when we played lava monster at recess.

01 May 2007

The bane of my existence

It's not finals that's bothering me - no, it's the IRB. Who knew that a dinky little office on Research Drive could make my life so difficult? I'm never doing human subject research again.