A Travellerspoint blog

Lazy Monday

March 8th, 2010

semi-overcast 7 °C

Last Monday was Easter and incidentally also Tomb Sweeping Day here! Tomb sweeping day or "Qing Ming Jie" is a holiday to honor the dead and welcome spring. Typically families go visit their grand-parents graves and place food offerings on the burial site. According to one of my colleagues, another tradition is burning fake money. I suppose in order to encourage wealth in the Spring season?! I personally didn't honor either tradition. Instead of devouring chocolate eggs, I welcomed spring with a much needed sleep-in and a night out with my colleagues! Much needed after a month of rigid organization and relative social hibernation!

Posted by Evil1 20:21 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

In brief

March 31st, 2010

overcast 5 °C

Since I'm lazy and a little tired, here's the latest news from work to leisure in bullet points:

- Two educational directors quit at two other children's schools at just about the same time, which makes me happy for two reasons! Number 1, that means Gunther (our loathsome German boss) will be attempting to put out those fires and will be out of our hairs for at least the next month. Number 2, "he had it coming, he only had himself to blame" (to paraphrase Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago). What goes around comes around and maybe this time Gunther will think harder about how he treats people!

- Gary, Mr. Sunshine-positivity, is starting to get frustrated with our lack of materials and supplies. For someone who bragged about having substitute-taught in the hardest, most gang-ridden schools of LA, I'm a bit amazed that he's letting such details get to him. I say, be creative! And anyways, it's not like three year olds are paying attention to what, let alone how, we teach them! (That being said, I still think he's cool and wish he'd hang out in the teacher's office more instead of following each and every one of Gunther's command to the letter. Seriously, who has time to do all that?! Not me!)

- I requested and was granted 10 days vacation at the end of April! Woo-hoo! Shanghai and (hopefully, if my mama and baba agrre) Hainan, here I come!

- Chinese classes are going well. The teacher's nice, explains things clearly and there's a nice, diverse group of international students who crack me up! My only hangup: Chinese characters. I write them practically on a daily basis, I dream of them, I recognize them on the street but for the life of me, I can't remember what they mean!

- I've officially switched to Monday's volunteer group. It comprises one Australian woman in her sixties, one English woman in her fifties, a New Zealander in her 30s, and two American women (one in her late twenties and one in her thirties). Compared to the pampered expats of Tuesday, they're real down to earth and so kind!

-And lastly, Carrefour was miraculously empty last night! Now if it could just stay that way....

Posted by Evil1 23:09 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Spring?!

March 25th, 2010

sunny 8 °C

In China, the government regulates the heat which goes on exactly on November 15th and ends March 15th. Except winter isn't usually so precise in it's calculations. It snowed for the first time on November 1st and I believe again March 15th! Nevertheless, as expected, the heat was turned off on March 15th. It doesn't bother me at home, since my apartment is facing north and is heated by the sun from the wee hours of the morning until dusk. But at work, it's another story! Granted the whole building suffers from poor construction (as evidenced by our numerous flood and leaks) but the teacher's office is by far the worse. The place is a bloody glacier and as expected I've caught a cold! Would they purchase extra heaters? Of course not! Gunther (our vile German boss) is all about cutting costs and naturally our well being is something he's already said he cares nothing about (ie, when he said having a cold, a headache or runny nose did not interfere with our ability to teach!). Honestly, the cats at the shelter get better work conditions than I do!

Posted by Evil1 20:27 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

In the world of expats

March 16th, 2010

sunny 10 °C

Ever since I came back from France a month ago, each one of my days has been minutely organized. My school's decided that in order to increase customer satisfaction and student retention, it had to schedule regular feedback (every five weeks) with parents on their child's progress. It's a great idea but it's not sustainable for teachers. We have to clock in more than 40 hours a week in order to meet these new standards. I've felt exhausted, dejected, discouraged, angry and all those emotions in between ever since Gunther (our German boss) showed up and imposed these new standards.

Still, I've decided to follow Mike's advice and Christina (one of my Chinese colleagues) lead: work only those hours I'm paid to work! I want to have time and energy remaining to continue doing those things that truly make me happy: exercise, Chinese lessons and volunteering! I signed up at the local gym and resumed my Chinese classes (I said good-bye to my Chinese tutor and signed up at a language school that I attend 4 times a week). I also started volunteering at an animal shelter.

Matter of fact, today was my first day and I got up at 7 am to meet up with fellow western volunteers at 9 am in the Shunyi district, close to the airport. I figured I'd been in that area before and that it'd take me 15 minutes from line 10 to get to the meeting point. It took me 45 minutes and 50 kuais! Instead of meeting them at 9 am, I was there at 9:45 am! They were nice about it though, and commented about how bad the traffic was close to the convention center. Once at the shelter, I was greeted by a horde of dirty but friendly dogs, all eager for a pet and rub. I followed one of the volunteers to the area where they kept the cats and proceeded to replenish their water and food bowls and sieve the poop out of the litter boxes.

I didn't mind the work but back in the car with the other volunteers, I started to feel uncomfortable. These 45 year old women were all stay at home moms, who lived on the outskirts of town in big mac mansion which bore no signs of Chinese architecture, were chauffeured around, had personal maids (called ayis) to look after some of their most basic needs and never bothered to learn Chinese. One of them confided that she thought "they" (the Chinese) asked too many inappropriate questions and she was thankful that her Chinese was not good enough so she wouldn't have to answer! It really shocked me that people who care so deeply about animals, who refuse to eat anything but organic food, don't seem to give a damn about their own species! I think next week, I'll meet up with the other volunteers who go out Monday!

Posted by Evil1 01:47 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Gary

March 2nd, 2010

sunny 5 °C

So far, my school's been a sort of revolving door, ushering teachers in and out. Since I've started, 3 foreign teachers have left (I replaced one). Our latest recruit is Gary. He arrived three weeks ago and he's the polar opposite of his predecessor. Nick is self-effaced, avoids most social interactions with the team, and criticizes practically everything about our school. I really like Nick. He always stays away from Beverly and Emily's incessant gossip, doesn't nourish nor spread it. And he stands up to supervisors when he feels strongly about an issue. But he doesn't just complain, he acts too! And it pays off: he found a much better paying job (with regular teaching hours) in a private elementary school.

Gary, by contrast, is a fervent self-help addict with a personality as bright as the state he comes from (California)! Beverly, who is quite positive and cheery herself, can't stand his enthusiasm! I quite like it though! While she rolls her eyes when he starts to dish out one of his self-affirming quotes, I'm fascinated and always find relevance in his "You are the average of your friends"! Gary seems to both annoy and entertain Colin and Ray. He asks many questions and often at the wrong moment. At the same time, he isn't afraid to cover his bulletin board with "The pyramid of effective foreign language teaching" and heartily laughs when Colin and Ray poke fun at his idiosyncracies.

As I told Mike the other day, Gary's entusiasm is infectious and much more what I need right now than Nick's realism. Knowing that I have to spend another 7 months away from Mike and my family, I'd rather spend that time enjoying my life in Beijing and letting the petty work stuff roll off my back!

Posted by Evil1 04:48 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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