Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Sorry, bit of a lapse in blog posts there.

There hasn't been much happening, and yet there has been. I'm copying and pasting (with edits and omissions) from a long email sent to a friend, since I can't honestly be bothered to try to remember the minutiae of the last three weeks.

Tomorrow, I have an "interview" with the university dean for languages (or whatever the title is). All I know is that I'm not sure I want a switch, though I'd enjoy the university's holidays... which are quite good. I haven't had a chance yet to speak to my tai ji quan masters. I just don't know who I can trust to translate for me. I think I'll go Thursday night and give it a shot with the doctor who goes to tai ji quan. His English is decent, and I just want to see what rough offer they can make.

So I have one opportunity lined up, with another as a potential. The 'potential' is the one I'm most interested in, that being with my tai ji quan masters and having the maximum chance for a "real" China experience with travel and immersion.

Work hasn't been too bad this week. I've wound up with this rich lady - about 30 years old, if that - as a VIP. She offered me a smoke in class (1-on-1) which was funny. She's going to Vancouver in a few weeks, and just wants vocab and useful phrases for airports, shopping, restaurants, etc. She's kinda cool, an in all honesty not hard to look at, if a bit flakey. My other VIP is Mary, one of my 12-year-olds from TB 2B. She is MC'ing an English competition in late January, and needs to boost her English and public speaking confidence a bit. She has always been very quiet, but she spoke for almost 40 minutes straight about everything from playing piano to what classes she enjoys, to what her brothers and sisters do and what she thinks about China. Very cute kid. I keep forgetting to take pictures of my classes. I need to do so.

On Sunday I had parent interviews with parents of my TB 4A class... it was horrible. "How is my child compared to the rest of the class?" "Are they better?" "Why isn't my child's English perfect?" "Can I offer you a few suggestions on teaching? Well, first..." Blah blah fucking blah. One actually tried to shanghai the class reports of the other students. The Chinese sales girl almost gave them up and I said "No no NO." Fucking christ... I am not looking forward to my TB 2B show class in 7 weeks...

They don't care about their kids really except how theirs can have the best marks and be in the highest level. It makes me ill. These poor kids already have so much pressure on them, and are in school for like 8-10 hours a day, usually 6 days a week. I really just wanted to say "I don't fucking care what you do... it's your kid. I want no hand or thought in how you handle this because I want no part in how your child becomes more fucked up as a result of this meeting." It was so demoralizing. You get close to these kids to a certain extent, and after the first round of meetings I walked in to that class and just felt this aching sympathy. I wanted to hug them, even the little shitbags (of which I don't have many). Poor things. They have NO time at all to do anything except daydream and hope that their lives will be worthy of their parents' pride now and in the future.

Two of my students have been withdrawn from the school... so I'm losing two good students, and another two won't start up TB 4B (the next level). It really makes me sad, and angry because their parents have made this choice against my strong recommendations and realities of their kids' knowledge of English. I feel like they're being taken away from me. Susan, Kevor, Fanny, Bright... christ. Half the parents wanted their kids to re-sit TB 4A, and I wanted to hit them. It was really frustrating, and one of my lowest points in school as a teacher. Thankfully, I more or less walked into my low-ability TB 2Bs afterwards, and their silly enthusiasm and guileless enjoyment made me smile. I really love these kids, and I hate what they have to go through - what their lives are like day-to-day. Though Lucy is getting a little much. She slapped my ass. ... and she's 11 (going on 20). Scary. A few classes ago she was asking if I was married, what's my phone number, where do I live... funny, yet not at all.

Otherwise I'm doing alright. I bought a Chinese chess set. The game is fantastic. It's ten times better than Western chess. You can block opponents, some pieces can jump others, there is a 'kingdom', a 'river' and some pieces can operate differently depending where they are. It's freakin' awesome. For instance, a zhou (soldier - pawn) can cross the river (middle of the board) and then start moving sideways. Shi (advisors - bishops) can only move diagonally within the 'kingdom' on your side of the board, the pao (bomb) can attack from anywhere in a straight line so long as it can jump a piece (yours or the enemies) to strike an enemy piece, the ma (knight) can be blocked from moving forward if there is a piece in front of it. The elephant can move in large diagonals (two squares at a go). It's amazing. Lily and Katy are teaching me. Katy whoops my ass, and Lily usually beats Katy. There are men in the parks who play a single game over hours. It's so damn cool.

Chinese checkers is also superior to Western checkers, I think. You don't take any pieces 'out'. You just use them to jump from your start pyramid to the other side of the board (board looks like the star of David). So it's very strategic in terms of limiting your opponents' moves through the middle of the board and maximizing which of your pieces can jump as far as possible on the backs of the other players. Three can play at once. It's great.

Learning those two games on Friday has been the highlight of my week, to be honest, and I got a chance to get to know Lily better. I know Katy quite well, but haven't spoken too much to Lily.

Tai ji quan is going pretty well. I haven't advanced too far because there was a combination of moves that I was having issue with. Though doing them for three hours that one night might have simply mentally exhausted me. It's this defensive set of movements, just repeated with some differences four times, in two directions. Figured it out tonight, and moved a bit farther along. Also adjusted how I approach my other movements, thanks to a good friend of the master's. Not sure if he's a teacher, but he has been mentoring a few of the advanced students, showing them application of tai ji quan as a fighting art. He's quite good. Anyway, I started turning my head more and leaning into some of the moves, which has had a great effect on how how my body shifts and adjusts. Also started moving as though I was fighting multiple others. That helps it all make sense and come together. I had been wondering about this one move where you just bring your fist down into your palm, but you're dragging an opponent forward and snapping something or other, and then brushing him/her aside in the next movement(s), then snapping someone's arm and pushing them back. Etc.

Anyway, that's it for now, I guess. Another work week looms. ... yay.


Anonymous said...

Hey Patrick. Sorry the parents can be suck a bunch of idjiots. Sounds like a lot of them don't deserve their kids. Tell me when the 30-year old VIP slaps your butt and asks for help with "special man-woman phrases" :)

News from my front:

I think I'm either way out of shape, or trying too hard. The last 2 karate classes, I hurt something different each time. Last Wednesday was my neck, I must have been trying to hold it up too much when doing the crunch, twist crunch, leg raise, repeat warm-up. It hurt to sleep or turn it to the left for a couple of days. Last night I have no clue what I did, but about the second kick I tried after stretching I noticed I pulled an ass muscle (that's the technical term). Man, going up stairs is uncomfortable right now.

I'm going to try attending some lunchtime classes, because we never get around to working on the next things I need for orange belt. It's always warm-up, kata, kata, kata and yet more kata. I'm hoping the smaller classes will let me both work on the series of kumetes and have the instructor notice that I don't completely suck at them. Spin kicks are another matter. I consider it a victory if I don't need to get up off the ground after each one.


Anonymous said...

I read your blog after I could hear Roger laughing from his cubicle :-)

Glad to see you posting today, but sorry to hear about the issues with the parents expectations vs the kids development. That sucks - no wonder you're frustrated.

Wayward Mind said...

Andy... how very odd - I almost hurt my left hamstring last night doing stretches. Felt like a cord in my leg was about to snap. Maybe t'is the season for injuries? I hope your neck's alright! I hear ya on the lunchtime classes - good idea. It can be hard to get what you want out of a large formal class. I guess I'm lucky in that respect because my class is far from formal. One guy had mittens. I envied him, as in 5-degree weather and 2+ hours in the wind, I was wishing I'd had that foresight.

Kelso... my frustration stems primarily from the school management and my lack of time in the evenings lately. The parents interviews and the results of the class finishing only compounded my irritation. Hopefully this week is better, but I guess we'll see. :)

Angie said...

Sounds like this Lucy is lookin' to cause some trouble. I'll have to get over there and show her what's what. She could probably take me though, twelve years old or not. :P

callmescipio said...

hi- good to hear how life other than the game is going!

We sometimes get crazy parents too, not to the same extent, but along the lines of "I pay $8000 a year to send my child there so why wasn't this piece of work an A?" Sometimes the kid is saying,"Yeah, it was crap, I understand," and STILL the parent is going after you. Whose learning experience is it anyway?

btw- THANK YOU for the game. Best.sanity.ever.

PG said...

Ah!Ah! You know what? Sounds like an entire classroom of soccer moms... I pity you for that. No one should need to go through that. Regarding the game, when you say Chinese Chess, is that called Xiang Qi? I have heard of it, but I have never seen a board in any stores. I am gonna have to look this up online!

As to Chinese Checkers, it is one of my favorite games. Haven't you ever played it back in Canada? You can get it pretty much anywhere, and they range from $10 for a cheap version, to $50+ for display sets with marbles. I agree, it's much better than plain old checkers.

I hope you end up with the Tai Ji Quan masters. Sounds like an awesopme experience!