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.