Yup... Tangshan sounds like a warzone, and has since last night: AK-47s and mortar rounds. Today is like Christmas Eve here - a prelude to Spring Festival which is 18th of Feb. The sheer volume and number of rockets and firecrackers going off have car alarms screeching and blaring incessantly all over, at all times of the day/night. Am I ever looking forward to trying to sleep tonight.
Tomorrow night, I'm off to Beijing to meet Jon, a friend of Steve's. Should be fun. We're hooking up at 9:30pm, then heading to Dian'men street to check out a place called the Blue Lotus. I have it on good authority that it's a good place to grab a drink. The next morning, I'll then wander a bit and grab a DVD or two that I can't get here, and possibly some music. Might attempt to find another Chinese lesson book, but finding one is a pain in the arse. Oh, I definitely want to get Hong Lou Meng ("A Dream of Red Mansions"), a Chinese classic novel. Apparently one of the foreign bookstores on Wangfujing has a good translation. Need to remember that.
As for teaching... it's just madness. I'm barely keeping on top of my classes. For instance, I planned tomorrow morning's 9-11am class this evening, and from 11-2 tomorrow I'll be planning that afternoon's lessons. Tuesday's lessons will be done once I get back from Beijing on Monday afternoon. Weeee... I can't wait for next Friday, 8:05pm. 7 days off. There are no words to express the relief I will feel. Actually, I guess the word "beer" would sum it up rather well. I'm still planning to head to Tianjin on Monday and possibly go to Shanghaiguan on Tuesday. Definitely Tianjin, but not sure about Shanghaiguan. It's a ways to go to only do one or two things there. I'll see how I'm feeling after Tianjin. The good news is that I ought to have a few more pictures to upload after tomorrow evening and Monday.
I had a great experience last night, which made up for my 3-hour afternoon conversation class shite. I took over a High-Flyer 1A class from Nick when he left, and there's this girl, Sally, in it who never smiled. I observed 3 of Nick's lessons, and he even spoke to me about her, noting that she only ever smiled for the class photo. Well... I got her smiling on Friday, and quite frequently. It seems so small a thing but - and although this sounds horribly cheesy - seeing a kid smile just... I dunno. Makes things here seem immediately worthwhile and significant. Like I'm not some transient. I did a funny activity at the end of my Starter class today. Instead of just saying good-bye one at a time, once I'd said good-bye to the first student in line, I had her stand next to me. Then I said good-bye to the next, and she did also. Then that student came up and joined our farewell line, also. It was quite fun watching the line of good-bye givers grow and grow. They thought it was hilarious and it seemed to make them feel really happy saying bye to their classmates.
So the conversation class shite alluded to... they were just completely useless on Friday afternoon. On Thursday they were rocking, but yesterday... I had to fucking “cudgel" their brains. Unfortunately, as per the remainder of the Shakespeare quote, their dull asses did not mend their place with beating. It was like kicking dead horses around for 3 hours. I had 1/3 of the class involved, and the others couldn't be buggered to do anything except mess around on cellphones and chat in Chinese. I had to approach one of the chief instigators and say, "Do you like writing? No? Well, here are your choices: you can write me an essay on this topic, or you can discuss it like you ought to be doing." I later had to tell him in the middle of class to shut up.
I really do love my classes of younger students. My Early Learners have kind of gone downhill, though. Trying to keep the attention of 5 & 6 year olds is tough. Not even Noddy and his wonky buddies are much help. Then again, it doesn't help when you do one or two things repetitively for 3-4 weeks running. But my High-Flyer Starter class and the High-Flyer 1A classes are great. I've even reformed a shit-disturber in the 1A class, and a 5-year-old in my Starter class who couldn't write before is doing so now, in English and Chinese. (When they put new words into their dictionaries, they write both the English and Chinese. Parents love seeing vocab.) One thing that will drive me insane, however, are the songs. I'm bringing back a CD with the "Gray Cloud" song and "Nice and Small" and others so that my friends can be forced to endure what I've had to. The worst is walking to a class only to find yourself quietly singing "Look look look... it's gray it's gray it's gray. Look look look... it isn't blue or green. The cloud is gray it's gray it's gray" etc.
Okay, time for me to go sleepy sleep and dream of the near future. A week of hell to endure, then I'm more or less in the clear. Then just 3 weeks after that. Wow... time's moving fast. 3 weeks of teaching, then 6 weeks of wandering, then... homeward bound.