Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Skipping Class, Listening to the Radio

I feel stilted when I write something topical. My little videos, as Melanie assures me, are "thrilling." Didn't I say the erhu in the background would make it fantastic? :) Today was interesting enough for me to just talk about what happened.

I'm in C+ now. I worked like crazy for four weeks in D, then instead of moving up, I moved down. This level is really good for me, though, and I think I'll still learn a lot. I have speaking class every day for half of the morning, then either reading or listening for the other half. But my reading teacher is horrible, and since I'm not in high school any more, I don't have to deal with that.

Accordingly, I spent two hours in the school library this morning skipping class in the most blissful studying session I've had practically ever. I was reading, and comprehending, and learning. Then I went to speaking class and learned some more.

I'm struck by how Chinese is so different from English in some respects--they use the same word for animals making noise, like barking or chirping, as they do for kids making noise, and that offends me--and yet occasionally I run into an instance where Chinese actually makes sense. For example, in Chinese you can say that you know so-and-so "through" a mutual friend, just like we do in English. And today I just learned that when your kids are gone to college or whatever, it's also an "empty nest."

I've started a part-time job every afternoon that deserves explanation. I was on the bus a few nights ago when a middle-aged Korean woman asked me in accented English what country I was from. Then she asked if I was an English tutor, to which I said I certainly could be. "Do you have a plan?" she asked, and the answer was obviously supposed to be yes. She asked for my number (the parallels between this encounter and my chance meeting of now-let go Suzie have not been lost on my friends) and we talked briefly about what she was looking for. "How many days a week?" "Five." "And how long each time?" "Six hours." What? "And can you start tomorrow?"

I signed up to do two hours each day to the tune of 100 kuai an hour, which is about three times as much as I would make working at McDonald's back home. It turns out the Korean woman I met on the bus is actually just the middleman skimming some off the top for gathering students and teachers and having an apartment-turned-classroom to offer. I talked her into paying my taxi fare, so I'm all for the set-up. The two kids I teach are Korean middle-schoolers who don't really want to be there. I like teaching, though, and have had a good time trying to make them have a good time the past two days.

Tonight I went out to eat with my Chinese Mom and Dad. Mom was picky about where we sat, and did a really good job playing up her outrage when she found some bad meat. ("Look!" she said to Dad excitedly. "This soup they're giving us for free now cost 78 kuai!")

On our way home, they tuned into an English radio station, and I listened to some song by The Fray. It was the first time I've been in a car listening to English-language radio in more than half a year. I do miss America. And once I leave, I'll miss China. 这是一个问题。

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