Thursday, October 30, 2008

Culture Week

Every year the school puts on an International Culture Week. Basically it's the foreign teachers' job to put on this event. The week is split up into five days and five nights. The first day is China day which the school does itself, because face it, who better to put on an authentic Chinese day than the Chinese themselves? So then the next day is the rest of Asia featuring the Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and some of the Middle East. The next day is Latin America Day... that was my day. I was in charge of the entire Amazon Rain forest. I dreamed really big on this one but I feel it went over fairly well. There was paper mache-ing, lots of paint, cutting leaves, making anacondas and so much more. So there is this really cool dolphin in the Amazon called the River Dolphin and its pink! So I thought that I would make one. Basically I gave a picture to the carpenter and he designed the frame out of steel wire and I paper mached it. I think it turned out pretty well, thanks to the amazing carpenters!

Next was the lovely and alluring canopy of the Amazon with informational fun facts spread through out... also the occasional anaconda...
We found this really cool fabric and sent it to the tailor to make us a couple of 25 foot snakes. they turned out to be like huge sock puppets but they served a good purpose. The students either really liked them or were really scared... the reactions were all in Chinese of course and they all seem to have the same type of expression... kind of happy yet embarrassed but also surprised. I also sent a picture of an 8 foot crocodile to carpenter and he made him pretty perfect too. I painted him dark green and added some teeth but he was camouflaged by the grass. The clean-up crew didn't even see him!

There were palm trees and information boards all around. It was a lot of hard work, yet enjoyable and it turned out to be a hit. So my thoughts on culture week... NEVER again but worth it!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Midterms and Raw milk....

So after our wonderful but busy trip to Xi'an we returned back to grind stone of teaching. This week we are preparing our students for the midterm. Basically the exam is done with partners and its all oral. The students have to designate who begins and ends the conversation and discuss a picture for at least 2 minutes. I saw a couple of overwhelmed looks on some faces this morning in my first class, but with practice I think they will do fine. They are a great class. Now for my others we will have to do some revamping. I basically have three different levels of students. So what made perfect sense to one class may not register with the other class. But I am hopeful and confident they will do as well as possible. Its all about practice... practice makes perfect... I tell them. :) I always hated when my teachers said that but its true.

I have really enjoyed this job. The aspect of teaching something I am fluent in is an amazing feeling. I never thought teaching English would be so satisfying. See, I knew I was a good teacher, I just needed to find the right avenue to express it. Actually, my favorite part is talking and explaining things. hehe. Some of you know that I enjoy talking, only a little right? :)

Now, on to the raw milk...some of you may be asking, "what does raw milk have to do with midterms?" NOTHING! I just got some today and thought I'd add it to my thoughts :D
So one of the local women married a foreign teacher from a couple of years ago. They are living and teaching here and the woman's family has a farm. After the milk scare they put up an article about raw milk offering bottles of whole or low fat milk. So I signed up for one bottle of each to be delivered to my door every Monday morning. I have never had raw or whole milk before, just cream in my coffee... wow is it thick! It has a good flavor too but I will be drinking it in tea, coffee and hot cocoa.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I were trying to find vanilla extract. We looked online for some recipes and found a rather interesting fact. First you have to buy Get three vanilla bean pods, cut them open longways and soak them in 16 oz of vodka...yes vodka. We were shocked! I have never heard that before. So the idea is to let is "brew" in a dark place for three weeks and then strain out the liquid. It has to be kept in glass bottle overtime. So after that discovery we decided to look on China's online market. I think its called Tao Bao... no idea on spelling or pronunciation, that's really a wild guess. So we were able to find two small bottles for about 6Y. So, continuing with my story about raw milk... Earlier last month I bought a milk tea mix and found it was very bitter and had a bad flavor so I put in a little sugar, vanilla and raw milk. MMMMMM is it GOOD! This is the best stuff ever! I am going to be hooked on milk tea forever!

So now that my crazy and unrelated story is done, I leave the floor open for comments.

Disclaimmer: don't try making vanilla at home, it might get the better of you!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Xi'an Trip 2008

So as you have all been anxiously awaiting....

The bus ride to Xi'an was about 8 hours. It wasn't too bad, we had lots of entertainment. Our first stop was a Jioazi banquet (dumplings) where we had dinner and a show. They performed the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet. It wasn't much like what we know but it was cool.

The next stop was the hotel, after the long ride and three hour show it was time for bed. The hotels were pretty nice. The showers were warm and Chinese style, no shower curtain or stall. So showering was a wet ordeal for the whole bathroom.

The next morning it was time to go see Eighth Wonder of the World, the Terracotta Warriors. We first stopped at the factory where the replicas are made. Basic clay and molds but pretty cool in the least. We went on to see the real artifacts in the museum. For me the most fascinating part of the warriors is that they are continually working on digging them up out of the ground. There were several areas where their were covered tombs that the scientists had not yet uncovered. I guess they are working on a new form of preservation where they actually coat them with wax as they are being taken from the ground to prevent the paint shattering. They were so beautifully painted but once they hit the air it shatters and the original clay is left behind. We moved on to see the bronze chariots, they were pretty cool, I hadn't really studied up on the history that much. I had a friend of mine that is gung-ho about history and was my personal tour guide the whole way through!

(me and my history buff friend, Becca) (the actual Terra Cotta Warriors)

We ate lunch at a place by the museum and had the best noodles ever. They were really thick and very chewy. We also got to see a man making noodles, i had seen this on the travel channel before but this was too cool to see in person.

Later on that afternoon we went to a silk factory where cocoons are spun into thread. They start as a cocoon and are soaked in water and then put into a spinning machine which makes about 20 spools of thread. Then they stretch the silk and put it together to make quilt stuffing and or the inside of a duvet cover. They were around 900 kuai for a queen size, I decided to save my money!

On our way to the hotel the tour guide decided she would take us to the Muslim market where they sell goods and food. This is the place to barter and get really good deals. I bartered for the first time and it was a rush! Some of you know how excited I get when I find clearance in stores, well you can imagine my reaction when I was able to get the price down right then and there. I didn't get everything for very good prices, some things that I bought first were a little on the steep side, but altogether i got some good deals. I found a Terracotta warrior chess set, which is sitting next to my Chinese chess set on my table. That will be a good conversation piece for students! I found a wall hanging scroll of the Great Wall in black and white and another one with purple grapes. They make the place look a little more homey. Oh yeah, they had a bunch of dried fruit carts, they had dates, pineapple, papaya, guava (which was like biting into honey!) and kiwi. The kiwi was the best so I got one bag of them and one bag of mixed fruits. They are a nice snack!

Saturday, we visited the Gray Goose Pagoda and the Buddhist Temple. They were both very cool. My camera had died by that time and I was a bit bummed. But I will steal some pictures from peoples facebook! We all like the share. I was able to get it working for a short time when we visited the city wall. I thought the wall was so cool because it's actually where the warriors fought. I don't know the exact measurements (plus it's all in Meters) but it was huge. People could rent bikes and ride around it in an hour and a half. We walked and enjoyed some sunshine.
We started back for home at about 3pm which got us back on campus at midnight. So it was a packed weekend but it was really neat to see the city.

(not the pagoda, but a cool shot of the Ancient City Wall)

Thanks for reading, again if you want to see pictures go to my snapfish account.