Recently we have felt like we are meeting more people in our community, which leads to interesting/exciting get-togethers. Our friends on the food street know us by first name/food order, and if by chance I come home alone, our neighbors are quick to ask, “Da wei, na li?” (Where’s David?!)

Last week I taught my English Corner on Friday night, and decided on the theme of going out to eat. I taught the kids how to ask for basic utensils, a table, a menu, the check, etc. I pretended to be the waitress, and they ordered what they wanted. (The previous week I taught them how to make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, which we made and ate in class.) The kids (ages 5-10) did really well, and were really excited when I invited them out to try their skills at a “real” dinner after class. 9 kids and 9 parents joined David and I at our favorite restaurant in Tangshan, a Uighur place that specializes in large plates for sharing. I’m kicking myself for not bringing my camera, but it was a really fun night of eating and practicing some new restaurant vocab. Most of the attendees were English Corner regulars, and the nicest kids, so it was nice to be able to get to know them better. After dinner, the kids weren’t ready to let us go home, so we moved the party to the park, where we walked around and played some games. It was hilarious to watch David outrun 9 kids at once. Two of the moms also invited David and I to lunch the following Tuesday, and fortunately I remembered the camera.

Helen and Jack are two of David’s best C3 level students, and they come to my English Corner every week. They have no problem trying to speak only in English…their confidence is really incredible. If Helen’s mom weren’t so nice, I would probably try to bring her back with me. Once Helen asked me what kind of hair I have, and I said “curly.” When I asked about hers, she replied matter of factly, “mushroom hair.” hahahaha Jack is quite a character, he loves to dance and prance around, but sometimes his excitement for answering questions in class leads him to dominate the lesson. However, the two kids and their moms were incredible hosts for lunch. In honor of having myself, David and Candy over for lunch, the moms had begun preparations the night before, and one of them took off work as a doctor to finish cooking on Tuesday morning! As you can tell from the photos, it was an incredible spread…even the canned peaches were homemade! Mostly we talked with the kids while the moms cooked, and we tried to help a little bit with a jiaozi (dumplings). We couldn’t even convince the moms to eat with us, because they were “too excited” to eat. They researched special vegetarian dishes for David, and sent us home with nearly all the leftovers. From this and other experiences, we can truly see pride and dedication that the Chinese take in serving as excellent hosts, and we had a great time.

I have also included a few photos of the summer BBQs that our manager, Eddie, hosts at the school. He has his own little BBQ pit outside, and we usually end up grilling, drinking and playing darts for a few hours at night. The meal usually involves skewering hundreds of hot peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, mantou bread, lamb, chicken hearts and beef. Eddie has a special oil/spice sauce that goes on all the ingrediants, and makes everything taste exactly like typical Chinese Kao Rou. You can find similar BBQ set-ups on nearly every street in China, especially in the summer. I also have to admit that the chicken hearts taste pretty good, but I generally prefer the veggies…but they take such a long time to cook!

Other than teaching at the public school, One on One sessions are another aspect of teaching that I have enjoyed. Usually I only have students for a few weeks before a big English test or competition, but they tend to be high-level speakers that are genuinely interested in the English language and foreign cultures. I usually run the class by presenting an idea such as, “What does it mean to Go Green?” or “How is Western business culture different than Eastern?”, teach some relevant vocab, and then have a discussion that focuses on fluency, while I take notes on some of their common grammar mistakes, which we can expand upon as review for the next class. This week I finished up with Charles, who was by far my best student. He attends the Tangshan Foreign Language school, and is one of the top 5 students in his class. Charles is, in a word, awesome. He’s the type of kid that is completely self-motivated, and you never have to tell him twice to fix a grammar error or do his homework. Fortunately, his family is very supportive of his international education, and I was helping him prepare for an English interview that will hopefully allow him to attend high school in Singapore. We discussed issues like how he will adapt to living in a new country, a religious environment, and why the school should choose him.

Ironically, Charles asked me the other day about the meaning of the word, “awesome.” I explained that it meant better than good, like great, but was common slang. The next day we were talking about his responses to the question, “What do you think about religion.” Charles responded, “Religion is OK.” I explained, like a good English teacher, that OK isn’t an adequate description of a complicated subject. He thought for a second, and then I saw a spark of recognition in his eyes, “Religion is awesome!” he proclaimed. I had to laugh. This young Chinese kid, who has had very little contact with any sort of religion, proclaiming that it’s awesome! We brainstormed some more adjectives that may better suit his experiences. Charles finds out in a few days if he will attend the school, and I think he has an excellent chance. In fact, I will be a little heartbroken if he doesn’t make it.

Singapore is an educational haven for the Chinese. Although there is some variation in statistics, at least 70% of Singapore’s population is Chinese, and many students aspire to attend schools here because of the excellent international education the country provides. Similar to Hong Kong, Singapore was controlled by Britian prior to WWII, it changed to Japanese rule during the war, and then reverted back to British rule after the war. After the second British rule, Sinapore merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia, and finally in 1965, it became its own independent republic. Singapore has used its many advantages (separation from conservative ideologies, rapid industrialization, position as the busiest port in the world, and adoption of progressive policies such as adopting English as its primary language) to invest in an education system that has achieved international recognition. Singapore is considered one of the “4 Asian Tigers”, along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is also said that if you were to pick one Asian country whose streets to eat off of, it should be the clean roads of Singapore! I personally think it will be really interesting to watch this country progress, as it controls so much of the resources for China and the world.

The movie about the 1960s Tangshan Earthquake (Aftershock) came out last week, and it plays with English subtitles in the theater, so we plan on taking our first trip to the Chinese movie theaters soon. Busa and Billy also arrive in less than three weeks…so we’re laying low til then!

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