Sunday, June 24, 2012

Helpful Hints

Sitting here, at 11pm with some thoughts on teaching/moving... and here they are.

Approach every year as if it is a new year.

Despite being surrounded by a familiar language and culture, each year abroad will be different.

There will be familiar aspects - like getting over horrendous jet lag, and going through some apartment hunting - unless the school provides you with an apartment- and currency converting, and obtaining visas and work permits if you are working legally-  like I am now in Taiwan. There might also be some familiar foods and language.

But, if you leave one country for another, or even one city for another, at times it feels like you're ... back at Square One. 

Homesickness now - as you are settling in, you will feel it again. The initial confusion and uncertainty makes you crave all that is familiar and "easy". But now, instead of just your family back at "home", it might also involve the people that you left behind in the last town/city that you worked in. Maintaining contact through email/chat, etc,- if they "make time for you" - had to include a jab at *someone* there. - will help. I've kept in touch with Jenny - the 5 yr old I used to tutor/teach in Foshan- 's father Tommy on QQ and he has invited me to stay with them when I come to visit Foshan in January. I'm thinking of doing a week long tour of Chengdu/Sichuan for Chinese New Year this year, and stopping in Foshan for 3 days after. We get about 2 weeks off at my school for the holiday I think.

A new school schedule - this year I still have two days off per week - BUT they are not consecutive. I'm off on Wednesdays and Sundays. I call them my "week-breaks" instead of the "weekEND". It has taken SO long for my body to get used to this phenomenon. Also, I think my regular class schedule is just busier in general this year - with classes back to back- most days I have a 5:30-7pm class and then a 7-8:30pm class right after that- so my energy levels still need to adjust. The good thing is, I live in a big city, so I can go out and explore any day/time. I don't need to take long trains/subways to get to a bar or a big tourist attraction and spend one whole day on travel. We have a lot here. Also, I only work afternoons and evenings - so even if my body is confused and keeps me up til 3am, I can sleep til noon and still get in that 8 hours of sleep time if I want.

A new school environment - despite being an "after-school, school", my kids here have homework and regular tests - including a mid-term and  final exam! The school that I worked at last year in Foshan was JUST opening when I arrived, I was the very FIRST teacher there. I had to conduct demo classes and really "sell" the school. But here, my school in Taiwan has been up and running for awhile. I feel like my responsibilities this year are more about making the classes fun and engaging and getting my kids to #1 enjoy them and have fun ... #2 and do well of course...  if you are having fun learning, this should come more easily.  Another difference this year is that I don't have an office here ..... I mean, we have a "Teacher's Office" but there are no individuals desks with computers- just some long desks to sit at and prepare lessons and write up summaries, etc. I miss having my "own desk".

*Expectations- try not to have too many. I assumed coming into a "big city" that more people would speak English here. But I've had the OPPOSITE experience. I find myself speaking more Chinese here in Taipei.... which is good, because I need to practice, but it definitely surprised me. Although most menus at big restaurants  here are in English - if they don't give you one, you could just ask "yo/meiyo yingwen caidan ma?" - Do you have an English menu? They might. Also, on the upside, it is easier to find Chinese classes and tutors here than it was in "small city- Foshan" China where I was last year.

*I was just also pleasantly surprised by my landlord and his wife/girlfriend coming upstairs to my apartment, knocking on my door and giving me a plate of "zongzi"- these bamboo wrapped sticky rice dragon boats with different fillings inside. SO sweet/nice of them. This year, I have a landlord who cooks for me! (:

I want to write about Lisa .... but I'm tired. I'm tired of it and I'm sad and frustrated and I just wanna go online - on QQ and write really awful things. But I don't .... because I'm waiting for her to answer one question - why did she give Helen her new QQ number, but she didn't give it to me - or to our friend Quinny.  Even if the account "has a virus" like she's claiming now. Why didn't she tell me that she was using it? Lisa worked with/knew both me and Quinny for 6 months, she worked with Helen for one day. I am going to try one more time. After this holiday is over.... maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm going to tell Quinny to tell Lisa to send me a message and tell me why.

I'm not gonna rest until I get that answer. Then I might "blow up her spot"... write snarky mean things about her on my QQ.... I don't know. If it's THAT hard to let me see pictures and answer ONE question, I deserve to let my imagination run wild and post whatever I want.

I feel like in China, and other communist countries, asking "why?" ("weishenma?" is probably not something that is encouraged. It's snuffed out after age 3-4 I'd guess. In a communist or maybe even just a collectivist country, you don't ask why. You don't get a vote. You listen to the authority, you go along with the group, you respect the opinion of your leader, your boss, your family ....  and don't dare ask them why. In China, you might work overtime at your job for a few hours without pay -but everyone does it. Who are you to ask "why?"

I love "why" ... it puts flavor into the story, it carries the conversation. It's the twists and turns of the theme park ride.... it's the laugh 2 minutes later at the end of a clever joke.

I am happy for this year .... for the little kindnesses and new experiences. I LOVE that my parents have figured out how to SKYPE  - or "SKYPT"as they both seem to call it/write in their emails to me .... even though I write "skype".  (:

But, if you move,  every year is different. Same as moving within your own country. It would be like me leaving New York and moving to Los Angeles - two cities - but two very DIFFERENT cities - not any real, accessible, subway system in the city of LA. I was only there for about three days and I liked it, but I didn't feel it had a real "city" layout like New York or Chicago.

So that's my "helpful hint". Be surprised.
and if something/someone completely bewilders you always ask "why?"

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