Some Random Life Updates
- In my English classes, I love learning the random bits of English my students pick up and use in their own ways. Last class, I was reading them a picture book they picked out called Boogie Bones, which is a ghost story about skeleton who liked to dance but was too shy (I know. So cute.) One of my students stopped me and said “Teacher, can I speak Chinese?” Because the school encourages an English-only environment, everyone must ask before they switch languages (including teachers! They’re sticklers if I accidentally slip up with a “很好” (very good!) when they do something well.) I hesitate to allow them to speak Chinese, not only because I want them to try to use English, but also because I have this fear that they’ll learn how terrible my Chinese actually is! Anyway, the student looked so confused that I said okay. He asked me if the skeleton characters in the story were all dead (which thankfully I understood the Chinese), and after I said yes, he said switched back to English and said, “Teacher! They are game over!” The students play so many computer and video games that “game over” now means dead. Tell your friends; it’s going to be catchy slang soon.
- 关系 (guanxi). Something I’ve mentioned before, but I’m learning more and more of its implications. This is the idea of networking, or maybe the concepts of “relationships.” If a person has good guanxi, he or she is well respected and popular amongst his or her peers. If all your friends have a lot of guanxi, you have it too. With guanxi, you can get jobs, apartments, favors, television appearances, anything. I take business cards very seriously here. The other day, I was sitting in a park on campus and this guy and his friend came up to me and asked me if I can speak English (whenever people ask me this, I respond in Chinese, so I can practice my Chinese!). They were visiting campus and wanted to know where they could eat without a dining card. We started chatting in Chinese, and at the end of our five minute conversation, he gave me his card and I gave him my email address. In the U.S. I’d be more freaked out by strangers approaching in a park, but I think it’s less of a big deal here in part because of the concept of public space is so much more “public” than I ever thought possible. Considering I body slam into hundreds of strangers every day on the subway, a conversation is actually quite nice in comparison. Anyway, it turns out he’s the director of sales for a company in Xi’an (it took me like two days to read his card because it was all in Chinese haha). While right now we’re just exchanging emails to practice Chinese and English respectively, he mentioned that his company looks to hire English speakers, so now we each have the chance to access each others’ networks, although I don’t know anyone looking for a job in Xi’an (yet!). This concept is definitely something that’s going to stay with me… you never know who’s in your network. The self help book that my mom brought for me when she came to visit (that is the saddest start to a sentence I have ever typed, but there’s something to be said for honesty, no?) calls these connections “weak ties” and says they’re super duper important.
- On a related note, if you’re in your twenties, please buy this book if you’d like to give yourself a panic attack. If you’re not in your twenties, but you’d still like to give someone in their twenties a panic attack, you know what to do.
- I’m just kidding, Mom. It’s a pretty good book.
- Anyways, guess what language I’m starting to get frustrated with? English. English grammer is the worst, ever! I feel so bad for my kids, trying to explain irregular verbs, when Chinese doesn’t even change verbs for past tense! They asked me why “go” changed to “went” and I was like “because?” Haha horrible teacher moment. I feel like my own English skills are actually declining! I’ve probably missed a few of these mistakes in this blog post, but I’m constantly catching myself typing the wrong homophone (higher/hire, here/hear) more than before. And the other day, I was teaching “last” as in “last Tuesday” or “last year” and “this” as in “this morning.” As my students were making sentences, I realized that while you can say “last night,” it’s improper to say “last morning,” and I couldn’t explain why! Unnecessarily confusing!
- The news! The other day, I checked WashingtonPost.com and the top story was about foreigners in China… I thought to myself well, that’s me I guess. The article has an interesting spin… not sure if I’d agree with the first sentence (of course, all news is spin!). I was surprised at how low the number of foreigners living in Beijing was… the article says only about 120,000 (I’ve heard closer to 200,000 though, so maybe the first figure doesn’t include students). Anyways, that’s NOTHING in a city of 20 million (20 MILLION PEOPLE).
- Also, I totally felt this in my 12th floor apartment yesterday morning! Didn’t realize what it was though (当然). Thought maybe they were attempting some crazy building project in my apartment complex like usual. Things are built so quickly here. One day they decided to build a huge bike garage in the parking lot. Two days later, it looks like it’s been there for years. One day I walked by an empty storefront and 24 hours later it was a little convenience store. It’s awesome because construction practices in China are so safe.