Day 29 - Officially a Teacher

Monday, March 7th, 2016
Smog Level: 2.5/3 Mountains

Today is the first day teaching alone. No Director there to help me. Though, "alone" may be a bit generous - I always have a Chinese teacher around who helps keep the kids in line, and will help when I need it. They let me know what the students have learned so far, and, if need be, can translate. We try to avoid that, as there is no Chinese in the classroom! Be that as it may, they will still slip up or blatantly speak it in front of us. That’s where the stars come in.
I inherited the legacy of this "star system," where the students get 10 stars at the beginning of class, and any time one of them misbehaves, all of them get punished by losing a star. At the end of class, they get 1 big heart for ever 5 stars, 1 small heart for leftover stars. After they get enough hearts, they get a prize… which I haven’t figured out yet. Despite them all being punished, they’re still ready to rat each other out. “Harry said Chinese!” one will yell.

I arrived on campus around 10:45am. The mess hall is mostly empty, allowing me to eat my early lunch in solitude. Afterward, I return to the office to prep the lesson. Must be a lot of work, right!?

No, not really. It took me like, 10 minutes of triple checking things, leaving me with nothing to do from 12:10 until 1:55pm. I hang in the office, listening to the other teachers shoot the shit, and make jokes about Macaques (say it out loud) and Korean money (hint: it's dong). Stay young at heart, fellas!

With so much time to kill, it’s time to hit up the teachers lounge!

It’s always a bit of a challenge to get in because you never know if someone with a keycard will be around. I often have to loiter, asking random adult passerbys “nǐ yǒu kǎ ma?(Do you have a card?) Sometimes they do, sometimes they help me out by getting it from the barber next to the elevator. I just don’t want to bother him continually. Joseph and Tad tend to be lounging at this time of the day, and indeed they were.

I mostly listened to Joseph. He’s much older than I would have guessed. By looks I would have said he was mid-to-late twenties. Nah, late thirties! He appears very fit and healthy, particularly based on the content of our conversation today: fitness, drinking (lack thereof), getting older, running marathons, and vegetarian/veganism. He hosts a biweekly potluck on Sundays in the building one over from me, which I may check out in the future!

As for the classes, they go quite well! My Chinese teachers helped a lot, and both classes were well behaved. So adorable. After the second class was over (only 2 daily), a stack of spelling tests stares at me from my desk. Joy, one of my co-teachers, tells me to take my time, to which I reply that I’ll have them done tomorrow. Don’t ask me why. We go our separate ways…

…Only to meet in the teachers office. She says she’ll take them for me, and I joke “oh, now you want them!” but I think she took it literally. I’m not sure, but she may have thought she offended me. She left quickly, though I’m still not sure if it was clear that I was kidding.

From an Overpass near The Mall at Night
While waiting for the bus, I learn a random Mandarin phrase while listening to an English audiobook (4 Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss - On rapid skill acquisition. I highly suggest it): chī kǔ, which means “eat bitterness,” but is a metaphor for enduring suffering. According to the book, older Beijingers tend to say to their younger counterparts. I say it to Shimou and she grimaces. She tells me that her mom and I have similar outlooks when it comes to work, saving money, and frugality. She does this somewhat disparagingly. I've been broke enough to know how to save money. Her mom, in contrast, has managed to make quite a comfortable life for herself. I’ll take it as a compliment, a vision of what's to come.

An old pic of "England" in the Mall
After marking the tests, eating, and cleaning, Shimou and I check out the nearby cheap gym. It.. uh.. yeah, I can see why it’s cheap, but it’s also got more than you’d expect at the same time. Like, they have a small weight room on the main floor, which is just enough to get the job done, a smallish swimming pool and change rooms in the basement, and room for classes on the second floor. We work out with the attendant really trying for the hard sell: “the price will go up tomorrow! special price - today only!” Lucky for me, he only speaks Mandarin, which allows me to ignore the pitch. Hah.

He tries to show us how to work out. I shrug him onto Shimou while I do my thing on most of the machines, getting a full body workout for free. There’s only one more gym in the immediate area, and I’d like to see it before I commit to anywhere. The first one was way too expensive (¥3600/13 months; $60 Cad/Mo; $46 USD/mo), while this one is very manageable (¥1500/13 months; $24 CAD/mo; $17 USD/mo)… let’s see if we can get in the goldilocks’ zone of both price, convenience, and comprehensiveness, shall we?

I try to go to bed early but end up making stupid phrases in Mandarin with Shimou, which makes me laugh. It’s a fatigue-based giddiness, but I got a good laugh out of accidentally making a real phrase: jība pígiǔ (dick beer [jee-bah pee-jeo]) which is basically saying it’s garbage beer. Hah.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

I'm getting buried. I gotta drop down to 2-3 words a day for the next while until I can catch up. I know it's going to break your hearts, but sacrifices must be made.

from - cóng [tsong]
maybe - yěxǔ [yea-shu]

Editing Music
Golden Summer
Turtle Giant

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