Day 130 - Schnitzel and Questions

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains


I’ve noticed that my philosophy of classroom management has evolved as time progresses. Of course, that’s inevitable, though part of what’s helping me is becoming better friends with my CoTeachers and feeling less silly joking around with the kids. I purposely call them by the wrong names or close approximations just to play with them. Candy becomes Candle, Sherry becomes Cherry, Mark becomes Grandpa Marker. Clearly the kids have some influence on this, though usually it’s nonsensical. If they clearly hate it, then I stop.

Day 129 - Nonsense Sounds

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Smog Free

Ah, the beauty of Beijing after a good wash. The rain sends the smog packing and unveils the mountains that you often forget are in the middle distance. I can see them from certain points at work, and on the bus to and from.

Smog Birth

Day 128 - Buffalo and Lions

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountain

I found out that one of my CoTeachers is only a year younger than me because of our zodiac signs. I am the Dragon, and she is the snake. From this, she figured out the difference. It seems like most Chinese people know the order of the zodiac and what years are associated. This means that they can make reasonable guesses at your age if they know your sign. Crazy.

Day 127 - Typical Day

Monday, June 13th, 2016
Smog Level: 1-3/3 (It rained, and rain clears it away)

Grade 3 and Superheroes

The grade 3 class isn’t bad. A little rowdy, but I’m more comfortable with kids than when I first started this job. It’s easy to warm up and get into a more relaxed mood. Little more difficult while fever sweating. Not much I can do about that, except look like the big, sweaty teacher. Fun.

This class has to answer a question in order to leave, so I ask them to name a superhero. This is how I discovered that “The Hulk” in Chinese is “Green Man” and “Captain America” is “American Leader.” 

Day 126 - Work and Play

Sunday, June 12th, 2016
Smog Level: Too Sick to Care

3 Day Work Week; 6 Day Work Week

It's Sunday. I have to work.

Like I explained the Chinese base their holidays on the Lunar calendar, which means the days can randomly drop on days in the middle of the week. Dragon boat fell on thursday, so they took sunday and threw it to friday. Thursday to Saturday off; work Sunday to Friday

Because I was sick last month for a week, I lost money. The Director offered to give me a few shifts this weekend because of their plan to go to Japan. I accepted, and work particularly long days today and tomorrow. Wonderful.

Day 125 - Not-So-Iron Stomach

Saturday, June 11th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3

While waiting for Shimou to get ready, I finish off the cherries from last night. Down to the wire for our 12 o’clock checkout, we make it and wander down the street. An uber pulls up and off we go to meet Olive for lunch. Hotpot is the plan.

The Streak is Broken

Day 124 - Dragonboat Semi-Explained

Friday, June 10th, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3

Late at Night

I’m not sure what I was thinking about when I wrote the following, but I knew it was while lying awake, unable to sleep when I did it. So here it goes:
If you read this blog and think "man, this guy's full of doubt!” You're right! Hell, who isn't? I'd say lacking doubt would probably make you a fool, maybe dangerous, and likely have no idea what you're talking about. Possibly all three! We're all doubtful about the things that matter to us. In a strange way, that makes those things all the better and more exciting. I’ve said this before: if everything always worked out exactly as we planned and we always got what we wanted, life would be sterile, predictable, and boring. Oh look, I won.  Again. Hooray. 

Day 123 - Dragon Boat Festival

Thursday, June 9th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3

Chinese History

As of Tuesday, I finally finished the book that reviews Chinese history from the 1600’s-2000s.

Dan and the Tiny, Pink vehicle
My god, that was super slow. If you recall, I mentioned it way back on DAY 73! Holy crap, this was a slow-going book. Bear in mind that it’s an audiobook, and listening to those while you walk around usually makes them fly by. Despite that, this was still one of the dryest books I’ve ever read, and partially my fault. When reading a history book like that, you probably would do better actually reading it with map nearby. It’s bad, but I also don’t like the aim of being entirely impartial about the facts. That leaves no story, and just a desert of facts. Dry to the point that I would have to force myself to even listen to it! 

Day 122 - Wednesday is Friday

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Student Reviews

Apparently we have to write reviews for all our students every month. Obviously, we shouldn’t copy all of the same reviews for all of the students, though some teachers do it anyway. You kind of end up repeating yourself, but it makes sense to categorize some of the kids with the same remarks. A handful are “among the top of their class” and a few “have trouble focusing because they have too much energy.” It seems like a common theme through most classes that the boys generally underperform the girls. I wonder why that is.

First class, they have a party, allowing me to write all their reviews. Second class does homework, so I do my homework and.. write more reviews. 

Day 121 - Prison Of My Own Making

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains
As I was talking about yesterday, with the goal of returning to a peaceful, centered, and seemingly carefree. I've been paying attention to the ambitious people around me, and it made me aware of things growing in myself that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. While ambition is a good thing to have, I don’t know that I want to be so ambitious to not enjoy having slower moments, just shooting the breeze with a friend and grabbing a slice of pizza. 

Day 120 - Sick, Again

Monday, June 6th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountain


I’m up! I’m ready! It’s 9am and I’m good to go! I jump out of bed, make my morning shake and coffee, and get to editing. Finally able to get to the gym and back on schedule after eating and drinking garbage this weekend! Huzzah!*

Day 119 - Chinese X-Men

Sunday, June 5th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountain

After the jam-packed past few days, I decide to take Shimou’s suggestion and just do nothing, sleeping most of today. I took notes, but didn’t do any actual work. KFC, and sleep. The new X-Men had come out on my birthday, and game night is cancelled tonight, so why not use the opportunity to check it out?

Kitsch Even Here
We stroll to the bank, take out some money, I learn the word for “job” (gōngzùo) and “worker” (gōngrén), then grab some light dinner. While walking around, Bob’s advice about tripping came to mind.

Day 118 - Giant Birthday

Saturday, June 4th, 2016
The Beer, and Two Lovely Ladies for Scale
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountain

Lenient Beginnings

At 8:30am, my alarm goes off. I don’t want to get up, but check my phone. Turns out I don’t have to, since my tutoring student cancelled at 8:26am because of something they should’ve known about for at least a few days. Whatever. Guess I get to sleep in. I don’t actually go back to sleep until 11.

Noon, roll out of bed and invite Dan to go to the gym, he accepts on the condition that we leave before 1. Deal.

Day 117 - Music and Meatballs

Friday, June 3rd, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains

Slow Charge

Rough morning, sweats. Easier to manage than the sickness a few weeks ago. Persevere. 
Kids sing happy birthday to me because Aurora told 2 of them that it was today. Thanks, Kids. Sorry that I’m not very responsive.
After class, I snag two bananas from the office and drink some tea Bunny gave me. Helps.
Talk with Dexter about The School of Life while eating a third banana. Getting close to normal.
The cookies Dan gave me are helping boost me up further. While waiting for Aurora to be released from her office at lunch, I read the Mae Carden 'book of wisdom' after discussing a teacher's role in the Chinese teachers office. I said that teachers have to wear many hats: parent, teacher, disciplinarian, friend. We want to make them conform enough that they can be functioning, productive members of class/society, but yet not so much that they lose their originality.

Day 116 - Class Party

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains


Jacque, of the kids in Bunny’s class, is the one who said his favorite movie was The Little Mermaid. Another instance where he really doesn’t care that his tastes are not “manly” is that he was carrying around a button that looked like a flower. I remember being a kid and having these little trinkets of basically no value, but thinking they were special and just liked having them. The kids have these things all the time, but this particular one got the girls calling Jacque a girl. He didn’t care, I told him it was cool - a word the Chinese have picked up:

A Parent's Gift

Common to find women carrying umbrellas
on sunny days. Pale is in, didn't you know?
Bunny presented me with a travel mug that a parent of one of our students had given us. It looks like a bear cat Panda, customized with our school's name and emblem on the side. Nice!

Day 115 - Language Metaphor

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains

“These dogs smell like beer,” I thought on the elevator this morning, entirely ignoring the possibility of the old lady holding the leash. The idea of female alcoholics seems to fall under my radar, and that’s even after working with homeless populations for years.

Lost and Found?

On my way to the bus, I noticed a purse on the group, spilled open with a wallet/clutch and iPhone 6 still there. Was it from a mugging? Did she put it on her car and drive away without noticing? No idea, but I also don’t want to be the “lǎo wài(foreigner) who was seen stealing from a random purse. Also, I have no idea where to take it or what to say when I do.

Day 114 - Do You Even Lift?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains

Paid Free Time

My first two sessions (classes are made up of 2-3 sessions) were cancelled due to some sort of practice. Hey, only three sessions today, and I get to sleep in. Hot dog!

Apparently from here on out, at least once every three weeks, the kids will have something that will take them out of class. More free time! Since this is a private school and the government doesn’t appear to regulate school attendance, the parents can pull their kids out whenever they want. I’ve heard of parents pulling their kids out of school a couple weeks early so that they could go on vacation somewhere. If enough kids get pulled, no class, but I still get paid. I’m good with whatever, but who doesn’t like free time?

Day 113 - Mandarin Madness

Monday, May 30th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains


Despite the smog, the sun still burns. The temperature online says it’s only 23 today, but it feels more like 30. Pretty sure the location is wrong... but it’s always hard to tell when the VPN sometimes makes apps think you’re somewhere else. At least the AC has been switched on at school.

Study Habits

In the lounge, I try to get back into studying mandarin. It’s been a while since I’ve forced myself to actually look at my notes. Opening the book feels like it will lead to a crushing avalanche of what I should know, but don’t. I decide to focus on the practical. Positions. “That one right there" or "it's across the street" and giving directions. Really, I just focus on remembering 3 words. Anything more will just fall away.

Day 112 - Sunday Gameday

Sunday, May 29th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Early Tutoring

1:20am sleep, 8:30 wake up to meet my tutoring student, Fluffy, for her lesson. It’s good to have some pocket money coming in. I’m starting to get into a groove with her, where I bribe her with pictures of animals in between trying to read and learn new words. Easy-to-deliver bribes work well.

Less Gym, More Time

I don’t go to the gym today. After some time off, you’ll find that your first days back will get you more sore than usual. It’s amazing how much time I have when I cut the gym out of the day, and you start super early. Take a nap, catch up on writing (finally), and fix a couple things on the blog.

-You can now access the idea posts from the top or the side menus
-The Facebook, Instagram, and twitter buttons on the top right actually go somewhere!

Day 111 - Everything Burrito

Saturday, May 28th, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains


Oh my way to the gym, a little boy stares and openly points at me. His gaze - and finger -  following me as I pass by. He loudly announces something. I pop in my earbuds and keep walking. This happens again, but with different kids, when I return. Yes, hello.

The Mascot for whatever event is happening

As stated some days earlier, I am getting a blessed burrito today. Oh man, I’ve been looking forward to this. I’d asked around and invited a bunch of people, but the main goal is the burrito. Partially to avoid the annoyance that comes from people inevitably bailing from plans they had previously agreed to. Laziness, man; we're all guilty.

Day 110 - Trial By Fire

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains

Cultural Questions

The difference between a leader and a follower (or maybe just an entrepreneur and an employee) is the ability to be able to deal with ambiguity. So I've heard. I've also heard that Chinese people need plans and will get quite stressed when there isn't one in place, of some form or another. This includes low stakes. Does this tie in with obedience to authority? Does rebellion against authority make one face ambiguity more often and develop more leadership skills? Lots of questions and few answers. This makes me want to go back to the idea of opening my own research foundation. That ol’ pipe dream. 

It's weird here sometimes, especially if the above is true. For the students, they aim to achieve leadership roles and responsibilities, but are still not true leaders because they have to appease the teachers, and simply enforce rules that are imposed on them. It's like student council: it's a figurative role. Some just seem to enjoy the power of telling their classmates what to do.

Day 109 - Broken Momentum

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains


It’s nearing the end of the month, which means that the monthly test is sneaking up. My first class has had most of what they need to be ready, while the other has still not been given their recitation piece. Shit. They need to know it and take the test by the end of this month.

We run through it a few times, and I vainly try to help them by breaking down the rhymes. It’s not getting through, and they keep stumbling on the word “preacher” which is immediately after “teacher.” Good luck, kids!

Day 108 - Scraping Off Rust

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Getting Back Into It

First day back, and my alarm doesn’t go off. Good start, good start. 

Luckily, I still automatically wake up and make it to school on time. It’s amazing how a week of disruption can screw routine and habits to hell sometimes.

This was just a barren patch
of dirt.. and I wonder if this is
all just overgrown weeds or
has some purpose
I really don’t want to get back into it. I don’t want to go to school, though I have no actual alternative that I do want.

Day 107 - Kid's Q&A

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Staring at the Ceiling

I guess napping disrupted my sleep schedule yesterday, or maybe it was not doing any writing for the past several days, but I was up until 4am. Just laying there, thinking. 

Busting out pics I never used...
At least today, the sweats are dying down. It’s hard to tell what’s weather, and what’s fever. It’s gotten warmer, and it can be quite hot in the apartment. I’m able to catch up on some editing, some writing, and actually sit at my desk for some of the day.

Kid's Answers

I realized, though, that I never spoke about some of the kid’s answers for the beginning of the classes. Refresher: we start every class with two questions in english just to practice. Here some of them are:

Day 106 - Travel Glam

Monday, May 23th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Testing the Limits

I’m out of water and the only money I have is a fake ¥50 someone passed me.

Last night, I thought I was fine until I left the apartment and started walking around, only to discover that I.. really was not. Here’s a second attempt, since water is one of the main things recovery needs.

Again, I think I’m perfectly fine. When you get immersed in a show, lying in bed, you think “yeah man, I'm cool right now.” But when you wander outside and find yourself having walked too far, passing the bank you’ve been to several times before… well… it doesn’t inspire confidence.

Day 105 - Chinese Wedding Report

Sunday, May 22th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

McDonald's and Stomach Viruses

I’m finally starting to get my legs back under me. I now see the value of Mcdonald’s (or equivalent) food: it’s great for a stomach illness. If you’re not sure if you can keep food down, but want to risk it - Mcdonald’s!

Keep it down, you get a lot of calories that can be put toward fighting the illness. Puke it up? Hey, you’re ruining future appetites for a food no one should be eating, anyway! Win-win. This could be the beginnings of a great new McDonald’s campaign. *cough*

Chinese Wedding

Part of the Groom's Trials
Shimou has been a great help the past couple days, ordering me food, and doing what she can to ease the situation. This weekend is her cousin’s wedding, which means she has engagements with them to help set up.

Day 104 - Sickness and Pokemon

Saturday, May 21st, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains


Pokemon. You probably don’t think about them much, but my life throughout the last night - mixed with delirious dreams - have made me empathize with them. Don’t worry, I’ll tie it in, but first, let’s examine the life of a captured pokémon.

...and Pokémon

Pokemon, in that universe, are basically super-powered animals. How mankind had ever managed to develop society, technology, or superiority over nature is baffling. But, apparently they did, and they maintain their edge with theeeee pokéball. You beat the crap out of one of these animals, then, when they’re vulnerable, you chuck the ball at them and it captures them - indefinitely.

Day 103 - Missing Girl's Day

Friday, May 20th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Travel Realities

Pictures my CoTeachers sent to me
Here’s the unglamorous, undignified reality of what traveling can bring. Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t been hit with it sooner than this point.

That’s right, I’m talking about food poisoning, and/or illness in general.

At this point in the illness (this all had to be written after the fact, once recovered), I figured it was just a fever and some cramping, no big deal! I’ll bounce back in no time. I’ve been eating pretty well, exercising regularly, getting enough(ish) sleep, right?

Goddamn, I Was Wrong

Day 102 - And So It Begins

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains


After laying in bed, sweating all morning, I drag myself out to go to school. I have today off, but Mandarin lesson and free food combine to make me move. Part of me thinks that pushing through illness is a valuable ability, while the other half-thinks it's just a mild case of food poisoning. Either way, I'll be further inoculated toward the bugs they've got over here. 

Zombie Walk

Bright sun, gentle breeze, and rustling trees do their best to make me feel welcomed, but I'm focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. People float by, doing their usual thing. A van drives wherever it wants on the walkway. Pardon me. I freak a woman out by walking too close to her as some other men pass. Oh well. Eyes on the prize: just make it to the bus stop. It arrives promptly. 

Day 101 - Black Cygnets and Wabi Sabi

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Somehow I messed up.

How? Apparently by writing every single day - except for this one. Here are the notes I left for myself:
  • Mildly Sore, but don’t want to take a day off
  • Friend offered a UW contact in Japan
  • Wabi Sabi

A challenge! Here is what I was able to write, a week after the fact: