What’s your favorite finger?

Monday was another lazy day; I was able to sleep in till way late, and do what I wanted to do. I took an extra long shower, taking up most of the heated water. Then I worked on some personal business. For lunch I made some dumplings….so delicious. After that I headed to the center to pick up the teaching lesson plans for the week, so I rode my long board over and picked up the papers. When I got there Edis, Samantha, and this other Chinese co-worker were there. I was about to walk out when I saw Edis trying to put together these file things, and she was struggling…hard, so I offered my help and put together a few for her. After helping, I dropped off the paperwork at home and ate some lunch. I was about to walk out the door to go for a ride on my long board when Caitlyn came through the door. She was finally home from Hong Kong!!!! She talked for a little about her trip and I showed her the lesson plans, after that I went for my ride. It was actually really funny because everyone was staring at me, probably because they thought I was crazy. Picture this – I had on my Bluetooth beats, my Beijing hoodie, and I was riding a long board, so I know I looked weird to those I passed. However, I didn’t mind, I was in my own world, cruising down the streets of Taiyuan looking at the complex I lived in and simply enjoying my time. After an hour I decided to come back home. I didn’t do much but made dinner, watched another movie, planed a lesson for the next day, talked to Caitlyn for a little, and to finish off my night I read my scriptures. It was a necessary fulfilling day of relaxation and reflection.

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So this week we are back to teaching tenth grade, and Caitlyn and I had to be in front of the center at 7:30am. We took our usual hour long drive to the school and yes, I slept the whole way there. For class I taught them hangman, and we played that for a while, and surprisingly they really liked it. I did the first word to show them how to do it because when I would explain it they all would look at me like I was talking about astrophysics or something, but once they got it they loved it. The lesson was very simple, it was just going over some new vocabulary, then reading a paragraph that had the new vocabulary in it, and then answering questions about the paragraph to make sure they understood it, comprehension. Classes went by super fast…like really fast. Every time I finished going over the last question the bell would go off. The bell system here isn’t a typical bell sound that you would here at schools in the U.S., when class was over you would here a Chinese song that was singing about how class was over. All four classes went awesomely (my new word) and soon it was lunch time. Yao took us to the same restaurant, and we ate regular rice with buttered broccoli, and some other dishes that Yao picked out. When we went back to the center, Daniel wanted to have a meeting about the schedule for the week, which he called the “Just American Meeting”, haha. So we began to talk about what he was just told by our Chinese co-workers; which was that we had another class to teach on Wednesday night and that there was a conference that night in like an hour that they wanted Daniel and I to give a 20 minute speech, luckily Daniel told me that I didn’t have to go, since I had already taught for a couple of hours and it was last minute, so he didn’t want me to stress about it. We then had a heated conversation on how the company was working with doing all this last minute planning, and how frustrating it was, also how it was all going to work out when I left for home. We then got really off topic and started talking about a lot of things, during our meeting Chen and Caroline came in, and we were all surprised to see them, since they quit their jobs at the company. It was crazy to see how happy they were compared to when they were working. Chen came in to just check in with Daniel to make sure he was ok, and that things weren’t too stressful. After our meeting I quickly ran home and grabbed Chen a shirt that had “Arizona” written across it (a souvenir from home), it was a gift I was suppose to give him a while back, but couldn’t because someone didn’t want me to but I followed my intuition and gave it to him anyway.  I then rode around on my long board for a little bit, went home, ate some dinner, read for a little, took a shower, and then went to bed.

The next day we had to be up early, and in front of the SMS at 6:30am. I had the same lesson to teach as the day before, and again it really well for all five classes. When we walked out to wait for Yao, one of the English teachers in the school came up to us and started talking to us. His English was really good, and he had a very big vocabulary (impressive).  I think out of the whole conversation all I remember was him saying that we looked very spunky, haha. We then went to eat and had our usual, this time Yao ordered these black rice sweet things (really have no idea what they were called), but they were soooo delicious. When we were all full from eating there were four more of the rice things, but I was to full from eating, Yao tried making us eat them, but we didn’t want to so we played rock, paper, scissors, Yao lost so he had to eat all four of the rice things. After that we got into the car and went straight home. I was super exhausted, so I slept a little, and then we got a message form Daniel telling us that the company planned more and that we would have to judge English competitions Thursday and Friday evening.  He also mentioned that the class we would normally have Friday night was cancelled. After receiving the message I got ready and Caitlyn and I headed to the committee office of “Star of Outlook”, to teach a class about how to do well for the English competitions. That class was only two hours long, and it ended around 8:30pm. After it was finished they put us into a taxi and sent us home. The car ride was funny because the taxi driver was trying to talk to us but he was only speaking Chinese, and I couldn’t understand him. I think he got really confused though because I was teaching Caitlyn some Chinese, and was speaking a little Chinese, all well. When we got dropped off we were really hungry, so we headed to our dumpling place. On our way there, there was a group of older ladies dancing together. Caitlyn wanted to join really badly, so she gave me all of her stuff. I don’t think they understood the song they were listening to because one, it was in English and two, it was singing about sex. I slowly walked away, and soon Caitlyn caught up to me. When we got to the restaurant we each ordered a plate of dumplings which hit the spot just right. When we got home I talked with my family for a while and then went to bed, it was really late.

Thursday I slept in a little, but I had to be at the center by ten. When I got there I kept asking if I could help with anything, and they never needed any help, so I just sat around for a couple of hours. When Daniel came in, he didn’t have me do much either. We did have a long conversation with our Chinese co-workers because they were again planning things without telling us and they planned more English competitions for Saturday and Sunday; however, Daniel got upset because in the past he told them that we can’t work Sundays do to our religion, and he tried to explain that again, saying that they already had us doing the weekend English class, and that it was not fair to us. They then started to ask a lot of questions about our religion, but we were getting close to the line of proselytizing, so we had to tell them that they couldn’t ask any more questions. They then started asking more questions as to why we couldn’t answer their questions; it was just kind of all over the place. After that though, I did get on a computer and I found a train ticket to Beijing and calculated out how much time I would need to get to the airport, how long it would take to go through security, buy tickets, and what not for my trip home.  I was going to purchase my ticket but I needed Daniel to do that and he was in a meeting, so I just told him I found out everything and he told me to get with him when he wasn’t busy to buy the tickets. I then went home and got ready to go judge the English competition. When we got to the English competition it went way longer than I thought.  In total we judged 80 kids….80. So how the judging works is there are three judges, one foreign and two Chinese/English speakers. So the kids were a mix of fifth and sixth graders that have to give a speech for a minute and a half (on anything they like) and then they have to answer questions we ask them. I like to ask weird questions like, “What’s your favorite finger?” or “Would you rather have no eyes or no ears?” So each of us judges took turns asking question, so we would rotate asking question with every kid, in other words one kid had one judge asking them questions. The scoring was that the speech had a total of 55 point, their interaction to the question is out of 30 points , image, the way they present themselves, is out of 10 points, and time is out of 5 points. So we were judging for three and a half hours, my brain was so dead, and I felt really bad because sometime I would zone out, I tried really hard in the end to pay attention. I think on every scoring sheet I doodled some kind of picture. When it was finally over, Anne took Caitlyn and me to this really fancy dumpling restaurant that was in walking distance of the school we were judging at. Anne ordered three plates of dumplings, two meats and one vegetable. They were so delicious, or as the Chinese would say, “Hen hao chu!!!” After we were finished eating, Anne took us home, and it was really late, but Caitlyn and I stayed up and talked for a while, luckily we didn’t have to be up early the next day.

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Friday I got up around 10am and got all of my dirty laundry together and went over to Daniel and Megan’s to use their washing machine. While I waited I watched “Sing”, such a cute cartoon. When I finished Caitlyn came over to do her laundry, and I went home to hang up all my clothes. I called my sister and talked to her for a little while and then took a shower and got ready, since we had another English competition to judge. This English competition was at the same school, but this time I was to judge 96 kids…ninety six, and instead of doodling on many score sheets, I picked one sheet and doodled on that. It took about four hours to get all the kids done. Whew. Afterwards, Anne took us to the same dumpling restaurant, this time Tommy came with us. On our way over there I saw this really cool building with Spiderman on it, we also saw this car with a very interesting paint job, I took pictures of both so you could see them. For dinner we had four plates of dumplings and an extra dish of meat balls, the kind of mini meat balls you would put in with spaghetti. We ended up with leftovers, so Anne gave us the rest of the dumplings. After that we headed to the center to drop off some stuff for another competition they were going to have in the morning. They had the place all set up, and they had these pamphlets, and lo and behold, I was on the front along with Daniel, Megan, Nita, and Alex….it was weird. We also met some kids that were going to help with the competition, they were all about my age… actually they were a little older, all around 20 years old. There was this one boy who was asking me all kinds of questions including asking for my WeChat so that he could practice his English. The kids had to go to another room for a meeting so it was just Caitlyn, Tommy, Walker, James, and I, and we talked for a long time, and when it was about 11pm we decided that it would probably be best to go home, so Caitlyn and I walked home. I couldn’t sleep, and ended up staying awake till 4am, good thing I didn’t have to do anything till 2pm the next day.

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So since I didn’t go to bed till way late I slept till 12pm, took a shower and then planned for my lessons for the weekend English classes, which for this week was music. So I went over to the center and I taught the kids the cup song from “Pitch Perfect”, and surprisingly they all loved it, maybe not so much of the singing, but doing the cups was fun for them. My first class was only two kids and they were OK, they tried doing it with the music and had some difficulty. My second class was Franklin, whose English is really good, he is in the highest class, which is sadly only him. He did really well and got to the point to where he could sing and do the cups at the same time, as long as I did it with him, and by the end of class he could sing and play along with the music almost perfectly. For my last class, there are a lot of students, eight to be exact, so I had them play musical chairs for a while, and then I had them learn the cup song. They were really stubborn at first and said that they couldn’t do it, but with a lot of repetition they were able to get the cups down, play with the video, and pass the cups around. After classes Caitlyn and I went home and changed into exercise clothes because we finally got a gym card!!! So we met Megan and Daniel at the gym in our complex and we did a small workout that Daniel planned. It felt so good to be in a gym with actual equipment that they have in America. After we did our workout, Megan and Daniel went home to shower and cook dinner, which they had invited us to. So Caitlyn and I stayed for a little longer and I really wanted to run, so I did a five minute run, I wanted to do more but Caitlyn doesn’t like running. So we headed to the dance room and Caitlyn practiced some of her dance moves. After the gym we had to buy drinking water for our apartment, so we went to SMS, and bought water along with some snacks. We headed home and dropped off the groceries, changed, and then headed over to Daniel and Megan’s for dinner. Megan had made mash potatoes, chicken, and fired green beans, it was so good!!! We also watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, and when that finished it was almost 11pm, so Caitlyn and I headed home to go to bed.

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Sunday I decided to stay in bed till I absolutely had to get out and go to work, which was at 2:30pm so I stayed in bed till 1pm, awake but I just didn’t want to take off my blanket, haha.  My first class I taught was my “cartoon” class, which is just having the students read children books out loud since their English is at the lowest level. I had three students this time so we read some books. I feel really bad because that class is really boring, but also extremely helpful for them.  For my second class I had my music class, we played musical chairs and then sang “You Are My Sunshine”.  After that we did the cup song, some of the Chinese employees wanted to join the class, so they came in and I taught them the words and then the cups to go along with the words. I only had one student, who was having difficulty doing the cups, but with everyone’s help we were able to help her get better and better and by the end of class we could play to the music and pass the cups around in a circle. It was such a great moment to see.  For my third class I had the kids from my first class and a random new girl had come along and so she joined us as well. When we played musical chairs, Henry was out of control, he was holding on the jacket/shirt of the kid in front of him so when the music would stop he would pull them away from the chair so he could win. After that, we sang “You Are My Sunshine” and then did the cup song….again.  For my last class I had English Literature with the girls from my second class. They are reading “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer”, which is a little advanced for them; however, we still read it, but just go over everything. So first the girls take turns reading and while they read if there are any words they don’t know, they ask and I explain, then when we finish a chapter we go over what we learned in that chapter, and then we have an audio that reads the chapter and they just listen. If we finish a chapter we move onto the next chapter. After class, James wanted help fixing his English for a document he translated, and he asked if I could help him. For any of those that know me, know that I hate editing, but I was helping a friend so I agreed to help. We literally spent three hours going over this 18 page document and fixing the English. James was so happy that I helped him, so he repaid me by taking me to Hot Pot, which was right by the center. It was really good, and we ate for a long time. James told me some interesting stories about his time in England, some stories were not what I wanted to hear, like about how it was his fourth day in the new country and his roommates wanted to go to a bar but instead walked into a strip club….. so awkward. After dinner I walked home, and when I walked through the door it was almost 11:30pm, so late again. I decided that I would be best to go to bed, so I did a little writing, a little reading and then fell asleep around 2am.