Last week, Chen and I went to some sort of school to present on our culture and english learning methods. There, we met Alex and Ellie, who we are now very close friends with. Everyone says we look and act like a family. I think it is because we are four fluent english speakers and so connect very well. As has been usual, the first day we were very unprepared and had almost no idea of what it was we were doing. Thankfully, Alex had already put together a very impressive presentation about American holidays, and Chen and I had thought of some fun games to play with people.
Alex graduated this year with a degree in biology, I think bacterial. He is from Michigan and likes to do ballroom dancing, and has taught us some. He often mocks the American value of free time in childhood and hates his wasted years, and so now pursues activities like ballroom dancing and guitar so he has some talents. He and I are the only Americans, so we can speak quickly and with slang to pass around inside jokes, making us pretty close. We like to joke about how awesome China is when we see things like power lines wrapped with tree branches. He will be attending medical school when he gets back to the US before summer's end.
Ellie is still in school, although I can't remember what she is studying. She is from the Phillipeans and her pictures and descriptions have made me desperate to go there. She can be a bit cocky and pushy sometimes, especially with things about Chinese culture and language. She's been here for a month and will be leaving in a few weeks, so she often likes to "teach" the other three of us about Chinese things that we'd much rather learn from a native. However, she is very kind and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with her.
The "students" were very receptive. At first, I thought they were maybe 19 or 20, but it turns out there were all graduates and were studying to be English teachers. They loved our games. There was one guy in the class, named Harry. Whenever we said his name the 20 other girls would shout "HARRY POTTER!" It was extremely loud when we played things like "I Spy" and a version of 20 questions. 20 excited Chinese girls and one guy that would spurt out English in confident little bursts. I thought I would die.
The first day was very confusing and we didn't really know what to do. I also had no idea the age or profession of the people in the classroom until the end of the day, when I gathered information on what they wanted me to talk about on the second day. They were interested in totally random things, from teaching games we play in the US to body language to colloquialisms to sports. Well, only Harry was interested in sports. At the end, Ellie and Alex left and Chen and I were left to our own devices for a few hours, after which "children come for English lesson." Again, no idea the age, or if we would be talking to these children. I was given a computer to mess around on while we waited for three hours, but the internet didn't work, so I took a "China is hard sometimes" nap and decided that everything would work itself out. Turns out the kids were, like, ages 3-5, and were screamign and squealing and totally hyper. One of the students from earlier led them in a very impressive English lesson that involved working with simply her talking and also some sort of audiotape song thing. "Lots of spaghetti on a big big plate..." sung by a British guy. It will be stuck in my head forever, she played that song a good 20 times. The kids were loving it though, and it was interesting to watch little children attempt to absorb a totally new language. It's not like they could really comprehend what was happening, so I wish I could see the results of such early English education. The teaching, at least, gave me a much better idea of what sort of things I could talk about the next day to be the most helpful to these people.
On the second day, I had prepared a presentation that I called "A Crash Course in America: It'll be as easy as pie," in which I introduced random cultural things about the US. I managed to slip in a slide about wearing seatbelts. I'm really determined on this thing. The class liked it, even if I may have gone a bit too fast at times, and I taught them awesome phrases like "going bananas" and "sup," which they repeated in hilarious accents. I also taught them the Chicken Dance, which they loved. Chinese people love learning new dances and songs, and were delighted when Alex led me in a dance (sorry if that didn't link to the right video, some things on my flickr feed I'm not allowed to look at according to China). I think I will have a great time teaching dances to the residents for Red Wings, although it is hard to find videos of such things here. I want to teach them the electric slide but can't access youtube, and so will have to find some other method of getting it. Any other similarly choreographed song suggestions would be greatly appreciated (no soldja boi. No.)
Bringing together all these students with Chen and Ellie gave me a better idea of how English is treated around the world. To us, it is simply our native tongue, but to these people, it is the language of internationalism and trade. People don't learn English to communicate with Americans or Brits, they learn it to communicate with eachother. Chen, Ellie, and the Chinese all have different native languages, and so use English to communicate. Considering the difficulty and ridiculousness of the language sometimes, I find it very interesting that English was the language to become so international. I feel that the people with the best advantage are those that are 100% bilingual Chinese and English, because both, I believe, are much harder than other languages to learn.
So, beggars here will often touch people. Pinching, poking, tugging at clothes, all are acceptable, or at least constantly practiced. These people are often small and stooped from malnourishment. I have heard mixed stories regarding them. Lance told me that they don't need to be homeless, and that there are facilities for them to help them live and get a job. Cartina from Shanghai, however, told me that many only live because they can scrape a meager existence taking plastic bottles from trashcans and selling them to recycling companies. An interesting way to get recycling done, but it is sad to see an old woman dragging around a bag of plastic bottles. However, the beggars are relentless and incredibly annoying. In the US, if someone asks you for money, they will give up quickly when you don't give them any. Here, they will just stand and continue to ask. In the bus station, a cripple continually stood in front of us while I mocked him in an attempt to get him to leave, and then started squaking at us with clearly defective vocal chords. Everyone else got freaked out and gave him money to make him go away. I found out, then, that the cripples in China cannot get jobs, so they use their uncomfortable defects to basically get people to pay them to go away. The blind, I found out today, mostly set up massage businesses. Getting a blind massage is a thing here. It's just the job you do if you're blind. I'm glad to hear that they have something they can do despite their hindrance, however it is sad to hear that they are basically assigned their lives when they lose their sight.
I'm going to start organizing my flickr feed so that it's not just a mess of pictures with no context. Flickr.com, search "Caleb Rogers." It'll be messy for a while though, so good luck. There's a good 800 pictures already, and a few videos as well.
Next time: The city of Nanjing, once capital of China before being utterly decimated by the Japanese in World War II.