Sunday, 23 September 2012

I'm on to these roaches....

This is how I catch roaches. No more napkin battling!
Side note: The "leg" in this video wound up being roach poop.

 Prior to this video, we caught a roach; and after trapping it in this very bucket, I decided to spray it to death with Mr. Muscle. That cleaner is legit and potent to roaches. I'll never buy Raid again.

I've become a bit of a roach expert having only lived a China a month thus far! This video proves (to my roommate and I) that Mr. Muscle, indeed, is a wiser choice than Raid when it comes to ending the life of a cockroach.

When shopping for a roach exterminator, keep it mind that Mr. Muscle dominates Raid for these reasons:
1. Mr. Muscle is more cost effective.
2. Mr. Muscle is friendlier to your nose.
3. Mr. Muscle serves several purposes.
4. Mr. Muscle works twice as fast as Raid!
5. Mr. Muscle has a robust, brawny guy on the label :]

In China, roaches are ubiquitous regardless of where you are. You cannot live without them. Here are ways to cut down on the mutants:
1. Never leave a MORSEL of food out. This includes your trash.
2. Check your food cabinets for holes. If you find one, do not store food in it! Tip: refrigerate more food.
3. Live on a higher floor. Level 6 over here!
4. If you set out roach poison, put it in your roomates room so they are not attracted to YOUR room. Hehe.

More roach videos:

                                            Say hello to my little friend.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

International Pen Pals

One of our classrooms
Sam at Yu Shui 1

I had an idea last night. I want to write it down and put it out there so I do not forget. Ideas come left and right, but this concept really excites me. The initial idea seemed simple enough, but now I am unsure if it will work....

It did not matter what grade I was in; I always enjoyed a good pen pal. I used to get so excited over it! Especially when I received a picture, or got to meet that person. My idea is to set up a pen pal partnership with Chinese kids and American kids. There are multiple ways to go about it, and there are factors to consider.

My idea is for my two second grade classes (38 students total) to write to two second grade classes from America. It would be a fun way for them to practice their handwriting and their english. The benefits for second graders at home would be that they are ALSO practicing their handwriting skills, and they will gain knowledge and perspective through a cultural exchange. My nephews have NO IDEA where China is or what China is like. They do not know much about any other foreign country. They can learn about China; but moreso they can learn that people are different, but we all can get along. I'll make that part sound better later. You get the idea.

My second graders are learning conversational english and greetings. They are also learning how tell about themselves. I was thinking we could send our letters first. During the time it takes for them to get responses, they can be learning more english. I can set up a guideline for the kids to follow. An example would be:
 Sentence #1: In the morning I like to...... #2: In the afternoon I like to..... #3: At night I like to..... #4 My favorite food is....., etc. You get the idea.
They can end their letters with questions they would like to know about their new pen pal. They can decorate the letter, maybe even give American kids a Chinese name! The possibilities are endless. Then, they can exchange photos. Maybe these chinese kids can send a picture and say: this is how I spend my Chinese New Year. American kids: this is how I spend my Christmas. This can either be done by postage or e-mail. E-mail would be less expensive, but less personal. At the end of the year, I would love it if both schools could exchange a video of the whole class! I really think the students from BOTH countries would enjoy it and it would certainly make writing more fun.

I will put some more thought in it tonight and run it by my school, Yu Shui, this week. I'm trying not to get too excited over it just incase they do not like my idea. I need to make it sound super beneficial for them. I shouldnt't have to make it sound like anything. It IS beneficial to them. Students would love it, the school would gain recognition, and the parents would brag about it to their friends. "My little Mikey wrote to his American friend today!"
It would be more difficult setting up a partnership with a school from home because I'm  stuck here. I wish I had the idea before I came. I could e-mail some old teachers or maybe ask my sister for a Florence, NJ contact? My nephews go to Florence schools. I do not know any Florence teachers. Maybe I should contact my old primary school in Burlington City? I know that Yu Shui would have no problem paying for postage a few times a year. With budget cuts and everything else, that may not be the case at home. China pen pal fundraiser!?? If anyone has ANY suggestions, please let me know. How else would it benefit an American school? What ideas could go into these letters/cultural exchange? Do you think your child would enjoy something like this? How can I go about involving a school from home?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Eating out: Hotpot

Video of what happens when you order Kungfu noodles at Hotpot
(part of) THE GANG at Hotpot! (left: Sam, Scott, Candy, Ryan)

Our SPICY hotpot

Quail egg, tofu noodle


Dessert (peanuts to the right)

Alaskan Sam scorching his raw, grounded shrimp.
Canadian Scott eating tofu noodles with his Chinese girlfriend Candy.
Every Friday night, a group of us eat out at a nice restaurant. I cannot tell you how convenient it is having a Chinese person with us. We tell Candy what we like and she can read the menu to us; tell our server how we would like it; and make excellent recommendations. These are all of the things I struggle with on a daily basis. I look forward to Friday's!
Here, we are at Hotpot. Hotpot is similar to was is known as 'The Melting Pot' back at home, but there are quite a few differences.
At Hotpot, you are offered aprons because the food becomes unavoidably messy. The hotpot boils and food constantly slips from your chopsticks. Afterward your apron, they will offer you a clear bag for your phone, purse, etc. Then, they will deliver hair ties to all of the females. Regardless of what you order, your server will automatically put some vegetables, watermelon, peanuts, seaweed, and some black fungus (english translation IS FUNGUS) on the table. They are considered to be your free appetizer. You can find the all-you-can-eat fruit (watermelon and canteloupe), vegetables, peanuts, fungus, toppings, and sauces all at a medium sized buffet bar. The amount of tomatoes you can grab is endless so I am a huge fan. Adjacent to the juicy tomatoes are a plethora of dipping sauces and seasonings for you mixing pleasure. You can essentially concoct your own sauce, I love it! The sauces I can remember included: sesame, peanut (my favorite), mystery (it was pink), spicy, chili, etc. Toppings included: sesame seeds, crushed EVERYTHING, chili flakes, and all of this Chinese stuff that was too new for me to repeat. I will update this blog when I make a second trip. My three sauce choices were sesame, peanut, and mystery. They automatically gave us soy sauce. FYI: their soy sauces are NOTHING like the soy sauces from home. They taste more like vinegar. They are not as salty.
Like The Melting Pot, you are able to choose what you prefer your food to be cooked in. In our case, we went with what was most spicy. Some of the dishes we ordered included:
Lamb: I wanted to hate it. Mother of God, it was delicious.
 Quail eggs: they taste stronger than the average egg. Not my fav, but decent.
all types/textures of Tofu: I love tofu now and cannot wait to cook with it.
 Mushrooms: they were large and flowery looking. They had stems. They have a variety of mushrooms here that taste great. Mushrooms were the only food from home that made me want to puke besides certain fish. China has turned me on to them.
Shrimp: The server came out with a sheet of raw, grounded blue/purple shrimp. It looked GROSS. She spooned it out and threw it in the pot. They bubbled up to cluster balls of utter deliciousness.
Bamboo: Maybe it's just me, but I thought pandas were the only ones that ate bamboo. Apparently not. It was hard and kind of bland. I heard you can find tastier bamboo elsewhere.
If the food does not sway you, at least go there to test your chopstick skills. All I'll say about that is thank goodness I opted for the apron.
Most memorable moment of the night (besides knocking my beer over): I was the only one who had the exact amount of change, so after I bragged that "skillz" was my middle name, I leaned over the hotpot to hand Sott my kwi ($) and my 1 jow hit the pot and plopped into our spicy broth mix. They all gave me that look. Alexa moments: all day, everyday. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Once upon a bad day.....

I know that there are 100 other things that people would rather read about in a blog of China, but I don't care to write about them right now. All that I can think of is today. It's all I feel like writing about. Today was the worst day.

Let me give you some background information:

I planned on teaching older kids. 7th-8th grade. I'd have been happy with 5th-6th as well. I'm doing exceptionally well here, and hell, I'll just say it: I'm the best teacher in the newest incoming group. Eh, that's not saying too much (there are only six of us)! My roommate kept warning me to do a bad job because they throw the more effective teachers with the younger kids. At first, they wanted me to teach kindergarten. I held my ground on that one.With all do respect to kindergarten teachers, I did NOT come to China to babysit and assign nap time. I prefer to teach with a board and use my words; not sing on a magic carpet. You know what I mean. Even with Ryan's warning, I still did my best. Even though I was so eager and excited to work with older kids, I could not bring myself to do a bad job. I just couldn't.

When classes were assigned at the end of training, I found out JESIE wanted me to work with 1st-2nd grade. I was not happy about it. In short, I agreed to check out the school. I mentioned how great You Shou was in a prior blog. I don't believe there's a nicer school to work in, here in Nanjing. I was flattered.. My roommate looked so surprised when I told him of my placement. I heard they are picky. Oh, and did I mention I didn't know how to teach kids? I fell in love with the school, the kids, and the challenge. Try teaching English to kids who only know hello, goodbye, and one answer to how are you. "Fine!" they say.

I have been doing so much adjusting here. Know that is has not been easy. I am constantly out all day in unknown territory. I barely see my apartment until night time, and even then, I'm revising lessons. Don't get me wrong, I AM GLAD I CAME AND I AM HAVING A GREAT TIME. Not all of it is work! The built up stress reached its peak today is all. China is a terrible place to be as far as I'm concerned when you have a headache.There's no place to go for privacy (seriously). No park, no shop, no little alley or secret spot. Those places were found by people living here far longer than me. You're better off hiding in your room with the windows closed so you can spare your senses of the smells, spitting (huuuuugggghhhhhhh-ptttt), and the god awful beeping/brakes/car alarms. They are all inescapable.

Upbeat, I went to You Shao. I was motivated and wanted to do a
commendable job. I preferred to please them just as much as they wanted to please me. Strangely, more of my lessons have been observed than unobserved. If you speak with any of these JESIE people, they will all say that is unheard of. Some will go the whole year and not be observed once. Know as I proceed that I could be getting paid MUCH MORE working with another company/school. I teach in other schools as well as You Shao 2 (through JESIE). The school I am in is demanding more from me than I can take at the moment. If they were my only school, that would be one thing. I work at two other schools (different cities), plus I tutor a group of kids at someone's apartment twice a week. When I walk into a school, my job is supposed to be: teach your lesson the way you were trained (Val is a great teacher) and move on to your next class. I work for JESIE, not for the school. Sure, it's nice take part in activities and gain some good guanchi with who you work with, but it is not a requirement.

My second issue: You Shao promised me an assistant to help with translating. I was under the influence when I signed my contract that I would ease into the teaching, but that is not what happened. Not even close. I've had 2 t/a's at that school and NEITHER can speak any English. What was the point? The other JESIE teachers I know tell me that it's great having a t/a because it makes teaching so much easier. How did I get stuck with two t/a's that can't speak english? This school spent too much money on pear trees and not enough on teachers.

You Shao wanted me to collaborate with Chinese-English teacher, Amy. Try to follow me here. Normally, I would have four different classes to myself. Instead, my four classes are split between the two of us. I've collaborated before, no big deal. I actually thought I would learn something from her. Collaborating last week was miserable. While I felt like everyone else from JESIE was smiling and happy to talk about their classes, I was stressing over what to do the next day. First of all, I don't understand anything Amy says. HOW and WHY is she teaching English? I feel bad saying that because she is harmless and so nice, but seriously, why? And how do you collaborate with someone you can barely understand? We share four classes: Grade 1 Class 1, Grade 1 Class 2, Grade 2 Class 1, and Grade 2 Class 2. Since we are collaborating, shouldn't the classes be divided ABABABAB? We should see them back and forth. Instead, no class schedule is the same as the other. One class is AABA, another is BBAA, another is BBAB, and so on. We tried to communicate where we'd leave off, but it was too difficult. E-mails didn't work because a) I didn't have internet, b) I was still apartment hunting. It was the next day before I knew it. Texting was barely effective. I would get texts like "Hello Alexa. I finished page 2." That IS NOT how this should work. I sent her my plans, but she never sent me hers. We wouldn't even be teaching the same thing! I learned to teach them very slowly. One step forward and two steps back. It was embedded in my brain. She'd get through two pages and I'd be on half a page. We are supposed to stretch out the lessons. I stretched them out by playing a lot of games and putting them in teams. Amy did not. She teaches the "Chinese" way. I began my lesson planning at 10am on Sunday and did not finish until 7 (I had an hour lunch break). I only taught two of those lessons this week and have been planning AGAIN during the week. My lessons have been running smoothly, but the quixotic amount of time I have to put into them is going to set me back. NO OTHER JESIE TEACHER DOES THIS. Plus the constant observations and PICTURES. I'm not a bald Britney Spears! It just got to me after a while. I'd walk into a class, see that Amy already taught the lesson I was ready to give, and have to WING IT in front of principals and "paparazzi." Good thing that when it comes to creativity , I am a freaking genius. You'd die laughing if you saw the (totally awesome) games I have them play in order to learn a phrase. It is so rewarding when observers laugh and want to play. When I'm in long enough, I'll film a short video and show you what I mean. The school certainly does not mind pictures and videos. I KNOW THAT ONE FOR A FACT.

I deleted a very detailed paragraph of feelings I had about the vice principal of this school. I've decided that they were too harsh and, months later, I have deleted them.....I'll pick up here:

Amy and I told him again that it wasn't working and still, here I am,making new plans because we need help getting on the same page. I kept pushing and broke the rules: I demanded an answer (you should NOT demand ANYTHING in China) as to why we had to teach the way we were because the kids were learning less and Amy and I were pulling our hair out. I got my answer:

"We are trying something new this year. The parents are upset that their child is being taught by a Chinese-English teacher when there is an American teacher teaching other students. Because of this, you have to share all of your classes."

That's it? You're telling me that the only way to resolve that issue was to put us in this clusterf*** of a mess? The only way you can help to fix it now is to say "be flexible"? One of these days I am going to write a blog on the critical thinking skills of China. OH MY GOD. It takes HOURS for a problem to be resolved. I don't understand how I ever felt they would take over the world one day. Okay, so I'm being rude. I'm in a bad mood. Where was I going with this blog again? Oh yea, so I e-mailed V ver the weekend. I could not keep it up. Not with my upcoming load of classes ahead of me and still no internet.

V wanted to come in, observe one of my lessons, and try to help Amy and I collaborate. V speaks english and chinese so that in itself was a plus. Somewhere in my digging I found out (more I decided to delete about the Vice Principal)


I am going to do my best to refrain myself from curse words and insults. My third day in China I was robbed for my I-phone. Third. Day. In. China. I could write an entire blog on that day and the effects from it. Today felt worse than that.

I got to school a half an hour early, as always, to review. It was nice because I actually had some alone time. I was on my way to my first class when I saw Val. I was happy to see him. He came early to meet with the principal,
Madam Gu, before he sat in on my first grade class. My 2nd graders caught a break because all they did today was learn a song. Aw, my first song! Guess what? They already knew the song. I had to make up difficult dance moves and games to get through those 40 minutes. The bike was my favorite.
I was on my way to my 2nd grade class. I was in a great mood because I just got out of a great lesson. Kids can put you in the best mood! I thought the next period would be a breeze and V would see I'm good with the kids. I had everything mapped out. V sat down. The music came on for the kids to be seated. At 10:05, the kids had to do eye exercises for five minutes. I didn't talk to them when they first sat down because they get too excited and don't focus on their eyes! You Xiao is really serious about these exercises. I could see that V was wondering why I was not talking to them as if I was anti-social. I didn't explain. Figured I'd make up for it with my lesson. Miss cocky over here.

When the eye exercises were over, V, the principal, P, Amy, my T/A, Jenny Young (a principal of one school and a vice principal of another) and a male teacher from the school all sat in the back of the class. Besides Amy and my T/A, they all had notepads. You have got to be shitting me. This time
Madam Gu did not have her camera. There was a very tense ora floating in the air. Paul always says hello. He did not say one word to me. I tried to imagine they were not there, but it was impossible. I could deal with Paul, the principal, and strangers in my class, but for some reason, Val and that Jenny Young (even Amy) made me feel sick to my stomach. Moving on...

Class began. I threw up some review material from our last class: morning, afternoon and evening. I gave them flashcards and they had to stick them in the correct category on the board. I always divide them into three teams by table. The team numbers never change. Well, I was so flustered that I changed up their team numbers. BIG MISTAKE. I started blanking out. I would say something and then forget it. Was is a panic attick? Nervousness?It got really bad. It came out of nowhere! I've been observed so many times. Why now!?Whenever I would give a student a star, I'd give it to the wrong team because I'd have it in my head that they were a different number. It was REALLY bad. The kids got really upset and yelled at me. I can still hear, "Lexy, no! I'm team 2 ! Team 2!" UGH! I mixed their team numbers up so badly that I stopped giving out stars for correct answers. Pathetic, I know. Imagine what the adults were thinking.

Next, I had to teach them dialogue from their english books. I turn on the computer's e-book and the file froze on me. Aha! I had it on my flash drive. I popped that sucker in and it started right up. In the mean time the kids are talking. I asked my t/a to translate ONE thing: the directions. All they had to do was find little Beeno. She couldn't translate. I asked Amy. She had this "who, me?" look on her face and needless to say, nobody translated the directions. I tried gesturing find Beeno! I probably looked like I was having convulsions. At the end of the dialogue, I had some kids come to the board for a matching game (dialogue review). I saw the disappointment in their eyes when I didn't give them stars. I don't know who was more disappointed, them or me (I had no idea what team they were). I'm terrible!

It got worse. We moved on to something new: the letter g. I wanted letter A, but god forbid I don't go by the book made in Hong Kong. Those kids don't even know what an MTR is! My other first grade class was good with letters, but not this one. Wish I had known. It was my first letter with them. What worked in the other class did not work here.

"What word begins with g? Guhh-irl. Who can give me one more?"


And it went on from there. I could not move on to the game because they were not ready for it. I thought about improvising, but I only had seven minutes left and they hadn't finished writing the letter yet. The adults in the back all had these blank, bored looks on their face and I was becoming so upset with myself because this truly was the WORST lesson I have ever given since I've been here. As I walked aroung checking g's, I was thinking about all the hard work I put into my lessons and time wasted because I had to make new ones. I was thinking about how much everyone would dislike me because I brought Val in my second week. I thought about how this might be the only lesson Val sees me teach and it was awful. I wished I could talk to
Madam Gu, but I don't know chinese. In my head, I began blaming the school in because they lied and said I'd have a translator, and they put me with a Chinese-English teacher I do not understand. Next thing I knew, she-hulk came out in class :[

I walked right by the row of adults. After I saw the t/a and P I rolled my eyes at everyone. I ROLLED MY EYES AT PRINCIPALS. I rolled my eyes at Val. I barely smiled to the kids after that point. I couldn't fake it anymore. I was folding under pressure. So much pressure, all the time. It was the longest five minutes of my life. Normally I'd make up some quick game just to leave on a happy note, but this time I just drew the lines and wrote girl. I said,"okay, write girl" and just walked around, not even making eye contact with the adults. I was thinking way too hard about the situation and being too hard on myself. It was so bad. I saw there was a minute left so in a very fast paced, monotone voice, I pointed to the board with my marker and said,

"Okay kids, let's count your stars. Team 1: 1, 2, 3 okay. Team 2: 1,2,3,4, cool. Team 3: 1, 2,3 ,4 ,5. Yayy, you won. Good job"

With a little wimpy clap. Nobody cared. I hadn't given a star in thirty minutes. When the bell rang, I couldn't turn my head to the side fast enough. I packed my stuff (slowly) and made eye contact with no one. A minute later Val says, "Alexa, are you going to wrap up your class?" The kids were sitting, still waiting for me to say goodbye. How did I not notice? I always say something comical and then goodbye before they go. I smiled, said goodbye, waved, and turned back to the side. I wanted to go home. Not to my apartment, but back to NJ. I think I have issues. I didn't even collect their name tags. I ALWAYS collect their nametags. Never missed it. One by one they were running them to me, all happy, and saying "goodbye Lexy!" They love saying my name. They will repeat it over and over. Every time one of them handed me their nametag I felt worse and worse about myself. I suck.

I know: it was just a lesson. I know: who cares, I'm in China! I know: who cares what they think. Well I do care. I wish I did not care! I wish I could just say better luck next time and learn from it, but no, I get angry. It's not even angry. I go mute. That's what I did. I just stopped talking. The worse thing you can do is push me and make me talk. I just wanted time to breathe. No talking! No more Chinese! I don't understand! Get away for five minutes! Zai jian!

I had zero time to get my head straight. I wish that was all that happened. I immediately had a meeting with V, then V and Lizzie, and after that I just left. I just couldn't take it anymore. Mute. He talked to me about what he discussed with everyone about collaborating and we discussed P, of course. During our conversation, I only heard every other word that came out of his mouth. I just kept replaying my pathetic lesson and made myself believe that the school was annoyed I brought V in (even though Amy wanted just as much help with this as I did). I didn't even make eye contact with him. Val might be the nicest guy I've ever met. And he's so funny. And I love all of his tattoos. I thought if I looked at him I'd cry because I failed. I can't believe I'm sharing this with people I know and will have to face when I get home. I will freak out if someone sees me cry. Well, by freak I mean do what I have to do to get away from the situation. I hate it when people get in the damn way of that. If I explode, that's why. Just move! Anyway, I'm still not even sure what I agreed to with Amy. Every rational idea was cut off because of the parents parents parents. I am so tired of parents not listening to the teacher! We know what's best for your kid! Good job, after all that money spent, now your kid gets an average education because you're in denial. And you know what they're going to do with your money? Plant hot peppers. Why would they hire a t/a or a second teacher who knows english? That would be downright stupid, wouldn't it? I believe the final agreement was Amy would teach one page and I would teach the other. Every week. We are not allowed to go pass that one page. Now you have 3 principals, and three teachers. What excellent critical thinking skills! Why didn't I think of that? What a shame I did not think of that.They sure know what they're doing. Page by page. Genius!

The P issue. They pretty much straightup told P that he needs to stop talking to me so much and he needs to understand that when my class is over, I need to get out so I can make it to the next. P nor Amy said anything to me today :[ I didn't want it to be all of this! I just wanted to spend a normal amount of time on lessons and do them without the headache. The collaboration was not working for either of us! Amy was the one who called Jenny Young. I don't mind talking to Paul; he just did not understand that I HAVE TO GO. He lives at the school. Literally. He lives on the top level with his wife and 2 year old.

By the end of the conversation V told me he wanted to save his constructive criticism for another day. I already know everything on that list. He apologized on behalf of the school and for all of them sitting in without my knowledge. He didn't need to apologize for anything. Then it happened. IT HAPPENED. I looked at him. This is where I sound psycho. I cried. I FREAKING CRIED. Not like a baby, but I felt the tears rolling to my chin. C'mon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then Lizzie walked up. I talked to her staring at the ground. I told V I felt like an idiot and wanted to go. I could tell he wanted to make me feel better about the situation, but didn't know how. I knew I'd regret crying so bad. I smiled and said I was good and would wait for his follow up e-mail. I dwelled on it for hours. WORST DAY. I hate my life.

Doesn't sound like much to you does it?  Stress and exhaustion have been building, trust me. I wish I could have let my frustration out in the apartment or a fruit stand or something. I let the stress get me in the classroom. That's my biggest problem. I let myself down. I also failed under pressure. I just need to go to sleep. I feel better after writing about it. I've always found writing to be therapeutic. I need to mention that I do actually care about the reputation I leave. So what if I may not see these people again? A majority of the world laughs at us. Most people I meet here will not meet many other Americans and so I want to leave on a positive note. Represent.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Getting Settled

I have been in China almost two weeks now and I have finally settled into an apartment. It has been a long, grueling day; and at 10:15pm, I am ready hit the floor. I am currently laying on another stiff bed, only this time with new white/pink sheets. I think I had something like this when I was 16. It was on sale, what can I say? It doesn't matter that the sheets are new because this entire apartment is covered in dust, dirt, and residue of the last renters. I can see the thick layers of dust hanging from the ceiling light right above my bed. The dust bunnies are toying with me. Just when I thought my new habit of sneezing wore off, it is back again full throttle. So, everyday has been long, but today especially. In this blog, I want to talk about my job (finally assigned), apartment hunting (hello roaches), and my first day as an ESL teacher.

The Job

I applied for a high school position. Unfortunately, I need 1 more year of experience so I was offered a 6-8 position. I got here and things took a turn. V  asked me to teach kids. Little kids. Primary school. I did not hesitate when I said no. Then I was told that the lower level teachers are put with middle school because it is easier. They already know English by that point and are rather obedient, so it is not as much of a challenge. They thought it would be a pity to put me with 7/8 grade. I agreed to visit a primary school with V and have a look. Perhaps I should have taken Ryan's advice and done a poor job during training to avoid being put with kids. I remember being up there giving a pretend lesson and pretending to slip on a banana thinking, aw man, they are so gonna try sticking me with kids for that one. I came here for a challenge, but I did not plan on teaching little kids. I don't know how!

My company, JESIE, hires us to work at a variety of schools, but I had no idea how nice this school was going to be. If you get a chance, google YU SHUI WAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (yo-shou). There is YU SHUI 1 and YU SHUI 2. YU SHUI 2 is the top primary school in Nanjing. It's hard to even get a job here. Extensive interviewing I hear. I heard allllllll about it. People in this city would assume I am some high level educator making dough and paying someone to lick my toes. Little do they know, however, that I am living in dust and naming roaches. Yu Shui is nicer than my university. Okay, I'm exaggerating. I didn't understand why V wanted me to teach there when I have no "real" teaching experience with kids. It didn't make sense. I work well with teenagers.

I sat at a conference table next to V and there were four other people waiting, "eager" to meet me. They shook my hand as if I was saving the school or something. I didn't know how to act. The principal of the school stared and smiled at me the entire session. Literally, I would be talking to someone else and I'd see her in the corner of my eye smiling at me. Later I found out that they adored my resume, and loved that they had a blonde hair, blue eyed female teaching in their school. The parents would love it! I was told a blonde hair/blue eyed female teacher in China is rare.

English is a huge and rising deal here, and so these parents are paying top dollar so that their child learns proper English. I wish you could have seen parents during placement. They are hardcore on these little kids. I saw two kids nearly in tears when they could not answer "what do you like". I am collaborating with a Chinese-English teacher, Amy, because I have to help HER! I cannot teach kids. I DON'T KNOW HOW. I will meet with her every week to help her plan. In return, she will help me with classroom management and getting around the school. I have to learn what my boundries are in China. It's not the same here. Rules have been flipped inside out. Chinese people really do think and act differently here.

So, I'm at this conference table, I have Amy asking me all these questions, V is translating for me in Chinese, Chinese are speaking Chinese about me and I am just smiling away nodding my head, and I have this British man trying to give me tips, but he doesn't even work in the classroom. Mediocre tips. I just felt like my head was going to explode at that table. During the taxi back, V and I just started laughing and he FINALLY told me more about this school. It is amazing and I have no idea how the heck I got here. It's scary though because they expect so much out of me and I have very little experience with that age group. After giving a few demo lessons (scary), I suppose I was rated me effective. They treat me so highly here, I don't understand it. Is it because I am American or something else? I've met one or two people who have been working for JESIE far longer than me, and I want to know why I am about to teach here and not them.

Lastly, I have a fourth grade and 2 more 1st and 2nd grade classes at Yu Shui 1. That's great because I wanted to also work in a regular school that way I can compare. I am spoiled at Yu Shui 2 with Smart Boards (not the same as home) and modern looking classrooms. They even have a few computers :] Every other school has wooden chairs/desks and a green chalkboard that bends back if you write on it too hard. I want to teach at both. My fourth grade class has 50 kids in it. Oh God!

Apartment Hunting

Days 1-3, I stayed in a hotel. Afterwards, I was put in an apartment that I didn't want. They are supposed to give us a few options. I had nothing to compare it to. I knew that secretly these JESIE people wanted me to get comfortable and just stay, but I kept my bags packed and asked about seeing new apartments everyday. I just knew that I could get better. I'm not sure many of my friends/family could have stayed there. It just felt so dirty. At home, you clean apartments before you rent them out again. Here, they are left and shown "as is" from the people who lived there prior. It can get pretty grimy. Each day is nonstop walking and I have packed and moved my luggage about 4 times now. I sweat just thinking about it. I've seen about six apartments in three days. There is always something seriously wrong with them. I am not high maintenance! Ex) one of them only had 1 air conditioner (2 bedrooms) and the other only had a squat toilet and the shower was directly over it. Stuff like that. The other hard part is the roommate nonsense. It's too expensive for me to live alone. Nanjing is a popular city and the prices only increase around here. The ONLY 2 girls who showed are leaving :( Val said that like clockwork, some people come and leave every year. You either love or you hate China. Some people do not want to adjust. There's quite a lot of adjusting to do around here. You CANNOT let yourself get angry. More about that later. There is NO WAY you can live here if you are not open to adapting to a new lifestyle, get angry easily, or freak out over dirt or urine. You have to be independent here. You do A LOT on your own. It can be a lonely place if you do not force yourself to roam. You have to find your own way around and make it work. I guess it's not for everyone. I digress, in this case, it's not for the 2 girls(Samantha and Alex). I can only room with a guy. Greaaaat. I'll try and hide the tampons.

I decided to room up with Ryan, who I will talk more about soon. I was only a day away from teaching so I could not live out of a suitcase anymore. My options were limited. I was up at 7:30am to have blood test, some boob-suction cup-thing, an ultrasound, eye exam (basically a lovely morning), and then immediatley saw other apartments. All day, moving moving moving. Meeting agents, meeting up with landlords,shopping, blah blah blahh. It has been days of this walking/moving/getting lost/training and I was so glad it is over. We had the option of this place or another. We offered to pay more for the other place, but suddenly this place was our ONLY option. Not fair, but okay.

Compared to the last apartment I stayed in, this place it more spacious and it is easier to shower in. We actually have a living area. Leather chairs. Tv. The kitchen is way worse though and the refridgerator stinks up the entire place when it is opened. The other apartment had its own room for hanging/drying clothes. In this place you have to hang your clothes on poles out of the window of your bedroom. They left a stick for help. It feels wrong to hang my underwear in the wind. You should have seen me try to hang sheets and a towel. The sheets nearly fell off and so I had to change windows. Nearly broke my neck hanging out of that window. I know there was someone somewhere laughing at me from their window. The very first thing I hung was a bright pink towel (it was white when I washed it). It fell 4 stories. Saw it hanging near the ground on somones window. Of course, someone took it.

So Ryan and I are PAYING to leave this place. Ugh, where do begin? I can only think of one word to describe the vibe in this place: kafkaesque. I've read that term, spoke that term, and now I have lived out that term. Besides the greasy, dusty, sticky, odorsome, dark and gloomy condition it was left in, we are leaving for other reasons. I woke up my first morning to "you're not going to be happy." In two days, Ryan and I collected 15 roaches. Many of them were rather large. We have to walk nine sets of steps to get up here, so we thought roaches wouldn't be an issue (higher is always better). Big, thick, brown, long legs, stick to everything. EW! They just appeared everywhere. I never saw 1 bug in the last apartment. Also, the very first morning the toilet broke. Poor Ryan took a #2 and it took him an hour to get it to go down. Ha, glad it wasn't me. It is safer and cleaner to just go out of the window. Kids want to poop on the ground everyday (you step in it), well so can I. Anyway, in addition to the toilet, the sink started leaking. Everytime you turn on the water your feet are soaked. Did I mention that there is a hole in the bathroom floor and when we walk in it smells like a dead animal? The only way to keep it from stinking up the whole place is by shutting the door. Sound like a place you want to take a shower? Don't even get me started on the kitchen! The landlord never cleaned it. It has old dishes in it, grease and food residue EVERYWHERE (smells), dead insects pasted over everything, a refrigerator that smells like ungodly, and for some reason we keep finding roaches in the sink. At one point I just stopped talking to Ryan as he tried to stay optimistic. I just sat there with my runny nose from all the dust, staring at the danky walls, while the landlord was fixing the toilet. I found a roach under a chair as I looked around. It was alive on its back. I looked over the chair to a spot I had found a roach before. Its leg was lost in the napkin battle. It layed there on the floor, looking like some chinese symbol. HOME SWEET HOME it must have said.

In order to leave we have to pay 1200 RMB (half months rent), and 1700 RMB for the cost of agents. That's about $445. That does not include the money we have already spent to clean this shithole up and the taxi we will have to pay to move our luggage because I am DONE rolling these 2 heavy suitcases, heavy messanger bad, and 2 backpacks around the city. DONE. I am running out of money here!

My First Day of Teaching at Yu Shui 2

Beep! Honk! Haha! The traffic here is horrendous. Just when I thought Costa Rica took the cake...nope. The center of the traffic are the cars and then there are lines and lines of bicycles and motor bikes all beeping their horns and bells at eachother as if they are orchestrating some traffic musical. Try getting a taxi in that mess. I saw two Chinese people point and laugh at me. Chinese people have no moral filter. They will point, laugh, and make fun of you. Especially if you're fat or smell. My first 2 taxis did not recognize the address and the third one brought me to the wrong location. That was before he tried to rip me off. I had to tell him to turn the meter on! The travel books I read were so right about taxi drivers ripping off foreigners!

Amy saved me when she answered her phone and gave the cab driver directions to the school. With no time to review my lessons, I was thrown right in with the sharks: 1st grade. They all just stared at me. "Good morning boys and girls! My name is Lexy! Lex-eeeeeh!" I just remember thinking what the hell are you doing here. It was great though. I'm really good with the creative side of it all; it's the reprimanding and classroom management that baffles me with this age group. When the 2nd graders became too talkative, I gave them the stare down and asked, "Who is talking? You!?" Then I would point 2 fingers to my eyes and point at them. Real smooth.

I had them color their name tags and I made sure they all had english names. Sounds easy right? No! They don't know english! Some knew a little. The even richer parents sent their kids to an international kindergarten. Those kids knew a little english. During one of my lessons, a group of adults came in and started taking my picture. The principal came in, smiled brightly, and gave me two thumbs up. Alrighty then.

After class came lunch. I walk in with my notebook and LWE books because I thought I was having a meeting during lunch. I also walk in with a bright orange cup of hot water. I will explain the deal with hot water in another blog. As soon as I hit the cafeteria, or canteine, I ended up talking to three very nice teachers who wanted to meet me. By the time I was done with them, everyone was sitting down eating. I made my way to the food guy. He did not know english. I picked up a bowl and he shook his head no. It was for rice soup (he pointed). He held up a plate and I guess I was supposed to tell him what I wanted. All I saw was questionable meat and something squishy, so I pointed to what was green. I had "greens" and rice. Mmm. Everyone at the staff table stared at my tray when I sat down. And I was the only one with a book of any sort, and I was the only one in the whole cafeteria who had a drink (they do not drink with meals). I feel like there won't be a chair for me at that table tomorrow. Westerner.

After classes and lunch I had a meeting with the principal, another principal from another school, the vice principal of the english department, and Amy. In short, it was explained to me that for some reason, kids at this school are scoring lower on standardized tests (in english) than those in regular schools. Their books are exceptionally better, and they are taught additional english classes. They are taught two english books whereas regular schools are only taught one. What can we do about it? What ideas can I bring to the table? The whole meeting was the four of us bouncing ideas back and fourth. Note that I said the four of us. The principal of Yu Shui just took pictures of me talking with them on/off for fifteen minutes and disappeared. She tends to do that a lot.

After finally leaving at 4:00pm, I was ripped off by the taxi driver! I told him, "Fop-yow!" and pointed to the meter. He acted like it was out of paper. At the end of the ride I said "Fop-yow" again, and he started yelling at me! I paid him, got out, and felt defeated. I was defeated. Whatever dude, I slammed the door so hard getting out. Great way to end a long day. It wasn't even over; I still had apartment hunting to do.

It is now day 2 of teaching. I have to be out of this apartment by 6pm. I have no idea where I'm staying tonight and I still have to see more apartments....and pack...and prepare my lessons. Oh, and I cannot keep paying for these hotels. They do not want to let she-hulk out of her cage!