huzhou, less food-related, Shanghai, students, teaching


08.09.10 | 5 Comments

Daytime soaps deliberately leave the greatest cliffhangers for Friday so that the viewer must suffer through the weekend wondering just who is the father of Theresa’s baby or if Louis will ever find out that poor Sheridan is locked in Beth’s basement and that the baby Beth is ‘pregnant’ with is, in fact, a sack of flour.

I suppose that Plate of Wander has been somewhat akin to a long weekend of late. It’s been a hiatus, a sabbatical, call it whatever you like, but here starts a new season of Plate of Wander. A new season with a new cast, a new location, and a new plotline.

This season, there’s a lot of backstory. You may remember John:

Well, I moved in with him and his roommate/fellow ballooner/Texan cowboy, Josh:

Two guys and a girl sharing an apartment in Shanghai. All we need is a whacky neighbor, an overbearing mom, a clueless dad, a quirky best friend, and an apartment out of our price range and we’ll have the next smash-hit sitcom. Or trashy reality TV show. It depends on tone.

We live in one of the hundreds or thousands of anonymous high-rise monstrosities.

I left Huzhou, the place I made my life for nearly two years. It was a difficult place to live, isolated and dull. Huzhou was not a mistake, but if my life in Huzhou were a steak, it would be ultra really totally well-done. There was a little goodbye dinner for me and TJ. All the teachers in the department came; some of them were surprised my Chinese was good. That’s because in the nearly 2 years I shared an office, they said nary a word to me.

These ladies talked to me every day, Hebe and Laura. I am so grateful to them for all they did for me.

The next day, I was on my last bus to Shanghai.

Shortly before I left Huzhou, I backed out of a contract I signed with a Chinese high school in Shanghai in order to take a job at a kindergarten that paid a lot more. The very first time I taught young kids, just a year and change ago it was an utter disaster. Now I’m teaching 4-to-7-year-olds a 50 some-odd hours a month (I told you it paid well).

Going from teaching shy, disinterested, self-conscious 21-year-olds to fire-cracker munchkins screaming at tinnitus-inducing levels is somewhat of an adjustment. However, it is extremely refreshing to ask a question in class and be met with a squealing chorus of “Teacher, teacher, let me try!” instead of the deflating sting of collegiate silence.

There are a lot of perks to the new school: instead of agonizing every Sunday night about what to teach the next week, I now have the soothing relief of a curriculum. I walk into school and have a lesson plan handed to me by one of the Chinese teachers, who are all incredibly friendly and helpful.

But best of all are the students. They are so dang cute; some of them are really really smart, others are trouble-makers. I get lots of questions like “Teacher, how is your hair so curly?” “How can you speak Chinese if you are American?” “How can you live in China if you are American?” and “How do you know English?”

And even better, I get cute kids who love me. In particular one student, Tony, in my youngest class, who can’t go three minutes without climbing onto me, usually by grabbing my neck, and kissing my cheek and saying “I love you.” One of the teachers, Annie, took this photo when we made noodles:

Do his eyes not make your heart murmur? Those eyes will definitely get him into and out of trouble one day.

Besides the job, there’s a lot we need to catch up on. So hopefully I’ll stick to my resolve to update regularly as before, because my life is changing quicker than I can type.

Also, check out my new photography page (because I can’t insert a link at the moment, look under the column “Inside” on your left, the last one entitled “Photography”), which has a nice little slideshow of my favorite shots. I’m planning to build up my own little photography empire, and this is one of the first steps. So click through and re-live your favorite Plate of Wander shots, and a few I’ve not posted before.

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