Saturday, October 20, 2007

Letters, Movies, and Foreigners

The past week has been the best so far since my arrival in ZJ; actually, each week has been slightly better than the last. If this trend continues, imagine how great my last few months in China will be!

For one thing, classes have at last begun to go well. Rather than dreading class all day, I've come to sometimes even look forward to teaching. A real breakthrough with the high school students came this week; magically, they're now participating in- even enjoying- class. I think the trigger was my letter-writing lesson plan, an excellent idea given to me by Kevin, in which each student writes me a letter about anything they want. I made a "USA-CHINA MAILBOX" so they can pretend to mail the letter. Even though I have 90 high school kids, I'm responding to each and every one. Since most of the younger students' writing skills are much better than their speaking abilities, it's a great way to get to know each child on a more personal level. The letters themselves were precious, of course. Here are two of my favorites:

Dear Janet:
Everything is going well in China? You are a American so you mute know a lot of Hollywood movies. The actor: named Pieers Brosnan I think he is very good. I know have seen the Jurassik Park the film is very wonderful in the film that man is very brave. When he is in danger, he as cool as cucumber. And the theme of film is very agreeable it is it?
Come from,
You student Patrick Sun

Dear Janet,
How are you! Nice to meet you! Welcome to our school! I like you very much and I like American too! I hope to be go to USA package! because I like USA very much, and American people is very kind. How in our school is happy? I miss you.

I've only had the chance to write back to a few letters, but we'll soon see how popular of a pen-pal I am!

Thursday evening was the inaugural "movie night," a weekly get-together Scott and I have started for the college students. Last week, 40 out of 75 invitees showed up for a showing of Happy Feet, which was a smash hit. The students, between ages 18 and 21, were engrossed in the film from start to finish: they thought the idea of dancing penguins was hilarious. The evening was a lot of fun. Next time, we'll make it more movie theater- style by bringing along some snacks for them to enjoy. It's a great way to get to know some of the students outside of class and provide them (and ourselves!) an escape from sitting at the dorm, bored.

I want to maintain my ability to speak regular, smooth English during the next year- which requires some interaction with other non-Chinese people. So, Friday nights I'm currently attempting to establish The Weekly Zhanjiang Foreigner Dinner at the Western restaurant we visited with Madison for Mid-Autumn Day (called the West Coast Coffee Shop). Last night we had representatives from the United States (Kevin, Scott and me), Wales (Jaime), and Cameroon (Irene). During dinner, Jaime treated us all to a mini-piano concert... much to the delight of the entire restaurant. Afterwards, Jamie, Irene, Scott and I hung out at a nearby bar and played the Chinese drinking game LIAR!

Now I'm planning for next week's classes, responding to 50 more student letters and finishing some little tasks I wasn't able to get done during the week.

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