Saturday, December 29, 2007

Class Impressions

The semester ends January 11... I looked at the calendar the other day and realized that's only about two weeks away! The past few months have gone by very quickly, and looking back it's amazing to realize I've been a teacher since September. Despite the challenge of being thrown into the job with absolutely no prior experience, I have done my best to reach out to the students and increase their confidence in speaking English.

This term I taught just three different classes, meeting with each twice a week: one group of 25 female college freshmen; a class of 50 high school sophomore boys and girls; and 40 high school sophomore girls. I'll be teaching the same students again from March until July 2008. Here are some impressions of my first semester as "Janet, The Foreign Teacher" at the Zhanjiang Finance and Trade School.

College Students
From the beginning of classes in September, my college students have proved themselves a cut above the rest. Their English is the best in the school, and most of them willingly and animatedly participate in all class activities. These girls really love making up skits and dialogues as well as playing Taboo and "telephone." One of my most successful lesson plans was about American wedding vows. I handed out plastic rings and a print-out with a few example vows. After each "couple" read the vows in the front of the "priest" (me) and their "friends and family" (the rest of the class), they slid the rings on each others' fingers and hugged. Afterwards, I had the students write their own wedding vows and take turns reading them aloud.

My worst mistake with this class at the beginning of the semester was allowing the more confident students to dominate discussions. I didn't make enough of an effort to call on the quiet girls or to engage them in conversation. Thus, the class turned into a chat session between me and two or three of the same students. Only recently did I begin actually forcing the others to speak by calling on them and waiting patiently for their responses. Finally, I realized that just a little bit of extra praise can change the student's attitude forever, and turn the quietest young lady into an avid attention-seeker.

Take this example as an illustration of my point. During a Thursday night movie session with the students a few months ago, I decided to sit beside Andy, one of the shy girls in class. During slow parts of the movie, Andy and I chatted and joked around together; I could tell she was really enjoying getting attention from "The Foreign Teacher." Ever since that evening, Andy has been one of the most talkative students... sometimes I actually have to ask her to allow others to speak because her stories can be so long- winded!

A more recent conversion occurred with a very timid girl named Miranda. Last week in class, I asked Miranda to answer a question. When she hesitated, one of the more boisterous students immediately chimed in to respond for her; I stopped the louder girl and said, "Let Miranda answer please, she knows how to say it." A few seconds later, Miranda managed some answer or another, and we moved on. Later that night, I received a text message from Miranda that said, "Good evening, Janet! Today I am very moved by your words, 'she can say.' Thank you!"

This class was the brightest spot in my teaching this semester: a small group of very intelligent students who actually want to learn is every teacher's dream! All they need from me are creative ways in which to practice their English, a few kind words, and encouraging smiles.

High School
My class is the first Oral English course most of the high school students have ever taken; certainly, I am everyone's first foreign teacher. These children are Business English majors, which means they will learn English during the next three years in school and then join the workforce. Most will not go on to college. Overall, the level of English is at the elementary beginner's stage. Our book covers topics such as "Greetings," "Asking the Way," and "Time and Date." Below is a sample dialogue from Unit 3, "Saying Goodbye."

A:Well, I've got to go. See you later.
B: See you. Have a nice day.
A: Thanks, you too.

Because of the communication barrier, my progress with the high school students is more difficult to judge. Many of them are still very nervous to speak to me both inside and outside of class. Their abilities span a wide range: from the student with whom I can converse about Hollywood movies, to the student who does not understand the question, "What is your name?"

An interesting struggle I've encountered with the high school students is dealing with "the boys." Chinese boys- with a few exceptions, of course- are very difficult to teach because of the macho front they put on in order to impress their peers. They are often known for being especially hostile towards learning English, which is supposed to be a "girls' subject." So, showing any interest in English class will often alienate a boy from the rest of the group- God forbid! I only have seven boys out of about 115 students, but they've been the most difficult group to reach in class. Most of the time they refuse to take part in activities or to speak at all in English, preferring to goof off or sleep.

There is a handful of students who are dying to learn English, and show their interest by speaking animatedly with me during class breaks, sending text messages and writing friendly letters. In general, however, most of the younger students are extremely shy. It seems that they're interested in English and really want to speak with me, but are nervous of making mistakes. I've found that the best remedy for getting them to speak is just making a complete idiot of myself with goofy jokes and slapstick humor; I circulate throughout the class whenever possible and try my best to be enthusiastic about the subject matter.

My main objective with the younger students is simply to motivate them to learn English. I see each class twice a week for an hour and half; not nearly enough time to actually increase fluency... that's up to them and depends on how much they choose to study and challenge themselves in English outside of class. What I CAN do is be a good ambassador for the English language; simply by my presence I demonstrate that yes, there actually ARE people who speak English! And if you learn the language, you can communicate with them!

I bring in American candy and books, pictures of my family, English songs, and teach the students about holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope that my encouragement and friendship will help these kids remember the speaking we've done in class and give them the confidence to continue working on learning a language which may be the key to their success later in life.

It's been a good semester, and I'm looking forward to beginning another at the end of February!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

WHAT Did He Just Say?

There are plenty of English songs played in taxis, stores, restaurants, and bars in Zhanjiang... most of which are have never been heard outside of China.

Being one among just a handful of native English speakers in town, I am fortunate enough to have the ability to actually understand the very entertaining and sometimes inappropriate lyrics of these songs.

Take for example the following "love song" I heard just now in a cab:

Sexpot, Sexpot
You're my sexpot
Sexpot, Sexpot
Baby you can turn me on.
(REPEAT until song is over)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Parties

Last night, Scott and I went to Jamie's Christmas party for his students. The mulled wine flowed freely, and everybody had a great time taking pictures of the foreigners. It's amazing how much English came out of these students after they'd had a bit to drink! After the students cleared out, the rest of us sat around talking and listening to music for a few hours. The party officially ended at 2 am with a phone call from Sister Ann, a very no-nonsense Maryknoll nun who lives in the apartment directly below Jamie's. All she said was "It IS two a.m." and then hung up; after some frightened, whispered discussion, we all decided it would be safest to go ahead and call it a night!

Tonight was our school's Christmas party... QUITE the event! The venue was the third floor of the school canteen, which is also home to the canteen workers and their families; they attended (observed?) the party in their pajamas. A large group of students spent the entire day today decorating. By the time I arrived to help out, the students had already hung paper snowflakes, garlands, flashing lights, and a "CHRISTMAS PARTY" banner. The place looked great!

Scott, Irene and I were the hosts, which meant we were in charge of bellowing out "Merry Christmas!" and the instructions for games in English (which no one could understand), while the students translated. We played "Pin the Nose on Rudolph," "Name that Christmas Picture" and "Balloon Sandwich." Between each game was a different kind of dance done by students and other teachers; these included an Indian- Pakistani Dance, a Spanish Dance, a waltz, and a jitterbug. Some of the dancers were very talented, and danced surprisingly well (the Chinese are not known for their sense of rhythm). The best part of the party was the Chinese Santa Claus, played by a Chinese teacher named Zhu. His costume was complete with a long beard and padded stomach. Zhu seemed a little embarassed at first, but soon really got into the role by dashing around the room greeting the students.

At the end, we had a free dance session; the students were hesitant at first, but when "God Is A Girl" - a Chinese favorite- came on, they all rushed right out onto the dance floor. After the party, of course, was a 30-minute photo session during which every single student present wanted an individual picture with me, then Scott, then me AND Scott... and so on.

Later tonight, I received this text message from Zhu (the Chinese Santa Claus): I think the students work hard on the party because you come and bring the veriest Christmas party, so they like to take part in it. Thank you, you bring the happiness to us.

I don't know what "veriest" means, but I can guess & it's really sweet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Festivities

This year, I'm feeling the Christmas spirit in China! It's my first Christmas away from home, but with the help of tons of Christmas decorations in my apartment, constant Christmas music blaring from my computer, lots of plans for Christmas weekend, and Christmas enthusiasm at the school, I'm much more in the spirit of the season than I thought possible.

The English department is busy preparing for a big Christmas party, which will be held on Sunday evening in lieu of study hall. Scott, Irene and I are hosting this spectacular event, and all the students are learning "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in preparation. Wednesday afternoon, I returned from class and knocked on Scott's door to find ten students on the floor cutting out snowflakes and big "MERRY CHRISTMAS" letters to decorate the third floor of Canteen #1, where the party will take place. This morning, I finished autographing 50 Christmas cards ("Merry Christmas! -Janet") for prizes at our school's Christmas party on Sunday evening. The sad thing is that 300 English major students will be fighting over these at the party...

The Christmas party coordinators gave Scott and me a painstakingly hand-written English translation of the schedule for Sunday's blow-out. It reads as follows:

  1. Music (When Christmas Comes to Town) The music indicates that the party is going to begin.
  2. Music (Jingo Bell) The bell rings, the fairies dance happily towards the stage and the hosts show up, the fairies withdraw.
  3. The hosts tell something about Christmas and introduce the first act.
  4. Indian-Pakistani Dance
  5. Game
  6. Latin dance
  7. Game (ditto)
  8. The teachers' performance
  9. Game (ditto)
  10. The foreign teachers and a couple of students show how to dance. The students play and the foreign teachers teach how to dance with some simple words, eg. forward, backward, turn around, etc.
  11. Social dance. The students dance and the hosts pick the most excellent dancers and give them presents.

I don't know which I'm more excited about: the Indian-Pakistani Dance or the happily dancing fairies!

This week, I've worked hard to inject Christmas into my lesson plans. In addition to "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," we sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and "Up on the Housetop" in class. I found that the students particularly liked saying "CLICK CLICK CLICK" in the chorus of "Up on the Housetop." They mumbled the rest of the song, but shouted that part in loud, satisfied voices. It was pretty cute!

I also put together a slide show with Christmas pictures. Favorites were those of my living room at Christmas time; the students seemed especially impressed by my family's Christmas stockings and enjoyed reading our names on each one: Janet, John, Pam, and Jim (JIM! WE KNOW JIM!). Everyone agreed that my family members were very beautiful/ handsome, and that everyone "looks so young!" To finish off the class, we watched a Frosty the Snowman cartoon and I handed out candy my mom sent from home. Afterwards, I invited the entire class (50 people) to my apartment to see my Christmas decorations: utter chaos, but they enjoyed it!

I plan to spend a lot of time with my foreign teacher friends over the next few days; it's nice to have people to celebrate with. The festivities kick off tonight with a Chinese group dinner. Tomorrow night, Jamie is having a Christmas party for his students; Sunday is our school's party; Christmas Eve Scott and I will have a few friends over for drinks before church (all in Chinese). And Christmas Day, we are all getting together for a Western-style buffet at a nearby hotel.

Merry Christmas from Zhanjiang, China!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Text Messages

It was originally an accident when a single student obtained my cell phone number; she grabbed it from the front desk in class, called her phone with it, and the rest is history. Soon, my cell number spread like wildfire amongst the 90 high school students I teach. I receive numerous amusing texts from the students throughout the day, beginning before 7 am and flooding in until past midnight. Below are a few recent and funny text messages.

Sent during study hall (do I sense some procrastination?):
Dear Janet, Hello. What sport do you like best? I like running. I also basketball. Have fun! Janet, I LOVE you.

On my recent and unannounced trip to Hong Kong:
Mei Xiang Laoshi, are you coming back? I miss you. Somebody said you went back to Florida. That disappointed me, but in the end, all is false. GOOD NIGHT!


On my Christmas lights:
Good evening Janet! I admire you that your hostel is very beautiful! Are you staying home now! Could you open the window let us see? -Lindy

On my dad's visit:
I saw your dad this afternoon. He is very young, we really can't believe. He doesn't look at day over 30. This is amazing. See you soon.

On Kevin's stint as a substitute in my class:
Do you know that Kevin is a funny guy? I like that!

Jazz Letters

I received an e-mail from Kevin, my friend who teaches at the Zhanjiang Normal College, about an interesting class he held last week. Kevin played the following jazz songs in his Western Culture course:

Duke Ellington -- "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
Bessie Smith - "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl"
Sarah Vaughan - "I'm in the Mood for Love"
Ella Fitzgerald - "Ain't Misbehavin' " and "I Only Have Eyes for You"
Billie Holiday - "All of Me" and "The Way You Look Tonight."
Etta James - "The Very Thought of You"
Nancy Wilson - "Call Me Irresponsible"
Rachael Ferrell - "I Can Explain"

He asked the students to respond in writing to the songs; below are their thoughts on jazz music:

It is hard for me to tell you the truth. I nearly got sick after listening to jazz. That must be a long time for me to listen to it once more. So, I want to tell you that no more jazz please. - Khaki

So when you show us jazz. I was shocked. I seldom listen to it. At the first time, I could not stand the shrill voice of the singers, though I knew it was really great of them to sing like this. - Snow I do not like jazz, but on the other hand, I do not hate it. - Alice

After I heard the jazz music you played last week, I have to tell you that I hate jazz. I honestly do not know why I hate so much about jazz, but whenever I hear it, it makes me want to pull out my hair. Really, no idea why. - L. C.

I really hate the jazz you showed last time. The jazz sounds terrible. Sometimes, it is slow and loud. Just like the noise. They made me feel sick. I couldn’t bear it. I’m sorry to tell you that I dont want to listen to these kind of music anymore. I hope you can show us more folk music or pop music. - Dream

It makes me feel very sad and depress. Like having rain alone at a cold winter night. - Swirly

I can still remember that you presented some jazz songs for us last Wednesday afternoon. At a word, when listen to music, Jazz is not my choice. - Rachel

The music you play in class last time is quite different. Maybe I just listen to tune without lyric before. This time we heard the lyric. The lyrics is nice, but the singers always change their melody suddenly, this made me feel uncomfortable. - Kiwi

In jazz, some voice is exaggerated and it make me bored. It is like a river is stifled by cold weather in winter. To sing jazz, I think one need to take a good breath since some voice last so long. - John

Listening to music is my favorite. But after spending two classes researching American Jazz. I realize that not all music are good for me. It is not noisy enough like rock and not elegant like classical music. Actually, I don’t like it. - Betty

The rhythm of Jazz is so gripping that I shine in it. What is ridiculous to me is that I regard myself as the heroine, falling in love with Mr. Right or breaking up with Mr. Wrong. Actually, I like pondering upon my problems or planning my future life with songs going on. - Bonny

Hearing so many sweet jazz music. I was most carried away by the song “The Very Thought of You.” Even now, I still can feel the melody, ringing in my ear. - Yoyo

All of the songs are wonderful and attract me. However I like “Call Me Irresponsible” by Nancy Wilson most. It sounds very soft. It seems that the wind is crossing. The voice is perfect. I like love songs. I like this song. - Max

I really appreciate it for the wonderful Jazz in the last period. In fact, it was the first time that I had listened to Jazz, which impressed me very much. When I enjoyed the songs, especially “ I Only Have Eyes for You”, I could not help imagining that there were two lovers sitting in a relaxing place for dinner and drinks with the beautiful Jazz music. - William .

I love Billie Holiday’s songs very much, and I appreciate her. Her voice is like the sound of the wind, slowly and sadly, deeply beating my heart. Her songs sound like the sound of paradise. It completely understand my feeling. She sang the songs not by voice or throat, but by using her heart to feel and love and the world. - Miffy

It is also said that jazz helps us to improve our sleep and memory. - Sukin

Compared to Chinese rhythm, it is quite different. The singers always shout at the top of their voice and then drop to the bottom of the valley, which makes me tense up all the time. Chinese songs are rather smooth and relaxing. It helps refreshing one when he is tired or nervous, which appeals to me very much. - Crystal

Jazz is different from our popular songs, and all of us showed diverse mood. When I study song’s words, “All of Me” teaches me love deeply. I’m completely absorbed by the words, “Can’t You See I’m No Good Without You.” - Yane

I like the song “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Ella Fitzgerald. Ella has a wonderful sound and the lyrics of the song is excellent. People can’t see a thing in the sky, they don’t know whether the stars is out or the moon is high. What’s more, they don’t know where they are. How sweet jazz is! - Milk

That was my first time to hear jazz. But I am very sorry to tell you that, actually, I did not enjoy all the songs you gave us last class. When listening to them, I really felt that they were totally different from the songs I have ever heard. They are so terrible that none is suitable for my taste. However, I quite appreciate their words, which are so beautiful and moving, especially one called “All of Me” by Billie Holiday. - Betty

Here is some good news for you. I really fond of the song, “I’m in the Mood for Love” which you showed us. The lyrics and the tunes are amazingly wonderful. Besides, Sarah Vaughan’s deep voice adds to my love of the song. - Butterfly

It was not for the first time for me to listen to jazz. I have been exposed to it when I watched movies. Due to the fact that jazz was always played in some exclusive restaurants, it impressed me as songs for these elegant people who came from high level societal status. Now my opinions are changed after my further understanding towards jazz. I learn that jazz was originated from the black slaves in America. They created this kind of music to express their deep-in-heart feelings and relax themselves after exhausted work. - Canvass

I have seen many American films with a scene that a person enter a tavern and find a band playing jazz there. Another thing that when I listen to the Jazz, I always think of some songs appear in some movies about people’s lives in the old days of Shanghai. Perhaps the songs were influenced a lot by Jazz at that time. - David

Actually, I do not know much about jazz. My favorite singers are Avril Lavigne, Westlife, Black-eyed Peas, Linkin Park and so, so numerous. - Michelle

This was the first time I listened to so many jazz music. I was so enjoyable that I couldn't stop dancing, but I had to control myself. – Anny

Frankly speaking, I had no idea about jazz and never listened to it before. They sounds nice to me! As the famous saying goes, “Music is the art of life, the good medicine for a bitter heart, the source for a creative head.” - Alice

After class I went to the Internet for more understanding about jazz. To my surprise, jazz is initially formed in America, not France. I used to regard jazz as a kind of France music because of its romance. - Ansia

I noticed that jazz music is used in all kinds of films widely. For example, in a popular China film, an old jazz singer Nat King Cole’s music attracts large amount of Chinese people. – Jenny

When do you sing the jazz song for us? - Dolly

If it’s modern, I think I’ll accept it reluctantly. – Sherry

CHESTER'S LETTER:*********************************
Dear Kevin:

How are you doing? I have something wonderful to tell you.

Last Wednesday, I had a peculiar experience in our class. I had been to a large ship which looked luxurious and splendid. There was a ballroom and I was sitting by the bar.

It’s not crowd, but beautiful girls were not a little. I was tasting my red wine and falling into the music. The song was soft, graceful and made me crazy, just like a girl do.

She has a long hair, pretty face. Once one had met her, he must not forget it. Her voice was sweet. If one heard it when he was down, he must be all right soon. I urged to know her even though I knew it’s my imagination.

In the moment, I saw the girl. She just stood in the center of the ball.

"Yes, she is the girl,” I shouted. She must be the reason why God made the girl, if God is a girl, she must be as nice as the girl.

I came to her and open my mind to her. She smiled, just like an angel.

I was so excited that forget to ask her name. I just wanted to dance with her. She didn’t reject my request. We were dancing, dancing, getting out of everything, there were only us in the world.

We stopped until the ball was going to end. This moment I remembered to ask her name. She beamed and told me, Vera. What a nice name!

Suddenly the music was stopped,

“Jazz class is over. Please write down what you thought about the songs and hand it to me next week.”

Oh, gosh! I came back to the class, and the girl who was in the ball disappeared. If I had to choose again, I never wanted to wake up. This will be a fantastic memory. Vera, I will remember the name forever.

Kevin, thanks for the class. I love jazz very much.



Friday, December 14, 2007

My Uncle in Hong Kong!

I've spent the last few days in Hong Kong; I had to come here yet again for a doctor's appointment. This is the sixth time this semester I've made the trip, for one reason or another! A lucky coincidence was that my Uncle Robert from New York City happened to be here on business this week. He works at Deutsche Bank and travels a lot with his work. The last time I saw him was about a year and half ago... at that time neither one of us had the slightest idea that our next meeting would be in Hong Kong!

Anyway, Uncle Robert put me up in a very nice hotel right in Lan Kwai Fong, the famous bar district of central Hong Kong. It was fun to be right in the middle of the city! He and I went out to a couple of fabulous meals, including sushi and gourmet Chinese. Who knew that octopus could actually be appealing? Later, we had fun staking out seats on the street at the Lan Kwai Fong bars and observing people. Our favorites were two middle-aged people making out at the bar across the street: my uncle said they reminded him of two sea lions on the Discovery Channel.

Thanks Uncle Rob, I had a great time. :)

Happy Birthday to Me

Being the first one spent in a foreign country- and not just any foreign country, but CHINA of all places- I wasn't sure how my birthday on Monday would turn out... but it ended up being one of the best ever! I've never in my life received so much attention and so many well wishes on my birthday. I received about 30 texts and at least 20 gifts from students and other teachers. Everywhere I went on campus, people waved furiously and shouted, "Happy Birthday, ____ (insert different renditions of my name, such as "Jenny," "Janna," and sometimes "Janet")! It really made it a great day.

That night, a big group of foreign teachers and Ruth all went out to the Western Coffeehouse restaurant that has become our favorite. The food there is fairly authentic: you can get a nice steak or pork chops that taste similar to something from a restaurant at home. Jamie, our resident entertainer, played Christmas songs and Happy Birthday on the restaurant's piano.

The big surprise came at the end, when the waitresses brought out a gigantic cake that Ruth had picked out at a local bakery. It was beautiful, and like nothing I've ever seen before! The bottom layer was green and white striped and topped by a sort of pink dome covered in huge pink and white roses. Ruth said she'd had to choose between a Chinese and "European- style" cake, and this was what she ended up with when she selected the latter. After the significant job of cutting the beast was over with and all eleven of us had been served gigantic pieces, there was still about half of it left over. After dinner, Scott and I returned to campus and called one of the students, who was happy to take the lovely cake off our hands and share with her ten roommates.

Even though by that time it was ten o'clock, the celebration wasn't over. My doorbell rang for about an hour and a half, in a steady flow of students and other teachers bringing me gifts. By the end of the night, my kitchen table was covered in gift bags! What a unique and special day!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Horrors

It is with great foreboding that I read the following text from a student, received just moments ago:

Christmas is my favorite festival. We'll hold a Christmas party with you! It will be very fun! It is said that you will play the queen and Scott will be as a king. It's still a secret now. I look forward to coming soon.

I'd better go figure out an escape strategy, NOW...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dad's Visit

I've been very busy- and happy- the past couple of weeks... because my Dad was in town visiting! The fun started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when Scott and I traveled to Hong Kong to pick Dad up at the airport. He was pretty tired after the long flight, but we'd managed to reserve rooms at the haven that is the Maryknoll House, and after a restful night we were all ready to hit the town Thursday.

We explored a bit around HK and then headed back to the Maryknoll House and joined 100+ visiting priests for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. For someone fresh from the United States and my Mom's unrivaled cooking, this was nothing special. For me, it was heaven: mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, pie, bread rolls... Delicious! I was the only female in the room; needless to say, I was quite popular that evening!

Friday we squeezed in a little more sightseeing and then attended Kevin Clancy's wedding, Part 1/ American-style, in the afternoon. Kevin and his bride, a beautiful Chinese woman named Snow White/ Kaishan whom he met while teaching here in Zhanjiang, are an adorable couple. All the hard work and planning that went into this wedding really paid off, because everything was perfect. Snow White looked just like a fairy princess in a lovely wedding dress and sparkly tiara, and the reception afterwards at the Hong Kong Yacht Club was nothing short of glamorous. Everyone enjoyed a gourmet buffet and breathtaking view of the Harbor lights at night in the outdoor pavilion.

Saturday morning, the three of us joined the wedding party on the train to Guangzhou for Kevin's wedding, Part 2/ Chinese-style. Scott and I took Dad on a boat cruise, out for his first real Chinese food and then returned to our very nice, $25/night hotel. The Chinese banquet began Sunday afternoon in a giant reception hall decked out in red and gold, the traditional wedding colors in China. There were a few hundred people there from all over the world to wish Kevin and Snow White "Double Happiness." It really was a special occasion. We were served a lavish meal, which included many Chinese delicacies, and listened to flowery speeches translated from Chinese to English and vice versa. It was an excellent time: lots of people from Zhanjiang and other Maryknoll volunteers showed up. After the banquet, everyone regrouped to a nearby Irish bar, where there was dancing and drinking until late into the night.

Dad and I returned to Zhanjiang on Monday morning, just in time for my 2:50 class. He came with me and ended up teaching the whole class, which the students loved. "Jim" was a big hit at the Zhanjiang Finance and Trade School! I was worried he'd be bored here, but on the contrary: Dad attended all of my classes, played basketball with the students, gave a dental lecture to three of Ruth's classes, was the guest of honor at two dinner parties, went on a tour of a dental clinic, saw backstage at the Cantonese opera, and took photos with just about every single citizen of Zhanjiang. The four days completely flew by, and before I knew it, we were back on the bus to Hong Kong and saying goodbye at the airport.

I'm so grateful that I got to see my Dad for Thanksgiving, but it's hard to believe that the much-anticipated and much-discussed Visit Of Dad is now over with; it's even harder to believe that now I won't see either of my parents for the next 8 months. It doesn't seem possible that a person can just hop on an airplane for 15 hours and end up here in China- it's on the other side of the world, but it really may as well be another planet!

Thank you Dad for coming all this way to see me!