Tuesday, October 14: Before I came to work at the university in China, I was asked to prepare an English Interest Course (EIC), which I would teach to about 20 students for 6 one-hour sessions. I was told the course should be something about Western culture, or anything that you would teach in an English Corner.
Taking the assignment seriously, I went to great lengths to prepare a course called “Road Trips American Style.” I found several movies from which I would show excerpts: Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Thelma & Louise. I also found a lot of great literature about road trips. I planned to use excerpts from some of these: an essay by Ann Patchett about a trip in a Winnebago, “My Road to Hell was Paved;” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig; American Nomads by Richard Grant, Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon; and Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck. I also prepared a Power Point presentation about different modes of travel, using photos of everything from bicycles to Airstreams to Volkswagen buses. I planned to prepare more presentations on types of hotels, sights to see, types of roads. The final goal was to have students research and present their own one week road trip, deciding on which vehicle to use, what roads to take, what sights to see, what hotels to stay in and what restaurants to eat in.
Way too ambitious!!
So much for my great plans. When I got here, I was told that the EIC courses are meant to be fun and light. Some of the courses taught are yoga, sports, photography, etc. My course would have involved too much reading and preparation, too much work. The literature excerpts would have been too difficult and too time-consuming. Thus I had to rethink my course.
In Oman, I had prepared a course for an English Corner about places to visit in America. In Oman, the English Corner was voluntary, and thus no one ever showed up. Here, the students are required to attend one of these courses for a course credit. Their attendance and participation are mandatory.
Adjusting my expectations, on a whim, I decided to teach a course on Storytelling Photography. For my first class, I presented great photos that tell a story, using examples from Steve McCurry and other photographers whose blogs I follow. Then I told the story of my life, including my family and home in Virginia, and my travels to 16 countries over the last 5 years. In total I had over 140 slides. The poor students were probably ready to tear their hair out!
I told the students that for the next three sessions, we would visit places on campus and take photos which they can use for a 5-minute 10-slide presentation telling a story about some aspect of their lives. They can use any of the photos we take on our outings, or they can use photos they take on their own time.
Our first outing today is to the market on the campus. We meet first at the Experimental Building where I take attendance, since attendance is mandatory. Then we walk to the market together. Who knows if some of the students sneak off; I can’t keep track of them all. On the way there, one of my students tells me he would have enjoyed just spending the whole semester seeing pictures of all the places I’ve traveled. So I guess my slide show didn’t bore them after all. At least this student enjoyed it. 🙂
On the way to the market, a rat runs out in front of us, and one of my students stomps on and kills it, picks it up by the tail and disposes of it. I’m a little shocked by this but not too much, as I find rats disgusting. I’ve heard of some apartments on campus where rats have been a problem. If I found one in my apartment, I would really freak out. I already killed a 3″ cockroach on my kitchen counter one night in the middle of the night. Now I’m always wary when I get up for a drink of water.
It’s really great having my students with me on this trip to the market. I came here before by myself, and I’m sure the market vendors were wondering why I was walking around snapping pictures of them. At this time of day (3:00-3:40), the market is quite slow and not even all the vendors are open. I ask my students to explain to the vendors what we’re doing, and actually most of them seem quite happy, I think even flattered, that we’re there to take their pictures.
It’s great to have my students, who are in the second year of their studies, along because they can explain what things are. They tell me these men are playing Chinese checkers. The game is quite rousing, with a lot of yelling and slamming of game pieces on the board. I have seen men sitting around playing this game everywhere I’ve been in China.
The market is a rough and tumble place where business is of primary concern. These are hard-working people who take pride in their merchandise and aren’t afraid of the nitty-gritty.
I ask my students what this vendor is doing with his torch. I stupidly say, “Is he cooking the meat?” One of my students tells me, “No, he’s burning off the fur.”
I’ve always wondered what these fruits are, and they tell me, after looking it up on their Chinese-English dictionary app, that they are jujube.
I’m told these are persimmons.
Some of my students make this vendor happy by buying some of her fruit.
I’m sure the vendors enjoy this slow time of day when they can socialize and play cards. I don’t know what game they’re playing.
In Oman, I used a drying rack in my apartment to dry my laundry. Here, we have either a balcony or, in my case, an outdoor laundry room with a high pole on which we hang our laundry on hangers. These poles are used to reach up high to hang up the hangers.
Someone just washed their tomatoes.
We find this colorful cardboard lantern and some of my students point out the various motifs such as dragons.
Another of my students pulls me over to a garden shop to show me what he calls a fly-catcher. I look up Venus flytrap and it doesn’t look like this, so I’m not sure what it is exactly.
Some of the children’s umbrellas are sparkly and goofy.
And I believe this is some kind of rubber ducky vehicle.
This man is fanning the flies off of his meat.
And these are a couple of my students who picked up some produce while here.
One of my female students is wearing some very interesting shoes.
I stop to study this notice board outside of the market, but I can’t understand a word.
And here’s someone who’s ready for the market, either a vendor or a buyer.
At 3:40 our class is over and I tell the students they’re dismissed. Next week we plan to go to the sports field. I’m not sure where the third place will be. Stay tuned to find out. 🙂