march 23rd class 9 - thursday, 11:10 to 11:55
i laugh the class laughs...i laugh harder because the class is laughing harder...the class laughs harder which propels my machine gun laugh into overdrive which makes the students bang the desks and stomp the floor. i try to think of a metaphor or simile to describe this. what movie am i in? nothing comes to mind. fastimes? no. dazed and confused? no. gods must be crazy? almost, but no.
a student from another class appears in the doorway. one of the students in my class goes out into the hall to see what he wants. the teacher below us has sent the student up to complain about the noise. i think of 'rock'n'roll ain't noise pollution.'
march 28th - class 3, 11:10 to 11:55
the students are doing their ten minute eye exercises. this is something very chinese. i go out and sit in the sun on the porch which is on the side of the classroom where the students enter. over the public address system music that is very childlike plays with a voice that sounds like a chinese teletubbie giving instructions. the students take this very serious. the students rub their brows to the instructions while the music plays in the background. a student in the class monitors the class to make sure everyone is rubbing their brow and not doing something else. monitors walk by the classroom out in the open air hall as well and look in to make sure the class is rubbing brows and behaving properly. at one point, i asked the class if i should do the exercise. the class told me i could have a rest and enjoy the sun which is now what i do.
march 29th - 9:30 - 10:10
conversation and listening with the 4 international students
for the last week, the international students have practiced the twilight zone episode. during rehearsals (which i will call them for lack of a better word), i try to make them emote emote emote but they do not. i am not sure what to do with them. at the end of an unfruitful class, i play them a song on allen's cheapass guitar. afterwards, they ask me to play a back street boys song. i cannot explain or i do not know how to explain the backstreet boys are uncool. some things do not translate. to them the backstreet boys are what they love about american culture. they lump backstreet boys in the same category as pizza hut and kfc. they love pizza hut and kfc. okay, yes, the backstreet boys are pizza hut and kfc. this is appealing to the students. what is the real thing? pizza hut is not real pizza. kfc is not real fried chicken but it is okay in a pinch. the backstreet boys, they are okay in a pinch. this is what i am to get out of their music.
max is under the impression that backstreet boys are someone of whom i am fond. a few weeks ago when max and i were sitting together on a bus riding around shanghai, he pulled out his mp3 mobile phone and headset and gave me one of the earpieces of the headset to listen to. he then said:
'you like back street boys?'
'yes, of course,' was my answer. we then rode around shanghai linked together through music and earpieces listening to the backstreet boys. sadly, i enjoyed the bonding experience.
march 30th 12:30 pm
from a geography textbook, i make copies of a couple of chapters for the geography and culture class that i teach. i am in the office of the international division of my school which is on the 6th floor a breeze is blowing. i comment to jessie (orange couch negotiator and head of the office staff) how nice the breeze feels.
"in the USA, the windows do not open in office buildings."
she looks at me quizzically. i think about it for a moment.
"i think a lot of unhappy people work in offices there and jumping out the window is very tempting."
jessie laughs. "why tempting?"
"i am not really sure," i continue. "it might have something to do with the american dream, how people work to buy things that do not make them happy."
"the more they work, the more they want to buy which means the more they have to work. most americans would not be happy in my simple apartment."
2:30 pm geography and culture class with the international students
the sun is shining. the day is a beautiful spring day. we have class in the garden. i break the news to the students that in the next few weeks we will have a midterm. they look as though they might cry.
i give them the copies i made earlier from the textbook and tell them i will be right back. tess asks if i forgot something in my office. i tell her yes. i head in the direction of the office but as i round the corner of one of the mortar scarred buildings i make a turn and make a beeline to my destination. the songjiang public school has a two day break so there is not the usual activity on the classroom part of the campus. i reach my destination and grab what i need and hurry back to the students.
as i walk up from the opposite direction to which i left, they do not notice me. in fact, they do not notice me or the bag i have with me until i am right upon them. once i am close to the concrete table where they are sitting i pull the five cans of cokes out of the bag that i just bought at the canteen and set them in front of them. i say a line that i thought up and rehearsed to myself before i got back 'it has been scientifically proven that coke helps you study.'
the students are reading and sipping their cokes from the cans. i burp loudly and point to max. max, who looks like a comic strip character or a cartoon when he gets flustered, defends himself in chinese.
april 3rd 3:20pm art class with the international students
miko has not come to class. i ask the students where she is. they do not seem to know. allen sits and fiddles with her electronic translator while i lecture. i do not say anything because i know she wants the attention. i ignore her and focus on max and tess during my lecture. the lecture is on art aestetics and art criticism. we look at paintings from the text book by brueghel, joan mitchell, picasso, and pollack. i try to explain the movement in modern art to which mitchell and pollack belong. tess tells me she could do that as she looks at pollack's painting. i try to explain why his work is important. i do not think they understand. we look at the work of joan mitchell and say that it is an abstract of a street scene in paris. they both go 'huh?' allen looks up from being ignored and get interested in what we are discussing. she looks at the painting and goes 'oh, yeah, i see.' although, i know she really doesn't.
Max, Tess, Allen and I are in the school cafeteria. I am eating meatballs, pineapple, and rice. the meatballs are one of my favorite dishes in the cafeteria. they are very similiar to crockpot meatballs. i finish them off quickly and i start in on the pineapple. the students are discussing something. i ask tess what they are discussing.
"The pineapple not that good."
"The pineapple is not good?"
"No, taste old, like been sitting."
"So you don't think it is that fresh and it tastes old?"
"Yes." I kept eating mine. It tasted fine to me. Slightly dated pineapple does not bother me. My cafeteria food concerns kick in during the first bite of: strange tasting fishballs in tomato sauce; tepid phlem-like tofu; mystery chicken and pork parts; anything involving silver fish.