Sunset Boulevard is on the agenda for today. The Shanghai 90210 will listen to a snippet of the movie and fill in the blanks with words like ‘murder,’ ‘detective,’ ‘Los Angeles,’ ‘distorted,’ ‘blown.’ Lately, I have been slack when it comes to making them think and listen for words. In the conversation class, I was reading Maus to them. I have switched it over to the geography and culture class. I am making them read it on their own now.
Last night, when I went through my DVDs, I thought ‘Sunset Boulevard’ would be a good one to use for the conversation class. We could take it one chapter or a few scenes at a time. William Holden –who speaks standard American English - narrates the beginning. I hope that it will be a fun educational exercise for them. I email the exercise to myself. I will print it out at the office. I get to the office ten minutes before class starts and try to pull up my email. I cannot access it. I have to make a decision whether to run back home and put the exercise on a disc and run back or stay and keep trying to access my email. I decide to run home. I should have enough time.
Quickly, I head home. I rush into my apartment. Turn my computer on. The time is 11:03. I should be able to load it to a disc and run back to print it in time for the 11:10 class. By the time the computer powers on and I load the document to the disc, the time is 11:05. I run back to the building. I should still have time. The snag - when I get to the building, the elevator seems to be stuck on the 4th floor because students seem to hold up the elevator in between classes. I debate whether to run up the six flights or wait for the elevator. I am winded from running to my apartment so I wait. The elevator finally comes right as the first bell rings. I have 2 minutes. The students in the elevator dawdle on each floor getting on and getting off. I decide to not stress. I arrive on the 6th floor as the second bell is ringing. I stop into the classroom and tell the students I have to quickly print something off and I will be right back.
Now, I slow down a bit. I stick the disc in my office computer and print the document. I then go into the assistants’ office and make four copies of the document. I walk back to the classroom. I tell the students we are going to have a listening exercise. Tess wants me to play the subtitles. I tell her we are doing a listening exercise. We are not pulling up the subtitles. The credits roll at the beginning. I tell them they have to listen closely because it moves pretty fast. Miko and Allen keep talking. William Holden starts narrating. Tess and Max busily write. Allen then starts writing. We get through it the first time. Tess asks if we can slow the voice down. I tell her that is how people talk and they will need to become accustomed to it. They do not fill in many of the blanks during the first run through. However near the end, they get more. Allen says some of the words they do not know. I tell her most of the words they know. Skip the words they do not know. Miko says “Play, Play.”
I play it again. They get more of the answers. Answers they do not get right are close. Max puts ‘story’ for ‘distorted.’ I play the exercise four times. Each time they get a few more right or at least they are close to getting them right
The bell rings. They head to the elevator. I do not leave when they leave. I dawdle in the classroom for a bit. When I get to the elevator, the door is shutting and they see me but do not hold the elevator. I decide to go home to scrounge something for lunch. I see the numbers as they count down to number 1. I can hear the Shanghai90210 in the elevator. I then see the numbers light up for each floor as the elevator climbs back up to floor six. When the doors open, Max, Tess and Miko are inside. They lunge out at me which startles me. I start laughing. I will go to lunch with them after all. We all walk toward the cafeteria. Allen is missing. I assume she is already in the cafeteria.
I follow Max. He has to put money on his food card. There is a long line. I then see Allen at the front of the line. Max goes up to her. They head back to where I am. They are in front. I am following. Out of nowhere, I am grabbed. I turn around and Tess has grabbed me at the waist. She says they are lovers and they should be left alone. I agree. Miko and Tess have been saying that Max and Allen have a thing. I am not sure if it is true or not. I do not want to invade young love. It is not like in the US where you know if two teens are dating because they are all over each other. Here, they barely look at each other. How would I know? I am a puppy. Now I follow Tess. Miko has completely disappeared.
Tess and I wait in line for food. I get some sort of mystery beef, a stewed green vegetable and rice. I am following Tess. Tess starts to sit down. I see Max sitting by himself behind her at another table. I then look and see Allen at another table by herself. I tell Tess we should sit with Max. She says no and sits by herself. I sit with Max. I am confused by young love in China.
Other aspects of this make it even more confusing. Allen told the others in Jennifer’s class she would like to date girls. She may have said this to shock but she does look a bit like a softball player. Of course, none of it matters. They are in high school. They should enjoy themselves.
Max and I walk out of the cafeteria together. He asks me what I am going to do. I tell him I am going back to my apartment to rest. He goes back to his dormitory.
At 1:15, I grab my guitar and head for my 1:30 with class 11. We have not sung in that class yet. I write the words to ‘From me to you’ on the board. The bell rings. I tell them we are going to learn a song like I promised. But first, I tell them I had promised to play them a song of my own as soon as I got a guitar. I now have a guitar so I am going to sing them two of my songs. I sing them ‘Feel Like a Drugstore.’
All of them are completely absorbed by the song, all of them with the exception of James the bad boy. He is looking at something under his desk. I try not to get annoyed. This is something I expect from him.
After I finish, the class claps enthusiastically, quite a difference between playing for a class of Chinese teenagers who are into Rain and opening for Janes Addiction in 1990.
Next, I play ‘Savior Boyfriend Collides.’ A boy sitting in front is working on homework until I go into the instrumental section in the middle. This interests him enough to make him look up. This actually keeps his attention. I finish the song, another enthusiastic round of applause from the students.
I tell them now we are going to learn the Beatles’ ‘From Me to You’. Becky is not paying attention. I ask her if she would like to lead the class. She gets very embarrassed. The class cheers for her to help me. She becomes even more embarrassed. I tell her we may have her help later.
I tell the class I am going to play the song for them once and then we will take it line by line. As usual, we have a rough start. James at first is not really paying attention which gives me the right to goad him. I ask him if he and Potato would like to come lead the song. He suddenly becomes bashful. However, once the class is learning the song, he is one of the students who is singing the loudest. For a moment, perhaps, I have gotten through to him. Or maybe he just likes to sing. Whatever the reason, James is participating in class which stuns me. I try to not let my stupefaction show.
Each time we run through the song, the class sounds better. When we have ten minutes left of class, I tell the students we are going to sing the song two more times. After we sing it two more times, I ask if they want to sing it again. Everyone, led by Becky, says no. I tell them okay. I tell them since we finished what I had planned for class, class is over. I then tell them we will do ‘Lucy in the…’ At that point, a girl in the front row asks if we can sing ‘Hey Jude’ next time. I thought I was done with ‘Hey Jude’ but in China I may resurrect it. It had become one of those songs like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ that I could never hear again in my life and be happy. Oh well, I told her I would try to learn ‘Hey Jude.’
My next class is art class at 3:15 with the Shanghai90210. Today, I am giving them a guitar lesson. After I go home and do the dishes and hang the sheets out to dry and rest for twenty minutes, I grab my guitar and head back to the international building. I tell Allen to get her guitar from the other room. Miko asks if we can download a song to learn. I tell her she can go do it by herself if she would like. She disappears. Allen goes and grabs her piece of crap guitar from the other room.
On my StarSun acoustic which I got for about 60 smacks and of which I am starting to become quite fond, I proceed to show Allen, Max, and Tess how to play an A chord. The whole idea of fingering is lost on them. We struggle for awhile with this. Allen finally seems to get it. When I try to get Max to press down his fingers he yelps like a kicked dog. I then pass the guitar to Tess. She does a bit better than Max. After doing this for about ten minutes, they get bored of trying to learn how to play the guitar. Miko comes back in. She downloaded the words and chords to a song by Avril. I tell her I do not know how the song goes. She will have to sing it for me. This takes another fifteen minutes because I keep egging it on with “Does the song go like this?” and then I do something completely random on the guitar. After the joke is really old, she understands that I have never heard the song.
The bell rings. It is supper time, 4 pm. We head to the cafeteria. Max, Allen and I walk down together. Allen wants me to hear a song in her MP3 player. It is a fairly generic pop song by Rain. I tell her it is really cool. Granted, it is nothing I would listen to but it is entertaining to listen to while we are walking to the cafeteria. Her headphones are cranked. I am lost in the world of Rain.
In the cafeteria, Allen finds Miko and Tess and sits with them. I sit with Max. We eat popcorn chicken and seaweed. I have a coke in a bottle. I always drink it out of the bottle. Max tells me I should drink from a straw because the bottle might be dirty. I tell him in the US we drink from the bottle. Then paranoid-me kicks in. I think of cholera, bird flu, malaria, whooping cough. Next time I will drink from a straw.