October 15, 2006

This week I was busy meeting my students from all seven classes and preparing lesson plans for each class based on their English proficiency levels. Here is a breakdown of my current teaching assignments:

Monday – Day off (at least for the moment)

Tuesday – Morning class from 10-Noon, 32 English Major Freshman Students

Tuesday – Evening class from 7-9PM, 22 Chinese University Teachers

Wednesday – Morning class from 10-Noon, 30 English Major Sophomore Students

Wednesday – Evening Class from 7-9PM, 22 Chinese University Teachers

Thursday – Morning Class from 8-10AM, 21 Non-English Freshman Students

Thursday – Morning Class from 10-Noon, 22 Non English Sophomore Students

Friday – Evening Class from 7-10PM, 45-60 Non-English Professional Post Graduate Students

Saturday – Evening English Corner activities with 200 plus students

Sunday – The Lord’s Day, Church, Rest

My Thursday morning SiFang classes are off the main Campus in another part of the city about 45 minutes away. A driver picks Romeo and me up every Thursday morning at 7:15 AM. This week his car broke down and we couldn’t return to the main campus until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. That meant no lunch as the campus cafeteria was already closed by the time we got back. There is never a dull moment around here and whenever you think you have figured something out there will be a change.

Earlier in the week I gave a Class Monitor the lesson plans for next week with the request to make copies for every student in the class. By early afternoon she called me to tell me that she lost all the papers and asking if I could make her another copy. I finally was able to track her down in the evening to give her another copy. She was pretty embarrassed! When I pressed her what happened she told me that she attended another class where she put the papers down and someone toke them.

By the way, stealing seems to be a real problem on the inside or outside of this campus. The other day Romeo took a bus into the city and felt someone touching him from behind. When he got off the bus his mobile phone was gone. I am learning quickly to leave everything at home that I don’t need when I am going out.

Last week I bought a used, halfway decent looking bicycle to get around the campus. My old knees are not cooperating with the constant up and down of stairs. My apartment is located on the 4th floor and all my classrooms are on the 5th floor. Of course there are no elevators in the buildings and I am laboring getting up and down. Even riding the bicycle is painful on my knees. I pray and hope I will last at least until I come home in June of 2007! This week someone stole my bike by cutting off both locks. Needless to say I was pretty ticked off, as I need to get around this huge campus.

I shared my dilemma as a funny lesson story during class time and one female student went with her boyfriend to a used bicycle lot in the city and bought me another bicycle, this time an old looking, rusty bike. The cultural message I got was that my other used bicycle looked “too new” and that was the reason why it was stolen and that the chance that someone would steal this rusty chunk of metal would be slim. Now I know why most bicycles in China look like they came from the scrap yard. Well, as long as I can ride around with my new acquisition I shall be happy and satisfied. Thank you, Lord, for your new (old) provision.

I also had an uninvited pet friend who visited me in my apartment this week. Every morning I found droppings from the kitchen to the bathroom. After playing Sherlock Holmes for a while I found that a rat was living in-between the hot water tank and the exhaust opening to the outside of the building. It took 3 days and a crew of two Chinese workers to determine how to get rid of my unwanted friend. Finally they simply rammed a piece of wood between the water tank and the wall to close up the exhaust hole. Now the unwanted friend can starve peacefully on the other side of the wall until he/she dies or find another way out of the hole. It is my prayer that the animal can find an escape route, as I don’t want to deal with the stench if the rat succumbs in the wall. If I would not be so allergic to cats I might consider getting a companion to deal with future multi-legged intruders!

I am eating mainly in one of the three huge school cafeterias with thousands of students. The cafeteria is open for breakfast from 6:30-9:00 AM, lunch from 11:00-2:00 PM and dinner from 5:00-9:30 PM. I have gone back to my apartment several times without eating because by the time I got to the cafeteria the food was gone. Feeding 16,000 students and hundreds of Chinese teachers who often bring their spouse and children to the dining room is quite a mob scene.

I spoke this week in confidence with a female department head during lunch and learned that about ten percent of students on this campus struggle with some sorts of mental disorders. She told me that quite often the parents live far away and are not aware of the incredible learning and living pressure students are being exposed to.

On the home front my wife, Sherri, reports that her mom’s health is starting to fail. She is now under Hospice care and has a full time live-in caregiver to watch over her needs. Having this help has taken some of the stress off of Sherri as she also cares for our granddaughter, Brittany, while her mom is at work in addition to taking care of the household and financial responsibilities while I am in China.

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books. Chinese Proverb

Until next week…

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