Friday afternoon I met with a Chinese woman who teaches English here. Her name is Joyce, and she wants me to help her elementary aged girl learn English so she offered to teach me Chinese in return. It is very common for someone to offer to teach us Chinese in exchange for us teaching them English. So I met Joyce at four o'clock, and since her daughter wasn't there yet she taught me a few phrases in Chinese. She's a good teacher, but I'm afraid I'm not a very good student. When her daughter showed up (with friends who also want me to teach them English), we moved to another ladies apartment and began the lesson. Basically, the kids would read out of their English book, and I would correct their pronunciation. They have learned British English so sometimes I want to correct their pronunciation just because it sounds too British, but I tried to avoid doing so. From now on I will meet them on Saturday mornings to teach them English.
SPAGHETTI AND FRIED LOTUS ROOT
Saturday night we had another party at our house. One of our friends, Dacy, wants to learn to cook western foods, and we want to learn to cook Chinese foods so we decided to make spaghetti, and she said she would make fried lotus root which is pretty much amazing. Jeremey and Rena had gone to Wuhan Friday and Saturday with Andrew and Jamie to buy some western foods and other items you can get there but not here so their girls stayed with me Friday and Saturday night. So for dinner we had the three girls, the four teachers, Dacy and her six or so friends and our waiban's daughter. I made the spaghetti sauce, Brian the noodles, Derek the garlic bread and Courtny and Brianna helped with everything. It turned out really well, though I didn't learn how to make fried lotus root, and Dacy didn't learn how to make spaghetti because we were both busy cooking.
After eating we played UNO for awhile and then a deadly game of chopsticks (instead of spoons). The last two people in the game were Derek and me, and we put the chopstick in another room. I was the first person to get four of a kind so I jumped up and began running to the other room. Derek practically tackled me, but I was still moving towards the other room dragging him behind me. When we got into the other room, Brian and a couple others tackled Derek so I squeezed free and grabbed the chopstick first ensuring my victory and future bragging rights!
CHESTNUT PICKING AND DINNER WITH THE FRESHMEN
Sunday for lunch we met Frank and Jackie, two new friends from the medical school, for lunch to discuss October break. We get the entire first week of October off from school for a national holiday so we all want to travel during this time. Frank and Jackie invited us to go with them to Shanghai and Hangzhou for the week so Derek and I jumped on the opportunity to travel to these places with authentic guides.
For lunch we had hot pot. Basically, you sit at a table with a fire in the middle. They put a large pan with two sections in it - one for spicy seasonings and one for a less spicy seasoning. Then they bring out several different uncooked foods like crab, mutton, noodles, and anything else you want to order. After that it's up to you to throw in the pot want you want to eat and wait for it to cook.
After lunch Frank and Jackie took us to their campus where we jumped a fence to climb a hill which opened up to a grove of chestnut trees. We spent about an hour picking chestnuts. I didn't know that the nuts are protected by a covering of spikes. You have to use rocks or knives or something to break the covering off. Derek and I were wearing flipflops, and I stepped on one of the empty shells getting one of the spikes embedded in my foot. I still haven't gotten it out!
When Derek and I were returning home, Brian was on his way to have his second tai chi lesson. He asked if I wanted to join him, which I thought was a nice invitation until I discovered we were going to practice at the football field in front of who ever might be there, and Brian didn't want to look like an idiot by himself! Anyway, I joined him and learned a few moves, though I didn't master anything and I haven't really practiced since.
We had to cut our lesson short because a few of the freshman girls from Derek's class had invited him out to eat. He invited us to go with him so we had to head back to get ready for dinner with the girls.
There were four girls who came: Michelle, Brenda, Christina and Abby. Their English was surprisingly good, and they were not shy at all to use it. They took us to a restaurant in the center of town where they had made reservations for a private room. It just happened to be another hot pot place!
The girls had spent a long time translating the menu and writing it out so we would know what to order. They were very intent on making sure we were treated well. I think they would have ordered everything on the list if we had asked them to (or even if we had NOT asked them to!).
We finally got our food, but before we ate the girls wanted to perform for us. It is very common here, apparently, to sing or dance for others when you are together as a group. So they sang some American song they knew, and then they said it was Derek's turn to perform. He weasled out of it with some excuse about being hungry so they let him slide until after dinner.
After dinner Derek had to sing a song, and then two of the girls said they would dance hip hop in my honor. So they got up and danced some number, sat down and then told me it was my turn to sing. Since I knew I was going to have to sing beforehand, I had prepared myself with a little Frank Sinatra song which I sang part of. Then they sang their national anthem so we sang our national anthem. And so it went...
After dinner we went outside and were across from this open area where the older people line up at night and dance to some music someone plays. It's a particular type of dance that is very simple to learn. A couple weeks earlier when we had finished our "western" meal, we came across the same situation and decided to join in - well, some of us decided to join in anyway. The others just laughed at us. We drew a crowd then with a few people taking pictures. It was great fun and good excercise. So after eating with the freshmen, we decided to jump in line with the dancing ladies and gentlemen again. It's such a neat atmosphere.
Yesterday the clubs on campus set up booths to recruit the freshmen. One of my students is the president of the English club so she asked me to come sit at their booth and speak with the freshmen to serve as the "attraction". Surprisingly, it worked. When I showed up, groups of students came to the booth and signed up for the club. Later I got Brian to go back with me, and we were asked to play ping pong. We aren't very good at it, but it was fun. Afterwards, we went over to the weightlifting club where Brian showed off his muscles, and I was given the wussy machine for "girls" - it just stretched my back, and there was no muscle use involved, but I was told I would develop a very beautiful and strong body if I used it!
Yesterday we went on a shopping spree. Brian bought a guitar, and we also finally got a DVD player so we don't have to watch movies on our computers anymore - though, we finished the second season of LOST already so it came a little too late.
I bought a basketball a few days ago but haven't had the chance to use it. The courts are always filled with people - even late at night. Today, however, a few of Derek's new acquaintances invited him to play with them so I tagged along. It was great, but nobody really knows how to pass the ball here. They always drive to the goal and just throw the ball in the air hoping for luck. It got old after awhile.