Yesterday morning Derek and I decided to try something different for breakfast. Normally we just walk down our lovely hill to the market and buy either dumplings or something fried (and I say something because we seldom know what it is). But yesterday we walked past the market, turned right, and walked a ways down the main street. We crossed the street feeling very much like we were playing Frogger in trying to avoid the cars. In the six days we've been here, Derek and I have learned the names of a few delicious dishes. Unfortunately, none of them are breakfast foods so we were pretty lost in knowing what to order. We saw a large wok with something that looked like hashbrowns so we pointed at it and ordered two portions. Then we went inside to sit down, and a Chinese man greeted us. He was enjoying the same breakfast of which we were about to partake, and we soon began chatting. He's a professor at our school, and his English was very good. He suggested we order a bowl of dou fu nu (I'm totally making up the spelling of that dish) which means bean curd brain. We didn't know what it meant when we ordered it, or we might have hesitated before giving the go ahead. It actually just turned out to be a bowl of very soft bean curd, or tofu, in a light liquid with sugar. It was pretty fantastic. We talked with Mr. Fan, our new friend, while we ate, and then he paid for our breakfast, and we walked back to our apartments together. He also lives on campus - just in another building. He's 64 and ready to retire, but because of his experience, the school has asked him to continue teaching. He was terribly interesting to talk to.
After having lunch, Brian, Derek and I bought bus passes. Basically, you put a certain amount of money on a card and can use it to pay the bus fares instead of having to carry around correct change all of the time. We then went to a DVD store and bought shamefully cheap DVDs. I bought two movies, one being the new Superman movie, for about a dollar each.
A couple days ago Derek bought the first season of LOST - the apparently highly addictive TV series. When we got back from shopping, we decided to pop in the first episode. Right now we watch our movies on our computers. The teachers from last year left a room full of boxes of things for us - anything from cooking supplies to books to electronics to really random objects. Included in that stuff was supposed to be a DVD player, but it has mysteriously disappeared. So for now our computers work fine. Anyway, we were halfway through LOST when our waiban (foreign teacher's office) called to tell us we had a meeting in 30 minutes with the English Department. Regrettably, we were unable to finish the entire first episode of LOST until later!
We met in a conference room with about 5 people from the English Department. They officially welcomed us and shared their expectations for us - basically they require that we be responsible teachers which seems fair enough. It wasn't long before everyone but Eric left. Eric was in charge of giving us our teaching assignments. I will be teaching two classes for English majors which is composed of sophomores. Eric said one of these classes consists of students from another school that is associated with our school. I didn't really understand what he was talking about, but he told me the language abilities of these students would probably be limited. How limited? I don't know, and I'm a little concerned. Eric said I should adjust my curriculum according to their limits. We'll see; maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised by their abilities. Anyway, one class begins this Monday from 8:10 to 9:45 (periods one and two) and the other begins Wednesday, again periods one and two. Then I have another class on Monday evening from 6:45 to 9:10. It's an elective English class, and there is no textbook which means there's quite a bit of flexibility in what is taught. The class size of my other two classes is between 35 and 40. This elective class consists of 80 students. However, they've decided to split the class into two: I will teach 40 students and Brian will teach the other 40. But we have to share the same grade book and teacher's log. We'll be teaching separately, but in every other way, the class is effectively one class. Make sense? I'm excited about this class. I think it will be fun to plan with Brian. Two minds are better than one, right? In addition to these classes, there are two other activities I must participate in: English Corner and Lectures. English Corner is every Friday night, and for two hours I talk with whoever comes to practice their English. We can chat about anything that's not controversial. I think each of us teachers will take turns hosting the English Corner. We'll also take turns giving two hour lectures to whoever wishes to attend them. They said that a couple hundred students usually come to the lectures, and we can speak, again, about anything not too controversial.
Cindy and Brian both begin teaching next week, but Derek was only assigned one class consisting of freshmen. The freshmen spend the first six weeks of school going through orientation and military training so Derek's class doesn't begin till October! Brian thinks they'll probably assign Derek some more classes before too long, but until then he's free to do whatever he pleases.
After our meeting with the English Department, we met Jeremy, Rena, their girls, and Andrew and Jamie (two teachers at the medical school here in Shiyan) for dinner at Happy Guy's. I met Andrew and Jamie in Searcy back in May, but this was the first time we saw them since they arrived in Shiyan (they missed our plane back in L.A. and were delayed a day from arriving).
After dinner we all came back to our apartment where Brad (another teacher at the medical school met us). We spent an hour or so talking about what brought us here and discussing logistics about future meetings. There are 12 of us right now with one other coming in October - Darla (who is a returning teacher and will be at the medical school).
Courtny, Jeremy and Rena's 15 year old daughter, wanted to spend the night with me which was fine with me. My apartment's pretty bare and I'm lacking entertainment accommodations, but she didn't seem to mind. The boys, Courtny and I finished watching episode one of LOST and then watched two more episodes after that. We're pretty much hooked.
Today it rained - all day. So what else do you do on rainy days but settle in and relax, and we did just that. We watched three more episodes of LOST. Brian thought we should ration it, but over here you can buy box sets of anything for really cheap so I figure when we're through with season one, we'll have season two and then there's always 24 or Prison Break if we actually even have time to watch anything after school starts.
Brian and Cindy took Courtny back to her apartment around 5:30, and then Derek and I met them at McDonald's because we had made plans to have dinner with a Chinese girl named Mandy. Mandy has been pretty involved with the foreigners for awhile. She actually e-mailed me before I came to Shiyan to welcome me and to ask for my friendship. Anyway, we ate at this pretty nice restaurant and had some great dishes - pumpkin with sprinkles on it and sweet and sour fish were two of my favorites. In China you seldom order individual plates at most restaurants. You order several dishes and everyone shares.
When we were finishing, a guy with a guitar got up on stage and played an Oasis song. He was pretty good, though it's always funny hearing a foreigner sing an English song. After playing several songs, he and his accompanying keyboardist sat down with us. The keyboardist is part owner of the restaurant, and Brian knew him from before. He told us to come back next Friday because they were going to have a Western themed dinner in honor of us. The food will be barbecue, pizza, and something else American. They'll also play Western music. I was blown away. So we're planning on going back next Friday and bringing the other foreigners with us.