Catch up or give up?
I've been truant more than I've been in attendance at my Chinese lessons over the last few weeks because of the extra work I've been taking on. Despite the patience of my fellow international students [L to R above: Englishman, Palestinian, Australian and Canadian] and Chinese teacher [below] I've been in constant catch-up mode whenever I've been able to make it, and I do feel I'm struggling a bit as a result. If the lessons weren't free (for me, as a teacher at the school) I would have probably given up by now. The other students are more concientious too, and spend much of the rest of each day practising their Chinese in one way or another, while I'm off preparing or delivering English classes. Anyhow, they are a fun bunch to be with and until they start getting frustrated at me holding them back, I'll be struggling on. It does at least provide me phrases such as, "Calm down a bit" and "This isn't totally edible" which can be useful for ma-in-law!
Storm starts, term ends
I had my last Chinese lesson of the term yesterday with Mr Liu (right) patiently teaching us... [L to R] Ali (Palestinian), me, Sam (Pakistani English) plus [not pictured] Andrew (Canadian) and David (Hungarian). A very international group of students, then, and with varying skills and ability levels. Suffice to say, I would be better off in a slightly lower level class, if there was one!
Ava had a nightmare trip to Shenzhen. I left her at the airport at 8.30pm for her 9.30pm flight. But there was chaos due to a heavy incoming thunderstorm. She texted me at 2am this morning to say she was finally taking off (I was awake anyway because of the ferocity of the thunderclaps). She managed to arrive at her Shenzhen flat at 5.30am, due to catch a bus to her first factory at 7.30am! She must be exhausted, poor thing!
My Chinese class decamped from school and met in the home of friends Peter and Judy this last week. Peter has had a nasty bout of pneumonia and is still too weak to travel far, so we "moved the mountain to Mohammed" instead! It means a short bus trip and walk for me, but Judy does provide us with mid-lesson coffee and home-made cakes, so it's certainly worth the effort. Next week the foreign students from all three levels are joining together for an educational outing to Kunming's Botanical Gardens to learn the Chinese names for various plants, most of which I don't know the English for anyway!
My 6 hours a week of Chinese language lessons are continuing well. Cathy is proving to be a very reliable, able and patient teacher. As well as feeling that my Chinese is improving gradually, it's also fascinating to be a language student once again. It's giving me a real insight into how my own students act and feel. When my concentration lapses I find myself making silly comments in English to my fellow student Peter - just as my own students whisper little things to each other in Chinese. If Cathy speaks too quickly, there is a familiar stony silence which I recognise all too well from when I sometimes gabble in class. And when Cathy pulls out flashcards or introduces a simple game, I can feel myself regaining focus and getting excited - just as my students do. It's a learning process for me on so many different levels. I'm really enjoying it.
I've finished my first week of "Mandarin" lessons today - 6 hours in total, taught by my indefatigable and good-humoured Chinese teacher, "Cathy" [see photo]. Although I'm the only student in the class at this level (so far), I've managed to stay awake and active (which is basically all I require of MY students!) and I've learned a lot. Whether it stays in this rapidly ageing brain is another issue. Unfortunately the next 2-3 weeks are full of "holidays" and make-up classes, so Chinese language lessons will be few and far between for a while. Hopefully things will settle down in November and December though. I really do need to become more fluent now my long-term future is definitely here.
I spotted this sign outside a construction site the other day, and at this jaunty angle, too. I'm not sure if it is meant to warn workers about the dangers of falling off their building or alert passers-by the possiblity of workers falling on them!?
Maybe I'll be able to read the Chinese soon - I start a "6 hours a week" course this Tuesday, run by my school. We're are trialling the courses in the hope that they will attract paying foreigners to study Mandarin at the school in the future.
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
Past blog entries