Rainy Friday

What’s the Chinese expression for “It’s raining cats and dogs?”
There’s an incredibly loud thunderstorm booming outside my windows. The rain is coming down like it’s being dumped from a huge bucket. It’s a deluge. Build an ark.

I was dozing after my final classes of the week, and it was pleasant being safe and dry in my bed. My students perked up today, overjoyed that they’re one-third of the way through Summer School. This afternoon at 4 there’s a reception for the foreign teachers, and then we get our first paychecks from the university.

6:30 pm – The teachers’ “reception” went on almost two hours. We were served myriad fruits (are you reading this, Kenton?), then sat down at meeting tables for a lengthy orientation. We watched two films about Chengdu, very interesting, and a short introductory film about UESTC. The Dean of Foreign Languages then proceeded to tell us about the expectations for our teaching, and what each class should include. This information would have been very useful a week ago, before classes started. The Chinese way of doing things is still a mystery to me, though, but it seems to involve not giving too much (or any) information ahead of time.

We got our first pay packet – all in cash – 2,500 RMB. It seems like a fortune. My expenses are almost nonexistent, about $10 a week for food in the dining halls, plus a few household items and snacks.
After the presentations, I chatted with the other teachers, and we had a chance to ask the administrators some questions. This morning, I put my entire lesson plan into Word documents, and then emailed them to myself, thinking I could easily download them in the classroom. Wrong. The internet doesn’t function in every class, so I ended up writing copiously on the board for four classes in a row. The school is “trying” to get the internet to function in every class.

The ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation

This school LOVES PowerPoint. It is “suggested” that we use it for our classes, and everywhere I turn there’s another PowerPoint presentation. My school in L.A. was strictly low-tech, putting personal contact, physical closeness, and speaking first. Here, it seems like I’m separated from my students by a barrage of computer, recording, and listening booth equipment. I suppose it stands to reason, since this IS a technology university. But oy ve the headaches it gives me!

Dinner this evening was good. Some kind of fish (full of bones) in a piquant, scrumptious black-bean sauce. I also got what looked like meat, but turned out to be slices of fat. I added some rice and a big order of tofu, and was pleasantly stuffed. The dining hall I ate in today also has a whole vegetarian section. The teachers from Massachusetts who live on the first floor of my building are vegetarians, so they’re in heaven.

Thank goodness I wasn’t picked as one of the judges for the karaoke contest tomorrow! It’s at 8:30 AM on a Saturday. The timing for some of these events mystifies me. At least I won’t have to listen to 2 ½ hours of bad singing to Britney songs. Maybe it won’t be THAT bad. Oh, come on, yes it will. My motto is “always expect the worst; that way you’re never disappointed.”

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