It’s a Small World After All

I picked up my books at the post office – they were ver-r-ry heavy

Two if By Sea – my boxes of books arrived safely from Los Angeles. I literally sent them by slow boat to China, and their journey took about six weeks. Having them here is like re-assembling more of the scattered pieces of myself.

I felt queasy all day today, so I took it easy. I made some brown rice for dinner – I actually found some at the Carrefour supermarket, and it’s a welcome change from the usual white stuff. It was tasty cooked with garlic and soy sauce, but so chewy that it left my jaw tired. I had a couple of fried eggs on the side.

The Foreign Teachers had a meeting this afternoon in the Foreign Languages Dept. Classes will begin next Thursday, Sept. 7, which is kind of odd. The management of language instruction here is so laid-back as to be almost non-existent. I found out several things:

  • There is no textbook
  • There is no curriculum or list of expectations
  • The “core” English courses are taught by Chinese teachers; we are here, as one veteran teacher said, as “window dressing”
  • What and how we teach is up to us; the course title is “Conversation and Composition”
  • The classes, all post-grad students, have mixed levels of English proficiency
  • The first 3 weeks are a “grazing period,” when students migrate from class to class deciding which one (or which teacher) they like
  • I will have 7 class periods of 90 minutes each a week; no classes on Mondays; that’s about 280 students total.

In the words of Alfred E. Newman: What, me worry?

Strange Building #1 : I did a double-take when I spotted the Eiffel Tower on top of a building in Chengdu.

Just remembered a vignette from my Kangding stay: In my noisy hotel room one evening, I heard some tinkling music, then the unmistakable melody of It’s a Small World. The music took forever to pass under my window, giving me Disneyland flashbacks and sending me into near-hysteria. I didn’t look outside, but I assumed the obvious: in my country, this music could only come from an ice-cream truck.

A couple of days later I was walking down the town’s main drag when I heard the music again. I turned around to look for the ice-cream truck, but the only vehicle in sight was a street sweeper, spraying water ineffectually and paying lip service to making Kangding beautiful. Instead of beep-beeping, it signaled its approach by playing – you guessed it – It’s a Small World.

Never take anything for granted in China.

Strange Building #2 : Is it a launching pad or a penthouse for aliens?

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