Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

What was the number of the truck . . .
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that hit me?

I'm totally wiped out. Actually, I'm beyond tired, off in some twilight-land where I'm functioning on auto-pilot. I don't know how my compatriots in this TESOL program are managing to do it, since they face several obstacles I don't. Two of the four others arrived two days before beginning the program, and one arrived two days after the program began. (The other guy was in Shanghai for a month.) None of them speak the language at all. None of them have taught before.

And we have a mind-numbing amount of work to do each week. Last week (the first week) we had class from 8:00-4:00 every day, and I observed two additional classes (2 hours each) as well as teaching a one-on-one class and teaching a ten-minute segment to six- and seven-year-olds. We have tests every morning on the previous day's lectures, we have to write observation notes after every teaching session, we have to prepare detailed lesson plans (the one for the ten-minute segment ran to two pages), last week we had to keep a language journal (as the first hour of every day is Mandarin class), and we have to come up with a final project. Today's Saturday, and in an hour I'm out the door to my second full-class teaching experience, followed by my second one-on-one class.

Then I come home and collapse. Tomorrow, I write lesson plans for Monday night's class (as well as the classes I'm teaching today; I'm a little behind . . . but fortunately I am quite skilled at coming up with lesson plans at the last minute. (Well, not the last minute. I've been thinking about these classes all week. I just haven't written anything down yet.)

And today I have a really good excuse for not submitting them. June 4th is the 90th anniversary of the CCCP, and, like all celebrations of 90th-ness in China, a Big Hairy Deal. As a result, the government is going to great lengths to make sure that there is no political unrest; they've banned spy dramas and shows involving time travel from television until July (I kid you not), and they are messing with Google services on a regular basis. Today, I can't reach my Gmail account. (It's been slow and unreliable for weeks.) If I was going to be here longer, I'd switch email providers because this is driving me bananas.

At any rate, the class is fun, although I'm familiar with about 95% of the material. (In the past week we've played little word games and grammar games. I think the guys have just given up thinking they might win any of them. I'm careful not to correct the teacher in public. Yesterday I was all bummed out because I only got 9 out of 10 on the impossible-to-spell-words spelling test, and the teacher was astonished because nobody ever got that many right before. But I'll never misspell "desiccate" again, I tell you . . . )

Better go. More later.

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