Strangers on the Stairs

I saw some fucked up shit today on the way home from work.

In the city, there are places where you can pass from one side of the street to the other via underground pedestrian tunnels. I use these things almost daily. Sometimes they’re crowded because they all connect to the underground wholesale store that’s underneath Phoenix Plaza. So I was taking my usual underpass and turned the corner to head up the stairs and almost smacked into a group of people milling around. This isn’t unusual. Chinese people will literally stop in the middle of the sidewalk or hallway to take a call or talk to a friend.

What caught my attention was the man on the stairs. I saw his feet first. He wasn’t wearing shoes. He was curled up so small I actually thought he was a boy and thought he was throwing a tantrum for whatever reason, again, happens all the time. But there wasn’t a parent standing over him yelling and I realized this was a full grown man. No shoes though, so perhaps one of the homeless. But that wasn’t right either because he was wearing a bright gold watch. A very nice watch. He’s rocking back and forth not making any sound. And there’s blood on the stairs.

A lot of blood.

About ten years ago my sister called me and told me her jeep had flipped into a ditch. I called 911, called my mom, got in my car and drove over to where she was before texting my dad. She and her friend had been trying to drift in the Jeep Cherokee. The smartest thing either of them did that day was put on their seatbelts or they would have been killed. The car was totaled. The top smashed almost flat, windshield busted out. It scared the everloving shit out of me, but I handled it.

I woke up one morning just a few years ago thinking my sister was getting things out of her closet to go workout. Until I got this weird Not Right feeling. I walked into her room and found her having a diabetic seizure. I called 911and stayed with her until I had to pin the dogs up for the firemen to come in and did it with so little fanfare my dad and stepmom didn’t know anything was amiss until the firemen came in and the dogs started barking. Sure, afterwards I had nightmares and insomnia for weeks and was terrified to leave her alone at night in case she went low again. And sometimes when she’s too quiet in her room I’ll knock on the wall or something to rile her dog up just so I hear her tell him to shut up. But I fucking handled it.

I cannot handle this. I cannot handle this man bleeding on the stairs. And it’s because I couldn’t help him. I know the number for Yan’an emergency services, but my Chinese is limited to conversational and grocery store vocabulary. I don’t even know what the underpass is called or what street the underpass is under. So I can call and say something close to “Man want help,” or some equivalent, but I have no actual idea of where I am. I navigate this city based on where things are relative to either the school or my apartment.

I couldn’t even give him reassurance that help was coming because who knew if any of the people there had actually bothered to call an ambulance. There was a man on his phone, but he was speaking the local dialect which has nothing in common with the standard Chinese I’ve been learning. For all I know he was on the phone with his wife telling her he just saw a man fall down the stairs. The best I could have offered was a solid, “Hello, how are you?” or “Do you need help?” both of which are fucking stupid things to say to a person bleeding from their ears.

Normally one of my Chinese teachers walks with me on Wednesday, but in a supreme twist, her fiancé got off work early and surprised her with a date. At first, I was angry she wasn’t there. At least then I could have found out if any of the vultures called an ambulance instead of gaping like fish out of water.

But I had a long walk back to the apartment to really think about it and I’m glad she wasn’t. She would not have handled this. I’m certain she has some kind of undiagnosed anxiety disorder and if that scene on the stairs didn’t make her scream she would have been in tears. So the Fates were kind to her tonight in sending her far in the opposite direction of that underpass.

But that left me to choose between standing there with the others or walking back to my apartment.

I came back to my apartment. And I am still bothered on a visceral level by my inability to help. In the States, something like this I would’ve handled. Did anyone call 911? Can someone find some towels? Did you see what happened? Do you know him? How far away is the ambulance? They’re all stupid, stupid short sentences but I can’t say them. I can fumble through and make the verbs and nouns stick together like a refrigerator poem but gods only know if they’ll understand me or of I’ll understand the answer.

They don’t clean the stairs in the underpass. So there’s a good chance that blood will still be there tomorrow.

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Home Wistful

Home Wistful

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival here in China. As with most festivals and holidays around the world, this day is meant to be spent with family and close friends. The traditional food eaten today is the mooncake, and it is delightful. The mooncake is not just a delicious breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack option; it also has its share of symbolism. As my CT explained to me, it’s round to mirror the full moon’s face that goes back to the story of Mid-Autumn Festival, and as none of my CTs seem to be natural storytellers, I’ve had to piece to story together from vague mentions.

oOo

Once upon a time, there were ten suns. The suns took turns being in the sky, until one day they all rose together. It was a disaster. Crops and people caught fire, the rivers dried up, and animals died. An archer named Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns, leaving only one for light and warmth.

The gods were so impressed with him that they offered him a drink of immortal water. But Hou Yi had a wife, Chang’e, he loved very much and didn’t want to become an immortal without her. So he gave the water to her to hide away so they could stay together.

Hou Yi also had an apprentice who knew about the hidden immortal water. He was a greedy man and wanted to be immortal. So, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month (Lunar calendar) he waited until Hou Yi was out hunting and forced his way into the home where Chang’e was working. He demanded Chang’e give him the immortal water.

Chang’e refused and instead drank it herself and then flew away. She couldn’t stay on earth anymore since she was now an immortal, but she wanted to stay close to her husband. She flew to the moon and built a palace there.

When Hou Yi returned from his hunt and found out what happened, he was heartbroken his wife had fled to the sky. So he took her favorite fruits and cakes and left them out where she could see. He also sacrificed animals for her. The others in the village soon learned what had happened to Hou Yi and Chang’e and, being sympathetic to the pair, also began leaving out fruits and cakes and sacrificing animals.

oOo

It’s a pretty cool story. China is rife with neat legends and stories like that. The problem is finding someone who will sit still long enough to tell you the story. Aside from that, Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival and those around the world are a time for families.

So of course my CTs have been asking incessantly if I’m homesick.

Well, if I am, what are you going to do about it?

I’m not, for the record. I prefer the term Home Wistful. I keep explaining to them that I talk to my parents usually once a week. Skype isn’t blocked, so we talk on Monday or Tuesday and I tell them about my classes and they tell me about work and whatever’s going on in the neighborhood.

I don’t require proximity to people. The only time I missed home was the three weeks I was in Vietnam and that was because we were all busy and didn’t get a chance to talk. Let’s be real, I miss the cats and dogs the most. I definitely need to find a traveling companion before my next big trip. A year without little paws padding behind me is unacceptable.

I do miss a few things about home, chiefly peanut butter. But we’re getting into my favorite season: Autumn. I love fall and Halloween and both of those things are not a big deal here. Sure, the kids know about Halloween, but no one goes full on haunted house, there are no skull and bat decorations, no costumes. No freaking pumpkins. No apple cider, which I’m pretty sure is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

In Indiana, autumn has a scent. There’s a shift in the way the air smells as the leaves start coming down. There’s a bite. When you wake up and open the windows you can smell the dew on the leaf litter. It’s one of my favorite smells. There’s none of that here. There are trees. But, there’s not really any green space. No matter how early you wake up or how late you go to bed there’s always a tang of diesel in the air. I haven’t smelled grass in months. When I water my plants I pretty much stick my face in the pot just to smell that damp earth scent I didn’t realize I smelled every morning I woke up in Indiana.

I love going through pumpkin patches. I can spend hours wandering up and down the hills searching for the perfect pumpkin. But my favorite thing to do is curl up on the couch with a mug of hot cider and a Tim Burton movie while the clouds are grey and heavy with rain and the wind is too chilly even for a sweater. There’s always a cat close by, either on my feet keeping my toes warm or on my lap trying to get into my cider.

Or when I’m at my dad’s house and there’s a fire in the fireplace and the dogs and I sprawl out in front of it and watch football or a movie with pizza on the way.

Those are the things I miss. I miss the smell of autumn and I miss having a purring cat on my lap or a big farting dog next to me. People I can talk to, I talked to a friend for almost eight hours this week. I knew way back in January that fall was going to be the time I missed home the most, but being halfway through September and not seeing even a pumpkin window cling I think I might miss it more than I thought I would. So I wouldn’t say I’m sick with missing things, but wistful for my own little autumn traditions.

And peanut butter, dammit.

August Writing Updates!

August Writing Updates!

Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this bi-monthly update. I mean, this one is juuuuust under the wire but, fuck it. We’ll call that progress either for how organized I am or for blogging practices.

But, let’s get on to the updates!

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Last Rites: Starting with original content! If I can stick to my schedule, which I was doing really well with until I up and went to Vietnam, but oh well. Still hoping if I have enough coffee and snacks tomorrow I can finish the middle portion of this. It’s really close to being done. I have most of the major scenes written, not it’s just down to the details.

Next month is slotted for redoing the ending and having the whole thing coherent enough I stop picking at it. So by the end of September I hope to have Last Rites complete so it can sit for a minute.

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Starting in October, I’m getting back into my middle grade story Charlatans. I still love this concept and I’ve reworked the character and her motivations and fixed the storyboarding. The biggest challenge for this story is the word limit which I’m stalwartly ignoring until I have it finished. October I’m looking at getting from the beginning to the mid-point.

If things go smoothly, I might finish it. But all that will depend on my work schedule and whatever else comes up in life. Also, this is the youngest I’ve ever written so making the situations believable as well as reasoning chains and choices are a challenge to me. But I haven’t done much with Charlatans in three or so years and I’ve re-storyboarded the beginning so maybe it will be easier now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

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November kicks off NaNoWriMo so I’ll be coming up with another idea to work on during this month as well, which should be fun.

This month is jam packed with writing. If I don’t finish Charlatans I’ll be doing it this month, I also have a fanfic writing schedule and one of those stories should also be completed this month. Honestly, I’m looking at writing 150,000+ words this month if I stay on task and get done what needs to be done.

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December is an Editing month, I’m going back and editing Last Rites and will hopefully like it enough to send off to my betas for critique. This is also the month I’ll be working on my synopsis and query for Last Rites. If I can stay on schedule and get edits done and back my goal is to start querying agents when I get back to the States sometime in April.

January is another editing month. I’m looking at getting Charlatans edited enough I like it to send off to my other betas. And if both stories come back and I get edits and rewrites done during this month, I’ll swap betas and resend.

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February I’m diving headfirst into a story I started for NaNo a couple years ago about Death and his bounty hunters. It doesn’t even have a working title yet, but the story’s climax is right here in China so I figure my last month of teaching here would be a good time to get started on that.

If I like whatever I come up with for NaNo I’ll also be pecking away at that during February as well. But who knows. Last two NaNos I haven’t been really thrilled with the concepts and they’re just sitting in a file.

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And for those of you here about the fanfics!

August I’m looking to get another chapter done, like, this week. I wanted three chapters done this month, but I think two is a good start. Like I said last update, the story is starting to get kinda heavy and I’ve been dragging my feet getting it done. There are eight chapters left with what I currently have outlined so September I’m looking to wrap up Monster.

And then I think I’ll find a fluffy story to write because sometimes I even depress myself with the shit I write.

Has anyone ever written Ratchet/Prowl? I don’t think I’ve seen that. Maybe I’ll write that.

oOo

Anyway! October, I will be devoting time to Breach and hopefully get about 50,000 words written for that which should put us right at a good cliffhanger. I’m hoping to finish Breach in November, but again, that will depend on my work schedule, how far I get in my original writing, and what my NaNo project look like. In my writing hierarchy, fanfic comes second to original content. So it could well be December before I finish it.

I’ve gotten myself out of the quagmire though and I really like how Red Alert’s character works in this one. The ending for this one is probably the most nail biting one I’ve ever written so I’m really excited for you guys to see it.

oOo

If I do finish Breach in November, the next story is coming from the Street True AU and we’re going to learn more about Tracks! Tentative title is Nightmare and, as it’s storyboarded now, it won’t be as long as Master’s Apprentice so I should be able to finish it in a month if my work schedule isn’t weird.

This story should start to answer some questions about how the war started and who/what Helios and the Prowler crew are. Also, it will give more clarity to the first couple of chapters of Master’s Apprentice and Ratchet’s odd reflection on his choices and why he goes to hunt down Blaster. This one is definitely more political than Master’s Apprentice and gets deeper into how the war was fought, how it is fought, and what happens to the soldiers that fight in it. It’s pretty heavy, but Tracks’ story is a keystone storyline.

oOo

And *drum roll* January, I will be starting the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam. Still not sure what the title will be but I am certain there will be plenty of angst and H/C. I have a couple of key scenes written and already love this one more than WtLOR. I’m so excited for you guys to read it. This one is definitely going to be long so I’ll be working on this through February and March.

 

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After February, updates are going to be slow for everything as that’s the end of my contract here in China and I’ll be traveling around both here and a couple other countries as I make my way back to the States. I refuse to do another 18 hour flight so writing time will be limited to…whenever I stop taking pictures and write I suppose.

Adventures Abroad: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Well, well, well. Long time no see. I think. I don’t know. Time lost all meaning for me about July 16th.

I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam right now at a delightful hostel called the Skygon. I’ve been here just shy of a week and I am having an absolute blast.

Wait, what? Where did Vietnam come from?

Really, it surprised the hell out of me, too.

So August 1st, I finally was done with classes and sacked out on the couch with snacks and a week’s worth of Daily Shows to catch up on and a second viewing of Zootopia in my immediate future. I had zero plans for that day and the next day and the day after that and after that and so on and so forth. The only blip in this sea of nothingness was an expected visit from a friend who’s been living in Cambodia. And that was almost two weeks away. After that though, I was scheduled to go on a trip with the school to Qingdao. Initially, I’d been told my friend could come with me, so I was really excited about the trip. Then they reneged on that and said they couldn’t bring and unknown foreigner on a school trip. All right, I’ll grudgingly give you that. But I was significantly less excited about spending an regimented ‘vacation’ with my school knowing I would be on a shorter leash than I’ve had so far. And that shit has been short. And it would also cut my friend’s visiting time almost in half.

August 2nd rolled around and I had watched The Daily Show and Zootopia and I was looking around for something else to do when my friend posted a picture of himself at a little outdoor café in Ho Chi Minh City. And I don’t know what happened but, much like my decision to come to China, I thought, ‘Hey, flights to Vietnam are pretty cheap, why don’t I just meet up with him there and we can come back to China together.’

So I messaged him and everyone else down here making sure it was okay that I just fucking drop in like a paratrooper in the middle of their lives and it was. So by Wednesday, August 3rd, I had my plane ticket for a departure time on Friday. My school pretty well wigged out when I told them I was leaving for Vietnam in two days but not much they could do about it.

Friday morning, I woke up at 0300 for no goddamn reason and just decided to stay awake. I had a train leaving at 0700 to get to Xi’an which is about a three and half to four hour train ride and then from there I would have to catch the airport shuttle which would take about an hour and then my initial flight from Xi’an to Hong Kong left at 1550. And then from Hong Kong my flight to Ho Chi Minh City didn’t leave until 2200. Pretty straight forward.

Train left the station no problem. But we stopped on the tracks twice. For about twenty minutes each. We didn’t pull into Xi’an until 1215. The airport shuttle bus leaves every half hour. And of course it’s only like a ten minute walk from the station if you know where it is. Thank the gods for Tuk Tuk drivers, man. One of them gave me directions and then rode down the street next to me for two blocks until he pointed out the tiny, out of the way, im-fucking-possible-to-find-on-your-own station. I bought my ticket and slid into one of the last seats at 1232.

The bus didn’t leave until almost 1300.

Traffic was light, well, light for Xi’an, so the bus actually managed to make good time. That and the man drove like he was possessed, which, not complaining. We made it to the airport just shy of 1400 and I realized as I was walking in, I had no idea which airline I was flying on.

See, to get my ticket, I wanted to use my China bank account because my US funds are, LOL. But the only sites I could use for my China account were, of course, in Chinese. So my manager is the one who actually bought my ticket and then she sent me a screenshot of all relevant information, which was in Chinese.

So I asked the two guys at the door who are in charge of checking for bombs in luggage if they could get me to the right check-in counter and they pointed me with confidence to H. I walk up to the lady at H to verify that this is the check-in counter I need. Nope. She points me to G. So I scurry around to G and ask a lady there. She shakes her head and points me back to H. So I go around again to H and find a different airline counter and ask the lady there. Nope. She points me back to G. So I go to the other end of the Gs and finally fucking find my counter.

I get through my check in no problem. But while they give me my boarding pass, they don’t let me leave the counter because they want to verify that I can actually get into Vietnam. See, the way Vietnam visas work is that you have to fill out all the paperwork beforehand and get a letter of entry and then you pick up your visa on arrival. So I used an express service for my visa since I was leaving really short notice and they lumped me in with the nine other people they had on the same flight. The airline people thought this was quite suspicious that I had all these other traveling people on my official paperwork but I was a solo traveler. So I had to wait another half hour while they verified both with Vietnamese Immigration and the company I went with that I could indeed legally enter the country upon arrival.

1445, I finally get through security—where I had to go through “extra security measures”—and settle at a small overpriced café to finally eat something. After that, I boarded the plane.

And then we sat.

There was a storm en route and traffic control had us delayed to avoid it. I had a three and a half hour window between flights in Hong Kong, which I figured would be enough time to get through all the other security that goes with connecting flights. Only bonus for the delay was that I finally got to watch Captain America: Civil War. What a damn good movie.

So we land in Hong Kong and my primary goal is to find my gate and sit in front of it until I get on that goddamn plane because Holy Fuck this fucking day, man. And the lady at the directing others who had only minutes to reach their connecting flights tells me my gate hasn’t been assigned yet.

So, yet again, I sit down for some overpriced airport food. Although, the Starbucks black current slushie was really good. And Hong Kong has some cool ass money. I was going to ask the lady for smaller bills but there was a line behind me and I refuse to be that tourist. Hong Kong airport is pretty cool too. It has charging stations for your phone at pretty much all the gates so I just plugged in to one of those and caught up on my cracked articles.

With no other issues we finally board the plane annnnnnd the entertainment system is down and won’t be working for the duration of the flight.

 

But that’s why we have Ipods.

Finally, finally I arrived in HCMC at damn near 0100 and then I proceeded to sit for an hour while they prepared my visa. So glad I’m backpacking, because if I’d had checked luggage, I’d have left that shit.

I got to Skygon just shy of 0300 and met Jay, my traveling buddy, outside. Skygon is on the 12th floor of a 22 floor building and has incredible views of the city and river. It’s the cleanest hostel I’ve ever been in and the ladies are so nice. Really, if you ever find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, stay at the Skygon.

 

 

Sometimes, the ‘Right Thing’ Hurts

Sometimes, the ‘Right Thing’ Hurts

I’ve been in Vietnam eight days now. On the bottom floor of the building where the hostel is located there’s a tiny supermarket. Like the size of a gas station. They have, what Jay and I declared “The World’s Most Chill Cat” who lives in the supermarket. He’s awesome, he sleeps curled up by the ice cream cooler and doesn’t even crack an eye open when people pet him. One of the guys who runs the place picked him up one day like a sack of potatoes and put him over his shoulder and the cat didn’t twitch a whisker.

He’s freaking awesome.

But I went downstairs this morning to pick up some traveling toiletries and something was wrong. As soon as I stepped off the elevator I could hear this awful sound it was a low gravelly meow, like the sound was being piped through some kind of distortion. And there just past the door to the store was The World’s Most Chill Cat yowling and screaming that awful sound while tucked away in a small grocery basket. There was a small dog nearby so I figured, maybe World’s Most Chill Cat isn’t chill around dogs. And then the dog left. And he was still making that terrible noise. It was a noise of pain and fear. There are sounds you can hear from a block away and you know whatever is making it is in pain and scared and that’s what World’s Most Chill Cat was doing. He was scared and in pain and no one in the store really seemed to mind.

Walking up to the checkout I noticed the fur on his legs and belly was dirty and matted like he’d waded through a puddle. I tried to ask the guy what was wrong, what happened, but his English is limited to numbers and I only know three words in Vietnamese.

I can’t leave an animal in pain. So I crouched down to pet him and try to figure out if this was something I could fix. I thought at first he’d been hit by a moto and maybe had spinal damage. He couldn’t get up. It was like his front and back legs weren’t getting the same signals. He couldn’t coordinate his front legs enough to push himself up and his back legs only seemed to be able to kick. But while I tried to calm him I saw the lacerations on his front legs, the bite marks on his neck. He’d been attacked by something. Something bigger than him, and, by the looks of it, something that managed to bite his head hard enough to cause neurological damage.

I had a cat. His name was Oliver. He was my baby boy. He was terrified of everything, but when I was nearby he walked with a swagger and tried to bully the other cats. He was a dork and not the brightest crayon in the box, but he was my little boy.

I had to put Oliver down a year ago this month. He got sick. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know if I didn’t catch it fast enough to save him or if there was nothing I could have done to help him. All I know is that I noticed my fat cat was losing weight, fast. And when I took him to the vet they told me it was probably diabetes. But the shots didn’t help and the food didn’t help. And a week after that when I came home from work he was so weak he didn’t even protest when I picked him up and jumped in the car with him.

They could have done more tests. They could have given him steroids. But I didn’t have the money. I couldn’t afford to find out what was wrong with my baby boy. And he was weak and he was in pain so I did the best thing I could for him.

And I know he was probably a little scared when they gave him the shot, but he was so frail he couldn’t fight. But he tucked his head under my chin like he always did and I held him until his heart stopped.

I miss my little boy. And maybe it wasn’t for the absolute best, but it was the best I could do for him at the time. And that’s what owning a pet is. It’s doing the best for them, the best you can do, even if it kills a piece of you to do it. If that means giving them to a better home or giving them lasting peace, then that’s what you do.

But these people with The World’s Most Chill Cat, they are not taking care of him. They are not doing what’s best for him. There is no saving The World’s Most Chill Cat. The damage is too severe and human healthcare out here is iffy at best. There is no medicine or surgery out here that can save him. And if I can find the Vietnamese to ask them where to find a veterinarian, I will do right by this cat. I will do the best that I can for him, just like I did for my baby boy.

Teaching Games!

Teaching Games!

Ah, sweet, sweet summer break.

Holy hells, I am exhausted, but my brain refuses to sleep, so I figured I’d check in with all you fine people.

Anyway, I said way back at the beginning of the semester that I’d make a list of the games I used in class to help out any other new teachers in over their heads.

*Waves to new teachers*

Warmers—Games used at the beginning of class to wake the kids up

  1. Blindfold: Super simple. Have one child come up and blindfold them. Then choose another student to come up and say “Hello, who am I?” They have three guesses and then you reveal.
  2. Dancing: You don’t even have to make up a dance. I taught my kids the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show and they thought it was stupid/hilarious. I also taught them the Soulja Boy Dance and that took two classes. *Dancing also makes a great low key disciplinary measure. For my older kids, I gave them each three warning for speaking Chinese, after that, they had to stand up and do one of the dances.
  3. Poker Face: Pull a chair up to the front of the room and have one student sit. Their goal is to not laugh for one minute. Meanwhile, the other kids can make faces, sounds, tell jokes (in English) or whatever else. I didn’t let my kids touch the person sitting, but that’s totally up to you.
  4. Hot Seat: Again, bring a chair up to the front. This time make certain the student sitting can’t see the board. Then you write a word on the board like ‘Lion’ and the rest of the class must describe the word without saying it. The student has three guesses and then it’s someone else’s turn.
  5. Number/Shape Clusters: Any class you’ve done numbers in you can do this game. Have all the students stand up and then you call out a number between 1-10 (let’s say 3). The first students to make a group of three gets a point. If you’ve done shapes (circle, square, triangle) it’s a great review for that too.
  6. Alphabet Bodies: This can be done with partners or as individuals. Have the students stand up and then either call out a letter or write it on the board. The first person/pair to make the letter with their body(s) wins.
  7. Telephone/Whispers: This is an old standby, but the little kids love it, especially if you race girls vs. boys. If you don’t know, have the students make two lines. Bring the first person up and whisper a word to them and then they run back and whisper the word to the next person. The word travels down the line to the end and then the end person runs up to you and tells you the word. If it’s right, they get a point, if not, they have to redo it.
  8. Clap/Elimination: Really simple, X=Clap. Have the students count one at a time 1, 2, 3, X, 2, 3, X, X, 3, X, X, X. It’s like the B-I-N-G-O song. If the person messes up have them stand up and do a dance or another funny penalty and play again.

Vocabulary/Sentence Games—Games you can use in class for basic vocabulary identification or having students do controlled practice with new sentence structures. *All of these games are played with teams, I used two teams, but if you have big classes, they all work with multiple teams.

  1. Basketball/P.I.G.: Basketball is pretty straightforward. Have a ball and either a hoop or a small bucket for them to shoot into. I made three lines they could shoot from and based on the line they chose that was the difficulty level of the question. So a three point question I would ask them to make a sentence, a one point question they would have to identify a vocabulary card.
    1. P.I.G: This is a really popular game, sometimes called H.O.R.S.E. Split class into two teams and you can use the same line system as above, but this time if the student misses the shot, their team gets a letter. For the older kids I equivocated the number of letters with the line they shot from—three points=three letters. I also used vocabulary words instead of Pig or Horse.
  2. Ball Hop: This is by far the most versatile game I used. Get two balls and draw a line at the back of the classroom. The students hold the balls between their knees and then hop to you. First student to give you a high five wins, the second student must identify a vocabulary card.
    1. Variation: Same game as above, but they hop directly to the vocabulary card you or a student calls out. First one to tag it wins, the other must identify another word and becomes the next student to call out a word.
    2. Cowboy: Draw a line closer to the front of the room. Place flashcards at the back of the room. Students face the front and when you call out a word must race forward and touch the board/wall with their ball and then run to the back of the class and tag the proper vocabulary word.
    3. Hot Potato: No running in this one, but have the students make a circle. Place the flashcards in the center and introduce one or two balls. Have the students start passing the balls clockwise while you countdown from 10, 5, or 3, whatever you want. When you get to zero, say a vocabulary word and the two students with the balls have to jump forward and tag the proper card.
    4. Vertical: Instead of placing the flashcards horizontally in the back of the room, place them vertically and assign them point value—10, 20, 30, 40, 50—and bring up only one student at a time. Like ‘Cowboy’, draw a line close to the front of the room. As soon as you say go, begin counting down from five. The student has to run forward and touch the board before running back and tagging as many cards as they can while saying the words. Person with the most points at the end wins.
    5. Blocks: No ball in this one, but small foam blocks. Have students either balance the blocks on their heads or hands and either high five or tag the vocabulary card directly.
  3. Chopsticks: *If you’re not in a country with chopsticks, I don’t think this will be an effective game, but you might be able to use spoons.* Get two sets of chopsticks and a couple foam blocks. Set the chopsticks on top of the blocks and draw little circles around them so students put them back in the same place. This game is awesome for practicing prepositions—on, in, under, between, in front of, next to—but if you just want them to find the correct word it’s great for that two. So you give them a word and they run up and touch the card with their block while repeating the word and then they have to run back and reset their block and chopsticks. First one to reset wins.
  4. Castles: Get some building blocks and give each team a place at the front of the room to build their castle. I tell my students the castles must be at least three stories, otherwise they’ll try to cheat and make them one level. Once castles are done, have students either sit or line up at the back of the room depending on class size, and ask them questions. If they answer correctly, they get a ball and try to knock over the other team’s castle. You get the best castles and reactions if you don’t tell them at first you’ll be knocking them over.
  5. Musical Chairs: There is actually no music involved here, but I couldn’t think of a better name. Have students make a big circle with their chairs and put one in the middle. The rest of the class asks them a question and the middle student answers. Once they give a preset answer (i.e. “I’m wearing a red hat.) All the students have to get up and change chairs. Whoever doesn’t get a seat is new student in the middle.
  6. Connect 4/Tic Tac Toe: These games are excellent fillers. Connect 4 is just like Tic Tac Toe/Knots and Crosses but they have to match four instead of three. On the board draw sixteen squares and write in their vocabulary along with four or five penalties—again, my favorite one is dancing because the mortification never ends—and have them make sentences with whichever word they want.
  7. Ostrich: Draw a big circle on the floor and select two student. Each one holds a flashcard behind their back. Their goal is to see and say the other person’s card without being seen themselves. Make sure students understand before the game starts that telling their teammate the other person’s card gets them a point penalty. That includes saying it in their native language as well.
  8. Red Light/Green Light: Have one student stand up at the front of the class with two flashcards. One means Go, the other means Stop. Have the other students line up at the back of the class and either walk, hop, or dance when they are allowed to Go. When the card changes to Stop, they have to freeze and say the word. The first person to reach the cardholder becomes the new cardholder.
  9. Maze: This game is for older kids who are working with directional words. On the board draw a small maze with four or five vocabulary words scattered about. Blindfold one student and give them a pen to draw with. The rest of the team must give them directions to the specified vocabulary word.
  10. Pictionary: Another great game for “What is it?” or “What does s/he/it look like?” Have the students come up and draw animals or people on the board. The rest of the class asks them questions about it and the artist answers.
  11. Board Games: Ahhh, these are amazing. This is a catchall for any game you can draw on the floor or on the board. Get a dice and some little blocks as markers for the teams and let the kids play. They have to answer a question before they roll but they really enjoy these. I had one game I called Mountain Climb where I drew a rough mountain on the floor and made several penalties like Rock Fall, Lose Turn or detours that sent them back to start or bonus trails that got them extra points. I did a shipwreck one where they started on a boat and had to swim to shore. If they landed on a shark they lost a life. Then they had the option of being saved by a mermaid and gaining extra points or getting sucked up in a typhoon land losing their points based on what they rolled. On land they could be eaten by cannibals and lose their points and another life or they could climb a mountain and have an eagle steal their points or get lost in the jungle and lose life and points to tigers and monkeys.
  12. Bag Toss/Cornhole: Get a small bean bag and draw a line at the front of the room. Place the flashcards in a large triangle formation with the closest ones being the lowest points and the farthest one the highest. Students have to identify the flashcard before tossing or make a sentence with their intended word.
  13. King and Queen: Get about a dozen previous flashcards to add to their current lesson’s cards. This game only works with two team, any more than that and it will be a mess. Choose one person from each team and have them secretly choose one flashcard at random. These are your Kings/Queens and they sit on their ‘Thrones’ at the front of the room. They’re not allowed to show or tell anyone what card they choose. Once they put the card back shuffle them and spread them out in the back of the room. Choose another person from each team to be the card selector. Their job is to just pick up cards. Once they do, they need to ask the target question: “Is it his_____?” and then the game proceeds like Whispers with each person on the team asking someone the question until you get to the monarch at the front. They say Yes or No. If Yes, that team wins. If No, the card runner selects a new card and the game begins again. Again, make certain you tell them not to cheat in their native language before the game starts and they know everyone has to ask and answer the question. They can’t just say “Lamp” and pass the card down, they have to talk.

 

Phonics Games—Phonics is fucking boring for everyone. But, the kids remember more if you make a game out of it.

  1. Stomp/Clap: Let’s say our two sounds are /b/ and /d/. /b/=Stomp, /d/=Clap. Write a rhythm on the board like B B D B D B B. Have the students practice a couple times and then call on individuals to show off. Don’t forget to have them make the sounds.
  2. Kung Fu: All right, if you have a rowdy class, skip this one. Make it very clear from the beginning if they intentionally hit anyone they don’t get to play. Have them line up facing each other. Let’s keep up with our /b/ and /d/ example: /b/=Right high punch, /d/=Left high punch. Again, make up a quick little pattern: B D B D B D B B and have them say the sounds.
  3. Tongue Twister: My kids loved tongue twisters. “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter” was their favorite. They liked to race each other and race me. If you do this, remember, words aren’t really important, make sure they’re making the right sound. Ones my kids had problems with were /s/ and /sh/ and /r/ and differentiating the vowels.
  4. Chair Race: Place two chairs at the front of the room and mark one /b/ and one /d/. Have two students at the back of the room and then call out a word. Instead of running, have them skip or hop because they will not hesitate to tackle each other to get to the write chair.
    1. Ball Drop: At the front of the room write /b/ and /d/ in separate circles. Just like the vocabulary Ball Hop, have students but a ball between their knees. When you call out a word they have to hop to the right circle and drop the ball.
  5. Which Wall: Assign one side of the room /b/ and the other /d/. Have students stand in a line in the center and when you say a word, they hop to the appropriate side of the room.
  6. Basketball: Have two hoops or baskets, one /d/ and one /b/, choose two students to come up to the free throw line. You say a word and they choose the basket. This game is by far the most popular because you can up the difficulty level by having several point lines or by having them say a word before they shoot.

 

Those are the greatest hits from this semester. After next semester I’ll add whatever else I come up with. Hope this helps, happy teaching!

Adventures Abroad: Mountaineering!

Adventures Abroad: Mountaineering!

20160603_144940            Hey-oh! So two weeks ago, after recovering from what shall henceforth be known as Plague Death, I decided to take my—still recovering—body out for a spin. On Friday, the sun was out and the day was a perfect upper seventies with a nice breeze. Our staff meeting ended early and I had a whole afternoon to myself. So I decided I wanted to climb a mountain.

 

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This mountain.

My target: Feng Huang Shan (Phoenix Mountain). This is the mountain that has lights along its upper ridge that glow different colors at night that kind of look like the dorsal spikes of a dragon. Anyway, it’s pretty and my Chinese teachers told me it was free and gave me some vague directions to the entrance.

I almost walked past the entrance. It’s just a sweeping set of stairs with a little landscaping around them pressed right between a small side alley that leads to homes and a restaurant. I mean, there might be a sign, but I can barely read pinyin, definitely can’t read Chinese characters.

Once you get past the building though there’s more decoration like some rocks with characters on them that might be a poem, or the name of the mountain, or telling people not to litter. I don’t know. You go up a little more and the stairs become a staircase and on the railing are the zodiac animals and peonies and birds. There are a handful of ornamental trees that break up the monotony of stone, but not much. It didn’t look like it was going to be a very interesting walk because those first few levels are mostly stone and concrete.

20160603_144940

 

But once you get up to the first landing you’re already pretty high. Aside from the occasional car horn you can’t hear traffic or people. I moseyed up to the next level and found a small side path. Bingo. I took off down that like a hound on a scent. The little path was cool and shady and smelled so wonderful. You have no idea how much you miss the smell of grass and trees until you don’t smell them every morning. The one thing I miss the most about home is opening the windows and smelling dirt and grass and dew.

 

The little path brought me back around to the main staircase. If ever there was a Stairway to Heaven, it’s this damn thing. I figured the little trail I was on would get me to the top eventually. Nope! That was just a little side expedition, if you want to get to the top you need to climb the stairs.

I don’t know if you know how many stairs there are to the top of a mountain, but it’s a fuck-ton. My gods. And there are no trees. It’s just you and sun and stone and concrete and a fervent wish for an escalator.

 

20160603_151014
So. Many. Stairs.

I had to stop and enjoy the scenery a couple times, but I finally made it to a little oasis. There’s a small park-type thing about halfway up with benches and big shady trees and restrooms. It was nice to walk more than two steps without having to step up a stair, but it was pretty obvious I wasn’t at the top. I wandered about in the maze of little paths trying to find the accursed staircase.

I stumbled out some gates and found a road with nothing and no one on it. It was really weird because where Feng Huang Shan is, I’ve walked all around this area and I’ve never come across a road that came up the mountain. Because if such a goddamn road existed I’d have taken that and not those bullshit stairs.

I was a little hesitant to explore too far because there were several signs around, but none that looked like they said Keep Out, but I can only assume that a Chinese Keep Out sign looks like a European/American one. Thankfully, a couple came down the road that didn’t look like they were on any official business so I assumed it was safe to explore that direction.

And I found it! Just beyond the curve in the road were a small parking lot and a section of a giant city wall that one of my CTs told me was there. Past the city wall is a new looking park area with beautiful rose bushes planted all over the place. The place smelled amazing. All the roses were scented and there were only a handful of people there so it was quiet enough to still hear the birds. Two of the men there were flying kites. They had these contraptions on their chests that looked like boat wheels. They were really serious about their kites. And from this park you can see the whole city. Yan’an is really cool, people. They way its built between these mountains and the river. It’s awesome. Hard to appreciate from ground level, but way up high where you can see how the streets wind and how the buildings work like Tetris, it’s amazing.

But I wasn’t done! There’s a watch tower still standing on the section of the intact wall. And of course there were stairs to get there. And after a hundred more fucking stairs, there’s a steep ramp to climb and then you’re finally at the watch tower, the highest point on the mountain.

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There were two other people up there with me but the three of us were content to stare out at the city. And just when I was thinking I could stay up there for an hour or two I heard it.

Thunder.

I had hope for probably twenty minutes that the rain would stay one mountain over where I could see it already falling. And then the sun disappeared. And the wind kicked up. And the thunder was louder.

I started heading back down. It was about five o’ clock and I still had to figure out if I wanted to make dinner or get something from a street vendor. I usually try to be in bed before ten on Friday night because Saturday night I rarely sleep more than a couple hours. So the more sleep I get before the weekend starts the better off I am.

Anyway, most of the pop up storms we’ve had have been over and done with pretty quick. I knew I was going to get wet, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it. A few sprinkles, maybe a little more, but I figured I’d be dry before I got back to my apartment since I had about an hour walk ahead of me.

Haha! No. I made it back to the staircase that would take me to the street and it was like someone turned on a faucet. I was soaked through in less than five minutes. And of course, I was on the stretch of stairs without even a flower to hide under so I just put in my headphones and trudged on thinking it would end soon enough.

When I got to the street it was still raining so hard the street looked like a river. Still a half hour walk ahead of me and I have fully come to terms with the fact that it is going to rain the whole time. So I bought some cherries from a little side shop and some cookies from my favorite bakery.

Walking into my apartment block the rain started to lesson to sprinkles and by the time I got up to my apartment and had my socks rung out the sun was out. Pretty sure I pulled a muscle when I rolled my eyes. But, I did make some tea and cobble together some leftovers and binge watch The Daily Show for a couple hours and eat cookies. So, rain and all, it was a pretty good evening.

Be Brave

Be Brave

The great dichotomy of humanity: Even now we’re searching and hoping to make contact with another intelligent alien species. But back on this tiny rock fifty people are killed for having the audacity to love someone.

We can’t even tolerate each other, acceptance is such a far off dream most people are just hoping for tolerance to happen in their lifetime. How are we supposed to present ourselves to a whole other species?

I mean, I’m an American in China right now struggling to explain why the fuck America is the way it is to Chinese citizens. Why do we have so many mass shootings? Why don’t we do something about it? Why are we always starting wars? Why is there such a large gap between rich and poor? Shouldn’t the public education system be better?

How the hell are we going to explain ourselves to another intelligent species? How are we going to say, “Oh, we won’t hurt you, we just want to be friends. Don’t mind the genocide, wars, and terrorism. That’s just…y’know, we’re working through some things.” How are we, not just one country, how are we as a species going to answer these questions? How are we going to explain that, yes, we know what we’re doing is damaging our climate but, well, it’s not that bad yet so we’re going to do it a little bit longer and then try to figure out how to solve it. How are we going to explain that through skewed and corrupted interpretation, there are people who want to kill other people because they think that’s what their particular sky god wants them to do? How are we going to explain the genocides—that are happening right now—where a group of people systematically slaughter other people because they don’t look/think/act/talk like them?

How?

How?

HOW?

How do we, as a species, explain ourselves? Can we? I don’t think we can. And I think if there is any intelligent life lurking out there they’ve done their best to avoid this corner of the universe. We’re not ready to bring anyone else into this mess. We’re children. Not even well behaved children. We’re brats and bullies. No one wants to sit next to the screaming child on the plane, no other intelligent species wants to make friends with that child either.

But we’re capable of such amazing things. Voyager 1 was and still is an incredible feat. We’ve landed a probe on a comet for fuck’s sake. We’ve built a space station. There are people in space right now speeding above us. We’re taking Hi-Def pictures of Pluto and discovering new planets damn near every day. The feats of engineering our ancestors accomplished with nothing but basic tools are still wonders to behold. Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, The Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Athens, Rome, Aztec temples, and all those other wonders people still flock to today just to stand in awe.

So it’s time, Earthlings. It’s time to tip the scales in favor of the incredibly good things we’re capable of, not the awful. It’s time to be brave. If you see or hear someone spitting hate and fear, be brave. Tell them they’re wrong. Tell them after the flesh melts from our bones and archeologists dig us up all they’ll know is how tall we were, if our bone structure was male or female, how old we were, and if we had European, Asian, or African features. That’s it. No one will know the exact shade your skin was. No one will know what color your hair or eyes were. No one will know if you loved men or women or both or neither. No one will know what god, if any, you sent your prayers to. And certainly they’ll be curious, but you’ll be long past answering questions. You’ll be long past defending choices made. All that will be left is society as a whole. Who were we, not just you.

The longer the good parts of us stay quiet, the worse we’ll become. What’s that often quoted MLK line? “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

You think those people perpetrating genocide will stop on their own? You think those people who force children into sex slavery will stop by themselves? You think those people who preach hate and fear will shut up without another voice to shout them down? You’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to find the good parts of yourself and you’ve got to stand up. Even if your voice is quiet, let it be heard.

Make them stop.

Make us a species worth talking to.

 

If you want to help end genocide, you can donate to this group. They work to predict, prevent, and punish those who employ genocidal techniques, as well as those involved in human trafficking.

If you want to support those in the recent Orlando shooting, you can donate here.

If you want your congress representative/senator to tell the NRA to fuck right the fuck off, let them know. Send them an email. It doesn’t take long. Literally five minutes of your time. If you don’t know what to say, here’s a form letter. Read through and edit as you see fit and send it off. And if you don’t know who your representative is, you can find out here by putting in your zip code.

If you’re not part of the US, please, feel free to contact representatives as well. In fact I think it’d be rather amusing if these assholes suddenly got an influx of international correspondence. You can choose my home state if you want, Indiana.

And feel free to add that you’d like to see NASA’s budget expanded, too. There’s no reason we should be searching the deep recesses of space with a candle, but that’s all NASA can afford right now.

 

 

Writing Update: May/June

Writing Update: May/June

All right, time for another writing update! Let’s see if I can keep up with doing these bi-monthly.

No, I have not started earnestly writing the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam. I have a few scenes written but I don’t know if any of them will even make it into the final draft. As I said before, I don’t think I’ll post anything until the end of this year. Although, the tentative title is Spark which is also the title of a Digital Daggers song like “Where the Lonely Ones Roam”.

I think I said in my last update I was looking at fleshing out Cybertronian culture and religion and I really do want to make this coherent and sensible, not just a bunch of strange things cobbled together. And, I’m looking at taking a weeklong trip to Zhangjiajie next year after my teaching contract is up. This is really significant because these are the mountain ranges that inspired me to write Prowl as he is in this story.

So the sequel might not be up until after I take that trip because I know that’ll change probably everything I’ve written thus far.

Long story short: Sequel will be up eventually, but not any time soon.

oOo

Breach! Oh, this has turned into a delightful quagmire. I am still looking at turning this little thing into multiple chapters, but a wonderful review got me thinking I want to try and write this from Red Alert’s POV. Aside from that brief chapter in WtLOR, I’ve never tried to write Red Alert and it’s actually harder than I thought it would be. His paranoia is his most obvious trait, but I’m finding other subtle layers that I think deserve more spotlight.

I also think it would work really well with a One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest vibe and I’ve never written anything like that before either. This little oneshot is turning into a pretty extensive writing exercise.

So, like I said, quagmire. But, think once Master’s Apprentice is concluded this will be easier. I need to stick with having no more than two WIPs at one time.

oOo

And what a great segue, Master’s Apprentice has one chapter left! And I’m so glad everyone has enjoyed reading it so much. I’ve had a lot of fun writing Ratchet and little First Aid. And I saw quite a few people enjoyed Red Alert and Prowl at their most sociopathic; excellent.

Master’s Apprentice is the first in an AU called Street True, so there will be more stories with the crew as they appear in this story. All major characters are getting backstories: Blaster, Red Alert, Prowl, Tracks, Helios, Wheeljack, Ratchet, etc. I’m even going to try my hand at writing an Optimus Prime story because he needs to have a voice in this. Ironhide is a possibility, but I might weave his narrative in throughout the Prime’s. Annnnnd, someone asked if Jazz will make an appearance. Uhhh, maybe. Currently, I don’t have a background story for him that’s really significant. For this AU Jazz is going to be more like a background specter; spooky XOps prowling around at weird hours that no one ever really sees.

I think the next story will be how Trailbreaker met Blaster, Red Alert, Prowl. Or, I might decide to go with the tragedy and we’ll find out why Tracks is so very messed up.

oOo

Monster! Boy-howdy, has this story taken a turn since I first started writing it. Ah well, all the better for it. If you’ve not noticed, it has been changed to a DeathFic and that is for Major Character Death.

It’s brutal.

I already wrote the last scene and I’m pretty sure y’all will set your computers on fire and I’m really excited to get there. Because much like George R.R. Martin, I thrive on my readers’ tears. But, if you want to stop reading before things take a turn you’ve got…one more chapter. I have some characters I’ve never written before coming up in the next chapter and one of them is going to really throw Jazz for a loop. And then shit is gettin’ real.

I admit, I did almost write this in a way to avoid the major character death, but we have so many “Jazz/Prowl is a Decepticon sleeper agent that slowly changes because the power of friendship/love!” Be real now, this isn’t MLP, you know you don’t want another happy ending.

oOo

I am still trying to work out a good Soundwave story. I really, really, like Soundwave but I just can’t come up with a story where he fits. No matter what I think of he falls flat or doesn’t mesh with the setting or other characters. I don’t think I can write a feel good story with Soundwave. I think anything I write with him is going to be tragedy in every aspect. Which is cool for me, not for people who want a “Soundwave is such a great mech!” story. You see how dark I’ve got the Autobots, you really think I can write Decepticons as being sweet and altruistic deep down inside?

oOo

Next ambitious project! Uh, Pre-War merging into War possibly going into Post-War following Prowl, Red Alert, Jazz, and Bluestreak.

Oh yeah.

And I mean from how Jazz met Prowl and Red Alert to how they went from frontliners to officers to how they meet Bluestreak all the way to what they wind up doing after the war ends.

Unlike the Street True AU where Master’s Apprentice is set, this one will be in chronological order and all the better for it. It will either be magnificent or a screaming train wreck that will make me trash my computer and never write again.

oOo

Miscellaneous: Have fully storyboarded the Extended Universe snippet from WtLOR where we find out how Prowl met the Twins. It’s a really short story, no more than four chapters, but adds some good texture to all the characters.

Also, expect more oneshots like Fear and Broken Pieces, Game Change, etc. I find on Sunday nights when I’m too tired to pick up where I left off if a multi-chapter story oneshots are the perfect way to write without falling asleep on the keyboard.

And, when speaking with a reader, they mentioned a Starscream/Skyfire story. That’s not a pairing I’ve ever really considered because I always thought Starscream’s personality was too unstable for anything less than a Trine bond. But. That short conversation got me thinking and now I think I might start storyboarding a story that explains how and why Starscream became a Decepticon.

oOo

And way down here at the bottom: Original Content!

I have the first section of Last Rites—formerly Rebel Love Song—written. I have the Brothers and Maidens section storyboarded and need to write it. From there, I’ve opted to change the ending quite a bit which is really going to up the stakes for her in the next book.

And she shall remain nameless. I’ve weighed the pros and cons a few times and I’ve made the executive decision to stick with what I set out with. She does have a name, and readers will learn it, but how they learn it is more important than what it is. Unless they know what the literal translation is, then that shit is going to Blow Minds.

And that’s about the only original writing I’ve done.

*Angry Dinosaur Sounds*

*Angry Dinosaur Sounds*

Hello and good evening esteemed guests. I’m here to discuss a low key stress point in my life. I’m still enjoying my time in China, more now that the weather is warmer. Although last week there were a couple days it was cold enough I slept in my hoody with an extra blanket.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned English Corner before. It’s the promotional class I have to do on Wednesdays. So it’s a “class” but not a class. The focus is fun and it’s not supposed to be done like a normal class. It’s just an hour of games with a couple of vocabulary words and a sentence thrown in. When the semester started I was resigned to English Corner as one of those things I had to do.

No more.

I have come to loathe the very idea of English Corner. I hate Wednesdays for no other reason that English Corner happens to fall on that day.

Let me back up.

Up until January 21st of this year—2016—I worked in the food industry. I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens pretty much since I started working. Starting in January I made a massive career move to become a teacher. I took a month intensive to get my TEFL and before coming to China I had a grand total of nine hours in front of children floundering to teach them something. I started teaching in Yan’an at the beginning of March.

So my teaching experience is pretty much nonexistent. I am still at the stage of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Google is a gift from the gods as are those out there who share their games and teaching strategies. Bless all of you, and I promise to add my experiences so that others like me have an easier go of things.

As I learned from that first English Corner, my school expects me to run this gods forsaken class with little to no input from them. And so I have. I scour the internet for fun games with large groups of small children and adapt them to fit the vocabulary. And every single goddamn Wednesday in the twenty minutes before English Corner starts my CT tells me I must be “more perfect” whatever the fuck that means.

By my count, if the kids leave laughing and smiling it’s been a good class. Hell, I’m repeating a game this week because two of the kids cried at the end of class because they wanted to play the game longer. Still I must be “more perfect” or “do better” and What The Fuck Does That Mean? I asked my CT what it is she wants to do with the class and she was quick to point out it’s Line Manager telling her these things and she is simply the messenger.

They don’t like my warm-up activities. Okay. What do you want to do?

Ohhhh Nooo. I’m the FT I’m the one who needs to come up with the warm-up. Well okay, then we’re going to do the warm-up I have planned.

But it needs to be a song and dance. How about a song.

Fine. What songs do you know?

Ohhhh Nooo, I’m the FT I need to think of a song. They are merely assistants. And don’t forget, she is only Line Manager’s messenger. Line Manager who wants us to be “more perfect”.

Okay. So what the hell does she mean by “more perfect.”

Ah, well, it took them damn near twelve classes but they finally gave me a hint as to what they want. There are, of course, other English schools in Yan’an and my CT showed me a video of their version of English Corner. There was a foreign teacher in a top hat with a goddamn cape doing fucking magic tricks teaching the kids colors.

Well that’s all well and fucking good. It’s impressive and I applaud them for their creativity.

And that is apparently what my school wants from me.

First off, clearly, to pull something like that off, there was a meeting of sort between the FT and the CTs. There was planning, forethought, and a decent amount of communication involved to make something like that happen. Half the time I can’t get my CTs to talk to me until ten minutes before the class actually starts and even then one of them spends five minutes telling me that I must be “more perfect” and if I finish telling them my plans for the class it’s as kids are watching us waiting for class to start. Usually I just go with the two games I managed to outline and hope we can stretch them long enough to fill an hour because my CTs cannot think on their feet. I’ve tried that before and it was such an unholy train wreck by the end not even I knew what was going on.

So they want some big theatrical production, but not one person in that school could be fucked to tell me that we are now on “summer time” which means English Corner and all school meetings are now starting an hour later. An annoyance at the moment since I was an hour early for everything last week, but I am quite concerned when we go back to “winter time” I will also be uninformed and then I’ll be an hour late for everything. And of course I will be reprimanded because gods forbid I be late for anything—I’ll tell you The Bank Story later—when they can’t start manage to start a 2pm meeting before 230.

Basically, they want me to build them the goddamn Great Wall with half a box of matchsticks and when I fail to deliver it’s my fault because I’m the Foreign Teacher. It is pissing me off and stressing me out because if they think I’m incompetent they can cancel my contract. Since this is my first teaching job that wouldn’t look great on a resume. And I just cannot make any of them understand that what they’re seeing in that accursed video isn’t the magic of One foreign teacher, it’s a concerted effort by everyone at that school to make their English Corner special. Aside from her Not Even A Little Bit (you thought I forgot about that bullshit) and “more perfect” comments Line Manager hasn’t asked me how to make English Corner “more perfect”. They think if we add in a song and dance at the beginning that suddenly it will be “more perfect” and I just want to slam my head against a wall. It’s not that the kids aren’t having fun, it’s that the parents don’t think it looks engaging enough. I can’t even begin to process that ass-backwards line of thinking but that’s where we are.

The only good news coming out of this is that Line Manager has volunteered me for additional training in June. So I just have to dig in and hold on until I go back to Xi’an. I’m hoping there I’ll meet one or two of the people I shared initial training with and others and they can help me work this out, because while I’ve always been quite content to forge my own path this feels more and more like it’s leading me to a cliff.