Monday, November 15, 2010

tentacles, karaoke, and the mafia—all in one week!

Busy week, as is usually the case here, but I had some fun moments.

On Tuesday I joined some Korean friends and one of my Chinese students for dinner. We headed down to the local Korean district and, after wandering the streets for about ten minutes, found a nice little sushi restaurant. Upon entering, we were required to take off our shoes, which we placed in a bin, and then sat on the ground around a lowered table. We were brought a variety of delicious seafood, including chopped octopus tentacles, which were still very much alive and moving. When I grabbed a tentacle with my chopsticks, it would sometimes curl around my stick and hold on for dear life; one of them even grabbed onto my lip and wouldn't let go, as much as I tried to suck it in my mouth. I also had fun entertaining my female companions with the fresh crabs, sticking chopsticks in their claws and then making them do a little dance on the table, Charlie Chaplin The Gold Rush - style. (Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera.) When I wasn't goofing off and playing with my food (or being played with by it), I enjoyed eating and tried a little of everything. Judging by how well my stomach handled the dishes, I think I'm not only growing fond of but also adjusted to seafood.

In China, November 11 (or "11-11") is Singles' Daya kind of anti-Valentine's Day when young single people meet and party together. After finishing class on Thursday afternoon, some of my students, aware that I am still single, asked me to join them for karaoke at one of the local "KTV" centers. Having heard much about this popular entertainment in Shenyang, I immediately accepted the invitation and spent the evening watching my students sing popular Chinese pop songs, along with the occasional Lady Gaga hit. (Considering how poor some of their English-speaking skills are in class, I was surprised by how well my students could sing "Poker Face"maybe I should use Gaga in the classroom more often, at least on the days when I'm not feeling so strongly opposed to the very idea of using Gaga in the classroom more often.) I sang a few songs myself: "Hey Jude," "Stayin' Alive," and Elton John's "Your Song," thereby exposing my ignorance of what's currently popular in American music. To be fair, I did look to see if the karaoke machine had Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," but alas I could not find it and thus had no opportunity to bring it. But I had a lot of fun, and my students certainly made me feel like the life of the party.

For my English Corner on Friday, a whopping 27 students showed up, so I decided it would be a good time to introduce the game "mafia" to them. To my surprise, a good number of my students were already familiar with the game (a variation roughly translated as "The Killer Game"), which made explaining the rules a lot easier than I thought it would be. With so many people, we elected for four mafia, two cops, and two protectors and then proceeded to play an entertaining, plot-twisting game for the next two hours, with me acting as the master of ceremonies. The students really got into the role playing, especially when I asked the accused for each round to give a small defense. Many of them seemed to forget they were speaking English and primarily concentrated on communicating their thoughts to others, so it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for my students to speak naturally and without the usual pressure.

I now have two groups of kids that I tutor weekly: the four ten-year-old girls on Saturday morning and another groupfour boys and one girl, all about six years oldthat I tutor the same afternoon. Some of the girls in my morning session are becoming a little too rambunctious and just plain naughty, which has been a bit stressful for me. (Although I do well in working with my students at the university, I find that I'm often at a loss when it comes to taking care of children, as much as I love them.) Fortunately, after sharing my troubles with my mom and my good friend Fei back home, I received some ideas that should help.

Other than that, I've been meeting with friends for the occasional lunch, taking the bus where I occasionally chat (or, more precisely, attempt to chat) with fellow passengers, and watching movies that I find at the local super-inexpensive DVD shop. Today I found some of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films (Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke), along with a bunch of other Japanese titles, including Toyko Drifter, Tokyo Story, and one of my very favorites, Tokyo Sonata (the clerk must have thought I really have a thing for the city). Tonight I talked to a few students who arrived for my Monday English Corner and then retired to my room, where I fried myself some eggs, made a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and watched Dog Day Afternoon on my laptop. I need to bring some of Pacino's frenzied performance to my teaching mannerisms this week.

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