Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Classes. The Name Game

Hello all. Checking in again from East Asia. It's hard to believe that I have been here for 8 months. Everything is going pretty well. Life here is strange, but I am dealing with the day-to-day oddities. Socially, I have been hanging with a few buddies on the weekends and exploring the luck with the ladies has been a bit thin lately. Work continues to be great. The increased responsibilities since the departure of Chris & Brent have not taken much of a toll on me.

These past few weeks have been pretty big for me at work. I went from having 1 class all to myself to 3!!!!!

I now have a class of 21 kids every Saturday from 1 to 3 o'clock. They are very bright. Technically, I am sharing the class with Sandy, the Chinese teacher. She teaches them every Wednesday, and I have them every Saturday. Up until a few weeks ago, she had the class by herself, both days. She is a freaking great teacher, so these kids are sharp and excited to have a native speaker teach them. They have been great thus far.

Also, I have my own mini-class!! This is especially cool because these classes are rare. The class has only 5 kids in it and they a very dedicated...their parents pay a ton of money for the opportunity to have their kids learn from a native speaker in a small class setting. The fact that my boss has given me this class tells me that they are comfortable/happy with my teaching. I think I am getting better at this every day.

One area that I have been concentrating on is names. I am working hard on remembering as many students names as I can. It's not easy, there are about 1200 kids in the school. I think that if I make the effort, the kids will appreciate it and it will allow me to gain their trust and respect. Nothing is more important than the relationships I have with the students. If I don't have their respect and friendship, than my job becomes nearly impossible.

These past few months have been very good for my soul/spirit. It sounds corny but working with the kids has really helped me gain some insight into who I am. They bring out the best in me. I can't tell you how many days I leave my job with a smile on my face and feeling like I did something truly worthwhile...that is priceless.

A visit home may be in the workings for sometime late in the summer. I am considering making the trip in August or perhaps September...not sure. If I can amass enough cash, I'm gonna do it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Birthday Surprise at Work

Sorry for the lag in posting, these past few weeks have been kinda wacky. A combination of work craziness, my birthday, and home improvements has eaten all of my time.

The second phase, or the post Chris and Brent era as I like to call it, is in full-swing.

It has been much more pleasant than I had anticipated. I think my boss and the Chinese teachers now realize that I am more than capable of taking the reins as the lead teacher in the office. Carol, the boss, has been very supportive of me. She has arranged my schedule so that I can concentrate on my writing class and a few other classes that are considered very valuable to the school. I think she is working hard to keep me cool!! Further evidence of this theory came today; she bought me a couple of my favorite doughnuts while she was out shopping today...hmmm.

Even more importantly, the Chinese teachers have been great! I've come to the realization that in order to be a truly successful foreign teacher here, you have to accept that you know very little. Lately, I have been approaching the Chinese teachers and asking them how they would approach/teach the various lessons. As a result, I think they see that I am serious about being a great teacher and it has strengthened my relationships with them. I have had nothing but positive feedback from them and it feels great!

I had a wonderful surprise on my birthday. I was wrapping up my work day in the office when Lydia, one of the secretaries, came out of the break room with a great birthday cake. All of the Chinese teachers sang Happy Birthday to me and we had a cool little party. It shocked the heck out of me. Afterwards, Scott told me that he was shocked because no one in the office had remembered Chris' or his birthday...interesting.

The apartment is great, I love this place. Recently, Scott hooked me up with some fabric. His girlfriend works for a company that makes textiles so she had a bunch of free fabric. I have been trying to figure out a way to get some curtains for my place on the cheap. The curtains that are on the windows are off-white...not much good for blocking the sunshine in the morning. As a result, I have been waking up waaaay too early lately. Well, I was in an industrious mood this past weekend so I made some curtains, I managed to get them up by utilizing paper clips, safety pins, and They work great, but look a bit odd.

Finally, I would like to congratulate my niece Jami. She recently was awarded an internship with Greenpeace. How freaking cool is that!!!!!!! Good luck Jami. Have fun and conquer the world.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Rain Stopped. Earthquake Alert!

It appears the rain has stopped, it's been dry for the past four days. In fact, the weather has been great. In the 70's, with just a few scattered clouds in the sky...I love it!

Yesterday, we had a doosey of an earthquake. It was about 6pm, I had just arrived home from running some errands and before I knew it, the apartment felt like a houseboat. Everything was swaying back-and-forth as if I were on the water. It lasted for about a minute. News reports said it was centered in the southern part of the island and registered 5.6 on the Richter Scale. It was intense, I never know what to do when one of those suckers hits. When you're on the 9th floor of a building, there's not much you can do.

I found an oasis on this island of strange food! Yesterday, I found a bakery that makes baked goods the western way. It's called Florida Bakery. I was like a kid in a candy store, walked out of there with about $900 worth of baked goods (that's about $25 American). I bought 2 loaves of bread (whole wheat), a dozen cinnamon & raisin bagels, 6 hot dog buns, countless cookies, some real butter, and a big bag of dinner rolls. I stuffed a bunch of it in my freezer. After this discovery, I had to go out and buy a toaster oven. I foresee scrumptious breakfasts in my near future.

Chris & Brent are going back to Canada this week. Last week was a tough one for them, pretty emotional. They are both terrific guys who were fantastic at their jobs. They will be missed. The school will probably never have a better bunch of teachers than they had this past year. As I think I wrote before, Chris is one of the primary reasons I have succeeded here, he is a remarkable person with great skills.

I am stopping by his place on Wednesday. He is giving me a bunch of stuff from his apartment including a coffee maker, a water purifier (the boiling kind), and a variety of kitchen utensils. What a great deal, I need these things.

My birthday is just a few days away. Graeme, Scott, Andrew, Henry and a few others have decided to take me out to dinner. We're gonna have a steaks at a place called Dan Ryan's on Saturday night.

Work is great. I have this Wednesday off. It's a national holiday. Something about cleaning the tombs of your ancestors, not sure. A paid day off is never a bad thing.