March in Jinzhou has so far rang
true to the old adage "In Like a Lion" however, I don't think it's
going to go "Our Like a Lamb." They tell me it really blows here
in the spring. We've had several days when the sky's are a yellowish
brownish red. I understand it's all the dirt blowing in off of the
Mongolian plains. We're only a hop skip and a jump away from them.
Kite flying is a city wide pastime, because of the wind you don't even need to run with them. You simply start letting out string and your kite fly's. I used to provide hours of entertainment for our neighbors back home with my half hearted attempts at running to get the girl's kite in the air, it is so much simpler here. You wouldn't believe how pretty some of the kites are. There are silk butterfly's of every color and I've seen many kites that are shaped and painted like different kinds of birds, but the coolest kite I've seen was a ship. It was three dimensional (like an old fashioned box kite, not flat like most of today's kites) and reminded me of Captain Hook's ship in Peter Pan (can you tell what we've been watching lately). It was the neatest kite I've ever seen. Unfortunately I was alone when I saw it. I tried to ask the kid where he got it by mentioning a few stores I knew, but he didn't get what I was trying to say to him. So I left rather frustrated at my lack of Chinese.
The new term started here on the 4th. This semester we got two new teachers, one from Australia and another from America, but she's lived in France for the past 30+ years. The American's are still here and now we have another student from Easter Kentucky University. I'm teaching 7 classes, which is the same as last semester, however my students are much more varied in their skills. 3 of my classes are mixed majors and this is an elective class for them. I'm the first foreign teacher most of them have had. I speak very S L O W L Y and mostly they still don't get it. It helps to write on the chalk board a LOT. I'm also still going over to the other college this semester. I have teach twice a week there. It's half of the same class I had last semester. I guess I complained enough to Leanne about how 60 students in the class was way too much that they decided to break it into two classes. Jane one of the new teachers has the other half of my class. My other two classes are pretty easy, one is a freshman English major's class and the other is made up of sophomore Foreign Trade major's.
The English and Foreign Trade major's have pretty good English skills so I've given them a special project. I thought it was one of my better ideas. Nancy, Sarah and I went to all the little restaurants just outside the school's gates (there are about 12 of them) and spoke with the owners (who were all "for" my idea). I broke up the student's into groups of 5 and I'm having them translate the different restaurant's entire menus into English. All of my fellow teachers are thrilled. We are really getting tired of eating the same things over and over because we don't know what else is available. I went over in class how to describe food and we had several mock exercises with the food's we teachers eat a lot and I'm familiar with. I also had a couple of menus from the Outback Restaurant in Beijing which had been translated into Chinese from English. I thought this would also give them an idea of what I wanted them to do. After they all turn in their homework, I'll take a copy to each of the restaurants and they'll have an English menu for their Yingyu (English) speaking patrons.
The girls have settled back into their routine of going to school everyday. I wondered how they would do after the 2.5 month break they had. I counted back all the time we spent traveling and them missing school because it was closed for Spring Festival and saw that since December 21st they'd only been in school for 1 week and 1 day. Needless to say their Chinese didn't improve much during this time. The first week back was a little hard on Julie, she cried every morning when I took them, but she's fine and enjoying herself now. In fact the other day when I picked them up early they were both very put out at the fact I was there to get them, they were NOT ready to go home.....Oh excuse me! They are constantly bringing home new words they've learned. So far there have not been any "mama" (curse) words.
It looks like they are going to build some more apartments next door to us. It has been very interesting to see how construction takes place here. So far there has not been one piece of machinery used. Everything has been done by hand. There were several tree's (like 30 or so) that came down. It was quite entertaining to watch the two men sit on their duff's with one of those 2 people saws and hand saw the trees down while another 20 or so men watched. I've also watched them erect temporary living quarters for the workers. It was all done with brick (I never hear a truck delivering bricks either. I think they all came in on bicycle carts) and now they are hand digging what appears to be water and sewer lines. You'd be surprised at how much they can get done in a day. The ground is perfectly level and there has not been one bulldozer on it. I'm looking forward to watching this bare ground progress.
That's about it for now. Please remember I live for emails even thought I sometimes not the greatest at returning them ;>). Think of it as charity work.