Thursday, September 16, 2010

Incredible things at Yi Xian Guo Ji

Yi Xian Guo Ji (yee see-ann gwah gee) is the neighborhood where my school is located, so that’s basically how we refer to it. Some craaazy things have happened in the past few days that I must share.

1. I named an entire class of 2 year olds (no, I didn’t take Barry and Steph’s advice and name them General Tso and Eggroll. I was definitely tempted though!). My 2nd time with the crying class resulted in less crying, more gaping mouths, and one kid who was in such hysterics that he threw up. (Luckily, it was just as I was leaving, so you know I basically ran out of that room!). After a few songs, the teacher thrust a pen and notebook at me and said “names? English names?” The problem here is that many people add vowels or an “uh” sound at the end of most words because in Chinese, many words and sounds are consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel. That immediately eliminated names like Blake and Stacy (sorry guys).

So I started with the first girl and said “Courtney,” knowing that they would pronounce it “Courteney.” The teacher looked at me and said “Co-ert-e-nee? No no. Different.” So I picked one that I knew a kid in another class had—Annie.
Next kid: Jen. Response? Jen? Jen? Me: JennY. Response: Oooooh, Jenny! Ok!
Next kid: Adam. Response? Aaaaa-dum? Aaaaadum? Me: [writing it down] A-d-a-m.  Response? No, no, no. No Adam. Me: Kevin. Response: aaaaah yes, Kevin! Very good!
Next kid: Sandy. Response: We have Cindy [points to ceiling, where there is a teacher named CINDY].
This pattern of trying to name kids after family or friends and being shot down continued. And then…
Teacher: She is very smart. You have name to smart? Me: um, our names don’t mean anything. Just names. Response: confused look. Me: How about Lauren? Response: Laur-EHN? EHN? Laur-AH ok? Me: Yes, yes, very good.

By this point, I just named the rest of the kids after every other kid in the school. Sorry friends. However, when I got to the last one, I thought I’d try again with Michael. The teacher looked at me like I had 2 heads, so I tried Sam. Same response until I said “SammY” and she got very excited and that was that. Whew.

2. The 2 nurses go around to every classroom every day and check each kid’s hands, mouth, and temperature. No idea why, but it’s done. When they came to my big class today, the nurse took the Chinese teacher aside. She came back and said “Billy [absent kid] has a sickness. We have to keep the kids apart.” I’m thinking “Ok so he wasn’t immunized and now we all have polio? This is China. We are all going to die of TB.” She typed something into her phone and showed it to me. 1. Varicella. 2. Chicken pox. So totally normal and no big deal in the U.S., but here, it’s a cause for mass hysteria and nobody sends their kids to school. (My thought: wow, if every kid gets chicken pox progressively, that would be 12 weeks with no students! Amazing!) So because my class had to be isolated, they could not go outside and play in the playground area. Thus….

3. They rollerbladed on the roof? Seriously? Each of the 9 4 to 5 year olds had his own little bag, filled with a personal pair of roller blades, helmet, and enough padding that they could have been hit by a car and walked away unscathed (all except one boy, whose parents apparently didn’t want to contribute to his rollerblading education). I was absolutely astonished.  Dumbfounded. Baffled. Confused. What was going on?? If only I had my camera because this was absolutely photo-worthy! I laughed and laughed as I got these kids rollerblade-ready. All I could think was “Too bad I gave Courtney my rollerblades!!” They just played around a bit, and a few of those kids were REALLY good!! They could have given me a few lessons (I’m thinking of that time I face-planted in Central Park while chasing Lauren…). Then, out of nowhere, some guy comes in already on roller-blades, and gives the kids a 20-minute lesson. WHERE AM I?? I’ve never seen him at the school before. So his sole purpose is to spend 20 minutes having kids skate around a circle on the roof?

This leads to point number 4…
I was told that I write English incorrectly by a Chinese woman who speaks little to no English. So with the oldest “normal” class that I have twice per week for 20 minutes at a time, I thought I would start practicing letter writing. Obviously we started with A this week, and I showed them a capital A starting at the bottom of the line (basically a reverse V with a line across). She told me in broken English in China they do not write the big A like that, and I should change it before next week because she does not want her kids to be on the short bus. (I think that was basically the bottom line). Oh, China.


  1. I am laughing so hard that I can't stop to write!! I have to show this post to the 6th grade Humanities teachers who are starting to teach about China today. Did the teachers really say "short bus" as in the kids would be educationally China? When you decide to change our whole alphabet let me know, so I can pass your wisdom on. I loved the assigning names story...too funny!! :)

  2. Hey it's Laura Karp from the States!!!! I like the kid whose "name" is Laura. Very cool. Oh, make sure Alison is reading this because Adam will have no idea who the heck I am. Thanks!!!!! hehe.