Monday, February 27, 2012

Monthly Teaching Inspection

In China, as in many other Asian countries, it's typical and mandatory for another teacher and/or the head teacher to sit in their colleague's classroom as a student and an inspector.

I had my class inspected today, and I couldn't help but laugh behind the flashcards as I murmured how ridiculous the whole thing was. You see, I only had about 25 students in the classroom, but due to the Inspection, I had over 30 pupils in the classroom, including 6 teachers. The students were on their best behavior alright!

Last term, my grade three class of only 7 students was inspected by 3 other teachers. So we had 5 teachers and 7 students in total. I felt very crowded and uncomfortable during the whole "demo" as it wasn't natural.
Can you imagine giving a "normal' class with this many people?

I asked my co-teacher why the school does this, she said she doesn't know. But I think the reason behind it is for the teachers to point out the strengths and weaknesses of their colleague, maximizing the students learning experience.
I think it's a completely waste of time, because different subjects requires different teaching skills and methods. So, a math teacher can't be instructing a music teacher on how to do her job, the same way a music teacher cannot be giving a language teacher teaching tips. Also, each teacher has his/her own way of teaching. But when a teacher has to give a performance like what I had to to do today, he/she will prepare the most entertaining and amusing show the best he/she can. And on days when she doesn't have to "perform", she will simply go back to her old routine that might not be amusing to the other teachers and head teachers. I'm sure the school is aware of this, but I guess they enjoy being entertained by their colleagues performances. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Online Grocery Shopping in China

I like to buy some heavy and hard to find items online. It also saves me the time of playing scavenger hunt at  3-5 stores looking for something as "common" as dried kidney beans.  A post on why I hate shopping in China will soon follow. 

My favorite website is This site has become my best friend! I buy something from this website at least once a week, every week. For us Canadians, buying groceries or anything books and electronics unrelated might sound completely foreign! But for Americans and the Chinese, this is nothing new.
My second best friend is Google Translate. I use this site for everything!
Then my third best friend is Google Chrome. The automatic webpage translation makes shopping a breeze.

Below is how I shop online using my 'Three Musketeers".

1) Open  Usually, Google Chrome will automatically translate the webpage to English, But i've been having some "network issues" lately, which gives me limited shopping abilities. Luckily, I can use my computer at work or just go with the flow since I now know where to click and what i'm buying.

2) Then, I open Google Translate, search for the Chinese translation of what I want to buy.

3) Go back to Amazon and search for it.

4) Put in my purchase, select payment method (COD, Cash on Delivery) and delivery time (evening, after 5pm), wait for 24hours or less for my order to arrive and i'm done!

5) The next evening, I receive my package, check to make sure the package is complete, pay for the order and get cooking!

Shipping for Items over 29rmb is free, so I have never had to pay for shipping since I always buy multiple items.
I also bought a new battery for my camera.

Anyone living in a foreign land can try this idea and let me know how it goes.

Happy Sunday and Happy Shopping!

Friday, February 24, 2012

We're not from Brazil, but from Mozambique

or Spanish, Italian, French and any other colonial language.
While at a women's small group ministry on Tuesday evening, I overheard two women conversing in an unfamiliar language. So I asked them what the language was, which they replied, Portuguese. I ignorantly assumed they were from Brazil or Portugal, but was surprised when they told me they were not from neither country, but from Mozambique. They later gave me a quick history and geographic lesson about Africa.

Who gets which part and how much of each part?

I've always thought the main languages in Africa are Arabic, English and French, with the most prevalent language being English. But I just never thought some African countries speaks other European languages, especially languages like Italian or Portuguese.
Official languages as a result of colonialism

So, what is the importance of this post? 
Africa is a diverse continent indeed! One does not need to trek the globe to study Spanish in South America, Portuguese in Portugal, Arabic in The Middle East, or France to study french. Rather, money can be saved by simply spending time in select African countries!

Monday, February 20, 2012

February is Black History Month

As an African living in the Diaspora, I thought I should say write a few things about Black History Month. And to bring its awareness to my International readers who knows very little or nothing about the importance of Black History Month. So, without further ado, here you go! 

What is Black History Month? A month to observe, remember and celebrate important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora. It is also a month to recognize present day blacks who are making a difference and changing black history.
Blacks in the Media

Where is it celebrated? In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

When is Black history Month? Every February in Canada and the U.S and every October in the U.K

Dr. King giving the "I Have A Dream" speech
How is it celebrated? Many schools, black organizations, media outlets and individuals will hold educational talks, presentations and discussions about black history.  Last Year, I saw an episode on The Oprah Winfrey Show where she dedicated the entire show to black history. In this episode, she played clips from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s  "I Have A Dream" speech, interviewed the "Little Rock Nine" 54 years after their ordeal, and honored Black Americans such as Maya Angelou (also her mentor) who made it possible for her to become Oprah Winfrey.
Angry white parents, against "race mixing"
"Little Rock Nine" being escorted on their first day to prevent harm from angry white protesters.
Do blacks in the nation get the whole month off? No, they don't, because it's not a national holiday.

Why is black history in february? Because it's the birth month of two of the  most important  people in Black history; Abraham Lincoln (America's 16th president who ended slavery) and Frederick Douglas ( a former slave and abolitionist).

What does black history mean to me? It means I can walk in anywhere, whether it be a building, city or nation without worrying about the issues I might face due to the color of my skin. It means I can BE whoever I want to be as long as I am focused, work very hard and have Christ on my side. 

For you readers, what does black history month or a national day in your country mean to you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is your hair fake?

My Sunday look. "I turned the Wave into a pompadour the next day for a more conservative look"

What my grade 4 boys had to say* about the style.

John: How did she get her front hair to be that high?
Qin (My co-teacher): I don't know, ask her
Tony: It's because her hair is fake
Me: Is your hair fake?
Tony: No, it's not
Me: Mine too
Dana: My hair is not hair!
Whole Class: **bursts out in laughter**
* Whole conversation was in Chinese. Btw, I gave them all English names

I usually wear a full winter attire in my classroom including a hat, since it's so cold in my classrooms. So, most of my students haven't seen my "latest" hairstyle yet. But today's weather was a bit warmer, so I decided to ditch the hat this time. My students definitely had a lot to say about it. Last week, the same John thought my hairstyle looked like a bone (a rib cage), which makes sense, now that I think of it.

Hours later, on my way back home, a Chinese Man asked the Chinese woman sitting in front of me if my hair was fake. Usually, I would just sit there and pretend like I don't understand what they were saying. But since I felt like I attracted the "curiousity", I thought I should answer the man's question and save the poor woman the trouble.

The Chinese are very curious and are not shy to ask awkward questions such as "how old are you and how much do you make?". While some foreigners might think some of these questions are rude and racist, I think they are a result of ignorance (more on the cause of this ignorance future posts). The truth is, we are all ignorant about each other's culture. I mean so many people across the world thinks Africa is a country where it's citizens have no access to education, clean water and food. Also, we share the streets with Elephants and Lions.
I've had someone ask me if this style was real. Like Duh!

No matter how I wear my hair, whether it be in extensions, cornrows, braids, afro puffs, up-dos, twists or whatever, I still get these questions regardless;
1. Is your hair fake?
2. Did you do it yourself?
3. How did you style it?
4. Can I touch it? Which most times, they just touch it without asking.
4. And then the off topic questions... "Where are you from" and "How old are you"

Does this look fake to you?

I never could understand why people would ask me if my hair was fake, as if the originality of my hair is any of their business! I mean, no one in Canada ever asked me if my weave was fake, they just comment on my "new haircut" after I take my weave down. But, I suddenly got a "light bulb moment" on a bus ride home today.  I realized that the Chinese are still getting used to seeing people with different skin colour, shades, eye colour, hair colour and texture. So, for the Chinese who is wondering why I am not as dark as he would have thought, and why I claim to be Canadian, though i'm black; He now has to wrap his head around why my hair isn't as straight as his and why my hair is in that interesting hairstyle.
now, this is what I call fake!

While i've seen many chinese women with curly and wavy hairstyles, I would assume these styles would be classified fake, as Asians hair are not "naturally" curly or wavy. The only time my hair never attracted an audience was when I had a straight weave on, which then looked "natural"

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Back to School

After weeks of lazying about, I am excited to go back to school tomorrow! The second school term for Chinese schools this year starts in February due to the Chinese New Year being in the last week of January. But I think second term usually starts in February. As much as I am excited to see all of my students and get back to routine, I am not looking forward to a few things, for instance;.
- waking up early in the morning
- taking two buses to get to work. Luckily, I work in a village, so I go against traffic and don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic.
- wearing my winter coat, hat and scarf all day long even when i'm teaching or  in the staff room. The heater in a lot of buildings are on very low, so it's effect is barely felt
- Always being the last person to be told anything, since i'm a foreign teacher
- Not having a set plan and schedule. I can say my school brought out the "freestyler" in me. My classes and teaching schedules are changed without notice, and sometimes I don't even know what i'm teaching until minutes before walking into class. Although the uncertainty can feel like a roller coaster ride, most times, it's just plain frustrating.

At least I look forward to...
- My students always greeting me each time they see me, no matter how many times they saw me on that day
- Funny things the kids say and do
- Improving my Chinese through teaching English!

Regardless of how I feel about going back to school, I just have a feeling that this term will be better than last term!