Friday, September 30, 2011


I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that September is over.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Even as I'm playing Duck Hunt on my phone—one of the signs that we're living in the future, I imagine somebody other than myself telling myself, though it is me—I want this game to be a part of some narrative I'm putting together. Who would be the main character wanting to blast the dog to pieces at my misses? What if the phone rings? What is pause? How much overlap should there be? I want everything to have a reference to everything else; I want everything to be totally separate from everything else.


It's been a long time since I wrote about what I do here exactly. I've talked about teachers and students but not exactly about what I do in the school.

For the first year and some, up until this summer, I was a teacher (or "educational specialist," as the government-issued certification of expertise asserts). My students ranged from three years old to adult. I was also the director of English Program, an hour-a-week class for the Eastern teachers: grammar, Chinglish, culture, etc. During this time, I wasn't a manager, but in this kind of work, the turnover is ridiculous. Even if people finish their contracts—which, Jesus, you might be amazed by the number who don't (then again, if you were here and saw how difficult it is for some people to adapt, maybe you wouldn't)—they're usually here for only a year. I've seen threeish different Western staffs blow through, and of course I helped the newer staff after I myself bungled through my first months (I told my friend yesterday, "If I can't do something on my own now, I'm an idiot," although there's still a lot I can't do, natch). So if you've been here for any length of time—like two years and some to others' not even two weeks, say—you fill an advisory role almost in spite of your best efforts. I found myself doing managerial things without really having any title. It was just a small company, and the staff was constantly new. My mantra was "I just want to teach."

But this past summer I got promoted. I'm the director of education, which means I write curriculum and schedules, serve as a cultural advisor, train the staff, sit in on people's classes, and advise the teachers on classroom management and techniques. There are other duties too, but those are the main ones. And of course, I still have classes—right now as many as everybody else, but after the holiday, I'll have fewer so I can focus on my other work (though I must say that I'd rather be in class than do the other things that go into running a school).

As I've said before, I haven't had much time lately to do much outside of school. Personal time is at a premium now, but I'm hoping that all changes with this new schedule. Since September 9, I've been outlining new stories and working on some poems. It'd be nice to get something sent out in the next couple months.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Adult Class

Me: "I ran home."

Student, in Chinese, to the Eastern teacher: "{What does that mean?}"

Me, acting it out: "'I ran home.'"

Eastern teacher: "'I ran to home.'"

Me, acting it out again, giving the ET a what-the-fuck look: "No, there's no to. 'I ran home.'"

Student: "Then your home should be very big."

Me: "Huh?"

Student, in Chinese, to the Eastern teacher: "{What does that mean?}"


"A sentence with an adjective as the main element of its predicate is known as the sentence with an adjectival predicate…."
Conversational Chinese 301 (Beijing: Beijing Language and Culture University Press, 2007), a book riddled with pointless explanations like this

Monday, September 26, 2011


An overserious three-year-old: "{My father said, 'Playing's playing. Learning's learning.'}"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Last Days, One Hopes, of Being So Busy

Recently everybody's been incredibly busy at work (I myself am on day ten of a twelve-day workweek). We're making class sizes smaller, reducing the number of students per class from twelve to six, so that we can tighten an already-good curriculum. Planning and scheduling have taken up a lot of time, and everybody's ready for the October holiday, nine whole days off (my first vacation since February).

Last Saturday two new Western teachers arrived. Their arrival has been a refresher. Having majored in education, they help round out a solid Western staff. Their professional manner has already been commented on and praised by the Eastern staff.

And I'm excited about the new schedule, which should allow me not only more personal free time but also more time to observe classes and help the other teachers, which I haven't been able to do because of my own full load. I've had trouble lately switching between bigger decisions involving the school and smaller decisions about, for example, which game to play during a Tots class. Lots of dreams about teaching, the recurring nightmare about teaching the past unreal conditional to three- and four-year-olds, in particular.

But, as I said, the October holiday, National Day, is coming up, and I'm heading up north, where I plan to speak no English for nine days. Really, I could use the break.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Three-year-old student, in Chinese, upon reviewing monkey: "{My dad says that monkeys' favorite thing to do is eat dick.}"

Friday, September 9, 2011


I've now written every day for seventeen years.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

But It Was Over Quickly

More than ten taxis blocked the road. People obstructed traffic further with their bodies, forcing honking buses to take another route. After ten or so minutes, a solitary policeman made his way into the crowd, which squeezed around him. "{Whose car is this?}" he asked. Several men put up their arms and said, "{Mine.}" Any move the policeman made, the crowd followed him closely, pressed against him, all courage, everybody together. Where was his backup? What was the point of blocking the road? And why were we so glad that what looked like a protest was going on?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If You're Honest

There is in class, which feels realer than the planning for it does, and then there's the strange game of not in class. You come to, and it's like, Jesus Christ, I'm teaching the alphabet.


Last night Hanna said that the police wanted the information for every student in our school. What for? They wouldn't say.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Finally someone let me out of my cage
Now time for me is nothing cos I'm counting no age
Now I couldn't be there
Now you shouldn't be scared
I'm good at repairs
And I'm under each snare
Bet you didn't think so I command you to
Panoramic view
Look I'll make it all manageable
—Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood"

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Was Going to Take Next Week Off

Extra busy because of assholes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't Want to Be Anywhere / September

Mandatory fun time is mandatory only.