The kids also had sports day. Each class was assigned different countries and they all had to dress up in a way that represented those countries. I got a little uncomfortable when a student asked for help in dressing like an American Indian. I told him there are many kinds of American Indian and that he should look them up to try and understand that you can't just dress in the "common clothing". I know it was only for a fun day at school, but I decided if nothing else, it was an opportunity to introduce him to a more nuanced understanding. If he ultimately had to dress up, he was at least going to do it with something more than a stereotyped view. I never saw the costumes so I have no idea what happened there. I had Friday and Monday free while the kids competed on Saturday and Sunday and spent Halloween night in Changsha seeing familiar faces.
I got a package from home, which was nice, and my site visit was more or less OK. The field director is really wonderful and it's always great to catch up with her. I told I've had a harder time getting started/motivated with lesson plans and everything else. I guess because it's my second year, I know my classes are noisy and I struggle a lot with assertiveness and not everything is new and exciting to me in the same way. I've been reflecting a lot on what's changed/what's different between my first and second year as well as the additional challenges of teaching 8th grade. While they do know more English, they also have more subjects and teachers are more likely to feel pressed for time so you have to fight for your classes every now and then. That wasn't ever an issue for me last year, but I remember my site mate feeling pretty unsupported when she taught 8th grade last year. What especially rubbed me the wrong way this past week was when I showed up to my Friday class and was told that they weren't having oral English, they were having biology. Ouch. Not only did they boot my class, they didn't even bother telling me about it until I showed up at the door. I flat out said "I only have this class once a week. I'm having class." My poor assistant ran off and told the biology teacher who relented even as other students tried to explain the situation to me. In the end, I made myself comfortable in front of the blackboard and got my class as planned. I felt kind of bad, I know that midterms are coming up and the biology teacher's been really nice to me throughout my time in Zhuzhou but for me, I came to fulfill my commitments and would rather not be moved around without any kind of consultation like that.
Outside of school, I wandered the city a little with my site mate and got some stinky tofu. The woman at the tea shop asked me to help her with a bottle of fish oil pills from Canada since the label was in French and English and she didn't know how many to take each day. I tried to tell her one side was in French and that Canada has more than one language, but she seemed a little confused and asked if the bottle was in "Jianada yu" ("Canada language/speak"). The important thing is, she's not going to overdose on fish oil while I'm around.
All around, I suppose that emotionally it's been a bit like the weather (which doesn't really transition from hot to cold as much as decide that it's going to fall starting now, it might be hot again, then it'll go back to being cold and wet). I was really excited when the first rain came in and am now back to steeping and re-steeping my favorite tea, Tie Guan Yin oolong. Since I know the area a little better, I seem less inclined to run around on a rainy day too. I've definitely gotten up and said "No" after looking out the window a few times already. I'm dreaming of going back to Yuanyang with its sunshine and its terraces that each have their special times of day. I'm also dreaming of seeing old friends in Vietnam and Japan, in addition to all I haven't seen in China. I don't seem to have as much free time as I did before since I have to push myself a little harder. My voice seems to have been taxed quite a bit too over the past year. Since I was sick for a while, I thought it was just the last bits of cough that would eventually leave and I'd project like before. It's not that my throat aches, it just doesn't carry like it used to so I had buy myself a microphone/speaker thing so everyone can hear me during class. I'm feeling a little miserable, but for now there's not much I can do except tinker with the new toy and keep drinking that weird bitter stuff the lady at the tea shop gave me. I still don't know what it is, it does seem to do something to my throat but doesn't completely restore it. Then again, I remember hearing someone say once that they "distrusted American medicine because it worked too fast so it's probably got something dangerous in there". So I guess it's something I need to take more regularly to see more notable results?
I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up with this blog. I have a list of topics to cover but on a lot of days, I just kind of feel like I have nothing to say. The highlights don't seem to come as readily, though I still get them, and with the knowledge that I have to give an assessment every month comes the sense that I need to put the material first, so the activities are a little less adventurous than before. I'd like to think I'm getting back to that creative streak I finally managed to hit around November of last year. The 8th graders are going on a class trip next week so perhaps I'll finally have something to really write about within the next two weeks.