I got a goat!
Editor's note: This is a fairly boring, mundane post. I meant to say something significant in it, but got distracted.
I've been starting a lot of conversations lately by saying "I got a goat!"
I find it interesting that everyone automatically assumes that someone in China gave me a real goat. I think it says interesting things about people's perceptions of this place.
That being said: I got a goat!
I got "invited" (as in: "We're going tomorrow, be here at 6 a.m.") to go with some of the teachers to another school and observe their teaching techniques. From what Paul and I have been able to put together, this is something that is very very common in December in China. We've had a day of it at my school (the same day the overseas students came up), Paul's just done one at his school, and I've been to the one at this other school. It involves a bunch of teachers from all around sitting in on classes in their specialities, and then discussing the teaching techniques. Which was an eye opening experience, I assure you.
So I sat in on two English classes, which was okay, I guess. Nothing too exciting there, except that it really brought home to me how impossible it is to teach the students here the way we teach the students back home. I haven't been able to figure out how often a week the kids get English classes, but back home we had French four times a week, with usually 20 to 30 students. Here they typically have 60. They do chanting instead of speaking. And yet, lot of the kids are good. At least, good enough to understand about half of what I say when I talk slowly.
Afterwards we had a big lunch. It was surreal, because it was the first time since I came here that I've sat at a big table of Chinese people. They poured a Chinese wine into bowls. I don't know the proper spelling, but it's pronounced "biejo". Anyway, every few minutes someone would stand up with a toast, and we all stood up and drank. I finally got to the point where I would just put the bowl to my lips, because I didn't want to get drunk. They brought out dish after dish of food, and I had pig's ear (which isn't too bad if you dip it in vinegar).
I had been asked earlier in the day if I would give a demonstration class. I wasn't really warned what they meant though.
I gave a class about Christmas to about 780 people. It was overwhelming, and frustrating, and fun, and great, and I laughed a lot. I got the kids to laugh, although whenever that happens I'm reminded of what my brother said when I left. "I tell all my students that the important thing is to know when to laugh. It doesn't matter if you get the joke, just know when to laugh." I wonder often if the kids only laugh because they think they're supposed to.
Then we all piled into a van, and got taken to Nantong. They showed us a Buddhist temple, brought us to the top of a t.v. tower, and took us on a boat trip on the canals within Nantong. I want to write an entire post on each one of these things, because they were so interesting that they deserve the time and effort.
The frustrating part, though, was one of the teachers from the other school, Jocelyn, kept talking to my like I was seven years old. She'd point at the t.v. tower and say, "What's that?". I smiled and went along with it, but it was so frustrating. I could understand if we were talking in Chinese, but it was all in English. Ah well. I think she had fun, and I know I had fun.
When they drove us back to our school, they gave everyone large boxes to take home. I carried it up to my apartment, speculating on what was inside. I actually assumed, from the way it was thumping in the box, that it must be a bottle of liquor. I also hoped it wasn't. All kidding aside, I'm not a heavy drinker, and any bottle that would be in a box this size would likely end up coming home with me, unopened. (Which could be a lot of fun. I have drinking plans that involve Tom and biejo. And alcohol poisining.)
By the time I got home, I was completely exhausted, but I opened the box, and inside was a goat!
It's a large wooden goat, good for coffee tables or displaying on a mantle of some sort. If I were educated properly, I would be able to tell you what kind of wood it is, but I don't know. It just know that it's beautiful, a dark wood, and it's carved all in one piece. The goat is standing with one foot on a Chinese coin, the type with the square cut out of it. There are four Chinese characters on it. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you what it says one day.
Looking at this goat reminded me of some of the reasons I decided to come here. I've talked often about how it feels to be over here, how other it is, and how the world is a very small place that we make choices about seeing. I like the idea of coming home with this goat, the first of my souveniers of my travels around the world. Every time I get lonely or sad, I look at my goat and think about how rich my life is becoming with experiences. Yes, the day to day stuff can drive me insane, but there's so much I can experience here if I want to.