Tuesday, May 8, 2012

University Museum and Checking out My Classroom

Every day gets easier and easier.  I still don't know what people are saying generally, but now I feel a little more confident in using the words I do know.  The International exchange office arranged a tour guide to take me to the Hunan Normal University on-campus museum and instructed the girl to show me the classroom I would be teaching in and to make sure my computer worked with their system.  However, the tour was scheduled for an hour and a half and we spent nearly an hour of that time in my classroom with another teacher from that college (Foreign Studies) helping me figure things out.  Still, I enjoyed the time looking in the classroom and seeing the museum.

Let me first be a little more specific about what I saw in the classroom.  My class is Foreign Studies Building 607.  I've attached some pictures of the view right outside my window, which is incredible.  So, green and beautiful.  The students each have a work station that has a computer screen and a headset with microphone.  The work stations are all numbered like F2, E2, etc.  At the front of the room is a command station or whatever you want to call it (master control, command central) and it's elevated a little on a mini-stage.  The foreign studies teacher showed me the key buttons I need because they are all in Chinese.  He instructed me to turn the system on, login as guest, turn on the console, and open my powerpoint.  He told me that every student and the teacher all wear a headset during the duration of the class.  The students don't view the powerpoint on the screen at the front, but rather on their individual computers.  When the teacher speaks into the microphone, they all hear the lecture through it.  When the teacher shows videos, they watch them on their screens.  If a student has a question, he or she raises a hand and then the teacher has to "unmute" their mic and let them ask it.  Kind of interesting.  I decided I have to do what works for me.  I don't see this system as a part of the culture that I really needed to embrace, but rather just make it work for my purposes.  Maybe some would disagree.  So, I decided to not use the microphone when I'm lecturing, asking questions, or taking questions.  My strategy was to simply show the powerpoint on their screens and then instruct them to put on their headsets whenever I show a video.  At the point that I'm writing this, I've already taught my first class, so I'll get to that in a second.

After seeing the classroom, I was taken to the museum which I thought was quite beautiful as well.  The layout of the museum was really artistic and the pictures of Hunan Normal University history were really intriguing.  When I saw a picture that I really wanted to know more about, I would ask.  However, I tried to be selective because it was probably annoying for them to have a Waiguoren (foreigner) pointing at every picture and asking what is it.  My favorite moment of the tour was when the curator of the museum (or whatever the equivalent is here) showed me some markings and said that this was the school song.  I asked her if she could sing it to me and she did.  Her voice was beautiful and it was a nice moment because she seemed really stern prior to that moment.  But, the music seemed break the ice a bit.

Once I left the museum, I said goodbye to my tour guide and Karen (my Mandarin teacher) showed me one of her favorite places to eat.  A couple of the dishes were not my favorite and they were much spicier than anything I've had so far.  I'll post a picture below, but the reddish looking one was some kind of pork dish that was very fatty and I'm not quite sure what part of the pig it was.  It did not taste bad, but I just didn't enjoy it that much.  There was a beef dish that was very good and I think most Westerners would have approved of that one.  The last dish was a small fish and the fish itself was very mild and delicious, but it had these really hot peppers on it and was difficult for me to eat.  Let's just say that the condition that people warned me about that might happen after eating spicy foreign food finally came about as a result of this dish.  I think I'll avoid it in the future.  The other problem at the restaurant was that they had these big plastic bottles of water to serve.  I've been told not to drink the local water, so I asked Karen where this water comes from.  She said they fill it up every day from wherever.  I told her I would rather have bottled water and so we bought some from a store across the street and went back to the restaurant.  She seemed a little puzzled that I didn't drink the water (maybe a little offended).  I tried to be as diplomatic as I could, but there really are worms in the water and I don't want to catch one.

After lunch, we walked toward the Bank of China, so I could exchange some American dollars.  It was quite a long process with me having to pull out my passport a few times and getting a lot of intense looks from my face to my passport and back to my face.  At first, I was a bit irked by it, but then I realized they think all white people look alike, so it probably took more time to verify that it was actually me.  On the way back from the bank, Karen taught me how to ask for hangers at the store before I went in and we rehearsed a little on the street.  It was quite hilarious to see the people do a double take when they would hear me say "I want hangers please" over and over again.  Later, we were practicing how to ask for these balls of dough with meat inside (called Bao Zi).  She wanted me to say yi ge bao zi (one dough ball), liang ge bao zi (two dough balls), etc.  I got a lot of stares from this as well.  The Chinese are not rude, they are just very very curious.  It also rained for the first time while I was out and about.  The rain was very similar to what my family saw in Missouri (maybe a tad steamier, though, it's hard to describe).  If you don't have an umbrella, you are drenched in two seconds.  Conveniently, their was a store with umbrellas nearby.  The owner was hilarious and kept trying to touch my head.  He said "army" a bunch of times so I think he thought I was military.  He also grabbed my bicep at one point and didn't say anything, but I could see the look of disappointment (no muscles there).  The highlight of my day in speaking Mandarin was when he pulled out a small umbrella that looked like a ladies umbrella and I said "Tai Xiao le" (It's too small).  Thanks to the Fluenz program, I was able to buy a bigger umbrella.  Hooray!

Ok, I need to go eat lunch now.  I'll be by myself this time, so I'm a bit nervous.  My next blog will be about Wal-Mart and the first day of class.

View from my classroom window toward Yuelu Mountain

Another view from the classroom.

Not the same class I teach in, but very similar.  Notice the cameras in the back!

Hunan Normal Museum

My tour guide

I thought these were the elevators, but they are just marble art work.

First part of museum.

Lunch.  Our dishes were a pork dish of some kind, chicken and beef with vegetables, and a very spicy freshwater fish. I also got to ask in chinese for the bill when we were done.  Baby steps! 

Another chinese temple.

Pay day! :)

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