Friday, May 19, 2006

More Preparations: Chopsticks

Of late, my husband Joe and I have taken to using chopsticks for eating carrots and peas. We want to be proficient when we get to China. (Joe will be with me for three weeks each during the summer and Fall projects.) I imagine I could whip a fork out of my pocket when the need arises, but having lived with Chinese roommates, I am aware that fork-using can look extremely silly to Asians. There is excellent information available on the proper use of chopsticks, which I'm not sure I follow. But I'm not sure that doing it "right" is as important as making the effort-- outsiders can only approximate the customs and manners of a foreign culture, however hard they try. I'm attempting to use chopsticks for the same reason I'm trying to learn Chinese-- out of a sincere respect for the host culture. And by the way, I'm sure my spoken Chinese sounds ridiculous, due to my multiple errors in using its tonal system, and my attempts to write in this ideographic and non-alphabetic language are worse.

The Chinese characters at the start of this entry say thank you. I think. Where this language is concerned, I'm never sure of anything. It's going to be very interesting to try to function in China.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Ratings

Out of curiosity, I occasionally check my ratings on the infamous website a website in which students are invited to tell what they think of us: I suspect it is the disgruntled students who perform most of the postings on this web forum. If a professor's student evaluations were as low as mine on, our administration would be seriously concerned about the person's teaching.

No instrument currently in use at my institution inquires about "hotness," a trait which the questionnaire designates with a chili pepper. While the RateMyProfessor evaluators vary in their perception of my preparation and clarity, they are unanimous in granting me a "hotness" score of zero. If I am that consistent, I must be doing something right.

Consulting the Experts

To obtain a visa quickly, I found it helped to obtain the services of a professional agency which had a relationship with the Chinese embassy. There are several excellent ones; I used CSCA: I was required to mail them my passport, which made me exceedingly nervous, but they got it back to me with the visa very quickly.

Obtaining visas

I'd been told it was pretty difficult to obtain a Chinese visa, but that was not my experience. The required paperwork differs somewhat from that required by the U.S. for a passports, but that's the point. China is a different culture, halfway around the world. I gather that foreigners find American entry procedures confusing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

How it began

Seminole Ridge Apartments

I joined the faculty of ETSU and moved to Johnson City 4 years ago, right after I completed my doctorate. I'd been teaching middle school in urban Cincinnati, the community where I spent most of my adult life. My husband was unable to move until 2 years ago, so for a couple years I lived at the Seminole Ridge Apartments during the week and drove to Cincinnati on the weekends. My roommates were 3 Chinese post-doctoral researchers, all of them physicians who were doing research at the Johnson City Medical Center. Like me, these women were separated from their families. Unlike me, they could not go home on the weekends.

Upon her return to China, one of my former roommates, Dr. Li Yue'hua told me of a need for English teachers in her native city of Nanning, and I received an invitation to teach at Nanning's Oxford Language Academy during the summer of '06. Shortly after this, I was tapped for a semester-long exchange program with the University of Shandong at Weihai.

What I usually do

I teach Reading education and reading linguistics at East Tennessee State University. My children, who are in their twenties, consider me a nerd. Here is a picture of ETSU.

This Fall

This Fall, I'll be teaching at the University of Shandong at Weihai, a city on the seacoast.

This summer

My summer project is to teach in Nanning, a small city in South China, not far from the Vietmam border.

Teaching Projects: Nanning and Weihai

For most of the next 8.5 months, I will be teaching in China, some at the Oxford Language Academy of Language in Nanning, some at the University of Shandong at Weihai.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...