TingLi (listening) class is the bane of my existence. I’m becoming convinced that we had a different teacher for the first week because this teacher was in her lair in the Underworld becoming more evil.
This is probably a slight exaggeration. I hate the class for more reasons than just her. The uncomfortable stools that are too low and have no backs, for instance, or the headphones that are clearly made for Chinese-sized heads and don’t adjust at all. There are also the playback machines, which are fixed in place in a way that seems to be optimized for limiting the usable surface of the desk.
But really, a lot of it is her. These things didn’t bother me nearly as much when we had Ma 老师. But this teacher . . . I hate the way she prefaces each class with a lecture in high-speed Chinese about how important 听力 is and how twice a week isn’t enough. I hate the harsh sound of her voice, and the disapproving sucking-in sound that she makes is even worse. I hate how, when she writes a word on the board that many people got wrong, she always asks “学了吗?学了吧!” (basically, “Have you studied it? You’ve studied it!”). In fact, she is the reason for my automatic resentment of all uses of the particle 吧, which indicates a suggestion or presumption of correctness (as in “Let’s go” or “. . . right?”). I hate the structure of the class since she started teaching it – an hour and a half straight with no breaks, listening to about 10 sentences over and over ad nauseum and maybe even beyond. I hate how she hovers over us as we write, waiting to swoop down with her pencil and mark the one single character that we got wrong.
As if all of this weren’t enough, she had to go one step further in pissing me off today. After an entire class period of getting on our case about tones and how important they are, she tells us to write down what she says: “chun jie”. Now, chūn jié is the Spring Festival, which is a big deal here in China. It’s a big enough deal that I even know the correct tones off the top of my head. It kind of sounds like she’s saying two second tones instead of a first and a second, but I write it down as I know it anyway. She makes a round of us students, contentedly telling us that we’re all wrong, and then reveals what she was actually saying: chún jié. This is a word that none of us know (turns out it means “pure”), but that doesn’t matter. She was convinced that she proved to us the importance of tones, but she actually just reinforced to me the importance of context. And gave me further proof of her evilness . . . as if I needed it.
The evening started improving as soon as I got out of that classroom, as I met my Taiwan group for dinner. We’re a bit larger than we were a few days ago, with the addition of Aleid from Holland and Keiko from Japan. Also, in accordance with the Law of Entropy, our plans are less coordinated than they were a few days ago. Aleid bought her tickets without consulting us, so she’s leaving for Kinmen a day early and getting to Taibei a day later than us. On the other end, Diederik is leaving Taiwan a day earlier than the rest of us. And, after I successfully bought my ticket this afternoon, that flight filled up. Finally, Kinmen doesn’t have a Catholic church, so I’ll have to come back to Xiamen earlier than the others to make it to Mass. This is all pretty much what we should have expected, planning things in China. We’re “adventuring towards Taiwan”.
After dinner, a few of us went over to check out the first Chinese Corner of the year. There were a ridiculous number of people there, and, to my surprise, plenty of Chinese. I made a few new Chinese friends and got some good Chinese practice in, so I’m glad I went. One of the most memorable parts of the conversation was when they were trying to talk to be about an American actress who had black skin, big lips, and a famous husband. The answer? Angelina Jolie. I also found need to memorize how to say Timberwolves (森林狼) and Kevin Garnett (凯文·加内特) in Chinese because that’s the #1 reason why they have heard of my state.
I was a little bit tired, but decided to extend my enjoyment of the beautiful evening a little longer by exploring the tunnel. Just to the north of where I live is a large forest on a hill/mountain. XiaDa has some dorms on the other side, so they built a tunnel right through it.
I went through it on a motorcycle after meeting the families that I’m tutoring for, and saw that there was a lot of interesting graffiti, and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. It was so worth the walk.
The graffiti is only at the two ends, so I was going to turn back after capturing the paintings on the near end. But my picture-taking was quite the spectacle and had attracted a few Chinese students, who started to walk with me. I didn’t want to turn back, so I went all the way to the other end with them. According to Google Earth, the tunnel is about 0.6 miles long, so it was a pretty good walk. I think it was all worth it, though, both for the conversation with some of the rare Chinese people who actually approached me, and for the murals dedicated to the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.