Back from Outer Space

Well, I was just waiting around for a student, but it turns out he meant to schedule class next week Sunday. Argh.

Anyway, I’ve just been getting my head back in order. Back from outer space.

The much anticipated parents’ visit was a lot of fun. My parents were here for one week, and Jeremy’s mom was here for two. The five of us traveled to Luo Ping to see the flowers. These “rape seed” flowers are what they use to make Canola oil. The weather was crappy (cold, foggy, rainy), but the landscape was beautiful and the food was incredible. The second week we tried to take it slow, because Jeremy and his ma were fighting a nasty cough. After a brief rest at home, we traveled to Dali. I don’t think I can manage to write an entire play-by-play of the visit, but you can find photos here:

Even though traveling was great, I really enjoyed just being able to hang out with everybody and chat. I think it helped bring some perspective to the life I’m leading here in China. But I’ll spare you the introspective soliloquy right now.

I just finished the first week of classes since the parents’ visit. It’s not easy getting back into the swing of things, but gosh the routine is comforting. Classes at Dong Fang are ok, but there are too many people in my class. It’s hard to get feedback with 12 people in a room. But in addition to classes, I’m also studying Chinese with a tutor and with another Chinese woman. They are both really helpful for helping me practice pronunciation and general talking.

The most distracting thing in my life is teaching English. It’s an absolute necessity at this point to make a little money, but I find it impossible not to obsess. Yesterday I started a new weekend gig teaching children, and spent 4 hours getting ready for 1 hour of teaching. Turned out to be a total waste of time, since I prepared a lesson for pre-schoolers and in fact only 2 kids showed up: 10- and 11-years-old. Impossible. They offer no curriculum or structure, so I think I’d better just buy some books to teach from. Otherwise I end up researching on the internet for hours. I’ll just pick up the first few books of a series and see where the kids are at. At least I have some idea of the kids’ level now. But who knows who will return and what new students will appear. Anyway, it makes me realize how easy it is to work with high school students one-on-one. What a joy!

Last night I went to an art exhibit of ‘Masks and Carnivals’ featuring work by French, Italian, and Chinese artists at l’Espace Francophone de Kunming. It was so exciting to see young artists in Kunming. There were photos from Mardi Gras in France and Italy, as well as Chinese carved wood and papier-mâché masks. I really liked one papier-mâché mask of a smiling cat, and the carved wood masks were really cool too. Inspires. Makes me want to pick up my paints again.

The Parents are Coming!

Well, I got a call from my mom last night. She’s never called me here before, so I knew something was wrong. Thank goodness, it was only that their flight was delayed 24 hours. It’s bad news, but they’re still on their way. Mom sounded pretty upset last night (my Fri night, her Fri morning), and I just called her again (my Sat morning, her Fri evening) and she spent a lot of the day trying to confirm that everything’s been rescheduled. Air China seems to be unable to reconfirm the last leg of their flight from Beijing to Kunming, even though their American carrier, Continental, gave them a document with the new Air China flight on it. Weird, but they should be fine. Damn the weather in Newark!

We have exciting plans to take them to some spots we’ve never seen before. Although the Dali and Lijiang route is reliable, we thought we’d try something different. My friend April has helped us enormously. She used to be a tour guide and loves to give travel advice. So, the plan is to go to JianShui (建水) and hopefully on to YuanYang (元阳). JianShui has an “Old Town” (Xin Jie) and a “New Town” (Nan Sha). Supposedly the Old Town has some great old architecture. And the Confucius temple is supposed to be quite lovely. In YuanYang, I’ve heard that the terraced rice paddies are incredible. Hope we get to see it all!