Sunday, September 30, 2012

This Is What Happened

You want to know what happened? Listen. Just because I haven’t written on this blog in almost a month, a month of online abstinence, doesn’t mean nothing has happened. No. In fact, that would be the opposite of truth. And perhaps that is a bigger factor in the silence than the sudden, inexplicable malfunction of my VPN.

This is what happened to me. School started. BWYA. Beijing World Youth Academy. Be Who You Are. All four of my classes quickly spun into gear, from the almost all-female seventh grade class of students who have never had a silent moment in their lives to the quiet class of ninth graders who are loathe to speak to the eighth grade herd of comedians to the tenth graders I feel so well-acquainted with. We hit the ground running. My homeroom? Hasn’t changed since last year. I mean, there are five new kids and four who have gone AWOL, but. The rest of the year group that my Head of Year title forces me to oversee? Similar circumstances: largely unchanged. Boom.

No, no. This is what really happened. Last spring the powers that be decided I’d be a good community and service coordinator, i.e. the volunteer supervisor for all of sixth through tenth grade. This gives me full license to give presentations littered with Twins jokes and pictures from my life to captive middle school classes, give the green light to projects involving recycling, socializing, and manga, and decide the fate of every student who wants to move on to the next grade at the end of the school year. I think. The senior management team hasn’t actually approved that part yet...

Okay, if I am honest, that’s not really what happened. Here’s the truth: BWYA got invited to a baseball tournament. Since I have a baseball club, I was the natural and uncontested candidate for heading up that event. We practiced 2.5 times beforehand (one practiced involved me and our best player wandering around Taiyanggong Park for an hour before realizing we (by “we” I mean “I”) were at the wrong park), never with a full squad. When the big day came on September 22, our team of eighteen was much larger than any group that had shown up at either of the 2.5 practices. We went and played three games. The combined score: BWYA: 11, Sports Beijing/Western Academy of Beijing/British School of Beijing: 42. Yeah, that’s right, an average score of 14 to 4. And, yeah, that’s right, we lost to a British school. And I’m American. Hmm...

Okay! For real. That’s not really it. The truth is this: since last April, I’ve let strangers come into my home. Given them keys, let them sleep there, etc. Not just any strangers. Couch surfers. The strangest of them all. Since I returned from the States at the end of July, eighteen different folks have slept at my apartment, and that’s not counting the time Dawna took a nap on my red couch and I woke her by cranking Gangnam Style and dancing all over. These people have come and wavered between at least normal and at best frickin’ amazing, so most of them have been worth investing a bit of time in. Better that I write more about this later and less about it now, lest this post become the length of a Jonathan Edwards sermon.

Well. Actually. This is truly what occurred: I started doing stuff at church. Yeah, like, not just sitting in the theater seats like a bump on a log. First, I pulled the bass out and put my name on the worship team rotation. Fun! I have only played twice. It feels good to slap that thang again; it has been too long! Second, some Sundays – when not playing different G-major and C-major worship songs – I go help at the youth worship service. Again, this hasn’t been a full-time thing,’s fun. More interactive. I have to think more. And! The youth director enlisted Dawna and I to write some of the programming for some camps coming up at the end of October. Risky move on his part, but so was giving me a driver’s license in high school and a Dining Center student manager badge in college. The Midwest is still standing; Beijing will be fine.

Alright. Let’s get real for a minute. For one minute. This is actually what has been going on: a whole bunch of other random recreational activities have been done. By me. They include: (A) A hiking trip to the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall of China, done on a sunny Saturday with an Australian couple, some lady who has taught everywhere I want to, three slow tubby Dutch women, and a cool lady named Sonia who is my link to the Great Wall at this point in my life. Who is yours? (B) Absinthe Party 2012, done on a dark Friday night in Nanluoguxiang with some other BWYA teachers but organized by Ramon and Haysom, the inner city expert. (C) A picnic in Chaoyang Park, done with a random assortment of Americans from BWYA, SPAS, Tianjin, and some public school until our group was infiltrated by a Taiwanese woman; we ate food, rode boats, and threw the Frisbee around until our pants wouldn’t stay on our bodies anymore! No joke. (D) There was also International Translation Day, during which Miss Liesl and I taught American slang at an event that included millions of other languages being taught, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Russian, Korean, Italian, Catalan, Swedish, Spanish, French, German, Japanese (are these too predictable?), Beijing, Taiwanese, Fijian, Igbo (holler, Okonkwo!), Yourba, Hausa, Pohnpeian, Long You Hua, Kazakh, Wuhu Hua, Sichuan Hua, Australian English, and Bulgarian. Notable admissions: Pig Latin, and that language that T-Duck speaks. There were food and hats and music (our American slang contribution: the theme from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) and rubix cubes designed especially for this event. be really and truly transparent...I have started taking some online classes in order to renew my license. The first one I am tackling is a course designed to teach teachers about the importance of research in teaching reading to children. It is okay. Except the site doesn’t always work. And I would rather learn about languages, or literature, or creative writing, or ESL instruction, or baseball statistic keeping. Or gastrointestinal biological functions.

真的! Here’s the story. I still try to study Chinese. But it ain’t going well. My studying has been limited to a) Rosetta Stone b) the science teacher’s two-year-old daughter (who is Chinese), who sometimes comes with her mom when she is checking her mailbox in the staff lounge before going home and I am still there c) a couple people I try to do language exchange with but who don’t really speak much Chinese to me. We’ll see. I anticipate leaving here – whenever that is – having learned slightly more Mandarin than Korean but still not enough to carry on a meaningful conversation with anyone.

 This is the actual truth: I’m tired, and behind on stuff, and feel old, but most of these aforementioned things have been pretty fun, fairly rewarding, and decently enjoyable, despite the fact that I haven’t been within a thousand kilometers of “Take No Prisoners” in about a month. Maybe you, dedicated reader, needed that break, too. Six posts in August? Are you kidding? Much too much. Anyway, life is happening, and my CS status says, “Sleep when you’re dead,” so I guess I am going to continue living with all these things on my plate until something awful happens. Come visit me.