Goosebumps in sub-tropical weather.

Like many, I enjoy a pleasant surprise.  I’ll back up a little bit.

I was trying an exercise with my students where an audience benefits from watching an actor practice while giving them chances to make suggestions, meanwhile the actor gets the chance to have someone see them perform and receive feedback.  My approach was a bit of a flop.  And by a bit, I mean that if I had been sitting in that class, I would have spent my time been trying to memorize pi to two hundred decimal places.  It was brutal.  After the break, I altered the approach, and it made the process much less… painful.  That’s not the pleasant surprise part.
After the exercises, they were to apply everything that the exercises covered and apply it to a monologue–and perform it.  Specifically, they were applying changes of pace in movement, speech, and change in vocal tone to create emphasis and meaning.
And they performed.
Despite the fact that these were second language learners; despite having a drama class twice in one day; despite the fact that this was their last class on a Saturday afternoon; the performers nailed it.  Even Brad (an alias), who although has a solid technical knowledge of English, has some fairly significant pronunciation issues.  The performance of his monologue was entirely unexpected, as he completely changed the direction of what we had discussed.  I had goosebumps.  It was probably one of my happiest moments in teaching.

I gots paid this week.  Why so early?  I’m guessing because October 1 is the beginning of the Chinese national holiday.  A holiday where I will have no classes for eleven days.
Yes, I said eleven.
Now, it’s not the fact that I got paid or that I wanted to gloat about a holiday after only one month of teaching that I want to get into.  It’s more about what happened after the fact.  I am now officially hooked on mobile payment systems.  I’ve talked about them before.  There are two her, WeChat Wallet, and Alipay (a service provided by Alibaba).  With money in the account, I figured it would be appropriate that I give TheWife™ some cash.  My first instinct was to go to a bank machine.  We both headed out to a local supermarket and I figured I’d stop by an ATM on the way back.  We were wandering around the store when it dawned on me that a trip to the ATM was no longer necessary.  First, from my phone, I topped up my Alipay account with some cash.  I then asked TheWife™ for her phone.  “Why?” she asked.  “Just give me your phone,” I replied.  I opened up her Alipay app, scanned her QR code with my phone, and passed the money over to her account.  Mission accomplished.  I gave her back her phone which happily displayed a more significant balance then the zero in which it was just moments before.
While there are certain aspects of mobile payment systems that creep me the F out, I must admit, the convenience of it is just too easy to ignore.  I hope Canada catches up soon–I’m officially over pulling out my bank card for all my transactions.  That’s so 1994 (yes, that’s when using Interac debit transactions became a thing).

I up ‘n gots me a new Johnny

Well, not quite yet.  The plumbers are installing it now.  I actually had no idea this was coming.  You see, earlier in the week, the toilet kept running on and the stopper wouldn’t seal in the reservoir.  I contacted, for lack of a better term, our property manager, and someone was sent the following day.  TheWife™ was out and about when he arrived, and I thought we communicated okay.  The problem appeared to be solved, except for a small, but constant flow of water into the bowl.  This has always been the case and thought it was intentional, as it was happening from the moment I moved in.  There were also a couple cracks in the ceramic, but I thought nothing of it.  This morning, the plumbing people show up with a new toilet.  Surprise!  The porcelain God decided that a new altar was be bestowed onto us, for delivery if its sacrificial sacrament.  There’s a downside to our shiny turd collector; it can’t collect golden showers or chocolate hostages for a couple of days.  If I need to go, I now have to run to the public toilet in my building– which is down a flight of stairs, and a half-way across the building.  I’d call this a first world problem, but for some reason, I don’t feel as though I can classify this as one of those.

Oh yeah, I also started teaching this week after a 12-year hiatus.
And yes, it went well.  I commented earlier this week that it was like riding a bike, and I still stand by that.  I fell back into the process with relative ease.  The only issues I’m having is timing vs content.  Each class is two periods of 45-minutes each.  Under and overfilling that time slot is a bit of challenge.  Class sizes vary from 12 to 22, which means that the length it takes to finish an activity can drastically change from one class to another.  I’ll get it figured out, I’m sure.
Something else I kind of forgot about was the charge to the ego that teaching can bring–which I think I’m far more aware of this time around.  I think I can thank time and experience, and over a decade of self-reflection for this.  I’ve noted before that there’s a fairly strong reverence towards teachers here, and it really demonstrated itself on Friday.
Before my classes started, a couple of classes got moved, with on being changed to 4:30 on Friday.  Fine.  Come Friday, I show up for my class thirty minutes early.  I was surprised to find one of my student’s waiting for me outside of the classroom.  We chit-chatted a little, and she told me that a lot of students might not show because of the change.  Not everyone got the message.  Apparently, they did get the message, but the messages were different by two hours.  The coordinator gave me the wrong schedule.  The interesting part about this is that not a single one of the students who eventually showed up (only eight of what should have been close to twenty), every said anything about.  Just assumed my time was right, and their time was wrong, or just didn’t want to speak up about it.  If this had been a class back in Canada, there’d at the very least be questions of what happened.  Not here.

Oh, and one last thing.  The new Foo Fighters dropped this week, and it is awesome.

 

Second book in the series.

The early morning sun is shining on the deck outside my mother’s rear patio doors.  It’s Sunday morning and all three of us are quiet, TheWife™, TheMom™, and myself.  TW gazes on taps away on her phone, likely sending messages back and forth to her sister using WeChat, and TM is probably falling through the click-bait rabbit holes.  I am sitting in front of my laptop, clacking at its keyboard and sipping away at my weekend morning coffee treat.  It’s the same routine that we have gone through every weekend since I arrived back in June.  The only difference is that in 17 hours, TW and I will be on my flight to Newold City (my new pseudonym for where I’m living–check the Cast and Errata page for a list of other pseudonyms I am using) via Guangzhou.

Of course, by the time you read this, I will have already been in the air for presumably six hours or more, flying for a total of fifteen hours and twenty minutes for the first leg.

So it’s finally here.  Any sense of anxiety I had is pretty much gone, which to me is indicative that I’m ready.  It’s a long list that I really don’t want to create new names for, so instead I will give a blanket, yet earnest thank you to everyone who took time out of their daily lives over the past seven weeks (SEVEN WEEKS!?!) to spend time with TheWife™ and I.

Preparing for Book Two!

I know, given our penchant for vagabonding, that being our nearest and dearest requires extra effort and while maybe not heartbreak, a certain sense of melancholy every time we show up and then leave again.  This is not lost on us, and for these efforts, I am truly grateful.
I was out with Lyle (see Cast) yesterday, discussing this very topic.  And while it sucks being away from each other, it is also demonstrative of the strength of the bonds that have developed between us.  During college, after we completed the taping of our last class project, I was feeling a little down knowing that this may be the last time I would see these people as we were now free to go out into the world.  I expressed these thoughts to a classmate of mine.  He had a different perspective which has carried with me ever since.  He said, “Andy, those who really truly matter will always continue to be in contact with you.”  He was right, of course.  And to me, these people who have been with me over these past 15-20 years are my family.  Whether biological or not, these bonds are far more important to me than any blood that runs through our veins.

Thank you, with all the love and appreciation that you rightfully deserve.

With that, I think it’s time to cap off this chapter.  For that matter, I think I’ll leave this as a cliffhanger for my first book.  Book Two: Version 2.0 begins…

The countdown is on.

So I suppose this is the point where I’m supposed to acknowledge that with my departure date arriving in less than a week that nerves are starting to waiver a bit.  I hate to disappoint.. so I indeed will acknowledge that there’s a certain sense of anxiety lying beneath my calm, yet excited exterior.  How could I not be feeling–something?  Regardless of the fact that I have done this before doesn’t make this new experience “old hat” or completely familiar.  I’ve gone back into the troves of blog archives from a site that has not existed for more than a decade (RUHome, anyone?).  Reading through a post after my arrival articulates what I felt at the time fairly well:

For the record, I’m still not feeling much of anything about my current situation. It’s been like this for days now. I’m just continuing to roll with the punches as they’re brought forward. For some reason, all this just seems like a normal day to me and I can’t figure out for the life of me why this is.

There is a significant difference to this trip, in that I have had much more time to prepare.  My now longtime friend at the time had been doing all the legwork in finding us a teaching placement where we could both go together for mutual support, and in mid-February she announced that she had found a place and we were to be there in slightly over two weeks.  It was a complete whirlwind and as a result, the whole situation didn’t sink in until long after I had arrived.  This time around, I have had plenty of time to think about everything.  Most of my whirlwinds for round two happened in June as I struggled to collect, notarize, and authenticate all my documents before I left British Columbia–leaving me with a LOT of time to think about things.  Fortunately, most of that thinking hasn’t happened until the past day or two.

Interestingly, I am not really sure what it is that I’m feeling anxiety about.  It’s just there.  The whole “OMG, I’m moving to China in x days” kind of anxiety.  I know what I’m getting into– well– mostly.  I have my wife as a Mandarin speaking security blanket, but I still find myself apprehensive this time around.   Maybe its the anxiety I should have felt 14 years ago that is finally catching up with me.

 

A missed connection in the subconscious.

What time does my connection leave?

If dreams are a representation of the subconscious, then apparently I’m worried about missing my connecting flight when I go to China.  While I won’t get into the dream details, I thought it interesting to point out that for the past two days, my dreams have had to do with my upcoming new adventures.  I don’t think I’m worried about it– at least not consciously.

I’ve realized that while I have a pseudonym for the school I’m teaching at, SchoolU, I’m missing one for the city in which I’ll be living.  A part of me wonders if I should even bother trying to keep it anonymous.  Especially if at some point I start posting pictures here (which will inevitably happen).  I guess it makes sense as I don’t really need any students or faculty reading this here collection of my words.  It probably wouldn’t take much to find this space via search engine.  I just tried using the mainland’s primary search engine and could find this site if I used the title, but realistically speaking, how many people will know?  Further, I searched my authorial pseudonym, and it was not on the first page.  Despite this discovery, I think I’ll still refrain from using the city’s name.  Call me paranoid.

If anyone has any suggestions for a name, I’d love to hear it.

Although it’s not going to start it quite yet, after being inspired by Ed Pratt’s unicycling adventure across China, I think I’m going to add a vlogging component to my experiences.  The first time around, I made a couple videos of comedic value, but little substance.  I’m older now, and.. older, but having a video perspective of my adventures that are less filtered than they would be if I had written them, could prove interesting.  But we’ll see.  I still have time.

The switch from ESL teacher to Prof

Probably one of the most exciting things about my new teaching position is that I’m not just an ESL teacher.  At this institute of higher learning, which for anonymity purposes will henceforth be dubbed SchoolU, my first semester will primarily be filled with me teaching a drama course.  This is a game changer.  Trying to encourage the creation of a drama group the last time I was in China was a difficult proposition, as the students I had wouldn’t have had the free time to devote to anything more than improv games.  While improv games are an important part of the experience, being able to add short plays and monologues into the mix has me absolutely thrilled.

Thank you boys.

Of course, this development was unexpected.  When I was hired, part of the discussion centred on whether I’d be interested in branching off into content courses.  Naturally, I said yes, but felt it would be best to get some ESL time back under my belt first.  Apparently that message didn’t carry, which I discovered when I received an email from one of the administrators asking what my content course was going to be, and that they needed a course syllabus within two weeks.

Surprise!

A brief moment of panic was quickly replaced by enthusiasm.  I mean, really.  This is going to be awesome.  I look forward to the day when I have all my students stand on their desks and exclaim, “oh captain, my captain.”  The only difference is that I won’t have been fired.

Answering the why.

Author’s Notes:  For those whom I haven’t told yet, my career is taking me back to Asia.  I wrote the following on June 11.  For the purposes of surprise visits upon my return to Ontario, I decided to delay this entry.  I’m sneaky that way.  I may have also fibbed to a few people.  Obviously, I am not here on vacation.

—-

So it certainly is beginning to feel more real.  Now that I’ve officially graduated, the task of packing up my life in Victoria truly begins.  Vehicles took next to zero effort to sell, thankfully.  The tough part will be selling the odds and ends.  One of the advantages of having moved out to the west coast in the first place is that I was able to do away with a lot of things, minimalizing what I’ve owned.  This makes the process infinitely easier.

Here we go again…

I’ve spent the past couple of days washing up some clothes and loading suitcases.  I’ve been able to fit almost my entire wardrobe in two bags.  I feel as though that is a great accomplishment!  I then look at TheWife’s™ packing, and I am incredibly humbled.  A carry on and half a full-sized suit-case.  This realization is somewhat mitigated with the knowledge that I am twice the size as she.  I’ll take this as a victory.

So, the question may be circling some heads.  Why is he going back?  There are multiple reasons for this.  In all honesty, I knew this day would come again at some point.  As those closest to me know, I have the itch.  I like to wander.  As I’ve said before, I compare myself to a potted plant as opposed to a tree.  I have difficulty rooting myself to one place.  A second aspect to what has brought me to here relates to the whole mid-life crisis thang, and my general desire to experience more of Asia.  My trip to China will not be my last stop.  China is my refresher course.  Further on the docket are destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Holy Grail that is Nippon!  Let’s face it.  I am not getting any younger and my window to experience these countries the way I want to experience them is closing ever so slowly.  Third, is of course, timing.  Everything seemed to align to make this happen, with my getting laid-off from my employer and me completing my degree in close proximity.  What really sealed it, though, is a bit more complicated.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to the conclusion that there is something horrendously wrong with the world and how it functions.  Many of us are still living in a world where we consciously or subconsciously believe that buying things makes us happy (although it is good to see that more people are spending on experiences than on things).  We accept the status quo of governments and businesses working in tandem to keep power in the hands of an increasingly select few.  The betterment of society as a whole is only used when it is convenient for corporate or governmental needs.  I, up until recently, worked in a company that, while I firmly believe was cleaner than most, worked in the very grey industry of internet advertising.  The excuse I heard most often was basically lemming theory (i.e. everyone else is doing it).  The majority of what we do, by extension, is corrupt somewhere down the line.  I, for one, want to participate as little as possible in these machinations.  I also believe that the best place to initiate change is with students.  I am now in a place educationally, and mentally, to start to plant my own seeds, in an effort to get the next generation to think more critically and hopefully come to similar conclusions so they can be a part of the change in which needs to come if society is to move forward.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
-Nelson Mandela

So, yeah.  Part of my decision is certainly self serving, but I’d like to think that it also has a greater purpose than just what I want for myself.