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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Charmingly Ineffable.

I went to take some pictures today with some of my senior students. It's nearing the end of the fall term (no Christmas and all, so their big long holiday between terms comes in February, during the Chinese New Year), and my seniors are more or less finished with their schooling. While most of my students are majoring in English education, a fair number of them don't intend to teach at all. Some are going for their master's, some are taking the Chinese equivalents of the LSAT, GMAT, or GRE, and some are simply using their excellent English and their diploma as a springboard into some field or career unrelated to education. Regardless of their future plans, they all will spend their eighth and final semester doing their "teaching practice," that is, working off campus and at some other school to get real teaching experience.

This class of thirty-five students, I should remind you, has been taking the same classes with one another for the past four years. That means every day of class since the first day of their first year has been spent together; and when they're not in class, these students also live with one another, six to a dorm (on-campus living is mandatory, but many of the wealthier students rent out cheap one-room flats in the neighboring apartment buildings). Needless to say, they're all pretty close. And since this is the last term where they will all be together, they decided to take their graduation pictures today, and I was invited.

You can check out the photos here. The whole thing made me feel like a rock star.

I also bought my ticket for Cambodia, which is where I'll be spending two weeks of my month-long holiday. This is going to be an interesting and amazing trip, and it'll be the first time I've set out to a totally foreign land all by my lonesome. Sure, I've been managing in China on my own, but Maryknoll has been there to help when I need it; Cambodia is my own nut to crack, and I can't wait.

Getting the tickets for Cambodia was an odd microcosom of the quirks of China. I was quoted a price, and given a ballpark of departure and return dates; the price went up, down, way up then way down again, before I was given a fair price; then the travel agent had to haggle with someone else in some other office before finally delivering the tickets here himself. But I was taking pictures all morning, so I wasn't around to pay him; so the tickets were left for me and I had to place the money into the guy's account. I had to go and get the cash for these tickets - checks are frowned upon - but I can only take out 3,000RMB at once, and the tickets cost 4,450RMB! Not to fear, just go to the ATM and take out two grand at a time. That 3,000 daily limit appears to be just a suggestion. So I head back into the office, hand a thick wad of red 100RMB notes to my waiban (Foreign Affairs liaison), and was given my tickets.

And then I was called and told my power was going to be turned off from 7:30 am until 7:30 pm. I was called again and it was reconfirmed. And then much later the whole thing was canceled.

Ah, China. You're charmingly ineffable.

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