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Thursday, June 05, 2008

♪♫ You Can Never Hold Back Spring ♫♪

♪♫ Remember everything that spring can bring ♫♪

Thank you, Tom Waits. You never cease to amaze me. What a shame I won't be able to see you on tour this summer. But if I had to miss it for anything, I'm glad it's for a month of travel in Europe with my brother and sister. (The real sting is how he'll be just about a week behind me in European tour dates ... but so many things have come together for this trip, I can't possibly complain.)

The weather is beautiful here in Jilin, warm sunny days and (believe it or not) a blue sky or two. My finals are finished, a pile of notes on performances and pronunciation waiting to be deciphered into legible marks so that I may turn in honest grades next week, despite the fact that I know BeiHua is going to just toss them in the trash and make up their own marks anyway.

And so the term comes to a close. The warm weather brought a sports "meeting" (as in track "meet") last weekend, an all-day affair where students ran and jumped and threw disuses (not disci, surprisingly). Each class also prepared a performance, a dance number or something. But when you have so many classes performing and so many students running, they all got jumbled into a big mess, the gun for the next race sounding in the middle of a performance (effectively cutting them off), an ADD crowd that couldn't be bothered to watch anything for longer than two minutes before they switched focus to a new race or dance. Typical China, I guess.

Kennedy represents the foreign students at Bei Hua.

The nurses in their retro uniforms. (They're not being ironic. It's what they wear.)

My student Alvin looks on as his classmates (the girls in the black and gold dresses) do a dance in front of hundreds of ambivalent students.

My finals were really great this year. The "exam" itself was simple: groups of four to five students had seven to ten minutes to do a performance. Anything goes. And I demanded costumes, props, music, vocabulary, and creativity. Probably the best thing I've done as a teacher in China, because it forced students to actually create, tweak, and speak a piece of English, while also letting their imagination run wild. Short of a few rouges who tried to get by on crap stories fished from the internet, they were great. I spent two weeks doing the exam: the first week was a "practice" exam, a dry run to make sure people were actually doing work, and as expected, nearly half of the students hadn't done a damn thing. So some stern talking-to's from Matthew, etc., and within a week everyone was on the same page, work had actually been done, practice and improvement was evident, and in the end the plays were spectacular. I wanted some photos of the costumes, but it was also our next-to-last-class for many (final class for some), so there was a lot of photo-taking and fond farewells.

Be warned: the students are (to be gentle) goofy. And there are some goofy/cute/ridiculous things being done in these photos that no twenty-three year old should be proud of. But they say China changes you, and at first you scoff, and then two years later you find yourself doing this:

Yeah. Giving myself dimples.

The girl on the left, in white? She was God.

Some students even made sets.

These girls took a Chinese story, and turned it into an English comedy. Well done.

Three little pigs ...

... and the big bad wolf.

Far too many embarrassing pictures here.

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