Monday, December 22, 2008

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

Well, I don't have a chimney, but the stockings are hung on the windows. The presents are wrapped under the tree. The fridge is stocked. The towels and sheets are clean. The rugs are clean. The finals (that I've given) are graded. The grad work...well, the grad work is being conveniently ignored. That's right, I'm ready for my Christmas guests!

I'm off to give my last two finals. One is a speaking final (no grading afterward...a definite bonus) and the other will deliver 23 five paragraph essays into my hands. Then I'm rushing off to the train station to head down to Beijing. Hopefully, in between all of those things, I'll get my passport returned to me (the office has had it for a visa renewal for the last two weeks). Ah, it wouldn't be China if things weren't taken down to the wire.

And then...drum roll please...I'll be picking up two of my good friends! Since they're such good friends, I'm going to take them from their 30 hour journey to China directly to the train station for an overnight train to Siping. We'll get into Siping about 5 am on Christmas Eve...and then I'm going to drag them to an 8 am class. Hahaha...I'm such a good friend!

Nevertheless, I'm super excited to get to celebrate Christmas with "family"! Merry Christmas to all of you back in the States!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

7:49 AM

Have you ever had that dream where your alarm doesn't go off and you miss an important exam? That dream almost became a reality for me today.

My first thought when I woke up this morning was, "Wow! I feel much more rested than I expected to after six and a half hours of sleep!" This thought was quickly followed by, "Wow, it's really light outside the window." Which in turn was followed by a jumbled mess of thoughts as I reached out in panic for my alarm clock. I immediately noticed two things about my alarm clock. One, the little lever that turns on the alarm was only nudged halfway. Two, the clock was blinking 7:49. I was giving an exam at 8. Not only that, but an exam that I was certain would take many of the students the entire class period to complete. Let's just say I sprang out of bed faster than Saint Nick up the chimney.

At this point, my obsessive type A organization and the fact that I abandon some of my obsessive type A organization when I'm exhausted both worked to my advantage. The latter fact meant that the previous day's teaching outfit, instead of being neatly folded and put away/stowed in the laundry basket, was draped on top of the laundry basket. Within moments I was dressed, and admittedly not concerned with how I was smelling. (Random cultural sidenote: it is perfectly acceptable, in fact expected, to wear an outfit more than one day in a row. I won't tell you what number day I was on this morning...) Seconds later, I had run a brush through my hair, attempting not to look at the amount of grease too closely in the mirror, and had dabbed a bit of powder on my unwashed face. In a split second decision, I decided to forgo the toothbrush. I know, ewwww. But a lot of my students make that decision every morning as well. At this point, the obsessive type A behavior that had not been abandoned by exhaustion, came through for me. I dashed into my office to grab the neatly piled exams from the ledge. I dumped them in my bag, as well as the neat pile of work laid out for me to do during the exam. I hurriedly put on my coat and shoes and was out the door literally four minutes after waking.

I power-walked as fast as one can in high heeled boots over to the teaching building, and slipped into the classroom promptly at 7:58. I calmly took out the exams and proceeded to check all the desks. Little did my students know I had yet to be awake for ten minutes. After the exams were handed out, I settled into my desk to say a quick upward thanks that I had been nudged awake not a minute later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's the thought that counts...

Wu came by today with our Christmas presents from the department...

I wonder if they felt the same way when they opened our cell-phone shaped rechargeable shavers? In China, the fact that you gave a gift is what matters.

In case you need any proof that I live in a SMALL town, today my taxi driver described my teammate Sonny to me and asked if I knew him. Considering our team of 13 makes up almost the entire foreign contingency in our town, we're famous. However, apparently not all of the taxi drivers know us. Before I ended up in Sonny's friend's cab, I had waved down another driver. When he told me it would be 10 RMB to get to the school (it's supposed to be five), I quickly shut the he called out 8 RMB. Sonny's friend (who was in the next cab) asked me how much that driver had told me. When I said 10 RMB, he said, it's because you're a foreigner. I replied, I know, but I also know better than to pay that. The driver got a good chuckle out of that.

I have four more finals to give, and one end of the year "fun" class to teach before wrapping up the semester. It's hard to believe we're this close to the end!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hanging on by a thread

To my sanity, that is. Sorry about the lack of posting. :) The above is about the only thing keeping me going right now. Here's some numbers to help explain why:
  • 8 days until my close friends arrive in China
  • 3 teammate birthdays to celebrate in the next 10 days
  • 4 Christmas parties
  • 64 five paragraph essays to grade
  • 52 written exams to give and grade
  • 75 very dense pages of grad work left to read
  • 5 grad papers to write
  • 5 essay questions to write for my commitment interview
  • Cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and various other things to bake
  • 6 birthday/Christmas gifts left to shop for
  • 20 need-to-be answered emails in my inbox
Time to go put another pot of coffee on...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving #1 & #2

Thanksgiving was a work day here, but the team still managed to scrape together an amazing meal. In between teaching two classes, I whipped up my Grandma's four varieties of yeast rolls. It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them! Plus, I think I might be barred from dinner if I didn't come with them. It only takes me a total of three toaster ovens jammed in my kitchen to get them all baked up for dinner. :)The day before I made a huge batch of applesauce and mashed potatoes. A local restaurant roasted two chickens for us (complete with heads, thank goodness!) and the team provided the rest of the sides. The chicken, despite its disconcerting ability to stare us down, was actually extremely tasty and saved us from trying to cook meat for 20 people in toaster ovens. After a busy day on my feet, it was nice to sit down with the whole gang for dinner. Our centerpiece was the traditional Wu turkey (pineapple with head stuck in it). Friday evening I decorated my house for Christmas, and as if on cue, snow started to drift down outside my window. My house's charm has been multiplied by many strands of Christmas lights. The perfectly-timed snow became a hindrance when some of the team and I attempted to take a bus to Changchun for our second Thanksgiving on Saturday morning. We arrived at the bus station only to find out that the buses were not running. Not deterred, we headed over to the train station and managed to find seats on a train leaving in an hour and a half. We arrived about an hour late to the Changchun dinner, but a conveniently placed microwave and a kind friend who had shooed people away from getting too many seconds from the food table salvaged the situation. After eating a plate full of food, we had a great time of thanksgiving and fellowship with people from the region. After that, a few of us hit the stores in town. It was hopefully my last trip to Changchun this semester, so I stocked up on all kinds of items, and took care of some Christmas shopping. We got back late Saturday night a little bit tired, but wonderfully full. It's now time for the final press of the semester. I will only see my classes three more times. It seems as if no matter how well I plan out my semester, I always end up needing "just one more week". I'm trying to creatively figure out how best to prepare my students for their final exams! Regardless, I know in the blink of an eye the end of the month will be here, and I'll be left wondering what exactly just happened to me. Let the holiday rush begin!