Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Good Classes, Bad Classes, and the House of Pain

Okay, I need to catch you all up a bit.

So on Saturday night, following our crazy clubbing experience, I for one expected to have a nice quiet evening in. This was not meant to be.

First, let me explain a couple things. So I've already established that seven of us went and were in a movie on Friday. There was additional shooting done on Saturday. Three of the original Friday crew (Kesha, Derek, and Jay) returned for Saturday's shoot. Additionally, several other of my colleagues joined them. I'm not positive who all was there, since I wasn't.

Shooting ran much later in the day on Saturday than it did on Friday, but that was okay because the actors were on a boat and I'm told there was an air-conditioned break room. Luxury. So anyway, here I am, about to head out and grab something to eat on Saturday evening, when I bump into Huw and Emily who say "We've just got a call from Peter [the Chinese faculty member with the connections to get us in this movie]. Are you up for some free dinner? Come to the taxi right now." Those of you who know me know that there was a 0 percent chance of me turning down a free meal.

So it turns out that Peter's friend, one of the producers or something, decided to take all of the Jianghan instructors who worked as extras out to dinner on his dime. It was an extremely different experience from anything I was used to. I ate a sparrow. We also drank a lot of beer and quite a bit of a Chinese spirit called "baijou." I managed to avoid getting totally hammered, but I was feeling rather. . .erm. . .happy by the end of the meal. Following that we drank on the roof for a bit and I called it quits about 1am. This led to me getting that nice relaxing evening in I had wanted on Sunday.

I don't think anything especially memorable happened on Sunday, to be honest. Let's skip ahead to Monday.

Monday I paid my year-long gym membership--one of the last big up-front costs left to me here--and became a member of what we lovingly call "Jackie Chan's House of Pain." The gym is run by a remarkable man called, you guessed it, Jackie Chan. (No, not that Jackie Chan.) Jackie really knows what he's doing when  it comes to getting people into shape. But holy shit does it hurt. I've been to the gym three days in a row now, and honestly after the leg workout Jackie hit me with tonight I'm not sure I will be able to walk immediately upon waking.

Tuesday night saw the return of me to teaching. Last week, my Tuesday night class had been a big disappointment to me. None of them brought their books to class, they were rowdy and unruly, and I wanted to smack every single one of them. This week, however, we clicked and they are now my second-favorite class.

Wednesday morning intermediate English, however, is a different story. Teaching them is a lot like teaching forty-some-odd slabs of stone. I don't think my curriculum is the problem, since my Wednesday afternoon class had the same curriculum from the same teacher and they responded very very well.

Looking forward to tomorrow though. I only have one class and it's my last one for the week. Plus, I blatantly play favorites with my Thursday class because they are the best class.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And there's more where THAT came from

A longer post will be coming later, but for now I thought I'd give you one of those pictures I promised of the movie shoot.

From the left that's Emily, Huw, Derek, Me, Jay, Kasia, and Loren. This is us before shooting began, just after we had changed into our costumes. Do you see what I meant about the "sailors'" uniforms? When one looks at that, one might think "mime" or "painter" or even perhaps "droog." But not sailor.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Update (with Andrew Blatt)

Okay, so on Wednesday evening I went with Li Jing to the airport. Once there I picked up my luggage and my new upstairs neighbor. Said neighbor is a pretty cool chick named Julie. I think she's decided that we're going to be friends and I'm cool with that.

As a result of having my essentials once again, I was in a much better mood on Thursday and considerably less stinky than I had been Monday through Wednesday. This made me a much better teacher. I'm going to have to make it up to my Tuesday and Wednesday classes next week for being so grumpy and by-the-book. Also notable about Thursday was the arrival of my other upstairs neighbor, an extremely awesome dude named Dan. Dan is starting his second year of teaching here at Jianghan, is pretty serious about studying his Chinese, and (I'm told) has a Chinese girlfriend. All of these things combine to make him a pretty useful man to have around in China because he speaks much better Chinese than 90% of his fellow Foreign English Teachers.

Yesterday (Friday), I got to be an extra in some sort of documentary that is being made about the Communist Party and its history in China (I think). We were apparently doing some sort of scene for a reenactment of a historical event, I think several important Party leaders arriving in Wuhan in 1927. The upshot of this is, I spent 10 hours standing in the sun in a ridiculous outfit (I'll try to post some pictures later) that was supposed to be a "sailor's" uniform, but looked a lot more like a French painter or window washer. It was hot, and sort of miserable, but also pretty fun. If the thing ends up panning out and I get a copy of it, I'll do my best to share any clips with me in them so you can all have a laugh. It might take quite a long time though, so don't hold your breath.

So yeah, being a movie star ended with me irritated and a little bit sunburned, but after a shower, some mandolinning on the porch, and dinner with Dan, Derek, and Julie I felt much much better. Then the four of us got some beer and drank it on the roof. After that, I went with several of the other teachers across the city to check out the Wuhan club scene. We went 3 places, the Prison Bar, a little hookah place across the street from it, and a club called Vox. The Prison bar was nice because it seems to cater to Westerners. Half of the bar staff were Caucasian and the other half were also fluent in English, so ordering wasn't a problem. It is a very very small place, though so it got very crowded. The Jianghan teachers managed to acquire several hangers-on throughout the night. Most of these were acquaintances of my colleagues who teach at other schools in the city. There was literally no one else in the hookah bar when our enormous contingent of tipsy foreigners rolled in and filled up the place. It was nice, but sort of boring after a while. After the two returning teachers who had been acting as our guides left, the remaining five Jianghan instructors decided that instead of calling it a night and going home, we would get dangerously drunk in Vox and then try to negotiate a taxi home using the Chinese characters for our school that our guides had scribbled into my notebook before they left.

Vox was. . . kind of like home. For my Purdue readers out there, imagine something sort of like a middle ground between Where Else? and the Neon Cactus, but much much cooler than either of those places. The beer was sort of expensive by Chinese standards, but not very expensive at all by American ones and there was quite a lot of foreign beer to be had. We danced, we drank, we danced, we drank some more.

Surprise ending: none of us died.

Hell of a lot of fun.