Campus Life, China, Weather

Whatever the Weather

On Thursday nights I go to play badminton at the gym with some teacher friends. I originally typed ‘indoor gym’, but there was some backspace action, because it really isn’t an indoor gym. It is a building with a roof, but open on the sides. What to call it? The semi-enclosed gym? The indoor-outdoor gym?

The gym has badminton and basketball courts, a small sea of ping pong tables, a jogging track on the 2nd floor, and room for various martial arts classes to distract me with their hyah-ing. I applaud the forethought of having a place to do all these activities when it is raining. As Zhuhai has a semi-tropical climate, it is indeed raining quite a lot here. In the autumn there is always the chance of typhoons and in the spring there is a very distinct rainy season.

Last year I thought one month of torrential rain was bad. I must’ve made the mistake of asking for more patience as it has certainly been tested by the last TWO months of rain. Seriously. The end of rainy season was perhaps dramatically punctuated by an official Red Storm warning and a morning of canceled classes last week. There was one more fitful downpour on Tuesday, but it appears we might have finally cleared the rain. I swear there cannot be a drop of precipitation left up there.

The rain began to feel a bit like a biblical plague. Maybe not 40 straight days and nights, but I think we got pretty close. Those of us not used to such weather might have been tempted to go hunt down the disobedient Jonah causing all this bad weather and send him down the overflowing storm drain to his “Ninevah” or large water-based mammal. Whichever he/she encountered first.

So, again, it is great to be able to play your sport of choice regardless of rain or no rain. However. HOWEVER. However. I don’t understand having an open-air gym in a climate that at least 6 months out of the year has temperatures over 80 degrees and humidity of equal or greater percentage.

With the end of the rain, the temperature just keeps climbing. Though I greatly enjoy my badminton Thursday nights, the “gym” is the next closest thing to the Inferno itself. Two hours of vigorous badminton leave me absolutely dripping. No, this is not hyperbole. Full on streams running down my face and back. I didn’t know this was actually possible. I thought this state could only be achieved by people in Gatorade commercials. Oh, no! You too can experience this novel state in picturesque southern China! Swim in the seas of . . . your own sweat?

High temperatures and impending rain have also resulted in another intriguing “plague” on several occasions. Shortly before the rain would begin, small winged insects—“locusts”—would appear out of nowhere and blanket the gym. One second you’re playing badminton and the next you’re dancing around like a fool swinging your racket ineffectively at the bugs all around you and on you. On your shirt, on your pants, sticking to your sweaty arms, getting IN YOUR HAIR! Ugh! Ugh! UGH! It’s enough to make you throw down your racket –no, wait, I can’t throw down my racket because it’s not mine. Okay, it’s enough to make you throw up your arms—no, can’t do that either because then I’ll get bugs there, too! Fine, it’s enough to make you run away, screaming, into the night. That I can do. Maybe no screaming and maybe not full-on running, but on those buggy occasions I certainly did high-tail it out of there. And my colleagues were not far behind.

Speaking of plagues, have I mentioned the frogs? More to come . . .

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Campus Life, China, Educational System, University Teaching

Teaching Files: Houston, we have a problem

One of the worst, but also paradoxically best, parts of my job is marking student essays.

Why worst? Because classes range from 70-90 students. This times however many classes you have. This semester I have only one class of this type. Last spring I had six. Tears of agony. It’s also a challenge because the students often make so many mistakes that catching their meaning is like peering through a glass darkly. Maybe a glass with bullet holes.

And then there’s the plagiarizing. Marking my recent batch of essays I was amazed to find students using the SAME Internet essay as last spring. And also amazed that I could recognize it within a sentence.

HOWEVER! Marking essays in the company of other teachers can be a delight and a pleasure. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, yes? Hunched over our piles of essays there will be intermittent snorts and giggles as we encounter little unintentional gems from our students. Turns of phrase bungled. Accidental play on words. Charming misspellings. We read them out as we find them to the amusement and mirth of all.

My two favorite misspellings from the most recent batch of essays both derive from the word “problem.” Yes, my students were having problems with “problem.” Are you ready? Drumroll, please.

The runner up for the most charming accidental mashup ever!
Give it up for—promble!

And in first place!
For the most charming accidental mashup ever!
I give you—troblem!

(Crowd goes wild!)

Sort of makes you want to be a teacher for a minute there, yeah?

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Uncategorized

Testing, Testing!

Coming to you remotely today courtesy of my new iPhone!

Though WordPress is a blocked site in China, some parts of the WordPress app seem to work on smart phones. Sure it won’t last. But I thought I’d take the opportunity to check in!

Today I am off to Guangzhou to see a Chinese traditional dance performance with my good friend Naomi. We bought these tickets so long ago it was a surprise to see that the day had finally arrived! This is also an opportunity to see the inside of the beautiful Guangzhou Opera House.

Unfortunately Naomi and I do not travel alone. We are accompanied by Naomi’s 5-year old daughter–a prime example of the dangers of only-child families. A true little empress. I spent almost a week with this girl in January and feel I just barely managed to restrain myself from doing something that would damage my friendship with Naomi.

Fortunately this will be a short trip. Just overnight. My opportunities for wrongdoing will be limited.

Focus on the positive, yes. Well, I am confident that we will have an excellent lunch once we arrive in Guangzhou. And then probably some shopping. I am interested in buying a cute case or two for my phone. It’s just like people clothes–you wouldn’t want to be seen with the same case twice!

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