Thursday, September 24, 2009

"If you aren't confused, you aren't paying attention"

phonetics students
Originally uploaded by kevsunblush
One of our company leaders, who has lived in China for over 20 years, has several mottos for understanding life in China/Chinese society. One of them is, “If you aren’t confused, you aren’t paying attention.” Our lives seem to often demonstrate this point. Take this afternoon, for example...

2:30pm - Kevin and I go to teach our phonetics classes (they are in multi-media computer classrooms). I arrive to find my classroom unlocked but empty. I have no idea where they are, and since I have only met them once, I don’t have any phone numbers yet. Meanwhile, Kevin arrives at his classroom to find my students instead of his students in his classroom (it takes a while to realize this, however, since we’ve only met these freshmen once).

2:35pm – I call my teammate Kelly who also teaches my student and has fortunately gotten their phone numbers already. I find out the student monitor’s number and try to give him a call. Meanwhile, Kevin realizes my students are in his classroom and goes searching for his students.

2:36pm – I call Kelly back since I can’t get a hold of the monitor and ask for another student phone number. I call the student but he can’t understand anything I’m saying. At the same time, Kevin shows up at my door saying he has found my class, and he will send them down.

2:40pm – My students arrive in my classroom. I have no idea why they went to the other classroom, but we can finally get started. Kevin finds his students and brings them to the right classroom.

2:45pm – Kevin can’t get the computers in his classroom to work. He goes to the office to enlist some help. The help (the poor people from the office who deal with all our problems) was unable to help. The Office Man told Kevin he would find another classroom for him, but then disappeared. Kevin ran to find Office Man while his students waited in the hallway.

2:55pm - After running up and down the stairs several times, Kevin was able to find Office Man who unlocks a new classroom for them. Kevin finally starts class.

3:10pm – I am doing individual pre-tests with my students while the others watch a movie. Everything was going smoothly until 20 minutes into the movie when the students’ computer monitors all inexplicably stop working. I try the only things I know how to do – reopen the program and reboot the power. These have no effect so I send a student up to the office for help.

3:15pm – I tell the waiting students to talk about something random and try to continue my individual testing. Office Man comes down and does something with the computers and the power. He leaves before we realize it still doesn’t work.

3:20pm – I send the student back up to the office, but he finds no one there. They are apparently now all in a meeting. They cannot fix it until after the class. I tell my students to do some random activities from the book while I try to finish up the tests.

3:55pm – After about five more interruptions which I won’t detail, I finish up the tests and try to finish up the class. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to unexpected problems and confusions, but I am still feeling rather frazzled.

4:10pm – As my next class of students enter the classroom, I go back up to the office to request more help. Another office man comes down and he and another random person try to do some different things on the computer. Finally they decide that these computers cannot be fixed right now, so we all move to another classroom.

4:20pm – Meanwhile, Kelly has arrived to teach her Oral English class only her students aren’t there. For some reason, the students thought they would have Kevin’s phonetics class today instead. They show up at Kevin’s classroom and are confused and a little bit offended that Kevin won’t teach them now. He tells them they are supposed to be meeting Kelly instead.

4:30pm - Kelly and her class are reunited. Kevin and his next class find each other. My new classroom computers work well with no problems. We are all happy though still deeply confused.

Fortunately, my second class got to actually see the movie (Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken) and they loved it. Perhaps even more than I do. They laughed at funny moments. They clapped at triumphant moments. I heard sniffling during the sad parts. They clasped their hands and leaned forward during suspenseful moments. They sighed contentedly during the romantic parts. I love showing movies to Chinese students.

If you would believe it, this story was actually even more complex in real life, but I left out some of the other complications because I figured you'd already be confused enough. Chaos is often a normal part of life in China, but not usually quite so much for quite so many people all at the same time. As the Chinese would say, "Aiii Yaaaa!"


Candy said...

I know it is frustrating living through the situations, but you paint such vibrant word pictures that it is really funny to read. Thank you!

Sarah said...

Can I share this story at a workshop? I LOVE it! Such a good example of life in China!!!