Lot of snow on the ground, but mostly frozen in the morning and not mucky yet, so I went to the store to get water and some food and then read the rest of the day. Went to bed at 7 and slept well for the first time.
Snow about half melted, walkways more or less dry. In the afternoon I went with one of the teachers, S, to the "electronics market" which is kind of a huge building with a billion small vendors in it, mostly all selling the same things. Bought a flash drive, a voltage converter, an SD card reader, some cheap external speakers for the laptop. Then we had lunch at a little cafe called Jenny's which is rather expensive and caters to Westerners, with a menu of Western foods and a large list of cocktails and imported beer and wines. The place obviously has cornered the niche, it felt *almost* like one was not in China inside. They even played real jazz. One of the fellows from Jenny's insisted on driving us home, so we asked if he could wait half an hour, he said yes. Then we went to a larger supermarket (super meaning food and all kinds of other goods), where I picked up some home stuff I couldn't find, such as rugs, a bath mat, an ironing board, a mop refill and an alarm clock. Also a pillow filled with lavender. It was lovely to have the free ride home and not have to carry the lot on the bus.
After that I went to the apartment of teachers S and L and we spent half hour or so downloading SmartBoard lessons onto my flash drive. Came home and spent the next hour returning calls and emails relating to school while uploading the lessons onto my computer. All of the teachers, Chinese and foreign, bring their lessons for the SmartBoard to school on flash drives. I think just about every computer at school is virused, as their virus protection seems to be hit or miss and not all of them are updated or scanned regularly. S told me that the way she deals with it is to just format the flash drive every time she comes home. (Don't know if I mentioned it before, but I came home with viruses after my demo lesson. My antivirus program went mad with popups and beeps when I plugged the flash drive in. Go Avira!)
Next I went with Lisa to see the Lantern Festival at Baotu Springs. This was quite interesting, some of the decorations were beautiful and others over the top gaudy. It was very crowded. We met up with two of the other teachers, and then bumped into two more. I took loads of pictures, hopefully some of them will come out all right and I'll post them on the next free day, which will be Monday. I'll be quite busy with lesson plans the next couple of days and work on Sat/Sun.
Got home late and although I was exhausted, didn't sleep much at all, spent the night tangling up the blankets restlessly and wishing I were asleep.
This morning I played with today's lesson plan a bit, read a bit, ate my last yogurt and drank the last of the juice. Took a short nap, then headed for school with L for Mandarin lesson at 2:30. We learned some basic pronunciation and a few phrases such as greetings and giving directions. It was very helpful, now I can at least take a stab at the words in my prhasebook. I wish we had the lessons more than once a week; will have to search the web for some interactive language programs, so that I can practice in between lessons with some kind of audio recording. Some of the sounds and tones are difficult for me to reproduce and I need to hear them over and over.
Finally got my books, then spent the next hour and a half with the SmartBoard prepping my lesson. Then finally it came, the moment I'd been fearing: my first class. How can one be afraid of teaching kindergarten kids, you might ask... well, I've never worked with small children before. Anything can be intimidating the first time. The kids were equally intimidated by me; one little girl cried when I talked to her (I felt awful), but by the end of the class she seemed to be enjoying herself, and even stopped being afraid of me. Thank goodness. It is a challenge to keep 11 kindergarten kids awake, alert, entertained and interactive for an hour in the evening when they are already tired. Most of the kids came to give me hugs at the end of class. They were so adorable. If all the kids are this cute then they may be enough of a reward for coming to China.
Walked home with another teacher, R, who comes from Australia. He had all kinds of advice about teaching, as he and S have been here about a year and a half now. Stopped by a local bakery where R bought some bread and gave me some bread and some kind of pastry with a filling neither of us could identify. We also stopped at the Unimart, which is something between the supermarket and 7-Eleven, and since I was mostly out of food at home I picked up some juice, water, and from the crockpots on the counter, a tea-boiled egg and something mysterious wrapped in bamboo leaves.
When I got home I opened the bamboo leaf packet, which contained a kind of sweet (only slightly sweet by Western standards, but very delicious) made of sticky rice, red bean paste, and honey. The other things I decided to save for breakfast.
Lantern Festival pictures!
Many brightly colored displays like the one below were lit up, hence made of lanterns, and were all over the Baotu Springs park.
With some of my new teaching colleagues, a really nice group of people.
The lantern below was about 3m tall and was made of tiny blue bottles, a really fantastic work of art.
A couple of really cute Chinese children I saw at the festival.