Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Last week I said goodbye to this guy.
Phil on his last night in the fanciest hotel lobby in Jilin
That's Phil, and although he's the fourth teacher to leave my school since I started here, he's the first one that I worked with long enough to really get to know. The dynamic of a few English-speakers working together in a foreign city can create a pretty tight-knit group, and he was right in there. He extended his year-long contract with Kenneth's English, staying until just hours before spending Christmas with his family back in Canada. I'm really glad he stayed longer in Jilin, because over the last couple months we were able to spend more time having fun, and I appreciated that opportunity.

That being said, I'm starting to realize the tough aspects that accompany a job with so many temporary elements. Everyone signs a one year contract, which at first may seem kind of long. But with all these teachers coming and going, the discrepant, overlapping terms don't add up to very long. Not only that, I'm also beginning to wonder about what leaving my students after only a year would be like. Can I leave them after only teaching them for a year at most? Will I be ready to stop filling young minds with all my beautiful knowledge?

It's a lot to think about. But while I wrestle with that, I want to wish you all the best back in Canada with whatever you try next, Phil! Take care of yourself, God bless, it was nice working with you. So goodbye Phil..... still not completely sure what your last name was. Those temporary jobs will do that!

Oh and yes, part of this is just an experiment to see if he still reads my blog. All the best!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Making Dumplings

This week we made dumplings at school.

Every once in a while my school puts together an activity or outing to give us experiences with Chinese culture, and probably also to some degree secretly work on team-building, and this week it was making dumplings.
Gene, one of my managers, explains the history of dumplings to some foreigners
We got together at school, and with our team of teachers and staff, assembled over 600 of the little darlings. It just goes to show that great things can be accomplished with an hour and an army of Chinese workers. The Chinese staff was quick to help me out with my beginner dumpling-making status, but I'm afraid I have not mastered this delicate art quite yet. The good news however, was that there was a bevy of people who were WAY better at it to show me the way.
Photo by Noel M.
This was actually not my first time making dumplings, and I didn't see much improvement from the first time. One of the most common criticisms of my dumpling style is that I try to use too much filling. It's a bold move, on a dangerous line, but someone has to walk this soft, thin, floured tightrope and I'm up to the task. The problem is that when I made dumplings before, they all turned out very small... which inspired my Chinese nickname, Xiǎo jiǎo zi ("little dumpling"). So this time I really tried to hone my craft and make some reasonably sized ones. I think 1 in 5 turned out.
Photo by Noel M.
Now although this may not have been my first time making dumplings, it was my first time stuffing myself with more dumplings than I wanted to eat. This time, I wasn't in it for the delicious flavour- I was in it for the cash. You see, someone had secretly slipped coins into a few of the dumplings, and if you bit into a coin, you stood to make win big money! Think of it as a savoury version of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. Every new pan of freshly steamed dumplings brought on an ambush of eager eaters, all wanting to stab that mouthwatering coin.  
Unfortunately, no matter how much I gorged myself, I couldn't find any metal in my food, leaving me with only a fantastic meal to soothe the stomach of a loser. I'll survive. 
Some of the money I'll never get- it's a Chinese tradition!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weddings in Northeast China: A Northeastern Chinese Tradition

This year I went to a Chinese wedding.
Confetti everywhere!
Ok, you caught me- this one happened a couple months ago. But I'm finally posting the video that I made for the bride and groom so you can enjoy it too! Remember that this was for the couple, so I was going for a romantic theme, but I think you can also appreciate all the interesting and unexpected traditions that go along with getting hitched in China. Some of the steps involved in a perfect wedding day are:
- meet at the groom's house at 7:30 AM
- drive to the bride's house in a procession of decorated cars
- the groom had to bang on the his bride's bedroom door and plead to be let inside, and he even had to sing a song to be allowed entry
- the couple fed each other noodles (not an easy task with chopsticks and the fact that noodles all seem 6 feet long in China)
- pour coins on to the bride's dress
- the groom also had to find the bride's shoes which were hidden somewhere in her apartment
- drive back to the groom's house using a different route
- the wedding starts precisely at 10:58 AM

Most of these traditions and protocols are for luck and good fortune, and at the very least the make for a really interesting wedding experience. The biggest thing that I took from this experience is the realization that if I ever get married, there's going to be a bubble machine. Having bubbles pouring everywhere is just beautiful and romantic, and I think every man deserves that on his special day.

Here's the video!