Sunday, May 26, 2013

The storm before the calm

It hadn't been a good night of sleep. There were far too many things preceding the sleep to complicate my thinking, restlessness in my legs, and before I was really aware of it I was out of bed, down the road looking for the centre where I'd have my examination. My head felt as if it were in a fishbowl and having developed a strong coffee habit in the lead-up, I was glad to find the centre and a cafe beneath it still with an hour to spare before the start of the test.
I shuffled to the end of the queue that led to the counter and put my brain in stand-by mode to gain back my wits. My daze continued until one word pierced it: "communicative" emerged from the drone in an American accent. I focussed. Then I heard more key language but this time : "activating schemata" "methods and approaches" this time in a British accent. I turned around to see an odd couple: a short slightly greying woman and a thin, modern man with an angular young face. I knew they could only be people from my course who were in that cafe for presumably the same reason. I asked them directly: "You wouldn't happen to be...?" and of course they were.
It is a peculiar thing of course to know people for so long from their written words and thoughts alone (in this case via an old-fashioned online discussion board) and then suddenly know them as three dimensional coffee-drinking people a long time after. The imagination sometimes is right and sometimes is completely wrong. Cue: coffee related note and study sharing. The exam was what everyone feared. Most of us had been out of university for years and hadn't had the requirement to take a three hour written exam until now. The practicum classes could be easily negotiated because we are experienced teachers reacting with humans; the exam, though, is just cold, white paper. And despite having been a consummate test taker in my past, that past usually revolved around dodging courses that required essays. I'd never scored heavily in tests requiring prose and opinion.
So the storm began. Three hours. Three sections. Weighted 40%, 30% and 30% respectively. I spend an hour fifty on the first and started doubting myself and my strategy that I could satisfactorily answer the two other questions in the remaining time. But I did. And it's done. Pens down and please tie your answers together with the string provided. We were swamped by an infinite calm.
And in that calm there has been a day and a half of cutting loose. A great afternoon and night out. Yesterday I hiked around the city till my legs and feet ached. The practical lessons await. Now it is time to teach. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Some conversations are better than others

In the bustle and hustles of life it's easy to forget what you want to say about a great deal of things that appeal to your mind and intellect. At the end of the day it sometimes just depends whether you've got a pen and pad at hand, or a willing party to converse with on your topics whether your ideas are consolidated or lost. I don't lack those to have discussions on teaching, but for the greater questions that I chew the edges of, I really do lack that person who can give back as good as they get on meatier issues.
So when they do come it is sometimes quite astonishing. We had a visitor last weekend, someone I'd met before, and had lunch with him. Perhaps it was just because I could talk to him one-on-one that the topics could flow as they could. I asked him the topic of his thesis: Lexical cohesion in Jane Austen translations, not that it was interesting; lexical cohesion, now that is something I can talk about - it's a Diploma topic - thus we talked for quite some time about the in's and out's of lexical cohesion; that was a leaping point for our discussion of writers: Peter Hessler, Han Han and Nobel Prize winners; our mutual appreciation of commentator Liang Wendao (who has a show after midnight called Open the scroll for 8 minutes, reviewing a book in exactly 8 minutes); and then we broached the wider scheme of social networking in China. It had been a while since I could bounce ideas and impressions of someone. It was good.
He's still very young. Just entering the workforce. Possibly gay. Curious and eager about the world beyond. It'll be interesting to see how he develops as a person. And maybe we can talk again.