I should start by saying in the Southern part of America, where I’m from, it’s okay to strike up conversations with complete strangers. We can talk about our life’s goals, our families, our current jobs, or even certain beliefs, but when you ask for personal information like names or phone numbers you have gone too far. This concept is, apparently, not always understood when conversing with random Chinese men.

Hair inspection at Chang Bai Shan
One of the most common occurrences since I've been living in China is people complementing and then reaching to touch my hair. Most times I oblige because they always start by saying piaoliang (beautiful). I think they say it to soften me a bit. This happens with complete strangers from time to time, but it most often happens with those who are relatively familiar with me. The people I have had a couple conversations with seem to get excited when I tell them it's alright to touch my hair. They usually respond with excitement, sounding much like the little girl from the latest Karate Kid movie: "Can I touch your hair?" So when someone asked a that same question today I was not completely surprised. 

After a long day of offices hours and classes, I felt pure joy when the bell sounded: "It is now time for a break. . ."
"Okay, everyone. You all did a great job today. Hope you have a great week! See ya."

"See ya!" The students said almost in unison, beaming with pride at their use of 'authentic' English.  They all slowly trickled out as I began to pack my black, over-the-shoulder teaching bag with folders of student work to be graded, a copy of my lesson plan, left-over materials, and random selection cards (index cards with pictures of students along with their Chinese name in Pinyin-the Romanization of Chinese- their English name, student number, and class number). I was in no hurry, so I packed and hummed the way my grandmothers used to do after a long day's work. Before I realized it, I looked up and saw a student working quietly in the back of the room.

I am now entering my third week of teaching. Right now my schedule is pretty clear because I am only teaching on Thursdays and Fridays—that will change after the October National Holiday (first week in Oct.) when I get my seniors who are currently completing internships. I currently have six junior oral English classes that I am teaching in two days and two different departments! It gets extremely hectic, but it’s doable because I only have to prepare two lessons.

    Tempestt Gavins

    This is my fourth time to visit but my first year living in China.  It has been an amazing experience so far, especially with being one of the few black girls among many Chinese people.  Follow me as I experience China.

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    March 2013
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