Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Darwinism and Pandas

I'm guessing Darwin was a very cynical person when he was doing his research. If he had written a report on pandas, he would have told people that they're wasting their efforts trying to intensively breed an inferior animal.

Don't get me wrong, I think pandas are absolutely cute and cuddly. But being "precious" doesn't count for much on the survival scale or endangered species lists. Pandas can only properly digest about 20% of all the bamboo they consume. So if they appear lazy and love their nap time, it's mainly because they spend what little energy they have digesting their food and then searching for their next meal. Frankly, it's a terribly inefficient cycle, and since bamboo - the majority of their diet - is also in danger of dying out, hopes are't very high.

But that's also why I will never be hired by the Chengdu Breeding Center. Sometimes I question my own thought process...

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Adventures in Sichuan

Last week, me and some other buddies spent a few days in the Sichuan province. It would be impossible to explain and describe the entire trip, so here are some highlights. Check out my picasa album for related pics.

Highlights of Sichuan:
 - Visited the world's largest and most famous breeding center for Giant Pandas
 - Ate hundreds of dumplings in honor of the birth place of dumplings: Chengdu
 - Traveled at 194km/hr on a new high speed train
 - Visited over 25 temples
 - Prayed at the feet of the world's largest Buddha (Leshan)
 - Hiked 50km in one day through ice snow
 - On that note, saw and walked through snow for the first time in 3 years

Overall it was a great trip. It was fun to see and experience a completely different part of China, meet other international travelers, a live in actual cold weather again.

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Funny Shoutout

My students are always excitedly shouting, sometimes in English, but usually Chinese. With 3,000 other students, it's their only way to compete for a teacher's attention. However, this most recent shoutout was equally shocking and confusing.

For the Chinese New Year, our school gave each teacher a batch of goodies: a new coffee - or rather, tea cup,        a bottle of olive oil, a 10 kg sack of rice, and an entire box of apples. As I was preparing to travel and therefore was trying to empty my kitchen, I decided NOT to consume all 3 dozen apples myself and gave most of them away to my students.

The next day a girl shouted at me across the school grounds "Mr. Yee, your apple is delicious!!!" At first I thought she was making some sort of new sexual innuendo I wasn't yet familiar with. But no, I have to remember that when teaching students a foreign language, you have to listen and interpret things very, very literally.  She was simply just very hungry and very grateful for the snack. And I was simply just being my perverted self...

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

School's Out!

Due to the fact that Chinese students are wound so tight and get such few breaks, the last day of classes were predictably wild and frantic.

Most classes spent the day watching movies during and/or in between classes. I spent my last week playing English games and singing songs - so I guess it was a regular week for me. I chose a special song for the students called "Welcome to My Life" by a rock band called Simple Plan. I found it to be appropriately emo and angsty.

When the bell rang, 3,000 students exploded out of the classrooms, only to bottleneck themselves in the main gateway. They were shouting in joy, triumph, at other students, other teachers, and at me in various Chinese dialects. I totally understand their excitement as all the teachers were equally anxious for a much needed break.

I celebrated the evening in my apartment watching a movie. Call me lame, but everyone else was doing the exact same thing.

Byron Yee TEFL
English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Learning Foreign Languages

Recently read an interesting article from the travel section of CNN:

I can definitely relate. The most interesting point was that Americans and other Anglophones are born disadvantaged when in comes to learning a 2nd language. why? English is everywhere, others want to learn it, so it's easy for us to speak in globally.

In my opinion, the US should follow Canada (all political and economic reasons aside) and introduce a 2nd official language. It's a step in the right direction - the "right direction" being developing a more respectful global image of our country, and fostering a bit more culture and understand of American people.

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

You Know You're in China When...

I had something hard and round rolling around in my shoe. So I took it off to shake out what I assumed were pebbles or sand. Nope. It was rice.

I don't know how or why, but I consider that a sign of integration.

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Sha Jing Middle School's 55th Anniversary

At the end of 2011, my middle school celebrated it's New Year and 55th Anniversary. So of course they asked me to participate in the performances and of course I readily agreed. Nothing like a little Chinese choir practice to improve your skills.

1. The show opened with the school's staff choir singing it's school anthem and some other epic and majestic Chinese country hymn entitled "Love of the Motherland." If translated correctly, you could probably sing the song in Russia as well.
2. Lady Gaga: Me and 25 of my favorite students performed Lady Gaga's "Just Dance." complete with some original choreography and assymettrical eye makeup. It was a big hit, even for the teachers.
3. Closing off the evening was a banquet. Every good Chinese banquet has 2 things: not-so-smooth alcohol and even harsher karaoke. So I busted out my guitar, rounded up my English teaching coworkers and sang another famous Chinese song about friendship. People were very delighted that the foreign English teacher could sing chinese. The booze made the cheering even more flattering.

So, nothing like some Chinese music, wine, and Lady Gaga to produce a very important and effective cultural exchange. This day also helped me get closer to two of my life goals: Learning Chinese, and becoming Lady Gaga's backup dancer.

--Byron YeeTEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China
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