Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Techno, Loin cloth, Fire, and a 12 foot Python; Or Why Our Moon Festival Kicked Ass

Ok, well, it’s been a while. The new school year is in full swing, and it began with a bang. One of the first events of the year was our Moon Festival at the school. The Chinese calendar is based upon lunar cycles, and at the start of September is typically when the farmers begin to harvest their rice. They celebrate the end of the harvest with the Moon Festival, like a non-scary version of our Halloween. Kids dress up, families are visited, moon cakes are consumed (moon cakes are weird rice flour cakes that are very dense and salty/sweet. An acquired taste for sure. I can only get through about half or a quarter of one, even though they are only about 3 ½ inches in diameter), and in general, it’s a family holiday. Last year our school had a traditional dragon dance to celebrate. Dragon dancers are the guys you see in Chinatowns that form sort of a human dragon made out of paper mache and dance around to the rhythm of loud drums. It was pretty cool.

This year, the school tried something different, and hired three performers. A snake handler, a magician, and two jugglers.  The snake handler came out to pumping techno music, a Vietnamese guy wearing nothing but bulging muscles and a loin cloth.  Around the room, jaws dropped.  He starts gyrating around the room in his loin cloth, and it looked like a scene from a bachelorette party, but instead of horny bridesmaids, it was junior high school students. Then he breaks out the snake, a 12 foot long python weighing 175 pounds!  He dances around the rooms wrapping the snake around him, and then for the finale gets some kids to stand up, close their eyes, then proceeds to wrap the giant snake around their terrified, squealing bodies, letting it coil up around them, then pulling it off them. I’m pretty sure in the States, that would get your school shut down, but here, it was all in good fun. The kids loved it, and the staff was alternately gasping in horror, and laughing in surprise that we could actually get away with this.

Next act was a magician, who pulled a lot of doves out of things. Pretty standard, until he poured gasoline all over a box and lit it on fire. In our meeting room, with the flames reaching up to our drop ceiling, just next to the sprinkler system. Same reaction of horror/amusement from the staff, same reaction of awe from the kids. Again, I’m not sure you could get away with a guy almost lighting your school on fire as part of his act, but hey, we’re in the Wild, Wild East.

Luckily the school wasn’t burnt down, and we went to the third and final act, jugglers. Jugglers, bah, what risk or adult themes could this bring? None. Unless…He misses one of the bowling pins he’s juggling and almost knocks a student out with it, and then they begin to strip down to nothing but their boxers as they’re juggling and then juggle their clothing back and forth as they put their clothing back on. Oh Asia! So unintentionally adult themed and dangerous! 

 I have to admit though, I do kind of appreciate the fact that there is no “culture of safety” like we have in the West. I mean, some basic level of safety preparedness is good, about at the level that we thirty-somethings had when we were kids. You could still trick-or-treat at night without parents tagging lamely along, and playgrounds had monkey bars and climbing obstacles higher than 3 feet. Yeah, you could get hurt, but that’s life, most kids don’t, a few do, they heal, and life goes on. Now, it’s Litigation Nation, and Always Someone Else’s Fault. But not over here. Of course, here there’s still no sidewalks and random bottomless holes in the middle of the roadway, so there’s a happy balance to be had somewhere.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Englishisms, Part 1

So it's been a while.  I got back to Hanoi about a month ago after spending a great summer in back in the States with my friends.  But now it's back to the Wild, Wild East, and the frontier style teaching that comes with it.  Textbooks?  Library?  Computer Lab?  Bah, who needs them new fangled edu-macation things?  Students and teachers, one could argue, but they're not an option here, so I continue Little House on the Red River style.

Anyway, one of the more painful things I have to do is teach kids how to write research papers.  Research papers are something they've only had to do if they are in Western schools, and that very rarely.  Vietnamese education tends to rely exclusively on memorizing and testing, rather than understanding.  So, they don't really get the idea.  But that's my job, to teach them how to write, and not just copy and paste an article from Wikipedia, as they are so prone to do.  I doubt that's just an Asian problem though, I'm pretty sure that's an Internet Generation problem, but I wouldn't really know, as I don't teach in the West.  Anyway, here's some pretty good Englishisms I've had so far, all unintentionally hilariously created by my kids in various papers I've had them write.

"The most techonoligcal nation is Finland, althuogh this country was exposed to industrialisation only in the 1050's."

Question, Who in the planet uses the most water?  "In conclusion, people use the water most."

When discussing clean water and poor countries "Firstly, they are still retardation countries, so they don't have ebnough money to buy water."

When discussing special ed.  "In Korea, they have some special schools for Autism, aspergers, handicapped people, and retards."

When discussing soil pollution, "The reason  is soot of cars and factories, chemicultivation, shampoo, and so on."

About Climate Change  "I think we are trying to make the world worse if we don't know how to contribute to climate change."

About Asian diet  "Nevertheless, we are Asians, our father's like dog meats, that's disgusting to me, but some of my friends like it."

About the Vietnamese culture (written by a Viet student):  "But Vietnamese are very lazy, and don't try to learn about new things.  When we go to foreign cultures, people think we rude because Vietnamese people so loud all the time.  And Vietnamese so greedy, they rather live like rats than to spend a little money on nice things".