Despite all of the beginning-of-year mini-disasters at my school, I have to say that life has been pretty good for me so far this semester. I’m only teaching two literature courses (instead of 3), and my basketball practices will start tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been averaging over 7 hours of sleep for the past three weeks. That’s an improvement by about an hour over last semester. Although I haven’t yet lost the extra kg’s I gained over the summer, I feel pretty healthy, no aches or pains anywhere, and my basketball skills (such as they are) don’t seem to have diminished.
For three days last week, I traveled with my school on our fall field trip to a place southwest of Shanghai called Nine Dragons. I guess you’d call it a secluded resort area on the coast surrounded on three sides by small mountains. I’d call it a picturesque local except for the three massive sky-piercing smokestacks clearly visible off in the distance from nearly every place in Nine Dragons.
On the afternoon of the first day, the students were placed at random on teams then performed a bunch of cooperation-based tasks, basically team-building 101. When I asked a few students how they liked it, they invariably said it was very difficult. They don’t get a lot of team activities at our school.
On the morning of the second day, we rode horses around the inside of a coral, led by the horse’s trainers who held a lead. I found it a little boring, but some of the kids liked it. We also did some archery followed by kart racing, which I enjoyed most of all the things we did. I’m not hyper-competitive, but I’m proud that I passed everyone in my heat once and passed one person twice. After my race, another foreign teacher ignorantly said my kart was much faster than theirs. I didn’t waste my breath explaining to her that she was slow in the corners, didn’t follow the racing line, and probably wasn’t strong enough to press the throttle all the way to the floor. I just let her think my kart was faster. Hell yeah, it was faster. I drove it faster.
In the afternoon of the second day, we went boating in a small harbor and around some small canals which connected to it. Our small, under-powered boats each held four people. I rode with 3 of my 10th-grade students, and we had a pretty good time tooling around on the water.
Once we had found the outlet, we made a tentative plan to escape to the ocean, but we ran out of time and needed to head back to the dock to head to the next activity.
One of the 10th-graders brought a few clubs with him on this trip, a 7-iron, a wedge, and a putter. Too bad he didn’t bring his driver, or we could have had a little driving contest, but he thought we were going to be playing on a par-3 golf course. Most of us had fun pointlessly trying to hit little white balls into a rolling field full of little white balls while Andy, the boy who had brought his own clubs worked on his short game.
The last stop of the day was to play a war game the Chinese kids call CS (Counter-Strike). The war is fought with guns that fire plastic pellets which aren’t supposed to hurt much, but seeing as how I’m a teacher, I didn’t take the chance to get shot in the face by my students and sat this one out. Though most of the kids had a great time fighting it out among the modified shipping containers, one boy was obviously upset that someone he had shot would not admit to having been shot, and I suppose it might have changed the outcome of the game. So I reminded the boy that it’s only a game, and he calmed down. I think he was just hangry, and all of us were looking forward the the big meal at the end of a very long day.