Thursday, January 1, 2009
"I am a star!" or "You are a star!"
Here are some things that happened on the first day of the first month of the two-thousand-and-ninth year:
1) I walked by the frozen canal with Erin and remarked on two men ice-fishing. I thought that the darker part below the bridge didn't look as frozen as the rest of the canal, most likely because the water is deeper there.
2) I ate lunch with Zhou You's parents, Sam, Zhou You's grandmother, and Erin. The chicken dish with cilantro was my favorite.
3) Erin and I went to the book building here in Tianjin to buy prizes for my students. In my World History class and American History class I've been passing out these little pieces of paper to my students all semester long, each time we have an open-ended conversation and they participate. The pieces of paper each say "You are a star" and have a red star on them. I think it's funny that they have red stars on them. The stars have almost mythical status in Meijiang School now. There was a lot of discussion about the stars each week this semester. Who has their stars? Where do people keep their stars? What if their stars get stolen? How often should they count their stars? Why did I switch from writing "I am a star" to "You are a star" at one point in the semester? I have no answer for this last question, at least, not an answer that doesn't make me seem a little crazy, or that made sense to my students.
At the beginning of the semester, I imagined the students looking down at the stars, and then reading "I am a star" and the phrase acting as a sort of positive reinforcement, as if the pieces of paper might convince them that they were stars. Then I realized that this could also be interpreted as me giving them a red star that says "I am a star", as some kind of bizarre, occidental coupe to garner their esteem, or convince people of my innate star-quality. There is a lot of hilarious cultural miscommunication in my daily life. The idea of a western teacher passing out pieces of paper that say "I am a star!" on them to a group of Eastern students is not that far off from some other bizarre ideas of westerners I've encountered from my students and in my daily life. For example, in E-Mart today, a girl yelled "Hello!" and then "McDonalds!" from the make-up counter when Erin and I walked by. Try to figure that one out. I'm not sure if were were supposed to rub our tummies and give her a thumbs up, or do some kind of dance. What would the McDonald's dance look like?
In the end, I'm not sure which phrase would code most appropriately, but I opted for the "You are a star!" instead of the "I am a star!" I could so strongly picture my students, in my mind, looking down and then seeing "I am a star!" written on the little pieces of paper, but I decided that the act of giving them the star would make "you are" and not "I am" more appropriate.
Enough of that, though!
4) When we were all eating lunch together I thought it would be fun to ask people what their resolutions were for the new year. So, here are Sam's, Erin's and Zhou You's resolutions. I might try to get some of my students to tell me their resolutions tomorrow, on my last day of teaching this semester. I'm going to miss my students over the long break. My students are the people I communicate with the most here in Tianjin, except for Erin. I think that we're "tight." They are my friends.