30 November, 2012

Health and Ingredients

One of the many soups that Taiwan (and indeed the Chinese speaking world at large) is famous for is known in Chinese as "Health Soup". Containing coix seed, lycium (a member of the nightshade family, yet safe like potatoes) and the seeds of the lotus plant, this soup is very good for your body - especially your eyes. I am not partial to it, despite its goodness, as I am not entirely taken by its slightly bitter taste. I've been told that it's usually more salty than bitter, so perhaps I just had a particularly strong bowlful to try. Either way, I can be persuaded to try it again sometime.

By contrast, however, there is something I do relish which also has "health" in its title, and which is used to preserve one's body from the inside out. Known locally to some South Africans as "gesondheids drankie" (or "health drink"), it is a beautiful concoction of tonic water, dry lemon, a juice of your choosing (pear is usually the best) and gin - the stronger the better.

Whilst I would not expect my students to like my drink (nor would I offer it to them, their ages being between 6 and 7), I find the symmetry of the idea of them enjoying their health soup whilst I enjoyed my health drink most appealing - both consumable liquids aimed at the betterment of the consumer.

28 November, 2012

Representing Canada

I arrived at work today the way I usually do; by rolling out of bed, throwing some clothes on and making my way to the bus stop. I took a moment in the bathroom - more as a chance to wake up than anything else - and considered my complexion in the mirror.
There was the trimmed beard, my hair tied back, a pair of jeans and a collared, red and black checkered shirt. It was at this time that I realised that if my shirt had any more red in it I could pass for a lumberjack.... and I'm okay.

21 November, 2012

Videotapes and Sickness

I stepped with unwilling confidence into the classroom. Luckily, I thought, I’d have this lesson to practice before proceeding to my own class. The beauty of being the maths teacher is that I teach both classes of the bilingual programme the same lesson. It’s true that I was going to have about two dozen parents watching me teach, but they weren’t the parents of my class and so I allowed myself breathing space. Apparently that was my first mistake.
It dawned on me that I may have miscalculated the moment that one parent put a video camera to her eye; said moment being the second the bell rang for the lesson to begin. The camera ran the whole lesson.

While I must admit that I flawed them for most of the lesson, at the end I did begin to weaken. I usually prepare too much, but this time I had undercut my preparations. I was thumb-sucking eventually. That experience, combined with a quick chat in the break with my director, meant that the next lesson went much smoother.

That was yesterday. Today the students are being directed in writing short letters to one of the girls in the class. She has taken ill with inflammation of the lungs and has been admitted to hospital. It’s believed she’ll be there for a week.
This news has caused the realisation that my throat is a little sore and has been since I awoke this morning. I had brushed it off as a reaction to temperature change as the weather has finally begun catching up with the season. Perhaps there is more to it… (*begins scrounging for vitamins)

16 November, 2012

Worries and the Recurring Spider

So a large brown spider of the (looks vaguely like this) variety was found clinging to the side of a chair in my class the other morning. As you can imagine this caused quite a stir amongst the little six- and seven-year-olds. I rescued the poor thing and deposited it in the school gardens, which I have now come to view as a potentially silly thing. The gardens in question are situated in a quad surrounded by classrooms, meaning that if dear Mr Spider decides he's not entirely satisfied with his relocation, his only means of migration is down various passageways or through the classrooms themselves.

As you can imagine we found him again yesterday. Once again I had to rescue him. This time he was on the side of a bucket which the grade ones were using to clean the floor with. In the spider's defence, he wasn't really in need of saving. His mere presence was enough to keep even the most enthusiastic grade one at arm's length, their best efforts contained at little more than splashing water hopefully on the wrong side of the bucket.

Once again I deposited him back into the garden in the hope of future entertainment.

The spider, however, has nothing to do with the worry mentioned in the title. That came from a student, being rather talkative outside of lessons, who was trying to engage me in a discussion of whatever was on his mind at the time. His words were a little confusing and so I had phased out slightly, my attention more on the work on my computer. I was passively listening.

Whatever he was saying began catching my attention because it sounded wrong somehow. I started actually listening to discover what he was talking about. The boy had spoken of things sticking and how he found he had to remove them with his hands. It dawned on me that he was speaking about lavatory functions and I immediately began searching my memory for everything I had seen him touching.

The look I gave him must have registered, because he then began defending himself, saying it was the only way to get some of it off - or out, I forget which - while I told him that tissues and loo paper was better. In retrospect I don't believe I attacked his idea enough. My partial silence and confusion may have been seen by him as acceptance.

This incident worried me as hygiene is important, especially in a city as sickness can spread quickly. Today two of my students were at home sick and three left early to visit the doctor. From what I've witnessed my students tend to have very good habits in terms of health and hygiene (I reserve judgment on discipline and learning habits at this time). Some may think of bad hygiene habits as an Asian thing, but the boy who was talking to me was one of my students who'd spent a few years in the U.S.A. I think one of his parents may even be a citizen of the U.S.A.