08 September 2008

Katie 老師 and the mooncakes

So, I'm writing this at the end of my first two days of classes, my first two days being called "Katie 老師." Because I'm not yet familiar with the students' ability levels, how a class here should run, etc., Susan ran the class and then had time for 外國老師 introduction and open questions. For some classes this lasted a few minutes, but in most of the classes this took almost the full 40-minute period. As a 22-year-old, it's hard to believe how distanced I am from the major interests and preoccupations of elementary school kids. For example, I haven't really thought about my favorite colors, animals, sports, movies, moviestars, or foods in quite a while. Between that and cultural differences, I had to make up a good number of answers on the spot that were at least mildly true, and also understandable to students in their first, second, or third year of a rather infrequent, un-rigorous English program.

A lot of the questions were basic, but many were really strange, and I can't imagine an American elementary school student asking them. In both cases though, I had fun, and the kids had fun, and I hope they learned something. I should note-- Susan translated for them. If they knew how to ask all of these questions and understand the answers in English, I don't think they'd need me.

So, here are some fun examples from my two days of questioning...

First, what you'd expect from a kid.
  • What is your favorite color? (green and orange)
  • What do you like to eat? (牛肉麵 and pizza)
  • What sport do you like best? (baseball)
  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? (two older brothers)
  • What's your favorite animal? Why? (I like fish because they are pretty and quiet)
Second, what a lot of people ask me here.
  • Why did you want to come to Taiwan? (it is pretty, the people are friendly, I want to learn Chinese)
  • What did you study in college? (linguistics)
  • How do you like Taiwan? (I like it a lot)
  • What do you want to do when you go home? (I don't know, maybe become 美國的總統)
Third... Are you trying to ask me out?
  • What's your sign? (Scorpio for zodiac, Ox for Chinese calendar)
  • Do you have a boyfriend? (yes, he is in America) ...and lots of follow-up
  • Why aren't you married? (I am too young)
  • Do you have children? (I am too young)
  • Why are you so pretty? (thank you)... not throwing that in to boost my ego... they basically think anyone western-looking is beautiful/handsome.
Fourth... um, what?
  • Why is your hair yellow? / Why are your eyes blue? (I was born that way, everybody looks different in America)
  • What is your blood type? (O, I think)
  • Does America have more trash than Taiwan? (Some places have trash, some don't)
  • Do you come from a broken home? (My parents live together in Philadelphia, where the Phillies play!)
So, yeah. That was basically my first two days of class, meeting all of the students and having a Q+A with Katie 老師.

The fourth grade class was particularly endearing. One of the girls asked during the Q+A, "Does Katie like to eat 月餅?" Not really knowing what they were, I said yes. Later, during my last class of the day, a troop of 4th graders lined up outside and presented me one by one with mooncakes that they had made... somehow... in the hour since I'd seen them. So adorable.

Here is a picture of the ten mooncakes they gave me yesterday:

And a close-up of one:

Now, because the Moon Festival is coming up this weekend, everyone is exchanging mooncakes like there's no tomorrow. As far as I can tell, the Moon Festival is something like a Taiwanese Thanksgiving, in that you gather with family and eat a lot. My roommates and I have all accrued a massive amount of mooncakes. I'm happy to say that the little handmade mooncakes from my students are far superior to the expensive packaged ones given from school faculty... though maybe I'm biased.

To conclude, here is a picture of all the mooncakes in our apartment so far (most are still in fancy boxes). And just think... the Moon Festival isn't even until Sunday...

Addendum: I guess I should tell you what's in a mooncake. So far, we've had taro, red bean, egg yolk, some meat-flavored thing, and a good number of unidentifiable substances. We've heard that some have things like coffee, fruit, or chocolate inside. I guess we have until Sunday to find out for sure.


Glennie said...

I wonder if mooncake is where the new orleans moon pies originated?

And you definitely haven't spent enough time around little children lately if you weren't prepared for the random questions. But to make you feel better, when I met my sister's class they asked her if I was her daughter (I don't think dyl was that amused).

Ford said...

I think you need to watch out for the kid who asked you what your blood type is...

Joanna Leigh said...

Katie, why are you so beautiful?

Cressy said...

Ah, 中秋節, how lovely...This holiday used to be a lot more about 祭祀,團圓,燈會 than just eating mooncakes. Hopefully you'll get to see some old traditions preserved in Taiwan.

As for some of the weird questions kids asked...Well, some were strange, heh. But some are just culturally-bound and brought a smile to my face because they reminded me of my childhood.
For instance, the "what's your sign" is an extremely common question all through school years and young adulthood. I guess the implicit assumption is that knowing someone's sign would help you understand and explain their behavior better. The blood type question falls along same lines. If you check out a small book/stationery store, there are a TON of popular "sign/blood type and personality" books out there for young people.

You are beautiful, Katie, don't deny it! :P

Shava said...

Funny post! I've definitely witnessed the surprise over people having blonde hair and blue eyes before, while I was visiting India. I'd draw pictures of my friends and my cousins would think I was crazy because of my yellow haired stick figures.

Hmm...you made me hungry with all the moon cake talk...perhaps I shall go to China town and get some...

Ketan Gajria said...

I agree that Chinglish is much better than Engribic for two reasons. First, Engribic is a bit more rare (rarer? fuck, I'm getting worse in English) than one might expect or at least what they translate is so simple that errors are less common. Secondly, from what I have seen from China they are often just writing down words in English without translation (Engrish) and also I think they throw in the word "cock" a lot more. I am jealous...that your blog has so many comments.

Sterling said...

Oh wow, this post takes me back to my days as a missionary trying to maneuver dozens of boxes of mooncakes on my bike. (And yes, the homemade ones are WAY better than the fancy store-bought ones) Truth be told, I could live my life without ever seeing another mooncake, ever. They're like Taiwan's fruit cake.