Gabe, Dr. Gabe

bya Gabrielle at 5:57 PM

It doesn’t have the same ring as Bond, James Bond, does it?

A couple of Fridays ago, I went with my neighbor to sit in on their English lesson.  Almost every single person there is retired and over the age of 70.  They decided since they no longer work, they might as well do something productive, and learning English seemed like a good idea.  Some of their English is very good, while others are shy and are still learning.  Some of them have even gone to the United States.

The first week, I more or less listened.  A few times they asked me to help with pronunciation.  They had a hard time pronouncing words like camera and digital.  I also gave me them new words to liven up their vocabulary.  They thanked me over and over for coming and helping them learn.  I told them it was my pleasure, and that I admired them for learning English.  They asked me if I would be back the following week, and I said that I would.  Hey, I don’t have anything else to do on Friday at 9:30 a.m.  And it is kinda cool hanging with people that have seen China change so drastically over the last several years.

Never to Old to Learn English

The woman on the far right lives in the building next to me.  Her name is Gan Youfan.  I met her and her husband, who both speak English rather well, a few days after I arrived in Shanghai.  Their grand-daughter is American.  That is part of the reason they decided to learn English.  The second and third person down from her are the two ladies who have decided to teach me Chinese in their spare time. Their names are Cau Yuehua and Jiang Zhenrong.  I asked them if they wanted English names and they got so excited.  Usually, I am really awesome at choosing names on the fly, but knowing they would have difficulty with the names my mind could create, I had to go with simpler names.  For Cao, I chose Katie and for Jiang I chose Jody.  They really seemed to like their names and said them over and over again.  For those of you who don’t know.  Chinese names are written with the surname, the family name, and then the first name.  So, in China I would be Olexa Gabrielle.  To me, that just looks weird.

The second guy from the left visited America for a few months several years ago.  I asked him if liked American food, mostly because Chinese people are always asking me I like Chinese food.  He very frankly said, “No.”  It made me laugh.  Maybe, like me, he just didn’t know what to order.

During our first meeting, everyone wanted to know my email, so I gladly gave it out.  One woman, maybe it was Cao, asked if I had MSN messenger.  I told her no, that I didn’t, but that I had QQ, the Chinese equivalent.  Almost all of them perked up and said, “You have QQ?!  What is your number?!”  I found this extremely funny because I don’t know many 70+ year old people in America who are as technologically savvy as these people.   Nearly every person in the room can text, send emails, and use an instant messenger service.  I’m not going to point fingers or anything, but there are a few closely related people reading this blog that should be ashamed of themselves.  If a bunch of retired folks in China can learn how to speak English and use modern day technology, well, you should, too – except, you should be taking the time learn Chinese or some other language!

A few days later, I received an email from Cao.  It  reminded me of the days when my middle school students would send me thank you emails.  I found it very touching.  And I don’t know how, but apparently, I went to graduate school and got my PhD because I am now Dr. Gabe.

Dear Dr. Gabe :

Last Friday I was nice meeting you and I appreciate you teaching us who aer members of English Group in Qingshuiwan Resident English! You have solved my many question.As well as you have corrected our English pronouce  solved problem for us tha we have been benefited ! We love you !Thanks for your help . And good luck !  Would see you again !

Yours Sincerely

Cao Yuehua

I responded to her email saying that it was my pleasure and that I enjoyed spending time with them.  I mentioned that I wished my Chinese was as good as their English and that the following week I would like to teach them all how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.

Because I am a baseball fan, or more importantly, an Atlanta Braves fan, it is my duty to spread the word of baseball to everyone I meet.  One of these days, China will love baseball as much as they love basketball.  It may take years to bring the love of baseball to China, but I’ve got time.  I’m not even 30 yet!  :)

Speaking of baseball, when Phil and I were walking around the university just across the street, I saw a whole bunch of students wearing New York Yankees(curse them) uniforms.  They even had metal bats, gloves, and cleats!  I nearly fainted.  It was the first time I have ever seen Chinese students seriously partaking in baseball.  I stared in awe for about ten minutes and then Phil drug me away.

So, the following Friday, I showed up with lyric sheets and a mission – teach these people what baseball is and how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.  Only a few people had arrived when I showed up.  Cao was already there and wanted to show me something.  She unfolded a newspaper and placed it on the table for me to read.  Cao had written the entire contents of my email on the newspaper so that everyone could know what I said.  I was like, “Yep, that is what I wrote.”  As people came in, she showed it to them and explained what it said if they didn’t understand it completely.

I tried my best to teach them the basics of baseball.  I think they grasped most of what I said.  And then came the hard part.  I had to teach them how to sing “Take Me out to the Ball Game”.  I had them read the lyrics to themselves first, and had them ask questions about words they didn’t understand.  Most of the words are very simple, but there were a few that they didn’t understand.  I had to teach them what Cracker Jack was, what rooting meant, and I tried my best to describe the meaning of “old ball game”.  After a bunch of practice, they more or less got it.  Thankfully, they were okay with me capturing them on video.  I would have been mad if they hadn’t – for one guy had his HD camera out the entire time – recording everything I said and did!  I wish I had just let them sing, because my voice was loud and it sorta drowns them out, but I think it helped them out, too.  And here it is!

YouTube Preview Image

The guy on the far left, in the video, told me, “Frankly speaking, I find this very hard. I would rather sing Peking Opera.”  This made me wonder what a Peking Opera version of “Take Me out to the Ball Game” would sound like.  My brain would probably leak out of my ears.  Peking Opera to me sounds like a fleet of cats dying in agony.

Maybe one day, these guys and gals will make it to a MLB game somewhere and stand up during the 7th inning stretch and sing the song and make me proud!  I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Last night, right before I was going to bed, I checked my email.  I had another one from Cao.  When I first started reading it, I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.  It totally made my day.  I think it is one of the most creative things I ever seen someone Chinese do. Here is what she said:

Zi(3) wei(1) :ni(3) hao(3) !
1,Take me uot to the Chinese classroom ____Rang(4) wo(3) qu(4) shang(4) zhong(1) wen(2) ke(4),
2,Take me out with my Chinese friends._____Wo(3) he(2) zhong(1) guo(3) peng(3) you(3) yi(1) qi(1) xue(1).
3,Buy me some books and pen.___________Gei(3) wo(3) mai (3)shu(1) he(2) bi.(1)
4.I don’t care if I never get back.__________Bu(4) hui(2) jia(1) wo(3) ye(3) bu(2) zai(4) hu(1)
5,Let me root ,root root for the learning Chinese
5-1:Wei(4) xue(2) zhong(1) wen(2) wei(4) wo(3) jia(1) you(2) ,jia you ,zai jia you    or
5-2,Wei(4) xue(2) zhong(1) wen(2),gei(3) wo(3) li (3)liang(4) ,gei(3) li(3) ,gei(3) li (3)

Good night !

Cao Yuehua

Isn’t that just awesome?  I thought so.  Okay, well, now that I have typed your eyes off, I should probably stop while I am ahead, and save something for the next post.  I think I will share Meili, my evil Shiba Inu with you next.

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