Sarah drew this picture for her poetry project. She loves to draw. I’ve told her multiple times to keep it up if she really likes to do it, but she insists that here is no money in it.
I love spring. I love it because the weather gets warmer, all the flowers start to bloom, I get to throw my coat in the closet, and I am actually motivated to go outside to get my fifteen minutes of vitamin D. But those aren’t the only reasons why I love spring. I love it because all of those reasons I just mentioned mark the start of the most awesome season of all – the baseball season.
To put how awesome it is to me into perspective, maybe I should say it this way: Opening Day is my Christmas.
Well, not all Christmases are created equal. Sometimes you get the win you’ve been dreaming of, maybe, if your lucky, even a few spectacular plays, a homer that blasts out of that park, and a nail-biting, thriller of a finish. And then there is the Christmas that makes you ask, “Is Santa on strike?”
The first four games of the 2012 baseball season were very much the latter. The Atlanta Braves, I guess, thought that their complete craptacular collapse last season wasn’t so complete after all because they posted four more rather disappointing loses before finally notching a win. Now, I wasn’t too let down because I am well aware there are 162 games and that anything can happen between April and October, but as we learned last season, one win can make all the difference and each loss can potentially be the nail in the season’s coffin. Thankfully, the Braves have made some what of a comeback and are now a .500 team and only 2.5 games back.
During their win drought, I aired my displeasure to the retired group of students I teach over in Xujiahui. I wrote up the following on the board at the beginning of my class, so they could read and think about it, and prepare themselves to discuss it.
“The Atlanta Braves are off to a miserable start. They are 1-4. Zi Wei(that’s my Chinese name) is very sad because of this.”
Last semester, I talked to them about baseball and the Atlanta Braves, so I expected them to understand, but I suppose my expectations were a few rungs too high.
As the students came in, they sat down and read the message on the board. They read it again. They spoke to each other in Chinese and all of their faces were distorted in confusion. I couldn’t understand what the problem was.
When the clock struck 9:15, I read the sentence out loud. I asked them if they knew who the Atlanta Braves were. They all shook their heads and said no. I told them they did know because we had talked about it before. I asked if they could remember my favorite sport. They shook their heads again and said no. I wrote baseball up on the board one letter at a time until they knew what I was writing. I think I got to the E before someone recognized it.
“Oh, baseball,” one of the students said.
Several of the students on the front row started laughing. I asked what was so funny.
One of the students spoke for them all. “We thought that you were sad because of something we did. We love you. We don’t want to make you sad.”
This of course made me laugh right along with them.
“No, no, I said. I’m not sad because something you did. I am sad because the Atlanta Braves have only won one of five games.”
“We understand now.”
And then we all laughed together.
This moment sorta made me forget how sad I was that the Braves were stinking up the place.
Here’s to hoping that I won’t need this type of special moment to help me forget any more parts of the season. Go Braves!!
Today, I taught my business English students about baseball, which is no easy feat when you only have an hour and a half to cover everything from 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey to the Atlanta Braves stumbling out of the gates like fools in 2012. I covered as much as I could, but I clearly could see they were a little confused when I asked if they had any questions when I was finished.
To me, baseball makes perfect sense, but I’m a second generation (Atlanta Braves) baseball fan, and the knowledge and know-how comes rather natural to me. Teaching a sport to a nation versed mainly in basketball(thank you, Yao Ming) and soccer(football – thank you FIFA) is kinda like teaching a young child how to tie his shoe. You understand the motions and the outcome and why it happened the way it did, but the description of how it all happens turns the pretty bow into a jumbled disaster of ugly knots . . . if you are even that lucky.
Hopefully, I taught them more than I confused them, but god only knows. Their brains are probably knotted spaghetti strings.
Next week, I am going to teach them “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, which is always fun. Maybe I will record them and post it for you guys to enjoy! Also, I downloaded the “Who’s on First” skit by Abbott and Costello. I hope that they will understand the humor. I’ve printed out the script to help them understand what is being said because let’s be honest, it can be confusing, especially to ESL learners. And finally, I have nine clips of “Field of Dreams” for them to watch. I love that movie!!
If they can describe in a nutshell what baseball is and tell me sorta how it is played by the end of next Wednesday, I’ll be a happy teacher.
I start off each class with what I call “Gabe’s Random Thoughts of the Day”. These thoughts are truly random and can be spurred by the weather, a song, an expression, a sport, a random news article or even by one of the random thoughts I just wrote on the white board. I usually have no idea what my random thought of the day will be until I start writing it. Some of my thoughts are pretty awesome, and I really should have taken a picture of some of them, but oh well. I think my random thoughts engage the students and make them think and ask questions because usually my random thoughts are about stuff they have never heard of before.
Today’s random thought was titled, “My Baseball Bucket List” and this is how it went.
1. Attend a World Series game, more specifically an Atlanta Braves vs ??? World Series game, preferably with my father.
2. Own the Atlanta Braves(Highly unlikely, but hey, I can dream, right?)
3. Get remarried to Phil on home plate at Turner Field(Again with the dreaming)
4. Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at a MLB game(Not as part of the crowd, but the person leading it)
5. Have a son who grows up to be the best baseball player EVER(first I need to have children)
6. Convince Phil to allow me to name a daughter Atlanta(Probably no amount of begging will make this happen)
7. Watch all 162 games(plus post season games) in person(I’ll need to win or inherit a lot of money first)
8. Own season tickets to the Atlanta Braves(probably the most likely of all to actually happen)
9. Catch a foul ball or home run(the batting practice homer that hit me in the head does not count)
I am sure there are more, but that is all I can think of right now.
Do you have a baseball bucket list?
Not long after we arrived and started teaching English in Fuyang, we got to experience the holiday known as Teacher’s Day. This is a day when students thank their teachers for all of their hard work and sometimes present them with little gifts. I knew of the holiday before coming to China, but I didn’t expect the students to give either Phil or I anything, for like I said, we had just started teaching. I didn’t think it was possible for them to like us enough to by anything for us, given the amount of time they had known us.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I came home from work and found a carved watermelon wishing Phil a Happy Teacher’s Day sitting on the kitchen table. I’m sure I imagined several gifts that the students might give us, but I don’t think that a carved watermelon was one of them. I was quite impressed. The student put a lot of work into it.
During our six months there, Phil got all sorts of gifts from his students – ranging from greeting cards to Final Fantasy posters to Hello Kitty stuffed toys. Phil’s students were loads nicer than mine ever were.
And just in case you don’t know what a carved watermelon looks like – here you go!
It happened last night. I dreamed in Chinese again.
For some reason, it sounds like something that I would say to a shrink. And no, for the record, I do not have one. Although, I am sure there are countless people out there who think I need one. I’ll leave that discussion for another day.
The dream itself is rather fuzzy, but the little I can remember may amuse you. I always ponder who all the yous are. The stat counter Phil built says 50 some odd people come every day, some longer than others, but other than the few that leave comments on any sort of regular basis, I have no idea who they are, and if they care a wink about me. I guess I never really will. Oh, well.
So, yeah, I dreamed again in Chinese. In this particular dream, I was at a big celebratory venue. I am not sure if it was the New Year or if I was reliving a piece of the Olympics that I never witnessed in person, but it was big. And there were lots and lots of fireworks.
The only reason I can remember that I was in this stadium like place was because it was also the start of new school year, and I was in charge of the freshman class. I had to speak to them once the celebration came to a close – about what to expect and all that jazz. This made me nervous in my dream just like it would have in real life. I hate speaking in front of people. How I managed to teach 30 some students nearly every day for a year is beyond me. I guess I just got used to bull shitting on a regular basis. (Yes, Mom, I just used the BS word!!)
As soon as the event was over, everyone started heading for the exits, all except for me. Something distracted me and kept me back. Well, before I knew it, everyone had left and I didn’t know which door to take. I called up the stair wells, but no one could hear me. I was too afraid of getting lost that I stayed there hoping I would figure out where to go, but my dream said I had to stay. Slowly, I noticed that my surrounding were changing. It was getting darker, and the walls were turning into stone. Lights on the walls turned into torches, and bars with electricity came down by the doors, keeping me from trying to run away.
I looked around and started noticing that there were some Americans chained up along the passage ways. I ran over to them and begged them to tell me how to get out, but they wouldn’t unless I would unchain them. One even handed me a key, but I told him I didn’t want to get in trouble. I have no idea why a prisoner with a key would still be chained, but he was. What can I say? My dreams are weird.
At about that point, I heard some noise behind me. The prisoner told me that I should hide, but I didn’t listen. I ran to see who it was in hopes that they could help me. The noise ended up being a line of freakish monsters. The one in front looked like Skeletor from He-Man. Behind him were some wickedly evil creatures that only my mind could create. Insert you own creepy guys and you’ll know what I mean.
Well, since my dream was in China, the creepy guys had to speak Chinese. This made everything super frustrating. It is times like this I wish I had studied my Chinese a little more because I have no idea what they said to me. It was all comptlete gibberish to me. I’m sure they were saying something like, “How did you find our secret dungeon?” And, “We must kill you now.” I just kept saying over in over in Chinese, “I am American. I am a teacher.” I added some “help me” in English, but they didn’t seem to care that much about my presence.
I was feeling pretty helpless, but for some reason I did not run. I just kept standing there pleading with them hoping we’d finally be able to understand each other.
And then Phil’s snoring woke me up.
Part of me was greatful that I didn’t have to deal with Skeletor anymore, but I was mad that I wasn’t going to be able to find out what was going on. I quickly closed my eyes and hoped that I’d be able to go back to the same dream like I am sometimes able to.
Fortunately, I was, but the interesting part of my dream was gone. The little man operating my dream center hit the fast forward button. I entered the dream looking over a lot of paperwork – all of the stuff I had missed while being stuck in a secret Chinese prison. Hey, at least I didn’t have to speak to the freshman class.
I helped some friends with a film once(not that kind, you pervs), and so they put me in the credits as an assistant or something. They couldn’t remember my last name though, so I got credited as The Gabe. I didn’t know that until I watched it in the theater, and I was like, “What?! The Gabe?” It turned into a long running joke after that, I guess, and that is part of the reason why I was referred again as The Gabe in the document below. Why I am the eater of Earth’s men, I don’t know. Perhaps your creative minds can think of a reason.
I remember faintly, while standing in the cold, dark corridor of Beijing WECL, Mandy, one of Yuli Guo’s(Richard Guo) lackeys, telling us how WECL had forged one of our coworker’s resume. She said that it didn’t look very professional. I thought at the time that maybe they had just added teaching experience or something like that and that it was rather hilarious that our school was lying to the Chinese government. It made me wonder what they had done to my resume.
Well, a few days ago, I got a message from a guy who had contacted me about teaching at WECL. He thought he would share some amusing information with me.
“Hey, I thought you would find this amusing. I actually turned down the WECL job the other day but someone at the Qingdao office keeps bugging me for visa stuff. Well they decided to “embellish” my resume and added an entire job as a behavorial therapist in Glendale, California back in 2007 while I was in college in Washington, DC. I can’t believe they would just flat out lie to the Chinese government! Talk about such a sketchy job!”
And now I know what probably ended up on my coworker’s resume. Very interesting.