Actually, I’m about as uninspired to write anything as it is possible to be.

The weekend was my birthday. I don’t know how, but 31 seemed to suddenly take on the significance of 21. I guess I should make clear for those who don’t know that 21 is the coming of age in New Zealand culture. I tried desperately to avoid doing anything special for my 21st because it didn’t make any sense to me, but somehow it all caught up to me ten years later.

However, that left me feeling pretty tired yesterday. Not so good considering I had a full morning of class followed by a trip out to Yizhuang. But I coped. And I spent the morning trying to clear up misunderstandings with the students (they were two new classes, and there’s always some misunderstandings to clear up with new classes) and prove to them that really, I’m not some evil monster and I really do want them to be relaxed and feel like they can talk about anything in class.

Yizhuang is still Yizhuang: Very boring-looking half-finished (or maybe half-started?) town that zips past the window on the way to and from my class there. Same empty, abandoned fields interspersed with office blocks, factories and residential areas. But a class that starts with me asking five times “How are you?” before I get anything approaching a response from the students is not good. Managed to persuade them to actually try taking part in the lesson instead of just sitting there expecting me to magically pull some spectacular stage show out of my arse, but it took a lot of work.

Fortunately I’m off on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, so I get a chance to recover before class this afternoon.

I suppose I could throw in a little note about code switching. My boss almost always speaks to me exclusively in English, which if fair enough, considering the other foreign teachers don’t speak Chinese and my boss’ English is more than up to the task. She doesn’t phone me often, she usually has some flunky do that, but a couple of times she’s phoned me and I’ve answered with the usual Chinese “wei?”, which prompts a moment of confusion, then a question in Chinese about whether I am Chris or not, followed by a conversation in Chinese. The first time this happened, as soon as I said “Ok”, which is a word I use equally in English or Chinese regardless of who I’m talking to, she immediately switched to English. This morning the switch to English happened when she saw me. It intrigues me, the things that prompt code switching. As soon as we cross the mountains into Yanqing or whenever she talks to any of her family on the phone, lzh immediately switches to Yanqinghua. But somehow I haven’t noticed her speak Yanqinghua with any of the multitude of taxi drivers from Yanqing who work around Haidian.

You know, sometimes I enjoy reading the linguistics blogs, sometimes I just can’t stand them. Linguistics fascinates me, but I don’t know if I’d like to actually become a real linguist. My “language learner and interested amateur”-status suits me just fine.

Usually when lzh and I chat online, we use English or she types Chinese and I reply in Hanyu Pinyin or we both use Hanyu Pinyin. Actually, most of our English language communication is done chatting online. Anyway, up till today I don’t think I’ve ever bothered typing Chinese, as in actual characters, when we’ve chatted online. Anyway, all this chatting has shown me that Hanyu Pinyin is perfectly useful for such purposes. I still don’t think I’d like to read newspaper articles or books entirely in Hanyu Pinyin. That seems to fry my brain much faster than wading through a sea of characters.

So I suppose I should do something about getting ready for class.

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