It’s hard to teach a TEFL course in China when no Chinese know or care what a TEFL course is, and anyone with white skin and a native-ish accent is considered qualified enough to be a university teacher, so our number of students is moreorless flatlining – last month we had just three, and the office has eight staff. The plan we’ve arrived at is to franchise the course to local universities, which means going there, making a presentation to a lecture theatre full of undergraduates, then training a couple of their staff, providing them with materials, etc. It’s a bit of a change in direction, but it’s already looking a lot more promising.
Yesterday we went to Baoding, a small local city – small meaning only a million people live there, and local meaning about a hundred miles away. I had been hoping to get back to Beijing in time for dinner with V, but after the university delayed our presentation until 4pm I realised it wasn’t going to happen. We ended up spending about five hours in the car (i.e 2½ each way), not a problem as it gave me a chance to finish reading Journey To The West and catch up with a few hours-worth of podcasts. Arriving at the unremarkable university we were ushered in to an auditorium with about 300 students, but no projector or computer – apparently it hadn’t occurred to the staff that we might need these, so there was another half-hour delay while these were sorted out, and we didn’t get onto the stage until nearly 5pm.
Back in the days before I started teaching I didn’t use to be a particularly confident person. Has this changed? Not sure really, but speaking in front of a hall-full of people doesn’t seem to be a problem any more. I can still be apprehensive about interviews, but not in any incapacitating way. Is this self-confidence? It doesn’t feel liberating or exciting, but at least there’s no panic there any more.
Anyway, the crowd were unresponsive even for China, and we were wondering if there was something wrong, but no, over a hundred were interested in joining the course. They’re going to need to speak up a bit more if they’re planning on following the communicative approach, but someone else will be training them, so it’s not going to be my problem.
After the presentation we went for dinner. Baoding’s local speciality is the donkey burger, so we had that.
I’ve tried donkey meat in Beijing before (I think it may be V’s favourite meat), but this time it was much better. The bun was a proper north-eastern pancake instead of stodgy mantou, the meat wasn’t too salty, and importantly there were no chopped green peppers inside. We also had a salad – pickled vegetables an a white jelly-like substance called “Menzi”. “Is it meat?” I asked. “No,” said Lee. “What’s it made from, then? Tofu?” I asked. “No,” said Lee, “they boil the donkey’s skin…” – and apparently that doesn’t count as meat. It doesn’t sound very nice, but it wasn’t bad actually.
Laoban then ordered some sliced donkey penis, and that was where I had to stop. I’ve eaten enough strange things, but it just didn’t look edible, just like slices of gristle. Lee & Laoban seemed to like them though.