Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beach Weekend

I'm not much of a beach person. I prefer hiking in the mountains to sitting in the sun. But, I decided to take a weekend trip to Cape May--it was my first time there (and I've lived in New Jersey for 24 years), and I got to share the experience with Jia.

For some reason, all the small hotels I called prior to our departure were booked for the weekend. However, I was convinced that I could find a guesthouse or bed and breakfast that had a room available when we arrived. I was right. After searching for about 20 minutes, we found the May Caper--an older guesthouse across from the beach. It had no amenities: no TV, no air conditioning, no breakfast. It was in need of some repairs, but it was comfortable enough for a night. And, our second-floor room included a large balcony overlooking the ocean.

After a short walk on the beach, Jia and I rented bikes for the day and rode around town. We stopped along the pedestrian mall, which was rather disappointing as it had nothing I'd consider interesting or unique. It was much more interesting to ride on the side streets and admire the Victorian architecture of Cape May.

We gazed at the lighthouse before sunset from the end of Beach Avenue--we would've stayed longer, but we had to return the bikes by 6. With a little time before sunset, we drove out to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late to walk up the lighthouse. But, it was still nice to walk on the beach around it.

Sunday we drove out to the zoo. This was probably the most exciting zoo Jia has ever visited (I'll have to take her to the Bronx Zoo sometime) as she's only visited her hometown zoo, which I didn't know existed.

Before returning home, we made one last stop in Avalon to visit my friend's deli for lunch. I regret getting the larger hoagie--he stuffs his sandwiches with more meat than is really necessary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Meet the New Boss

When I first moved to China I thought I was moving to a communist country. I quickly realized how little labels mean there.

On a trip to Dameisha, I came across this advertisement. Somehow I doubt Karl Marx would approve (or even see the humor in it). I especially like the knock-off sports car logo in the bottom left of the sign. I wouldn't be surprised if the school's curriculum included reading "Jewish Business Secrets," a popular book that has little basis in reality.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Class Demographics

After three weeks of teaching ESL writing and grammar at the community college, I've noticed more differences between my current and past students. Of course, some of the differences can be attributed to the location.

Overall, my current students are more motivated. That's not to say that my students in China weren't--I had some amazing students there who were more motivated than any student I've ever encountered. But, there are fewer unmotivated students here in New Jersey (I also only have 45 students instead of 300, so the percentage might be similar).

To go along with the motivation, my current students are much more talkative in class. Aside from my time at the language mill in Shenzhen, I never had students who actively participated in class--including the few highly-motivated students I taught at the graduate school. On the first day of class, I was shocked by students volunteering to read in class. And, the willingness to answer questions without me looking through the class list to call on specific students makes my life easier. Of course, this also leads to numerous questions from students, some of which are difficult to answer.

The best part of teaching at the community college is that all of my students are at about the same level. Again, aside from my time at the language mill, all my classes in China had mixed levels in the same class--I've had students who were nearly fluent in English mixed with students who couldn't speak a complete sentence.

This has made me realize that if I go back to teach in China (or any other country), I want to teach English and literature majors at the university level. It would definitely be more enjoyable.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lunatics Holding Us Hostage

I thought it was over after that idiot in Florida got his 15 minutes of fame for planning to burn copies of the Koran. Now, more idiots are coming out of the woodwork and threatening the lives of every American because of their disregard for tolerance of anyone other than themselves.

The first is an pastor in Tennessee who has decided to burn the Koran to "save their souls." The second is the most hated church group in America: Westboro Baptist Church--those so-called Christians who protest at soldiers' funerals with highly offensive slogans about gays. These people are going to burn the Koran because the idiot in Florida decided not to.

How is it that a few lunatics can garner so much attention that it endangers an entire nation? Maybe the government can sponsor a trip for the lunatic fringe to the rural regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan...and leave them there.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Calming Effects

Things are a little less hectic around here. Our new apartment is now furnished (though we still need a few more bookcases and some art on the walls), and I've started teaching again at the community college.

It feels a little weird being in an ESL classroom and having no Chinese students, but that's not the demographic of the area. I was surprised that I have relatively few Spanish speakers in my classes, and quite a few Arabic speakers. Fortunately, most of the students who showed up for the first day of class were enthusiastic and determined to do well, which should make my job easier for the semester.

Everything that's been going on lately has made it difficult for me to put together the sixth issue of Terracotta Typewriter. I hope to have it finished next week--I just need to write a book review and lay-out the poems and stories.

This Friday photo is a reminder of my favorite destination in Bangkok, because it was the least crowded tourist attraction. I visited Wat Arun twice, once with Jia after our engagement and once with my parents, and was just as impressed the second time around. I found Wat Arun to be a relaxing and quiet temple in the middle of a busy city. Sometimes I think I could use a place like this nearby.