Monday, 11 March 2013

Lo Hei and other mouthfuls

This blog has rather turned into a travelogue. For those getting pissed off with the holidays you can safely read ahead. No holidays in this entry. Clearly I go on too many holidays, but it's also because in my life here now everything except the holidays is second time around and doesn't have the urgency of newness to be written down.

Everyone in my company was invited to celebrate Lo Hei or 'prosperity toss' for Chinese New Year. Large salads of shredded vegetables, strips of smoked salmon, orange peel and a sweet, sticky sauce were laid out. Everyone was given a pair of chopsticks and after a countdown 一 (yi)  二 (er) 三 (san), we all tossed the salad in the air as high as we could. The higher the more prosperous your year would be apparently. I threw it as high as I could and it went all over the table.

We are almost at the end of term one. It's been really busy but feels a hundred times easier than it did last year. Monday mornings start for me, just as they did this time last year, with a 7.50am start with a roomful of students up in Woodlands (almost Malaysia). Then I do five classes pretty much back to back. Last year it nearly killed me, this year it's fine. Then, last year, I had to go back to the centre to observe a class for the teaching qualification my employer expects everyone to take. The day didn't finish until 10pm when the class for the teaching qualification ended. Not surprisingly, I was knackered.

This year I'm not doing the evening courses, I think I may actually be teaching less hours, but I'm also much more in the swing of it. I've got my thermos flask so I don't need to drink the nasty school canteen coffee (which makes a frighteningly big difference to me.) I know the roads and taxis well enough so that I can stay in bed that little bit longer.

The teaching itself is much easier now I know the lesson plans. I can understand the Singaporean accent far better so, usually, I understand what the students are saying to me. Not always though. Particularly when they switch into Chinese of Malay. Or are very little.

My open class for the parents of my K1 students went very badly. The children were absolutely wired. They couldn't stop laughing, pushing each other, talking, but mainly laughing. 25 minutes in I turned to the bemused parents and said that I was very sorry but I was going to have to ask them to leave as the children were too excited. They left and then I had a few 'where's my mummy' cryers. Ugh. This is not my forte. I find them fascinating, sometimes sweet, but mainly like an alien species I am observing. If I could just observe I would enjoy myself far more.

I am also teaching a couple of hours on my day off at a drama school, NAFA, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. These are people training to be actors and I'm teaching them from what I learned when I studied physical theatre for two years in Paris.

I absolutely love it. The students are fantastic. Very willing to have a go and to take it seriously. They seem so young to me.  I'm getting old. I went to see a Commedia production by the third years but had to leave at the interval. (It was three hours long). I was telling the students how much I enjoyed it but that I'd had to leave at the interval and they said 'you missed the best bit. The part with all the sex in it!' It's been strange reading through the notes I took while I was training at Lecoq to prepare. Reading all my doubts, fears, successes. The perspective of distance.

It's interesting to teach these able, though at differing levels of ability, young adults and then to go into secondary schools and try and teach the Sec 1's (first year of secondary school, just out of primary) storytelling. They are really rubbish. They don't have any basic stagecraft. I'm trying to teach them things as basic as facing the audience, standing in the middle of the stage, not standing in front of each other, the difference between on stage and off stage.  While frustrating it's also really interesting to teach people who really have no idea what they're supposed to be doing. I'm coming up with games and exercises to try and teach these things.

It's similar, though different trying to understand why my younger students don't do what I want them to do. When I say 'put your hand up if you want to say something' the little ones will stick their hands in the air and then start talking. All at once. Of course they will. I didn't explain it properly. Then I need to find a game to teach them this - the hands up game. Ditto 'you have to wait your turn', 'you need to stop running around'. The kid is thinking, 'no I don't, I'm having a ball running around this room and you're clearly a soft touch who has no idea how to make me stop.' I haven't found a game for that yet.

I need to go to work. Loi Hei to you all. Prosperity in all things.