My News: TOP -

Living the dream

Before I do anything else I want to welcome all my dads duck hunting buddies and working associates (hello Beverly) to the blog.  I am glad to have you along for the ride, any friend of Wayne Sanders is a friend of Will Sanders, and vise versa I am sure.  Welcome to the adventure new friends and old, please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times and I hope you peed before we left.  And don’t cause any trouble back there or I will turn this blog right around and we will go home.


Sometimes in life you need someone to call you on it and set you straight.  I guess that’s where I was at last weekend.

When I was still day dreaming about coming to China, still in the ATL, still surrounded by shops that would sell me things without me having to point and hold up fingers if I need more than one of whatever, still able to walk where I was going without being staired at or pointed at, still just a call away from people that knew me and would drink with me, I had ideas of how China would be.  I was sure most the people would speak english, just as I was lead to believe by who ever it was that told me so, I can’t remember but somebody.  I was sure that I would be able to get around no problem.  I was sure that I would have nothing but time to travel the whole country.  I was also pretty sure that the class part would consist of a few classes a week in which I teach whatever chapter is in the textbook, give quizes and homework and that would be that. 

One of the more surprising realizations came when I was told that I would be given no text book.  The entirty of my class would be invented by yours truly.  The idea would be for me to talk and for them to listen.  See, they have been learning to speak english for three or four years, at this point the school figures they are ready to comunicate with the real mckoy.  So I was then told that I would teach 12 highshool classes a week and five middle school, each class lasting 40 minutes.  Each class I would see only once each week was the good part.  This meant I come up with one class a week and do it over and over.

This was when I really started freaking out.  I would lie in bed gazing at the flourescent light tube hanging from the ceiling wondering what the hell would I talk about for 40 minutes. 

The first week I fugured I could fuge.  I introduced myself and wrote WILL on the chalk black board.  I then explain slowlly that I am from America and I do my best to do a fast scetch of the US with a star where Atlanta would go.  I explain that this is where my family is and I tell them little things about my life in the states to fill as much time as I could. Then I write four questions on the board, the questions vary depending on whim, but are mainly all some shit like

What is your name?

What do you like to do for fun?

What is your favorite food?

How many people in your family?

and so on.

I would go around to each kid and ask them these questions.  Some would have no problem, some couldn’t do it.  The ones who couldn’t do it would get embarrased and I would do my best to let them off the hook.  I would say again and again that it is ok to make mistakes, ect.  This would usually take most of the class, and I would have just enough time to explain that most of their grade would come from student participation before the bell rang.  I still don’t think the majority of them understand the concept of student participation, but we’re getting there.

So while I was writting this I got hungry and jumped on my bike and went to a resturant around the corner which, I have been told, specializes in western food.  I walked in, pointed to a picture on the menu of a steak and eggs with some kind of noodles on the side.  They bought this large tray of forks and knives in silver glinting rows, all fancy looking.  I really think the effect they were going for was for people to say “oooooooooh, fork.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh spoon.”  My steak and eggs came in a covered dish.  The waiter held a napkin in front of my chest to protect me and lifted the lid to reveal a plate of steak and eggs still cooking in front of me being simmered in a gravy sauce which was boiling over and spitting greese (hence the napkin).  But I said goddamn that was good.  An 11 year old girl and her mother came to talk to me before I left.  She wanted to speak english and did well I thought.

So where was I?  oh, ok the class.

At some point that first week I got my first visit from a guy you will all no doubt hear more of as this blog continues, superstar english student and king of enthusiastic compulsive apple polishing, my new and practially only friend, Wang Guang Peng. 

One afternoon I get a knock on the door.  I open my door (which you will remember is in the same hall as the classrooms) and before I can say a word a grinning chinese kids walks past me into my place without a word.  This is Wang Guang Peng.  He comes in and is soooo happy to meet me.  He demands to know what immediate thing can he do at that very moment to improve his english.  He tells me his desire for my friendship, to which I say sure.  I tell him I would like to be his friend too and he almost doubles over.  He demands to know what is troubling me in my life, so he can fix it.  I shrug and tell him I got no worries, I ask him what troubles him.  He tells me that he wants to learn english but is not able to learn fast enough.  I have to concentrate on what he is saying to make it out, but I smile and do my best.  After a few minutes he leaves, smiling and waving and shaking my hand.  Maybe ten minutes later there is another knock at my door.  This time he brought his buddies.  He walks in with two other guys and they all stand around looking at me.  We make forced small talk and I ask them if they had eaten (it was around diner time and the cafteria here is only open in three hour long intravels.) and would they care to join me?  They look at each other and agree.  We get outside the door and they all look at each other and start laughing.  One by one they all yell “so sorry I have to go” and then run like hell away.  This I undertand, they are highschool kids and I can dig not wanting to be seen with a teacher.  So I get food and go back to my place and there is yet another knock on my door.  I admit that I was finally getting a little annoyed, I  was ready to just eat my diner and chill out at home.  I opened the door to find Wang Guang Peng, (no surprise) but this time he had a girl with him.  I think great, now I am such an event the kid is bringing dates.  So I let them in and hang out for a while and they both wound up helping me learn chinese.

At first they were coming by all the time, but now it is a very once in a while thing.  They really just want to speak english with me, so I am always very cool about it.  I often get packs of gigling girls who don’t talk they just whisper to each other in chinese and explode into embarrased laughter.  Once last week they all sang songs for me.

Oh, I got to tell you this.  Last weekend I had a terrible cold, stayed in bed taking medicine and hacking for two days.  Wang Guang Peng came in and despite my best efforts would not leave and let me sleep.  He assured me that he had to say something important that would not take too much time.

He told me about a lady that is an english teacher who lives with his friends family in a distant village.  She is always arguing and she does not cook.  He said that she is very bad and makes the family sad always.  He then asks me to write a letter urging this woman to leave at once and never come back.  I say “ah, man.  I can’t say that.  I don’t even know this lady.”  He promised that she is bad.  So I tell him to go write the letter himself and bring it back to me and I would look at it and make corrections.  I think I pissed him off, I didn’t see him for two days.

And everywhere I go I walk by kids and they say “hello” which causes their friends to explode into laughter.  I always smile and say hello back.  It is sort of a well natured dig at me and a genuine nice expression of beuatiful kindness at the same time.  It is hard to explain but it is very very sweet and makes me feel good everytime.  If I were going to create a new stereo type for Chinese kids I would say they are super nice kids and crazy hell bent on their school work.  The classes here end around 7 pm and afterwards Wang Guang Peng and his friends have a place were they like to hang out after class and practice their english for hours everynight.  America, you are in for a rude awakening.  I swear these kids will take over the world, and when they do they will remember me as being one of the good ones.  One of the ones that doesn’t have to go work in the mines with the rest of the Americans, but I have already revieled too much of the secret plan.  Nothing, nevermind.

So last weekend I was so sick.  I had a cold, and I didn’t know what to do with these kids for fouty minutes.  I got the idea for the topic of the first class from May.  She kept asking me about guns in America, and I thought teenage kids love guns.  Boys do anyway.  At least where I come from.  Cowboys to the terminator, guns is a lock I fugure.  So the plain is to talk for a little while and get them to talk for a little while, but I was so upset.  I didn’t sign up to have to invent an entire class curriculum out of nowhere.  What the hell would I talk about for that long?  I didn’t know.

Around then I got an email from my friend Sargent Doug Brown Team leader 1st squad, 1st platoon, Bravo company (roll, how they roll) in the US army on his way back to kick yet more ass in Iraq.  I bellyached my troubles and I will now copy and paste part of his email response,

he said, and I quote:

“Sorry to hear yr sick, but also I’ve been doing some math on yr missive.  So here we are.  17 classes a week.  Which is an odd #.  Well, I’m sure you can pull it off.  You dealt with ATL’s finest (note that I am by no means making fun of these kids here.  Do I need to say this?)  which I imagine was a resume’ builder in landing this here gig.  Dude, yr grading ‘em class participation, dig?  Oh my goodness, yr getting paid to talk AT folks for half a flipping hour and then you grade their asses on how well they respond to that day’s particular brand of nonsense.  Living the dream, brother.  (That’s something we said often to each other in Iraq.  “Living the dream.”  My gift to you.)  You’ll do well.”

It is weird, this was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment to say the hell with it.  Living the dream.  Cool.  I got it made.  Thanks Sargent Brown.  If you are reading this shoot me an email.

 So the week of gun lecture got sillier and sillier and more fun for everyone as the week progressed.  By friday I was acting out Dick Channey shotting his buddy with an exagerated “gwwwwaaah?” at the end. I jump around and wave my arms and act things out and hop and they howl and laugh.  The more animated I am the more they respond.  Sometimes I even get question or two. The other english teachers sat in on my last class friday afternoon and I was ready for them to rip me apart afterwards but they were all very impressed.  One of them decided to befriend me and we hung out all weekend, she helped me buy a dvd player and omygod I got a pile of dvds.  Man, I am all set.

The whole getting them to ask questions is still an issue.  I define the word conversation on the board as ‘2 or more people talking about the same topic.’  I then define topic as ’subject of conversation’.  I go real slow with broad strokes and try to get them to grook that I need them to talk to me in order for it to work.  They stare slack jawed and expressionless.

At one point I was asking the class a question.  I believe the question was “What could two people talk about….Could be anything….any word in english that is a thing would work here….anything….anything at all….

a kid raises her hand after some time and stands up.  She asks “will you sing and dance for us?”  The rest of the class started clapping in hopes of coaxing a song out of me.  I don’t think they are all the way getting it yet.  But I am optimistic.

Hell no I didn’t sing.

Keep emailing, I miss you guys.




7 Responses to “Living the dream”

  1. Amy Bugg Says:

    Dude, where are the pictures?! Let’s see em!

  2. elenore Says:

    yet again your life is amazing and i am proud to be along for the ride!!!!!!!!!!!
    miss ya

  3. robert Says:

    my friend kelly says when she was teaching in China, the sing and dance question was a frequent one. apparently that’s what they think we are good for.

  4. Matthew Swann age 8 Says:

    Sounds like things are lookin’ up bra (as Dog tha Bounty Hunter would say). Good job with the class, if you’re lookin’ for conversation topics, I say use your imagination with action flicks and stuff. I bet you can get some bootleg copies of Commando or Action Jackson and use them as examples of American culture. Their idea of America is wapred anyway…

  5. james Says:

    Dude talk about things like favorite foods, pets, family, friends, anatomy, colors, fuck idon’t know shit like that

  6. marcus Says:

    Will you should write some space epic TV show kind of script and have your students act it out for you in english. Maybe you could break it into 5 acts and have them read a different act every day of the week. and if you are going to write a script about space. Can you put me in it because I really want to be in space. I had a dream I went to Mars and it was real.

  7. Mariya Says:

    Hey Will, that’s really fucking hilarious - we’re here in France gettin’ paid to do the same effin’ thing, but without the singing and dancing, or any cute Asian kids. Bill and I are ‘assistants’ of English at two different high schools and just like you we have no materials whatsoever to go on. We just have to invent lessons to fill up 12 classes a week and pretend we know how to speak the language. Anyway, it’s funny to read about your experiences, cause we sure as hell have been there. Making an insignificant bit of nonsense serve as a subject for a 50 minute class is now my forté and Bill can gesture and gesticulate his way out of any jam. I have some worksheets I can totally forward you if you’re interested, they’re on stuff like stereotypes, thanksgiving, the melting pot, Nancy Pelosi, the blues, slang, some more slang, Friends the TV show, and other random shit. All of that will leave your students blank-faced and kinda like zombies, in my experience. We’ve had to improvise under the scrutinizing all-seeing eye of the snooty French beaurocracy and so far we’re ok. Much luck, keep posting stories, and check out my blogitty-blog @

Leave a Reply