A night on the Bund & Days with 7th Graders
Monday night was the perfect night, temperature wise. The air was brisk and the sky was so clear that I even saw a sliver of the moon….that rarely happens hear due to a little smog issue this city has. The only problem was that Nik was at work.
Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more common these days, so I decided to take advantage of the weather and ride solo into the night towards the riverside destination of the Bund. I rode down the familiar street of Changle Lu and was pleasantly surprised by how empty the downtown area seemed to be. Of course, this also led me to be even more weary of my surroundings so I went against my safety rules and ran every red light. I figured it would be safer if I was moving. Believe it or not, this was the first time I had been to the Shanghai riverside at night. The buildings on the Pudong side were lit up like fire crackers, river boats cruised along the Huangpu with lights draped across every edge like a suburban house at Christmas, Chinese tourists flocked to the boardwalk with cameras in hand, and the Bund was perfectly lit as though it was dressed for the opera. The sounds of jackhammers and miles of construction barracades reminded me that this is China, the city that is growing at lightning speed, and I’m pretty sure that construction crews don’t sleep.
Despite the fact that half of the Bund was blocked off because of construction, I think I got some decent photos. Most of my favorites are looking straight up the faces of the buildings into the pitch black sky.
In my daytime life, I have been substitute teaching at one of the local international schools. (is that an oxymoron? but how else would I describe it?) I applied for the job on a whim in the midst of sending stuff out to architecture firms around town, and when they wanted me to come in, I said sure. Honestly, it’s a really great filler job. The work is pretty sporadic, the campus is immaculate, I get at least two hours of break time between 8am and 3pm, the school cafeteria has the cheapest latte’s in town at 12rmb/$1.75 per cup, AND I get to hang out with pre-teens all day. Some would call this a living hell, but I love it.
I have only worked five days so far, but I already recognize most of the kids. It’s fun to see how chatty they are. And they are so touchy-feely! Yesterday in the computer lab a boy was “helping” a girl on her project. I definitely noticed that they both had their hands on the mouse at the same time. It was cute how he lingered, but I did have to play the bad guy and ask him to go back to his own project. The touchy-feely isn’t just the puppy love, it’s everyone. The 11 and 12 year old girls can’t walk down the hall with their friends without their arms draped over one another’s shoulders. Even the boys hang all over each other in such an innocent and brotherly way. It’s also fascinating to watch how they interact with one another. As soon as they walk into the classroom they form little clusters of friends, but they are also completely comfortable with everyone else in the room. I must say that I am impressed with this group of kids. They are respectful of their teachers and their peers, and they really seem to be having fun.
I do wish that I could have a more active role in their education. As a sub, I only see them for a day, maybe two, and don’t really know what their class routine is or what their personalities are. By the time I start to see bits and pieces of that, they’re gone. I don’t know what they’ve already learned this year, and I don’t know what they are going to learn next week. My biggest frustration is that sometimes I feel like they don’t make any progress during the classes that I teach. I know that is exactly what the middle schooler wants, but to me it seems like wasted time. I want them to get everything they can out of their day, and out of their education. I don’t want to be a hiccup.