Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm baaaaaack!!!!!

And it feels good to be back! Sorry for the long absence, but I’ve been taking some much-needed time off to relax and get reacquainted with American life. This has included lazy days of TV, video games, Papa John’s, shopping at Wal-Mart, and hanging out with friends and family. That was my pattern for about a week and a half after Christmas, but I did do some work during winter vacation. I finished my paper for my Cross-strait Relations in Asia-Pacific Security class on Taiwan-Japan relations and a job application for a fellowship position at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). I also had to make a syllabus for Political Science 101 (American Democracy and Citizenship), which I’m teaching one section of this semester.

School started on Tuesday because Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My first class of the week was my PLS 101 class. I have to admit, I didn’t sleep too well the night before because I had a little anxiety about teaching a college class for the first time, but I think it went quite well. I decided to let them off easy on the first day – just a course introduction and overview of the syllabus. I thought about giving a lecture on the first day, just so they wouldn’t think I’m going to be a total pushover, but I decided against it because I always hated it when professors lecture on the first day.

I’m taking political science (PLS) classes this semester – “Quantitative Methods in Political Science” (statistics) and “International Organizations”. Both look like they will be a lot of work, but not extremely difficult work. I think the International Organizations class in particular will be very interesting.

I’m also taking Chinese this semester. I felt like I learned a lot in my three months of studying Chinese in Taiwan, but an American guy in our class spoke excellent Chinese (at least compared to mine) after only spending three months in mainland China. Our professor is Chinese, but she lived in Kyoto for 10 years, so she also speaks excellent Japanese and teaches both languages. Although I’m not taking this class for a grade, I still want to do well because I’m really interested in learning the language. Unfortunately, it seems like the students here have learned a completely different set of vocabulary and grammar than we learned in Taiwan. Our teacher had us ask each other questions at the beginning of class as a kind of review, but I didn’t know some of the vocabulary that they were using and they didn’t know a lot of the words I used. I am also unfamiliar with the simplified Chinese characters we’re using in class. It may sound strange, but the more difficult traditional characters are easier for me because they are more similar to the ones used in Japan.

The biggest problem I foresee with this class is the lack of intensity I’m used to from Taiwan. Although our teacher spoke English well in Taiwan, she refused to use it in class unless it was ABSOLUTELY necessary, which was very rare. She only spoke in Chinese, so we really had to listen to her pronunciation and try to figure out what she was saying from context. Our teacher here translates everything, so you don’t really hear the Chinese. You instinctively wait for the English translation, limiting the attention you pay to the real Chinese. Oh well, it’s better than nothing and I’ll stick with it anyway…

I’d like to get back to posting on a regular basis this week, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m going to be really busy with classes and work this semester, but writing posts is a nice way to take a break from more stressful activities. I still have a lot to post on from my overseas travels, so I will get around to that throughout the semester. As a teacher in a class about American government this semester, I want to try to get my students to pay attention to America’s role in the world. I think my experiences as an American abroad give me some credibility on this subject, but we’ll see…

Anyway, enough rambling for now. I think I’m out of practice at this blogging thing, but I’ll get the hang of it again soon…

See you soon!