We now resume regularly scheduled programming, now in progress

JISHOU, HUNAN — Nothing like a server crash to slow down your writing projects. I had practically all of last weekend free to write, and the drive to do it, but as I said in the last post, my site was down for the count until midweek.

Coincidentally, that big Bitcoin exchange in Japan, Mt. Gox, also went dark about the same time. Their situation is more dire, as they’ve “lost” more than 850,000 bitcoins somehow and have filed for bankruptcy protection. Their site remains dark.

I don’t have those bitcoins. I promise. If I did, I would probably be sitting near some tropical beach now, sipping a piña colada, not sitting in my flat at Jishou University sipping green tea. Unless I were being sly. Muhahaha!

In fact, my experiment with Bitcoin is doing better than I had expected. Prices are still not above the levels when I first entered Bitcoin land in early December, but Bitcoin has not tanked completely, even after the Mt. Gox fiasco. I successfully used Bitcoin last week to transfer some of my pay from China to the USA, netting $25 in the process because of changing prices and arbitrage. You can read the details about that process at Better Off Bitcoin, my new writing gig.

Last week, I began teaching part-time at a nearby junior-senior high school. Two of their foreign English teachers left after the first term, and they needed a quick replacement. I’m only teaching five classes, because there’s only one of me and I already teach the other three days at the university. Each oral English class is 45 minutes long. They already have a textbook, so teaching them is not so difficult.

But, you know, they’re teenagers and there are 60 in each class, so my energy level has to be set at 11 to keep things going. Fortunately, my Chinese colleagues tell me I lucked out and got the best classes, so things are going very well.

This week, spring term began at the university. I’ve the same subjects as before and mostly the same students, so it’s just a continuation of last term. At the suggestion of one of the freshmen, we’re going to be talking about American popular culture and customs in Oral English classes this term. We agreed that language students need to understand American and Western culture, so that their reading and listening comprehension can improve.

Their first assignment is to choose a film from the American Film Institute 100 and deliver a short report about it. Viewing the film is optional, as some may not be available online even in China, but at least they can read about films that are such an inherent part of American culture.

Consider how many times we refer to movies or quote lines from movies in everyday conversation. For that matter, consider how movies refer to earlier movies. For example, Terry Benedict, the casino owner in Ocean’s 11 (2001) quotes a line from Casablanca. I caught it, and knew what he meant. Maybe you would, too. I guarantee none of my students would.

Here’s the line: “Of all the gin joints in all the world ….” Do you know the context and meaning?

This weekend I began another teaching gig, although it is a very low stress one. My friend, Ms Liang, has opened a training school for primary students and has asked me to be her partner in the new venture. She and one of my university students do most of the heavy lifting, teaching-wise. I come in three times a week to coach students on pronunciation and encourage their speaking. I’ll share in the profits, and have been guaranteed 1,500 yuan a month minimum (for 12 hours of low-key teaching).

So, once again, I have classes every day of the week, but at least it’s fun.

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