Thursday, February 23, 2012

Episode 3: First Day

My "travel day" blog post has been postponed because I have pictures to process. So I apologize for the chronologically mismatched posts. My first day as student teacher:

My first full day in Macau already was spent at Hou Kong Premier School. And what a school it is! Dr. Gary Ballou, our field supervisor, is in town until the beginning of March and gave me a personal tour of the school, which caters to Pre-K-2nd grade. I met Jane Niu, the director of the school, who picked me up from the ferry from Hong Kong yesterday, Francis, who teaches a general primary class, and Suzanne Mok, the music teacher who has been teaching for five years here. My schedule consists of morning visit and introductions, introducing myself and my background to the teacher and students, and tomorrow I get to be the morning entertainment which will be interesting as I have not touched a piano for about a week.

I am awestruck at the level of education at the primary level. They are co-currently taught Mandarin and English, and are the sweetest things in their uniforms, greeting us in English. They are just like American kids- they're rowdy like American kids and they speak at the same ability level as American kids their age. The arts and crafts they have created are so advanced I couldn't stop but admire every single one of them. Instead of bells, they play classical music, an orchestrated Humoreske by Dvorak, The Happy Farmer by Schumann, and Vivaldi's Spring. They have ten practice rooms all with Yamaha U-1s, the standard upright grand pianos you can get in the world, running around $6k each. The piano room has about 20 U-1s in the same room, projection screens using document cameras to project what's being played on the keyboard.

I live on Taipa, the middle island, where residential areas, casinos, restaurants and shops, a full soccer stadium with surrounding track and practice fields all intermingle. My bike came through in one piece and am slowly putting it back together. I surveyed the area on the bicycles and transportation culture there, and the bicycles are definitely trash. It would be like driving a Lamborghini in a third world country. The automobiles on the other hand are the nicest things, some of which I haven't even heard of. They drive on the left side of the road, and are right-hand drive cars. I finished assembling my bike so I think I'm going to brave the roads to the southern island of rural Coloane tomorrow. As for jet-lag, I am not sure anymore if I'm jet-lagged from all the travelling, or just catching up from sleep. I fall asleep (no surprise to friends that know me) in places I shouldn't fall asleep, but that's been a problem my whole life so...

I met with Suzanne and talked about curriculum and went over the syllabus. The music classes teach music theory and the different kinds of instruments. They use the John Thompson's Piano Course. Looking through it briefly, it looks similar to the Alfred books with many illustrations and a focus on music reading. I get to assist Ms. Mok on teaching a lesson today on learning the school anthem. We'll see how it goes!

Until next time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Episode 2: Student Teacher

This is my blog post prior to leaving for Macau:

Leaving for Macau, I become more anxious, excited, sad, and happy all at the same time. Before my application for studying abroad, I had not considered teaching in the classroom; I had set myself on establishing a piano studio, teaching part-time, and working a "regular job" the other part-time.

Life works in many surprises. It is why I am most excited about teaching. Sure, I am going to be in Asia, bringing my bike, blogging, eating exotic foods, meeting new people, and living in a completely new environment, but I am eager to apply my education to influence and hopefully effectively teach these Macanese youngsters how to play the piano.

I can tell you for the longest while, my heart was set on being a touring concert pianist- travel around the world, well-dressed in a tailored tux, eating fine foods, playing the staple piano concerti and serving the international public with my different recital programs would be the life, like a waiter serving made-to-order five-course meals. Part of me still has that desire. It's the hopeless romantic in me.

But I have found life is about balance. Sure, I have sacrificed many hours in the practice room for sleep, food, friends, and even homework, but the older I got, the more apparent it became that lifestyle was not healthy. When it comes down to it, my love for tinkering, cooking, reading, tea, cycling all have to be fulfilled to do that. And a it doesn't take rocket science to figure out there's enough time in a day for all that!

People are uncomfortable with change. The unknown is coming. It's a welcomed change for me because it fulfills areas of my life I haven't been able to pursue. I am no expert, but I like to think everyone likes routine to some degree. My current morning routine, if allowed to, can stretch through the entire morning:

1) Waking up usually before my alarm, since I was sleeping on the couch. This ranges to getting up around 6am to, more recently, 9am. I boil water for tea, and have the traditional Filipino breakfast of egg, meat, and rice. I always use basil and pepper, sunny side up, sometimes over easy, and simple frozen breakfast sausage.

2) I prefer loose leaf tea, but have almost run out; I'm holding out on Macau as I hear they specialize in tea. Green is my usual go to tea, though I like matcha, rooibos, and darjeeling.

3) Shower and groom. And maybe more tea again.

By this time, it's already late morning, or even lunchtime. Then I go through the eating process again and leave for Chamber Choir.

The most exciting thing about this experience is everything that is unknown. Many people would think that would be the most stressful thing but for some reason I'm ok with not knowing everything before I get there. I don't know my weekly schedule, nor do I know how I'll get to the ferry. I don't know whether biking is suicide or if it'll be bicycle friendly; I'm bringing my bike anyway. We'll see how it turns out.

Until next time.