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Jerry and Linese's year teaching English in China

We have just started what will be a very challenging and exciting year for us both. We are both teaching oral English at a large Senior Middle School in Hubei Province in China. Our apartment is located at the school and we will experience in total all aspects - both good and bad - of Chinese life.

Diary Entries

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Location: Guangshui, China

For everybody who has been enjoying my diaries I now have a separate one about our holidays which I will finalise in the next few weeks – lesson plans have priority at the moment.

There are many photographs on that site. I have made it separate from this diary as teachers at our school wish to read about our holiday and look at our photos.
I will continue to use Planet Ranger as it is a private site when I talk about our life at school and in Guangshui. I am downloading the entries from travelblog also into planetranger but minus the photos. At some stage it is quite likely that I won’t be able to access either of my logs from China as the government is currently closing a lot of weblog sites down due to people saying negative things about the country. An amazing amount of internet content is unavailable in China eg I wanted to download some furniture catalogues for classwork the other day and typed ‘Freedom Furniture’ into Goggle. Access denied – I should have realised that I wouldn’t get it as it had the word ‘freedom’ in the heading!

Jerry and I arrived back in Guangshui after eight weeks of traveling and we were glad to be ‘home’. We flew from Kunming in Yunnan Province and spent one night at the Holiday Inn in Wuhan to stock up on groceries and dvd’s before we caught the train back to Guangshui. We had seen many beautiful places in China but both agreed that despite it’s poverty and dirt the half hour trip through the countryside from the railway station in Guangshui Town to our school in Yingshan (Guangshui City) was a very scenic drive. We were surprised to see students at school as the official start of school year, the first day of September, was still one week away. However next day we found out that they were the new Grade 1 students arriving at school. All the teachers were very happy to see us back and they found it hard to believe that we were able to travel for 2 months – or that we had the money to allow us to. Many of them had been away for short holidays, no more then 4 or 5 days. They all worked for most of the time we were on holidays as the school had summer school for both the Grade 2 and Grade 3 students. All of the students had spent at least 5 weeks at school during our eight weeks away. I think some of the teachers though that we weren’t going to return as we had been away for so long. We guessed they may have thought that so were very careful to send regular postcards and make phone calls to a few of the principle teachers whilst we were away.

Our first day back from holidays was the first official day for the new Grade 1 students and all day they streamed into the school to register. They were accompanied by parents and had arms full of bedding and personal possessions. The small shops across the road from the school were busy selling the students plastic thermos flasks (for holding hot water for washing themselves in) and plastic wash bowls. Champion was very pleased to see us back but was very busy as he was in charge of the Grade 1 registrations. We were to find many changes in the staff at the school as most teachers had changed Grade levels and we are still getting to know a lot of new teachers in our staff rooms. The Grade 1 students had arrived at school a week before the rest of the students as they had five days of compulsory military service to do before the school lesson year started. The military training comprised of a lot of drills and shouting. They spent one day learning how to make beds etc! Most of the students only have a doona and a pillow…..

We had a very quiet week - spent a lot of time at the supermarket buying food. It’s very time consuming as because we have to carry everything home we have to be aware of the weight each time so tend to make many small trips. The city has changed so much in 2 months! In the centre of our town there was this crazy area where there were many small tent stalls set up In the evening it became crazier as lots of people ate there and even though the street between the stalls was very narrow heaps of motorcycle taxis and motorbikes would fight there way through the crowds and tables. It’s all gone now and has been walled off – the foundations for apartment blocks or shops are already well underway. In the last few months we have seen many new construction sites start around the city – the skyline will be very different by the time we leave. But that’s China in every province – new roads and apartment blocks being constructed everywhere you go at an astonishing rate.

The weather here was pleasantly cool when we returned but unfortunately it has become very hot here again. We had a couple of days of rain and our apartment roof leaked. We are on the top floor and had water running down our kitchen wall. We weren’t overly concerned about it but later that evening we could hear this funny popping noise and when when we went to investigate saw sparks shooting out of the wall in our lounge area. We realized that water had run down behind the wall and was causing problems with the electricity supply. The school had installed a large reverse conditioner after the apartment block was finished and had knocked a hole through the wall to connect the electricity to it. Of course it was the usual haphazard Chinese job and had never been insulated properly. We couldn’t turn the power off as the switch for that unit is separate from the other power supply in our unit and is somewhere downstairs. Champion came to check it out to see whether he needed to call the ‘experts’ and received an electric shock through the floor went he went near it. That was enough reason for him to immediately call the experts! One week later nobody has been back to repair it so I guess if we don’t want to freeze this winter we’ll have to start asking ‘when?’ soon.

Not that we can complain about the school – they’ve been fabulous to us. We didn’t receive our holiday pay before we left to go on holidays as we agreed to collect it at the end of August. The school is contracted to pay us half pay whilst we were on holidays. We though that we may have to put a little pressure on them to get it but they paid up in early September after advising us that due to the new school year the administration staff were very busy and would we be ok about receiving it a couple of days late. They were concerned that we may have been broke. Also this week they applied for a satellite television license for us. It is very difficult for Chinese people to get a satellite television license as the government still censor a lot of what they watch on and read in their newspapers. However as we are foreigners and presumably have already been corrupted it is fine for us to have satellite tv – as long as we live above the second floor! Presumably that is to stop all the non corrupted people looking through our windows and watching it! Once the license is approved – about a week but we’ve heard that before in
China – the school will put in a dish for us and we’ll be able to watch western tv. We aren’t holding our breath though and are still rationing our dvd viewing. At least whilst I was on holidays I was able to beg, buy and steal some more reading matter so the cold winter months should be fine even without cable tv. And I bought the whole ten series of ‘Friends’ for AUD$12 in Wuhan so I’m set. I never watched an episode of ‘Friends’ in Australia so figured ‘why not?’ All the tv shows are available here on pirated dvd but didn’t think I could face one episode after another of CSI or Without a Trace. Too depressing! At least ‘Friends’’ is froth.

We have both started our classes and have just finished our first full week teaching. I have 30 Grade 2 classes of which 6 are on the old campus and Jerry has 28 Grade 1 classes, ten of which are at the old school. We have all new teachers as all the teachers have been given different Grade levels to teach. This semester after thinking that I could reuse all my last semester lesson plans as I have all new students I have to teach from the syllabus text book. The teachers have requested that I do the speaking exercises with the students. One teacher let it drop that they hate doing those exercises with the students as they just won’t speak. I don’t wander as some of the topics are sooo boring! Anyway I’m happy to do them but have told the teachers I will only use the theme, not necessarily the book. In one exercise they have two tiny black and white pictures – one of them is an apartment block in the city and the other a house in the country. The theme is architecture. They are supposed to describe what they see in the pictures. I’ve downloaded heaps of beautiful photographs of architecture from around the world eg Taj Mahal and the Blue Mosque and the students are describing what they see in those photos – and hopefully learning a little more about the world at the same time. Did you know that the Eiffel Tower is in London (the country not the city!) Their knowledge of geography is woeful. Anyway I’ve had no trouble getting them to speak in class.

Jerry and I are the only foreign teachers in this city at the moment as the other school has had difficulty finding teachers to replace Mel and Renee. They are presently organizing the visa papers for 3 young female teachers to come to the school. They are all from different countries – South Africa, Britian and Australia. Hopefully they will arrive within the next fortnight. They will have to leave their home countries as soon as they receive their visas as the school wants them asap. We miss Mel amd Renee heaps – I had a facial the other day and it was lonely in the beauty parlour without them. Mel is working in Adelaide and saving her money to come back to China for a month before we leave and Renee is heading to Thailand shortly to spend a month doing aid work with her church in a village near Chang Rai. She has recovered now from the typhoid she contacted in Guangshui thankfully. Jerry and I have decided not to eat in the street restaurants anymore but have had a couple of lovely meals in the local coffee shop. It will at least be warmer in the winter months and the chairs are more comfortable but the food is also much more expensive.

Last night we had an entertaining evening. Today is Teachers Day and last night the local hospital held a party to celebrate. It was to repay the party that the school put on to celebrate Nurse’s Day a few months ago. As is usual here we were told that we were going and that we would have to sing a song! A love song that they could dance to! We were told that we weren’t to teach lessons after lunch as we were on standby to go to the hospital where the dance was being held. Of course it was 7pm before we left and after being told that we would be eating a meal at the hospital they rang up at the last minute and the first words spoken ‘Have you finished eating yet?’ So typical - so we grabbed a banana and gulped down some yoghurt and headed out. At least this time I didn’t have my walking boots on. The night comprised of karaoke numbers performed by either the teachers or the nurses to which everybody else danced. I had a procession of partners bought across to me and spent most of the evening stepping on their toes. We pretended that we didn’t hear the word ‘love’ in love song and we sang ‘Home Amongst the Gum Trees’. Very politely they all gave us the thumbs up sign when we finished. We certainly weren’t much worse then most of the other acts. Jerry played a few tunes on his flute and I used Champion as my partner to show them the ‘Heel and Toe’ polka much to their amusement. They told me later they enjoyed the ‘game’. The highlight of the evening for me was when they played the one and only disco type song through the sound system and all the men charged onto the floor. It was really funny – they weren’t at all interested in having partners and were doing all these fancy steps in and out of the coloured beams of light. There were knee jerks, hip shimmys and moon walking that would have made Michael Jackson jealous! I had my camera with me and was sorely tempted to take a photo of our headmaster moon walking. I resisted!

I visited Mel and Renee’s old school yesterday to say hello to the new teachers and to invite them to the Teachers Day party – we thought that they had already arrived. I arrived at lunch time and ended up having lunch with the school headmaster and a local tv reporter – you can’t say no to them. He was very nice though and sent me back to my school in style in the school car – beats the dirty mini buses anyday. Our school has just purchased a new school bus and it is a vast improvement on the old one. You can actually sit on the seats without them sliding off from under you. No more news – life goes on. We are both well and happy. My mum and aunt are traveling around China at the moment and are loving it. They will be spending 4 nights in Guangshui at the end of the month which after all the clean tourist sites they have seen will be a shock to them. We’re both really looking forward to seeing them. Saturday and Jerry and I have decided to catch the local mini bus to the end of it’s route and walk back from there – something we haven’t done yet and have a meal in the city before we come back to another dvd evening. Take care Linny

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Recent Messages

From Coco from Panamá
Hello guys,
I am very happy for you. The photos are great. Here in Panamá is hot and winter is coming.
I hope you are learing chinese.
Kisses and hugs
I love you both very much
Yass (coco) from Panamá (a very hot and beautiful country)