A Travellerspoint blog

Ningbo, Let's go!

semi-overcast 26 °C

After completing our first week of teaching, which felt like about a month, we very much welcomed the news that we would be getting a four day weekend, due to it being Teacher's Day on September 10th and Mid-Autumn Festival on Monday, a day in order to celebrate the moon!

As the bell finally rang at five o clock on Thursday, Kat and I literally threw our books into the air and scrambled to the door. We had a bit of an awkward moment, when, as we marched out the door to the sound of the Chinese National anthem, waving our arms in the air and singing an improvised and on the spot song about beer, we realised that everyone else was standing respectfully and in silence to listen to their patriotic song...However, this did not seem to cause too much offence as we were then informed that we could go to the school gate and collect our free gift of a box of mooncakes; a traditional cake eaten on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival. These cakes range from being tasty to having what you think is a pecan nut in the middle which turns out to actually be something squidgy that tastes of fish.

A few well deserved beers and a late curfew later and our Friday plans of preparing all our lessons in advance for Monday had flown right out of the window alongside the mosquitos. We spent the day relaxing and wandering slowly around the town, feeling as though all of a sudden the past week had really caught up with us.

After an early night, we woke up on Saturday at 6am, to be ready for 7am when we were to be taken on a trip. The trip had been organised by Grace, the lady in charge of the International department in which we work, and Mr Jing, the man in charge of many international departments throughout the province. Grace and Mr Jing knew that we had been to visit the beach but had told us that there was a much nicer one to see which was on an island called Putuoshan which is where they were taken us on Saturday, alongside each of their sons.

The drive to the main island took almost three hours and then once there we had to get a small ferry onto the actual Putuoshan Island. Once we arrived, we took a private bus right to the top of the island where there is a very famous Buddhist temple. Although I have visted many temples over the course of my travels, it was very interesting to go with Grace as she explained to us what everything meant and what the Buddhas represented. Mr Jing also bought us insence and they showed us how to burn it and pray. Mr Jing speaks no English and so I thought it was going to be a very awkward day, however he was very enthusastic, taking pictures for us and showing us things and Grace did a very excellent job as translator!

After the temple, we went for lunch overlooking the sea. We picked our own fish from some happily swimming creatures unaware their lives were about to end, and enjoyed a seafood feast of about six different types of mussels, crab, squid and seaweed to name but a few dishes. With lunch over, we went on the see a huge Buddhist statue, some more smaller temples, a beautiful beach (where we even got Mr Jing paddling in the sea with his trousers rolled up!), a lake covered in lily pads and then a steep mountain walk to get us back to the ferry port.

Back on the main island, we were taken for dinner which was another delicious banquet of ocean creatures, including caviar, which left me feeling as though I had eaten far too much seafood than is normal for one person to eat in the same day and will leave me in a state of extreme guilt next time I go swimming in the sea!

It was a long ride back home to the school, but it had been a great day and so completly worth it. Mr Jing had paid for every single thing not to mention driving all the way there and back and it seemed as though he wanted to thank us personally just for doing our job. I was very overwhelmed by his generosity and even as Kat and I tried to give him a small gift when we got out the car, he seemed very upset that he had nothing for us, promptly jumping out his seat and giving us each an apple from the car boot! This seems to be the level of kindness I have experienced so far in China, with everyone wanting to greet you and find out about you rather than judge or offend.

Still aching slightly from our mountain hiking, Kat and I got up early on Sunday to take our long awaited trip to Ningbo. We arrived around midday and spent the afternoon discovering what delights Chinese clothes shops had to offer before meeting up with our two friends from the internship, Annah and Lindsay. We had a good catch up over a few drinks at their apartment and then headed off to a greek restaurant where we had dinner with some other people who are out teaching in Ningbo. The new people were all lovely, however slight social awkwardness problems meant that we had to do a lot of the talking! Our "greek" meal over (there is a reason why there is only rice and noodles in China...) we went out to see a more lively nightlife than our hometown Beilun and spent the rest of the night chatting away and dancing with a crowd of crazy and sweaty Chinese people. As in it was very hot and crowded, not any kind of racial comment...

This morning, we all woke up dreaming of fry-ups and toast and jam that we couldn't have and so we paid a little visit to Starbucks to cheer ourselves up, where a latte and a blueberry muffin never tasted so good!

Forgetting it was Mid-Autumn day, and probably one of the busiest days of the year, Kat and I then got the bus back to Beilun. It turns out it is also 'see how many people you can fit on a bus day', and just when we thought no, there cannot be anymore room on this bus for even a fly, the doors continued to open. Thank the Lord for if I listen to my music loudly enough I can pretend I'm not here Ipods.

Arriving back, I remembered now why I had wanted to do all my lesson planning on Friday. A feeling of Sunday night = homework, swept over me, which I have not experienced since back in the day in 2006. I have now given up and written a 'To Do' list of everything I need to complete early tomorrow morning, when another week begins...

Posted by hannahinchina 07:14 Archived in China Comments (0)

Teaching the hard way!

I have now officially been a teacher and resident of Beilun high school for a whole week now, and what a week it really has been!

After the first couple of days, we realised just how much we were being thrown in at the deep end. With no teaching experience, apart from the times I tried to teach my friends how easy it was to drink a whole bottle of wine in about an hour which doesn't really count, we were informed that our lessons would primarily be to make sure that the students' English is good enough to pass the exams they must take to get into western universities. We were told that there would be four lessons a day and we would each be responsible for two seperate classes. The pressure was on!

We were given a couple of days to process this scary information and then on Thursday we had to give a demonstration lesson to the other members of staff in our department. This actually went better than I expected, despite finding it weird pretending to teach a class of adults who actually understand everything you're saying. I was given mainly positive feedback, however the main criticism was "You're accent is very difficult to understand". I'm mostly puzzled by this as, coming from the Midlands, I thought I had the most un-accenty accent of all, so I'm trying to make sure I speak very slowly and clearly in order to be understood.

Friday was the first day of real teaching and I thought my head was going to explode with how much lesson planning I had to do. I'm slowly starting to realise that this is going to be a regular occurance and so I'll warn you all now that I might come back with a few nervous ticks or tendancies to start rocking due to all the stress. One of my classes is a class of just nine boys, aged 17 to 19. I was told about this class beforehand about how they were naughty, like to sleep during lessons and don't really like to learn by the other members of staff who laughed about it and said "haha good luck" in a sarcastic tone. I did not laugh. Or blink. Or sleep that night.... However, on friday they wern't too bad. No one was sleeping at least. They did make quite a few jokes amongst themselves in Chinese though and on a question sheet I gave them, every one of them wrote that they think learning English is boring. I really want to make them enjoy it, however it is going to be difficult as I have to follow a course book and so for example, their next lesson is on describing graphs. This even bores me and gives me the urge to scribble on graphs and go on my I hate maths and tables and charts rant, so it's going to be difficult to capture their attention.

My other class is lovely and, although younger than the boys class, their level of English seems better. This is probably due to the fact that they listen in silence and do everything I ask them like perfect students.

We were told on Friday that we have to teach on Sunday which was a bit short notice and caused another head exploding moment about having to plan four lessons in the space of a day and a night. However, this was slighly eased by the fact that at the end of the day we were told to go down the front gate and collect our free grapes....Oh China.

Despite all the hours sitting at my desk, Kat and I have managed to explore the area a bit more. We have walked past some mountains and a river at the back of the school, found a street with at least eight bars on which we plan to sample despite having a 10pm curfew (Nihao greetings are given to the security everyday as step one of our 'get let off the curfew' plan begins), eaten some delicious street food, travelled on various buses for long periods of time which has now involved us twice ending up back at the depot... and today we have been to the beach which is only a short bus ride away, however I did get sunstroke on the bus on the way home and ended up sitting on the floor and leaning very cosily on a man's leg which I thought was the seat. He looked a little uncomfortable when I realised what I had done...

It is now 11pm and I have been lesson planning since 3. Bed is calling...

Posted by hannahinchina 07:38 Comments (0)

Nihao!

overcast 36 °C

The adventure has begun.

I had been in Beijing for about two hours when the beer drinking and friend making commenced. By the end of the night, I had seen the world's smallest kitten (and nearly stepped on it...), been caught in a rainstorm and squashed myself with two other people into a bicycle taxi which was clearly not made for more than one and proceeded to get lost in the city streets which by this point, had turned into rivers. A great way to meet people and get over a very long flight with an unhealthy lack of sleep....

This pretty much reflects the past two weeks in Beijing which in amongst the teacher training and Mandarin lessons, has pretty much just been a really fun holiday. There were about 110 of us interns in total, most of whom had never met and we were all staying at the same hotel. The hotel became a little home, with there always being someone around to talk to and spread the word about what everyone planned to do. We tried to achieve everything there is to do in Beijing including eating scorpions (still wriggling) and snake, visiting the city sights, climbing the Great Wall of China, watching an acrobatic show (which is more nerve wracking than a horror film), haggling for clothes at the market, writing our own caligraphy and doing tai chi which is actually very difficult for a person with no co-ordination. We also experienced some brilliant nights out; £3 club entry with a free bar, it would be rude not to..., Chinese karaoke and hanging out in the local bar whilst watching a Janet Jackson concert dvd to name just a few!

Food from this part of the trip that I would NOT recommend include hard boiled egg with bloody veins, banana sushi, chicken feet (which I have recently discovered you can actually get vacuum packed, if anyone fancies me bringing them home a treat!), chicken beak, chicken entrails and something that looked like an omlette but was infact pastry filled with grass. As in, lawn grass... Another particular dislike for many people was cold mashed potato in swirls with a very sweet cranberry sauce and hundreds and thousands. However, I actually liked this but I think I was the only one!

On the plus side, the food that is amazing far outweighs the bad experiences. Peking duck in it's home of Beijing literally did melt in the mouth and lunch or dinner Chinese style involves a big round table with far too much food so you get to sample everything, it's delicious! My chopstick using abilty is also improving by the day!

After the two weeks were up, it was time to say goodbye to some already great friends and there were many promises to meet up again during our time here. With farewells over, we were all sent to our various locations around the country, mine being a town called Beilun in the Zhejiang province, which is about an hour and a half away from Shanghai.

After a 17 hour train journey which actually wasn't as bad as it sounds, apart from waking up from a dream in the middle of the night and screaming out in my sleep whilst in the little compartment I was sharing with a Chinese family, we arrived at our destination.

I'm teaching in my school with another girl named Kat and so it was very reassuring to have someone with me. We stepped off the train, feeling rather sweaty and unclean and were straight away taken to the school and immediatly rushed into a lunch with all the teachers from our department. Lunch was another big round table, featuring all the kinds of food you don't really want to eat infront of people you have only just met and need to impress, such as prawns and whole crab. The low point was probably the knife and fork being fetched in order for me to eat the fish...however, everyone seemed very nice and excited to meet us.

We were then taken to see our rooms which are much nicer than I expected, with a double bed and my own bathroom as well as my own personal water cooler and a hat stand, very useful for when I come in from the rain and need to hang up my soaking sowester or my top hat after dining with the principle.

The school itself is a boarding school and I will be teaching ages 15-17. The pressure is on as apparently it's down to us to make sure they know enough English to pass their entrance exams into university. I have also been informed that one of my classes is a class with just nine boys who are naughty and mostly enjoy sleeping in their lessons. This will be fun. The kids also march around the school and salute and there is a bell which is the song from the Nutcracker which sounds randomly and which, we have just discovered, is very creepy when played across the school in the dark.

I have a 10pm curfew which sounds awful but considering the fact that there is only one bar in the whole town, I don't think will be too much of a problem. I also think I will be very sleepy after my 8-5 working days which will be a bit of a shock after my Tapas hours.

I start teaching on Thursday so depending how it goes, I could be seeing you all back in England around about Sunday!! xx

Posted by hannahinchina 07:09 Archived in China Comments (0)

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