Home again, home again

I’ve been back in the States for approximately 40 hours, and boy, is it good to be home! I’m going to miss my new Chinese friends and the other American teachers, but I think that this experience has definitely taught me that one month is my travel max. There’s something immensely satisfying about sleeping in your own bed, and I’ve missed my family and friends.

The nine days we spent teaching in Handan were pretty wonderful. I find I really enjoy teaching teachers, as strange as that sounds, especially when they’re actually eager to learn and ready to engage. I still can’t get over the fact that Chinese English teachers don’t have to be fluent (or even conversational) in English in order to teach, but it’s true: many of the teachers in my class of 32 had lower proficiency than my high school students back in Shijiazhuang! Communication was definitely an issue, but I’m pretty good at modulating my speech so I’m slower and clearer, and if they seemed to be having problems understanding, paraphrasing and charades were my friend.

The Chinese teachers were very interested in learning about classroom management and improving student engagement. Behavior isn’t an issue in their classes so much as student apathy, and they’re anxious to find ways to get their students excited about learning English. For high school English teachers, this is a particular problem, as teaching in secondary school there is geared 100% towards preparing them for their college entrance exam, so things like conversational English take a backseat to grammar and writing since the goal is to make sure that they score high. We spent a lot of time in our professional development classes sharing and playing games and activities that the teachers could take back to their schools to help change that: games like “Hello, Neighbor” and classmate BINGO.

On Friday, our last official day, all of the teachers presented what they learned at a grand, final performance in front of coworkers, family, friends, and local government officials. My group performed Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman,” demonstrated one of our listening skill games, and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” I think they did beautifully, but I’m biased. Still, we were definitely one of the best groups, and I don’t think it’s bragging to say so.

Our final night in Beijing was… interesting? Odd? Nightmarish? We arrived by high-speed train around 7 o’clock, and by the time we got to our hotel, we were all quite ready to eat dinner and make an early night of it. However, that proved problematic when we retired to our rooms to find mold on the walls, water damage on the ceilings, dirty bed sheets, and stained towels. What the what?? Turns out, our original hotel booted us because it decided that some of its Chinese guests were more important and needed our rooms, and this hotel was our last-minute replacement. Luckily, we were able to relocate, but we didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. But hey, sleep is for the weak, right?

Flying home the next day was grueling, but ultimately uneventful. The flight from Beijing to Newark is 10 and a half hours and then it’s another 2 to get in to Charlotte. By the time my mom picked me up (around 12:30 in the morning) I was dead on my feet and quite ready to sleep for days.

This past month has definitely been an incredible experience, one I won’t forget in a hurry. I feel that I’ve grown as a traveler and a teacher, and I’m looking forward to seeing how what I learned in China will benefit me when I return to the classroom at the end of the August.

I’ll continue to post pictures and I’m sure I’ll have a few more posts to make about the trip as a whole. In the meantime, I’m so glad I kept this blog, and I hope that my readers have enjoyed following my adventures!

For anyone interested, my friend Mary Beth wrote an article about my (then-upcoming) trip for the Mint Hill Times.

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One day more!

[Written on Friday, July 28]

As I write this, I am perched on the teacher’s podium of classroom 9 at Handan High School #4. The teacher-students are working on thank you letters for me (I’m unsure whether I’m supposed to know this until they actually present the book to me), and in about 10 minutes we will practice our final presentation once or twice more. This afternoon, we share our performance with friends, family, coworkers, fellow teachers, and local government officials in a grand fete that is meant to be the culmination of our 10 days’ effort. I can hear one woman reviewing “Auld Lang Syne” by listening to a recording she made of me in class the other day, and it’s more than a little bit surreal.

I think the thing that I will miss most about China is the people. These women in particular are so kind, so sweet, so grateful, so generous, and so happy to have an opportunity to learn from an American teacher. You simply don’t have that kind of energy and appreciation from American teachers (or students, for that matter). It’s enough to go to your head, but it’s also terrifying to try to live up to those expectations. Half of these women have 20+ years of experience to my measly 7, and yet, you would think I was a visiting college lecturer from the way that they take notes and pictures while I teach.

I’m sure it will be strange going back to the States, but I’m ready to be home. I’m looking forward (in no particular order) to sleeping in my own bed, eating food that isn’t strictly Chinese, seeing my family and friends, cuddling Merry Belle, and generally having a rest before teacher workdays start back up in 2 weeks. I’ve found that a month of travel is my limit, and although I’ve had an amazing time, I will heave a sigh of relief when the lights of Charlotte become visible from my plane window.

[Added on Saturday, July 29]

Yesterday’s performance went off about how you would expect. The event itself was a hectic mess, hardly rehearsed and poorly planned, but my students did exactly as we practiced and I was very proud of them. They performed Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman,” taught the audience how to play “Hello, Neighbor,” and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” They’re far too hard on themselves: they wanted to pick apart every mistake as soon as we were finished, but I thought they did beautifully. At the end, they all cried, “We love you!” and stormed across the stage to attack me with hugs. It was beautiful, and I definitely didn’t cry. Definitely not.

In about half an hour, we’re catching a train to Beijing. Most of us fly out tomorrow, and although I know it’s a long-shot, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can fit in a quick trip to the market in the morning before my 3:30 flight. I haven’t bought half as many souvenirs as I should have, and although I’m quite out of room in my luggage, and I’m willing to risk it if it means squirreling away a few more mementos for family and friends.

I’ll work on some reflections of the trip as a whole as I travel today and tomorrow, but in the meantime, wish me luck! I have quite a journey ahead, and miles to go before I sleep.

Clambering among the caverns of Fengfeng

Sunday was one of our most active and strenuous days yet. We were promised one day off while in Handan, so instead of teaching, we piled onto a charter bus at 7:30 in the morning to trek out to Fengfeng. This mining district, 20 km to the south of Handan, is famous for its ceramics and for its system of caverns where, as far back as 900 years ago, Buddhists have been building temples to worship their bodhisattvas. They’re called the Xiantangshang caves, and they’re freakin’ amazing.

Despite being a small mountain, the climb – via stairs built all the way up the shrines – left me winded and dripping with sweat. It was totally worth it for the view, and by the time I saw my first temple, I would have gladly agreed to climb for miles if it meant getting a glimpse of more. Before you hit the actual caves, there are a system of grottos carved into niches in the rock where idols were placed at one time where pilgrims could pause and pray. There was only one, small Buddha figurine that looked quite recent, but the nooks themselves were fascinating and I wanted very much to climb inside one, but I decided against it on the grounds of potential sacrilege.

There are 32 caves in all, and we saw only 3, but they were well worth the trip. The first cave we stopped at opened onto a huge statue of the Buddha set into its own alcove that must have been at least 15 feet high. The wall behind him is colored in shades of blue, red, and orange, and all around the cavern itself (which horseshoes around behind the main altar) are about two dozen small nooks with figures in bas relief of enlightened men (possibly other iterations of the Buddha himself). The acoustics were amazing – I should know, because I was humming “Misty Mountain” the entire time, and it resounded beautifully.

We spent the rest of the day bouncing around to different museums and cultural sights where local pottery was on display. Fengfeng is known for its ceramics, and I can safely say that I’ve seen quite enough pots, bowls, and vases to last me a lifetime. They were beautiful (and some were remarkably well-preserved, ancient specimens), but the constant shuffling on and off of buses and onto sights for half an hour at a time wears on you.

Despite the excitement of the caverns and temples and the beauty of the various ceramics, I’m afraid that my patience was at an all-time low for this trip on Sunday. Aside from being exhausted and physically drained, our volunteers seemed to be doing their very best job of getting onto my last nerve. Our Handan helpers seem set on coddling us and treating us like children, which I realize is a side-effect of the language barrier and the resulting difficulty in communication. But being (literally) herded through the Xiantangshang caverns, scolded for walking too quickly, questioned when I turn my attention to anything other than what’s being presented at the moment, and rushed from place to place without enough time to really take in the sights was about all I could bear. I know that they mean well and that it’s no easy task wrangling a group of American tourists when your English is conversational at best, but come on. We’re adults, after all, and this is not our first rodeo when it comes to traveling abroad.

We’re heading into our final days here in Handan. Tomorrow, we’re being treated to a calligraphy lesson here on campus, and I’m hoping to go with a few of my students to one of the parks on Thursday. On Friday, the teachers will perform in a final exhibition, demonstrating what they’ve learned this week, and in the evening, we’ll have a big closing banquet to see us off. On Saturday, we hop back onto the fast train to Beijing and spend a few short days there before we board our respective planes back to the States.

I have more pictures to upload, so check back in shortly! I’ll post a few more entries before I head back home, and then I’m planning on writing up a few reflections posts.

For anyone interested, there’s a pretty neat interactive website all about the Xiantanghsang caves created by the University of Chicago that you can find here.

The heat is on in Handan!

We made it to Handan on Monday, and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and type up an entry. Well, that’s not entirely true: it’s the first chance that I’ve had both the time and the inclination to write up something more than a “hello, I am alive” post. So, hello!

Handan is a lovely city. It’s much smaller than Beijing and Shijiazhuang, but like most cities in China, it’s still quite massive when you actually walk the streets and take in the sights. We’ve seen so few clouds and blue skies since we’ve been in this country, but Handan has been making up for that. It is, however, hotter than the seventh circle of Dante’s hell here, and I can say with no doubt at all in my mind that I have never sweat so much in life as I have since I got here.

Our job here in Handan is to facilitate professional development for Chinese teachers. There are approximately 300 teachers from all over this region, and to a man (or rather, woman, as there are maybe 10 men in all), they are all English teachers with varying levels of language proficiency. We teach for 9 days, and on the 10th day, there will be a grand performance so that the “students” can showcase their skills. Going into my first day of teaching here was terrifying. What would they think of me? Would they even be able to understand me? And would they take me seriously — me, a seventh year English teacher who barely passes for 20 let alone 29?

Luckily, my students are precious. I have all women in my group and they are so sweet and, for the most part, eager to learn. There are definitely a few who were forced to come by their respective bosses and some whose English is so low that I have no idea what they could possibly be gleaning from this workshop, but they are all very kind and receptive and I couldn’t ask for more. We’ve spent the last three days talking about classroom management, American high schools, positive reinforcement, and student engagement. How much of that is actually translating? I have no idea. But I’m getting some smiles and nods, so I’m allowing myself to be optimistic. Nine days of PD seems excessive, however, and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll really have enough material to get us through, but I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Apart from teaching, we’ve had a few small adventures since arriving in Handan. We discovered a brewery a few doors down that welcomed us with open arms even though it hadn’t actually opened for business yet. There have been a number of walks around the city and excursions into markets, and on our first night, we were taught to do some basic tai chi by an sweet old man in a park. Tonight, we learned how to make dumplings (and I ate waaaay too many) and attended the aforementioned bar’s opening. Loud music? Check. Drunk Chinese men? Check. Karaoke? You bet your butt!

I am beyond exhausted, and I think I might be coming down with a tiny cold (or maybe it’s just the air pollution — hard to tell), so I’m off to bed. More updates after our weekend excursions!

Out of Shape and 4’10”

Our whirlwind trip to Beijing is over and we’re now safely ensconced in our hotel room in Handan where we’ll spend the next 12 days. It’s hard to grasp that the trip is half over – both because it seems like there’s so much left to see and because it feels like we’ve been here so long already.

We arrived in Beijing on Friday night and drove directly to the far-famed Silk Market. “Far-famed” refers not to the quality of its wares as much as it does to its infamous reputation as being THE place for visiting Westerners to buy souvenirs. We were told that it is absolutely fine to barter, and that you should always propose a price approximately 40% lower than asking. I’m not a fantastic negotiator, and although I didn’t buy much that first night, I know for a fact that I got swindled on at least one item. Still! Mementos are mementos, and I’m excited to pass out the few gifts I’ve accumulated when I get back.

The next day was a full-on sightseeing extravaganza. We were up at 7 AM to head to Tiananmen Square, which I learned is the largest public square in the world, and its name means something like “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” It’s definitely an impressive structure, and there are tributes to Mao Zedong all over (including his tomb, if you should so wish to pay your respects), but there wasn’t much to ogle aside from the interesting architecture of the gate itself.

We headed next to the Forbidden City which was far more fascinating of a study. The Forbidden City was the home of the emperors during the Ming and Ching dynasties. Only the emperor, his family, and select officials were allowed entrance, and when I say that the compound is massive, I am not being hyperbolic. We walked for two hours and we still didn’t see all of it! There are buildings for just about every life event: the hall for birthday ceremonies, the hall for sleeping, the hall for meetings and tea, etc. The buildings are all more or less in the same style, but what’s really impressive is that the carvings and the paint are still largely intact despite being hundreds of years old.

We were hustled out of the Forbidden City and shipped off for lunch at a Peking duck restaurant, and then we were off to the Summer Palace which was gorgeous, set on a beautiful river, and filled with gorgeous statues and engravings and gardens – almost none of which we got to see because the tour guide had only allotted us one hour to look around. One hour to see a structure that, by his own admission, would take 2 days to see properly! So that was disappointing. We ended the day at the Olympic Park (sight of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games) which was definitely the least impressive of the sights we saw that day.

Sunday was, for me, the highlight of this trip so far because I was able to cross one of the Seven Wonders of the World off of my bucket list. The Great Wall is truly amazing, and even though we only saw a very, very small piece of it, climbing that stretch of wall build six hundred years ago by people whose names are not even memories for most of us was absolutely awe-inspiring. It was also grueling: thus, the title of this blog post. Never have I felt so out-of-shape as I did climbing the hundreds of steps to the top of the Mutiang Great Wall, sweating literally pouring down my face and back. It also didn’t help that some of the steps were as high as my knee-cap. But I made it to the top, and what an experience!

We caught the high-speed train to Handan this afternoon after a brief, morning shopping trip, and we have a banquet to look forward to this evening to welcome us to our second and final teaching location. Most of us still have no idea how the next 10 days are going to work, but if it’s anything like the rest of my experience in China thus far, everything is going to fall into place in the end.

One final note: this opossum-lover could not have been more pleased to find out that one of my new coworkers not only recognized my opossum jaw-bone necklace, but he also collects opossum bones and thinks that they’re fabulous little animals. At last, a kindred spirit! It only took traveling halfway around the world to find him…

So long, Shijiazhuang!

After a few days of battling crappy WiFi, I’m back!

We are officially in Beijing, and Shijiazhuang is in the rear-view mirror. The last few days have been a whirlwind, and although I want to talk about what we’ve been doing these last 24 hours in a new city, I know I need to reflect on our time in Shijiazhuang before I forget the most important tidbits.

The final day of classes went well for everyone, I think. The camp didn’t do a spectacular job about communicating with the students, so despite my warnings, the last day took them by surprise. The kids presented their “how-to” presentations, which went quite well with topics ranging from “how to make dumplings” to “how to draw an opossum” (yes, I have clearly made a good impression). We played trashquetball trivia, and at the end of the day, many of the kids gave me a hug and one even kissed my cheek which is a pretty big deal: showing affection is pretty taboo in China.

I’ll miss them, but the truth is, our time with them was so short that I feel like I was only just getting to know them when we said our last goodbyes. I hate that my WeChat account has been down for days; the Chinese are all about their WeChat, and a handful of the kids expressed a desire to connect with me there, but my account is locked down and by the time I get it fixed, they’ll have probably forgotten my ID.

Our last night in Shijiazuang consisted of a trip to a local mall, a family-style dinner of wine-soaked pears, ribs covered in sticky rice, and various and sundry meats and noodles, and culminated in an epic, 2-hour visit to KTV. This karaoke phenomenon is just about the best thing I’ve ever seen: you buy access to a room, and you and your friends sing to your hearts content, wailing into microphones, sipping beers, and generally making fools of yourselves. I’m proud to report that I opened the evening with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” I sang two Adele songs, and my roommate and I performed a very haphazard but energetic rendition of “Thrift Shop” by MacLemore.

We arrived in Beijing the next evening after a rushed visit to the Silk Market where I managed to buy only two gifts and passed up an opportunity to get a beautiful tea set for only ¥200. But more about that (and loads of pictures) tomorrow!

Things I will remember most about Shijiazhuang in no particular order:

  • Shirtless Chinese men: it’s called the Beijing Bikini, and seriously, it’s a thing. To be fair, it’s ridiculously hot in China – we hit 114 Fahrenheit the other day – so it almost makes sense that men walk around either completely shirtless or with their shirts rucked up over their bellies.
  • Babies in ass-less chaps: Babies and toddlers are apparently allowed to relieve themselves whenever and wherever they please, and diapers are not a guarantee. It’s not uncommon to see adorable Chinese babies running around with bottomless pants.
  • “Please, sit!”: The Chinese apparently doubt Americans’ constitutions, because our Chinese hosts were forever encouraging the American teachers to sit. The first three days of open houses were really awkward.
  • A complete lack of road rules: Driving on the streets of any large city in China will have you afraid for your life. If I had a dollar for every time I squeezed my eyes shut in the face of an impending car accident only to make it safely to my destination – well, I’d be able to convert those dollars into quite a few yuan.
  • My roommate almost becoming a movie star: a film crew was working on the campus of our school, and my roommate – a lovely, tall, blonde woman from South Carolina – was approached to be an extra in one of the scenes, but alas! As they often do, the Chinese changed their minds at the last minute, and her stage debut never happened.
  • Culinary adventures: Among the interesting and often-odd things I’ve eaten since being in Shijiazhuang are duck neck (incredibly delicious), donkey, pig feet (or “pig trotters” as our translator called them), and the eyeballs of a duck and a fish.

We’re climbing the Great Wall tomorrow, and I intend to stand at the top and look out into the wilds for any sign of White Walkers. Be on the lookout for more pictures and a post about our time in Beijing either tomorrow (Sunday, July 16) or the next day. Thank you to everyone who’s reading and for all of the lovely comments. Keep them coming, friends!

 

Tea shops, duck heads, and Wonder Malls

Tomorrow is our last full day of teaching. I want to say that time has flown, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Although we’re definitely not bogged down by the rigor of curriculum and the stress of grading, I for one go to bed exhausted every night and wake up feeling like I’ve gotten nowhere near the rest I need.

Teaching has been a very entertaining experience, although I’m not sure I’m leaving my students with much more than the bragging rights to say that they’ve met an American teacher. My kids are very sweet: they bring me foods to try and draw me pictures, and I know that I’m going to miss them when we leave for Beijing in a few days. Going back to teaching American teenagers is going to be rough, no question! It’s nice to have a captive audience, even if they’re only catching about half of what I say. We’ve done a million different activities, and they present a little every day. Today, for instance, they shared with the class the holidays that they created following our mini unit on American holidays. We had No Homework Day, Teacher Homework Day (they have a lot of feelings about their workload), Social Day, Fries Day, and Meeting Miss Jordan Day. Yes, I’m partial to the latter.

My own personal adventures have been many considering we have little time to sight-see and hardly any agency to do so without a Chinese guide and interpreter. Aside from the various malls we’ve been to, I was taken to a tea shop that was part of a three story complex made entirely of tea sellers where I bought some lovely souvenirs; we ate at a famous duck restaurant and I experienced the crisp, buttery goodness that is duck neck; on a completely separate occasion, we were served duck heads and I managed to pluck up the courage to eat an eyeball just so I could say that I did; and tonight we experienced a Chinese Pizza Hut and then took turns at archery in the Wonder Mall.

Our school has been occupied this week by a film crew shooting a movie about a young girl’s struggles in the aftermath of her father’s untimely death. My roommate and I have enjoyed watching them shoot around campus, and she (my roommate) was actually asked to be an extra in the film although the offer was later rescinded for unknown reasons. We learned quickly that the Chinese change their plans often and expect you to be ready to go with the flow. This is particularly difficult for our Type-A personality folks to comprehend.

On Thursday, we leave for Beijing. We’ll actually get to do some sight-seeing for a few days, and then we’re off to Handan for unspecified amounts of professional development. We’ll be working with Chinese English teachers, showing them activities conducive for teaching ELL students and discussing ways that they can be implemented in their classrooms. How this will work with the language barrier and the fact that some of our group aren’t actually teachers in their “real” lives is beyond me, but it will be what it will be. I’m excited to get out of the big city: Shijiazhuang has treated us pretty well, but it’s a smelly, dirty city and I’m looking forward to experiencing something a bit more rural (although that will probably mean less amenities like regular air-conditioning and Western toilets).

I have oodles of new pictures to share, but that will have to wait for tomorrow. I’m down in the lobby of our dorm at the moment, taking advantage of the prime WiFi connection, and my connector cable is upstairs.

Wǎn-an, everyone!

Rapping “Hamilton” in Shijiazhuang

Well, you knew it was bound to happen eventually.

It’s day 3 of teaching, and I am honestly ridiculously pleased with how everything is going. These kids are all so sweet and pleasant and incredibly respectful, and they never complain about a single thing I ask them to do. Granted, I’m having them play games and do relatively fun things when their usual teachers lecture for 40 minutes and hardly ever crack a smile. I guess that’s just the perks of being the English summer camp teacher – all of the kids think you’re funny and beautiful and want to be your friend for life.

Yesterday was particularly enjoyable. I felt like the students had fun – they certainly laughed a lot – and I was running on a adrenaline high for the entire morning and afternoon. A few highlights include:

  • My students are fascinated by American music (they have it on their phones) and rap, so when I told them that I could rap, they were amazed and needed proof. I obliged them with a snippet of “My Shot” which was incredibly difficult to remember while standing in front of 20 teenagers staring at you with eyes the size of dinner plates.
  • Reciting the prologue to “The Canterbury Tales” in Middle English to demonstrate how English as a language has evolved. They were even more shocked than my American students are when I say it for them!
  • The student whose English name is Sherlock is, in fact, a fan of “Sherlock” and we talked after class yesterday about Mycroft and Sherlock and Eurus and how the Christmas special was scary and how Eurus was very bad. Hearing those names spoken with a Chinese accent is pretty wonderful.
  • The kids participated in a mini show-and-tell yesterday morning. I told them the day before to bring something from home to class that was special to them, and most of them remembered. There were favorite books, drawings by friends, tiny handmade doll’s clothes, a bottle of traditional medicine, and a keychain from London. It was precious.

So the day itself was quite eventful, and I left class feeling quite good about myself.

In the evening, most of our teacher group decided we had had enough cafeteria food and thus ventured out into Shijizhuang proper to try to find some more authentic cuisine. We ended up at the Wonder Mall (that’s actually its name) and after looking around and marveling at the shops and taking turns riding around the 3rd floor on motorized animals, we found a restaurant that sold hotpot and we sat down for an adventure in cross-cultural dialogue. Not a single server spoke English, which was both what we wanted (after all, it’s “real” Chinese food) and what we feared. Were we ordering lamb, chicken, or monkey? Thankfully, one of the waitresses had a translation app on her phone, and we were able to make shift enough to get a meal going. In the end, it cost us each (with seven people eating) the equivalent of $7.

We have four more days of teaching here, and then we tour Beijing for 2 or 3 days. Afterwards, we’re off to a more rural area to do professional development with local teachers.

One week down, three to go!

How are these kids so adorable??

My first three classes have ended, I’ve just eaten lunch, and I have an hour before I need to be back to finish out the day. And you know what? I’m not dead (yet)!

I woke up around 4 AM this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Whether that was from nerves or just general insomnia, I don’t know, but I won’t lie and say I wasn’t nervous going into today. We knew so little going into our first day of class. How many students would we have? How proficient would they be in English? Would they be well-behaved? By the time breakfast was over, I think that all of us teachers were resigned to whatever fate would come. In my case, I was pleasantly surprised!

I have 24 students of varying ages (the youngest being, I believe, 14) and varying proficiency. They seem generally kind, good-natured, and some of them are quite funny! When they made name tents, I told them that they must use their “English name” or their pinyin name, and so far, my two absolute favorite monikers are “Sherlock” and “Hydrogen.” Our first rule in the classroom is ENGLISH ONLY, and although they are definitely sneaking Chinese and occasionally forget themselves and speak it to me, they are doing pretty well at figuring out how to say what they need to say. Their vocabularies are not extensive, and I’m hoping that our word wall will help improve that, but despite being shy, they take corrections well and seem, for the most part, quite ready to learn.

What more could a girl ask for?

We’ve covered quite a bit in three class periods: everyone introduced themselves with the use of name tents; I presented my “about me” PowerPoint and received some nice giggles; they played classmate BINGO to varying degrees of success; and we played a variation of “Things” where I give them a category and they go down the rows listing as many things in that category as they can until they either repeat or can’t come up with one: at that point, we change categories.

They also had a chance to write out two questions on a sticky note: one question for me, and one question about America. I only answered four today, but some of my favorite questions thus far (with no grammar or spelling corrections) are:

  • Why you look like so beautiful?
  • Why are you have difference hair’s color?
  • Do you have a boyfriend? What does he look like?
  • Is Halley Queen [Harley Quinn] famous in American?
  • Have you gun?

This will definitely be an interesting week!

In less than 24 hours…

…I will have finished my first day of teaching in China!

Yes, it’s true: today is our last day of “freedom” (whatever that is when it’s at home) here in Shijiazhuang. Tomorrow, at 8:30 am, there will be up to 30 students in my classroom, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to learn English! Hey, a girl can dream.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this week of teaching. My first day is planned out to a “t,” and I have more than enough to keep us busy for the 4 hours and 40 minutes that I will be actively instructing teenagers. After that, however, it’s anybody’s guess. I have rough ideas of what I want to cover and what projects I want to do, but I’m going to have to rely on my fellow teachers to help me figure out the timing of some these activities. For example, how long should I give the students to practice their poetry for recitation? Do they need a full day to read a fairy tale, creating a (very) basic plot diagram, and then composing a short play to act out the story? I hate playing things by ear, and although I know that everything is subject to change and that I’ll be reevaluating daily what I can and cannot do based on my students’ skill sets, I’d like to have more than a rough plan going forward.

I’m sure there will be plenty to report tomorrow, but for now, I will leave you with some pictures of my classroom and plead for your prayers as I go forth unto this new adventure.