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!