Some highlights for the past month:
- I attended a wedding of a friend of mine. She is one of our teaching assistants and leaders from another school. She was married in the far western corner of the country. That is where her husband is from. So, the wedding was held in his hometown. They came back to this area so she could have a reception here. It was pretty uneventful, as it was the second part of the wedding. I do not understand why Chinese even bother having a wedding. There is very little of it that is romantic or filled with symbolism. It just seems like it is an opportunity for them to collect money from family, friends, friends, of friends, and friends of friends of friends. You get a small gift with candies and a pack of cigarettes. You eat some food, which is usually pretty good. And, you toast the couple. After that, you go home. You might as well just give them the money and save on the cost of the reception. I think I will just go to weddings of people that have real significance for me.
- We did the futile operation of giving oral exams to the students again this year. It is futile for a variety of reasons. The first is that we only get about one minute to evaluate the students. We had about 3000 students to evaluate with 8 teachers. Four of the teachers are teaching assistants whose English could not even pass the exam (in my opinion). And, regardless of how they were scored, every one of them gets a certificate of completion for the English program. It is a huge waste of time and resources. At least, this year, we were able to test them during class periods. Last year, we could only test them during the 10 minute break between classes. For me, it was sad to see that many of my students that I had taught throughout the term reverted back to the staple responses they had learned, versus implementing my program. I have mentioned this many times before. Responses such as “It is interesting” and reciting answers to what Halloween is, word from word that they use for their exams. The students are so concerned about passing the exam that they failed to be creative. But, I know they have learned much of the material I had taught them. I see the fruits of my labor when I speak with them outside of class and in an informal manner.
- My friend Jim is leaving for Hong Kong to teach next term. I am sad to see him go. He is one of the very few people that I can be open and honest with. He is a great travel partner. He will be missed. Our last travel was last weekend. We went to Sugao to an island in the Yellow Sea area near Xinpu. It has a beach and walking nature trails. It was a good day. We had to pay 50 RMB (about $9.00) just to go onto the island. But, it was worth it for the day. We walked along the boardwalk that was built along the sea cliffs through some trees and rock formations. We came to a second more private beach and relaxed by the water. Many Russians were here. There is a nuclear power plant near the beach where the Russians are building onto it and helping the Chinese operate it. As Jim swam in the cold water, I sat and just took in the sights of the water, sand and people. When you get to just sit and watch people, you realize that we are all the same in being human. It does not matter what nationality you are. Kids laugh, have temper tantrums and play like any other kid. Adults play and relax like everyone else. Yes, there are differences. But these differences are primarily influenced by external culture and politics (nationalism).
It is summer now. I will be posting more frequently now. I have a busy summer ahead of me. Currently, I am on a train traveling to a town called Shangrao to teach at a school there for a week. The other teacher had to go home for an emergency. So, my company has asked me to go there and finish the term. Yesterday, I spent seven hours on a coach bus to Shanghai. It was a good trip. Lots of sleeping, reading, and relaxing. They showed a few Chinese movies on the bus trip. They focused on the martial arts. I could follow the storyline some. But, I would lose interest and revert back to a book I am reading.
I spent the night in Shanghai. I did not venture out much. I had to take a one hour taxi from the bus station to the train station. You would think they would put all the transportation hubs together. The railroad and the airport are next to one another. As I rode through Shanghai in a taxi, it reconfirmed my unwillingness to live in such a large city. I would think that anyone working in such a city would seldom get out of the city. Sure, there are many things to see and do within the confines of the city. It is far too difficult to get out of the city, having to maneuver through subways, planes, trains, and automobiles. As such, anyone working there loses the ability to experience a more realistic Chinese experience. I am sure that there are many foreigners that never venture out of Shanghai to see the rest of China. Shanghai is a pretty city with the various architecture. And, I am sure there are some wonderful things to see. But, I like the experience I get when I travel to the smaller cities and towns. Being in Ganyu, you almost look forward to the days off to go explore. As such, I have done more traveling in China that many city dwellers….I think.
After a night at a hotel, I made my way to the train station. It is a massive complex and very interesting. Of course, I got in the wrong line to get my ticket. But, I roll with the punches pretty well. I just hopped in the appropriate line and waited again. In cities like Shanghai, English is much more common in use. It is pretty easy to find an English speaker to do what you want. But, in the ticket situation, there was no indication that I would be in the wrong line. Well, as I said, I am on a train now. We are traveling for four hours on a high speed train to Shangrao. I like traveling by train. Especially high speed train. It is a wonderful experience. You get to see so much of China landscapes as you travel. It is very comfortable and convenient.
Summer is here. So, I will be posting a variety of things over the next few months for you. I will give you details of the teaching I will be doing this week. I am excited because I am going to get to see my kids for the first time since I saw them last year at the summer camp in Beijing. They are very excited about my arrival. A few have invited me to dinner with their families.
After teaching, I will go back to Ganyu for about two weeks. I am hoping to play golf with a friend when I return. And, I will just relax for about two weeks. I will then go to Beijing in July to teach at the summer camp this year. I am really excited because I get to see many of my kids from last winter’s camp. They are from Inner Mongolia. And, I get to meet a whole new group of kids and work with them. After my month in Beijing, I will go back to Ganyu. I am trying to find a travel partner so I can better enjoy a vacation. I hate traveling alone. I like to talk to people too much. I was originally going to go to Mongolia or Inner Mongolia with my friend Jim. But, he will begin teaching in August in Hong Kong and is unavailable. So, I am trying to find someone else to travel with. I think one or two of my students may travel with me. That should be interesting. I want to take a cruise on the Yangtze River for 5 days and visit some of the communities and tourist sites along the way. It would be about a 10-14 day trip I think. Then, I head back home to Ganyu to prepare for another term of teaching in September.