When life gives you lemons…

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“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J. Fox

Hi followers, I’m sorry for the lack of consistency of my blog. I just want to give a shout out to all of you for being so loyal and asking for updates and how I am and everything. Well I’m about to give you a general explanation for why I haven’t been updating consistently. Being in China and working where I am has been a great blessing. However, it wouldn’t be life if I didn’t get lemons with all the good stuff.

Hardships of teaching:

I am thankful for the job that I have now even though I have problems with the English department. My contract requires me to work 18 hours per week when I only work 16 and all of those hours are done by noon from Monday-Friday.  In addition ,my students are around the ages of 17-20 which makes it easier for me to connect with them as a recent college graduate. Unfortunately, while I do have dedicated, kind and passionate students, some of my students aren’t so happy with me as a teacher.

As an English teacher at this school, I have English books with recordings and lesson plans based on them that are optional for me to use. My students and I both dislike them. My students dislike them because the recordings and the book activities are boring. I dislike them because the books were written by Chinese authors and don’t teach any authentic English.

After I used the powerpoints my mom made for me voluntarily, I worked hard to make more. I made powerpoints based on the book topics going over useful vocabulary while also giving my students English lessons they could relate to. I ranged from talking about my childhood demonstrating the past tenses, practice job interview questions demonstrating the present tenses, and shopping demonstrating the four conditionals. I even created an environmental protection presentation demonstrating the use of gerunds. I would work from Sunday afternoon to night on these powerpoints to teach my students but also make English class fun. While some of my students still try to sleep and use their phones in class (I call them out on it, I don’t let them get away with it) most of them seemed to pick up on my lessons and enjoy my teaching.

Just today, Teacher Wu, the human resource person stopped by to give us new information on the department.

The good news: Our communications person between us and the head of the English department is changing next semester because the current one has not been informative to Matt or I. She has not told us stuff like about our days off or even when classes end for this semester. When the department head has asked us to be at a school event, she would only tell us about two days in advance and still expect us to be there. Even after I politely asked her to be more informative during a text chat, she did not respond to me. Hence, Matt and I are pleased.

The bad news: It’s not so much bad news as it is gossip. While I was gone, Teacher Wu told Emily and Matt about past foreign teachers at the school. He told us when the students had a British teacher, they complained to the English department that his pronunciation was incorrect. One of the other teachers would try to make his lessons fun by playing guitar and singing English and the students still complained.

So Teacher Wu dropped that the students were complaining about Matt and my classes, saying that our lessons weren’t serious enough. Matt let me know that no matter what I do, there will be students who complain about you just to complain. Still though, being a first time teacher who was proud of her hard work, I took it very personally.

Hearing this news was like putting Matt and I in our places on the totem pole as foreign teachers at the school. It frustrates me that while I’m the teacher, the students seem to hold more power over us even just by having contact info to our boss, which Matt nor I were even given. In the movie Moneyball, there’s a quote from Brad Pitt saying “Here are the good teams and here are the bad teams, now there’s a bucket of crap, and then there’s us.” Here is my version, “Here is the school headmaster, then the English department head, then the Chinese English teachers, then the students, now here’s a huge bucket of crap and then there’s Matt and I.”

Matt is right though, I just need to move on. I have actually had a few students, two who aren’t even mine, who choose to come at 8 to my classes and compliment my lessons every time. They tell me that most English teachers sit and play the recordings and that it’s great that I am not only teaching authentic English but making it fun. In each of my classes while I always have those students who try to sleep or use their phones, I have at least 5 per class who participate, give me friendly smiles and even give genuine greetings to me on campus. For teaching, I need to accept that not all of my students will like my classes no matter what I do but just continue to enjoy myself and focus on the friendly faces in my job experience.

Hardships of being a foreigner:

This is probably my biggest source of unhappiness and frustration. Being a foreigner not just in China but in Bengbu has been a huge struggle for me.

Let me break this down. People personify Beijing as an old man tied to Chinese history and traditions and Shanghai as a modern and lively 20 year-old woman. If Bengbu was a person, it would be a junior high student who lacks general social etiquette and thinks the world centers around them. Right now, Bengbu is a developing city but is still a small, countryside place that most of the residents have never been outside of. You can only imagine their reactions when they see foreigners.

Being a foreigner in Bengbu has been hard for me. I feel as though I am treated as a funny-looking and dim-witted alien by both my students and the locals. Whenever Matt, Emily and I are out in Bengbu, we constantly get uncomfortable stares from strangers, and that’s not even the worst of it. I’ve seen people not-so-subtly talk and gossip when they spot me in public. Last week when I added my students WeChat names, I told them in both English and Chinese to send messages in Chinese so I could practice reading. No matter how many times I told them, they did not believe I had the capacity to understand Chinese writing until I wrote a few characters for them.

When we are out shopping, shopkeepers will go walk to us and offer service to Emily, dismissing Matt and I, assuming we don’t know any Chinese and that Emily is only with us as our translator. Even when I use Chinese with locals, they ignore me and only speak to Emily. One day when we were shopping, I used some Chinese to buy some gloves. As I tried to take out money, four of the shopkeepers closely surrounded me asking me where I was from in a different way from how I was taught. They kept laughing and staring until I understood and answered them.

Being a foreigner and still in the process of learning conversational Mandarin, I feel so powerless and alone. As someone who has traveled a lot and and holds a liberal arts education, it’s frustrating to be in an environment where the people discriminate so openly against foreigners. However, it also brings me back to some teachings of Wica.

Last Spring, I went to Ft. Bragg to learn about military life and the religions represented on base. Wicca was one of them and one huge aspect of Wiccan teachings is power. In Wicca, they discuss that you cannot control the forces in your life but you have control of yourself and your reactions.

From this, I know that people in Bengbu will continue to remain ignorant and discriminate but I should not let it have an impact on me. I constantly remind myself that I am lucky to be more cultured and experienced in the world outside of my home country. In addition, I continue to remain open-minded which means that I not only embrace diversity in background but also in opinions.

Hardships of the real world:

A part of me is happy to be out of school and on my own. I may not have a desired career path right now but it has given me time to explore my options and organize my priorities. While I am excited to see where life is taking me, there are times I wish everything could go back to the way it used to be.

My parents just came to visit for Thanksgiving break and my birthday (keep an eye out for a separate entry soon). Being stressed out about my job, it was nice to pick them up in Shanghai and even bring them back to Bengbu with me. We were both able to catch up with each other and give them a fun experience in China. It made it more difficult for me to say goodbye.

A part of me just wanted to go back to America with them. I miss the small things like watching movies at home, going out to lunch/dinner at home, visiting my extended family in NJ, Connecticut, and Hawaii and having family friend BBQ’s. When I’m surrounded by both family and family friends, I feel so much love and support and all my worries aren’t as important as spending time with them in the moment.

I also miss and envy my friends. College was a time I was within walking distance from friends and even at home, I was only a drive away. Being on my own is hard even just for conveniently making friends. A few of my friends are still in college, being accepted into or attending grad school, or have their desired careers. As I mentioned, sometimes I feel as though my efforts in teaching are a waste and am hired to help the school’s publicity rather than actually teach. As a result, I feel insignificant and small. While I am proud of my friends for their accomplishments, one reason why I envy them is they are given work they’re passionate about or at least direction in a desired career path. As for me, I am still pondering what career I want in the future.

I’m convincing myself that just because something is easy doesn’t mean it isn’t worth experiencing. It’s hard for me to be done with college and currently not being in reach of friends or family. However, I always keep them in mind and remember that when people don’t always accept me in Bengbu that I have all of my support both back at home and overseas.

So the answer to my title is “when life gives you lemons…learn from it, accept it and move on.” Just by finally acknowledging and accepting my built-up emotions is a huge relief for me. I apologize for such a long and sad entry but this was helpful for me. I will encounter many challenges that I may not be able to fix but the best that I can do is accept these challenges. Some people will always be ignorant, some students will never be happy and I will always feel nostalgic but the best that I can do is accept how I feel and control how I react to what life throws at me.

Street Menu for Nian Gao

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Hi everyone,

I’m super sorry that I’ve been lacking in the blog updates. I actually have so many ideas for a big blog post but I haven’t figured out how to organize my thoughts. However, something that I’ve been wanting to add to my blog is a section on mini-Chinese lessons.

What I wanted to show you is a menu for 年糕 or “nian-gao” which are basically steamed glutinous mini rice cakes. They have become one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

Here are some pictures of Nian Gao. :D

www.steamykitchen.com

 

en.wikipedia.org

 

Interested in trying it in China? Well one place to find it is on the street from food vendors. Here’s an example of a street menu for nian gao. I’m going to break it down and translate it.

年糕

 

So the title up there shows “年糕河粉“, (pinyin: chǎoniángāohéfěn) pronounced “chow knee-anne gow, chow huh fun”. This means “stir-fried nian gao, stir-fried rice noodles.” At this stand, nian gao and rice noodles are mixed together with different ingredients.

Next to each menu, you’ll see a price of 5-6 yuan (). I’ll go through each item one by one.

素菜年糕河粉 (Pinyin: sùcài niángāohéfěn) - Pronounced “Sue-tsai knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “vegetarian nian gao and rice noodles.”

鸡蛋年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: jīdàn niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “Gee-dan knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “chicken egg nian gao and rice noodles.”

红肠年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: hóngcháng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “hong-chong knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “saveloy (sausage) nian gao and rice noodles.”

番茄年糕, 河粉 (Pinyin: fānqié niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “fan chee-eh knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “tomato nian gao and rice noodles.”

香肠年糕河粉 (Pinyin: xiāngcháng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “shee-ah-gung chong knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “sausage nian gao and rice noodles.”

鸡丁年糕河粉 (Pinyin: jīdīng niángāohéfěn) – Pronounced “gee-ding knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “chicken meat nian gao and rice noodles.”

肉丝年糕河粉 (Pinyin: ròusī niángāohéfěn) Pronounced “row-suh knee-anne gow huh fun” meaning, “shredded pork nian gao and rice noodles.”

I am hoping that this section of my blog can give my readers a bit of background on types of food and readings that travelers should know about. I hope you enjoy. :)

 

Healthy Diet in China

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Hi everyone,

I’m sorry that I haven’t been updating my blog. I have been under a lot of pressure for different reasons, one of them including writing a good post all of the time hence why I haven’t been updating lately since I haven’t had much to report on. To make up for my lack of posts, I will post a weekly post soon but in the meantime, it’s about time I add to another one of my categories called “Tips and Advice.”

Before coming to China, my biggest worry was eating and maintaining my weight since I gained about seven pounds on my last trip to China in just two weeks. So here’s one tip that I have for all of you whether you want to travel or teach here.

EAT HEALTHY!

Actually while I’ve been in China, I’ve lost a significant amount of weight. In addition to that, my acne has cleared from my face. I owe all of that to the careful diet I have been maintaining since I’ve been here.

My goal every day is to have one cup of fruit, two cups of vegetables, some protein and of course, water. I have mostly been eating salads (green leaves, tomatoes, Italian dressing), fresh fruit, oatmeal, rice, and my vitamins. In addition, I use very small bowls so my portions are always in control. No matter what, I always make sure I drink four bottles of water daily.

Chinese food is not known for being “diet friendly” since Chinese restaurants use salt, MSG and other types of tasty but unhealthy flavoring. This doesn’t sound that exciting, especially to someone who loves experiencing a culture through food. But honestly, if you are here for long-term, you will have many opportunities to enjoy Chinese food, and a lot of it. Because in Chinese culture, it is frowned upon to not finish a meal, many of my friends have encouraged me to eat as much as possible. Don’t do it. If you are full, you are full, manners don’t matter. Your body and health is more important.

As for the food at restaurants, don’t be afraid to sample everything since Chinese dishes are too good to pass up. If you are concerned about nutrients/diet, I recommend ordering dishes consisting of vegetables, tofu, chicken and soup broth. Are these dishes made so they’re “diet friendly”? Probably not, but they are much better choices than the sauce-braised fried foods you could be eating

However, you shouldn’t eat healthy JUST to lose weight. Eat healthy to be healthy. When you’re in another country for a significant amount of time, you have a higher chance of getting sick abroad (ex: a cold, food poisoning, etc). You can’t always prevent yourself from getting sick but when you’re giving yourself the right nutrients, your body has a higher chance of fighting or recovering from sickness.

Again, don’t be afraid to try the food here. It’s very delicious but as I just mentioned, you can be healthy but also have the Chinese experience. I will be updating with more tips of a healthy lifestyle in China soon.

Invincible Determination

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“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

- Langston Hughes

Hey all. I’m sorry for the inconsistency of my postings. I’ve been pretty busy with classes and everything else. In addition, sometimes I don’t have as much to report on. But I will try and return back to posting every Sunday like before. Because now I’m even more excited about my time spent in China. What I’m planning on doing is if I don’t have an exciting weekly update, I will write a separate post about travel tips, Chinese phrases, and more. Anyway, now for my post.

I’ve mentioned in my previous post that I have been practicing my Chinese. Well one reason why I am posting a delayed entry is because I have spent most of my free time studying and practicing writing Chinese vocabulary words. I’ve been adding a variety of words ranging from animals to popular pronouns and mythical creatures. Lately I have been really enthusiastic in my studies that I lose track of time like I do when I’m drawing.

Chinese

All of the pages in this picture are written on the back and front. In addition to practicing new Chinese vocab on Pleco, I also have Emily help me with my Chinese by teaching me phrases and words that native Chinese speakers use. In order to practice my speaking and tone accuracy, I use these phrases when I’m speaking to my students and even to people on the street.

From practicing on my own to throwing myself out there to practice speaking and listening has really helped me in some obvious ways. Now I am not only able to pick up more on what people say but I can read some of the Chinese signs more clearly. Emily has told me that she is impressed not just with my speaking but my reading comprehension.

Something that has made studying Chinese a struggle for me is that I feel like I won’t reach a desired goal in my journey through the Chinese language. I’ve always asked myself “When will I be fluent? How will I know when I’ll be fluent? What happens after I’m fluent?” Well I have decided to give myself a really long-term goal in about 5-10 years. I want to take the HSK.

The HSK or the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi is an exam for non-native speakers to take in order to test the speaking, reading, writing and listening in the Chinese language. Many people take this exam because the scores increase your chances of obtaining a job in Mandarin-speaking countries and exempts you from Chinese courses if applying to schools. Personally, I want to take this because I don’t just want to tell people I’m fluent, I want to prove to people that with hard work and determination, that I was able to pass an exam that makes it official.

I haven’t told many people about this because at this point, they would probably think I’m crazy. Yes, I am pretty crazy but I am also determined to make the most of my time in China and my time with the language.

Steps to being Happy

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“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

- Dahai Lama

Hey all! I’m so sorry about my latest blog entry. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions and have so much to say. I’m so excited to write this post and for all of you to read it. Personally, I thought I was a little bitter in my last blog entry, mainly because of the frustrations that I have experienced being in China. Well I’m excited to let you know that this will definitely be a happier post. Btw, my next post will be around Tuesday.

After being a foreign English teacher in a less “touristy” town in China, I’ve finally figured out methods on how to be happy with my job, Bengbu and even my development with the Chinese language.

Steps to happiness as a teacher:

I’ve mentioned before that it’s difficult for me to by motivated to go to my classes everyday, especially before 8 in the morning. It’s even harder to teach a class with a majority of students that couldn’t care less about learning English. In fact, unless your school dismisses classes, you are required to teach no matter what conditions you have. Even though I had a bad day of food poisoning, I still pushed myself out of bed at 7:30 to teach.

While the perks of being an English teacher in another country involve traveling and fun, it doesn’t sound so desirable to teach a bunch of students who don’t care or have difficulty with the topic. But there is a way to enjoy teaching that I recently discovered.

1. Make visuals. For the first week of classes, I tried speaking so my students could practice listening. Actually one of the topics was called “courage” which I found was more difficult to talk about in English than I thought. When I talked about courage, I ended up talking about Superman and Batman and drawing cartoons on the chalk board. My students not only laughed but understood what I was talking about. Then it hit me. College students still like pretty pictures. So after that I put together powerpoints (with the help from my generous parents), video clips and more. Visuals, whether they involve technology or just drawing on the board, are great to use with students who haven’t quite grasped the English language yet.

2. Loosen up. Yes you are a teacher, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. When I first began, I was so afraid of messing up a lesson or embarrassing myself. However, I realized that I’m not just a teacher, but an English teacher. What I mean is that my job is to help my students practice listening and speaking English so basically, what I’m really doing is hanging out with them but also teaching them grammar and pronunciation. For example, after the National break, I asked my classes to give adjectives to describe their holidays. After telling them what I did for the National break, I asked them what they did. Every time they shouted out answers like “sleep” or “spend time with family”, I changed it to the past, explaining that because the National break was in the past, they would not say “I sleep” but “I slept” and “I spent time with family” rather than “I spend time with family.” Not only did I learn more about what happens on the National holiday but my students understood how to use the past tense which barely exists in the Chinese language.

3. Be Creative. For my teaching job, my boss told me that I am supposed to speak in English to my students and play recordings for them every week. It is easy to just rant in English and then play English dialogues. But if I want to in any way reach out to my students, I need to make class more enjoyable. For example, one of the units for my classes was “school life”. I put together a powerpoint of my college experience discussing my dormitories, classes, clubs/activities and more. In this powerpoint, I included the book’s vocabulary like “accommodation” , “private school”, and the phrase “It all depends…”. This was my way to introduce American universities and show the differences in culture and student life. Most of my students have never been out of the Anhui province so this was very interesting for them.

Steps to happiness as a traveler:

Everyone loves to travel. Traveling is one of my personal enjoyments since I have had the opportunities to do so my whole life, including living in England for three years. However, as much as I don’t like to admit it, I usually long to return back to America if I’m away for too long. America is my comfort zone and being in a country like China is a huge step out of it. But as a traveler, if you want to enjoy your experience, you need to know how to enjoy it.

1. Go with the flow. Honestly, when you are traveling, nothing is going to go as planned. Originally, Emily and I had planned on going to the Bengbu amusement park and riding on the Tianjin Ferris wheel where we can see an entire view of Bengbu.

Bengbu Eye IMG_2014

Unfortunately, we found out that one ticket is 160 yuan which for that small of a park we thought was too expensive. Although we decided not to spend that much, we wanted to spend 35 yuan to go on the Tianjin Ferris Wheel. However, we found out that for some reason, they didn’t want to sell tickets to people. Having thought this was a bad day, we returned home but our day significantly improved when we started watching Kungfu Panda. So even though our day didn’t turn out to be as fun, we still found a way to have fun and agreed to go another day. Maybe when my parents come here.

2. Be open-minded. This is a very obvious tip that I know everyone follows. But after being in China for nearly 2 months, I have another take on being “open-minded”. I, along with Matt, have not only learned of but experienced some discrimination against non-native speakers. Being in Bengbu, a city with few English speakers, I have observed people gossiping, staring and even disregarding our Nationality by referring to us as foreigners rather than Americans. Trust me, when they call you a foreigner, they are acting like you are from another planet. However, when I am hurt and overwhelmed by the discrimination, I remember to remain open-minded.

China, like every country, has discrimination and disrespectful people. However, that means it also has kind, friendly and generous people. Every time I find a problem with someone here, I remember my students, my Chinese friends from OWU and every other Chinese native I’ve met here. I remember that China isn’t just a place of ignorance and negative attitudes towards foreigners, it is also a country of respectful and caring people who yearn to learn more about the Western world as much as I yearn to learn about their world.

Steps to happiness in learning a language:

In my last post, I talked about my personal struggle with learning Chinese. I mentioned that while I know many vocabulary words and grammatical structures, my listening comprehension is still lacking. I know a decent amount of Chinese but unfortunately, my experience doesn’t really show in normal Chinese conversations. However, I realized why I have been so frustrated about my Chinese and how I can change it.

1. Expand vocabulary. My problem with Chinese is not just listening comprehension but lack of vocabulary used by native speakers. However, I have discovered a wonderful secret to expanding vocabulary that helps with both speaking and reading comprehension.

So my students and Emily have told me that if I don’t know how to say my favorite tv shows, movies or bands, I can look up their Chinese names on Baidu.com, a search engine website in China. So that’s what I did and I even made note cards for myself. Let me give you a couple of examples.

BigTimeRush

So one of my favorite bands is Big Time Rush whom have two different Chinese names; “与梦行” (yu4 meng4 sui2xing2) meaning “Accompanied with a dream” and “派对男孩”, (pai4dui4 nan2hai2), meaning “Party Boys”. Take a look at the first name, “yu4″ means “to take part in”, “meng4″ means “dream” and “随行” means “to accompany”. The words “” means “to follow” and “行” can mean “go” or “walk”. So alone in BTR’s Chinese name, we learned 3-5 vocabulary words.

Now take a look at this sign that I took a picture of.

Sign

You can probably guess what it says based on the rough translation “Follow Your Heart DRINK!”. Do you recognize any of the characters? No? Remember what we just learned and read it again, you might see “随行” meaning “to accompany”  and “随” meaning “to follow”. You may not be able to read the entire sign but even so, you are able to pick out two vocabulary words. Since you might be curious, the sign translates roughly to “one person one cup, accompanied by following your heart.” (If you have a better translation, comment it on my post). Congratulations, you just learned some Chinese!

2. Build a relationship between you and the language. In the Karate Kid, the one with Will Smith’s son going to China to learn Kung Fu, his master, Jackie Chan says “Kung Fu lives in everything we do, Xiao Dre! It lives in how we put on the jacket, how we take off the jacket. It lives in how we treat people! Everything… is Kung Fu.”

This line speaks to me because it reminds me about my experience with Chinese. My struggles with the language haven’t been about my lack of knowledge, it has been about my lack of passion. Anybody can sit in classes and memorize textbook phrases and words but unless you feel that you can use them in the real world, you aren’t going to remember them after your class ends. So in Hefei, I went to the foreigners section in a bookstore and picked out books to further my Chinese studies.

books

3. Pace yourself. One of the reasons why I have struggled with Chinese in the past is because I try to memorize too many phrases and words at one time, mostly words that I rarely find opportunities to say. I have spent so much time trying to memorize 20-30 words in one week that I become overwhelmed by the amount of characters in the writing system. So what I have done is make about 4-5 note cards with 6 vocabulary words/names/phrases each and practice saying and writing them while I’m watching tv or listening to music.

I am also very blessed to have Emily a friend for many reasons, one of them being her interest in helping me practice Chinese. When we went to Hefei, after a busy day of shopping, we stopped by a famous restaurant that is known for serving Anhui province food.

Eggs mixed with vegetables and ham in a soupish thing

Eggs mixed with vegetables and ham in a soupish thing

Beef with vegetables and tofu in broth

Beef with vegetables and tofu in broth

Egg Crispie Treats basically. Called "Dan huang ju guo ba".

Egg Crispie Treats basically. Called “Dan huang ju guo ba”.

The food is very delicious and they make tofu perfectly in the Anhui province apparently. But during dinner, Emily wrote down how she would say “Please give us another cup of tea.” in pinyin. Phonetically, it is “B-ah-ng woah-men t-ann cha.” When I called over the waitress, she completely understood me. Emily also helped me ask for the check and pay the bill for dinner in Chinese. Even though it was only two phrases I learned, I have memorized them and am able to use them in everyday life.

I chose to quote the Dalai Lama in this post because he says that we create our own happiness. During my entire stay, I have found my own ways of creating happiness. I can travel anywhere in the world but in some places like less touristy Bengbu with little to nothing to see/do, I have to find my own way to enjoy my new home. I have the power to alter my experience and be happy, no matter the conditions. No matter what challenges and frustrations are thrown at me, as long as I stay optim

All Accomplishments Great and Small

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and made things happen.”

- Leonardo Da Vinci

Hey everyone, sorry my blog is a little late. The internet has been hard to use this past week. I wouldn’t have minded that much about the internet if my week wasn’t already frustrating for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great National Break but I still had quite a few annoyances. I guess the accomplishments that you want to make come with trials and tribulations beforehand.

Accomplishment in Biking:

For the first activity of my National Break, I decided to join Matt and Emily on a biking trip all the way to the Zhuizi mountains in Bengbu. I was excited to finally try out my new bike, Lan Xiong Mao but also nervous because I didn’t think I was in good enough shape to ride my bike so far away.

What I wanted to accomplish:

I initially wanted to go on this biking adventure so I could go to the Zhuizi mountains which I see from my apartment window everyday. I was hoping to take some amazing photography of nature and pat myself on the back for biking all the way to and up the mountain.

View from my Window

Unfortunately, we ended up getting lost on the way to the mountains. Instead, we decided to bike on a few trails in the area which at first, sounded really fun to me. The trail at first was either flat or downhill which I had a blast riding on, especially in hot weather so I could feel a nice breeze. I then reached a point when I had to bike mostly uphill which I was not nearly in enough shape for. When the three of us stopped just so I could catch my breathe was frustrating for me. I felt that I was slowing down the trip and that all of the biking that I had done was pointless, since we didn’t reach the mountains like we planned. However, we did come across an unexpected accomplishment.

What I did accomplish:

Quite often when I venture into Bengbu, I always see this interesting looking tower far in the distance. Even when we were biking, we couldn’t help but notice it’s unique shape. Actually if you look in this photo of the Bengbu Medical College front, on the right, you can see that exact building.

bengbutower

Tower from far away

We always wondered what it was and assumed it was so far away in Bengbu, farther than we could travel. But little did we know, the uphill trail that we rode/walked up lead to that exact building.

Made it to the Weather Tower

Made it to the Weather Tower

We saw the sign and Emily said that it was a Weather Tower which is why it was so tall. We did not realize that we were so close to that building, always seeing it in the far distance. Yes, we didn’t reach the Zhuizi mountains like we wanted, but it was cool to finally identify this tower. In the near future, we plan on another trip to the Zhuizi mountains which I am definitely looking forward to. So looking back on that day, I enjoyed our journey for it had an unexpected but satisfying result.

Accomplishment in Traveling:

The second part of my National Holiday was going to Hefei, the capital of the Anhui province. We wanted to go to Hefei to do a little shopping, meet with Emily and Matt’s friends, and go visit Metro, a French supermarket with all types of food that you can imagine from around the world. As excited as I was, I had originally hoped to go somewhere more adventurous.

What I wanted to accomplish:

Much earlier in the year, I wanted to travel somewhere fun and different in Asia for my National Week Break. I have never been to Japan, Korea or even Hong Kong and hoped to check one of those places off of my bucket list during that time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t travel anywhere that eccentric during my break.

Teacher Wu, the man who assists foreign teachers at the school, told us that in order to stay in Bengbu for a whole year, Matt and I had to finalize our residencies here which meant getting a residence permit. In order to receive one, we both had to turn in our passports with our VISA’s to the Bengbu City Center which they have to keep until October 10, way after our National Break. Without our passports, not only can I not travel by plane but I am not even able to buy a train ticket to anywhere in China. I was definitely bummed but was very happy about my experience in Hefei.

What I did accomplish:

Since Matt and I were unable to take the train, we decided to take the bus to Hefei instead. We woke up at 6:45 to catch the bus at 7 so we could arrive in Hefei around 9. It was very early but I was very happy to see what Hefei had in store for us. The fact that the weather was great and the air was clear (very rare, according to Matt) was a great start to our day.

These are a few pics I got from Hefei.

Hefei shopping center IMG_1992

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We even made it in the shopping mall. I was able to buy everything that I bought all with money from my own salary.

There's a Burger King in the Mall

There’s a Burger King in the Mall

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Balloon dresses in the mall

Balloon dresses in the mall

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After our mall adventure, we met with Matt and Emily’s friend, Jess who drove us around Hefei and even to Metro. I’m happy to be near a Walmart and Carrefour but I’m happier to know that there is a place like Metro nearby, even if it is 2 hours away from me.

Front of Metro

Front of Metro

Tools and Supplies.

Tools and Supplies.

Bakery section

Bakery section

Meat section

Meat section

Matt in front of the frozen section

Matt in front of the frozen section

I bought milk, hotdogs and an air pump for my bike from Metro. There are many other kinds of places that are more desired than Hefei but I was very happy with this trip. I had bought food that I miss from the US, bought some clothes for the colder weather and was able to practice Chinese with Jess who only speaks a little English. True Hefei is no Korea or Japan, but it is a great city with lots of fun activities and resources. I feel that I have accomplished many things just from my trip to Hefei and am planning on returning in the near future.

Accomplishments in Mandarin:

I’ll be honest, I have been studying Chinese for about 4 years yet I don’t feel confident enough to hold a conversation in complete Mandarin. There are some days when I can understand Chinese perfectly and then there are moments when I am easily discouraged from furthering my studies. There were quite a few moments this week that really discouraged me.

I wanted to find a China Unicom store in Bengbu so I could pay for more minutes on my phone. Due to the National Break, the campus store was closed so I wanted to find another one in town. I made it downtown asking a couple of people if they could tell me where it was. While I was able to understand the first person I spoke with, I had much difficulty with the next person who thought I wanted to buy a cell phone and wouldn’t leave me until I bought one from the store she brought me to.

The next day, a woman came up to ask me for directions while I was on my daily walk. I knew that she and her husband wanted to wash their hands but I had no idea what kind of place they wanted to go to (nor am I entirely familiar with the campus yet). After trying to give her instructions to the bathroom, I heard her tell her husband that she couldn’t understand my Chinese.

The day after that, Emily had invited me to go eat dinner in town with some of her friends in Bengbu who only speak a little English. They were very kind to us and even paid for our entire dinner and refused to let me pay. While we had moments of conversational fluency and I could understand fragments of sentences, there were a few bits of the night that annoyed me. I was trying to tell a few stories about America and my vacations and while I spoke really slowly in Chinese, I could see the two friends looking at me but looking at Emily as if hoping that she could translate what I am saying. To try and speak the language, only to feel the need to have someone translate it was completely discouraging and at that moment, I felt as if I accomplished nothing in my Mandarin studies.

After dinner, I told Emily about my language struggles, hoping that she would understand as someone who also studies a second language. She did and gave me some helpful insight. I told her everything. I told her that I hate how kind people have been to me in China, including her friends who even paid for our meal, and yet I am unable to show as much gratitude as I would to someone in English. I even told her that as thankful as I am for her help, I don’t like feeling so dependent on one person. She listened to everything that I had to say and assured me that if I keep up my personal Mandarin studies and keep using Chinese as often as possible, then I would be able to become fluent in this year. She even told me that my speaking and reading ability is really good for a foreigner. She told me that what is holding me back is nervousness and if I stopped caring and just carried on then my true ability would be realized.

After this whole break, I realized that accomplishments come in big and small sizes. Some come unexpectedly and some aren’t even noticed until reality checks in. The journey of accomplishments never ends either, it keeps going until you want to stop. So I’m going to push through and make the most of my experience in China, especially with Mandarin.

Motivation Through Difficult Challenges

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“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. ”

- Walt Disney

Hi adventurers! I’m sorry that this blog is a day late. Sunday was quite a busy day for me and I was too tired to update it yesterday. But I wanted to make sure that this post would be ready right in the morning for all of you to read. With the exception of some frustrations, I have had a great week in China. I’m even more excited that I have officially completed my first month in China.

My first month in China has given me some perspective on what the rest of my year in China will be like. While there will be some exciting and fun moments ahead, there will also be struggles and challenges that will also be ahead unless I use a special tool to get through them. That tool is known as motivation. Honestly, my problem isn’t a lack of it, my problem is that I rarely use it to my advantage as a  way to solve my frustrations. Motivation is a tool that I have but I need to push myself to start using.

Teaching English

Reasons for lack of motivation:

1. It’s too early! For most of the days every week, my first classes begin at 8 am. Even though I have no problem waking up before 8, I never was a fan of spending my mornings going to meetings, classes or anything that requires my full attention. Quite frankly, if I had the choice, I would rather either take a morning walk or lay in bed than go to class and lecture to 30-60 students.

2. It’s very intimidating. With ten classes of so many students, I am still nervous about teaching them every day to the point when entering the classroom is frightening to me. While I make sure to come to class ten minutes early, my students come even earlier, about THIRTY minutes early before class starts. Upon entering the room, all of their heads turn and I am hit with a wave of silence. Once class begins, it’s even harder for me to balance between teaching and paying attention to the displayed actions of my students.

How my students see me

How my students see me

Imagine teaching to desks full of students

Classroom from my perspective.

3. Mixed motivation. While I do have students who are passionate about English, I also have students who could care less about it. Let me ask a question, if you were enrolled in an hour and a half class for a graduation requirement that you have little to no interest in and know that you have no final assessment upon completion, would YOU want to pay attention? You read correctly, not only am I not allowed to give homework but I don’t get to give them exams. In addition to that, every hour and a half class that I teach is only once a week. In each of my classes, I have a handful of students who either come to class late, text, do work for other classes, or talk while I’m lecturing. With the amount of students that I teach, It’s hard to assess whether they struggle with English or don’t care enough to try in my classes.

Reasons to motivate myself:

1. I like providing for myself. For my whole life, I’ve been very fortunate in terms of money. My parents not only paid for my college tuition but also paid for the travel-learning courses that were hosted by my university. They even paid for my flight to come to China. While I am thankful for their financial support, I’m happy to earn my own salary which I can control what I spend it on. Having this particular job teaching English abroad has made me feel much more independent and more confident about what I am capable of in the real world.

2. My students are compassionate. Despite all of the unmotivated students that I have, as people, they are extremely kind and friendly. In each of my classes, I have had students come up and ask for my QQ/WeChat number or to take pictures with me to send to their families. I’ve even had my Friday students (whom I met for the first time this week) come up and tell me that they thought my class was fun. Also three of my students gave me some of fruit that they bought simply because they liked me and my class. Five seconds later, Kang Kang gave me one of her moon cakes filled with red bean paste, my favorite!

Students gave me all of this fruit!

Students gave me all of this fruit!

3. I actually have fun teaching. Despite how early my classes are, despite how frustrated I can be with my students, I not only think teaching them English is fun but also very important. While some of my students might not do well in English, they are smart, I mean, they have to be if they are in a medical college. The school does have a reputation of producing many accomplished doctors and I always think to myself how great it would be if they could expand their job opportunities beyond just in China and maybe in some English speaking countries. Because knowledge of the English language can give my students an advantage in their medical careers, I want to offer as much education on the language as possible whether they like it or not.

How I motivate myself to enjoy teaching English:

Every morning before my class, I always dread getting dressed, walking ten minutes to the teaching building and nervous that my class won’t go as planned. However, I always remind myself how much fun I have had in my previous classes and that my students are not harsh critics. They never fail to show respect and kindness to me as a teacher and as a person.

Learning Chinese

Reasons for lack of motivation:

1. Fear of failure. While I have an extensive education on the language, there’s still much that I don’t know about natural Chinese conversations including appropriate vocabulary words, phrases and even native ways of pronouncing words. My average conversation starts with me saying/asking an appropriate sentence, receiving a response that I need lots of time to process, and after going back and forth, I either respond with a vague phrase like “” (good) or “” (right) or nod with a smile. The more I fail to understand something in Chinese, the more discouraged I am to learn it.

2. My comfort zone is my happy place. I am thankful to have a VPN in China so I’m able to access Facebook and Youtube. However, lately I find that it is a disadvantage of mine in studying Chinese. It’s so easy after a long morning of teaching to retreat online to read or watch movies or shows in my native tongue. It’s also a way for me to stay connected to my friends and my country’s culture. Many of you probably think I’m crazy but as much as I love China, I find myself longing to return to the US and to a language that comes naturally to me.

Reasons to motivate myself:

1. Friendships. As I mentioned before, I have made so many wonderful friends at the college, most with people who struggle with English as much as I do with Chinese. Every one of my Chinese friends has been so generous and welcoming to me as a guest in their country. They have not judged me for my struggle with listening and translating and even use English when they can. I’ve thought of many ways to repay them for their kindness when one day I realized something. They have been doing all of this for me to feel more comfortable and at home, which means the ultimate way for me to feel at home is to become fluent in their native tongue. My effort to improve my Chinese would be my way of thanking them for their generosity and friendship.

2. My future and myself. Like many people who study Chinese, I think it will benefit my future. If I am able to become fluent, it will create more job opportunities for me, especially in the environmental field. Also because China is a growing nation, I want to be a part of their growth and impact on the world. However, personally learning Chinese is about more than my future, it is also about my past. Being half Chinese, I want to be fluent in Chinese so I can feel even more connected to my roots.

How to motivate myself to study Chinese:

In my classes, I’ll speak in English but I also use as much Chinese as possible so I can practicing my communication. While I constantly go on youtube, I have found many videos in English with Chinese subtitles which I use to write down a few phrases Chinese that I use daily to expand my vocabulary and grammar structures. I also watch some movies in Chinese and use a program called Pimsleur (I highly recommend for language listening comprehension) every day for 30 minutes. Of course when I am with my Chinese-speaking friends, I always use Chinese, no matter how intimidated I feel. I’ve realized that if I’m not having enough Chinese conversations with a few mistakes, then I am not immersing myself as much as I should be.

In addition, I am actually looking to enroll in the IES Summer Internship Program for all of August. In that program, I will not only be taking Mandarin classes but I will also have an internship in my desired field, in this case, the environmental one. While a bit pricey, my parents agreed to help pay for it since I told them that I would be receiving valuable internship experience and Mandarin instruction.

I think that we all have motivation for different reasons. It’s not that we lack motivation, it’s that we don’t know how to use it properly. Lately, I have motivated myself by reminding myself of my latest accomplishments.

My accomplishments since arrival in China include…

- Losing around 15 pounds from eating healthy and simple exercise. I feel proud since last time I was in China, I gained 10 pounds. (I will write a separate post on my tips on health in China).

- Drawing at least three figure drawing pictures I’m proud of. I’ve been very lazy with drawing this year so it’s nice that I’m finally getting myself into the swing of art again.(Again, I will post them in a separate entry).

- Buying a bike with the help of Emily and Matt which makes me feel more at home.

My new bike, I called it 藍熊貓 "Blue Panda".

My new bike, I called it 藍熊貓 “Blue Panda”.

- Creating a personal list of words and phrases in Chinese that I use daily. This helps me feel more connected to the language and lets me express myself more when using it. These phrases include, “” (hao yang de) or “Good Job” and “可以”  (ni keyi zuo dao le) or “You can do it!”

- Explored more of downtown Bengbu. This is an accomplishment for me since I have been to afraid to go downtown. Thankfully Emily and Matt have been a fun travel buddies. Emily even wants to go to the Sichuan province as well!

Bridge in Zhu Yuan Garden

Bridge in Zhu Yuan Garden

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Emily

Emily

We set many goals for ourselves that we want to accomplish but often, never do. Sometimes we get so caught up in our failures that we are afraid to get what we want in life. While there are never short cuts to get what we want, the little accomplishments act as stepping stones to get where we want to be. In the end, that is the secret to activating our motivation.

Navigating Through a New Culture

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“We live now in a global village and we are in one single family. It’s our responsibility to bring friendship and love from all different places around the world and to live together in peace.”

- Jackie Chan, martial artist, actor, philanthropist

Ni Hao to my fellow adventurers. I hope you are excited to read this new post because I am extremely excited to share this week’s adventures with all of you.

I believe that most of you not only have heard of but also experienced something called “culture shock”. This experience occurs when an individual is exposed to a culture that is different from the culture that they were raised in. The differences an individual discovers can result into reactions of confusion, frustration and even longing to return back to your own culture since we are more familiar with it. Culture shock can happen anywhere you go, whether you travel within or out of your home country.

When I first came to China two years ago, my friends and I had our first exposure to the Chinese way of life and social norms through physical and linguistic communication. Until this past week, I thought I had seen every aspect of this culture. Boy was I wrong.

Embraced with Open Arms and Generosity:

I was doing my walking exercise around campus when a few girls came up to me and began talking to me in Chinese. Even though I clarified that my listening comprehension was poor, they spoke slowly and even used the English that they knew. They asked me about my teaching job and eventually we exchanged phone numbers. I’m barely able to hold a conversation with one person in Chinese so you can imagine that suddenly speaking with four people was overwhelming for me. Regardless, it was enjoyable talking with them.

After our conversation, they invited me back to their dorm room as it turned out that they live two buildings down from me in the International dorms. They immediately sat me down on their couch and rushed to bring me chestnuts, apples, milk, water, and their only fan to keep me cool. About an hour later after more conversation, all six of the girls invited me out to lunch a few minutes off of campus to eat Sichuan food since I told them about my love for spicy food. Having no money, they didn’t hesitate to tell me that they would treat me to lunch.

Later for dinner, my neighbors Emily and Matt invited me over for a Hot Pot meal. Emily had to show me how to cook the meat and veggies but I found it to be an enjoyable experience. We spent the evening watching the Futurama movie and playing Matt’s video games.

Emily's Hot Pot Dinner she made

Emily’s Hot Pot Dinner she made

Traditional Roles and Values:

For this week, I taught from Monday to Wednesday with three groups of freshmen who had just started their classes after their military training. They were nothing but respectful and enthusiastic in the classroom. For starters, they were in the classroom ten minutes early, much earlier than I’ve ever been to a class. One class gave me a round of applause as I entered the room and another class stood up at the beginning of class. In Wednesday’s class, Amy, one of the girls I hung out with on Sunday who turned out to be a student of mine, actually walked to the front to erase the board for me.

I told Matt about my new students and the amount of respect they demonstrated in the classroom. He mentioned that from Elementary to High School, the importance of education and respect to teachers is emphasized. Since the first year of school, they rise for their teachers as class starts, often sit and listen rather than participating in class discussions and even are assigned one at a time to erase the boards for their teachers. In addition, even if they believe a teacher is incorrect in the information they teach, students are taught to never correct a teacher’s mistakes. This is a bit of challenge for me as an English teacher since despite telling them to let me know if I speak too quickly, they refuse to as they feel it will hurt my feelings.

At some point during the week, I was in my not-yet-organized apartment hanging out when I received a visit from the same girls, Amy, Bamboo, and Kang Kang, who invited me out to lunch. While I was happy for their visit, I was a little embarrassed for the state of my apartment as I was not expecting unannounced visitors. As I told them I planned on tidying up, they decided to clean my whole apartment, from cleaning my floors, to putting away my unused kitchen ware and even sorting my school supplies.

About twice, I told them in Chinese and English that they really didn’t have to clean my apartment (by that, I really meant “please don’t touch my stuff, this is uncomfortable for me”). Amy responded by telling me that traditionally women do the household cleaning and that since I was their new friend and guest, it was a tradition to help with my new home. I admit, this was a bit out of my comfort zone but I was completely grateful for their help.

The day before the Moon Festival, the head of the school arrived to my apartment with special mooncakes as a gift for my work as a foreign English teacher. He thanked me for my work and let me know if I needed anything that he would be able to help me.

Holiday Festivities and Friendships:

I admit at first I was a bit reluctant to be friends with my students but not because of their behavior, no, far from it. It was because of my confidence in Chinese. A language is the number 1 way we communicate with everyone around us. The words we choose to use express our qualities and characteristics. When you are communicating in a language you are not entirely fluent in, your true personality is almost disabled. However, my mind was changed after the Moon Festival celebration.

On Monday, Amy, Bamboo and Kang Kang asked if I was interested in celebrating the Moon Festival with them since they live too far to return home for the holidays like the other students. They wanted to cook for me and since they do not have kitchens in their rooms, I volunteered mine for them to use.

The day of the Moon Festival, Kang Kang came to my room at 8 am (oh btw, people in China are real early birds) to take me to go shopping with Amy and Bamboo. We went to the super market near campus to buy food for lunch and dinner and kitchen supplies I did not have. We bought rice noodles, dumplings, edamame, fish cakes and more. Again, people in China love treating new friends to food since Bamboo repeatedly refused my money despite trying to give it to her three times.

 

This is Chun Mei or "Spring Plum"

This is Chun Mei or “Spring Plum”

 

Qian Qian or "Money" and Bamboo

Qian Qian or “Money” and Bamboo

 

Kang Kang, Bamboo and Qian Qian.

Kang Kang, Bamboo and Qian Qian.

Amy and Bamboo

Amy and Bamboo

After eating a delicious lunch, they returned later to make a hot pot dinner for me. Once the moon came out, we all walked outside with moon cakes and joined the other students on the field to admire the moon. Seeing everyone outside to look at the moon showed to me that people in China value their friends and love being surrounded by company. I think that is why the girls had visited my apartment unannounced, because they knew I was living alone and thought I wanted company. During the night, I started to feel very comfortable around these girls, as if we had been friends for longer than a few days. I have enjoyed the time spent with them not just for practicing my listening comprehension but because they are upbeat, funny and friendly people, the kind of people I missed seeing everyday in my hometown and college.

I still find myself navigating through this new culture and still getting lost. But thanks to my respectful students, my new friends and helpful people at the school, I think I’m closer to finding my place in this new world.

 

When Expectations meet Reality

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“A lot of times people look at the negative side of what they feel they can’t do. I always look on the positive side of what I can do.”

- Chuck Norris, martial artist and actor.

Hi adventurers! Sorry this post took longer to write. To make sure my blog is efficiently updated with full information, I am trying to wait until every Saturday or Sunday to write a new post. So anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that I am safe and sound in Bengbu, excited for my new life in China. However, I should let you know that it took me a few days to be truly happy to be here. This is due to my expectations of the city of Bengbu and my position at the school.

EXPECTATIONS OF BENGBU:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I chose to go to Bengbu for more than just the university position, though that was a big factor of my decision. I wanted to live in a city with decent air quality and beautiful nature and Bengbu has the Tu Mountain and the Dragon Lake. I expected to see more nature than urbanization and more clear skies than smog. Being located in the Anhui province, I knew that Bengbu would have it’s bad, polluted days. However, I knew it would be better than other cities in China.

REALITY OF BENGBU:

When I first arrived to Bengbu, I was very surprised in many ways. As a city, Bengbu has tall buildings and shopping areas. In the downtown across the lake, you can find Walmart, A-mart, Careforr, Pizza Hut, and more (I haven’t fully explored everything yet). In the small shopping area near the school, there are a few clothing stores and food stops with a Bank of China atm right outside. Since I arrived on Thursday the skies have had bad and good days, the bad days with enough smog to block a full view of the sun but the good days with mostly blue skies and bright sunshine. To avoid the polluted air, I remained mostly indoors with air conditioning and closed windows. However, on the good days, I have taken walks on the campus and even spent evenings downtown shopping.

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These red and blue posts represents the border of the North and South of China. The North is blue and the south is red. Basically, Bengbu is practically in the center of China!

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View of the Dragon Lake

EXPECTATIONS OF THE SCHOOL:

This school has a reputation as a prestigious school in both the Anhui Province and in China so I thought it would be a great experience to work for them, even if it’s just as an English teacher. From my research, I pictured modernized facilities and many Chinese students with a few other expats from Russia and the Middle East. Because Bengbu is divided into the downtown and the University area, I thought that I would need to take a taxi if I needed necessities or to take money out from an ATM. Also remembering that Bengbu is a city with poverty, I thought the campus would not be quite as safe to walk around.

REALITY OF THE SCHOOL:

My opinion, the school was better than I imagined and because there’s so much to see, I will write a separate post of a tour of the school. But in a nutshell, there are many buildings for classes, decent dorms, two man-made lakes, and about four gates with security at each of them. In addition, there is a Chinese Agricultural Bank ATM (the bank I will use for my teaching salary), student and teacher cafeteria and a convenience store all on campus. With the security at the gates, I feel much safer walking around on campus in the daytime. I believe that the appearance of the campus is fitting for such a prestigious school in China.

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Me in front of one of the lakes at the school.

EXPECTATIONS OF MY JOB:

To be honest, I did not know what to expect of the ESL teaching aspect of my job since I did not receive that much information before my arrival. From the information that I did receive though, I expected to be given books and pre-set lesson plans and to teach students who were at an intermediate level of English since they were in University. Because the people I spoke with at the school talked as if there were many English teachers, I assumed that they would all be foreigners just like me. As for the living arrangement, I set my expectations lower in case the apartment wasn’t as nice as I thought it would be.

REALITY OF MY JOB:

My apartment was nicer than I expected. It has air conditioning, a living room, bathroom, bedroom and a study room. I have a refrigerator, kitchen, dining table, washing machine, microwave and a kettle to boil water (boiling water is the safest way to drink tap water in China).

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After settling into my apartment, I met with the head of the English teachers who gave me the 3-4 (later gave me 1-2) levels of the series called New College English: Listening and Speaking Course. She then told me that I would be teaching students who were close to a beginner’s level of English who only had English class once a week for an hour and a half. Every class I was required to play English recordings of long stories but other than that, I could talk about anything so long as it was in English.

MY BEGINNING AS A TEACHER:

For two weeks, I was only scheduled to teach one class on Thursday from 8-9:30 which meant I would be teaching the morning after my arrival. I’ll cut to the chase, my first class was not great, in fact, it was a disaster. Due to a mix up of which classes had which books, I ended up preparing a lesson for the wrong book. Without a proper lesson plan, I had to improvise in front of all 52 of my new students and with my jet-lag and my homesickness for America, it did not go well.

There is only one other English teacher at the school besides me who has been teaching English in China for seven years. I sat in on his class in order to prepare for my next class. From what I observed, he spoke about everything, from his family to his home in Los Angeles, pausing to make grammatical points when necessary.

For my next, real class, I discussed topics including my name, hometown, family, education and more. I asked them where they were from, what their favorite animals, movies and everything was. If anything, class was more like hanging out than it was lecturing to students which, from observing the other class, is more efficient for teaching English.

THE STUDENTS:

The students on campus are very kind and also fascinated by foreigners, more than I expected. Some students have asked for my QQ and my email. Even with my first class being a huge disaster, they immediately began calling me Teacher Amanda. When I am walking on campus, I can sense some students talking about me, since I am a foreigner so I simply just wave and smile and they do the same back. The student body appears to be made of mostly, pretty much all Chinese students which is slightly out of my comfort zone but great for practicing my Mandarin listening comprehension. Actually starting Monday, I am teaching only morning classes every day of the week. The freshmen in college are required to participate in military training before beginning classes. Already the freshmen have said hello to me on campus. I can tell that they are going to be respectful and friendly.

BengbuFreshmen

The Bengbu freshmen “graduating” from their military training and ready to begin classes on Monday.

While not all of my expectations have been met, I have uncovered many more surprises about my new life, which creates more excitement for this year. Overall, I really like the student body, I am becoming good friends with Matt, the other foreign teacher, and his wife, Emily, and I’m nearly unpacked. Like I said, it took me a few days to feel happy here but now I finally realize that I am more than ready to be an English teacher in China and am ready for the challenges that await me.

Traveling to China

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“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”

- Christopher Columbus, explorer.

 

Apologize fellow adventurers, I have been without internet and free time for days so this entry is a bit delayed. Anyways, my arrival to both China and Bengbu is the beginning to my adventures for the year. For my plane and car rides, I followed Denis Waitley’s advice by expecting the best, planning for the worst and preparing to be surprised. 

FIRST FLIGHT: I first flew from Newark Airport in NJ to Washingtion Dulles in DC. My flight was at 10:15 and my connecting flight in Dulles was leaving at 12:20. While my flight was labelled as “On Time”, it did not take off until 20 minutes after the scheduled departure. Although the flight was only 48 minutes, I had to rush from Terminal A to C. I made my flight with time to spare and it turned out, there were others on connecting flights trying to make the same flight. 

Advice:

1. Always expect the flight to be delayed.

2.  When on a delayed flight connecting to another flight, tell the flight attendants immediately, even requesting that an airport car come take you to the next gate. Even try making them call to your connecting flight so they know you’re on the way. 

3.  Washington Dulles requires much walking. Even with the shuttle, you have to walk a bit to get there and even after you are taken to the right terminal. 

4. Always prepare to walk or run in airports. Wear sneakers so not only are you ready to race between gates but you remove extra weight from your suitcase(s). 

5. Usually airport staff for international travel know that people are late from previous flights so they won’t close the gate right away. However, I believe that since I, along with a significant amount of people were nearly late for the flight, it was enough of a reason to keep the gate open. While you might be okay, do your best to make sure your connecting flight waits for your arrival. 

SECOND FLIGHT: Washington Dulles to Beijing. I admit that this was the best part of my trip. Because my mother has mileage, she used it to upgrade me to Business class for this 15 hour flight. I spent this time watching movies, walking around and of course sleeping. 

Advice:

6. If you can get upgraded, do it. You get a nice seat, delicious food and you can have two suitcases that weigh up to 70 pounds. 

7. Bring stuff to do. It’s a long flight. Be ready to kill time. That can be through video games, drawing, and more. You can also watch movies, however, sometimes certain airlines don’t provide tv’s to the economy class or even headphones so prepare to bring your own stuff to watch movies.

8. Walk and stretch. Again, long flight, also you don’t want to have your feet clot with blood and swell up, walk around. Another good way to kill time.

9. Sleep as much as possible. Bring sleeping medicine if you have to. Sleeping on the long flight gives you the energy for what you have to do when you arrive in another country. Also helps you adjust to the time difference. 

10. Fill out the immigration form on the plane. It’s a pain to try filling it out when you arrive. It’s better to wait in line and prepare to give the form to the immigration checker people.

Arrival to China: I had a 5 hour and 50 minute layover here. In China, I had to go through immigration, get my suitcases, put them on my flight to Nanjing and go through Customs and airport security so this layover was not a bad one to have. The wait for immigration was about an hour and getting my bags was quick and easy. I only had to submit one bag through customs and it only took me a few minutes to put my bags onto the next flight. 

Advice:

11. The lines for immigration are long in China. Get into the foreigner line and stay in that line. Also, lines are not that strict in China. Be prepared for line jumpers and assert your spot in line.

12. Get your bags right away and go to the domestic departures. Once you get to domestic departures, that way you go through customs and afterwards, you can get your bags onto your next flight. BTW, customs is not so terrible (unless you have anything suspicious obviously). 

13. Find your gate early and sit and relax, you’ve had a long journey. 

THIRD FLIGHT: Beijing to Nanjing Airport. This flight was not entirely eventful but there is some interesting stuff to mention.

14. When boarding, get into your seat asap. Chinese flight attendants are very strict and orderly. When boarding, I saw them yell at many people who spent more than 20 seconds storing their carry-on’s in the cabinets. It’s nothing personal, people in this culture tend to be in a hurry.

15. Don’t expect to get out of your seat for the flight. My flight was 2 1/2 hours long and due to turbulence, they did not allow anyone to leave their seats. Even if there isn’t turbulence, just be prepared to sit until you reach your destination.

MEETING THE STAFF: The staff agreed to meet and pick me up at the airport. In Beijing, I dressed in a low-key but nice business outfit to impress the people I was meeting. I rushed to fetch my bags at baggage claim and met the staff members. I walked to the arrival gate to meet them with my head held high and a smile on my face.

16. When meeting members of your school, make a good impression through appearance. You may be tired but it only takes 5 seconds and it will be more than they expect.

Nanjing to Hefei: I rode in a car for 2 1/2 hours from Nanjing to Hefei. As a new teacher, the first thing I had to do upon arrival was to get my physical exam in China in order to obtain a residence permit. This physical exam consisted of an EKG, HIV/AIDS test, height measurement, ultrasound, blood pressure measurement and urine test. It all happened very quickly thanks to the Hefei Health Center. I had a female translator with me to help communicate. In order to have an accurate reading of my blood, I could not eat or drink until afterwards. However, because I could not eat or drink, I had no ability to give a sample for the urine test. That is why the hardest part of this for me was the urine test. 

ADVICE:

17. Be calm and speak up. The whole process of getting your residence permit was stressful for me just because I moved so quickly. Also ask for water so you can prepare a sample for the urine test. Drink lots of water.

ARRIVAL TO BENGBU: It took another 2 hours to arrive to Bengbu. I moved into the foreigner building on campus into a nice apartment. More on the arrival in my next entry.

I hope this advice is helpful to you. If you followers have any more questions on traveling, just post it in the comments. To be continued!

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