We’ve been in Baoding for one week and we’ve been on our Chinese journey for two weeks already!
And we both had very happy days today!
Clearly, from my post yesterday, I was beaten down by the day’s frustrations but today was a good day.
I taught four eighth grade classes today and all of them went really well. I learned from the chaos of yesterday’s classes and revised my plan and, as a result, all of the classes today seemed to have a good time. Other than the noise level in the classroom getting a little out of hand at times, the kids were enthusiastic and excited to meet me, talk to me, and play the games I’d created for them. And even though the students range in ages from 13-15, all but one student enjoyed getting a stamp as a prize for a correct answer. I didn’t even mind the noise and rowdiness of some students because it was clear to me that their behavior resulted from excited involvement in the class game rather than from a desire to best the teacher. This is not to say I didn’t have to discipline any one today. One student threw trash at me and another girl threw a pen at another student. Both times, the culprits pretended to be oblivious but I made them get up in front of the class and pick up what they threw and deal with it appropriately. I ended up getting both students to participate in the class activities though and I hope they realize I do not hate them; they just can’t throw things at people.
After two classes in the morning, Duncan and I took a lovely walk down into town and found another baozi stand that ended up being the most satisfying meal I’ve had since arriving in China. Though not as friendly as the happy baozi man from a few days ago, the food was more delicious and the atmosphere was still great (in that dirty, street food stand kind of way).
After teaching two more classes after lunch, Duncan and I joined up with another foreign teacher and his brother for coffee and dinner. It seems that I’m quickly becoming a frequent buyer member at coffee shops all over the world! We took a bus into a part of town Duncan and I had never seen before (but where we definitely want to explore again because it felt more urban than where we normally are) and we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant that serves pizza. Though they had a full menu and a full alcohol menu, everything was in characters so I just had to assume the other foreign teacher knew what he was talking about when he ordered the pizzas. Between the four of us we split a chicken sausage pizza that came with corn and pineapples, a Margherita pizza, and a mushroom pizza. They were all very delicious and not outrageously priced when you do the currency conversions and compare it to American prices, but it was still probably the most expensive meal we’ve paid for ourselves.
We took a cab ride home (this one had seat-belts but no locks for the seat-belts) and now we are safe (and clean) back in our new home. One of our goals this weekend is to finish setting up the house so I can post pictures to share with all of you.
Finally, I want to share some more thoughts and observations about China with you:
– The entire country is in need of WD-40. I do not understand how it is possible or tolerated, but it seems that every wheel in China (whether it be on a bike, a car, a rickshaw, or a bus, it does not matter) has the most awfully screeching breaks. And everyone but the weiguoren seem to be oblivious to it! But this might be related to their tolerance for honking which brings me to my next point…
– The honking here is insane! It is actually so constant that I notice when more than five seconds goes by when I am walking down the street and there is no honking. Silence seems to be even more precious here than in the US. (Of course with all of these observations I’m making grossly generalized statements.) An important note though to my honking observation, is that honking is not always seen as an insult or a nudge to pay attention like it is in the States. Here, honking is used more as a warning to let other drivers know of their presence and driving plans. Drivers will honk before and after they get over, they will honk to let bikers and cyclists know they are behind them, and they will use honking to say “I am here and I will only slow down so much so you best move out of my way!” It seems to be just another unique characteristic to Chinese driving.
– I experienced my first really smoggy day today. Smog is not the noxious cloud of fumes that burns your eyes and nose that I thought it would be. It turns out that smog looks a lot like fog only when light tries to pass through it you realize it’s tinted brownish-yellow and it just hangs in the air and doesn’t move, unlike fog (especially mountain fog like in Asheville). The smogginess did not affect my day at all, but it did make me stop and think, “I’m breathing this right now” which is a pretty disgusting thought.
– Duncan and I have been very pleasantly surprised that our relationship has not once been an issue since we’ve been here. We were worried that our unmarried status would raise eyebrows, but the school and the other people we have met and talked to have only been curious and then very accepting. To some degree, it seems like the Chinese have been more accepting and understanding of our non-married but living together relationship than would happen in the US. Imagine if we were both teachers at the same private boarding school in America and then imagine their response to our request to live together. It’s actually laughably absurd. In light of this, I am very grateful for the acceptance and absence of problems regarding our relationship.
– Since I’ve arrived in Baoding, I have had more experience using taxis, buses, and bikes as reliable modes of transportation than all previous experiences combined. I’m actually becoming quite fond of these methods and have wondered if I will try to continue these habits once back in the States. Unfortunately, public transit isn’t as reliable in America and taxis are prohibitively expensive (and rare in some places outside of big cities) so really the only question is whether or not I’ll use a bicycle as transportation. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
-And finally, the mail system here in China is not nearly as reliable as the US mail system so if you want to send us mail, be aware that it may not ever find us. After talking to some other teachers, it sounds like there’s about a 50/50 chance that mail sent from the US will actually reach us here in China. I have not looked into the reliability of sending mail from China to the US, though I would like to once I find a post office.
Have a good day everyone and thank you for reading and subscribing. Your support means a lot and we appreciate all the great advice we’ve already received on how to make our classes great!