We’re back from a wonderful weekend in Beijing and another day of teaching has already passed. Friday afternoon after Duncan’s classes ended, we set out on a bullet train and were in Beijing by 2 pm. We decided to stay in a different hostel this weekend (partly for adventure and partly out of booking necessity) and so we wandered our way through the chaos of the Beijing subway system and found ourselves amidst the mazing hutong alleyways of Ancient China. It turns out our hostel (Kelly’s Courtyard) is hidden away down own of these narrow streets and (without even a sign to let you know you’re ringing the correct doorbell to the door you’re warily standing in front of) is a traditional Chinese house converted into a small but comfortable hostel. The hostel advertises itself as a “family” but how it should be advertising is as a home away from home. They let you take what you want from a snacks counter and a refrigerator stocked with drinks of all sorts (so long as you go by the honor system and write it down); the internet is fast and consistent; the rooms and the accompanying private bathrooms are the cleanest places we’ve seen in China (we truly felt clean for the first time in months); and the rooftop terrace is an excellent place for reading (Game of Thrones, at the moment) while sun bathing (though I’m sure my paleness did more reflecting than absorbing).
My favorite thing about the hostel though was the silence. As soon as you enter the hutongs the sounds of various motors and their horns quickly dies away and as you delve deeper and deeper into the alleyways, you begin to be able to hear your own thoughts again along with each step taking you deeper into the maze. Once we were in the hostel, however, we actually felt compelled to whisper so as not to disturb other people or, more likely, be overheard (such a conundrum is a rare find, indeed, in a country exploding with people and lacking in privacy). But the quiet was magnificent and desperately needed.
We spent the majority of our weekend either basking in the sun on the hostel’s roof terrace or traversing the city either on the subway or through our wanderings. We also sated our appetite for Western food by enjoying burgers, Papa John’s Pizza, and even some German food in the embassy district (a truly amazing part of the city and one that I would gladly revisit). We even hate some nicer Chinese cuisine than we usually do on the roof of a restaurant near Nanluoguxiang. All in all, the weekend was exceptionally relaxing and just what we needed for a weekend away.
Today, I taught seventh grade and began my classes by letting them know about the schedule change their about to “endure”. Two seniors from Western Kentucky University are coming to the Baoding Bilingual school next week to spend a month getting teaching hours before they graduate while experiencing life abroad. From what we understand (because we’ve been told very little), these new teachers will be in our classes with us and will be our assistants/co-teachers for the next month. In almost every class I said, “next week there will be a new teacher from America”, the kids responded with “where are you going?!” After I explained to them that I will still be here and I don’t go home until June (their confessions that they’ll miss me warmed my heart for sure), it went about like this:
Student: Boy or girl?
Student: Is she beautiful?
Me: I don’t know.
Student: Is she your friend?
Student: Where is she from again?
Student: Where are you from?
Me: Meiguo (America in Chinese)
Student: What’s her name?
Me: I don’t know.
[Here they scoffed a bit at how little information I have and they seemed perplexed that we don’t know each other since we’re both from the US. Some students wanted me to go into detail about where we’re both from within the US but in general the conversation continued like this…]
Student: TEACHER! I want a boy teacher!
Student: We like boy teachers.
Me: You don’t like me?
Students: No!! We like you very much. You’re very beautiful. Boy teachers are fun!
Me: Am I not fun?
Students: NO! You are fun. We want boy teacher. Why does the other boy teacher here not teach us?
Me: He teaches the little children.
Students: Who is the other boy teacher here?
Me: That’s my boyfriend.
Students: GOOD JOB, TEACHER! GOOD JOB! (with winks and thumbs up)
Me: Why do you want a boy teacher?
Students: Boy teachers are handsome and good looking.
So there you have it. Male foreign teachers are handsome no matter what they look like and girl teachers are good if they are beautiful. Welcome to teaching in China.
Other than my lesson in students’ teacher preference based on physical appearances, I had a proud moment regarding my Chinese. I was helping one of my (historically rowdiest) classes with their English homework when one boy didn’t understand what “without” meant and why that was the answer to the question instead of “with”. I was able to explain in Chinese that “with” is “有／you” in Chinese and “without” is “没有／meiyou”. He understood immediately and I was able to demonstrate some useful Chinese under my belt. Happy day!
As for the rest of April, I’m calling it no work April. We didn’t work yesterday and Duncan doesn’t work next Tuesday. Next week the two foreign teachers come in and they’ll be in/half-teaching our classes so they can get their degree-required teaching hours and they’ll be here until mid-May. The week after the teachers get here I work one day out of the entire week and the last few days of April and the first few days of May might also be exams for the students/holidays for us. Combine all of this and it looks like I won’t be teaching full weeks of classes by myself again until the last two weeks of our contract in which we’ll have to administer tests and then we plan on spending the last class partying and hanging out with the students to wrap up the year. It’s a silly schedule but as I’m enjoying my students more and more with every class I’m beginning to be sad I’ll have to leave them. It’s hard to believe this year of adventure is quickly drawing to a close.
But it’s not over yet so thank you for reading and until next time,