Published: July 22nd 2012July 22nd 2012
After about 36 hours we are finally in the town we will be working, Qinhuangdao.
The journey was long, boring and very tiring. The first plane was fun, the aeroplane was quite new and the "ICE" entertainment system kept us amused! Even the plane food was ok! Then we arrived in Dubai and had to wait 4 hours which was very boring, but we both fell asleep for about half an hour in the waiting room. The second flight left Dubai at 11AM Dubai time, and took 7 and a half hours. We both slept most of the way and I didn't eat anything as the food was horrible. We stayed for one night in a hotel in Beijing. I've included a picture of the toilet we were greeted with, but thankfully they had normal toilets too! Speaking of toilets, the toilets in Dubai airport had hot water in them filled right up to the top and there was a strange shower thing next to the toilet. Weird.
We got a train this morning after about 3 hours sleep to Qinhuangdao which took 2 and a half hours. The guy who picked us up from the airport
came with us and sorted out all the tickets and bought us water. Then he told us we could put the blind down on the train window, but we didn't want to as we were looking at the scenery. He obviously thought we didn't understand because he asked the train guard to do it for us, leaving us hysterical and staring at a green blind for about half an hour. When we arrived in the city we quickly realised that Chinese roads don't have rules. Well, I'm sure they do, but clearly nobody knows them. The method to switch lane is to beep and then just drive anyway, regardless of any pedestrians, bikes, cars etc that may be in the way. Will definitely be sticking to one side of the road!
We're at another hotel now, not really sure why, but it's nice! I just washed my hair with, well, something. Did the job, kind of. Apparently we're moving to our apartment on thursday after they have cleaned it. We went to a welcome meal tonight and met all of the EF staff. We ate at a Chinese restaurant right on the beach. We tried some strange potato strips
which basically tasted like raw shredded potato. We had fruit (safe option!) and tried tofu strips which the others called "rubber bands". The staff were all really nice. One guy got too drunk and threw up on the beach.
Apparently tomorrow we don't have to do anything and then on Wednesday we're going to the School to watch some lessons and then start teaching at the weekend. The plan for tomorrow is to venture out of the hotel and find some proper food in Tesco! Oh by the way, at the Chinese restaurant the toilets were Chinese style. That was a... strange... experience!
Today we left the hotel and ventured into China alone for the first time, in search of Tesco! We were sure it was across the road, so we safely crossed via a bridge. Unfortunately, we were wrong, and qucikly realised we needed to cross back. Rather than walk all the way back to the bridge in 31 degrees, we stood extremely close to a Chinese guy (one without glasses to be safe) and followed him across the road. After walking for about 15 minutes we found a sign for Tesco! After
another 5 minutes we found a door. We followed the good old "TESCO" symbols through the shopping centre and up the travelator. Since we walked in near the cosmetics section we thought we would buy some toothpaste. As we were browsing, ie. looking for an English brand, a Chinese woman came up to us and pointed at two toothpastes one with a sun and one with a moon, which was on offer. She smiled and did a thumbs up, I did a "toothbrushing" gesture to confirm it was toothpaste and she nodded, so to avoid being rude, we put them both in the basket. It doesn't smell like toothpaste but I'm sure it's fine..
We were walking away and the woman ran after us and asked for a picture with us! So we stood there, sweaty and looking hideous, and posed for a picture. Half the shop was staring at us and smiling. Surreal. We went upstairs to the grocery section and looked for things that were vegetarian. We found plain crisps, vitamin water, normal water, bananas, peaches, grapes, corn noodles and a few other things. I'm getting used to being stared at now, I did the same to
a group of other foreigners we saw. There seems to be some sort of unspoken rule that you have to smile at anyone who isn't Chinese because we're part of a team. We made our way back to the hotel by looking for landmarks we passed on the way. I'm sure there was a quicker way but we didn't want to get lost.
Scott took us to the phone shop this evening to buy a phone. We both have really groovy Samsung phones from the 1980's. They only cost £20 though, so not too bad! Tonight the electricity broke in our hotel room, so we moved into the room next door. It's identical but the aircon works better so the room is now a comfortable 24 degrees. We have set it to go down to 16 degrees which may be a little chilly, but after spending the day in 30 degrees, I don't care.
Unfortunately there are a LOT of mosquitos in this room so I have confined Annica to stay under the bed net whilst I attack them all with a magazine. Luckily they don't seem to like biting me, but I don't want to jinx anything.
Annica seems quite happy under her net though, especially since I keep passing her food! We had a little picnic under the net too as I was getting bored of flapping everytime a mosquito came near me.
Tomorrow we're going to the school and observing some lessons and starting training which should be fun. I think Annica is observing Chris, a guy we met last night, and I am observing Scott. Not sure what age groups yet, but I'm sure they will be cute!
Today I went to the school for the first time! We didn't know how to ask the taxi driver for the school so we rang Scott and he spoke to the driver on the phone!
It was ridiculously hot outside but inside the school is lovely and air conditioned. we had a tour of the school, it's bigger than I had imagined. All the classrooms have city names, my classroom is "London" and Annica's is "Boston". The school has 2 staff rooms which were quite messy with all the teacher's lesson plans and toys everywhere! There is also a kitchen where you can do lessons with kitchen or cooking
vocabulary and bake something at the same time! There is also a demo room which has an interactive white board and a stage: this is used when the class has an "open doors" lesson, which means the parents are allowed to come into the lesson and watch! We mainly just went through how the computer system works and how to find things for lessons and lesson planning!
The last two days have been more training. How to problem solve, how to manage classes and observing other teacher's classes. It is interesting to watch different teachers because everyone has a different method!
The one thing everyone has in common though, is being loud! You have to really shout and act enthusiastic and excited otherwise the kids just fall asleep.
On thursday we moved into our new apartment. It is really dirty, like the rest of China, but we have started cleaning it and it is beginning to look a little more habitable.
It has 2 large bedrooms with double beds, a big living area with a sofa and a TV, a small bathroom and a small kitchen. Thankfully we have a normal "western" toilet but the exposed
plugs in the bathroom about 50cm away from the showerhead is quite scary. In China they don't have a shower cubicle but an entire "wet room", so the whole bathroom gets wet when you shower. Must remember to remove the toilet roll next time..
So today I taught 2 lessons. A Trailblaizer level 5 (one from the highest level) to a group of teenagers around 13, for 2 hours. They were well behaved for most of the lesson although a little unenthusiastic at times, being teenagers and all. Despite their reluctance to participate they really enjoyed the game we played. I split them into two teams and I shouted out a word from the vocabulary that we were learning, the first person to write down the correct spelling on the board got a point for their team. The competition element got them motivated and it highlighted the weak students and the strong students. I swear one kid had ADHD: she couldn't sit on a chair for more than 3 seconds! My second lesson was a High Flier level 2A, for one hour and 20 minutes. It was their first lesson in this level as they
had just moved up from High Flier 1B. They were about 7 years old and very hyperactive! We played football, where they had to kick the ball at the stool the other end of the classroom if they answered a question right. If they hit the stool they got 10 points for their team. I demonstrated this in one kick and managed to kick the stool, woop! However, they only scored about 20 points (2 hits) during the whole game and there was about 15 students. Clearly they all have two left feet. I was quite nervous before the lessons but it went away after about 10 minutes when I realised that they were just kids and they weren't going to ask anything I couldn't answer. It's a challenge getting them to use English in the classroom as a lot of them, especially lower levels, need the instructions in Chinese or they just sit there looking confused. I had an assistant called Nico in my first lesson although the lesson was high level so we didn't really need her. In the second lesson my assistant was Doris and she came in very handy for explaining the rules of the games
and the homework!
I finished teaching at around 6pm and then stuck around till 7pm planning tomorrows lesson. After that we got a taxi and went out for food with two of the guys, Chris and Iahan. The taxi drivers can't speak any English so it's up to us to give directions in Chinese.
Despite them knowing we don't speak Chinese, they still insist on talking to you in Chinese. Iahan joked around, replying in English and pretending he understood the Chinese. He told the taxi driver he "had a sexy face too" which made the rest of us start giggling in the back of the taxi. It's awesome how you can say ANYTHING you want about the taxi driver and they don't have a clue what you're talking about, haha!
Between an ipad, an iphone and a little bit of chinese knowledge, we managed to order some food without meat. It was a spaghetti/noodle thing with slices potato and vegetables. The noodles were particularly hard to eat with chopsticks so Iahan tried to ask for a fork in Chinese. Unfortunately the waitress brought out a plate of green vegetables in a brown liquid thing.. The Chinese needs some work! It was funny but nobody wanted to be rude so we took the vegetables and hid them in our leftover food so it looked like that's what we meant!
Tomorrow I am teaching 2 more lessons and then I have 2 days off, YEY!