writing this email in response to Owen's request to describe
my situation here in Ping Guo Lu middle school to the
teacher who should come after me.
am living on the seventh floor of an apartment building.
When you first start walking up the stairs you won't
be so sure about the place, because the walkway up is
open air and non-secure, and it is filthy. However,
you will be pleasantly surprised by your living accomodations,
as they are probably amoung the best you will find here
in China. You will receive a one bedroom apartment with
a bathroom, kitchen and living room. The apartment is
very nice and really bright...not at all dingy like
the exterior of the building. Watch out when you open
the door, however, because cockroaches like to hide
in the hollow under the door and then run into your
apartment when you open it to leave or come in, especially
at night. There are sound sensors for lights in the
stairwells, but most of them are either broken or the
lights are burnt out, so leave a light on in
your apartment (I leave the kitchen one on) so that
you can see the lock on your door when you come home.
The door has no handle on the outside, just a lock (which
is kinda nice for security purposes). To open it, turn
the key till you hear 2 clicks and then push on the
door and turn the key quickly and it should open. Once
in the door it is a little hard to close so you have
to kinda pull it closed sharply so that it will latch.
bathroom has a western style toilet (which is absolutely
wonderful because even those with solid constitutions
will get sick here...it's just a part of the experience).
It also has a shelf to put your toiletries and a shower.
The shower is not in a stall, nor do you have a bath
tub. There is not enough room for that. Instead, the
shower head just sticks out of the wall next to the
toilet. There is a rack to hang your towel on well above
the spray of the shower and a great fan that sucks out
all of the moisture that you collect in the room from
your showers (which you will want to use because it
is really humid here and you want as little humidity
as possible in your apartment). You can do what I do
and just shut off the water while you are washing your
hair or body and just turn it on when you need to rinse
off. I've found this works the best...although you will
still only get about a 10 minute shower even shutting
off the water.
kitchen has a sink, counter, some shelf space (which
is basically all taken up with cups and bowls and stuff),
a propane stove (which is actually really awesome for
cooking on...it heats up really fast), an exhaust fan
over the stove, a microwave and a sterilizer. The water
in the kitchen is apparently drinkable. Don't drink
it, because even though they say it is drinkable they
still advise us to boil it first and you have a water
cooler in your apartment anyways. Make sure you sterilize
your dishes after washing them to make sure that they
are disinfected, for the same reason as you shouldn't
drink the water of course.
living room has a TV, dvd player, fridge with freezer,
desk, water cooler, washing machine, table, coffee table,
sofa and air conditioner. You will love that air conditioner.
It throws out great cold air which is a god send when
it is 50 million above outside (I come from canada and
am not used to such super hot temps). The washing machine
is simple. Just hit the push in button at the top right
corner of the machine and then hit the pink button in
the lower right. Add soap and let it go. The knob beside
the first button is load size. The air conditioner works
by remote. The phone is on the desk.
bedroom has a big bed, closet/dresser thingie for your
clothes, computer desk, computer and printer. The computer
has cable internet access, which you will have to pay
for when you pay your phone bill and the school will
pay you back.
balcony has wires to hang your clothes from.
school is a 4 story, open air setting. It's actually
pretty cool, but it gets very hot in the summer because
there are only fans and no air conditioners in the classrooms.
The class size ranges from 30 to almost 40 or so, although
mine were around 35. I taught 14, 45 minute classes
a week. 12 of them were split between 3 different classes,
and the other two were with a single class in the primary
school. I had two junior classes (ranging in age from
13-15) and an advanced class (ranging in age from 16-18).
The primary class ranged in age from 10-12, so you will
be teaching a huge range of ages and will have to adapt
all kinds of teaching methods.
The kids are like any other kids...loud and hard to
keep interested in lessons. I have found the best way
to get them to be quiet is be fairly strict with them.
Like any other kid, they try to sneak looks at comics
and try to discreetly put an earphone in an ear that
they think you can't hear...so you have to be on the
lookout for that. :)
don't give you a curriculum, just a text book. But they
do expect you to give a final exam at the end of the
term, so just make sure you keep that in mind. We're
giving the exam the way the last teachers did...orally.
3-5 minutes speaking to each student and then grading
them on listening, speaking and comprehension.
Yi is your coordinator and she is a god send. She is
an amazing woman, albeit she never stops moving for
a single second. If you need something done or there
is something wrong, she will do her best to get it fixed
for you as soon as possible. She speaks really good
english and works wonders as a translator when you need
one. If you have any problems with your classes or with
anyone in the school or anything, talk to
her and she will help you figure out some way to fix
the problem, or make good suggestions to help you out.
contract is really good. Depending on how much education/experience
you will have depict how much you make The only thing
I have had to pay for so far is my food, distilled water
and propane (all of which are cheap, cheap, cheap).
is taken care of. If you want to open up a bank account
to deposit your paycheck (and I figure it's a pretty
good idea), Song Yi will help you out. All you need
is your passport. The school will also do direct deposit
for you once you have an account, so ask them about
it and they will take care of that for you (instead
of having to carry the money around...cuz they pay
you in cash and not by check).
Usually they are pretty good with letting you know things,
but sometimes Song Yi isn't told about this stuff and
she's the one who tells us when something is going on.
scenery around here is absolutely amazing and the people
are really friendly. Because this is basically a factory
town and there are people from all over the country,
you can try a lot of different foods here...from the
more tame southern fare to the super spicy northern
are a lot of restaurants and they all serve absolutely
delicious food (I have not been dissapointed yet with
anything that I've eaten). Beware, though. The teachers
and your higher ups will get you tasting things you
never thought you'd eat, and drinking a lot of beer.
I hope you have an adventurous spirit cuz you'll need
it when it comes to some of the foods you will be asked
to taste. My guide book says it is very impolite to
refuse anything given to you, but I have learned that
they do understand if you simply do not want something
or do not like certain foods (it still amuses them that
I can't stand drinking beer...but they will order wine
juice for me instead).
teachers are all really friendly, and if you like playing
badminton you will get along with them fine. :) They're
a great bunch and because a few of them have been hanging
around us so much they have learned a heck of a lot
of english and some are now almost completely fluent
(which is really nice).
will yell hello to you and you will get a lot of stares,
which makes you know how a movie star feels (being on
show all the time). I try to smile to everyone and I
always say hello to the little kids, but there are some
rude men (especially if you are female) who will yell
hello to you
after you have walked by really loudly to get you to
come back to their table. Just ignore them...it's not
being impolite in any way.
will get tons of invites to people's houses for dinner
and stuff. Go to all of them. You will have a blast
and make a ton of new friends. Especially when the teachers
invite you out. Like I said before they are a great
group and have helped stave off the loneliness and homesickness
one feels when leaving everyone they know behind.
you brought some Imodium. You will probably need it.
I have finally just now gotten my stomach under control
again and used to the foods here and I've been here
for 4 months. I've never had a problem with food before
and getting sick from it...but the chances of that happening
here are pretty big. Drink tons of fluids. I have found
that chrysanthemum tea (which you can find at the supermarket)
helps my stomach calm down a heck of a lot.
school will probably take you on a few trips. We went
to Bei Hai for spring break, and monkey mountain and
a waterfall on the border of vietnam and china for a
day trip. It was a blast and because the school has
a car it's a nice alternative to taking the bus to see
places you wanna go.
is always a nice place to go for the weekend. It has
great shopping and a few western restaurants (albeit
a little expensive) if you are craving western food.
We found one french restaurant that serves french food
and western fare called Champs Elysees (like the famous
one) and it serves good food at a decent price and has
the western food in english. The waiters and
manager speak english so you get exactly what you want.
be travelling around China for august and part of september
and then heading home around the 17th, and I will probably
be back in Ping Guo Lu before I go in september (wanna
say bye to all the people I met here), so if there's
anything I can help with just email me and I'll do what