is Rob and Eileen in Yudu. After one week staying in
Yangshuo with the other teachers and 13 hours trip by
train, we were collected from the Ganzhou airport by
the Head English teacher and one of the many vice principals.
They had been waiting for us for several hours, they
were rather excited, so they were very hungry and took
us to lunch. On the way to the school they spend a lot
of time on their mobiles, probably organizing the reception
for us. When we arrived there was a crowd of about 100
students and teachers for an official welcome. The principal
gave a speech, which was then translated for us, then
each of us had to reply (untranslated). Two children
presented us each with a big bouquet of flowers, and
our photographs and videos were taken. We were standing
under a banner welcoming the foreign experts to the
After this we were taken to the Building for Foreign
Experts (big gold letters) which is our apartment. We
have a strange assortment of rooms: kitchen; laundry;
large living room (with two desks, ornate wooden sofas,
coffee table, several fans, a glassware cabinet and
a water machine); two bedrooms (each equipped with double
beds, TV, aircon, another desk, and a bookcase as a
wardrobe); a room with just a fridge and a crockery
sterilizing cabinet; another odd shaped room (with broken
windows now repaired) in which we put our washing; and
an entry room with a dining table and chairs in it.
We had a short rest before being taken out to dinner,
which was attended by the Principal, the party representative,
and about ten of the 40 English teachers. There were
ten different dishes plus two different soups including
turtle and rice and steamed buns - I wonder who got
all the leftovers!!!
We were told to rest on Monday, and several of the items
required were repaired (things were installed but had
never been tested, , so some power points didn't work,
the cooker didn't have its battery, the hot water cylinder
had never been filled, and all instruction booklets
had been taken away, but have now been returned - in
Chinese, of course!). We are the first western teachers
teaching in this school.
We were shown around the school on Tuesday, so we knew
where our classes would be, and attended some classes
conducted by local English teachers. Rob is teaching
19 identical periods of Senior 1, while Eileen is teaching
Rob's four left-overs, plus Junior 1, 2 and Senior 1
at the Experimental school (18 classes in all). The
experimental school is a companion private school, with
only 500 students: the two campuses are adjacent. School
runs from 7.30 to 9.30 on Sunday night, 8 am - 9.30
pm Monday to Friday, and 8-12 noon on Saturday. Admittedly
there is a 2.5 hour lunch break. We teach Monday to
We were disturbed to find that we are expected to teach
from a new American series of textbooks, designed for
Puerto Rican and Mexican immigrants to the US - it contains
material far beyond the knowledge and experience of
the Chinese students - and us as well as we don't watch
a lot of American TV!!
Our first classes seemed to go well. We got through
half of our initial lesson plan for the seniors as the
textbook needs so much explanation of words and concepts.
We would much rather do our own thing, but the students
have been given their books... The junior lesson 1 in
the book consisted in part of an introduction to the
alphabet. The local teachers assured me that the students
had already been taught that, and therefore knew it,
so there was no need for me to touch on it at all. But
I did an alphabet activity anyway. The kids really loved
it, and were straining to be asked to be next to have
a turn. However, it showed they didn't know the alphabet,
so I (Eileen) then taught them the ABC song.
Now we are quite settled in our teaching we know our
students love us very much. The little ones' eyes light
up with delight when Eileen enters the room, and Rob's
students are very happy to see him. Many of the older
ones are showing more interest in English than when
we first arrived.
It was very hot and sticky here in summer. We are from
Tasmania and we are much more comfortable here now it
Our apartment is fairly noisy - no roosters, but the
school bell goes off loudly from 6 am until 10 pm. The
nearby school kitchen starts work at 5 am. Eileen often
manages to sleep through the lot! There was a very noisy
water pump outside our kitchen window, but it has now
been fixed. We sleep further away from the noise but
have got used to it.
Food is very good quality and very cheap. I have found
cooking to be fairly easy as I have cooked Asian-style
for many years, once I got used to the gas cooker. However
there are not the usual western ingredients, such as
ham, cheese, tomato paste, vanilla essence, unsweetened
milk, basil, oregano, curry powder, and most other spices.
It took a long time to discover where to buy beef, so
we lived on rice, vegetables, chicken, duck, pork and
fish for some time - certainly no hardship. We often
have 5-10 shop assistants helping us in the supermarket,
and people stare at us, call out Hello, and sometimes
run away giggling, etc. Very few foreigners have ever
visited Yudu, and probably none have ever stayed here.
One of the big hassles early in our stay here was the
lack of access to any foreign exchange. The local banks
all told us to go to Ganzhou, an hour away by bus. They
wouldn't accept any foreign currency or travellers cheques
(we had quite a variety of both) and the ATMs do not
support Cirrus/Maestro/VISA here. We now have a local
bank account for our pay and our cashcard works well
everywhere around China.
There are over 5000 students here and most of them board.
We decided to relieve some of their weekend boredom
(Saturday night is their only night off) by showing
some English DVD's (with Chinese subtitles). This has
been very popular with the 200 or so that manage to
squeeze into the multi-media room (and the few who watch
from outside the windows!)
Except for coffee and electronics, things are cheap
here. Women's hair cuts are about 3 Yuan, and hair colour
40 Yuan (less than one twentieth of the Australian price).
I have had shoes made very cheaply (my feet are too
wide for standard fittings), and have had clothes either
made or repaired very cheaply too.
We have had long weekends occasionally, and have been
able to travel to other cities then. There are a lot
of trains going through Ganzhou, but only one plane
a day at the airport.
The staff here have been wonderful, extremely helpful
and friendly. They appreciate our teaching, so that
we feel that what we are doing is worthwhile and valuable.