No, really count your many blessings, right now. So many things that we take for granted and I’m already missing on day 21 of my China Teacher experience. Quick list of what I’m missing: a house with no stairs, as I live on 5th floor- heaven forbid I forget to pack something and have to run up the stairs, running water to drink or brush teeth and water pressure that feels refreshing each day, not commuting to a job (35 minutes to 3 hours each way for 15 mile trip), fresh air, blue skies, not having bug bites all the time, a TV that works ( got it working again…), a clothes dryer to make my towels feel fluffy instead of stiff, my bed, hearing English, my kids.
Mostly to try and look on the bright side, I’ll list what I’m enjoying here in China.
1- My new to me bike with tall seat stem, new bell, fancy ultra padded seat and new basket gets me around and making being a tourist fun. Traffic is crazy, but being on a bike beats it and I’d rather be the captain of my ship, rather than having to look away from the road while taxi and bus drivers do scary things.
2- Our apartment is nice enough. After getting a new memory foam topper at Ikea, I started sleeping better and sitting on a huge pillow from the bed on the couch is feeling better. Although I miss my Chiropractor terribly.
3- Meeting the students has been great. I’ve met 5 of 16 classes so far. I got applause after 4 of the classes, yet am stressed about the 1 class that didn’t applause. WHY don’t you like me???? Ha -this place is such a trip on your EGO.
4- Enjoy people saying “Hello!” in English or in Mandarin Chinese. So many are sincerely interested in the giant white people roaming the campus. Had people want to take pictures with us in Beijing. Haven’t had that happen here in Tianjin, but plenty of friendly smiles and greetings.
5- Thinking up my lesson plan and tweaking it and liking how it came together has been fun. I thought I would just use what former teachers did, but found that it didn’t fit my style and have made it my own.
6- Having instant friends with the BYU teachers has been fun. We try to keep a balance of doing things on our own and together, but now with my commute started, that is not a concern. Realistically, I can only get together on the weekend..
How my day looks during the week, so far. I could sleep in, but I wake at daybreak (maybe I should wear eye mask). I can get ready very slowly and not leave until 11:10 to make the bus, which is about three blocks walk. There are two bus options, fast bus for 5 RMB, slow for 2-3 RMB. We made the mistake of taking slow bus and it added 25 minutes to the commute. 5 RMB is under a dollar US. Fast bus takes 35 – 40 minutes at this time of day. If lucky, it’s a touring style bus, if unlucky it’s a regular bus. The comfort level is noticeable!!!!
Getting to school we walk about a block and get on rental bikes. The new campus is huge and has long walks between things. It’s like Disney World, and old campus is more of DisneyLand. Why we need giant spaces between things, I’m not sure!!
Going home… this is the sad part. I get done at 5PM. That’s when the food comes out warm at the canteens, so have decided to eat at the New Campus for dinner. Then head to bus. Missing the worst of the commute traffic. One day it took 1.5 hours, another almost 2 hours and the night before national holiday it took 3 hours to get home. Much of this was sitting without moving in gridlock. Lucky to not have to use the rest room, as there is not one on the bus. And happened to be a nicer bus with good air conditioning, or I may have died that day!
My building has one entrance, as well as all the classroom buildings. No walking through to stay in air-conditioning, Not only can you not get in, you can’t get out. It appears to be a terrible fire hazard… whether they automatically open in case of a fire is a question I’m afraid to get the answer.
I get a key to my room from a security guard at the entrance. I have a bathroom all to myself, it’s called the handicapped room. I share it with the cleaning staff that store all their stuff in there. I’ve managed to not use a squat toilet in the 20 days I’ve been here. Part of that is the western toilets they put in handicapped rooms. Life saver!!
My room is air-conditioned, but I turn it on when I get there and it’s not that great. The hall is cooler. The room is equipped with computer for each person, but they are dumb monitors with a headset and microphone. From my desk I can hear individual things in just their headset and I can hear them. I haven’t actually used this particular feature, but I want to.
One of the biggest frustrations of the classes is that the level of English is so varied. Instead of putting them in different levels, they are mostly grouped in classes by major, so I can have one person who speaks to me in full sentences about the need for space exploration, and someone who stares blankly at me and then works a bit in their textbook while we are doing something else.
I had one student that sent me a wechat and asked me if he could use the teacher’s manual to put the answers in his textbook as he said he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own. I said no, I’m not here to make your life easy, I’m here to teach you. We had a good chat and he is going to try and I said I will talk slower.
We eat at the schools canteens. We’ve only tried 4 of them so far. On average we spend about $1.50 per meal. Sometimes we have absolutely no idea what we are eating. Mostly we like what we order, but I have tossed out a whole meal and tried again. The miracle is that I have only gotten sort of ill once and it wasn’t bad. I’m being careful and only drinking the water I carry around, but I have had an ice drink, like a smoothie. I try to not eat things that aren’t cooked and for the most part have not had a hard time with this.
We have done mostly shopping, eating out and working on our classes. Today we finally did a total tourist thing and went to an area called Five Great Avenues. It’s an area full of historic homes of many different European designs. It’s very pretty, some are better taken care of than others.
Next day: Today I took two ladies with me and we did the Five Great Avenues again and being with girls instead of guys we stopped and lingered and talked more. It was very nice. Also checked out another grocery store that seems nicer than some of the others, but didn’t have much in the way of breakfast cereal, I found two boxes of cereal, super small, on the top shelf and bought both of them. Price in US dollar – 4.25$ so not super bad, but they are little boxes. A lady stopped me and asked where I got them, and I had to tell her that there were no more… sorry. If these are the last two boxes of Cheerios… I’m not sharing. I have a three hour commute on a bus everyday – I deserve cold cereal!!
Today I found a super cute restaurant that serves waffles and french toast etc. in a super cute setting with chandeliers and tree stems and cute puffy furniture. I want to go back there with the ladies sometime soon.
Things I’ve learned:
1-you can only add money to your subway/bus card at certain locations, and our nearest subway is NOT near, so we haven’t even tried that in our town yet.
2- data is not really expensive here, but you buy it in small amounts, and it’s a long wait and line to do so and again… they won’t help you unless you have your passport on you.
3- Water is delivered to your apartment. One company doesn’t come when you think he will and it can be days, another comes right away. But we are using both, cause you have to pay a deposit on the bottles and we already had the slow guys bottles.
4- Electricity is prepaid, and you pay for it at the post office. The wifi is also prepaid, package is for a year, so we had left over from fromer teacher and we will leave a couple months for next teacher.
5- Don’t try to go to a Chinese restaurant on a Chinese holiday without reservations or??? As you can’t get in.
6- Illegal to sell your used bike, so everywhere there are dusty old locked up bikes taking up space, as the students buy them and just leave them when they graduate. It’s crazy!
7- I overuse the phrase…”that’s crazy”, and “but that doesn’t make any sense.” a lot here.