Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Expect the unexpected when teaching in China...

The university that my English-teaching team worked with is about an hour drive outside of the city of Chongqing, China. I think this map is right - Chongqing is a city but also a province of sorts, sorta like Washington DC?

chongqing administrative map

In any case, we arrived at a hotel a few blocks from the university, had dinner, and then loaded up onto a bus to be taken to an opening meeting for the program. We thought this was a meeting in which the schedule for the program would be announced, we'd be introduced to the students, someone would give a brief opening speech, and then we'd all head back to the hotel.

Never underestimate the Asian love for ceremonies. Our bus stopped here:

From china

On the other side of the bus there were masses of cheering and clapping students and ushered our bus to the auditorium. We entered and were greeted by a standing ovation of students. Talk about feeling unprepared and under dressed! We were being filmed and put on TV, and it turns out the whole thing felt like a TV program. These were the hosts for the evening:

From china

We were entertained by an hour or so of Chinese dances, music, and performance. It was AMAZING. Jaw-dropping at times. Beautiful.

From china

From china

Yeah. We had had NO IDEA what we were getting into. The mayor was there, the president of the school, a billionaire that owns the school, etc, etc. Needless to say, we were welcomed in style and were completely humbled, because really most of us were just volunteers whose only qualification was the ability to speak English.

You  never know what to expect when you're overseas. The next day we walked the three blocks to campus and were ushered to classroom. We were given the two nicest classrooms to use so that we could use up to date projectors for our program. Unfortunately, these classrooms were on the fifth floor. And it was HOT. I mean so hot that we were sweating after 1 block, steaming after 3 blocks, and ready to drop after climbing to the fifth floor. We did this every day for two weeks.

From china

From china

Luckily the classrooms were AC. Whew.
Actually the campus was gorgeous, which I had not expected. I'd expected smoggy industrial city, and instead we got a sort of small town atmosphere with a lush campus.

From china

It was wickedly hot and so humid that it was actually 100 percent humidity. Which means it's essentially raining without the rain falling in rain drop form. It's just in the air and on you all the time. Oppressive.

From china

Luckily it did actually rain a few days and cool the air down. Those days always cracked us up, because we would walk up the last flight of steps to the 5th floor classrooms in the morning and be greeted by this sight:
From china

EVERYONE leaves their umbrellas totally open and out to dry. So funny.

The motorcycles compensate for the rain too:

From china

It was so humid that it took clothes two days to dry:
From china

And then there was us. Since it was so hot and you can't drink tap water, we planned our days around AC and water. We got up in the morning, ate breakfast, and then made the hot trek to the classroom, where we grabbed water from our stock to last the morning. At lunch we ate in the cafeteria with our students, which was not AC:
From china

Afterward we took refuge in a room that they'd opened specifically for us that had AC, which also had cold bottled drinks that we reloaded with. Our students went home to take a nap, but we were unwilling to leave the AC, so it ended up becoming a nap room. We'd just push chairs together and all sleep around the tables... it was so funny, and I got such a kick out of experiencing the post-nap grumpiness of my team.

From china

After afternoon class we usually made a brief trek out into the heat to find little corner stores and buy more cold water and drinks before heading to the cafeteria for an evening meal and then our evening activities.

From china

We spent nearly all our money on water, juice, ice cream, and iced coffee. My Chinese students disproved. They said cold drinks are bad for the baby, they give you acne, etc, etc. So funny - the cultural differences crack me up.

They were so hospitable to us, though. Not only did they find us a room to take refuge in that had AC, they also put American style toilets in the bathrooms outside our two classrooms solely because they knew a team of Americans were coming. AND after hearing our discussions with each other on the first two days about where we might be able to find coffee (they drink tea, lots of it, but regular coffee is hard to find), they actually called our hotel and arranged for them to put aside black coffee to be served to the Americans every morning.

So. Apparently to make American happy you need:
Cold drinks
Seated toilets

And actually, I'd say that with those little things, I was indeed a very happy camper for two weeks. Except we got REALLY tired of the cafeteria food. More on that later.


junglewife said...

I am loving your China posts! So great to hear about another Asian culture from a MK's perspective! :-)

Jaimie said...

The American obsession with coffee is so weird to me. I can't stand coffee. I drink hot tea regularly though.

Kacie said...

I do love me some coffee! I love tea too though. Except I have to have sugar in it... can't do the bitter plain green tea some Chinese drink like water.