May 14, 2012
The school is treating me very well. I do experience some culture shock, but the orientation at Buckland really prepared me for what I would deal with. During the orientation I was skeptical, thinking to myself, “No you can’t possibly run an organization like that.” What I was told is all true. Here are a few things that are standard in China and very different from the US:
- Time management is a much more laissez-faire affair, things neither end nor begin at the designated time.
- Departures from events are much more abrupt, usually someone just says, “ok let’s go” and everyone picks up and leaves quite suddenly.
- Cleanliness is not the same as in America, things are simply less sanitary.
- Invariably wherever you go people will openly stare at you.
All in all I’m having a good time, although I do miss freedom and steaks.
May 20, 2012
It’s been a while since I last sent an update so this entry will be pretty lengthy.
By the end of February, Samantha and I had already moved into our apartment after staying about a week and a half in a hotel. Our apartment complex is 30 stories tall, with about 20 apartments on each floor, and six elevators to reach each story. Our apartment is a decent size for two people and it is fixed up quite nicely. Wooden floors cover our 24th floor apartment from the entrance to the apartment and all the way to the entrances of the bathroom and the kitchen. Originally, the apartment was already furnished with two very comfortable couches, a 40 inch LED television, a bed, a wooden coffee table, 2 wooden drawers. a shoe cabinet, two water jugs, a washer, a heating unit, an air conditioning unit, a stove, a water boiler, a microwave, a small refrigerator, a frying pan, a pot, and a couple of dishes, bowls, glasses, and utensils. Over the past few months we have acquired many kitchen appliances, Internet, a desktop, two bikes, bedding, and many other small things that are required for someone to live here comfortably. We still look forward to acquiring a small dining table with two chairs. For the kitchen and hot water, the stove and water boiler use gas. The gas consumption is maintained by a meter in the kitchen. It starts out with 80 credits, which is about 180 RMB. On average, we consume about 20 credits a month. Whenever it runs out, a gas card is refilled at the gas department and then inserted into the meter to reactivate it.
Our apartment complex is very safe. There is always at least one security guard downstairs in the lobby. Also, right outside the lobby, there is a water delivering machine. That is where we get our drinking water from. We have a card which, fortunately for us, was filled up with 100 RMB and given to us when we moved in. The card is inserted into the machine to activate it. It’s been about three months since we’ve moved in and the water card has been depleted to about 40 RMB.
So, we have to go all the way downstairs with our empty water jugs to get drinking water. On our way back up to our apartment, we are usually met at the elevators with scooters, dogs, bikes, and neighbors. The elevators are large enough to fit a scooter into them. This theory has been tested and proven over and over again. Also, the location of our apartment complex is pretty awesome because we have a recreation center just in front of our apartment complex and a food and street market around it which starts at about 1700 everyday. I would describe our whole apartment, but the pictures I’ve attached are, I think, self-explanatory.
What isn’t self-explanatory are the adventures, the people, and the culture my wife and I have encountered. Teaching here in China has been incomparable to any other teaching experience I’ve ever encountered. Over the past few months, we have been doing demonstrations to attract students and we have also been teaching at a public school as well as technical schools. I have progressed in my teaching ability from taking two days to make a lesson plan during orientation at Buckland to drawing up a lesson plan in five minutes before an unexpected class.
Samantha and I represent RJYW, which is a technical school that children come to in the evening or on the weekend when they don’t have public school. Therefore, our days off our not set. Sometimes they alternate from week to week, but for the most part, our FAO (foreign affairs officer) understands if we have plans that have been set up ahead of time with him and the company. He is extremely helpful with even the simplest things. He has definitely made our experience more enjoyable. Along with our FAO, the Buckland Group back in Yangshuo continues to help us when we have problems. So, there is nothing that can’t be resolved between the two companies.
A typical week of work goes as follows; Sundays, I have evening classes at one branch on the west side of the city. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are usually off for me, but whenever there is a special assignment, it’s usually on one or two of these days. Usually, I get two of these days off a week. On Wednesdays, I have classes in the morning at a public elementary school in southern Zhengzhou. Fridays, I have morning Kindergarten at the same school. Saturdays, I have English corner once a month at the same school in southern Zhengzhou and in the afternoon, I teach at the RJYW headquarters near my apartment.
We still have about two more months to go in our contract. Travel plans for our trip back home are coming together and we will be back in Seattle before we know it. It feels like we just arrived in Zhengzhou and our time here just flew by. But we continue to make the best of it.
Attached are some pictures of the apartment, the view of the recreation center and downtown from our window, and a picture of us from when we visited the Yellow River Geological Park that is about 40 minutes out of the city.