Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Everything here tastes slightly off...

So far, life in China is good but difficult. Our school, Xintan College, located in Qufu, about fifteen minutes from Lucy and Eliza's university, is small but fun. There are about 4,000 students here, but the campus is still about a third of the side of Skidmore, I would guess. Our rooms are relatively new and very very nice. We all have spacious living rooms, large bathrooms, kitchens and big bedrooms. Today I used to the laundry machine in the bathroom for the first time, which only has Chinese writing on it....I will let you know how that goes....Each room has a TV but every channel is in Chinese, so I lose focus after about forty seconds.

Our Chinese hosts at Xintan have been extremely friendly and accommodating. They are all only slightly older than us, yet their English is nearly perfect. Their names are Peter, Connie, Cathy and Li Zhao. On our first day here, they took us out for an enormous dinner and lunch the next day. Soon after, Peter told us he was taking us out for a quick foot massage, at the many local massage parlors (some a bit sketchier than others...) It turned out to be an amazing, two hours treatment consisting of shoulder and neck rubs, hot herbal water to soak our feet in, warm pillows and much more. It was both incredibly relaxing and incredibly generous. We learned that Peter, though he seems to work round the clock, makes only slightly more than we do per month. I have been so impressed with all of their generosity. Similarly, our students have offered to take us out to lunch to show us "traditional Chinese cuisine" despite the fact that most of them have very little money.

Class so far has been interesting. So far I have taught three sections of sophomore oral English. I am amazed at how advanced their English is, however most are very shy and hesitant to speak in class. For the first class, I asked them to all go around and introduce themselves (name, something unique about themselves, their hobbies and goals for the class). To my surprise, they all gave about the same answers. Their hobbies included playing sports, watching TV, shopping and surfing the web. Their goals were to improve their speaking English and learn more about Western culture. What also surprised me is how many of them said that there was nothing unique or special about them. I had to really encourage them to share something unusual about their life. I don't know if this was a case of them being humble or disinterested, or possibly as Sandy warned us about, a hesitancy to stand out from the group as an individual. On the whole, I am looking forward to this class, but am more worried about my two classes of juniors who are not English majors. I have been told that because they are not in the English dept. their English is relatively poor and their motivation level is low. I am nervous about teaching this class on Thursday but Cathy said a Chinese translator can be involved in the class if needed.

We are all now sitting in my apartment watching reruns of the Olympics. I have a student coming over in an hour for some extra tutoring. She came over last night during Sleepless in Seattle and asked if I could tutor her every night from 9:20-10:00. I am going to have to work on setting boundaries I guess. Wish me luck!


Lynn Suppé said...

Hey Rach,
I just posted a note to you, but it didn't seem to go through. Hope you don't get two of these! Anyhow, I'll write you through our regular e-mail, but I just wanted to say "hi" to you and to Olivia and the rest of the group. This blog is a great idea! And your massage ... that sounds SO nice! Love you - Mom

KMD said...

I'm so glad I'll be able to keep up to date on your journey. It sounds like an incredible experience, and I'm sure you are doing a fantastic job. Hope all is well!
Best, Kelly Mills-Dick