Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's bizarre to be able to say that I have been living in Qufu, China for the last week. It is an experience unlike any other I have come across. China is completely amazing and ridiculous at the same time. Every day is an adventure, and so far, every day has been a little crazier than the day before. I also find myself in the most awkward situations constantly. It might have something to do with the fact that I don't speak any Mandarin, but I'm pretty sure it's the fact that I'm a waiguoren (foreigner). As a group, we attract the attention of everyone in a hundred-foot radius. People stare, point, laugh, and often scream out "Haaaaalo!" or "Waiguoren!" After one week, I have almost gotten used to it, but there are moments when it's absolutely overwhelming. Because Qufu is Confucius' old stomping ground, we went into the old city to walk around and explore. I guess this area is a big tourist spot, which automatically attracts vendors selling everything you can imagine. As we walked down the streets with vendors, people were screaming "Haaaalo!" at us from every direction and all eyes on the crowded streets were tuned in on us. It was quite irritating, and I don't know if I will ever go back there again.

It's only been one week since we landed in China, but I honestly feel like I've been here forever. We have already established daily routines; every night, the four of us at Xingtan College have dinner together (after a few attempts at cooking, we have chosen to now mostly go out) and almost every other day we meet up with Lucy and Eliza at Qufu Normal. These dinners have consistently been the highlight of my days simply because I don't eat much during the day. It's not that I don't have time; quite the opposite, I have all the time in the world. I just can't eat anymore peanut butter sandwiches (my usual breakfast here) or ramen noodles (my usual lunch). At this point, I would rather just build up an appetite for dinner.

I have only taught one class thus far: Western Culture. Originally, I was supposed to teach five different sections of this course, but of course, those in charge decided it would be better to combine those classes into two sections. This means that the first class I ever taught was 94 students. I can safely say I am not prepared to teach a class of 94 Chinese students. But I don't really have much of a choice. So, on Tuesday, I walked right into that classroom and pretended I knew what I was doing. I was so nervous that I spoke unbelievably fast, which made it difficult for the students to understand me. I realized what I was doing pretty quickly and managed to slow myself down. I would say that the first ten minutes were extremely nerve-wracking, but then everything went pretty smoothly. The students are so eager to learn about western culture and have continually expressed this to me and the other teachers. I'm excited to teach them something they're excited to learn about. I have been planning out lesson plans (I'm trying not to procrastinate) and so far I have some pretty great topics, ranging from geography to film and television. I also really want to do something about the upcoming presidential election; it seems like they would definitely enjoy learning about the candidates, and maybe I could even have them vote! After meeting some of my students, I'm happy knowing that they will be thrilled with anything I teach them.

It's almost dinner time, or at least is for us in Qufu. At 5:30, we're going to take the 5 bus across town to Qufu Normal and have dinner with Lucy and Eliza. We're going to a restaurant they have already tried and gave good reviews about. Apparently, they serve "American" style Chinese food, or as close as it will get for us.

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