"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page." - St. Augustine

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to Jiujiang

Today marks my 14th day in Jiujiang. So, it’s about time I introduce you all to my new place of residence! I arrived in Jiujiang’s pathetic excuse for an airport at about 8:45 on Wednesday, August 31st. Since my flight was a little early, I was waiting around anxiously in one of the two rooms in the airport for my ride to get there. Before long, I was greeted by Hamlin, my school’s Waiban, or Foreign Affairs Officer, who is basically my tour guide, translator, security guard and general go-to guy for the duration of my stay in Jiujiang. Since it was dark and raining, I didn’t really get to see much on the sketchy, seatbelt-free taxi ride to the school, but I was just eager to get to my apartment and get some sleep.
My first few days were full of cleaning (still an ongoing process), unpacking, meetings with various school personnel, and meals with my Waiban at the hotel where my apartment is (more to come on my living quarters in a later post).  I met with my boss in the English department and finally found out my schedule for the year. I would have the weekend to get settled and ready before classes began on Monday, September 5th.   
the building where all my classes are held
I teach 7 classes every week – a pretty light load considering I’m getting paid incredibly well compared to my Chinese peers! Four of my classes are Oral Business English for English majors and three are Oral English as an elective for non-majors. Each class lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes –two 45 minute halves with a 10 minute break in the middle.  Unfortunately, the elective classes run until 6:00pm Monday, Thursday and Friday. This is a little later than I would have liked, but my morning schedule is, well, a lot lighter, so I guess I can’t really complain. I have class from 2:30-6:00 on Monday, from 10:00-11:40 on Tuesday, no class at all on Wednesday, and 4:20-6:00 on Thursday. My busiest day is Friday, when I have class from 10:00-11:40 and then again from 2:30-6:00. Since all of my classes are oral English, I have pretty much no grading to speak of, so my only responsibility outside of class is lesson planning. 

courtyard inside the teaching building
one of my classrooms
 Outside of figuring out how on earth I'm going to be a teacher, I’ve spent most of my time these last two weeks getting settled in my apartment and wandering around the city (here begins the tour guide portion of today’s blog). Juijiang is located in the north of China’s Jiangxi province (see map below).  As Jiangxi’s second largest city, Jiujiang’s administrative district has about 5,000,000 people in it. The “urban” population, however, is only about 600,000. While this sounds like a perfectly good sized city to me, it is quite small by Chinese standards. In fact, it was described to me as being “more like a town than a city” by one of the Chinese students in Shanghai. 

Jiujiang’s two major claims to fame are Lushan, the famous mountain just south of the city, and the Yangtze River which flows through the north of the city. The name Jiujiang means “nine rivers” or “nine waters” so there are numerous other lakes and smaller rivers that run through the city. While this makes for some very humid weather, it makes navigating much easier. Since I can’t read any of the signs, I use the lakes and other waterways as points of note on my mental map so as not to get lost in the huge labyrinth of streets and dirty alleyways.

the many waters of Jiujiang

My favorite discovery to date is the park/kids amusement park/all around fun center located in the middle of the lake about 10 minutes from my school. Although it’s full of slightly decrepit-looking rides, old and shirtless smoking Chinese men, and some very loud insects, it has a certain charm that has already made it my favorite place in the city. Whether for people-watching in the park, reading a book in one of the hidden-away corners, or relaxing on the little island in the lake with some local music, I am sure I will spend many an hour here over the next few months.

entryway to my island getaway

That's all for now. Goodnight (or morning, depending on where you are)!


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