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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The General State of Things

I’m realizing, looking back on my blogs, that a lot of what makes it up here is very disjointed. It fluctuates between generic, touristy information and random experiences that seem noteworthy at the time. (This is probably also because I update so rarely – still working on this!) But there’s not too much about my everyday life here and how things are really going. Hence, an update on “The General State of Things.”
It’s November now, and I’ve been here for over two months now. That’s kind of hard to believe – time is really flying by! That being said, I’m definitely finding that things here have reached a certain level of normalcy. For the first few weeks that I was here, everything seemed so new and different, often outrageously so, and life was a constant stream of culture shock and daily absurdities. But now, I’m feeling more comfortable with the way things work. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some weird things that I won’t probably ever get completely used to, and it definitely still feels different than life in the more familiar western world. It’s more that I’ve come to expect it, so it doesn’t faze me so much. I can cross the street fairly nonchalantly without really fearing for my life anymore. I’m learning to ignore the staring, most of the time. Alright, only some of the time, but still. Baby steps.  It doesn’t bother me so much that I can’t read anything in the supermarket. I just go with the flow and if something’s not what I thought it was, then oh well! (All though it helps that I can understand when they tell me my total, and I can say, “I want that one” and things like that) Eating out involves much “Chinglish” and gesturing, but I can get by.
Classes are also going pretty well. I’ve gotten a better grasp on the levels of my various classes, so I can plan my lessons more effectively. This whole teaching thing has also done wonders for my public speaking abilities. Shy little me can speak in front of crowds now, no problem! There is one negative on the teaching front though. A few weeks ago, I started teaching a 10-week course, twice a week, for other teachers at the college. It had its ups and downs: about a month in, I still don’t have the teacher’s edition of the text book, so the school wasted a bunch of money on that; there’s a lot wider range of English abilities among the teachers than my regular students, largely because there’s also a wider age range; the class gave me the opportunity to meet some non-students, which is always good, and I’m hoping some of the friendships I’ve made will last throughout the year; extra pay is always good. But, I found out this week that the class has been cancelled. The last two classes I have only had two people show up, so the administration decided to call it off. I think they’ll try to restart it in the spring when, I am told, the teachers’ loads are not so heavy.
The students. I love love love my students. They are all so nice and excited to see me out and about. Two of them have taken it upon themselves to be my personal tour guides into Jiujiang’s nightlife, which is a surprisingly fun scene. Last week, I had my first KTV (Karaoke) experience with another, larger group of students. I have frequent requests for them to “be my friend” and I am always happy to oblige! It’s really pretty great being the same age as my students. Hopefully this trend will continue!
Other than that, there is not much more to say. The weather here is just starting to turn cooler, although not really cold enough for my taste. I am regularly asked why I am not cold and told that I should wear more clothes by students decked out in several layers and winter jackets. They can’t quite seem to grasp that I can not be cold when its 55 or 60 degrees outside! I alsorecently completed a week of Halloween lesson plans, complete with pictures and candy, which was a fun cultural diversion from my poorly written textbooks.
I’m sure some element of homesickness will set in as November gives way to the holiday season. But, for now, I’m just enjoying things here. Hopefully, more updates will come before long! Bye for now!

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