Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Week 1 in Weinan

by Ruth

I'm not really "feeling" the writing, but I did promise we will update more, so I will give it a go. You already saw Kevin's story about our interesting travel adventure, but in the end everything worked out okay. We arrived at our apartments not long before 2am, brushed the top layer of dust off the bed before falling asleep, and then woke up at 6am (jetlag). We hired some cleaning ladies to come and clean our apartment, which was totally worth it. They worked for about five hours and cleaned pretty thoroughly while we worked at unpacking.

The previous teachers left a boxes and boxes of stuff for us, lots of useful things like linens, kitchen supplies, and a printer, plus some top rate food. Most of the basics, a whole box of spices, bags of chocolate chips, cake mixes, pudding...and 25 boxes of jello. Picture it. That's a lot of jello.

After about a week here, we have gotten most of our things organized and the apartment has acquired a new layer of dust. And it even rained this week. The weather has been "very changeable" (Chinese students' catch-phrase). The first few days were pretty hot and overcast/smoggy. After the rain and wind, the sky cleared up a lot and the air got cooler. Kevin and I walked to the hills behind campus. The campus is on the edge of the city, so we followed some railroad tracks to some small paths to some smaller paths and after about 20 minutes found ourselves in the middle of corn fields and fruit trees. We climbed high enough to look down over the city, and the air was clear enough that we could see the whole thing, plus some surrounding trees and hills.

Even though classes started last week, Kevin and I will not start teaching for two and a half weeks! We are both going to be teaching freshmen classes, and the freshmen start later than the other students. They will come to campus this weekend and then have two weeks of military training before beginning classes. So we have plenty of time to settle in, explore the area, plan lessons, and hopefully visit Yangzhou. We are going to be teaching Oral English, which we've taught lots of in the past, and Phonetics, which we don't know much about. The good thing is, we actually have textbooks, which appear to be decent. The bad thing is, when I look through the textbook I see words like "fricatives" and "approximants" and "dipthongs," and I have no idea what those mean. They sound like quasi-swear words. "Oh fricatives!" or "Those dipthongs!" I guess I will be learning some phonetics as I go.

We have started our office hours. About a dozen students piled into the office to talk and ask questions. They were very interested in us, of course, since we are the new teachers. It was pretty tiring (especially the first night when we were there until 9:30pm, which was really past our jetlagged bedtime), but we've had some interesting conversations. Yesterday they were telling me about all the ways they were naughty as children. It was pretty fun. The students are all very friendly.

We have been out and about a little bit. We have been to two different supermarkets. The other day, two little girls followed Christina and I around the entire supermarket just smiling and watching us. We have been to several restaurants. We have found some good food (Kevin was especially excited about the DongBei Restaurant (Northeast style food). Since we aren't familiar with the restaurants yet, we have had a bit of difficulty. We keep ending up in these specialty places and not knowing what we just ordered. Nothing has been bad so far, but it has definitely been confusing and a little frustrating. A lot of the food is spicy, which makes sense due to the proximity to Sichuan. There are a lot of Muslim restaurants around. There is a larger Muslim population in the area and even a mosque in town.

So, that's about all I can think of. We have pretty much gotten over jetlag but are still tired. I'm still ready to go to bed at 9pm. :) I guess all the confusion and wandering around and figuring things out takes energy. But it has been much, much easier than the first time. When we arrived back in China, it felt like we hadn't really been gone that long. It will be nice to get started with classes and into the routine of things, but for now, it's good to have time to settle in.

Check out new photos at Apartment video walk-through also coming soon!