Monday, August 30, 2004

Starting off

The day of flying here was fairly harassing, but now we are here, and over our initial bewilderment.

Everything at this college was apparently once very grand - huge majestic buildings - but now all a bit decrepit. We are told they are planning to build and move to a new campus next September. (Well, we’ll see.)

Our apartment is on the third floor (my knees are gradually adjusting!) and quite large ...but sort of big and empty and strange. The Chinese understanding of shower and toilet and kitchen are a little different from ours... but it's quite livable.

Everything is very secure with big heavy metal burglar-proof doors. It takes three keys to get into our place. The college itself has a guarded gate, and is in a complex called New City of Long Hu (Dragon Lake) which is walled, gated and guarded. There are other organizations in the complex such as a police academy - the place is crawling with dozens of police cars.

We eat in the student canteen, and the food is "delicious and nutritious" and very Chinese. I can't get used to drinking a (metal) bowlful of bland "porridge" with every meal like they do. It’s like a very runny tasteless hot porridge/soup which they ladle out of a huge pot. But most of the other food is ok, and not a bit like "Chinese" in Australia.

We are about 45mins out of the big city - Zhengzhou. We went there the other day in our college bus to buy a few essentials. The foods and delicacies available in the shops were amazing and different (and the ones we tried were delightful).

We have our timetables and start work tomorrow. I only have twelve classes a week and Peter has fifteen - but we work on a two week rotation: two five-day weeks then four days off. Tomorrow I only have one class, and it’s in the afternoon. The next day I have one double lesson in the morning then nothing for the rest of the day. Some days are like that! But on Thursday I have five classes. (wow!) Our first classes are at 8.10am. Then each class goes for 45 minutes followed by a 10min break. There is a longer break between periods 2 and 3 when the students do enforced exercises. Then after period 4 its lunch, followed by a siesta break until 2.50pm!! Then there are three more classes before tea. I have classes in the afternoon on some days, but only in periods 5 and/or 7. Then there are two more periods after tea - but we never have to do any of those.

Our classes are very small. My main class is the largest with 23. I have them for 3 double lessons a week. It is a second year English immersion class - they call in "All Subjects In English", and I do "Listening and Speaking" with them. The first year ASIE class has only 15 students. Peter's main class, which he teaches for a double lesson every day, is the second year IELTS class ( that's preparation for the international English language test). There are 12 students in his class, and only 6 in the year one IELTS class. I have each of these four classes 3 times a fortnight for "Communication" That's a syllabus-free open-ended type course that I am really looking forward to. There are other classes in the school that we don't teach, and there are Chinese teachers who teach them Social Studies, Maths, and Reading and Writing (in "English") as well.

There is a Sri Lankan chap who has been here for 11 years and does the IT and teaching computer. Poor guy struggles away with very old Pentium 1 computers, and he hasn't really been in the outside world to see what is going on these days. Like the buildings, nothing gets replaced or properly repaired, just patched up. Our apartment is a mass of odd wires and cables sticky-taped up walls and along edges - some still in use and some defunct, but all very dusty...

The students are all in their late teens or older and seem very nice so far. Today is a day off and some of the students have gone for a walk to a local vineyard because they have never seen one. Peter has gone with them, but I stayed because the food has begun to disagree with me and I didn't fancy a long walk in the present heat and oppressive humidity. I came up to our office to check our emails on this beaten up old computer ... we have been promised a better one in our apartment "tomorrow or the next day".