May 8, 1999
Lara and I have been in Jinzhou exactly ten weeks now, and it's amazing how we've become so very comfortable and 'at home' here, with many good friends, and a regular routine and homelife. We're even beginning to understand and speak a little Chinese now, and I can believe that in a few more months we'll actually be able to hold simple conversations with people. In the meantime, our many English speaking friends have been great about helping us out with anything we have needed.
I am teaching 6 classes this semester - three different computer classes (Word, Internet, and Photoshop) and three sections of Oral English. The English classes were a big surprise to me, as I wasn't told about them until after I had arrived in Jinzhou. With no previous English teaching experience or any preparation or materials, I initially found the thought of teaching these classes to be very intimidating. Happily, though, they have turned out to be my very favorite classes, because they've given me the chance to really get to know many more students. (In the computer classes, the kids are mostly focussed on their computer screens, for obvious reasons.)
The semester has been moving along at a very rapid clip. We are over half way through with it already. (This is week ten of a 17 week semester) So, for the past few weeks, I have been trying to decide how Lara and I will spend our two month summer vacation in China.
I know that most foreign teachers use this opportunity to travel, and of course, I am also dying to hit the road and experience all I can of China. But in our case, things are a little more difficult, as I still do not speak Chinese very well, and Lara will be barely four this summer, and not the easiest person to travel with. (She still wets at night, and requires a daily nap and a regular schedule, or becomes a sort of Hyde character) I will also admit, that the notion of traveling during the heat of a China summer seemed pretty daunting to me.
So, after a great deal of pondering, I decided that this summer Lara and I would stick fairly close to home, living in the guesthouse here on campus mostly, and taking weekend outings to visit cities in the northeast corner of China (primarily Liaoning province and Heilongjiang province)
Yesterday, I suggested to my boss that I would be interested in teaching an intensive English course this summer, and he responded very enthusiastically. Apparently, the school is preparing to send approximately 25 students to study in Canada and the United States next fall, and he feels sure that many of them will be very enthusiastic about having he ability to study with me this summer in preparation for the move.
So, if he gets confirmation and can organize the budget and other administrative matters, I think I'll be very busy this summer teaching five mornings a week. I know that it'll be a real challenge, but one that I am really looking forward to, and have already started to think about and prepare for. I really think that it's going to be a wonderful way to spend the summer. Until I began teaching these kids, I never could have imagined or understood the enthusiasm and appreciation they have for the smallest thing that I do for them. It really makes any effort worthwhile.
I will try to make the English topics relevant to the new lives these kids will be living in America and Canada, so if any of you have suggestions for me, please be sure to send them along. It's been a very long time since I was a college student, and I know that I'm going to have to prepare well to be able to help them be ready to do - both in their English speaking abilities, and with the culture shock. But what a fun job!
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