A Travellerspoint blog

School story continues

In the afternoon we were taken by surprise to judge nearly 50 kids who wanted to join a debate team in our school. Well, debate?? It has to be said that the debate is written and crammed before the actual debate is taking place though. I, and I am sure I am not the only one, wouldn't call it a debate at all, but anyways, these kids had to perform on stage, and we had to judge them. They had to talk freely (that means learned something by heart) about either their family, favourite colour or favourite animal. Some students, who wanted to make a good impression on the judges, talked about all of them at the same time.

The kids were nervously revising their sentences in the corridor. They were mumbling their phrases before they had to go up on the stage. And then one foot, and then the other. Suddenly they stood there in front of us, legs shivering, voice almost breaking, nervously breathing into the microphone. Off - rattling some of the sentences they had learned, forgetting the rest, a shy look, giggle, a stare at the wall, and time was up. He or she was replaced by number 2, number 3 ....., and number 50. Overall they all did a good job. They were bold and brave showing up, and actually talk into a microphone in front of a bunch of teachers, at the age of 10 and 11.

Here is an example of a speech of the students (most of the students had the same basis for there speech, so they didn't vary much from one another).
“In I family we very happy. I have 4 member in my family. A father, a mother, grandfather and little sister. My mother is very beautiful. He like to computer. My mother is a housewife/work in an office/is a nurse/is a teacher. My father is very fat. He is boss (making themselves big)/doctor/engineer and therefore she very busy (with a strooong Chinese accent). My mother is very kind. She cares me and give me many book. My father is strict and take care me study. They want me study hard. I like reading book. I like play basketball and football. My know much English. I likes English. I little sister is very cute and naughty. He like riding bike. I like my family, do you? Thank you."(bowing and leaving the stage).

Chinese people shorten English sentences, use wrong gender and no prepositions. You know why? ... Because you don't have these forms and words in Chinese. In Chinese TA is used for both he and she, and in addition the form of the verb does not depend on gender or time. WO, means I, me and my all at the same time.

In China there is a huge competition going on. Not only in the business world, but in all stages and parts in the society. Everything is about reaching the foremost top. To be the best student in your class, in your school or in the entire province, means more than anything else. The good students are standing in the spotlight constantly. But what about the rest? What about those who want to learn, who are clever and who can be a great resource for the society, but never get a chance to be, only because they are ignored? Sooner or later these students will lose their motivation to learn, only because they never get a chance to stick out.

The focus on good students leads unfortunately to that the others are ignored. They are anonymous.

We've got a drama team as well in our school, and got an offer that the English teachers in the different classes will pick out the good students who can join our drama team. A bad idea in my opinion. So we rather want to advertise for our drama class with the help of a poster. I hope some undiscovered stars are going to be discovered!

Despite the competition that exist in the society, and of which everybody’s life depends, the Chinese know what fun is as well. Just outside our office, 3rd graders were skipping rope, and guess what..., we joined them. Happy faces, laughter, jumping legs and excited shouts for half an hour is indeed great fun! Children are generally filled with an energy we are jealous of. Their excitement is however quite catchy. I have caught myself a couple of times of singing the teapot song and dance or skip along. When I close my eyes I can picture myself as a child again. I can again feel the excitement and curiosity I once felt about everything in my surroundings. And in those moments my childhood starts from the very beginning. When I open my eyes I’m back to be nearly 20 years, but still a sparkle of the childlike excitement is with me. And when it leaves me, I know I just have to close my eyes and use my imagination to get it back. Yes, everything is psychological. Your reality is your own design. It can be colourful or just black and white... That’s up to you.

Posted by EmmaMM 22:06 Comments (0)

Chinese Outing and KTV

A weekend off in Changsha!

semi-overcast 8 °C

There is so much to tell about daily life, but there are many teaching stories to come for sure, so for now I wouldn't bore you with my daily life. I would rather like to tell about our night out in Changsha. Changsha is suppose to have the best night life outside of Beijing and Shanghai. That's what's written in Lonely Planet at least. But now that we have been clubbing, I can just confirm that this statement is true.
The four steps of a successfull evening is the following:
1: getting a footmassage.
2: eating dinner.
3: going to KTV (karaoke).
4: having a night snack in a bar.

Well, we skipped the first and the fourth step, and still we had a perfect outing.
In the early morning nobody was awake. When the pointer showed ten o'clock I woke up in a room warmed by an aircondition. Keane and Martin Jondo filled the background for two whole hours. I was half asleep, half chatting on the internet, and half reading a book. It was the perfect morning. When everybody else was eating lunch, life had just begon in our apartments. Sleepy faces, joining faces, smiling faces... We had no breakfast, and decided to have brunch. But than it was too late for brunch as well, and we decided to go for lunch. Lunch time passed by before we even realized it, and no option left, we had to go for dinner. After hanging around and wasting one entire day, without even feeling quilty about it, we left for dinner in a brazillian restaurant. There was a lot of strange food to eat, such as snails, snake, chicks, chicken, beef, pork, (where is my vegetarianism gone?) fish in all different shapes, stinky tofoe/ bean curd (which is not even recommended to try), and other stuff which we don't know what was (and rather don't want to know either). It was delicious though, and we filled our stomachs with loads of corn, meat, vegetables, juice and coke. At around 20:30 we got a message from one of our collegues, suprise, suprise. She asked us to go out with her and her friends; an invitation we couldn't say no to of course. So there we went, all six of us. The bar was called x5, and it was filled with a thick smog. No stage smoke, or water damp, no, just tobacco smoke (they have never heared of "smoke kills you", or "smoke is dangerous", or "smoking is banned inside" etc.). We went inside, sat down at a table, and had scotch with ice tea served. We got introduced to a lot of the teachers in our school, and teacher from other schools around in Changsha.
The Chinese custom is apperantly to toast for every new person one get introduced to, so we had to finish our glass of scotch at least ten times. Later that night we (the three girls) were taken to the KTV (karaoke). After a 20 minutes drive from the city centre we arrived at Mao KTV (mao means cat in Chinese) . The boys stayed at the bar and played a dice game together with some chinese people.
We had fun singing Lady Gaga, who is immensly popular in China, along with our collegue. We had great fun drinking and smoking together with our new chinese friends as well. KTV is the same as the singstar we know back home (in Norway), but than in public. KTV is for sure one of the main passions and attractions in China, and it is indeed great! I mean, who wouldn't like to sing "Hey Jude" or "Paparazzi" as loud as you can without even feeling slightly embarrassed?
One funny thing I have to add, is the common chinese guy's introduction (and girls' introduction as well):
"hello!I'm single, are you single? Welcome to Changsha!"
Hilarious, isn't it!?
Well, we got at least to know that there are many single guys in Changsha. That is not that strange if you consider the fact that there are actually more boys than girls in China, because of the one child policy. Most families want(ed) a boy, rather than a girl, because traditionally boys are considered as stronger and more important than girls. In olden times the boys used to work, earn money and care for their family, whereas girls were supposed to be married into another family, and were thereby considered as a burden for their own family. Female foeticide was a huge problem, and is unfortunatly still quite common.
Luckily times are changing now, but that doesn't change the fact that there are more men than women in China... Maybe polygami is an option for us girls?? (I'm just kidding).

Posted by EmmaMM 08:20 Archived in China Tagged changsha Comments (0)


More pictures are coming !

Posted by EmmaMM 16:52 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Fresh Teacher and Culture Snacks.

the first days in Changsha

overcast 4 °C

It seems ages ago since we arrived in Changsha. Our daily life is completly turned upside down.
Our school life has started for real.

The heater turns off and on and off. It is cold during the night. Very, very cold. During the daytime too.

06:30: The alarm is ringing.
06:50: Getting up.
07:35: Heading off towards to school - canteen to eat breakfast, having a termos with coffee in my bag, well - knowing that I'm going to need the cup of luck very, very soon.
08:00: Office time most times of the week.
08:10: Sometimes we've got lessons at this time, and other times we are transfered to another campus, or stay in the office.
We teach different periods and different grades during the day. We have 24 different classes every 14 days, with 50 - 70 students in each class. We've got around 1450 students each! I better start learning names!

The teaching is going quite well. I'm still figuring out what to do different after each lesson, and how to improve the lesson. But well, no worries, we've got around 20 the same lessons more to go. My voice will in the end be totally destroyed after singing the teapot song a million of times.

In addition we've got many other tasks to do, like performances, something called radio gaga (live radio in the school), drama team, mandarin classes and meetings every Monday, culture classes every Thursday.
A tight schedule? O yes!

It is the 15th of February. At seven o'clock in the early morning a sleepy face is looking at her own reflection in the mirror, thinking "I'm a teacher. I am actually a teacher. I'm considered as a professional!". She is feeling far from professional, even though she is treated as one. Four classes to go today, in two different campuses. Four 3rd graders.
She splashes cold water in her face. And slowly, by each splash she wakes up. She wakes up in a world far away from what she has considered as home so far. A world in which has been witness to emperors, and dictators, communist rule and absolute monarchy. She wakes up in a country which is heavily populated. She is surrounded by 1,3 billion people. They speak in tones and tongues which is impossible to understand. She wakes up in China, location Changsha, Hunan.
Still feeling tired, she walks down the stairs, through the door and into the big, big world. Heading off towards the office, with a bag filled with books, water, coffee and tuwing gum, she thinks by herself; "I am in China... I am in China as a teacher." She can't believe her own thoughts.
It is cold and cloudy. The cold goes straight through her jackets. It is freezing. She can see her breath forming circles in the air. The temperature inside is rather lower than higher. She wrappes her scarf around her, and tries to rub her hands warm.

After a quick breakfast, the six interns at the Shazitang Education Group introduces themselves to the school at the opening cermony, by saying their names and random mandarin phrases (or to them they seemed random, they weren't actually random).
Soon after, they leave for teaching in another campus. The energetic 3rd graders can't wait to recieve them. They are jumping and shouting all day long. Amazing, those kids!
And than, at 09:10 she puts a smile on her face, borrow some energy and walks into the classroom.
A powerpoint presentation is shown, questions are asked and answered, the teapot song is sang, the dance is danced, and 40 minutes passes by. She leaves the classroom, satisfied but exhausted. She is still figuring out how she can improve her lesson. 20 minuted later the next period will start.
It takes so much energy to be a teacher. You have to be there 100 % all the time. You have to give everything all the time. You are the role model for the students. You are responsible for their progress.

There is a clear difference between the level of English in the different school. The third graders at the primary school are amazing! Some of them speak English half fluent, and understand every single word that comes out of your mouth. In another campus the students of the same age can't hardly say "my name is"...

My experience with the first graders so far, is however not that succesfull. They can't concentrate more than 4 seconds. They are crazy, running around, talking, shouting, laughing, crying. All of them seem to have ADHD! They do everything at the same time.
Secretly I wish I had that much energy.
Right now my energy level is below zero.
We all are so exhausted after these days with teaching, performances, meetings, information, preperation and what more?
But ... So far, so good. It is really interesting and challenging at the same time. We have fun too, and in the evening we've got some time to relax in our amazing apartments!

This is certainly an adventure. You learn new things every single day!

Check this out! Here is some "culture snack" for you:

In China you've got the one child policy, which was introduced in 1980, and which is still used by the Government today. The policy however, has slightly changed. If both you and your husband/wife are only children, you can have two children. If one of you have a sibling, you are only allowed to have one child. If you break the law, you have to pay a huge amount of money!
The Government controls the privat life of people. First of all there are cameras everywhere! Secondly, if you've got a job in the Government, you will continue to have this job the rest of your life. And thirdly it is almost impossible to hide a "illigal" sencond or third child.
If you on the other hand, are working for a private company, the one child policy doesn't really matter, because the Government will not interfer with your privat life.
My question to this was: "But the so called hidden children have to be registered somehow?! If not, they are a nobody without identification or passport. They can't work nor go to school, they can't leave the country etc."
The answer to this was the following: "There are other ways to get your illigal children registered. It is all about contacts. Maybe you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, and who again knows somebody working in the administration of the Government".

Yes, it's all about contact, about face, about expanding your circle of friends and acquaintances.
It is like when you throw a stone into the water, slowly the circles around the stone are multipliying and growing bigger. If you put this methaphor into daily life, you are the stone, and the circles around you are the group of people which you may consider as friends or acquaintances.
Yes, contacts are important in China. People seem very nice. They might ask you out for dinner, or take you to a cultural spot. They might
offer you a cup of coffee, or show you their homes. And naturally you think "They are so kind and gentle". And than, after a while, they come to you, and ask if you can privat - tutor their child, because they want their child to be the best. Yes, in China a favour has to be returned, even though you don't ask for this favour in the first place.

Posted by EmmaMM 03:06 Archived in China Tagged changsha Comments (0)

An end and a new beginning

arrived Changsha, Hunan

4 °C

When we sat down at our table, and when the pictures from the last four weeks where shown on the screen, and when B.O.B started singing wonderwall, and when all sweet words flourished from the mouths of a bunch of people, I had to try to blink away my tears.

After four amazing weeks in Beijing it was time to part. At 6 (pm) o’clock we walked through the doors of our campus – hotel, took the elevator to the 2nd floor, and walked into the dining room. My legs became more heavy for each step I took from the dorm towards the restaurant. I knew this was going to be the last night we were all together. The last night in Beijing. We all knew it...

We got dinner served. We got sweet words served. We got loads of smiles, hugs and a few tears served. And we returned our plates empty. All smiles, hugs, talks and tears where swallowed and stored somewhere inside our minds.

Ok, I’m sounding stupidly emotional. Maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit. Just to try to drag you into the story. Every single word is nevertheless trying to describe the truth. The story I am telling is build up around the truth. That doesn’t mean that the story is the one and only truth though. But well, let’s continue...

We got called up upon the stage one by one, and got our certificate that we had completed the theoretical part of the program successfully. Five months of practice was just a train ride away.

After dinner, we got a cab to Helen’s, the best bar in Beijing I would say. All 83 of us fitted just in the place. We enjoyed each other’s company, smoked hookah, drank sunrises and sunsets, sex on the beach and piña colada’s, and of course tons of beer. We danced, sang songs, wrote on the wall and danced, talked, walked, danced, danced, danced and ... got a cab back home. While sliding and giggling along, we finally found a cab that brought us back to the campus. The after – party was waiting. At around 4 o’clock the first tired faces dragged their suitcases and backpacks down the stairs. They were the first ones to leave. They where the first ones to head off to their accommodation. Tears were shed, hugs were given, promises were made, and there they went...

Every single hour some others disappeared with heavy luggage into the night, in order to get a train or a bus. Bye, bye baby, baby blue, bye, bye baby ...

And suddenly it was time for us to leave. After 1 and a half hour of sleep, a quick shower and chocolate as breakfast I felt far from ready to leave Beijing. On the other hand I was excited about the new place. I looked forward to a routine, a place to live, a place to feel at home, and not just be a guest for a short while. I was excited about the teaching, the fact that we were going to be teachers!

A couple of hours later the train rolled out of the station, out of the suburbs and into the field. It passed other cities, a lot of cities in fact. It passed huge buildings. Day turned into night. We all were asleep. The six of us slept until the alarm woke us up the next day. We arrived Changsha at 07:38 on the 11th of February. Our school staff welcomed us, took us to a noodle restaurant for breakfast, and after that to our apartments. When we opened the door, and took our first steps inside the shining living room, I couldn’t believe my own eyes. The place was so big, so modern, and so beautiful. There were two apartments available for us. One for the girls and one for the boys. We all got our own huge bedroom, and a king-sized bed. We have a flat screen TV, kitchen, huge coach, and a air conditioner, blowing hot air. What more to ask for? A yes, internet ... but we got that as well!!

We met our staff later in the day, and introduced our -selves to the school teachers by singing the teapot song (I hope Chinese people don’t take the first impression that serious). We got some rest, and went for a meeting, dinner and shopping. I just have to tell you a fun fact about Chinese dinners. First of all, the one that invites you for dinner, pays the bill. Secondly, the inviter always propose a toast, and thirdly eveybody shares the dishes. And one more thing; you always order an even amount of dishes. Chinese believe that an even number is lucky, while uneven numbers are considered as unlucky. And a little food fact about Changsha; It is considered as the province in China with the best, and the most spicy food! And indeed, the food is spicy. At one point my head turned read in a few seconds, and my throat was about to explode. It was nevertheless delicious!

When we got home in the evening we dashed on the sofa, warmed ourselves with hot water bottles, and watched a movie. Here in Changsha you’ve not got a proper heating system, because the winters are not that long. But even though they are not that long, they are very cold. The outer temperature is the same as inside, or even better. Without our hot – air blower, it would probably be only 4 degrees in the rooms ... and that is freezingly cold, believe me! Been there, done that!

Our school sounds promising. We’ve got 24 classes to teach every 2 weeks. We have 24 different classes with 50 – 70 students in each class. On Friday we teach kindergarten, and the other days we teach primary school. Our school has got 4 campuses, and we got the opportunity to teach on all of them. We have amazing colleagues, and our own office. I still have to adjust to the grown – up life. My first office! Can you believe that? The world is ahead of me, and I better keep the pace. But although it is going to be challenging to have such a big responsibility, and to stand in front of 50 or more faces every day, and to share all your knowledge you are able to share, and to be a role model for hundreds of children, a role model for the future generation, and to do a profession you have never done before, and then not even mentioned to live in a country with a culture and history, which is totally different from ours, it all is going to be amazing. Before coming to China, I promised myself one thing: I WILL DO EVERYTHING TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT, and this promise I will keep.

The time is 00:54 here in Changsha, to be very specific. Time to sleep, because the birds will start their choral at 06:30 in the morning, the alarm will go off a couple of minutes later. That is life, and life is a bitch sometimes, especially early in the morning.
Good night globe!

Posted by EmmaMM 08:57 Archived in China Comments (0)

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