Hello to all you folk in sunny, warm Australia,
I have just completed a month in northern China and the weather today is a balmy -4 but it does look like snow tonight!!We are half way through March and we are yet to crack a plus Celsius temperature. Forecast was for +2 tomorrow but that's looking decidedly bleak. You get a false sense of security sitting in your centrally heated apartment but don't you dare wander outside without thermal underwear, kapok jacket, scarf, beanie, gloves and tissues.
I purposely did not take the kindergarten elective when I did my TESOL course and guess what? Yep, I do 32 kindergarten classes a week! At the Yixi schools I do 11 consecutive classes twice a week ranging in ages from 3 to 7 and in Wanbao I do 5 consecutive classes twice a week. I was a child - intolerant old bugger before I got here but now I have been labelled King of the Kindies. Comedy routines mixed in with the lesson material has captured the hearts and minds of the littlies and the teachers so any possibility of me being relieved of these classes is non-existent. On the weekends I teach 5 classes of kids ranging from 10 to 14 so the lesson planning has to be spot on otherwise the kids know you have been slack. The teachers working with me at the school have been here a while. I am the only Australian amongst 6 Canadians, 2 Americans and a guy from Cameroon who has been here 10 years and what a great teacher he is. Most of the teachers have married local Chinese ladies which helps greatly when you take them shopping or out to a restaurant. I hope the kids here learn English quicker than I appear to be learning Chinese!! I thought marrying a local defeats the purpose of teaching to travel.....but love has its ways I guess.
The books they use here are the Cambridge English and I am not a fan. We also use New Concept and Superkids books. I am introducing new material at every opportunity and thanks to the ATA course I have the confidence of knowing that the stuff I am feeding the kids is as good as, if not better, than the material in the books. In the kindergarten classes I am totally out of control with no inhibitions and I have the kids in fits of laughter and giggles during the class.
Not a lot of opportunity to get out and see much of the place as it's just too darn cold. Summer is on the way but the ice here hasn't melted yet so I am not sure just when we might get some reasonable temperatures for an Aussie. They say the summer temperature here is 35 plus so it looks like we have the two extremes and not a lot in between. When I got off the plane in Beijing I was still in my Thai T - shirt and it was -10 there!! I visited Tiananmen square and the old section of the city that had been refurbished for the olympics. The next night I got off the plane to -24 in Daqing. That was a shock to the system.
I am buying a bicycle at the end of the month so I can get around more although it's dangerous enough being a pedestrian here with traffic lights, crossings and even footpaths offering no safety at all if you are walking.
My apartment is great and it's surrounded by a thousand more. I have 2 bedrooms, one used as my study, a kitchen, a sunroom (don't ask), a dining room, a lounge room and a toilet / bathroom, all more than adequate for a single guy. No houses here, everybody lives in apartments. Daqing is just a small village of 2.2 million so there is plenty of activity. Construction? My god, I have counted over 70 construction cranes on just one side of the city!
I am sending a few photos, hope they get through. Chinese restrictions on Google and other network sites makes it all a bit irksome at times but there are ways and means around it all. Whether I stay longer than my 1 year contract I don't know yet but I am keen on southern China and warmer climates so maybe Thailand, Philippines or Vietnam. Might be wise to steer clear of Japan for a while...such sad news from there.
Warm regards, nope, cold regards
Livin' the dream!!