31 August 2010

In Baotou

At the annual Amity Teachers Summer Conference in Nanjing we met all the returning teachers before dispersing to our schools on Aug. 26. Upon arriving in Baotou we were treated to a traditional hot pot meal. We're with the College foreign teacher liaison and a fellow teacher who's lived in China for a couple of decades and is our go-to expert.
All signs here are in the two official languages, Mongolian (curly script on the top line) and Chinese.
Daniel standing at the gate to our apartment; if the watermelon truck ever moves we'll be lost. Our flat has two bedrooms, most modern conveniences, and a challenging bathroom.
All students at this 4-year college live on campus, and it seems as though all 10,000 of them ride a bicycle, electric bike, or scooter.
We'll teach English writing and speaking to second-year students. Unlike American colleges where it's easier to be admitted than it is to graduate, China is very competitive so most of these students will be teachers in a few years. We find them very friendly and eager.

21 August 2010

Last days in Yangzhou

We survived our two weeks of training in Yangzhou and took in some of the sights. A boat trip down Slender West Lake (it sounds more poetic in Chinese) helped us escape from the hot (95F/35C) and humid weather.
We now know all classical Chinese gardens must contain bamboo, weaping willow trees, rocks, and water.
Daniel is learning to write his Chinese name, which is Yang Danyi. Diane's Chinese name is Li Yaqi.
At the Da Ming Temple, built in the Song Dynasty (1048) we watched people burn incense to their ancestors. Westerners are pretty rare here, and one family took pictures of us with their little girl in front of the 30 ft high statues of Buddha.
Here's our group -- five teachers, eight young German volunteers, and the Chinese student tutors and program faculty. Armed with language lessons, culture classes, and teaching practice sessions, we're ready to go.

13 August 2010

First week

Amity was gentle with us the first few days and we did some sightseeing on Sunday afternoon, but everything changed Monday morning (Aug. 9) when we got down to work, with classes and teaching practice sessions. We've now finished our first week, adjusted to the time zone and ready for the weekend. Our first Sunday afternoon we visited the Ge Yuan Gardens, famous for its bamboo and rocks. The shade kept it relatively cool on a very hot day, temperature in the high 90's and humidity like Houston.
Diane and Iris along the bamboo path. Iris has helped us choose a Chinese name - when we're caligraphy pros we'll let you know.
The circular door symbolizes family unity.
Near Ge Garden is Yangzhou's old street, where former houses have been converted to shops. Our tutor Iris grew up in her grandparents' house on this street.
A surprise to us is women gathering to dance in the evening. This group was in the parking lot at the IT Mall -- it does indeed stand for Information Technology Mall, a computer store. The dance is the evening counterpart to tai chi, which is usually done in the morning.

08 August 2010


We're starting with several weeks of training in Yangzhou, with an emphasis on teaching preparation and optional classes on language, caligraphy, music, and history. This banner greeted us in the classroom where we'll be most of the time. Three of us will continue as college teachers and the eight under-age-30 German students will work as young volunteers in middle schools.
Part of our group at the welcoming banquet, where we sampled about 20 different culinary specialties of the area. Local Chinese students are our tutors.
Escaping from the Houston-like heat and humidity, we shopped in the air-conditioned IT Mall and the newly opened Wal-Mart next door. Places like Pizza Hut here are really upscale.
Our tutor, Iris, is a journalism student at Nanjing University. She's helping us buy yummy steamed buns from a sidewalk vendor.
We worshipped in a 1930s church built by the Baptists, now part of the Christian Church in China. It's a large congregation (about 4000 members) with an wonderful music program. This selection sounded like "if you're happy and you know if clap your hands" -- we are, and we did.