Wednesday, September 1, 2010

first full day in Jiangyou

I think today could be one of the most interesting and funny days of my life. This was my first full day in Jiangyou and it was quite eventful. It started at 730 when I woke up. My counterpart had informed me the day before that we would meet for breakfast at 830, so I figured that this would give me plenty of time in the morning to do the things that I needed to do. Well at 745 he calls and says he will meet me in 10 minutes by the school gate. I said okay.

Meeting him for breakfast apparently means that he will show me where I can buy some food for breakfast. I think I could have managed this one on my own; however it was nice of him to show me. So then I decide that I have some time to clean a little and send some emails. I changed into my cleaning clothes, turned on the computer, ate half of my breakfast and then my counterpart called. He said that the president of the university would like to introduce me to the other teachers in the school and he would meet me in 5 minutes. I said okay.

We went to the teachers dining hall for the faculty meeting. It was unlike any faculty meeting I have ever been to. It was noisy, some teachers were eating snacks, and it started with a roll call. Next I was introduced and I just stood where I was and waved. Many teachers were craning their necks to get a good look at me. Then he introduced some of the other new teachers, non foreigners, to the school. I would have liked to have to met some of the other teachers and chatted with them afterwards, but just then my counterpart said that we should go and meet the dean of the English department. I said okay.

Together we walked over to the administrative building to the 5th floor, and the dean was not there. Kerry called and it turned out that he was chatting with the president of the university. I couldn’t help but think that we were just there. However the dean said I needed to pick out my desk area. The office space is a large room with cubicle style office spaces. I really like the idea of this because it means I will have a better chance of getting to know some of the other teachers. So I picked my cubicle space, a little randomly actually. Then Kerry said he would meet me for lunch at 1150 and give me my teaching schedule. I said okay.

Not many minutes after I arrived at my apartment that Kerry called and said that he knew what I would be teaching. Two weeks ago he said I would teach 14 hours of oral English and American/British culture. At this phone call he said I would be teaching intensive reading and one class of writing. He then said he would be there in 5 minutes with a student for me to meet. I said okay.

Kerry and the student, English name is Linda, came by. Kerry stayed for a second and then said Linda and I could talk. Well this turned out to be really awkward, but also very informative. She was a second year English major, and her English was not very good (this was the informative and awkward part). I am glad that I was able to talk with her some.

Next I went to lunch at the teachers dining hall. Teachers eat for free everyday at 1150. I was thinking that this would be a good way to get to know some of the teachers—that I could sit with a different teacher each day and talk. Well that will not be the case since the seats are assigned. I am sitting with the two Canadian teachers, Kerry, and another English teacher who studied for 2 years in Australia. The Canadians apparently do not eat in the cafeteria much, so it seems I will just get to know Kerry and the other teacher well. The other teacher is very nice and his English is good. He did most of the talking, which was fine with me. Also, the teaching schedule was still not available, so Kerry said he would call me in the afternoon with it.

After lunch I decided to walk around campus some and get my face out and around. I was hoping to maybe talk with some teachers. This wasn’t the case. I was able to say hello and many people saw me, so it is one step in the right direction to forming Chinese relationships. I didn’t walk long because I wanted to get back to my apartment in case Kerry called with my teaching schedule. So in the afternoon I just wrote on my blog, emailed, and chatted with a few pcv friends of mine.

In the late afternoon Kerry came by with some workers to work on the hot water heater which has been broken (along with several other things). It turned out the hot water problem was more serious than anticipated, so it would have to wait until the next day. They did, however, bring me a new burner for cooking and my shower was fixed. Next Kerry took me to get the textbooks for the classes I would likely teach because the teaching schedule wasn’t finalized yet. The library director was a really nice man and said I could borrow some Chinese language books if I wanted for personal use. So the way it works is that I check out the books for 2 years. I do not need to return them until the end of my service.

After the library Kerry said to meet him for dinner at the student dining hall at 530. Meeting him for dinner was also like meeting him for breakfast because when I showed up he had a container to take the food to go, whereas I could eat in the cafeteria. The cafeteria was really bare, but there were some girls sitting and eating. I thought they might be students, so I joined them. Upon engaging them in conversation I soon found out that they were not students but were 16 year old girls I was sharing my meal with. They were very shy around me, and then when they were done eating they waited for me. I used every Chinese word I could think of to tell them that they could leave, which eventually they did.

I decided to walk around the community after dinner since it was only 6 and I didn’t feel like sitting in my apartment. So I left the gates of the school and meandered around. At one point I meandered over behind the school and noticed that the gate to the track was open. I had yet to see the gate of the track open from inside the school, so I thought I might have a look. Well I looked myself almost into the mouth of a vicious guard dog that was watching the gate. I was literally about 1 foot away from its mouth. Scary stuff.

At this point my interest in meandering was lost, and I made my way back to the school where I ran into Linda and her friend. They are very sweet girls, and it makes me excited to meet my students soon. We talked for a little bit and they giggled a lot. I should include here that university students in China have the maturity level of middle school students in the states (giggling, walking in groups of no less than 3, meeting boys for the first time, etc.). This is because of the focus given to education during their childhood. Basically they spend all of their time devoted to school and are not allowed to date at all before university, and thus the childhood they have is quite different than that in the States. American students are culturally expected to mature a lot faster than our friends in China.

Since I was already outside of the school I decided to buy a few needed items, including a mop, floor mat for the cement floor in my room, Tupperware container (in case I, too, choose to take my food to go), milk, hangars, and some bread. After I took these to my apartment, I took the trash out and decided to walk around the university some more. I returned when it was dark and I realized that I had not emailed Kerry my resume which I needed to do. Every day more and more gets added to my to-do list. I am quite alright with this because it keeps me busy and focused. My day ended with skype, writing on my blog, and chatting with friends. I think I would be quite lonely if I was not able to chat with my fellow volunteers. It is wonderful, meaningful, and important to talk with my parents and friends in the US, but my friends in the Peace Corps can sympathize and share stories about their experiences which makes my own easier.

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