I’ve been a bit lax on my blog recently, but that’s not because I’ve been bored. Quite the opposite in fact. This semester began 3 weeks ago, and despite having a 4-day weekend, things have been non-stop crazy. I’ve been at this school for 3 years already, so you would think everything would be boring by now. But actually, there have been a lot of changes. Let me explain.
School-wise, classes are hectic. I have a few of my favorite students from last year, but for the most part, all of my students are new. About 270 new students to be exact. So this means new faces to get used to, new names to learn, and new classes to get accustomed to. So far it’s been alright, and while no one can replace my darling students I like the new guys well enough.
We also have new teachers. We have fewer teachers than ever (I am now not only the only female American teacher, I am the only female foreign teacher at the school now) but they are more international (we now have all of the UK’s territories covered: Scotland, Wales and England proper) and, best of all, several speak Chinese! There are a few newbies who are going to beginners class (but can already order by themselves at restaurants) and a few that can speak basic level. The other night we hung out with a bunch of Chinese guys, got invited to their bar and drank for free all night, and I wasn’t the only one who cold speak to them. It was great! I’m really happy at how serious about teaching and living in China everyone is this year.
There have also been a bunch of changes at my school. Cosmetic changes. Over a year ago my school changed from a college to a university. I don’t know what that technically means, but practically speaking it means that everything is getting overhauled. The horrible ugly fence that used to ring the school (with broken glass on the top as security) has been replaced with a newer, fancy looking one. The giant garbage pile that workers used to just throw trash on is now an actual building (which does a lot to contain the smell) and the decrepit old gates have been replaced with guard rooms, real fences and a new swing arm guard station for drivers.
But the biggest changes have been happening outside the school. I went to my favorite veg shop to get eggs one day, nothing seemed amiss, but when I went back the next, the store was closed. The veg store never closes, even on holidays, so I was confused. Then I noticed the entire block of stores was shuttered and dark. “Oh, no,” I thought. “There goes the neighborhood.” Within the next few days the roof was dismantled, the shops were emptied and now, only 2 weeks later, there are only empty shells of the buildings. I imagine in another 2 or 3 weeks there will be no sign of buildings ever being there aside from some rubble.
I assume this is the first step to building a new block of shops to match the rest of the recently built west gate area, but it was sad to say the least. My favorite soup place and bakery was in that block! Luckily I found most of the old restaurants relocated to the new buildings so I can still get my chickens soup and pastries without problems.
It just goes to show that things change in china so quickly, you can never rely on a store or restaurant staying in one place.
Another big change keeping me busy is my social life. Since I can finally speak conversational chinese I have been making more and more friends. Actually, due to my busy life I can’t attend Chinese classes this semester. I was really worried about that, class has been the reason I’ve been able to speak chinese so well, but then I realized I didn’t have to worry. Speaking Chinese, and spending time with Chinese people is better practice than any class. I might not be learning proper grammar or sentence structure, but my listening and speaking skills (my weak points) have noticeably improved.
I’ve been able to speak chinese when I had a bad cold and stuffy head, when I’ve been exhausted and sleepy, and first thing in the morning. Those are the hardest times, when your brain is not working right, and yet I had no problem nor did it feel awkward. The other day I spent an entire 24-hours speaking not a word of English and didn’t even end up with a headache. Big strides.
So it’s a new year, new people, new students, new activities, but it’s another year in China. I can’t believe how time flies.