Jet Lagged, Adjusting, and Classing
In early April, I was accepted to teach English in the People’s Republic of China by the China Educational Association for International Exchange. After going through several long, intense, daunting procedures, I hopped on a twelve-hour plane ride on Air China from Los Angeles to Beijing. Upon my arrival, I had a restful bus ride to the Beijing Commercial Business Hotel where I had to take a four-day Foreign Language Teacher course before training camp. Feeling very jet lagged, I got a good night sleep to get ready for the first day. During the TEFL course, we met with three US citizens who have a lot of teaching experience in China and learned the strategies they have used to help students improve their oral communication in English language and things that are important when adapting to the culture of China.
Foreign Teacher Training Camp
I already fulfilled my course requirements and it was time to go to Training Camp. The ten days of training in Northern Beijing was a grind with a tremendous amount of preparation. Every day, I learned to create my own lectures while following a textbook of what to teach. Every lesson required clear instructions, visible images, and activity objectives on power point slides. Another important factor was getting attention from the students, planning lessons every evening, and making the class a safe learning environment for everyone. Most of the teachings I have given to the top students who were selected to spend their summer at teacher training were:
- Practicing oral conversations
- Studying vocabulary words
- Playing quiz review games
Every morning, our starting class strategy was Song of the Day. My co – teachers and I selected the songs that have touched our feelings and we welcomed students to share their thoughts on the songs we chose. It was a useful warm up to help our students be ready for their lessons and to think about how music influences our life in positive ways.
Day off for historical discovery
With a long week of teacher training, every foreign teacher had a day off to go to the Great Wall of China, and it was immensely magnificent. I took a cable car and climbed several steps to reach the top. The Great Wall is considered to be one of if not the most popular sites for tourists out of China’s urban areas. With the Great Wall of China having four different tourist sections, we ended up going to Mutianyu, since it was closer to where we were living. Some steps were easy to climb and some were slippery. The wall was created with different elevations of outdoor paths to reach different shades. Almost every indoor square of the wall had stairs to climb to the top to see other views of the wall and mountains. Eventually when it was time to leave, I rode a toboggan down the hill. It was a very smooth ride down the slide going fast and slow. Being on the wall was almost like walking on the wall of Ba Sing Se, which refers to one of my favorite childhood TV Shows Avatar The Last Airbender.
Foreign Teacher Orientation
Ten Days of teacher training in Beijing flew by very fast. After the closing ceremony, I hopped on a six hour train ride to Suzhou with other foreign teachers who were placed in the same district. Upon our arrival, we had one week of orientation. During that time, we met with experienced teachers from the United Kingdom and the USA to analyze strategies on classroom management, and ways to motivate students to learn a second language. Starting the week on a high note, we had our foreign teacher picture taken in front of the Suzhou International Foundation School, and talked about how life works in Suzhou, Jiangsu. In the middle of the week, we went on a field trip to the Mulberry Cultural Park in n the Wujiang District. At the park, we tie died our own pieces of quilt, and toured the exhibits of how soft quilt is designed. On the last day of orientation, I met my contact teacher and toured the Suzhou Xinsu Shi Fan Primary School, where I was placed to do my teaching.
Suzhou Gardens and Temples
One thing that China has always been famous for is the spectacular settings of its gardens and temple designs. Every garden has its own design of Bridges going over the ponds, and other little hills and rocky steps to climb. Almost any or every pathway has a circular entrance leading to new parts of the garden. Other than plants and rocks, the gardens also have little temple designs to visualize artistic creativity from Chinese Artists. Suzhou, one of the main provinces in Jiangsu is home to one of the best gardens in all of China, along with temples that explain the history of a famous Chinese philosopher named Confucius.
Whenever I had time off from work due to National Holidays, day offs or the weekend, sometimes, I spent the days exploring China as much as I could. The train ride to Shanghai from Suzhou is approximately 30 to 45 minutes. During China’s 70th birthday, I explored the center of Shanghai in its famous skyscrapers and other outstanding exhibitions. Shanghai is one of the busiest and most crowded cities in China even though it is the second largest city behind Beijing. Shanghai Pearl Orient Tower is one of the most spectacular views in all of China. I took an elevator traveling 263 stories above the ground. Reaching the top of a circular narrow tower, I walked around the shining glass light that does not glow during the day. Every section of the floor had stations to charge phones. Much like any other skyscraper in the world, the Pearl Orient Tower is considered to be the most tourist spot in all of Shanghai and it is right next to the river where ocean and river cruises port. The Observation Tower is the second tallest skyscraper at the moment, just behind the Balk Kalif located in Dubai. Considering it is much taller than the Pearl Orient Tower, the views become much easier to see in any direction. The greatest thing about being in downtown Shanghai is there is a crossing bridge and underground tunnels connecting to the Metro and different malls leading to the top two landmarks.
Other than staring at incredible views in tall towers, I went to the China Art Museum and the Shanghai Aquarium, which both have very creative gallery designs. Both of these exhibitions start with an escalator up to one or two floors in the building. The coolest thing about the aquarium is standing on a conver belt that travels through a long tunnel of 168 meters to see different sea animals, even going through the mouth of a shark. The China Art Museum has numerous galleries shaped in the size of a square or a rectangle depicting sections of different artists and their art work. One of my favorite spots was next to a kids section where I saw paintings of traveling, and Disney.
After teaching English came to an end, I went on a nine day jaunt in the mainlands, water towns, and the large cities in China. The trip began in Shanghai meeting at the Holland Hotel. After doing a little ice breaker activity, we had a delicious Chinese dinner at a local restaurant located three minutes away from the hotel. Spending the first portion of the excursion in Shanghai, we walked around the bund water front, which is directly across the river from the Pearl Orient Tower and one of the top tallest skyscrapers in the world. Then, we walked to the markets close to Yu Garden. Because the actual Yu Garden was closed for renovations, we decided to spend some time going up on the Observation Tower. Even though I have already done in the tower, it was a great to experience it during the day. Later concluding our day, we took a one hour bus ride to the Xitang Water Town. It is one of the smallest towns in China, very similar to Suzhou and Venice full of canal paths. We took a peaceful gondola ride around the town and visited several art exhibitions. Our hotel was right across the street from the town entrance.
It was time to travel to the main lands of the country. Our journey began with a long 15 hour train ride departing from Shanghai to Xian. Because the train ride was so long, we got to sleep on the beds of the train. They were very thin but I was able to get enough sleep. There are six beds per compartment of the train cars. The next morning, we arrived in Xian, dropped off our luggage at the hotel and explored the underground museum. The Han Yangling Museum has very low light to provide a visual analysis of the exhibitions. It shows the history of Xian through many different features. With our last day in Xian, we went to the pit palaces of the terra cotta warriors. The museum had multiple exhibitions depicting similar designs of the terracotta sculptures fighting in the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Empror of China. After a very delicious Chinese meal, we went back to town and walked to the Dacien Temple, the famous Buddhist temple for people to pray. Right next to it, there is a small art exhibition where we learned how Chinese artists do their paintings to exemplify their culture.
After two incredible days of exploring the central part of the nation, we took a four hour train ride to Beijing. Our first stop began driving to the country side of the Great Wall of China by Jinshanling. The Jinshanling part of the Great Wall has one of the most steepest steps to climb up and down. What makes the Great wall so fascinating is the holes in between the sides. They were the openings for the archers and cannons to stop people from coming through. Coming back from a long walk on the wall, we went back to the dining hall of the guest house for lunch and drove to the city of Beijing. Our hotel was two blocks away from the back of the Forbidden City. On our last day of the trip, we took a bus to Tiananmen Square, one of the most crowded locations in Beijing. A few minutes later, we walked through the entrance of the Forbidden City and toured the west part of it next to the main squares. We were right next to the Emperor’s sleeping location, the palace of the throne and many pillars of the Lion faces. Exiting the landmark, we walked back to the hotel again. We had our very last meal at a restaurant serving Roast Duck.
Shanghai Disneyland is the one of the best amusement parks in Shanghai. Instead of worrying about taking a taxi, it was easy to take the metro all the way to the last stop. Even though I went on a school day, it was still a little bit crowded. Much like every Disney Park in the world, the castle in the middle is a little different. Instead of walking through it directly straight, you walk around it. I got to meet Belle right next to it. With the park being divided into separate categories relating to Disney Films, and writings, there are so many new rides to try. The Tron Legacy ride is a coaster where you lie on your stomach and your back and thighs are protected during the ride. The Snow White ride is just like Thunder Creek Mountain going through different parts listening to the song Heigh Ho. The Pirates ride changes a little bit of direction and it looks like being in a planetarium or 4D Theatre. Toy Story Land has several rides with a slinky round about, sheriff carriage twist. Winnie the Pooh has honey pots that do similar motions. Other than rides, one of the best sites to walk through is the decorations of the theme Remember Me from Coco, the statue of the Sword in the Stone, and Marvel Universe, to get pictures with people dressed up in Marvel Heroes. Right next to the park is Disney Town full of several shops to buy souvenirs relating to Disney, restaurants of all kinds of food, and shows that are played in Chinese.