The other foreign English teacher, Melissa, arrived last Tuesday night. I met her Wednesday and found out she was also placed through China Horizons and is LDS. My friend Aaron, who got me into this, is also teaching in Hefei. He came down to our campus and we visited for the evening. It’s nice to have friends with similar values and background close by. We were going to call in for the Institute class, but we couldn’t dial out on my phone and my laptop still wasn’t hooked up to the internet, so we couldn’t call in through Skype.
Since I’ve got to Hefei, I’ve asked many people what there is to do here. They all seem to say that there’s nothing to do in Hefei. However, as I’ve walked around campus and rode in taxis through town on errands, I’ve seen how big Hefei really is and in a city this big there are always things to do, you might just have to travel a little bit to get there. I’ve also made a few mental notes of places I might like to visit or observations of Chinese culture. For instance, there is an aquarium here in Hefei with dolphins, whales and sea lions. That sounds like a fun adventure for the very near future.
One cultural observation is how advanced they are in some things and not in others. For instance, on the street next to campus there is a long row of apartments with shops in the bottom. I would guess that nearly one fourth of these are hair salons. I noticed that each hair salon is equipped with state-of-the-art tools and then across the sidewalk, they are air-drying their towels and clothes in the dirty humid air. I find it peculiar that in one way they are so advanced while at the same time sticking with the traditional, sometimes less-effective methods of doing something.
Another interesting thing I’ve seen as I’ve been on campus is the military training for freshmen that takes place just before school starts each year. They learn to march and take orders. I spoke with a senior English major the other day about it and he said it is to learn how to work together and build unity and harmony amongst the students. If you think about it, this could be a beneficial practice for others to adopt to a certain extent.
I did have my first teaching experience the other night too. I was told that I would have a class Thursday nights for non-English majors applying for a second degree and that it would begin on September 8. However, on Thursday, September 1, I got a phone call from the class monitor asking where I was. I quickly rushed over not really knowing what I was going to teach. I also misunderstood the class thinking it would be three separate groups of students for 40 minutes each and not one group of students for three consecutive class periods of 40 minutes each, so I let them go after the first 40 minutes much to my chagrin.
After I let them out, I hung around and talked with some of the students, who spoke very good English, about what they like and let them ask me questions. I was very excited for this class because I knew the students in it wanted to be there and practice their spoken English. They wanted to learn and with that long of a class each week we could have done a lot. Unfortunately, when I got home that evening, I was told that there was a mistake with my schedule and that I would not be teaching that class anymore. More than anything my heart dropped because I had told these excited students that I would be there again and teach them all semester.