Friday, July 29, 2011
Nihao from Wuhan!
Wuhan is a very nice city on the Yangtze River with about 9 million people. It is also known as the furnace of China, however, and is usually around 100 degrees with tons of humidity! We were extremely lucky for the first part of our stay, it was very nice in the 80s. It was still hot, but definitely bearable. The second half has been more typical, in the 100s - agg! Wuhan university is considered the most beautiful campus in China and is one of the top 10 schools in the country. The campus is really lovely, surrounded by mountains and lots of trees. It’s tropical and jungly, it reminds me of the Amazon a little bit. There are cicadas in the trees that hum so loudly at night, you can hardly hear yourself think, but it reminds you of summer too, which is nice. The only negative thing in this climate is all of the mosquitos. I got upteen bites. I don't know what it is - they love me! Agg!
The hotel is very comfortable, but there was carpet everywhere, which is a horrible idea with all of the humidity here. That, plus the individual air conditioners just leaves so much moisture that everything smells old and moldy all of the time. The decoration looks like it was fancy 50 years ago but hasn’t been changed since that time, so there is a constant feeling of walking through Norma Desmond’s house in Sunset Boulevard or Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations:) And no matter how much the cleaning ladies clean the bathrooms, there is still the smell of urine that comes and goes because of the drainage system, I guess. I will not miss that! But still we have a western bathroom and a nice shower, which is fantastic, since most of the places you visit have Turkish toilets (hole in the ground) and you have to throw the toilet paper in the garbage instead of the toilet since they have plumbing issues. So the smell of these bathrooms just lingers everywhere in public places and is repugnant, especially given how hot it is. In the school building, the cleaning ladies use the same mop to wipe the hallways as the bathrooms so the smell is everywhere and is truly disgusting. Thankfully, once we were inside our classrooms it was fine. And the students have been so enthusiastic and kind that it makes up for everything else!
They really want to help all the time and show you around, everyone has been so welcoming and great! We are teaching 5 hours a day with a break for lunch. Plus in the evenings, all of us our hosting different extracurricular activities. I have been doing basketball and baseball. Baseball especially was hilarious. I had flashbacks to playing tee-ball in 3rd grade and kids trying to field the ball and having no clue where to throw it. That’s what the students here do. Almost none of them have seen a baseball game and don't know the rules. So, it was challenging when they tried to swing at the ball with one hand more like cricket than baseball:)
After we all practiced the stance a little, though, I think they started to catch on, it's been a lot of fun.
Some of the other teachers have done extracurricular activities such as Square Dancing and Campfire singing. So much fun to see the students participate in these. Our campfire consisted of a bucket with a candle in it:) (see below):
Most of us return to the hotel for lunch (up the hill about a 10 minute walk from our teaching building). We also get breakfast and dinner at the hotel, which is really nice. It's just that the food sometimes is a little bland and boring and my diet has been competely inconsistent, with something like watermelon, cherry tomatoes, green vegetables, rice and coke. I don't know how long I can keep that up!:) It’s just so hard without speaking the language to know where to go to eat and what is good! I have really been craving a sandwhich or something that doesn't come out of a wok, just to have once in a while!
Everyday there are at least 10 different moments where I wish I could speak Chinese and converse with people, not only for ordering but just to ask questions. People here are so curious and always want to talk to you or want to know what you are writing in your journal, etc., but I just feel like a smiling idiot since that’s all I can answer in return. Despite that, I have still managed to get two massages:) One was a foot and back massage and was great except that the woman was pounding on my shoulders and I didn’t have enough language to tell her that it was too hard –hahaha! But then the best was the hair wash and massage they do here. For $3 you can have your hair washed in the salon and they will give you a scalp and head massage too for an hour! The best thing I found in China!:)
There were 4 student volunteers who came with my 4 colleagues and I who tried this. They explained everything to the workers at the salon and then waited there for an hour to make sure we didn’t need anything. All of the students went so out of there way to show us around and help the teachers, it’s incredible. I cannot imagine people in the US going to the lengths that the Chinese have done for us.
At night, we sometimes wondered around a bit and near the lake and in other open spaces people just gather and do group dancing while kids skate board or rollerskate around. It was so nice to watch. And all of the little kids always approached us and said "hello" or "may I have your name, please?":) I guess this must be part of a dialogue that they memorize in school. But I was impressed with how many actually come up and want to speak English with us. They seemed to be learning a lot in school, at least the young elementary aged children. They have been just adorable.
The second weekend we had a college fair and all of us presented information about our universities and schools, and answered student questions. It seemed to go pretty well. Then we visited several temples with some colleagues and a beautiful park with some students yesterday. It was really nice to get out beyond the campus walls a bit.
At the end of our three weeks, we had closing ceremonies and all of the students sang or performed a skit. Our class taught everyone The Twist, which was fun, and I gave my students prizes of ELS gear. Below are a few pictures of my adorable group:
Overall, it was a terrific stay thanks to my wonderful colleagues, students and volunteers. Xie Xie! I hope to be able to come back soon!