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The letter from China

15 October 2015

Here is what Aleksei from Nizhny Novgorod, who recently started program Teach in China writes:

1. I decided to go to China because I wanted to see Asia, and China is its very heart. Prior to that, I traveled to the United States on Work&Travel program. When I arrived in China, the program sponsor met me at the airport, rented a room in Beijing, paid the expenses to get to the place of work. And this is understandable, because without knowing Chinese, I would most likely just get lost here.

2. The whole process of preparing for the trip took me a little over a week. I was still waiting for the approval of my documents from China. During this time, I had to pack my things, say goodbye to all my friends, collect the last documents and many other little things. The trip promised to be long, so I constantly tried to scroll in my head, what would I not forget. Well, roughly speaking, pedagogical experience was required, without pedagogical experience, only native speakers are taken without problems. But I had tutoring experience, so everything was OK. I choose the material for teaching myself, schools do not give me strict frameworks and conditions for teaching materials.

3. The school I am in is quite different from Russian schools. Studying here starts at 7 am and ends at 11 pm. Schoolchildren live right there on the school grounds in dormitories. Honestly, I don’t understand how they learn like that — you have to be really iron people in order to study more than 12 hours a day. Of course, they have hourly lunch and dinner breaks. Plus, at 1 pm they have a special quiet hour when they all go to their classrooms and sleep at their desks. Interestingly, children do not go to classes like ours, but on the contrary, teachers come to their class. On average, there are 60 students in a class, sometimes even 70+. The classrooms are equipped as standard: single desks, chairs, two boards — in front and behind, a projector and a screen, fans on the ceiling, because it is very hot here. I can’t say how much smarter or more disciplined they are than Russian children. Perhaps the level is about the same. After all, these are children! But they are more athletic, there are very favorable conditions for sports: a football stadium, several basketball courts, table tennis tables. Therefore, during recess, everyone tries to play something, and not just rest.

4. My standard working day starts at 8 am, when I go to the dining room for breakfast, then I come to the office, where I prepare for classes for 2 hours or just kill time, then usually I have one lesson before lunch, then lunch itself, and after lunch from 1 to 4 lessons. Then I go to dinner and, if I don’t need anything in the office, I go home, which is a 2-minute walk from the school. On the issue of communicating with children, it is really difficult, because their level of English is quite low. Even with high school students, sometimes you have to communicate with gestures or explain something in the simplest words. All students, of course, expect me to suddenly speak Chinese, and they constantly ask, “Do you speak Chinese?” But the miracle doesn’t happen ... because I don’t know Chinese. I try to learn, but it is a difficult language and I don’t have much time to study it.

5. I have not received my salary yet; October 10 will be only the first one. But the contract must be 6,000 yuan. As the rest of the teachers tell me, this is a rather high salary, although if you look at China, then this is average money. According to my colleagues, they themselves receive about 4000-5000 yuan, but I don’t know how true this is. The prices, in general, are the same in Russia, something is cheaper, something is more expensive. But 6,000 yuan can really live pretty well here. The only problem is that I live in a small town where you can’t really walk around, even if you have a lot of money ... It’s very difficult to find European products, and I’m have not see any European restaurants at all.

6. I live in an apartment rented by a school. I live alone. Conditions are tolerable, although they could have been better. There is nowhere to cook, but the kitchen is not equipped. The school says: “But you can eat in the cafeteria for free.” I don’t spend money on rent.

7. So far, I have only been to Beijing, where I spent two days and did not really have time to see anything. Just the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Temple of Heaven and the Performing Arts Center. Now I live in a small town (about 200,000), it is very picturesque here. It is located in a valley surrounded by mountains. There are a lot of traditional colorful buildings and structures here, but, as I said, it is difficult to find something non-traditional here. By the way, although the town is small, houses with a height of 30+ are being actively built here.

8. In my free time, my colleagues drag me around to all sorts of local restaurants and tell with admiration what wonderful dishes are here. But it’s almost impossible to eat it, because it’s either very spicy, or it’s not clear at all what it is. The best thing about a traditional restaurant is the hot pot. In the center of the table, on an electric stove, there is a cauldron of bubbling broth, where you can throw anything from the table to cook it there, then fish it out and eat it with a blissful look. But only the Chinese did this, I myself did not dare to climb into the hot-pot, it scares me only by its appearance. The most wonderful pastime here is playing mahjong. This is very exciting. The mahjong table alone is worth something — fully automated, with two sets of dice. He mixes them, he distributes them, it’s just a miracle of technology. Perhaps, mahjong captivates by the fact that you always play it only for money. The first time I played mahjong for 6 hours without a break. I also walk a lot around the city, everything is very beautiful and unusual, I have not tried anything else from local entertainment yet. Although they promise to take me to a village where one of the colorful Chinese nationalities lives.

01.10.15

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