Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Only one month to go teaching in China

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Robert Meek

With a month or so left in Shenyang, the classic despairing "it's gone so quickly" moment is combated by a realization of how much I've actually done since leaving home. Having settled into a comfortable work routine, I made it my priority to break that routine and discover what Shenyang had left to offer me.

Being an active part of the expat community is vital for staying alive and sane in any city in China for more than two months. The majority of expats living in my district of Shenyang were English, with occasional Americans and a few from various European countries.

My lack of exposure to the Australian accent began to leave a very British toll on my speech, much to the amusement of the Northerners I was bunked with. Events within the community are sporadic and spontaneous, requiring a keen eye on the ten or so WeChat groups I had somehow fallen into.

It was not uncommon to receive party invitations at 8pm on the night, after which I would semi-begrudgingly hop out of bed to try and construct a pirate costume, or a sixties costume, or a Rubik's cube costume out of what's in my suitcase, hoping I'll make it in time (which I usually would thanks to the abundance of taxis).

I acquired a guitar from my neighbour after being introduced to Laowai Open Mic Night at Feng's Live House once a fortnight. All the expats (from our group anyway) meet up and play music for free beer. Through this I managed to join a band; "The Ting Bu Dongs" (Ting Bu Dong means "I dont understand what I'm hearing", a very useful phrase for both the Chinese and the Foreigners). Of course this development didn't affect my Open Mic solo career, during which my cheap guitar earned me many a free beer.

I met a man named Bai Ying at my local haunt, who seemed to have mistaken the bar for an English Corner (a bar that sets aside specific nights for locals and laowais to practice their languages on each other) and picked me out as the best candidate to drill his English with him.

The friendship became beneficial, as he soon invited me over to his small but cosy apartment where his wife cooked a delicious pork dumpling dinner and I practised my Chinese with him long into the night. These kinds of interactions are apparently quite common, and it is liberating to be in a society where my first reaction to a sweet old man inviting me over for dinner is not one of scepticism.

Work continues to be full of ups and downs. The more I get to know my classes, the briefer my lesson plans become, and the more confident I am with deploying said lessons.

Nearing the end of my time in Shenyang, I have been planning a ridiculous adventure around North/Central China to be undertaken at the end of placement with some friends from Beijing and another from Australia. The Lonely Planet book has been vital in this process, and I would recommend it for anyone considering travelling in China. Until then I'll be enjoying these last weeks with my Shenyang expat friends.

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