Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Weekends are for Exploring

PROJECT: Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Georgina Griffiths

We are now a little over halfway through the program, and loving every minute of it! As the weather is warming up, all the blossoms are coming out making the school and local area more and more colourful. Each week at school is different, filled with surprising little comments and questions from the children. Their excitement every class makes everyday enjoyable, even if they are a bit naughty as all the Chinese teachers have told me. Teaching 50 children in a has taken a bit of getting used to, trying to get all their attention and making sure they are quiet whilst keeping them busy and engaged in an activity has taken time to master. Most of us have around 700 students we see every week!

Teaching Grade 1 and 2 has been a lot of fun. Lessons are filled with vocabulary games, songs and little drawings, covering topics like the weather, clothing, likes and dislikes, sports, days of the week and many more. Outside the classroom they will run up to you and try make sentences out of what you have just taught them! Having been in Suzhou for a little over 2 months now, we have begun to make local friends and explore the area, as well as trying the huge array of food there is on offer. Visiting and exploring all the historical gardens here has been a highlight as they are all very different and have their own unique story.

Long weekends are perfect opportunities to travel. The first was the Qing Ming Festival where people visit to their ancestors’ graves. We had three days off school so I travelled on an 11-hour train to Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain with a friend from the program in Beijing. As I had booked my train so late, there were only standing tickets left! Our first morning of hiking was gorgeous; we were able to see up the cliff faces. Then the rain hit, meaning for the rest of the afternoon we could only see 20 metres ahead. On the way up to the summit, we met of group of Chinese friends who were also staying at the hostel we were. So the afternoon was then spent learning different card games and chatting. The next morning we got up early for sunrise and whilst we didn’t quite see the sun, we had spectacular views of the mountains around us which were covered in the dense fog the day before! Then a storm came in and the lightning lit the sky up pink - weather on the mountain is so confusing! A few hours later as we were exploring the various peaks we were rewarded with amazing views of the sea of clouds. Having booked the train home for the wrong day (I will have to work on my planning), I had an extra day in the town of Huangshan so I took an hours bus to one of the nearby traditional villages, Hongcun.

The most recent holiday, May Day, saw a group of 15 of us meet up in Shanghai! We had such beautiful weather; it is starting to feel like summer. We visited the YuYuan Gardens which were quite like the gardens in Suzhou, the Jade Green Temple and the Bund. A highlight included going up the Shanghai tower – 632 metres tall, and it took less than a minute to go up in the lift. The view was incredible - we could see the entire city lit up.

Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, was another great city I’ve explored while I’ve been over here. Xi’an is very different from Suzhou as the whole city wall is still in tact and isn’t very built up. We were able to hire bikes on top of the wall to see the entire city. The Muslim Quarter was an interesting part of the city where there is a working Mosque and an abundance of street food unique to the area. One evening, we decided to try some of the local food, bread and mutton soup. It was an interesting experience as when we ordered the food we were handed a bowl with the bread and shown back to our table. Around us people were tearing the bread into tiny pieces so we followed. Then checking what others were up to we took the bowl to the front of the restaurant where we were given a number and about 10 minutes later a delicious hot soup appeared in front of us! Another favourite part of the Xi’an trip was the day trip to the mountain Huashan, one of China’s many sacred mountains. We had the perfect weather, blue skies which allowed us to see right down the steep cliff faces into the valleys and along the horizon. We managed to climb each of the four peaks, each giving a different and more stunning view.

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