Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Oxen on the Street

I'm now in my final Chinese destination: the "lovely" city of Zhanjiang. Saturday morning we left Hong Kong by bus, and seven hours later got dropped off in a completely different world.

Scott and I are the only and first foreign teachers at our school, the Zhanjiang Finance and Trade Secondary School. Basically, it's a fancy name for a vocational high school- most of the students will go to work right after gradution instead of going to college. There are four other Maryknoll volunteers at the Zhanjiang Normal University, about a 10 minute cab ride from our school.

The school and surrounding neighborhood are difficult to describe to someone who has never been to China, just because there is nothing like it in the United States. Zhanjiang has three main roads and a whole bunch of back alleyways and narrow streets. From the university, you drive down the road about 2 miles and make a left hand turn, pass about two blocks of random and dirty little shops selling weird farm parts, and then there's our school. There's a large gate at the entrance and a long driveway leading up to the new classroom building. On either side of the driveway are a pond and a soccer field (no grass- just dirt). Behind that are the two canteens where the students eat, some more classroom buildings, and the student dorms and teacher apartments. There are about 4,000 students there, most of whom live on campus.

Our apartments are very comfortable. I have a large bedroom with air conditioning, a study, and a spare room. On the other side of the apartment are the living room, eating area, kitchen, and bathroom. The school provided a TV, mini-refrigerator, couch, queen-sized bed, kitchen table, desk and chair, and washing machine for each of us. They put new white tile down and painted all the walls. I've never had so much space to myself! I need to get some big rugs and pictures to fill it all up.

This week, the students have military training so there's no class until Friday. We have just been getting settled, cleaning, buying things for the apartment, and trying to figure out how to get around. I probably won't have my class schedule until Friday- what I hear is that I'll be teaching about 12 classes in 45-minute periods each week. I don't know what level the students will be yet. The other night, we had a "meet and greet" with about 90 of the freshman (15-16 years old) and their English was pretty poor. I'm anxious to find out more about my students and classes.

Anyway, to sum it all up: I'm in Zhanjiang, it's a crazy and random place, I have no idea what I'm teaching... oh yeah and the other day I saw an ox pulling a cart through the middle of town.

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