So I survived my first week of Chinese classes and teaching English! I always felt so busy at Iona with classes, school work, and campus ministries responsibility, but this week I truly found out what the work busy means. Mondays and Tuesdays I have three classes—Intensive Chinese, listening, and oral Chinese and am in classes for five hours on these days. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays I have two classes—Intensive Chinese and oral or reading depending on the day. Wednesday, Thursdays, and Fridays are light because I’m only in classes for a little over three hours. Before I came I expected Chinese to be a struggle and it definitely is very hard to learn. I have to do a lot of studying and practice each night in order to be prepared for the next day’s lesson if I want to really get anything out of the class. The education system over here is extremely intense…I don’t know how Chinese students do it! I can’t really seem to find free time, and I am only taking 4 classes!
I am learning a lot from my classes and my Chinese friends say I am picking up the language very quickly for a foreigner. I love going to Beihua because the building I study in is full of foreigners from all over the world. In my class we have students from nine different countries—U.S. (my friend Maggie from Buffalo is in one of my classes but in my other three I am the loan American), El Salvador, Poland, Kenya, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam. I have become good friends with Rocio who is from El Salvador and a girl named Kim from Vietnam. Most students in my class speak some English so where my Chinese fails me I can talk to most of them in English.
One of the highlights of my week was Thursday morning when I had to take a cab to Beibua by myself because Tim’s first class was cancelled. Tim usually does all the talking but it was sink or swim time. I had a very nice cab driver and he was impressed with my pronunciation. Not only did I tell him where I needed to go but I had a conversation with him in Chinese. It was a basic conversation but a conversation none the less!!
After I finish classes for the day I take the bus over to the Church where I teach English to two of the young nuns at the convent. I am having a blast working with Karol and Hieronymus (these are their English names they already had when I met them). We have a lot of fun together! They will be travling to the U.S. in 2013 so I am helping them practice and improve their English skills. I am really enjoying this teaching opportunity, especially because it is so different than teaching the lil ones I’m used to. Yesterday Karol asked if they could tutor me in Chinese because I am teaching them English and I gladly agreed! So now I have my own personal tutors. We worked on Chinese for over an hour yesterday after the English lesson and I can tell their help is going to be wonderful!
After I finish teaching each day I rush back to the college to have dinner. Starting in a few weeks Tim and I will be having dinner with different ’09 (the year they enter college) nursing students as an informal English class to help them practice oral English. Until then it’s just a time to catch up with the other Maryknoll teachers living near me.
My evenings are full of planning lessons and studying, studying, and more studying. Even thought I am super busy I am enjoying every minute of it!
On Thursday evening we went out to a really nice dinner because one of the priests from Hong Kong was in town. We had 14 different dishes and the food was amazing. I was brave and can now say I’ve added another food to my exotic food list. I tried jellyfish. I found it to be very strange because it was crunchy and kind of slimy. I wouldn’t have it again but it wasn’t horrible.
Last night (Friday evening) Maggie, Rocio and I went to Bar Code Bar which is the closest thing to a Western Bar in Jilin City. Bar Code is a big hang out for foreigners once it gets late so we made a lot of new friends and danced the night away. The bar part of Bar Code Bar is lacking with very limited drink choices but I go to dance anyways and we were the life of the party.
I am looking forward to a long weekend. It is Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend so we have Monday off!! It’s pretty sad that I am psyched to have three days to study and try and catch up and then get ahead but that is the life of a Chinese student.