So it’s almost a year to the day since I posted a rather depressing, but incredibly honest and real post on my life in China. If you want a refresher of how sad I was you can read part one here: The realities of life in China
I thought as a kind of anniversary I’d write an updated look at my life in Shijiazhuang since it definitely got better. And yes, once again I’m procrastinating writing my Golden Week post! Some things will never change.
Last year I started with the fact that I caught a cold in Shanghai which was rough. Well this bit didn’t really get better…in Inner Mongolia I caught a bug of some sort and was really ill. Not the sort of ill where I felt a bit rough and miserable, but the kind of ill where I missed 2 lessons and spent 4 days pretty much bedridden, not having any appetite and constantly feeling like I was going to throw up. Luckily most of my lessons had been cancelled for military training so I did only miss 2 classes but I’m still going to miss out on my bonus for this month. Last year I was struggling to get over a cold and was miserable, this year I’m getting over something worse and am still in a good mood 😀
Before the cold that nearly killed me in Inner Mongolia.
Moving onto problems with the school – I think because I’ve already taught here for a year a lot of the problems have gone away. For example I wrote a paragraph complaining about not knowing about the exams whereas this year I still don’t know when they are but because I wrote/marked 4 lots last year I know the expected format and what to expect. I still only teach 16 hours a week but have to plan 5 lessons, but this year a lot of the planning is already done because I can reuse the lessons from last year. The majority of the time I’m just editing lessons from last year and making them more fun and more difficult since the students this year are generally better at English than last years were. Plus no-ones mentioned the primary school yet and I’m keeping my mouth shut since I really didn’t enjoy going there, even if it meant that I got discounted beer for teaching a shopkeepers son.
In terms of my classes I’m certainly enjoying them a lot more than last year! Whether it’s my confidence, their higher ability or something else entirely, I’ve yet to really yell at a class, get other teachers involved, or do more than have a stern word about talking. *Touch wood* they will stay like this. I still don’t like my former junior 3 class – I teach on their corridor so see the students all the time – but luckily I’m not their teacher anymore and their new one really likes them! I really enjoy teaching and having chats with my students, one class has decided to teach me Chinese after class, another give me food every lesson, most of them clap and cheer when I walk into the room, and if they see me around the school they shout ‘FABULOUS’ at me (I say it all the time in class). I have a student who went to Swansea University last week and told me all about the fresh air there, another one who showed me the Yorkshire Tea that he’d got from somewhere, and students who gaze at me adoringly whenever they see me. Admittedly the last group unnerve me a little when I’m teaching, but I’d take them any day over the students who last year made me cry and blamed me for their bad behaviour.
Exit Notes this year
And now on to the bank situation. I eventually did open an account but this year it’s all messed up again and in order to get paid we have to have a certain bank account. However before Golden Week when we tried to open one we were denied because we were foreign and the local branch didn’t know how to do it. So after the holiday, after pay day in fact, the accountant managed to open them but we had to go in and change the PIN to access the money. According to the school this meant that we’d been paid even though we couldn’t access the money. Yeah right! Hero Sean took me and some others yesterday lunch to sort it out (10 days after expected pay day) and as a result of the number of people and the rain Sean and I ended up being 35 minutes late to a 40 minute class. When we were told we wouldn’t be paid for that class as per the contract I went to see Sarah, our contact teacher, straight away and got really quite angry. When she started trying to blame Sean I outright yelled at her and then luckily John, our boss, walked in and I could yell at him too to sort it out. I think they could tell that I really wasn’t going to accept them going by the contract if they weren’t with regards to pay day. Eventually they found a way for me and Sean to catch up on our lessons so we didn’t have to lose money, but the juries still out on Tom who was 20 minutes late. The conclusion to this is that Sean and I should NEVER go to another Chinese bank together again!
The bank situation has probably been the most stressful thing to happen so far this year, and since it only happened yesterday I’m still wound up about it and quite short tempered today. I have however had to unexpectedly teach today and loved every minute with class 3, I’m seeing Sarah tonight and getting a Chinese lesson in Lily’s house tomorrow before badminton on Sunday. I’m taking 3 online courses to hopefully become a better teacher, I’m really finding myself loving teaching and I’m genuinely sad when the bell goes in my class and I have to go. I’m still trying to force China to like me sometimes, but I do like it.