English Interest Course

Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC): pros & cons

Friday, February 5:  Last night I received the first email through my blog from someone who has been recruited to work at Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC) for the fall semester of 2016. I figured rather than respond to each potential teacher who writes to me individually, I should write my long-overdue list of pros and cons.  As ESL teachers, we often don’t have a clue about what we are getting into, so I write this list, trying to be as fair and honest as possible, simply to inform potential teachers.

I worked as an English teacher at SCIC from September 2014 – July 2015.  Listed below are the pros and cons of working at the college during my tenure there.

teachers and administration at SCIC in June 2015

teachers and administration at SCIC in June 2015

PROS:

  • The students.  They were generally hard-working, respectful, and friendly.  Though it was hard to get them to practice speaking freely, with the right activities, they opened up and became some of the best students I’ve ever had.  They were often thrilled to have a native speaker in their midst; many of them had only been taught English by Chinese teachers. They welcomed the opportunity to interact with me and often tried to befriend me, take me to dinner, invite me to KTV, dinner or other outings. Of course, there were individual differences, but as a whole, they were a pleasure to teach.  I’ve taught ESL to a variety of students from all nationalities: 1) at Northern Virginia Community College to a good cross-section of students from Europe (Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey), Africa (Egypt, Morocco), Asia (China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan), and the Middle East (Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan); 2) for two years at the University of Nizwa in the Sultanate of Oman; and 3) one year in South Korea (elementary-aged students).
  • The administration:  Generally speaking, the Chinese administration was helpful and tried to make sure teachers were well-taken care of.  They were generally responsive to housing and visa concerns.  They often left most of day-to-day administration to the coordinators, who held monthly meetings with teachers.  I also felt appreciated by the administration, something that one doesn’t always feel when teaching abroad.
  • Hands-off approach:  We had a textbook for each level and we agreed to cover certain chapters in the textbook before midterms and finals. We were required to have two tests and two assignments each quarter (four and four for the whole semester, besides the midterm and final exams).  Other than that, it was left to the teacher to decide what kinds of tests and assignments to give, how to grade them, and how to present the material to the students.  After having worked in Oman for two years, where everything was micro-managed to the nth degree, this was a welcome change.
  • Technology.  This could be on both the pro and con list.  Technology was available, but it was quite old and sometimes didn’t work properly.  When it was working properly, it was great.  I had a computer, a projector, and an overhead projector in the classroom.  The tech person charged with fixing problems sometimes wasn’t readily available, which could throw your lesson into a tailspin.  He also couldn’t speak English; however, I could often get one of my students to translate. Sometimes he had a bit of an attitude about having to come and fix problems.  I found this annoying as it was, after all, his job to fix problems.
  • Classroom facilities.  I was in the Experimental Building, a fairly modern building, on the 10th floor.  The desks were long tables lined up and packed into the room, which made it a challenge to do group work.  I was always doing group work, and we managed, but it wasn’t an optimal situation. The older SCIC buildings were not as modern and were actually quite shabby.
  • Location of college in relation to residence.  I was one of the lucky teachers who lived in a staff residence on the west campus only five minutes away by bicycle or 10 minutes away on foot.  Some teachers were located on the east campus, still not too far by bicycle, but I wouldn’t have wanted to walk from there.
  • No required office hours.  After my stint in Oman, where I was required to be on campus from 8:00-4:00 every day whether I had classes or not, it was nice to have no required office hours.  My schedule was not too hard in the first semester; I was finished almost every day by noon.  In the spring semester, I had two split days (morning and afternoon (usually afternoon started after the lunch/nap hours of 12-2) and the other days, I was finished by noon.

CONS:

  • Private college motivated by money.  Students take the Gaokao in China (similar to the SATs in the USA) to get into college.  From WikipediaThe National Higher Education Entrance Examination (also translated as National Matriculation Examination or National College Entrance Examination or “NCEE”), commonly known as Gaokao (高考, “Higher Education Exam”, Pinyin gāo kǎo, lit. “High test”), is an academic examination held annually in People’s Republic of China.  This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level.  The students at SCIC got Gaokao scores too low to get into Guangxi University.  They can attend SCIC (a two-year private institution which focuses on English-language learning) and when they finish at SCIC, they automatically gain entrance into Guangxi University, despite their Gaokao scores being low.  SCIC was basically their conduit to the university.  Thus, I was told all students would pass, even if a teacher failed them.  I don’t care for this system, as it means students don’t really have to apply themselves if they don’t want to.  Of course many students were self-motivated, but as some knew they would pass and get into Guangxi University no matter what, those didn’t feel like bothering with learning English.  After all, in a country of 1.4 billion people, not much English is spoken and there is no real need for it unless they plan to get into international business or study or travel abroad.
  • No office hours.  This is both a pro and a con.  Though it was nice to be finished by noon most days, the lack of office hours meant there wasn’t time for teachers to congregate, share ideas, or simply socialize and get to know each other.  I found this to be quite isolating.  When I worked in Oman, the forced office hours also led to some wonderful friendships.
  • No usable offices, and later, tiny cubbyhole offices. We were given offices in a building where IELTS testing was often done on weekends, so we were told to never leave anything important in our offices because we weren’t allowed in the building on those weekends. No one I know ever used those offices.  Later, the administration put tiny cubicles on the 10th floor of the Experimental Building. The cubicles were the smallest and tightest workspaces I’ve ever seen.  There was never any incentive to work in an office, so I did all my work from home.  I hate working from home, as I like a clear line between my work and private life, so I didn’t care for this arrangement at all.
  • No convenient copy center or copy machines.  There were no copy machines available for teachers.  We had to go to a private supplier in a run-down shack of a building; this copy center catered to both students and teachers so often we had to compete to get service.  This was so inconvenient!  Also, the copy center was closed from 12-2, when we often needed our copying done.  In Oman, we had a copy center designated for teachers only, and we had additional copiers near our offices.
  • Air-conditioning, or lack thereof.  Nanning is very hot and humid from about March to November.  In the Experimental Building, the administration refused to turn the air conditioning on until a certain date, and turned it off after a certain date, no matter if it was hot before or after that date.  This was not the case in the older SCIC buildings; the teachers in those buildings had air conditioning whenever they wanted it. As we were on the 10th floor, it could get quite hot and miserable in the classrooms. Even when the air conditioning was on, it often was still stifling, especially on the side of the building where the sun was shining in.
  • Unfairness in teaching assignments and workloads.  When I arrived at SCIC, I was informed I was assigned to be a Writing teacher. I did not ask for this, nor was I asked what I would prefer.  ALL Level I and Level II teachers taught Speaking and Listening.  However, half the teachers taught Writing and half taught Reading.  The Reading teachers had a much lighter workload for the same amount of pay as the Writing teachers.  I had 73 writing students each semester (divided up into several classes, all under 20 students), so that meant many hours of grueling marking.  While the Reading teachers had multiple choice tests to mark, Writing teachers had hours and hours of badly written essays to mark.  Some teachers suggested that the workloads would be fairer if, say, the teachers switched places in the two semesters.  In other words, a teacher could teach Writing in the fall and Reading in the spring. However, many of the Reading teachers were firmly entrenched and argued vehemently again this proposal.  One teacher I know who had worked in China for many years and who started at the same time as I did told the recruiter that she would come to SCIC only if she didn’t have to teach Writing. Surprisingly, the recruiter agreed to her demands.  She was assigned to be a Reading teacher.  The administration should find a more equitable way to distribute the workload among teachers, or they should pay Writing teachers more.
  • Low pay.  The pay at SCIC ranges from 6,000-8,500 RMB ($912 – $1,292 per month).  Though I made at the upper end of this range, it was still nowhere close to what I made in Oman ($3,000) or even Korea ($2,600).  Granted, it is very cheap to do almost everything in China, so it was enough money that I was able to travel quite extensively while there.  Because my goal was to travel as much as possible, I did that, but I wasn’t able to save much.  Luckily we were paid over our 6-week holiday in January-February, although they withheld the February pay until we returned to work March 1. For teachers who renewed their contracts and returned in fall of 2015, they were not paid at all over the 6-week summer break.  As our contracts were for 10 1/2 months, if we did not renew, of course we didn’t get paid for those six weeks.
  • Air fare reimbursement. We were reimbursed for our air fare to get to and from China at a set amount (8,000 RMB, or ~$1,200), but our air fare to get there wasn’t paid until after teachers completed the fall semester and turned in their grades. The air fare for our return flight home in the summer was given to us before we left the country, after spring semester was over, but in my case, the amount didn’t cover my air fare home because it was high season.  In Oman, our total air fare was paid for (in fact they bought our tickets for us), and in addition, we got air fare for one round trip to our home country during our summer holiday.  That mid-year return air fare is NOT offered at all by SCIC.
  • No gratuity for completion of contract.  I guess I was spoiled by working in Oman, and even Korea, because upon completion of our contracts there, we got a gratuity of one-month’s salary for completing our contract.  We did not get this at SCIC.
  • Apartments.  Some teachers had decent apartments.  I didn’t.  The furniture was hard wood and I had no sofa or soft chairs, or even room for any. The apartment was old and run down.  Cockroaches often came to visit, especially in the middle of the night.  I heard some teachers had encounters with rats, but I never did, thank goodness.  Having no place comfortable to sit was a real problem for me.  Luckily, we were provided with nice new flat-screen TVs about midway through our contracts, as well as new computers.
  • Coordinators.  I’m not sure how coordinators were chosen except by popularity or because no one else wanted to be coordinator, so some random person stepped up to the plate.  Some of the people appointed coordinator had no qualifications to be such, and should not have been coordinators!  Many of them were awfully nice people though!
  • English Interest Classes.  These are a joke. Every Tuesday afternoon, we were required to teach an English Interest Course.  The students who attended were not our regular students.  It was suggested that we do as little work as possible on these.  Many people taught photography (which I did in fall semester) or yoga or exercise classes.  They’re basically a way to encourage foreign teachers to interact with students on a more informal basis.  Many of the teachers ended up showing English movies with Chinese subtitles during the class.  A big waste of time for both teachers and students.

Overall, I did enjoy my experience teaching in China.  As for Nanning itself, it’s a city of about 6 million people with not much of interest, except a couple of nice museums.  If you like heat and humidity you will be happy with the weather.  I hate heat and humidity, so I found the weather miserable.

As for travel, Guangxi province has a lot to offer, especially the Li River area, including Guilin and Yangshuo, Detian Waterfall on the border of Vietnam and China, and most of all the Longsheng Rice Terraces.  Guangxi province is also not too inconvenient for visits to Hong Kong.  I traveled extensively while in China. I especially enjoyed the rice terraces, Yangshuo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Fenghuang, Zhangjiajie and all of Yunnan province. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, China, English Interest Course, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language | Tags: , , , , , | 31 Comments

cocktail hour in the laundry room: the dragon boat festival that wasn’t

Monday, June 22:  Good evening and big hugs to you.  I’m so glad you dropped by for another laundry room cocktail hour. Please, have a seat in my comfortable chair.  I’m so anxious to hear about your week.  Would you like a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or a cold Budweiser?  Usually I buy Chinese beer, but I’ve decided it tastes a little too watery for my taste.   I must confess, I already started celebrating a bit before your arrival.  Just a wee glass of wine, or two.  I’m hoping that will make me more relaxed, and more ready to hear all you have to say.

One of many lotus ponds on the campus

One of many lotus ponds on the campus

It’s plenty warm out here in the laundry room, but it doesn’t seem quite as humid as usual, so maybe we can bear it for a while.  The sun is shining, a rarity in Nanning, so we might want to catch some of the rays, even if they’re coming in at a low angle.  Do you agree it isn’t so bad out here tonight?  I’m quite enjoying it because I’ve been sitting inside in air conditioning all day. I’ve been huddled under a blanket, so it’s nice to be outside enjoying the summer evening.

a particularly pretty lotus pond on campus

a particularly pretty lotus pond on campus

I took some pictures with my iPhone this week during several walks I took around the campus.  They’re here in the post so you can see what my daily walks look like.  Well, not quite daily, but at least four times a week.  I had a bizarre thing happen this week, most notably that a young Chinese man on a bicycle tried to proposition me.  This happened quite regularly in Oman, and everywhere I’ve been in the Middle East, but it has never happened before in China.  I was quite shocked by it. I’ll tell more about it, with a picture of the perpetrator, once I leave China.  Don’t worry, I WILL tell you all about it eventually.

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

We should celebrate because it’s been a three-day weekend for the Dragon Boat Festival. I’m always happy to have an extra day in which I don’t have to work, even if I do absolutely nothing to celebrate the actual holiday.

The Dragon Boat Festival was on Saturday, June 20.  Here’s what China Travel Guide has to say about it:  This festival has been held annually for over 2,000 years and commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).  It also acts as a chance for Chinese people to build their bodies and dispel diseases.  Qu Yuan was a minister from the State of Chu and supported a fight against the powerful state of Qin.  Because of this, he was slandered by an aristocrat and exiled by the King.  He wrote many passionate poems to show his love for his country, and is therefore regarded as a famous poet in China’s history. In 278 BC, after finishing his last masterpiece, he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country occupied and conquered by the State of Qin.

On hearing of Qu Yuan’s death, the locals were in distress and fishermen searched for his body by sailing their boats down the river. Other people threw food such as eggs and food like zongzi into the river to attract fish and other animals from destroying Qu Yuan’s body. Later, many people imitated these acts to show their respect for this great patriotic poet and this practice continues today.

Because Qu Yuan died on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people decided to commemorate him on that day every year. Dragon boat racing and eating zongzi have become the central customs of the festival (China Travel Guide: Dragon Boat Festival).

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Though the Dragon Boat Festival sounds like a lovely holiday, I didn’t do a thing to celebrate.  I’ve traveled on every single National Holiday since I’ve been in China, and this is the first one where I’ve stayed put. I no longer have the energy to fight the huge crowds that always travel in China on these holidays.  I guess I’m finally starting to feel like often I feel in the U.S. on the national holidays.  I never travel on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day if I can help it.  Sometimes I travel on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we always try to figure out how to get around the crowds on these holidays.

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

Graffiti on old buildings on the Agricultural College campus

On Saturday afternoon, my student Azura, the one who took me to the apartment restaurant several weeks ago, texted me: “Hi Cathy.  It’s Azura.  Are you at school or travelling to another city?  My parents coming school, and my mother made some different kinds of ‘zong zi’ for you. ‘zong zi’ is traditional food for Dragon Boat Festival.”  After some back and forth emails, Azura had her father drive her to my apartment so she could drop off the zongzi.

Zongzi all wrapped up

Zongzi all wrapped up

Zongzi is pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves.  In the north part of the country, people favor the jujube as filling, while the south favors sweetened bean paste, fresh meat, or egg yolk.  The zongzi Azura’s mom made have quail eggs and beef in them, and even some bones!

zings when opened

zings when opened

Eating the zongzi was the closest I came to celebrating the holiday. I’ve been on the go so much over the past number of weekends that I’ve been happy to stay inside all weekend, reading some blogs, writing some blogs, editing some pictures, and watching endless episodes of Revenge.  I also walked every day, and although I’m walking 3 miles a day at a fast pace and sweating buckets, in addition to trying to watch what I eat, I still can’t seem to drop a single pound.  It’s so discouraging!

lotus blossoms

lotus blossoms

Lotus pond

Lotus pond

So, tell me about your week.  What did you do?  Did you travel at all?  Did you enjoy the Summer Solstice? Did you go to any outdoor concerts?  Did you make any lists?  Did you plan any trips for the later part of the summer?  How is work?  Did you have an easy or stressful week?  Did you make a new friend?  Or did you have a conflict with anyone?  Did you have too high expectations in a friendship and did the person let you down?  Did worries keep you from sleeping?  Or did you experience ecstatic joy or pleasure?

IMG_6425

Lotus blossom under cover

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lotus pond and tree

I know it’s been a difficult time in the U.S. with those senseless and hateful killings in a Charleston Church.  Why is there still such hatred in this world?  Why don’t people try harder to understand one another, and to love one another? I find people are becoming increasingly isolated.  It’s a difficult world we live in, so why don’t we all work harder to make it easier, and more loving?  A lot of people have written about this very American racist crisis, and I don’t have anything more to say except that people continue to horrify and disappoint me.  I think most people do have hearts, but we don’t read about them much in the news, do we?

Here in China, life goes on. My students continue to be kind to me, and they reinforce every day that they are the best thing about this job.  When I leave here, I will write about the pros and cons of working at SCIC, and I will also write about what I’m going to miss and not miss in China.   I look forward to writing that post after I leave the country.

I really didn’t do much at all this week except finish my last English Interest Course, “Road Trip American Style.”  This course is not much of anything except having the students watch movies. We watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Little Miss Sunshine, and finally, Chevy Chase National Lampoon Vacation.  The students seemed to enjoy the movies.  The classes are really a waste of our time and the students’ time, in my opinion.  Since they’re on Tuesday afternoons and our last class was this week, now I’ll be finished every day of the week by noon, except for Mondays.  We only have two more teaching weeks remaining, and then it will be exam week.  Thank goodness, as I think we’re all ready to be finished with this semester.

the shady part of my walk

the shady part of my walk

Besides getting totally hooked on the TV series, Revenge, I’ve also been watching Grey’s Anatomy and Mistresses.  I’m still plodding away on Sandcastle Girls. The book is good, but for some reason I seem to be too antsy to read much.  By the time I go to bed, I read about a page or two, and then I’m asleep.

I did attend a small birthday celebration for Nancy, one of the long-time teachers at SCIC.  Here she is with her huge birthday cake, which I was able to partake in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There really is nothing else of interest to tell you about this week.  It’s been deadly dull, to be honest.  Maybe I should have traveled this weekend after all.  I get so bored when there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.  Once I’m back in my home in Virginia, I’ll be able to find plenty to do, I hope!

I hope you all have a great week.  Please, I hope you have something more interesting to tell me than I had to report!  I need some saucy news! Anything new and adventurous will do.  I can live vicariously through you. 🙂

Peace and love to you all. 🙂

Categories: Agricultural College of Guangxi University, Asia, China, Chinese food, conversation, Dragon Boat Festival, East Campus, English Interest Course, Guangxi University, Holidays, laundry room cocktail hour, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, Zongzi | Tags: , , , , , , | 48 Comments

my english interest course {3rd stop: the university main gate}

Tuesday, October 28:  Today is the third and last outing for my English Interest Course.  My choice would have been to go to the place called Dog Hole, a rough and grimy area on campus where vendors sell food, household items, keys, and bicycle parts.  There is a bicycle repair lady there who keeps perpetually busy servicing all the bicycles on campus.  It would be a great place to take pictures.

But my students don’t want to go to Dog Hole.  I don’t know why because I know the students spend a lot of time there in their off hours.  Some tell me it’s too stinky.  Others may just not want to run into their friends.  I’m only guessing.  They vote that they want to go to the main gate of the university.  I think that will be pretty boring because there really isn’t much between the Experimental Building, where our class is, and the main gate. Nothing much except gardens and the view of the building and the actual gate through which people enter the university.

At the next two sessions, each of my 22 students must present a 5-minute, 10-slide presentation telling a story of some aspect of their lives.  Eleven will present each session.  That will take up the last two of the six total classes.  Then I’ll get another batch of students to do another 6-week session of the class.

We go outside to walk around the main gate area and we see some pretty pots all lined up in rows.

pots in front of the Experimental Building

pots in front of the Experimental Building

Two of my prettily dressed students go wandering off on their own.

two of my students walk along the path

two of my students walk along the path

Looking back we can see the huge Experimental Building where I teach every day on the 9th floor.

The  Experimental Building.  I teach classes here on the 9th floor.

The Experimental Building. I teach classes here on the 9th floor.

Some nice street lamps line the wide walkway, which looks almost like a boulevard.

street light

street light

The flowers are losing their summer luster.  It’s still hot and humid here, but the nights are getting cooler and it’s raining more frequently.  Maybe a change of weather is around the corner.

fading flowers

fading flowers

is fall arriving?

is fall arriving?

summer fades to autumn

summer fades to autumn

fading flowers

fading flowers

a bud in a bud

a bud in a bud

petal droop

petal droop

white on white

white on white

I like the conical hat on the gardener’s vehicle.

the gardener

the gardener

As we approach Daxue Lu (Road), we can see cars entering the main gate and a bunch of students dressed in blue T-shirts.  I ask them what they’re doing and they tell me they’re advertising a hotel.

a group advertises a hotel

a group advertises a hotel

Hotel advertiser

Hotel advertiser

Out past the entrance, we nearly get run over by bicycles and motorbikes.

Motorbikes

Motorbikes

bicycles and motorbikes

bicycles and motorbikes

A crowd of them are waiting for the light to turn green.

Waiting for green

Waiting for green

As we walk back inside the main gate, we find some circular garden features.

I spy

I spy

And we end up right back where we started from.

pathway

pathway

Later as we all go our separate ways, I walk past the lotus pond, which was nice and green when I arrived in September.  It’s now drying up and turning brown.

the browning of the lotus pond

the browning of the lotus pond

I actually find these photo walks a little boring, and I imagine if I do, the students probably do too.  I am now reconsidering whether to do my original idea of “Road Trip American Style” for my next six-week round of this class.  It will require more work on my part, but maybe it will be a little more interesting. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, English Interest Course, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

my english interest course {2nd stop: the athletic field}

Tuesday, October 21:  This afternoon, my English Interest Course on “Storytelling Photography” goes on an outing to the university athletic field, a sprawling concrete area with a track, outdoor basketball courts, exercise equipment and people doing all manner of exercise from playing baseball to doing yoga to running / walking around the track to taking dance / aerobics classes.  I gave this outing as an option last week and the students picked it.

I think it might be interesting, but it’s not.

Exercise class

Dance class

I’m not a big fan of sports in general, and it’s quite a hot day.  We wander around taking pictures of some of the various activities that are going on.  It’s actually the most boring outing I could have ever devised.  The 45 minutes or so that we are there seems like an eternity.  I think when I do this course in the second half of the semester, I’ll cross this one off my list.

Exercise class

Exercise class

classes on the athletic field

classes on the athletic field

One of the other English Interest Course teachers is teaching an exercise/yoga class, so we stop to take pictures.

another English Interest Course

another English Interest Course

Squat!

Warrior 1 pose!

The track

The track

Yet another English Interest Course teacher is teaching baseball as his subject, so we stop to watch his class. The girls are fashionably dressed, as they always are, which surprises me when I see them involved in sports activities.

the pitcher at the baseball game

the pitcher at the baseball game

running for home

running for home

a hit!

a hit!

up to bat

up to bat

pitcher

pitcher

Here are some random pictures.  It’s not great or even interesting photography, but I’m trying to document some of my life in China.

One of the students tells me that in order to pass the physical fitness exam, they must do 10 pull-ups on the pull-up bars, lifting the upper part of their bodies above the bar. I ask my students how many they can do, and most say 3-4.  Doing 10 is the passing score.  To get 100%, they must do 18.  I tried to do one pull-up and I couldn’t even do that.  I’m such a weakling.

One of my students has an interesting tattoo.  He says there’s a story behind it, but he doesn’t really want to share the story.

tattoo

tattoo

This afternoon, I walk out of my classroom building to find a group of girls practicing a dance routine with sticks in their mouths. One explains, as she takes the stick out of her mouth and laughs with embarrassment, that they hold the sticks in their mouths because it reminds them, or forces them, to smile!

I mention to a fellow teacher that when I first came, I was fascinated by all the group sport and dance activities on every street corner. But now I don’t see it as odd anymore, just a matter of routine. It’s amazing how quickly strange things become normal when you immerse yourself in a foreign culture!

When I first arrived in September, I would often walk by the athletic field in the evening on my way to the campus supermarket.  At twilight, I would see hundreds, maybe thousands, of bats, flitting about in the sky.  It freaked me out a little. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, English Interest Course, Guangxi University, Guangxi University Athletic Field, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Sports, Teaching English as a Second Language, Travel | 27 Comments

my english interest course: storytelling photography {1st stop: the market}

Tuesday, October 14: Before I came to work at the university in China, I was asked to prepare an English Interest Course (EIC), which I would teach to about 20 students for 6 one-hour sessions.  I was told the course should be something about Western culture, or anything that you would teach in an English Corner.

Taking the assignment seriously, I went to great lengths to prepare a course called “Road Trips American Style.” I found several movies from which I would show excerpts:  Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Thelma & Louise.  I also found a lot of great literature about road trips. I planned to use excerpts from some of these: an essay by Ann Patchett about a trip in a Winnebago, “My Road to Hell was Paved;” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig; American Nomads by Richard Grant, Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon; and Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck.  I also prepared a Power Point presentation about different modes of travel, using photos of everything from bicycles to Airstreams to Volkswagen buses.  I planned to prepare more presentations on types of hotels, sights to see, types of roads.  The final goal was to have students research and present their own one week road trip, deciding on which vehicle to use, what roads to take, what sights to see, what hotels to stay in and what restaurants to eat in.

Way too ambitious!!

So much for my great plans.  When I got here, I was told that the EIC courses are meant to be fun and light.  Some of the courses taught are yoga, sports, photography, etc.  My course would have involved too much reading and preparation, too much work.  The literature excerpts would have been too difficult and too time-consuming.  Thus I had to rethink my course.

In Oman, I had prepared a course for an English Corner about places to visit in America.  In Oman, the English Corner was voluntary, and thus no one ever showed up.  Here, the students are required to attend one of these courses for a course credit.  Their attendance and participation are mandatory.

Adjusting my expectations, on a whim, I decided to teach a course on Storytelling Photography.  For my first class, I presented great photos that tell a story, using examples from Steve McCurry and other photographers whose blogs I follow.  Then I told the story of my life, including my family and home in Virginia, and my travels to 16 countries over the last 5 years.  In total I had over 140 slides.  The poor students were probably ready to tear their hair out!

green grocer

green grocer

...and his greens

…and his greens

I told the students that for the next three sessions, we would visit places on campus and take photos which they can use for a 5-minute 10-slide presentation telling a story about some aspect of their lives.  They can use any of the photos we take on our outings, or they can use photos they take on their own time.

green and orange oranges

green and orange oranges

Our first outing today is to the market on the campus.  We meet first at the Experimental Building where I take attendance, since attendance is mandatory.  Then we walk to the market together.  Who knows if some of the students sneak off; I can’t keep track of them all.  On the way there, one of my students tells me he would have enjoyed just spending the whole semester seeing pictures of all the places I’ve traveled.  So I guess my slide show didn’t bore them after all.  At least this student enjoyed it. 🙂

On the way to the market, a rat runs out in front of us, and one of my students stomps on and kills it, picks it up by the tail and disposes of it.  I’m a little shocked by this but not too much, as I find rats disgusting.  I’ve heard of some apartments on campus where rats have been a problem.  If I found one in my apartment, I would really freak out.  I already killed a 3″ cockroach on my kitchen counter one night in the middle of the night.  Now I’m always wary when I get up for a drink of water.

It’s really great having my students with me on this trip to the market.  I came here before by myself, and I’m sure the market vendors were wondering why I was walking around snapping pictures of them.  At this time of day (3:00-3:40), the market is quite slow and not even all the vendors are open.  I ask my students to explain to the vendors what we’re doing, and actually most of them seem quite happy, I think even flattered, that we’re there to take their pictures.

It’s great to have my students, who are in the second year of their studies, along because they can explain what things are.  They tell me these men are playing Chinese checkers.  The game is quite rousing, with a lot of yelling and slamming of game pieces on the board.  I have seen men sitting around playing this game everywhere I’ve been in China.

a crowd gathers for a rousing game of Chinese checkers

a crowd gathers for a rousing game of Chinese checkers

a game of Chinese checkers

a game of Chinese checkers

Chinese checkers

Chinese checkers

The market is a rough and tumble place where business is of primary concern.  These are hard-working people who take pride in their merchandise and aren’t afraid of the nitty-gritty.

pipes

pipes

camo boots

camo boots

cages

cages

I ask my students what this vendor is doing with his torch.  I stupidly say, “Is he cooking the meat?” One of my students tells me, “No, he’s burning off the fur.”

burning off the "fur"

burning off the “fur”

torching the "fur"

torching the “fur”

I’ve always wondered what these fruits are, and they tell me, after looking it up on their Chinese-English dictionary app, that they are jujube.

jujube

jujube

the jujube grocer

the jujube grocer

I’m told these are persimmons.

persimmons

persimmons

umbrella

umbrella

fruit stand

fruit stand

Some of my students make this vendor happy by buying some of her fruit.

business transaction

business transaction

peanuts

peanuts

I’m sure the vendors enjoy this slow time of day when they can socialize and play cards.  I don’t know what game they’re playing.

card game

card game

Chinese dates, etc.

Chinese dates, etc.

In Oman, I used a drying rack in my apartment to dry my laundry.  Here, we have either a balcony or, in my case, an outdoor laundry room with a high pole on which we hang our laundry on hangers.  These poles are used to reach up high to hang up the hangers.

Poles used to hang up laundry to dry on a high bar

Poles used to hang up laundry to dry on a high bar

colorful clothes hangers

colorful clothes hangers

Someone just washed their tomatoes.

dewdrop tomatoes

dewdrop tomatoes

We find this colorful cardboard lantern and some of my students point out the various motifs such as dragons.

Chinese lantern

Chinese lantern

Another of my students pulls me over to a garden shop to show me what he calls a fly-catcher.  I look up Venus flytrap and it doesn’t look like this, so I’m not sure what it is exactly.

Venus flytrap

Venus flytrap

garden shop

garden shop

Some of the children’s umbrellas are sparkly and goofy.

children's umbrellas

children’s umbrellas

And I believe this is some kind of rubber ducky vehicle.

rubber ducky vehicle

rubber ducky vehicle

This man is fanning the flies off of his meat.

fanning the flies away

fanning the flies away

And these are a couple of my students who picked up some produce while here.

some of my students

some of my students

One of my female students is wearing some very interesting shoes.

funky shoes

funky shoes

I stop to study this notice board outside of the market, but I can’t understand a word.

notice board

notice board

And here’s someone who’s ready for the market, either a vendor or a buyer.

motorbike geared up for market day

motorbike geared up for market day

At 3:40 our class is over and I tell the students they’re dismissed.  Next week we plan to go to the sports field.  I’m not sure where the third place will be.  Stay tuned to find out. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese markets, English Interest Course, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Photography, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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