Friday, July 19, 2013

Teaching in Nan Tong

My Class
This is my last day of my two week teaching stint in Nan Tong. It really has been an amazing experience (even if I did have to get up at 7am every morning!).
I have spent the two weeks with a class of twenty-six English teachers to help improve their spoken English and to teach them about Canadian culture. These teachers have a wide range of abilities but none of them have studied outside of China or have had a "foriegn" teacher so they really value the chance to be immersed in the language. I'm sure they didn't all appreciate having to take the first two weeks of their summer vacation to attend a two week in service but they have proven to be one of the best group of people I have ever worked with. We have had many laughs and they have taught me as much about China as I have taught them about Canada. They have tried to help me with my spoken Chinese (which is limited to about ten words) and I'm sure have had many laughs at my horrible pronunciation!
Nan Ton University. On our way to class.
All Chinese students must study English from grade 3 up so teachers of English are highly valued. Their spoken english remains somewhat formal since they study much grammar and learn from audio tapes. There were some interesting moments in my class with the use of english. One of my students was doing an oral presentation about her family and while showing some adorable photos of her son she proudly explained one photo of her young son sitting on his potty by saying, "He is doing a shit!" I was the only one that laughed so I had to explain that the word "shit" is not usually said in formal or polite conversation. We spent much time trying to pronounce the word "usually" which most could only say as "uually". By the last day I had given up and advised that they say "generally" instead!
Most of the students do not live in Nantong so they have stayed in the hotel at the sports stadium with my fellow foreign teachers and myself. Each morning we all gather for breakfast at 8am and then take a bus to the nearby Nantong University. Morning class was from 9 to 11 and then we returned to the hotel for a three and a half hour lunch and nap! We returned to the university for afternoon classes from 2:30 to 4:30. Being an afficionado of the afternoon nap myself, I quickly adapted to this schedule and plan to put forward the suggestion back home that this would be an optimal schedule!
The students kindly give themselves English names since it would be impossible to try to remember, or pronounce their actual names. This leads to some very interesting names. In my class I have a Lemon, four Lilies, a girl named Ross, Apple, and various other fruits or vegetables!
Bus ride in the morning.
Apparently, someone must have said that I like the heat because the air conditioning in my hotel room has not really been working well and to make things worse, even though all of the other foriegn teachers walked in to pleasantly cool rooms every day, my classroom seemed to be an experimental effort to see just how hot we could be before melting into oblivion. We stoically lasted until the first Friday whereupon we all rebelled and asked Rosemary, my fellow teacher across the hall to take pity upon we poor wretches and let us join her in her sublimely chilly lecture hall. She graciously took us in for the day and we had a splendid time team teaching much to the delight of our students. My class was moved to the upper floor in the second week and although this was better then the first sauna we were in it still did not rival the comforting surroundings of my teaching colleagues.
My two weeks have been spent in the company of four other teachers who have been a tremendous support for me and terrific company. Jolanda and Chuck are a married couple from St. Agatha who were brave enough to make this their second teaching stint with the Jiangsu Education Services for International Exchange (Jesie). They are also avid travellers and are planning a short backpacking trip in the Yellow Mountains next week. We have exchanged travelling stories and I now have an even bigger list of places I would like to visit! Rosemary lives in Burlington and has planned a two week tour of China following our stay in Nantong. Donna lives near me in Hamilton and is going to return home this Sunday so she is acting as the mule for the rest of us by hauling our extra items back for us. Donna and Rosemary teach French back home so their advice about teaching a second language has been very helpful. These companions have been a wonderful group to work with and to spend social time with. My experience in China for the first two weeks has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience because of their company! I am going to miss them all as I make my way around China, Indonesia and Thailand!
One of the highlights of this time in Nantong has been meeting Mr. Ying, a man who enjoys his white rice wine and wants others to enjoy it with him. The one word I learned from Mr. Ying was "gambay" which roughly means to drink your entire glass of spirits in one go and try to beat the person suggesting this event. I explained to Mr. Ying that we might use the phrase "chug" to convey the same meaning. Echo has happily translated many of Mr. Ying's conversation during our meals and since the use of pronouns is not common she would start her translation with, "Mr. Ying says..." These are just a few of the Mr. Yingisms we have heard:
Mr. Ying says, "Gambay!" (heard several times during celebratory dinners)
Mr. Ying says, "Chug!" (after I taught him this word)
Mr. Ying says, "Do not leave any beer on the table!" (in other words, drink up)
Mr. Ying says, "You need to come back to Nan Tong next summer!" (I think he liked us)

This afternoon I take a bus to Shanghai and then an overnight train to Beijing. Next stop, the Great Wall of China!
Zai jian, Nan Tong!

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