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I thought you may like to know what a typical week in Tangshan is like for David and I.

Monday-Wednesday we don’t have to work. Monday tends to be a catch-up day when we clean the apartment, do laundry, catch up on emails/blog posts, etc. For the next two days we either go to a nearby city, or stay around here and go to the gym, visit local markets, (I) get $3 massages, ride bikes to eat on food streets, and say hello to the teachers at school. Last week was actually Arzola’s birthday, and we had a party complete with home-made dumplings and steamed bread (courtesy of Ada and Liu) and a birthday cake!

Thursday David has a public kindergarden class early in the morning, while I used to have private one-on-one sessions with older students in the evening. However, those sessions have now ended and we will both be handing out fliers to potential clients at schools around the city, to promote our summer session. I also start on my lesson plans for the weekend.

Friday I go to the public elementary school to teach in the morning, bike to the mall for a yoga class, and head back to school for lesson plans. We both teach a free “English Corner” at 6pm, and go to bed early for classes the next morning.

Saturday/Sunday we both work from around 8am-6pm, teaching half-hour classes to the youngest kids (3-5), one-hour classes to the middle ages (5-10) and two hour classes (10+) to the older levels. We have 10 minute breaks in between classes and an hour for lunch. These days are tough and honestly not fun at all. I usually have plenty of energy and excitement to teach the 4 hours before lunch, but afterwards my throat and patience begin to wear out. I don’t enjoy the young classes because they are just about lots of repetition. The little kids are incredibly cute, but it’s very tiring to repeat the same questions hundreds of times. The older kids are more engaging, but I think that 2-hour classes and just entirely too long for all of us. I am, however, learning how to introduce grammar better and better, and have found some games that the kids really seem to like. One of my classes was videotaped as a “demo” for one of our workshops, and I liked my one on one sessions with the older kids…but overall I don’t want a future as a English foreign language teacher.

Last week David and I attended two really fun events with the kids. I found out that the public school was hosting a Children’s Day Festival performance, so Ada, Liu, David and I got up bright and early for the event. I felt a little guilty because we were the only adults let inside except for the staff; parents had to take pictures from outside the schoolyard fences because they are too over-bearing and interfere with the performances! The pictures can describe the event better than I, but it was really well-done…they danced and sang to everything from Chinese Opera to Britney Spears! Also, the kid in the cow costume was hilarious, he sauntered around just like a little cow. Check out Ada and Liu’s matching shirts…a popular trend for younger couples in China. Liu even picked these ones out! Will David be next…?

We also went to the Tangshan International Golf course with our school, which was a special event for students that had received the most “cards” in class. We hand out cards for correct answers and good participation, and about 15 kids and their parents came out to the event. The golf course is actually nationally certified and it was REALLY nice. The grass was perfectly green, the buildings were clean and modern, and the day was warm and sunny. We found out that it costs over $40,000 just to become a member, and you pay more to actually golf. Some of kids were able to hit the balls surprisingly well for their first try, and David and I had fun at the driving range. The nicest houses we have seen here were on the golf course, and belonged to government officials. They looked at lot like modern beach cottage mansions…which was a tough pill to swallow for the Chinese and the foreigners alike.

Overall our schedules are very relaxed and we are really enjoying the warm weather. Seeing people out allows us to practice our basic Chinese more and get more exercise. I have struck up a language-limited friendship with a street vendor who travels around the neighborhood corners selling sweet potatoes and other vegetables, and I always try to make as much small talk as possible, and tell potential clients that she’s a good woman. She also gives me a sweet potato or tomato nearly every time I see her. Contacts like these really make living in China fun. I also included a photo of the fattest pug I have ever seen, especially for Matt Busa and Annie Weathers…die-hard pug lovers.

I’m VERY excited to say that we are headed to Tianjin tomorrow for Ling Ling’s traditional Chinese wedding…yeaaaa!!!

Made it safely to Jinan after 2 days of travel…check

Set-up blog…check

Started teaching English through our TEFL training…check

Gmail allowed, Facebook blocked…check

Learned how to pronounce Mandarin tones…uh-oh

David and I are calling ourselves the “tone deaf travelers,” because we have a long way to go in understanding the tones of the Mandarin language, as well as many other cultural nuances.  For example, did you know that it’s perfectly normal for young children to relieve themselves on the street here?  In fact, many of their pants have openings in the back just for this purpose.  Saves a few bucks on diapers, right?!

We are staying in a nice hotel here for $25/night including breakfast, and have found that while imported goods are about the same price as in the US (Nike, Clean & Clear, many electronics), food in restaurants is really cheap.  6 of us had a really elaborate dinner for about $20.  Also, no matter how good the service, they are embarrassed/offended if you try to leave a tip.   Our days have mostly consisted of waking up before the alarm due to jet-lag, eating breakfast, walking 20 minutes to Aston English school, spending all day learning about teaching a foreign language and teaching class, going out to dinner with our group of 5, and crashing into bed.  (We are 13 hours ahead, by the way.)  Although the TEFL class has been overall pretty boring, we have picked up some good tips from the the classroom critiques and have really loved meeting all the funny kids.  The one exception to this exciting ritual was Saturday, when we got a day off, and headed out into the city.  The pictures tell the best story, so take a look.

Next up we will be traveling to Tangshan and studying a lot more Chinese!  We have started to pick up on some of the pinyin (romanized Chinese characters, suitable for modern computers) but have little to no idea how to read characters or pronounce tones.  It is amazing how well we have been able to get around using miming and our very pleasant “Nihao” (hello) and “Xiexie” (thank you.)  We have found the Chinese in Jinan to be VERY helpful and friendly, and they love to say Hello in English.

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