Yesterday I got excited because a restaurant put ice in my water. I felt like royalty. Ice? Really?…Yes please. The day before that I was elated to discover a toilet, a real toilet with a seat and everything in a school I teach in. It’s the little things that I forget I miss until they are right in front of me. Miss might not be the right word, perhaps appreciate. The first time I saw and used a bathroom gutter, I was a little taken a back. Now, it’s normal. It’s odd to find a toilet. The first time I ordered a chicken and it came with its head still attached I whimpered a bit. Now, I call that flavor enhancer.
I’m only two months in to a year and a half commitment of teaching in China and already the odd has become normal. Fifty students in one class was a frightening sight. At first I was amazed that anyone even listened to me, now I expect their full attention. 110 check out lines at my supermarket used to seem like a bit much. My first Sunday morning visit put that in check for me. Add a few more. Why not?
I am teaching in a city called Suzhou, just West of Shanghai. This “little”, by Chinese standards, city has over 6 million people living in it. Compared to Shanghai, it seems like a sleepy little city. I quickly learned to ride the bus going from home to one of the three schools I teach at. I’ve only been in one bus accident so far which is a small miracle considering the way that people drive. I’ve only given my number out to two strangers on the bus after they awkwardly asked for it. My bus rides are nothing short of exciting.
The celebrity appeal of going to school has almost worn off. In my first couple weeks of teaching I gave out close to 800 autographs and received numerous small gifts. One student came to me with 5 sheets of paper to autograph, it’s only then that I thought about charging. People stare, point, and even blatantly take pictures of me. A crowd has gathered to watch my boyfriend and I order dinner while sitting outside. This too has become normal.
Teaching in China is an incredible experience. Students are bright and excited to learn English and about Western Culture. They value my classes and I really enjoy teaching them. I’m slowly trying to learn Mandarin, and have 800 tutors waiting to correct my pronunciation. Crotchless baby pants, eye-exercises and wearing pajamas in public are all normal now. They say you adjust to a new climate in as little as 2 weeks. I say you can adjust to China in as little as 1 month.
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