Me Life is so Wondeful

My thoughts excalty

This week passed me by about twice as fast as the first week, and I’m having trouble believing that it’ll only be two weeks until our little brigade of laowai parts ways, scattering to all corners of China to start our year of teaching. I don’t know why time always accelerates after the first few days in a new place; it always seems to be part of the habituation process. And though there’s no way we could ever really be ‘locals’ or come to know this sprawling city, I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable – even ‘at home’ – in Guangzhou (even though we’re all still living out of our suitcases in a hotel). My illusion of localness was supported by our taxi ride home last night, during which I had to guide the migrant-worker taxi driver back to our hotel. However, these illusions will always be tempered by scenes like the one below…

There are some things about China I will just never understand...

Just who to visit when you want that warm and fuzzy feeling....

Regardless, days are falling into a pretty solid routine – with a few surprises thrown in every now and then to remind us that this is China. Every morning, three and a half SLOW hours of Chinese class, followed (depending on the day) either by TESOL class at SCNU or practice teaching at GETCH. We had our first practice teaching day on Monday; four of us split a lesson on health – and all in all, it actually went very well. The other half of the volunteers did a lesson (dating and meeting up with friends) on Thursday. But the problem with practice teaching at GETCH is that the class size (from four to nine students) is far from representative of what most of us will be dealing with. I hope to get some practice teaching a BIG class before we head out to the provinces…

Speaking of which, a little (but not much) clarification on where I might be going. Patrick and I have started to go ahead with the process of setting me up for the Ningxia post, which involves getting an invitation letter from the school at which I will be teaching – signed/approved by the local PSB, going to Hong Kong to get a work visa, and finally converting the visa to a residency permit. The problem is that for whatever reason, it has become increasingly difficult this year to get invitation letters for foreigners to teach English in some areas; as a result, Patrick (and local waibans) often have to do some extra convincing or backdoor wheeling-and-dealing to secure approval for volunteers. So when I got back to the hotel two nights ago, Patrick (fresh back from a trip to rural Hunan on the world’s fastest train) told me that I needed to make a short video in which I talked about myself, my background, how excited I was to come teach in Ningxia, etc. etc. Apparently they needed convincing that I was an appropriate fit for the post, and wanted me to come up to Ningxia province for a day or two to meet school and local officials. Patrick had put the kibosh on this idea by telling the officials that it was too expensive; if the trip was required, we were pursuing posts at other schools, and I might not come. As the school in Ningxia really wants a second volunteer to come teach, they quickly agreed to substitute a video for an in-person visit.

In addition, Patrick is going to Xining on Sunday to meet with our all-China waiban, Maria, and learn about additional possible posts in Qinghai province (!). If all goes well, I might even have a choice of places to go! We’ll see how the diplomatic mission goes.

Anyway, apart from this minor insanity, life has been pretty good. I’ve been exploring the city a little more, visiting some exciting street markets. If you want to get an idea of what I mean when I say exciting, keep in mind that the Chinese say that people from Guangzhou will “eat everything with four legs but a table.” On Thursday evening, we went to a market complete with frogs, snakes, strange sea creatures, live chickens being butchered on-the-spot, etc. And today (Sat.) I went to a market north of Shamian Dao that was (coincidentally or not) attached to a ‘pet’ market selling rabbits, cats, dogs, and other small animals. You make your own conclusions.

Shoe market. All the shoes you ever wanted (if you're size 43 or below).

There are also lots of beautiful parks. I’ve gone running a few times along the river, which has nice riverwalk-type-things running along its banks for miles and miles. We also did a little outing to Yuexiu park, which is home to some quality attractions (e.g. statues of goats) as well as some quality Chinglish.

Me and Kailah at the famous Five Goats Statue in Yuexiu Park. Guangzhou was founded by five goat immortals who descended from the sky bearing gifts of rice. Hence the city's nickname 羊城, or 'Goat City.'

Not in public, dear...

Saturday afternoon, we went to visit a local NGO called Inno, which works on protecting the rights of migrant workers in the Pearl River Delta region (e.g. Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen, etc.). Inno is run an amazing (and amazingly energetic) man named Dee, who – in  precise and slightly British-accented English (he had spent two years in London) – explained the difficulties of registering an NGO in China (there are a LOT) and how his organization works. Inno maintains a hotline for migrant workers who have suffered from discrimination or other unfair practices at the hands of their employers (nonpayment of wages, insufficient sick leave, terminations, etc), runs programs which aim to eliminate discrimination against HPV-positive workers in the hiring process, and is starting up a program to connect migrant workers with their ‘left-behind children’ back at home. All in all, amazing and inspiring work; I came away from the meeting thinking that if I have the time, I would love to write a story about Dee’s journey and Inno’s work. China’s ongoing migration (country to city) is visible pretty much everywhere, whether at the train station, on a construction site, or at the ‘left-behind’ villages in the countryside; while we may hear statistics in the United States about how it is the largest human migration ever, its scope and pervasiveness is not truly visible until you arrive in China. Books have been written on the migration, but it is the family-scale human dynamic that I find fascinating. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my act together and make a story happen, possible with Daniel (who was thinking the same thing).

That’s about it for now. As our TESOL class is now finished, Monday afternoon marks the beginning of two weeks of practice teaching at GETCH. Hard to believe that time is passing so quickly…but I’m also excited to get to a post (not to mention simply learn which post I’ll have) and settle down. Hopefully by next week’s post I’ll have something nailed down…

The Brigade, complete with TESOL certificates

This was too irresistible not to put in this blog post. Especially because this sign was inside a bathroom stall..

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2 Responses to Me Life is so Wondeful

  1. Deenah says:

    Wow! How much has happened in such a very short time already! Love those pictures too….
    Mom

  2. walt says:

    you are also part of the migration in a different and important way.

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