In The Beginning

Dear Family and Friends,

So this is hopefully the first of many blog postings I will be posting during my time here in China or at least until it gets shut down by the government. (I set up a blog site before I left the States and when I tried to access it here in China, I found that the Chinese government has blocked that site).

So I have been here for almost two weeks and it feels like an eternity. Let me start from the beginning.

I arrived in China safely on Tuesday, July 6th 2010. It was a 13-hour flight from Newark to Beijing and it was another 4-hour bus ride to the city I will be living in. I live in a “small” city along the Yellow Sea called Qinhuangdao (chin-wan-dao). Qinhuangdao is no podunk town, it is a legit city. In fact, it is bigger than most American cities (6 million people live in Qinhuangdao). The thing to know about Qinhuangdao is that it is located next to a coal plant. So on windy days (and non-windy days) if you leave your windows open, you will find a layer of soot on everything. So, I’ve made sure to keep my windows closed all the time. And believe what you have heard about China and its smog. I thought it would only be bad in the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, but it is really bad here too. You can barely see anything past a hundred yards due to the smog. I don’t think I’ve seen the actual sky since I’ve been here because the smog is so thick. It even blocks out the sun. The other teachers say that we get a few nice days a month, so I’m looking forward to that.

The neighborhood I live in is called Qinhuangxaoqu (chin-wan-shaow-chew). It is a pretty nice little area. What the neighborhood is most known for are their BBQ restaurants. But these aren’t your typical BBQ’s as we have come to know in the US, with a large grill and large slabs of meat, their grills look more like a gutter filled with coals with very small pieces of meat on skewers. But it is good food and I haven’t had a hard time keeping kosher. There are tons of different types of tofu here so that has been keeping me busy. There are a few teachers who are vegetarians and they have been showing me the ropes on what’s good to eat.

Everything here is so cheap. You can get a full mean for 15 quai (which is like $2.50). It is actually cheaper to eat out than it is to buy food from a store and cook it yourself.

My apartment is pretty small, but all Chinese apartments are so I won’t complain too much. Since I am new to the apartment I got placed in the smaller of the two bedrooms (which is really small). I can lie down and touch both side of the room at the same time. Although my room is extremely small, my roommate’s room is gigantic. The reason for this has to do with the number of children a family can have. Since the Government regulates how many children you can have (you can only have one and if you want another you have to pay a hefty tax), builders know that families are made up of three people. So when they design apartments, there is one room for the parents and one for the child. I got stuck with the child’s room. But my roommate is almost done with his year here so I will be moving into his room shortly.

The company I am working for is called English First (EF as everyone refers to it here). The school just moved into a brand new building, so I am joining them as they are getting settled into their new location. Think of EF as a tutoring school, sort of like Kaplan for the SATs. We offer classes for kids and adults. So far I have been mostly observing classes, seeing how other teachers do things. But the past couple of days I have started to co-teach classes and they have gone really well. The main goal is to just come up with fun and engaging activities in which students can use their English. I have my first solo class tomorrow, and then on Sunday I have two (back-to-back) classes of the youngest age (3 year olds). Wish me luck.

The other teachers are really nice. There are about 8 other teachers here; about half from the UK, one is from Russia, one is from Italy, and the rest of us are from the USA. I’ve mostly been hanging out with some of the Brits. The other day we played some basketball, but quickly found a layer of soot all over us afterwards. Matt (a British teacher) took me to the Olympic village (there is soccer field here used during the Olympics), and we went to an indoor court to played badminton. They are freaking vicious here with that sport. I got my ass whooped. Give me time, hopefully I will get better.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my first blog. I’d love to hear from you and to be kept updated with what’s going on in your lives.

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About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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3 Responses to In The Beginning

  1. Berms says:

    Do the Chinese people over there think call all white people Americans? Just think it would hilarious if stereotypes worked the other way also.

    • joelschwarz1 says:

      Qinhuangdao is known as a resort area. There are a lot of Russians who come here. but it is funny when all the chinese look at me as I walk dow the street.

      • Rena says:

        So funny Ijust read this comment. I just sent you an e-mail and I asked you about the resort thing. This is what I wrote…

        By the way, I told a colleague of mine who is from China about your year abroad. She actually described the town you’re in as a resort town, so when you wrote that it is industrial with so much soot, I was surprised. Do you think this is a resort town or did she just get it wrong?

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