The school I work for is a private english teaching centre, so the bulk of my teaching occurs at the weekend. This means that whilst my weekdays are relatively stress-free, Saturday and Sunday tend to be a bit of a hard slog.
I have now given the same 5 minute introduction about 100 times: my name is Stuart, yes I really am this tall, I’m 22 not 38 (the oldest guess so far), no I can’t speak chinese, and I am British, not American. I don’t even get excited about the autographs anymore! All things considered though, classes on Saturday went well. I ended up teaching to 10-11 year olds for the whole day, which are by far my favourite age group. Before arriving I expected to enjoy teaching the older kids the most, but they are the hardest classes I have: as they get older they say less, even though their vocabulary is much, much better than they let on. I have spoken to a few teachers about this, and it really comes down to shyness. It’s really hard to get them to open up about the simplest topics such as their hobbies, so when a teacher instructs me to give an ‘oral class’ (basically talk about what you like for an hour) my heart sinks just a little bit.
In the evening I went to my local restaurant where I had a complete memory blank and couldn’t order the fried dumplings I usually have. Unluckily for me the usual staff were not there (apparently they get days off – the nerve), so cue a lot of shouting and hand pointing before I got my food. Which was lovely, and well worth the ordering fiasco.
Today was a more quiet affair, with 5 classes each of different ages. I taught one class of two students in the afternoon, which is a new record for me. Even though we just sat around chatting I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them: their inherent shyness had been magnified a hundred fold. In the afternoon I took a trip to the gym, a place where unnecessary nakedness unfortunately takes centre stage (in the changing rooms at least); feeling slightly nauseous before you lift heavy (ish) weights is not recommended. After I came out I witnessed around 250 people doing aerobics on the running track outside, which is kinda cool I guess (I wanted to join in but didn’t want to shock the people of Huzhou any further). Then I went to another restaurant to eat, where I was confronted by a man who kept shouting Chairman Mao at me. I definitely don’t look anything like Mao, or engage in any activity that may have me associated with him. I just laughed as he was hurriedly pushed out the door.
Off to Lin’an tomorrow for a couple of days. Going trekking and rafting, then to a place where Yao Ming (Chinese basketball idol who plays in the NBA) had his wedding photos taken. There must be more to it than that. Surely.