It looks like Inner Mongolia

The job hunt is over.  Sort of.  Kind of.  I have a job but I still look a little.  I guess I’m not there yet, so I’m not working there.  But I’m pleased.  I think it’s a good decision.

It seems we will be in Baotou in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China for the next school year.  We will both be working at a Teacher’s College (they say it’s a University).  I will be teaching conversational English and Chinese Calligraphy while Shujie will be teaching Business and some English.  I’m actually joking about the Chinese Calligraphy but I’m not joking about the English.

I’m told the class sizes for English are about 12 students.  That’s good and that’s bad for me.  It’s good because it’s a small number and the students will get the opportunity to talk a lot, and if they don’t I will beat it out of them.  It’s bad because I tell a lot of jokes.  If the joke flops and there are only 12 students, no one may understand it or think it’s funny.  If you have 30+ students, it increases your chances of at least humouring some of them, and as we all know, I am a humourous person.

They don’t know Shujie’s breakdown since it will depend on how many business students they have and that won’t be known until around the end of June.  I hope it’s a lot.  For the hours that she must work (it’s 20 periods or teaching hours (45 minutes is an hour a week), the non-business will be taken up by English.  That’s reading, writing, and grammar.  That’s what Chinese English teachers teach.  Is she qualified for it?  About as much as I am for Chinese Calligraphy.  Can she do it?  I believe she can but she’s going to have to upgrade her English and upgrade it fast.  Eleanor (other English teacher here) says she will tutor Shujie.  Teaching family anything can be stressful so we will avoid that.  I’m starting to correct her grammar more these days so that’s a start.

The school answers all my questions in a timely fashion and I just have a good feeling about them but I realize I may be wrong.  I’m a very trusting person.  They have 2 sizes of apartments there and they told me that we could have the bigger one.  It’s not in the contract but I’ll trust them on it.  It’s a good test.  There is much to do and I just can’t renew my visa but I will have to get a new one.  That’s because in Inner Mongolia you are required to have a “non-criminal check” to get a visa and that will have to wait until we’re back in Toronto in the summer.  I can’t really do it from here without a lot of hassle and I could be looking at 12+ weeks until I get something back.  This way, I can apply online and pick it up when I get back to Toronto.  Then I just have to scan it and send to her.  She’ll get my documents and courier them to me, and then I’ll go and get my visa in Toronto.  That’s a 1 day thing.  I drop off the application in the morning, pay a little extra, and pick it up in the afternoon.

This will be like an adventure inside an adventure.  China being the main adventure but Inner Mongolia being something so different.  Winter is winter there.  The average high in January is about -4.5C and the average low is about -14.1C.  That’s not too bad.  I thought it was -30C.

The average high in June is about 27.9C while the average low is about 15C.  So the climate should be livable.  For some reason I thought it was -30C but I was wrong.  Too bad.

There will be some sandstorms (there’s desert up there) and there is nothing like the feel of sand between your teeth to let you know you’re alive.  We had them in Arad (in Israel) and it’s an experience.  It’s supposed to be quite beautiful and I look forward to it.  There is no high-speed train that goes to and from Baotou yet, so it looks like airplane when we want to go to Baoding or Shanghai.

Y’all are welcome to come and visit next January.  The apartment should be warm.  An English teacher there told me the apartments are too warm.  And the classrooms should be heated so that’s good.  I just need to find my boots in my storage locker in Toronto along with my flannel jeans and I’ll be set.

I was offered a different job in the city of Zhuhai in the Guangdong province.  Shujie always tells me that people from Guangdong are the biggest liars in China.  She has some strange ideas.  I spoke to the head of the English department and told her that 12 hours (which is what would be required of me) is too little.  I wanted more and she told me that 16 hours would be no problem.  When they sent me what would be in the contract, it said 12 hours.  I told them I wanted it to guarantee me 16 hours and I was told by this person (English department head) that it would be no problem.  The next day I get an email rescinding the job offer since they can’t meet my many conditions to take the job.  My many conditions were one thing that I was told was no problem.  It’s a good thing because it’s obviously not the place for me.  And even though it pays more than Baotou, it would mean Shujie would have to find a job since she can’t sit around for another year.  I wrote them back and told them they were liars (in a nice way) so that’s done and made the decision easier.

I could wait longer and see what pops up but getting Shujie a job where her hours would mesh with mine won’t be easy.  I would probably have to work in a college and I think I don’t want to teach this level of student anymore.  I want better conversation.  And I believe she will love teaching.  She loves to talk and she can relate well to all age groups.  Plus, she will learn something about this generation after hers.  Her knowledge is lacking and in some ways she thinks it’s still the same as when she was younger.  She is so wrong about that.  I don’t know how much she can learn about what the students really think since she’s Chinese.  They tell me things that they would never tell anyone else because I’m a foreigner, I’m strange, and I’ve earned their trust.  It makes me feel good.

I was thinking about what have I really taught them this year.  “Teach” is a tough word to define in what I do.  I basically try and provide an atmosphere that will enable them to talk without fear.  Asian students don’t want to speak English out loud because they know their accents and grammar are bad.  I rarely correct them.  I just want them to get their thoughts out and if I were to stop and correct them every time they made a mistake, then they wouldn’t be able to string 3 words together.  I think what’s happened is that they are using the words they know when speaking.  They are getting new words but a lot of the knowledge was locked inside of them.  We’re doing debates this week and some of them were actually arguing with each other in English.  It was great.  I felt great.  I actually felt like I had accomplished something.

In one of my classes I have 2 girls who didn’t open their mouths the first semester.  Now they both answer questions or give their opinions in class.  One of them is one of the students who participates the most.  I told her I was so happy she was taking part and even gave her a hug.  I can do that here because I’m strange.

I know that in 5 years they won’t even remember me (if that long), but I hope that they remember what they’ve accomplished this year.  There are about 2 ½ months of classes left and I think we’re all starting to get a little burned out.  I don’t know how I’ll make it to the end, but I will.  It really has been a great year and most satisfying.

Now my elective classes on Tuesday are just a bad joke.  I’m just the babysitter.  I think a lot of the students came not to learn English, but for an easy credit.  One boy was in for a surprise.  I banished him forever from my classroom.  He was playing a game on his cell phone, which is a big no-no in my class.  It’s one of the few rules I have and I told them that on the first day.  I went up to him and caught him (what a dummy) and told him to give me his phone.  He wouldn’t.  So I told him to get out and he wasn’t moving.  I told him to get out once more and if he didn’t I was leaving.  He left and slammed the door behind him.  I’m not sure if he knows he can’t come back, but he can’t.  I’ve thrown him out of class for not coming with a pen and paper to class (you wouldn’t believe these kids), and now the cell phone. 

This week I showed some pictures from Korea and China that I had.  I really don’t know what to do with them.  I think I have 7 more classes with them.  This week is one of the weird holidays.  The holiday is on Wednesday so they are closing classes on Monday and Tuesday so the kids get 3 days off in a row.  However, Saturday is a school day to teach Monday’s classes, and Sunday is a school day to teach Tuesday’s classes.  I told my elective classes that they didn’t have to come on Sunday and to keep it a secret.  When I got that through to them I went outside and screamed at the top of my lungs, “There is no English class on Sunday”.  Anything for a cheap laugh.  One girl came up to me on the break and asked me if there was a class on Sunday.  DOH!

Shujie and I are off to Zhenjiang tomorrow afternoon for 2 nights.  It’s been a while since we’ve been anywhere but the weather is improving and we’ve never really been to Zhenjiang except for the medical exam I needed for the school.  It’s about an hour bus ride away and it will be good to be gone.

That’s about it for now.  Life goes on but the job hunt is over which is good, and it has a happy ending (so far).  April 1 is tomorrow so there is about 2 ½ teaching months left (exams are mid-June) so that’s pretty much the end of the year.  Already I’m thinking Toronto and the flight prices have gone through the roof.  I don’t know what we’ll do for 7 weeks but I’ll get to see Elana and Leah and her family at the beginning of August.  I’ll get to eat some food I like.  I’ll get to be bored but spend some time with the people I love.  And I’m buying a new MAC.  It’s been more than 3 years so it’s time to upgrade.  I’m excited about that.

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