My working holiday in China [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Ni Hao to you all,



Firstly I want to apologise for the delay in writing to you all since I went of exploring around Linhai!!  And thanks for all your emails to me, I love opening my inbox and finding I have a message from you.

Thanks to those who were concerned about me throughout the hurricanes, stabbings and tornados! But thankfully I am far away from all that and I am safe and sound.


 I can’t believe my last letter was the 3rd of April!  Well it’s now the 9th of May and I will attempt to keep you up to date and hopefully not bore you too much.


So after my first months in China; even though the area was poor and depressing, I do believe I was affected by culture shock.  You’ve probably heard the words ‘culture shock’ whenever people discuss traveling to a faraway land. Probably, a true understanding of what culture shock feels like can’t occur until you live through it.  Most experiences I have had in different countries have only reached the “honeymoon” period as the call it.  And I always believed culture shock was something a culture vulture like me would never get and if I did I would love it…………wrong!!!!  


It is said that you need to live in the country for at least a month; and then people experience culture shock at different times and of course on different levels.


I think it hit me in Hengshui my previous placement and stayed with me a while. They are intense, unpleasant feelings that come along with culture shock - fear, paranoia, frustration, and anxiousness - The result of a series of dramatic changes in surroundings and everyday life. It’s an awful experience to go through. It’s hard to describe, but when you’ve had culture shock, you know it.

Imagine losing the ability to speak, read, write, and most importantly, understand what is being said. It can be overwhelming at first seeing completely foreign characters written everywhere and hearing the unfamiliar sounds of a new language completely surround you, especially after living in a country where English is the dominant language. Everything from street signs, package labels, instruction booklets, newspapers and TV shows are all in a different language. Suddenly, simple things like reading a map, getting a taxi, asking directions, buying a train ticket, catching a bus, ordering food, getting your hair cut, finding something in the supermarket or asking how much an item costs become very difficult. When you don’t know the language the culture shock is a bit more in your face. It’s just an ever-present feeling that “this isn’t home.”

While culture shock isn’t a nice process to go through, it has some virtues.  I think it probably makes you stronger - maybe the more “culture shock” you experience, the stronger you become. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. 


So getting back to Linhai, it’s a beautiful area, and after Hengshui surroundings area is like heaven.  I have a beautiful lake 3 minutes walk away; I have “The South China Great Wall”.  It is a well kept ancient Great Wall and it’s said to be the original version of the Badaling Great Wall; and it is on my door step.  Linhai has a beautiful ancient street that has lovely lanterns hanging from the roofs. The city has lots of shops and restaurants and even a few bars!!  What more could I ask for?  Well a few westerners would be nice!!! Yep I know it was a lone placement and I was prepared to be alone! So I shall stop moaning!!! I have made friends with some of the students and there is one guy from England, Dan who I see about once a week.  There is also a young Chinese man called Jesse who took me to dinner after asking for my number whilst I was walking around the lake.  “I need to practice my English can I have your number scenario!!” Well why not eh I need as many friends as possible here!  Although after I went for dinner with him he was telling me to stay in Linhai forever! and he wouldn’t let go of my hand, I shan’t be rushing for another meal!! Ha-ha


I went out with Dan (the English guy) one night and he showed me where the bars where along the river, after too many beers and a lovely spicy fish soup, I thought it time to go home. Dan very kindly walked me back to the school as I still hadn’t got my bearings yet.  When I arrived at the school I found the gates where all locked.  I wasn’t told about any curfew? And wasn’t given a key for the gate! Oops.  I rang my Chinese contact at the school to find his mobile switched off, I called “Ni Hao” several times to wake the security guards to no avail; so there was nothing else I could do but to climb the school fence!  Now, I normally would be the one climbing to get out, not into the school! I managed it with a push on my backside from Dan and thankfully made it back to my apartment without any security guards awakening! Mmmmm I haven’t questioned their security?


It was a good night but I haven’t been out in Linhai late at night since as I have ventured further on my weekends off and saved the drinking till then.  I am feeling healthier as I don’t drink half as much as I used to and I look forward to it more when I go away for the weekends. I’m even tipsy after one glass of wine or beer now! Which some of you will laugh at I’m sure!!!! 


I went for dinner with Dan one night and he knew of quite a fancy restaurant so we thought we should try it out.  Normal I can eat for about a £1 but I splashed out and spent £10.  We ordered duck pancakes and lots of other dishes. I was soooo excited for duck, pancakes and hoi sin my mouth was watering!

Lots of dishes started to arrive and we where nibbling quite happily and looking forward to the pancakes.  Then it arrived…………………… was crunchy duck skin placed on prawn crackers?!! I tried several but it wasn’t the same and was really disappointing. What a bizarre duck pancake!!! The duck (or what should have been duck) arrived in a bowl of tasteless soup surrounded my rice! I tried the duck but it was just bones and hardly any meat.  We were told later that the best duck pancakes are in Beijing!! Don’t we know it!! It wasn’t funny at the time but what a laugh!! Some of the food here is truly delicious others well I would prefer a pot noodle!!   


I have plenty of time off throughout the week so I just wonder around the street of Linhai looking for a friendly face and eating lovely food (most of the time)!  I have climbed the wall which took about two and half hours which was thoroughly enjoyable and I have been to Jinshan Hill, which has lots of temples and a pagoda. (I shall post photos up on MSN when I have sent this)


One weekend I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to hop on a train to Ningbo which is a larger city and lots of expats live there so I went searching for an English conversation that lasted longer than 2 minutes!! 45 minutes later I arrived in Ningbo, and with my trusted “Lonely Planet” book I arrived at Lee’s hostel.  I dropped off my bag in the dorm and headed straight to the area where the westerners hang out and it was a small bund type area.  It was very cosmopolitan and had a lovely European feel to it.  I splashed out in an Italian restaurant, enjoyed Carpaccio, pasta and Montepulciano d’abruzzo (a lovely red wine for those non vino drinkers!!) and probably spent what I spend in a month in Linhai in a night in Ningbo!!!  After the Italian I headed for the ever faithful Irish bar.  I ordered a Guinness and nearly fell of my stool when they said 65 Yuan!!! £6.50 What!?! It only cost me £4 to get here by train, £4 for a bed for the night?! They certainly rip the desperate westerners off!!! I had a lovely evening and met a few American teachers and the expensive weekend was worth it.


On my other long weekend off I ventured to Shanghai! Oh actually I had 8 days off due to the students having exams, so I spent four relaxing ones in Linhai exploring and four in Shanghai.   I was really excited as I was meeting up with friends that I had met in Beijing.  There were seven of us in total by the end of the weekend.   Shanghai is only a 5 hour bus ride away from me and costs about £14 to get there!  Travelling around may take some time but it is so cheap. 


I had a great time in Shanghai, what a huge city.  I prefer it to Beijing, it seemed very westernized and the bund at night was a fantastic view to see.  We went on May bank holiday and also the beginning of the Expo! Oh my goodness!!! What an experience. I have never seen so many people in the same place.  Crossing the road in China is a challenge in itself but when there are millions of people, buses and cars gridlocked it was a pretty scary moment.  At one point Josh who was with us was very nearly squashed between a bus and a porshe!! And he had to jump on the porches bonnet to save getting squashed!!! What on earth was the driver out in his Porsche on that weekend for anyway the idiot!!! 


After shopping for my much needed English books, taking pictures from the tallest building - Jinmao, soaking up the view of the bund, drinking in an Irish bar again, experiencing the easy underground system, attempting for 2 hours to locate the beautiful gardens and 2 days of waiting in queues, dodging people and traffic we decided on a trip outside of Shanghai.  So we went to a beautiful little canal town “Zhujiajiao” and had a scenic boat trip. All in all wow; Shanghai was great; and again a much needed break away from teaching and to meet up with great friends I had met in Beijing back in February.

I would certainly recommend a week in Shanghai though there is so much to see.

Talking about teaching I suppose I should tell you how I’m getting along with the teenagers!!! Well out of the 26 classes; at the moment I have a 3 or 4 really naughty classes and the rest are fine.  So that isn’t too bad. I have started on Power point presentations now; which have been my saviour really as it keeps them more entertained than my board work and feel I grab their attention a lot better. I do know that I don’t like large classes though and I have now taught from 40 – 70 in a class!

The students are very excitable and very shy and it is very difficult to teach them.  There writing is excellent and their reading is superb but as soon as I speak they look very vacant at me and a conversation is very difficult.  I am speaking so clearly and have slowed down but it is still very hard for most of them to make any conversation. The Chinese education system concentrate too much on the writing and reading and the grammar, and the oral communication is lacking desperately so hopefully I shall be able to build their confidence and get them talking a little more before I leave.   I have started introducing songs to them for five minutes at the beginning of the lesson and they love my singing!!!!


Ok folks! That’s me for now. I hope I kept your attention!!! I’m off to bed now. Write soon.

Take care


Love Ceri xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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