September 16, 2006

Just a quick “Hello” to let you know I arrived safely at the University in Shijiazhuang. My email, rolf@ronstadt.org is finally up and running. If you want to phone me you have two options. You can call me either at my apartment at 001-86-311-87935050 or my China mobile phone at 001-86-13044125330. Better yet would be if you Skype me. My Skype handle is “chinapapa”. Remember there are 13 hours difference between the US and China. If it is Tuesday 6:00 PM in the U.S. then it is Wednesday 7:00 AM the next day for me in China.

I have settled into a sparsely furnished two-bedroom apartment with a two-burner gas stove kitchen and a sit-down toilet (no more squatting). It had to be cleaned first for 8 hours by a crew of 6 people. It was quite messy and very dirty. I live by myself. I converted my second room into my study/office where I spend most of the time preparing lesson plans for the students. I will be teaching 16 class hours per week plus selective evening business lectures. At this moment everything is somewhat overwhelming since I need to get a handle on the proficiency levels of my students. In time it will get better and I will have some breathing room. There are a total of 3 foreign English teachers at this University. Jenny and Romeo, both from the Philippines and myself.

The campus area is huge as it accommodates 16,000 plus students who live and study here. I get plenty of exercise just from walking every day to classes and the cafeteria where I have the option to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. After sampling the breakfast menu I have decided to learn to make my own breakfast in the apartment. (I have been quite successful to make some fried eggs and cereals!!) Maybe there is still some hope for this old geezer to learn new survival techniques. I cannot wait to see how to do laundry with a washing machine with all its instructions in Chinese.

Lunch and dinner so far has been okay although I have no idea what I am eating. It all looks more or less the same to me. Vegetable and rice seem to be the main staple. No wonder the Chinese are all so slim and trim. There is a small grocery store on campus where I can find some of the daily necessities. Not speaking the language I am quite a novelty when I show up and try to purchase some supplies. Everybody by now knows me and tries to be very helpful. They love my Z-coil shoes and can’t stop starring at them.

Last Thursday I had my first day of practicum. It was good, considering the planning that went twice as long as the class hour, and considering it was the first time I had contact with the students. I had two classes, one with 22 students, and the other one with 21 students. They were a smart bunch catching on very quickly. Little shy and nervous the first 30 minutes but then opened up. I look forward to seeing them again next week.

Until next time…

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