One class has 11 international students which I teach 15 times per week, the other 9 classes have each 60 students and I teach each class ones a week. Pretty exhausting schedule leaving me very little free time!!! I am in the process to talk with the school to reduce the schedule as I don’t want to get sick or work myself to death.
I just learned today that the first semester at this school ends December 31st. I am flying back to the USA on January 8th and then return to Xining to start the second semester on February 13th until the end of June when I will be going home again. During my home leave I will be traveling to Florida to visit family and friends for two weeks before heading back to Chicago.
At this time I am not sure if I will sign up for another year at this school since the promises they made are not what they originally said. So I will have to see how things will develop over the coming months. As far as the living conditions are concerned in Xining I have had no problems at all with adjusting to the higher altitude. As you may recall, I originally grew up in the mountains of Switzerland which are much higher in altitude than here.
A few years ago I took the train from Chengdu to Lasha and I remember that many Chinese used oxygen mask in the train to adjust to the changing altitude. It didn’t affected me at all and everyone was surprised that I didn’t have any breathing problems.
The weather here in Xining is very cold in the morning and evenings but very pleasing during the day. The city is surrounded by mountains, the air is much cleaner than in Shijiazhuang and most days we have sunshine during the day. My school is about a mile (1.6km) from my apartment. I bought a used bicycle and use it when the weather is okay. On rainy or snowy days I take the bus which drops me off right in front of the school gate.
I have a small, clean apartment which is just right for myself. There are several small stores around my location where I can find many daily groceries. If I need to go shopping for more I can take a bus to the shopping center about 3 miles away. I also found a great small spicy noodle place near my apartment which I frequent often when I get hungry. Otherwise I cook simple dishes for myself, especially breakfast. I often invite students and other teachers to join me for lunch or dinner giving me an opportunity to get to know them and tell them about Jesus.
I do have to be very careful and discreet but there are always some doors which open miraculously. Although many local people are Tibetan or of Islamic descent befriending them reverently and gently to share the love of Christ is a little more challenging than it was in Shijiazhuang. I did find a local church here but much smaller and less sophisticated. They have a small choir of about 15 members and two female pastors, one who gives announcements and the other one the sermon. Most church attendees are older people. I see very few young people or students there. They have 2 morning services in Chinese and one afternoon service for foreign passport holders. Mainland Chinese are not allowed to attend in the afternoon.
I will write more later and pray you all have a wonderful time with your family during the Christmas Season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.