THE LONG AWAITED UPDATE!
I guess it's been a little over a month since I've been back in Shiyan, although it feels like I never left. Things are finally settled after a couple weeks of juggling schedules and disorganization which often accompanies the beginning of the school year. The weather is beginning to cool in the evenings and mornings indicating fall is peeking around the corner which, as I've lamented before, reminds me how I wish Chinese people were interested in American college football. On a crisp afternoon, there is almost nothing I would like more than to attend a football game filled with screaming people - the cream of the American crop. (-: Anyway, I digress...
There are twelve Americans teaching at the three colleges (and one high school) in the city this year. At my school, the automotive institute, we have two returnees from last year - Brian and me, one returnee from the year before - Trip, and a newbie - Jessica. I have to admit that at first it was strange for me to not be the only girl at my school, but I'm readily adjusting to it.
A married couple, John and Megan, are teaching at the technical school where the Lewis family dwelt last year. John's from Arkansas and Megan from Texas so they don't really have a chance when it comes to trash-talking home states!
The medical school remains unchanged. Darla, Brad, Andrew and Jaime have all returned which makes the continuity of things much easier.
That was supposed to be the whole of it until a few weeks ago when some problems arose in Xiangfan, a city about two hours from here where, for the first time, our organization was placing teachers. A group of six people who had trained together for a year was placed at two schools in Xiangfan. Upon arrival it was clear that one of the schools was neither prepared nor making any efforts to accommodate four of the teachers. So two of the teachers, William and Priscilla, were sent to our city to teach in the Dong Feng Number One Middle School (Don't be confused, however, it's really a high school!). Then, to make things worse, after a problem with the health exam, two of the remaining four group members in Xiangfan, an older married couple, were not hired by the school there and were forced to find another job in Shanghai! So this group of six who worked diligently together preparing to work in Xiangfan has now been split into three cities! I'm still amazed at how things turned out, but we all feel extremely blessed to have William and Priscilla in Shiyan. They are a lot of fun and a great addition to our team.
I'm actually a little embarrassed by how light my load is this year so I'm trying to enjoy it without bragging too much. (-: I only have three, two period classes each week. I teach an American English class on Monday afternoons, and oral English class on Monday nights, and an oral English class on Wednesday nights. Since English corner and lecture nights haven't begun yet, I have five days a week free! Of course, I'm quickly filling those days with activities, but the free time has been nice. I've read a lot, and I enjoy the freedom of being able to say yes to anybody asking me if I have time to do something with them (although, sometimes that backfires on me like the other morning when I told some students I'd play basketball with them at six in the morning! What was I thinking?!).
Tuesday nights and Thursday nights we have weekly studies. Thursdays we always have a ladies' luncheon. Saturdays will be used for another type of ladies' get together, and of course Sundays are always busy.
WEEKENDS AND HOLIDAYS
Our program has also placed four American teachers in Danjiangkou, another nearby town. Two weeks ago the four teachers, Jessi, Sarah, Rusty and Brittany, visited us in Shiyan, and last weekend Brian, Jessica and I returned the, uh, favor? Well, we have two sisters, Sara and Wind, working in Danjiangkou too so we visited them as well. Also, last weekend the two remaining teachers in Xiangfan came to Shiyan to spend time with the family here. They're a married couple, Will and Brittany. So there's a lot of visiting nearby towns going on during the weekends which is really great. I'm hoping to visit Xiangfan sometime soon. Several of our brothers and sisters are from there, and they have a Wal-Mart which still amazes me.
Tuesday was the Mid-Autumn Festival. It's a time to gather with family and friends and celebrate the moon by eating moon cakes filled with your choice (if you can read the labels and don't have to blindly choose one that may look good on the outside but is filled with an unidentifiable, disturbingly green substance) of fruit, nuts, egg, or even meat. Keeping with my two year tradition, I didn't eat a moon cake on the Mid-Autumn day which I think might be blasphemous but does go along with my sugar fast. About twelve of us did, however, meet in town for a dinner of hot pot. Hot pot is a style of eating where you sit around a big table that has a large pot sitting over a fire in the middle. The pot is divided into two sections, one section for spicy soup and one section for less spicy soup. Then you order lots of raw meats and vegetables and quail eggs and this really good twisted bread and cook the food at your table. It's pretty tasty, though everyone loses at least two pounds from sweat loss by the end of the meal.
Next week, October 1st, is National Day. I'm told it's like our 4th of July, but I'm also told Spring Festival is just like our Christmas, and it's definitely not. We do get the entire week off, however, and most people will travel during this time. I will not. I'm still recovering from the Xinjiang journey of a lifetime, and there is nothing within me willing to fight millions of Chinese people traveling back and forth for a week. It's just a bad time to travel. All of the newbies in town will be traveling, however, most of us returners are either wiser or less courageous or just plain more lazy than the others because we're staying here.
Well, that's all I've got for now.