In any profession, we are thankful for the weekend. Teaching at a boarding school, and living with my students/coworkers for 2 years, I feel I am especially thankful for the weekend… It’s the only time I can actually leave work (if it’s a weekend I’m not working of course…).
Here in Hangzhou, I don’t think I have ever been more thankful for the weekend in my life. Monday through Friday I wake up abnormally early because of jet lag, and have a good 3 hours to kill between breakfast and lunch every day, before I leave to go “teach” at the West Lake Prosperity Tennis Camp…
Here, 2 hours of teaching feels like 10. I spend the morning writing and editing my photos from yesterday’s adventures, and then commute to West Lake by cab to teach. My classroom has no windows, and the only resource is a Chinese laptop, a broken whiteboard, and sometimes there are markers.
I came here to teach high schoolers English, and instead, my kids are ages 4-14, with barely any English background. But it turns out that one of teaching’s oldest resources never died… Pencil and paper. These kids can get wild, but the one thing that draws their attention and holds their focus is getting a piece of paper and a pencil, and having the freedom to draw what they want.
The more time I spend with these kids, the more I realise that in America, the freedom to choose is a privilege. These kids get a piece of paper and a pencil, and suddenly you can see their future: While Amy and Alissa help each other copy pictures of puppies from a book we brought with us, Winston draws pictures of swords, Feya studies the plant in the corner of the room, and Bill carefully imitates the lines of the building across the street. In the simplest of exercises, we can see our future teachers, adventurers, scientists, and architects.
But, with all good things comes an end. And slowly the focus of this room begins to dwindle. The boys become loud and the girls begin to giggle. And that is when I unzip my black case and pull out my ukulele and sing “You Are My Sunshine.” In China, I have turned every children’s game in the book into one that involves this song. For musical shares, they rush for a chair when I stop singing halfway through a line, for Croc-a-dilly-oh-my, the last person to get hit on “awaaaaay” is out.
I try to be sneaky as a check my watch continuously, hoping there is less time than there ever actually is.
And then it’s 3. And it’s time to go. We thank the woman in charge. We high-five out the door. We walk through the heat to decompress. We try with all our might to catch a ride home. When that fails, we sit in McDonalds, just happy to have some air conditioning.
But I experienced my first teaching-Friday three days ago. And it was perhaps the best Fri-yay feeling I have ever had. I had a few hours to nap, shower, and “get pretty.” Friday never felt so good.
Hefong Street. This is the China I was waiting to experience. The street is crowded with people shopping, holding hands, buying crabs on a stick. I tried Chinese nougat. I looked at beautiful dresses through large windows. I shared a waffle cone with a fellow uke-player. I walked around with eyes wide open.
Lingyin Temple. This is the Zen I was waiting for. The temples were beautiful, but what I was really looking forward to were the Stone Statues. These statues took hundreds and hundreds of years to carve into the face of the mountain side. (Click the Instagram icon at the bottom of the page to see my photos!) Not only did I get to see these beautiful statues, but Marc made a friend, Yushi, who was a Chinese guy visiting the temple alone, who ended up walking around with our group of American teachers and giving us a history lesson on everything we looked at. He even joined us for dinner later at night :)
Wulin Square. “City of Lights” took on a new meaning to me here. We took a long cab to this part of the city late last night to try and catch a boat down the river… This was a last minute adventure with Yushi, and although the boat wasn’t going out, walking around and seeing all of the colourful lights was like nothing I’d seen before. Again, click the icon to my Instagram or Facebook to see the photos! Not only did I get to see some beautiful lights, but I got to eat some delicious, dairy-free sorbet.