The first week of the semester went down relatively smoothly. It felt long and tiring, but I took comfort in the knowledge that it would eventually finish. After my summer sloth, it’s quite a transition.
First classes always seem to get taken up with lots of bureaucratic details: textbooks, grading, class expectations, etc., etc., etc. Blah, blah, blah. Or that’s my interpretation of the looks on the students’ faces. I try to remember that even the classes I came to love last semester looked much like this on the first day.
Some classes are almost all students from last semester. Some of them I feel moderately optimistic about; others I had to restrain a sarcastic “together again.” It’s a mixed bag for sure.
I am teaching my Tourism English class again, three sections of it. I have some required English courses for second year students: reading & writing, listening, oral English. I have some oral classes for English majors. I am also teaching a short course for MA TESOL students on teaching pronunciation. Surprised? Me too. I figured it would be a good challenge and a nice something to add to the ‘ol resume. Yes, yes, but it’s also been taking me like ten hours to plan a 1 ½ hour lesson. And, no, I do not get paid for teaching hours. The students are lovely though and at least all the planning keeps me out of trouble.
The added challenge of the first week was moving apartments. The university renovated a block of apartments for the foreign teachers and we were told to move in the day before the semester started. Nice. However, the building was not really complete and issues immediately presented themselves: Internet, electricity, incomplete furniture, etc., etc. We had a week to complete the move, so on Sunday I just stuffed as much as I could into my suitcases, packed up my books and papers and sent it all off with the ridiculously tiny, but ridiculously strong Chinese moving guys. For the first few days I stayed in the old building with just the essentials.
On Thursday when I had most of the day teaching-free I completed my move only to find out the Internet still wasn’t working. I’d waited until Thursday thinking that all the kinks would be worked out. Surely! But, no, kinks galore. I was having last year déjà vu: workmen tromping in and out to install things, inspect things, missing items, and lots of noise. I tried to not let my irritation get away from me. For a country that has students who major in logistics, I see very little evidence of their application in university matters. I said, nicely, to several people, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to just finish everything and make sure it’s all working before having everyone move in?”
To their credit, the Internet problem was resolved within 24 hours. I get seriously panicky without Internet and begin to experience withdrawal-like symptoms, so I was relieved. And very grateful.
It’s a beautiful apartment. A proper one-bedroom place, not a studio. Though there were some rather odd choices about cabinetry and furniture placement, I’m confident I’ll get over it. It’s adapt or die over here. And to put it all in perspective a foreign teacher who’s been in China a long time told me foreigner housing is usually called the “panda house.” Ouch. I’ll be sure to munch my bamboo quietly and gratefully.