Zaijian from China
Trip Start Jan 01, 2007
17Trip End Ongoing
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Well, it finally happened - I'm in love! His name is Andy. He is short, wears glasses and is totally obsessed with Mickey Mouse! Andy is nine years old, and was a student in the New Concept class that I taught on Saturdays at Bond. He would always tell me I was funny and laugh at my jokes, and tell me that my classes were interesting. His English is amazing, and when I first started teaching the class, I felt that Andy should have been in a more advanced class. You see, every time I got the students to do some reading, Andy would always be looking at the more advanced lessons and I constantly had to tell him to pay attention to the lesson we were doing. It got to the point where I approached Alice, our Director of Studies, because I felt that Andy was probably bored and needed to be in a more advanced class. She asked if he was disrupting the class, and other than the fact that we always had to wait for him to flip back to the right page, he wasn't a disruption
As I said, Andy is obsessed with Mickey Mouse, and anything to do with Walt Disney or Disneyland. There were many times when Andy would start naming off facts and figures about Mickey Mouse as soon as I set foot in the classroom. During the breaks, I would come back and he would have written something on the whiteboard to do with Mickey Mouse. He had a Mickey Mouse book, Mickey mouse pencil case, Mickey Mouse everything! At the end of our classes, we usually played hangman for the last ten or fifteen minutes. One day, one of the students got up and used the name of one of the girls in the class as the word to guess. After that, Andy put his hand up for a turn. I thought for sure his puzzle would have something to do with Mickey Mouse, and was quite surprised when he announced that it was also the name of a girl in our class! As I looked around, I started to smile as I remembered that one of the girls in our class goes by the name of - you guessed it - Minnie!! If Walt Disney only knew how much joy he has brought to this little boy's life!
On November 24th, we held another fundraiser for Shirley, our friend who is battling cancer. This time around, I got more people on board to help out with the organization, and we approached Bond to help us with setup costs. We had 100 posters printed up which were displayed all over town, and we handed out over 5,000 flyers. This was going to be big. In fact, I was worried that we would have too many people and not have anywhere to put them all! This time around, we had Lenny (bless his heart), one of my Chinese students to help us out. He knew Shirley from before, and kept saying that he wanted to help her out, but he didn't know what to do, so I invited him to help us out. There is no way we could have done what we did if we didn't have Lenny on board. He contacted the local newspaper and TV station, and a group of us were interviewed before we held the fundraiser. The story was about a group of foreigners helping out a local person, and it ran on page A4! Unfortunately, the night of the fundraiser didn't see the huge crowds that I expected (or hoped for), but everyone that was there sure had a lot of fun! The newspaper came back for a follow-up story, and I was interviewed by the local TV station (my 15 minutes of fame in China!). In the end, were able to raise enough money for two more treatments for Shirley (she has three more left). I saw Shirley for my last time the other night, and she looked really good. Her hair is growing back in, and her spirits continue to be high. She said she went for some blood tests last week, and the results were good. What a great feeling to know that we were able to help her out in some small way.
The Bond Christmas party was held the night of December 23rd from 7:30 to 9pm, and it was a lot of fun. A visit was made by Santa and Mrs. Claus (aka Graham and Eilidh from Scotland), and the kids seemed to have a good time. There were two little girls who came to the party with angel wings on their back. They were about five years old and really did look like angels. As if they weren't cute enough, one of them was missing her two front teeth! Many of my students attended the party, some of them bearing gifts. Cherry gave me a painting that she had done of the Chinese characters that mean happiness. When I get back to Vancouver, I'm going to have it framed. Andy was there with his mom, and he gave me a card that he had made. In the card, he wished me safe travels, and said if I go to Tokyo, don't forget to go to Disneyland ☺
Thursday was my last day of teaching at No. 1 Middle School, and I'm proud to say that I held it together while I was saying goodbye. Well, for the most part. There was one instance where one of my students, Ben, sat down for his testing. He sat down and did the reading, and although he made one mistake in the reading, his spoken English was flawless. After he finished the test and I saw the look on his face as he went back in to the classroom, punching the air and yelling 'yessss', the tears welled up. I guess it finally hit me that I wouldn't be seeing these kids again. Some of my best memories and experiences have been at No. 1 Middle School. (Oh my God, here I go again, just proofreading this!)
The last few weeks we had been doing testing. Although it was nice not having to prepare lessons, there wasn't as much interaction with the students as I would have liked. Having said that though, I attended some of their functions outside of school, and it was great to see them in an environment where they weren't studying! At the beginning of December, I went to their sports day. Unfortunately, I had to work at Bond in the morning, but I went for the afternoon. It was so nice to see them in a fun environment, and it was nice to see some of them in clothes other than their uniform (when I first started teaching at No. 1 Middle School, I thought the uniforms were a great idea however, near the end, for me, they represented too much studying and not enough fun)! I had so much fun, and could hardly walk five steps without having one of the students coming up and wanting to take my picture. As we were leaving, some of the students wanted us to autograph their shirts! The next week they had a dance competition, and when I arrived, I was escorted to the front where the judges sat, so I could take some good pictures. Again, it was wonderful to see them outside of the classroom, and I was amazed at how good they were! Yesterday, Jenna and I went to a New Years show that they put on at the school. I was pretty good for the most part, but I have to admit there were a few times when the tears started to flow. Again, it was hard for me to think that I would probably never see these kids again. They have made my experience in China an amazing one!
It's Sunday, December 30th, my last day in Zhongshan. I still can't believe that I have been here for one year. When I look back on it, it seems to have gone fast, however, there were times when I thought it would never end. I have learned many things over the last year, and if I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would change is the length of my contract. Although I've really enjoyed my experience here, I am definitely ready to move on. The last few months have been extremely frustrating for me as I realize more and more that all the students ever seem to do here is study. They never seem to get a break. Even if there is a holiday, they have to make up for the classes on weekends - they never get any free time. If I could have one wish for the students in China, it would be that they could have at least one day where they didn't have to study, and they could just be kids. A day where they didn't spend it sleeping or playing computer games, and where they could just have fun. I know that they don't know anything different other than studying, but as a westerner, I got really frustrated with the amount of studying they do. I don't know how many times I heard that all the studying the students do is for the one test they write to get in to a good university. 'If they study hard now, they will have a good life later on'. They start studying English as young as two years old! It doesn't stop once they get in to university either. Because there are so many people in China, there is always so much competition for good jobs, so they have to constantly study and get good grades. We have no idea how lucky we are in Canada to actually have lives outside of school.
I am now sitting in the Hong Kong airport waiting for my flight to Mumbai. I spoke to Sunil last week, and have made arrangements to call him tomorrow morning. He said something about going to Pune first, then on to Ahmednagar where he lives with his family. It will be great to see him, his family, friends and colleagues again.
After India, the plan is to go to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, take the Trans Siberian train from Beijing, through Mongolia to Russia, on to Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Greenland, then back to Canada. I should be back in Canada some time in September. Of course the plans could change at any time, but that's the rough outline. I can hardly wait to get back on the road again.
I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and all the best in 2008 to each and every one of you!
Until next time,