Our First Day in China
September 1st was our first full day in China. Due to jetlag we woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am. Even if we were both awake we decided to force ourselves to stay in bed until 6am. So, we spent an hour in that weird waking stupor before finally deciding going back to sleep just wasn’t going to happen.
Unfortunately, our room has no Wi-Fi and we hadn’t had a chance to get a SIM card the night before. In order to contact that outside world, we needed to make the journey down to the lobby where the free Wi-Fi is. We decided to cut our losses and get showered and dressed earlier than planned. Our bathroom is semi-Chinese style with no real differentiation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. So, when you shower the whole floor gets wet 😬. I say semi because we have a western toilet (thanks be to the pluming gods). Anyways, downstairs we get our Wi-Fi fix and catch our families up on our travels and situation.
At around 8am our friend Spencer met up with us and we headed to breakfast not too long after. For breakfast, Adam and I split a traditional Tianjin Pancake. It’s more like what we would call a crepe, with savory toppings. We decided to go cilantro, chives, and spicy fish, with some unknown spices. Fish is not uncommon here for breakfast like it is in the states. Delicious!
Sometime after breakfast, we attempted to get SIM cards for our phones, with our new Chinese friend, York, as our guide and translator. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. After talking with Verizon for quite a while through my dad stateside we decided it’s probably better to buy new phones. As we had an appointment for the rest of the day, we decided that was a problem for tomorrow.
This appointment was our standing “mystery” appointment with our Professor Dr. Gao. He had mentioned on the night of our arrival (the 31st) that he would meet us in the dormitory lobby at 5:15. Why? Unclear. We were pretty sure it had something to do with the teaching jobs we had both requested. That was our best-educated guess. We ended up going to the lobby early to touch base with everyone via WeChat. That’s when we received another mystery message from Dr. Gao, asking us to dress in “Business Casual” Uh. Okay. We hurried upstairs to do a quick change. So we guessed we were interviewing for said jobs?
Dr. Gao is as kind as can be, and has helped us along the way as we prepared to move to China, so we’ve learned to trust him. Upon his arrival, he explains we are indeed going to the community school, and approves of our outfits! (Not after some actual scrutiny, I think mine was a close call). As we drive, he talks about his home city of Tianjin. He’s so passionate about his city you can tell he loves it dearly. The way he talks about Tianjin definitely inspires me to explore the city and understand the history and heart behind it.
We park at the location of the Community School and as we are walking on the sidewalk and Dr. Gao says, “Don’t worry, you will have a Chinese helper and you must only read the slides, and I will be there the entire class” Uh, hold the phone. My husband and I share a quick glance. Does this mean we will be teaching a class now? As in right now, less than 24 hrs after we arrived in China. And certainly with zero preparation whatsoever. Yes, yes it did.
We walk up a flight of stairs and enter straight into a classroom of 6th graders attentively waiting for us. Dr. Gao introduces us to the class, in addition to the Chinese teachers. Within a few moments we begin teaching class. Totally winging it. Adam taught the first half while I sat in the back only giving my help in explaining the occasional tricky word. Part of the way through his teaching segment I was pulled aside to back room where I read the lesson out loud into Macbook so the students would be able to listen back to the lesson and follow along at home. So, I guess I can add voice acting to my resume now.
When it was my turn to teach we were working our way through a simple essay in English. (Grade appropriate with simple words, and short sentences). We went through sentence by sentence, having the students repeat it back. And then choosing one student to translate it back into Chinese to make sure they comprehended the meaning. Overall, it was pretty straightforward and fun.
After class was over one of the student’s parents actually drove us home, and was kind enough to take the scenic route. While our eleven-year-old tour guide spoke about the sites in English as best she could. It was actually a beautiful drive and we were thankful for his generosity it taking us the long way home. There seems to be a lot of pride in Tianjin among the locals.
Overall, it was a fun, and somewhat unexpected day in China.
Hopefully, tomorrow we can get our cellphones figured out. As of now, we will continue spending a lot of time in the lobby.