Easing Into the School Year

            Here it is, September 28, and we’re finally ready to open the school year to all students, freshmen and upper classmen.
            This is the first full week of classes here at Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities.  My entry back into teaching my 3rd year at this school certainly had some surprises, namely that I landed in China during a holiday.

            Mid-autumn Festival began on Sept. 11 and ended Sept. 13, which gave me an extended stay in Chengdu.  But even more extended that that, Sept. 14- 16, the freshmen were arriving, meaning all classes were canceled while the upper classmen, faculty and administrators settled them into their new environment.  So rather than dash off to roasting southern China immediately after picking up Little Flower (the dog) at her sitter’s home in Chengdu, both of us were able to hang out in Sichuan.  I enjoyed meeting up with many old friends, spending time with Jalin’s family, hanging out with my former students, swimming at the Meng Zhui Wan swimming pool and enjoying a bit of rest after such a busy summer.

Getting Back to Longzhou

            On Saturday, September 17, LF and I finally made our way back to Longzhou.    Due to the late-night, 9 p.m. flight we had to take (the only plane flying that day that had oxygen in the cargo, where the dog has to ride), we didn’t get back on campus until 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

            Of course, I had earlier flight choices in smaller planes but without oxygen in the cargo, that wouldn’t have been a very pleasant landing, having an expired dog on my hands.  Oh, dear.  What a way to start off the school year if that had happened! 
            I had already made arrangements for a pick-up from  Mr. Ling, the van driver I hired who brought us to Nanning in July.  He was waiting for us at 11 p.m. and off we went for the 2-hour drive to Longzhou.

 The Arrival: A Welcome Committee of Sorts 

            My apartment had been unused for over 2 months, plus during the steamy tropical summer, so I did wonder what it would look like upon us stumbling in so early in the morning.   I wasn’t looking forward to it, that’s for sure.

            I kept thinking:  What if the refrigerator broke down while I was gone?  What if there was a pipe burst in the bathroom?  What if I forgot to close off the gas tank in the kitchen?

            Who wants to deal with that at 1 in the morning?

            We pulled up in front of the building. LF eagerly clamored out of the van, raced up the stairs and waited anxiously outside the door to enter my 3rd floor apartment.

            Mr. Ling was kind enough to haul my 50 pound suitcase up the stairwell.

            I pulled out my key, opened the door, and flipped on the lights.

            LF was the first to dash inside, grabbing up a few of her left-behind toys from the floor.  These she squeaked around while I looked to see what damage had been done.

            Aside from dust and smelling a bit closed off, everything was in great shape.

            In fact, I had a welcoming committee!  Scattered across the living room floor were 8 belly-up cockroaches, huge buggers that were definitely recent deaths.  (While sweeping them up, I noticed they were pretty juicy and not too dried up.)

            In other rooms, I found a few more dead ones and a very active fat one as well.  (Not active for long).

            It seems those roach pellets I put down certainly did their job.

            I have a great dislike for cockroaches but a welcoming committee of dead ones?  That was the greatest kind of welcome to have.

 Freshmen Dive Into Military Training

            After such a long time away from teaching and the school, I was ready to dive right into the classroom on Monday, September 19.

            But once again, yet another delay.

            While the 2nd and 3rd year students were already settling into their 3rd week of courses, the freshmen were busy in other ways:  Military Training.

            As previously mentioned in other blogs, all Chinese freshmen (high school and college) have mandatory military training for 10 days before they begin their studies.  The military training session is led by soldiers from nearby army bases, ours being just outside of town.  Students are divided by their classes and majors, which become fheir platoons.

             Their training involves learning to march in formation (morning, afternoon and late evening practices – very exhausting!), lectures on working and living together in the dormitories, advice on getting along in a new environment, suggestions about studying well and getting the most out of your college experience and learning to build trust and camaraderie between one another.

            In other words, it’s not really military training we’re talking about but merely a “how to” course on adjusting to a new way of life:  That of a college student, far from home, in need of guidance and support.

            Last year, our weather was so roasting that the military training course was put off until the Spring semester, in March.  Having students pass out due to dehydration and heat exhaustion after marching about all day was not something the administrators wanted to deal with.  Thus the schedule change for last year.

             This year, however, our temps have been much lower so the school leaders decided now was as good a time as any to get this done and over with.

            Last week, it was great fun watching everyone proudly strut about in their uniforms, which this time  were quite fetching.  Every student paid 110 yuan ($17.40) for their 2 sets of clothing.  We had the marching outfits (camouflaged pants, cotton T-shirts, army belts and bright red berets) along with the more dressy additions which were a long-sleeved, button-down blue shirt and red tie. 

            These were the best uniforms I’ve ever seen for the training course, unlike last year’s stinky, stiff cotton garbs and ugly fits.  Previous photos of last spring’s awful look are online for review.  Compare them to this year’s pics and I think you’ll agree, it’s a great improvement

 My Freshmen Started Today!

            This morning, I’ve already enjoyed my first classes with the incoming freshmen English Education majors.  Both of us have waited an excruciatingly long time to meet one another so I think you can guess the excitement in the classroom today.  Everyone was on a high, which made for very active classes involving lots of laughter and good conversation involvement.

            I’m eagerly awaiting to meet the others later this week.

 Yet Another Delay in Teaching:  National Day Holidays Nearly Upon Us

          Just as we’re all getting started and settled into the school year,  I get yet another hiatus in teaching.

           China’s National Day holidays (the founding of the PRC) is nearly upon us.   October 1 – 7 are the days off, which will have none of us working.  Some of the students will go home but many will remain here on campus as it’s too far for them to return home.

            Little Flower and I will be in Nanning, as always, where I will enjoy pool swims and loading up on supplies from the capital city to start off the year. 

            We’ll be starting up during the weekend (October 8 and 9) to teach what we call make-up days. China only allows a 3-day holiday for National Day but to give students a longer break, we are given 5 days.  Thus we have to make up the 2 days we were given.

              That about brings everyone up-to-speed on the happenings from this end in little Longzhou.  There are more stories to tell, of course, but until next time,   as always, here’s Ping An (peace) for your day!   

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About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 18 years as an English language teacher. 13 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my second year in Guangxi Province at the 3-year college, Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. The college is located in smalltown longzhou, 1 hour from the Vietnam border.
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