School begins. Well, sort of. OK, not really

27 08 2009

So today, after a week or so where we’ve basically sat around waiting for something to happen, with little or no contact with the school outside of trying to understand or be understood by the ayis (Pronounced I-YEE; means “auntie” – essentially is the maid for each floor), I think all of us were ready for today’s orientation. Like everything else in China, there was little notice, besides a note posted by the elevators saying we were meeting up at 10 this morning. So we all (the teachers in the dorm building) trooped over to a small classroom where a mildly frazzled looking British man, probably in his mid- to late-thirties, was waiting with a stack of papers.
No representative from the school was present. The guy in charge of the orientation was a former teacher at the school – now a teacher at a different school – and for the most part, he spent the first part of the class just talking about what we could expect from living in China and Nanjing specifically, as well as what the school’s rules were. (Worst one: No visitors after 11 pm. ESPECIALLY Chinese girls). Apparently at the school, you’re not allowed to live together unless you’re married, but there was one couple who was considered a very special case. Wonder who that was? I’m sort of curious what our contact said was our reason for having to live together, besides me saying I wouldn’t work there unless we could share an apartment. Most of the stuff we went over was fairly run of the mill China stuff that we’ve already encountered a lot of (People spit; it’s crowded; they stare; food is cheap; watch out for electric bikes, scooters and bad taxi drivers, etc…) He did name off some places to visit, which I was keen to hear about. We also discussed some of the food you could find. The second half of the orientation was more of the same, except some other teacher who had been there a couple years came in and brought a giant bottle of beer he swigged from, while occasionally giving his mostly unasked-for opinions on stuff. (Best places to get drunk; which administrators did poor jobs; how to get around the Great (fire)Wall) They did hand out some good Nanjing maps, which was nice, as well as a list of bus routes and where they go, which should prove very valuable. At the end of orientation, he gave us the option of saying which age group we wanted to teach. Our options were Junior 1, 2, and 3, and Senior 1, 2, and 3. At the end of Junior 3, the students take the test which determines whether they continue at Nanjing Foreign Language School or whether they move on to another occupation the government thinks is more appropriate for their skill set, whether it be cobbler, anime-haired TV star or street-side bike fixer. Senior 3 is the point where they are applying to school. For the record, Nanjing Foreign Language School sends quite a few students to Ivy League schools and other American schools of note. It’s generally considered one of the best schools in the country. I’ve been very impressed with the campus, though some of the dorm areas are a bit shoddy. I’ve attached a picture of the campus. I was one of only two teachers who didn’t have a preference on the age group, which probably means Hello Junior 1!
Tomorrow we return at the same time to learn more about the teaching process. Wish me luck. I don’t really need luck. Wish me luck next week.
-Jeremiah

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