Longgang School is located in Nanzheng District of Hanzhong, around 5 km away from the city center in Hantai District. There are roughly 6000 students studying at the school, and it offers tuition from nursery through to senior high school. The nursery and kindergarten are located in separate buildings outside of the main school campus, and while the primary, middle, and high school all share one big campus, they each have their own teaching buildings. In addition, the campus features a large dining hall building with an indoor sports center on top (mostly basketball, table-tennis and badminton), an arts and music building, two large playgrounds (one for football and athletic sports, the other one for basketball and badminton), a large hall for concerts and other events, the administration building, the students' and teachers' dormitories, as well as the apartment building with the foreign teachers' homes. Throughout the school year the school hosts several events, such as a singing competition in the autumn/winter term, Sports Day, Childrens' Day celebration, and others.
Furthermore, the school offers three free meals per day to their foreign teachers at the dining hall. Food there is average Chinese food, many dishes are spicy. There are always rice and vegetable dishes, as well as a selection of meat dishes - always pork, often chicken, sometimes duck, beef, rabbit, rarely mutton. For breakfast they serve the local staple mian pi (rice noodles), as well as steamed buns (mantou) and several vegetable dishes and rice porridge. In addition to rice, they sometimes offer noodle dishes for lunch or dinner. Sometimes there are pastries and muffins, and on special occasions they serve special foods, such as dumplings and mutton soup for Winter Solstice. The canteen staff usually go out of their way to accomodate your meal preferences.
The foreign teacher's workload will depend on what is stipulated in their contract, and additional lessons would only be arranged with the foreign teacher's agreement. Classes take place between 8 am - 12 pm, as well as from 2:30 pm until 6 pm, from Monday to Friday, with a majority of the classes taking place in the morning (depending on schedule). In case of holidays, sometimes everyone is required to work one day on the weekend, but usually we are notified of any schedule changes in advance. Due to all the extracurricular events the students participate in, individual classes are sometimes cancelled, especially in the days leading up to the events.
In primary school lessons are 35 - 45 minutes long, and in kindergarten lessons are 25 - 30 minutes. Class size in kindergarten is approximately 30 - 40 students, and in primary school between 40 and 50. The students are generally well behaved, and some classes might become inattentive and noisy at times, whereas other classes have perfect behavior. Their behavior often depends on their main English teacher. In kindergarten there are usually 2 or 3 teachers present in the classroom, but most of them do not speak any English. In primary school (and of course in middle and high school) all of the English teachers speak excellent English, and in primary school an English teacher is always present during class - some of them more engaged in the class.As both of us current foreign teachers are working the maximum hours, we have not been asked to organize English corner.
As said before, the fellow English teachers all speak excellent English, and some other teachers that you might meet in the canteen for lunch or elsewhere on campus also speak some basic English. Overall, the staff at school are all very friendly, welcoming and helpful, and many say hello and try to communicate when they see the foreign teachers.
Currently there are two foreign teachers working at Longgang School, and you will be the third. We all live in the same building, so please feel free to say hi when you see us. I'm Kris, here with my husband Yasser (not a teacher), and the other foreign teacher is Roman.
The Foreign Affairs Officer is Mr. John, a high school teacher. He lives upstairs in our building, and his office is in the administration building. He takes good care of us foreign teachers and usually takes care of any issues we might have in a timely manner. John's English is great, even though he likes to underestimate his speaking skills. His assistant is Jennifer, who also speaks good English, but often doesn't understand what we're saying. With her you often have to repeat or simplify things. Written communication with her (on WeChat) is no problem. As she's still very young and shy she sometimes comes across a bit inexperienced, so in case she can't answer your questions about where to find certain shops or how to get around to certain places it's best to ask your fellow teachers. That said, she’s a hard working and nice person, and she's the one who you will mostly deal with. John likes to socialize with people and advocates for a harmonious environment in the school.
The three foreign teachers' apartments are located in the same building, and yours will be on the second floor. All apartments are the same, with the same furniture, only the decoration is different. There is a big living and dining room, a kitchen, a bedroom, an office, and a bathroom. There's a TV in the living room. The sofa is quite ok. There's an air conditioning unit in the living room, bedroom, and in the office. There is no heating, but the a/c provides hot air. Still, it's quite cold in the apartment in winter, as the apartment is not insulated. In winter and summer, when everyone is heating/cooling simultaneously, the electricity sometimes cuts several times per day. The internet connection is usually quite good, but at busy times also cuts on occasion. Overall it's quite reliable, though. If there is any problem with water or electricity (other than power cuts), John and Jennifer usually are quick to bring over the electrician or plumber to fix things. The apartment is very spacious and the furniture looks ok. As we all live on campus it's only a short way to the classrooms, maximum ten minutes.
Hanzhong is a city located between Xi’an and Chengdu, and Longgang School is located very close to the center of Hanzhong. All your daily needs can be fulfilled close to the school, as there are several supermarkets, pharmacies, hair dressers, bakeries, gyms etc. in walking distance. There are also an abundance of restaurants nearby, ranging from street food for 3-8 RMB to fancy restaurants where dishes average around 60 RMB. Most of the restaurants near the school are hot pot restaurants, as it’s very popular here. There’s also a fast food restaurant next to the school that serves chicken burgers and fries.
In Hantai District, the city center of Hanzhong, you can find KFC, McDonald's, and Pizza Hut, as well as many cafes, shops, cinemas, and of course a lot more other restaurants. There are some places that serve sushi, and there is at least one restaurant that serves Thai food. Next to McDonald's and KFC there is a huge supermarket, Vanguard, that stocks many foreign items that you can't easily find at the smaller supermarkets. There is also an import goods supermarket in Hanzhong, but they have mostly snacks, wine, and beauty items. If you’re looking for real cheese or good chocolate you'd best stock up while in Xi’an or Chengdu. A Decathlon (sports clothes/equipment) outlet opened in November; they sell clothes in “foreign friendly sizes” (e.g. shoes up to size 46), good quality and cheap prices. Behind McDonald's there's “Starry Night Pub”, a bar that serves only foreign drinks. You're likely to run into other foreigners there, and the owner speaks excellent English.
Hanzhong offers many recreational areas, especially along the Han River. Both sides of the river, along the residential areas, have been turned into parks where you can go for walks or runs, play sports, have a picnic or play cars with your friends.
People in Hanzhong are generally very friendly. Many people, especially children, will stare at us foreigners when we’re walking by, but in one year here I've not encountered any rudeness.When someone stares at you, just wave and say hi, and see their face light up with a smile. There are several private training centers in Hanzhong that employ foreign teachers, and there are some non-Chinese students at the local university. In total I would say there are around 10-15 foreigners in town, most of them men. We've got a WeChat group, which is a great way to connect, or you might run into some of them in downtown.
Overall, I'd say the weather in Hanzhong is very good, and pollution levels are much lower than in other parts of the country. There are four seasons, but it doesn't usually snow in winter. There is some rain in spring and late summer, but most of the time it's dry.
Hanzhong is surrounded by mountains on all sides, and you can see them in the distance. Hantai and Nanzheng District are both rather flat. The surrounding areas offer many opportunities for bike rides and hikes, and there are various scenic spots all over Hanzhong, some of which can be reached by public transport, others might require you to take a taxi or arrange a trip with friends.
I can't tell you much about night clubs or other bars. Night life here mostly seems to take place in restaurants and KTV, as well as Mahjang places.
In December 2017 the high speed rail link between Xi'an and Chengdu was opened, and now it is very easy to reach both cities from Hanzhong within a short time. Trains run regularly throughout the day. A one way ticket to Xi'an costs less than 100 RMB in second class and takes around 1 hour 20 minutes. A ticket to Chengdu costs around 140 RMB, and the ride takes around 2.5 hours. There are also slow trains that run to Ankang (3.5 hours) and start at 38 RMB for a hard seat ticket.
In addition to that, there are many short and long distance buses that take you all over Hanzhong prefecture, as well as to other cities in Shaanxi and Sichuan province. Expect bus rides to be long and not very comfortable, but cheap.
To get around in Nanzheng or Hantai District you can take the public bus, which, depending on the time of year, costs either 1 or 2 RMB. Bus number 1 takes you from the school directly to the city center and to the train station. There are other bus routes that can take you to other parts of the city.
Taxis are easily available, and rarely use their meters. Taxis usually charge 20 RMB to go from the school to the city center. You could also use Didi (a ride share app like Uber), which is cheaper, and fairly priced.
Of course there are Mobikes and other shared bikes available all over the city.
In conclusion I'd say that Hanzhong is a great place to live, if you like life in a medium sized city with not too much hustle and bustle. With the new high speed rail it’s easy to reach Xi'an and Chengdu in a short time, and it's possible to go there for day trips or weekend trips. The people at Longgang School take good care of us foreign teachers, and Hanzhong residents are friendly and welcoming. If you are a person who enjoys clubbing and partying all night long, Hanzhong might not be the best place for you, but if you are a down to earth person who likes the outdoors, this might be the right place.
|Having fun with kindergarten and
primary school students
|One of the teaching buildings
|Students and teachers' dormitories
||Local, home-cooked foods at
a fellow teacher’s home.
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