I'm writing this email in response to Owen's request to describe my situation here in Ping Guo Lu middle school to the teacher who should come after me.

Living Situation

I am living on the seventh floor of an apartment building. When you first start walking up the stairs you won't be so sure about the place, because the walkway up is open air and non-secure, and it is filthy. However, you will be pleasantly surprised by your living accomodations, as they are probably amoung the best you will find here in China. You will receive a one bedroom apartment with a bathroom, kitchen and living room. The apartment is very nice and really bright...not at all dingy like the exterior of the building. Watch out when you open the door, however, because cockroaches like to hide in the hollow under the door and then run into your apartment when you open it to leave or come in, especially at night. There are sound sensors for lights in the stairwells, but most of them are either broken or the lights are burnt out, so leave a light on in
your apartment (I leave the kitchen one on) so that you can see the lock on your door when you come home. The door has no handle on the outside, just a lock (which is kinda nice for security purposes). To open it, turn the key till you hear 2 clicks and then push on the door and turn the key quickly and it should open. Once in the door it is a little hard to close so you have to kinda pull it closed sharply so that it will latch.

The bathroom has a western style toilet (which is absolutely wonderful because even those with solid constitutions will get sick here...it's just a part of the experience). It also has a shelf to put your toiletries and a shower. The shower is not in a stall, nor do you have a bath tub. There is not enough room for that. Instead, the shower head just sticks out of the wall next to the toilet. There is a rack to hang your towel on well above the spray of the shower and a great fan that sucks out all of the moisture that you collect in the room from your showers (which you will want to use because it is really humid here and you want as little humidity as possible in your apartment). You can do what I do and just shut off the water while you are washing your hair or body and just turn it on when you need to rinse off. I've found this works the best...although you will still only get about a 10 minute shower even shutting off the water.

The kitchen has a sink, counter, some shelf space (which is basically all taken up with cups and bowls and stuff), a propane stove (which is actually really awesome for cooking on...it heats up really fast), an exhaust fan over the stove, a microwave and a sterilizer. The water in the kitchen is apparently drinkable. Don't drink it, because even though they say it is drinkable they still advise us to boil it first and you have a water cooler in your apartment anyways. Make sure you sterilize your dishes after washing them to make sure that they are disinfected, for the same reason as you shouldn't drink the water of course.

The living room has a TV, dvd player, fridge with freezer, desk, water cooler, washing machine, table, coffee table, sofa and air conditioner. You will love that air conditioner. It throws out great cold air which is a god send when it is 50 million above outside (I come from canada and am not used to such super hot temps). The washing machine is simple. Just hit the push in button at the top right corner of the machine and then hit the pink button in the lower right. Add soap and let it go. The knob beside the first button is load size. The air conditioner works by remote. The phone is on the desk.

The bedroom has a big bed, closet/dresser thingie for your clothes, computer desk, computer and printer. The computer has cable internet access, which you will have to pay for when you pay your phone bill and the school will pay you back.

The balcony has wires to hang your clothes from.

The School

The school is a 4 story, open air setting. It's actually pretty cool, but it gets very hot in the summer because there are only fans and no air conditioners in the classrooms. The class size ranges from 30 to almost 40 or so, although mine were around 35. I taught 14, 45 minute classes a week. 12 of them were split between 3 different classes, and the other two were with a single class in the primary school. I had two junior classes (ranging in age from 13-15) and an advanced class (ranging in age from 16-18). The primary class ranged in age from 10-12, so you will be teaching a huge range of ages and will have to adapt all kinds of teaching methods.
The kids are like any other kids...loud and hard to keep interested in lessons. I have found the best way to get them to be quiet is be fairly strict with them. Like any other kid, they try to sneak looks at comics and try to discreetly put an earphone in an ear that
they think you can't hear...so you have to be on the lookout for that. :)

They don't give you a curriculum, just a text book. But they do expect you to give a final exam at the end of the term, so just make sure you keep that in mind. We're giving the exam the way the last teachers did...orally. 3-5 minutes speaking to each student and then grading them on listening, speaking and comprehension.

Song Yi is your coordinator and she is a god send. She is an amazing woman, albeit she never stops moving for a single second. If you need something done or there is something wrong, she will do her best to get it fixed for you as soon as possible. She speaks really good english and works wonders as a translator when you need one. If you have any problems with your classes or with anyone in the school or anything, talk to
her and she will help you figure out some way to fix the problem, or make good suggestions to help you out.

The contract is really good. Depending on how much education/experience you will have depict how much you make The only thing I have had to pay for so far is my food, distilled water and propane (all of which are cheap, cheap, cheap). Everything else
is taken care of. If you want to open up a bank account to deposit your paycheck (and I figure it's a pretty good idea), Song Yi will help you out. All you need is your passport. The school will also do direct deposit for you once you have an account, so ask them about it and they will take care of that for you (instead of having to carry the money around...cuz they pay
you in cash and not by check).

Usually they are pretty good with letting you know things, but sometimes Song Yi isn't told about this stuff and she's the one who tells us when something is going on.


The scenery around here is absolutely amazing and the people are really friendly. Because this is basically a factory town and there are people from all over the country, you can try a lot of different foods here...from the more tame southern fare to the super spicy northern foods.

There are a lot of restaurants and they all serve absolutely delicious food (I have not been dissapointed yet with anything that I've eaten). Beware, though. The teachers and your higher ups will get you tasting things you never thought you'd eat, and drinking a lot of beer. I hope you have an adventurous spirit cuz you'll need it when it comes to some of the foods you will be asked to taste. My guide book says it is very impolite to refuse anything given to you, but I have learned that they do understand if you simply do not want something or do not like certain foods (it still amuses them that I can't stand drinking beer...but they will order wine or apple
juice for me instead).

The teachers are all really friendly, and if you like playing badminton you will get along with them fine. :) They're a great bunch and because a few of them have been hanging around us so much they have learned a heck of a lot of english and some are now almost completely fluent (which is really nice).

Everyone will yell hello to you and you will get a lot of stares, which makes you know how a movie star feels (being on show all the time). I try to smile to everyone and I always say hello to the little kids, but there are some rude men (especially if you are female) who will yell hello to you
after you have walked by really loudly to get you to come back to their table. Just ignore them...it's not being impolite in any way.

You will get tons of invites to people's houses for dinner and stuff. Go to all of them. You will have a blast and make a ton of new friends. Especially when the teachers invite you out. Like I said before they are a great group and have helped stave off the loneliness and homesickness that
one feels when leaving everyone they know behind.

Hope you brought some Imodium. You will probably need it. I have finally just now gotten my stomach under control again and used to the foods here and I've been here for 4 months. I've never had a problem with food before and getting sick from it...but the chances of that happening here are pretty big. Drink tons of fluids. I have found that chrysanthemum tea (which you can find at the supermarket) helps my stomach calm down a heck of a lot.

The school will probably take you on a few trips. We went to Bei Hai for spring break, and monkey mountain and a waterfall on the border of vietnam and china for a day trip. It was a blast and because the school has a car it's a nice alternative to taking the bus to see places you wanna go.

Nanning is always a nice place to go for the weekend. It has great shopping and a few western restaurants (albeit a little expensive) if you are craving western food. We found one french restaurant that serves french food and western fare called Champs Elysees (like the famous one) and it serves good food at a decent price and has the western food in english. The waiters and
manager speak english so you get exactly what you want.

I'll be travelling around China for august and part of september and then heading home around the 17th, and I will probably be back in Ping Guo Lu before I go in september (wanna say bye to all the people I met here), so if there's anything I can help with just email me and I'll do what I can.

Bye for now


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