This month marks a new and exciting chapter in my travels. Not long ago, I said farewell to Korea, packed my bags, and headed to the Middle Kingdom for my new teaching job.
After countless job inquiries, a couple interviews, and several prayers, I finally came one step closer to my dream job: working with adults in the education field at the university level. Hired by a university in Henan Province, China, I accepted a position of teaching conversational English classes to first year college students. I had been working toward university ESL positions for three years, so this was (and is) the opportunity of a lifetime! While I had some great experiences in Korea, made some good friends and promised to keep in touch, once in Gimpo Airport, I didn’t look back! Once my documents were stamped, authenticated, and visa affixed to my passport, I was on a plane headed West to China.
Upon arrival at Zhengzhou Airport, I was greeted by my new supervisor. Although I had to stay in a hotel while they organized my apartment, she had arranged for some of the teachers to have dinner with me at the hotel. The teachers were very nice and offered to help me however they could. After conversation and introductions, I could already tell my new colleagues were very mature and easy going. It was like a breath of fresh air!
After dinner I settled into my hotel room. The five hour flight didn’t leave me as tired as I thought it would have (the jet lag hit later). As I looked out the window at the sleepy city, I felt I had made a good decision. One week after I arrived, it was time for class to start. I wasn’t really nervous on my first day: I had taught adults before so I was more excited than anything else. I have about 100 students, but they are spaced out in different classes which makes it manageable. It was quite amusing to see my students’ expressions on the first day of class.
Their naivety and lack of exposure to non-Chinese people was quite surprising. For example, a few of my students asked me if I was from Africa. (I thought about saying yes to see how long it would take them to catch on. I knew it would be quite amusing for me, but perhaps a little mean to them, so I told them the truth). One student told me he had never had a foreign teacher before. What I had read in my travel book was true: many Chinese, outside of the larger cities, have never seen foreigners, especially Black foreigners. So they are extremely curious.
I had done a good bit of reading and research on life in China, so I wasn’t too surprised that I get stared at everywhere I go. But it is hard to get used to. Some parents are polite and scold their children when they point at me or the other foreign teachers. And some parents point at me and pick their children up to stare at me until I’m out of sight. It does make one feel like they are part of an exhibition at a zoo from time to time. But I suppose with time, I’ll get used to it.
My overall impression is a very nice, clean, well maintained city with really nice people. So many of the locals have gone out of their way to help me when I’ve had difficulties and made me feel welcome. One evening, after dinner at a very local restaurant, the restaurant manager asked to take photos with my colleagues and me. Afterwards, he gave us towels and tea bottles for gifts! It’s also not unusual to have people taking photos of me on a daily basis. I do have a little more sympathy for celebrities now!All in all I’m delighted to be here. The local people are super nice and friendly, many of my students work hard in class and genuinely want to get to know me, and my apartment is spacious, comfortable, and quiet. I feel really blessed to be in my new teaching position and am looking forward to life in the Orient!