Farewell Korea, Hello Middle Kingdom!

Farewell Korea, Hello Middle Kingdom!

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.

Dinner with Seoul Young Leaders Rotary Club members,
Dinner with Seoul Young Leaders Rotary Club members, August 27, 2016
Vanilla ice cream on salad. Sounds disgusting, but is super delicious! August 27, 2016
Vanilla ice cream on salad. Sounds weird, but is super delicious! August 27, 2016
Milk snowflakes with red beans. I will miss popping into Korean cafes to have this icy treat! August 14, 2016
Milk snowflakes with red beans. I will miss popping into Korean cafés to have this icy treat! August 14, 2016
Rotary service project Saturday with Haein, Matthew, and Gustavo, August 20, 2016
Rotary service project Saturday with Haein, Matthew, and Gustavo, August 20, 2016
Dinner at a Chinese-style restaurant in Korea. Cooking over open coals is really fun!
Dinner at a Chinese-style restaurant in Korea. Cooking over open coals is really fun!
Lamb kabobs, honey gingered pork, and some other delicious thing I don't know the name of! August 18, 2016
Lamb kabobs, honey gingered pork, and some other delicious thing I don’t know the name of! August 18, 2016
Table set for a traditional Korean-style buffet dinner, August 29, 2016
Table set for a traditional Korean-style buffet dinner, August 29, 2016
My friend J treating me to a traditional Korean-style dinner, August 29, 2016
My friend J treating me to a traditional Korean-style dinner, August 29, 2016

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!

New and Modern Zhengzhou Airport, October 1, 2016
New and modern Zhengzhou Airport, October 1, 2016

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.

Some of my students helping me move from the hotel to my apartment on campus, October 14, 2016
Some of my students helping me move from the hotel to my apartment on campus.  They really look like they’re enjoying themselves, not! October 14, 2016
My living room with new couches, October 12, 2016
My living room with new couches.  This living room is about the size my entire apartment in Korea was, October 12, 2016
After picture of my decorated living room, October 23, 2016
After picture of my decorated living room, October 23, 2016
Before photo of my kitchen, October 12, 2016
Before photo of my kitchen, October 12, 2016
After photo of kitchen, October 23, 2016
After photo of kitchen, October 23, 2016
Before photo of bedroom, October 12, 2016
Before photo of bedroom, October 12, 2016
After photo of bedroom, October 23, 2016
After photo of bedroom, October 23, 2016
Before photo of bathroom, October 12, 2016
Before photo of bathroom, October 12, 2016
After photo of bathroom, October 23, 2016
After photo of bathroom, October 23, 2016
Getting a mirror and towel rack installed. Yay! October 14, 2016
Getting a mirror and towel rack installed. Yay! October 14, 2016
Right outside of the bathroom, October 23, 2016
Right outside of the bathroom.  The closed door leads to the study.  As you can see, it’s a huge apartment, especially compared to my apartment in Korea. October 23, 2016

 

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.

One of my classes getting to know each other, October 12, 2016
One of my classes getting to know each other, October 12, 2016
An in class ESL activity, October 12, 2016
An in class ESL activity, October 12, 2016

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!

River that runs through the city at night, October 16, 2016
Nighttime river view of the city October 16, 2016

8 thoughts on “Farewell Korea, Hello Middle Kingdom!

  1. lovely post! and your apartment is everything! Im excited to come out and see what China is all about. I’ll have to get used to people taking pics of me and being stared at. Glad your enjoying your experience so far 😉

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