First Impressions - Callum Price

I have now reached the second month of my 10 month tenure as a teacher in China, based in the city of Huaihua in Hunan Province. I consider this quite a feat; I am a 22 year old from the small South Wales Valley town of Merthyr Tydfil who has never lived away from home, now living in a city of 5 million who don’t speak the same language as myself, halfway across the World!

One of my first impressions of China is that it seems to be falling over itself in its rush to build. New blocks of flats compete for space with ramshackle tenements huddled below. Construction sites seem to be in operation 24/7! This is a symptom of China’s previous decade of economic boom, and it is quite a sight to experience firsthand!

My second impression tally’s with many other comments left here-how weird and bizarre China can be! There are certainly many sights, rituals and cultural differences that at first came as quite a shock, but these are quickly overcome by the general kindness and generosity of the Chinese people (the exception being Chinese taxi drivers- that proves to be just as terrifying now as it did origninally!). To ally any fears for any avid Karl Pilkington fans, I have not yet been made to eat any insects or baby birds! As commented, people will stare as you walk down the street, in all areas of China, from the relatively Westernised Beijing to Huaihua, which does not have the same flood of tourists.

I have flirted with the option of becoming a teacher for many years, and I consider myself extremely privileged to have had such an experience as this. Not only have I had the opportunity to work with some incredible students and teachers, but it has given me practical, on-the-job training in an environment which you couldn’t find in the UK. I teach between the ages of around 6-16, and when I think back to my school days, and I struggle to think of half a dozen students who were as attentive as the students I teach at No.3, or as intelligent! The students are always willing to converse, either in the classroom or out on campus or in the street, and I find myself often invited to other teachers homes for meals, or to participate in events, such as inter-departmental football matches. These are often mutually beneficial encounters, with me imparting some English, and learning some colloquial Chinese in return!

The food here in Huaihua is proving perfect for my palette! I am a fan of spicy food, but the flavour here is out of this world! I have become very accustomed to Chinese dishes in my short time here, from Jiaozi (meat-filled dumplings) to wok-fried aubergine.

Admittedly, learning Chinese is proving a big difficulty! I am given 2 hours worth of Chinese lessons by my school each week, and the problem is not through bad teaching on their part, or indeed laziness on mine, it is just very difficult! I have managed to pick up basic greetings and phrases, but it has proved an uphill struggle! This is an area I am particularly keen to work on, given China’s rising economic hegemony on the world stage.

The experience has certainly helped me a great deal, from weaning me from my pop-tart addiction to exercising patience with people on a daily basis and widening my view of the world. It has helped me realise how tough a job teaching can be (for anyone who’s never taught, it is a terrifying experience when your lesson plan doesn’t work and you have 45 minutes of a lesson left!), how to organise a semester’s worth of lessons, but more importantly, how to let go of any fear, find my fun side again after 3 years of university and help my students enjoy my classes!

I anyone wants to contact me, and ask a few questions, please feel free!
My email address is ct.price@hotmail.co.uk