A ROOM WITH A KITCHEN (AND A BATHROOM!)
On Wednesday we moved out of our little apartment with a view to our grand new apartment. One of my adult students, Charlie, had been determined to help us ever since he heard we were going to move. We quite gladly accepted his offer which included the help of two of his friends, one being the owner of an SUV. We carried all of our stuff down three flights of stairs, loaded up the SUV and a taxi, drove to the new place, made a wrong turn, went in the back way, unloaded everything onto the sidewalk, and carried all our stuff up 6 flights of stairs. All said and done, it only took an hour.
Our new house is quite large, at least twice the size of our former one. We have two bedrooms now. The master bedroom has an extension (like the porch our kitchen was on in the previous apartment) that is glassed in and quite sunny and beautiful. In our living room, we have a comfortable couch and two armchairs, plus a TV. Off of the living room is a real bathroom, with a sink, and a toilet and a shower. But, get this, the toilet is not IN the shower, and it’s not sitting on top of a squat toilet. Could it get any better than this? Actually, it can. We also have an awesome kitchen. Despite the emphasis on food in the Chinese culture, kitchens are often overlooked by the Chinese architects. But by some fluke, our apartment actually has a large kitchen that is nearly the same size as the living room. And we now have a two burner stove instead of only one burner. We can cook two pots at once! We still don’t have an oven of course, although our friend Pat rescued the miniature toaster oven from his apartment and gave it to us, so we can now toast bread.
Our first night in the new place was quite chaotic. The two teachers we’re inheriting it from weren’t leaving until early the next morning, so the apartment was strewn with the remnants of their packing. Plus, Pat had just finished his school contract and was kicked out of the school apartment but hadn’t found a new apartment yet, so he stayed with us too. Some of our Chinese friends were over, so we abandoned the mess and all went out to eat at a nearby hotpot restaurant. Hotpot is a delicious part of the Chinese cuisine which hasn’t yet been exported to the west. Hotpot consists of a boiling pot of water which is flavored with some common things like garlic and ginger, but then there are some mystery twigs and balls thrown in to give it quite a resemblance to a witches brew. Into this, you put some thinly sliced meat, lettuce, fish balls, mushrooms, etc. You basically cook your own meal as you go, and it’s quite delicious.
The next morning, I had my first day as Teacher Trainer, while Zac was the lucky one to stay home and clean and unpack. So on Thursday and Friday, I spent all day helping the current teacher trainer, whom I will be replacing, do the training for the new batch of teachers fresh off the airplanes. But what I really wanted to be doing was playing in my new house. In the evenings, I helped Zac with the cleaning and organizing and sorting of things. The fun thing about moving into apartments here is all the junk you inherit—some useful, some not. I think it will be quite boring when we one day move into a clean, empty house.
On Saturday and Sunday, we both had to teach. Zac has a new schedule of classes at our school, while I’m working at a different Future School as a substitute for a teacher who is coming three weeks late. Because the school is in a suburb of Dalian, I have to wake up at 5:30am, and leave the house by 6:15 in order to be there to teach by 8 am. Despite the commute, I like the school a lot and the Chinese teachers seem to enjoy having a competent teacher to work with. In fact, I think I’m a much better teacher there, with a fresh start, 6 months experience, and the knowledge I only have to do it for a short time. I knew exactly what to do and I couldn’t help showing off for the parents a bit. At the end of class, the parents started to hover around the door, so I reviewed what the students had learned that day and called on each of them, so the parents could see their child communicating easily with the foreigner. They ate it up. But in truth, I had a lot of fun and it was refreshing to be in a new place.
My new job is kind of strange right now. The previous teacher trainer is still doing the job until the end of the month, and I haven’t been formally trained yet, so when I’m not substituting, all I can do is follow her around. I’m not quite sure how I will ever fill 40 hours a week with this job. Maybe I’ll have to learn how to work super inefficiently, which is never very enjoyable for me. I think I will be officially trained by the teacher trainer trainer in the next week or two, so hopefully it will get better. For the most part I will be using our school as my home base, since that’s where the city office is located. So on most days my commute to work is only a 15 minute walk. It’s quite nice.