CLASSES: We have completed almost 2 weeks of school now so the students are beginning to establish a routine. Students in my speech class have begun to deliver their first speeches. The second half will deliver their speeches on Thursday. The students are very attentive and prepare well for their presentations. My Monday speech class meets from 10:15am-12:15pm, which is an ideal time during the day. Students are anxious to get to lunch afterwards, but they are generally alert during class. On Thursdays, I teach speech from 3:15-5:15pm, and that is a more challenging time slot.
My education class meets for 3 hours (1:15pm-4:15pm) on Tuesdays. It is an excellent mix of students interested in education, psychology, and social justice. During the first class, the Assistant Program Director William Wu joined us and explained the Chinese education system. This gave us a foundational understanding before visiting our first middle school. My class and I enjoyed a wonderful tour of Changning Middle School. The Head of the School and a few teachers prepared a professional presentation for us and we discussed ways that our students could help in the classrooms. We are excited about this experiential learning experience!
DISCOVERING CHINA: Richard and I have enjoyed getting to know our surroundings and going out on local outings. This past week we visited the largest Starbucks in the world which is here in Shanghai, and then we also checked out a local park filled with a marriage market, tai chi demonstrations, a small amusement park for young children, gambling, a jazz ensemble, and more! Additionally, we have walked around the city and found the "Times Square" of China and countless shopping malls. There is definitely always something to see and do here.
STUDENTS: Richard and I are really enjoying getting to know the students. I continue to spend a lot of time advising them with classes and discussing their passions and dreams. We also enjoyed a day trip with a small group of students to Qibao, where we tried Chinese street food and shopping and appreciated the beauty of the bridges and canals. The students are learning how to manage their time effectively and learning how to book their travel plans. The first travel weekend is this weekend and many of us, including me and Richard, will be traveling because it is the national Chinese holiday. The students are learning that they need to get adequate sleep and eat healthy to keep up with the pace of life abroad. Some are getting colds and their bodies are beginning to wear down -- nothing alarming, just regular colds or flus.
For our second free weekend, we decided to stay in Shanghai and explore some of the local sites. We invited any students who wanted to join us and spent a wonderful day in Qibao (*Chee-Bow). We were able to take the metro to this place and only had to transfer to one other line. The streets were crowded with people, and we were able to enjoy our first sampling of famous Chinese street food. I played it safe with a vegetarian scallion potato pancake, while the students got more daring with squid and meat skewers.
We are so grateful for the friends that we have made here in Shanghai. The Program Director Charlie and his beautiful wife Judith invited us to their home for dinner. We enjoyed a delicious homemade dinner and enjoyed time with their adorable children. It was so wonderful to be in a home and enjoying fellowship with new friends. Thank you, Engelmann Family! You have blessed us so much already!
One of the most surprising elements of Shanghai for me has been the weather. It has been far more hot and humid than I had ever expected. Temperatures have been generally in the upper 80's with 84% humidity. I really have not sweated this much in my life! They say that it will get cooler, and I am counting on that. Below is a video of the rain from the balcony of our apartment. It was pouring but still super sticky and HOT!
We have completed Week 2. Classes have begun! Add/drop period for classes is today so students have been contemplating their majors, their four-year plans, and their college lives. I have spent a lot of time serving as the students' advisor and have enjoyed doing this. They ask great questions, it is an easy way to discover their hopes and dreams, and I am able to get to know each of them personally. What is funny is that I am working here...but it doesn't feel like "work." It is a joy to serve, support, pray with, and love the students, and to share in this Shanghai experience with them. I feel very blessed.
I also began to teach classes again. I have now taught two speech classes and one education class. The speech classes meet for two hours at a time each week, and the education course meets once a week for three hours. I am getting more and more used to the setup in the classrooms. I am grateful to have Richard with me here. He helps me set up the audio in my classroom, makes me breakfast on the days that I teach (and even when I don't teach too), and he supports me in my work so much. I am a very lucky girl!
For our first weekend day trip, Richard and I decided to treat ourselves to a guided tour of Tongli & Suzhou. Tongli is a water town known as the "Venice, Italy of China." Suzhou boasts of its beautiful gardens. These towns are about an hour from our Jia, but due to the congested traffic, it can take up to two hours one way. Our drive out took about 1.5 hours, but the drive back was about 2 hours because we returned to Shanghai during the dinner rush hour.
It was so nice to be taken care of all day by our tour guide and driver. We were picked up at 8:30am by our driver and our tour guide. I was amazed that the car was so spacious - a minivan for just me, Richard, and the two others. The air conditioning was a definite plus because it has been so hot here. I also really appreciated the details that they included like providing water bottles for us in the car. Our guide Nora was SUPER helpful! I highly recommend Jenny's Shanghai Tours. They were so easy to work with via emails and the tour was well worth the money. Nora bought all of our entrance tickets to the venues and the boat ride, treated us to local delicacies, and ordered our lunch. She also spoke English very well, and explained so much about China and its history during our day together. At the end of our tour, the driver also dropped us off at our favorite Western hamburger spot that we found in Shanghai, The Habit! It was a perfect day!
"Please don't get fat! Please don't get fat! Please don't get fat!" This has been a mantra for me personally here. HA! HA!
If there are any parents out there worrying that their child is not eating well, this is the post to quench all those fears! WE EAT WELL HERE! VERY WELL.
Pictured above was the dinner that my husband and I shared last night at the Vietnamese restaurant where our group dinner was held. We are given a budget and then the students can order their own meal or pool their money together and share a few items. The food is generally very cheap here so the food pictured above PLUS a milk tea and soda costs about 200 "Kuai" - Chinese Yuan (which converts to about $29). Usually students are given about 100-150 Kuai per meal.
Many amazing and affordable restaurants are within walking distance from our Jia. One day I walked across the street to treat a student and our staff member to lunch and coffee and we enjoyed this comfort breakfast food! My vegetarian omelette, potatoes, pancakes AND coffee were only 60 Kuai, which is about $9USD.
Also, there is more than just Chinese food here in Shanghai. PIctured here is a delicious bowl of pasta with vodka cream sauce that we can get right across the street! We can find Italian, American, Mediterranean, and simple things like pizza! Trust me, in terms of food, we are in the best place ever. I just have to walk a lot more so I don't feel so guilty eating it all! :) And if I don't walk more, then there will just be more of me to love when I get back! HA!
Just a few thoughts after teaching my first class:
TIME: On our main campus in Malibu, classes usually begin on the hour, but my first class started here at 3:15. Those extra 15 minutes threw me off a little bit. For one, there was no clock in the classroom, so I had to keep checking my phone for the time or looking for the time on my computer. UGH! I will definitely be asking if a small digital clock can be place at least on the lectern in the classroom. I usually let my students get up to stretch around X:50-X:55, but when I looked at the clock, it was 4:12! I couldn't understand why I had gone so over the hour before we took a break, but THEN I remembered that we started 15 minutes AFTER the hour! AHHHH!
TECHNOLOGY: For future faculty, I highly recommend plugging your computer in beforehand and testing out the technology. Getting the right display settings up, connecting the right adaptors, etc. takes a bit of getting used to before teaching. There is a VGA adaptor which is probably fine for PCs, but for Mac users, you will need an adaptor, and the Jia also provides one but it is the one with the lightning bolt end. I brought a bag full of different adaptors so I had one that worked thankfully. The WiFi in the classroom is not very strong so I will not rely on YouTube or Google Drive when teaching.
AUDIO: I did not see any audio speakers in the large classroom where I taught my first class. I brought a small wireless Bluetooth speaker that has been very handy in class and when hanging out in the Sunshine Room with students or in the faculty apartment. (UPDATE: Gigi from the office informed me that they have speakers if faculty need them. Just ask the office.)
CLASSROOM SETUP: The classroom desks are set up in a traditional arrangement and they are too heavy to move. If you are used to a circular discussion setting, this will not be possible in these classrooms.
CONVO: The RAs led our first "convo," an abbreviated term for "convocation" which is a weekly assembly for our program. They did a very professional job preparing slides and making announcements for the program. Other student workers (like the food managers, office assistant, communications manager, etc.) were all selected this week as well. Students applied for the positions and interviewed for them. We have an excellent team of student leaders here.
During the first convo, a local counselor also came to introduce herself and to encourage students to be mindful of their mental health while abroad and invited them to make appointments with her when she visits twice a week at the Jia. Appointments are confidential and covered with our program costs. This is a wonderful service for our students.
CLASSES: It happened! We started classes. The staff has done an amazing job introducing us to Shanghai and laying down a sold foundation for us to thrive in the program. And now it is time for the professors to teach and the students to study. The students and I all seem to crave the routine that the class schedule will bring and are looking forward to the classes.
I have been trying to read Psalms each morning for encouragement. This morning, these verses jumped out at me from Psalm 103:
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us
Being in China, I feel so far away from my family and friends. I am in the Far East and they are in the West. Scripture says that this is how far our sins have been separated for us because of His grace. That's amazing. Truly amazing.