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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday Bash

Turning 28 on the 28th of March! Yes…! Yesterday, it was the day… a big 28 and today… it’s the start of a new year, a new age and new chapters… Hopefully!

It’s been years since I decided to celebrate my birthday. My 21st was the last proper birthday bash I threw. Up until this year, that is…

2 weeks ago, me, Matt and Mike were talking and figured we needed a reason to throw a party… That’s when Matt suggested: “It’s Niamhs’ birthday soon, perfect timing!” And that was it: I had a birthday party to plan…

Honestly though, I did hardly any planning; apart from sending a couple of texts and getting everyone at work to spread the word that on the 28th there’d be a party happening in the Manhattan apartment (which is the name of the complex where Matt and I live). On the day itself a big shop was done, to pick-up some booze and food in the supermarket… this apartment is always ‘party-ready’ (just for the amount of space we have). All that was needed was a smile on my face, the hostess-mode needed to be switched-on and we had all the ingredients for a great night!

Oh yes… a group of people would add the party atmosphere of course! I had no clue who was exactly was invited or how many people would end-up coming. I figured; expect nobody and everybody who DOES arrive is the icing on my birthday cake! And it couldn’t have planned out better! What a night it was… Matt and Mike even got a singing session going… playing ‘especially’ for me! It was brilliant. Everyone who was there was linked to the ‘group of westerners’ in Jinzhou, in some way.

At certain moments, it was actually quite a surreal experience. I couldn’t believe that 5 weeks ago I didn’t know any of these folks! Yet, here I was, turning 28, in China, with a group of maybe 30 people, who came by on a Monday night (even though they had to work the next morning) and partied with me for hours. And everyone was saying the same thing: “Niamh, it’s like you’ve been here forever…” And to me it feels the exact same. But it’s a good thing, because I’m not an outsider and probably never really was… I was accepted straight away. How nice it is to have found this home… As well, seeing everyone together in one room, on a night like last night, just showed me how many special people are around me and how close we’ve instantly become.

On the morning after the night before, there’s no downer at all… There’s no hangover. Just excitement – even though I can’t wait to go to bed again tonight, to catch some precious sleep…

After last night, something new feels to be starting, once again. I haven’t figured out what… maybe it’s just the spring in the air; because today has turned out to be the warmest day this year, so far. It’s 18 degrees outside and the buzz that’s suddenly around the streets is contagious. Maybe this could very well be why I’m feeling like something new is happening. Who knows! It could also be related to the book or to where I’m living or just… to life in general… Huummm… My brain is urged to work overtime and to start analyzing, but I’m going to quit for now! Whatever’s going on, it’s all good in the hood and I’m so ready for another week with the kids!!!!!! Yay!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teacher turned Student!

I hear Chinese around me all day long and recognizing what I’m slowly starting to learn, is something that seems… undoable and unreachable!! Yes… this language is appearing to be so far out of my league… Not like the stars… hahaha… those are probably more accessible to me right now, than mastering this particular language… Man oh man…

At school, I walk around my class and I look at the kids and I see their other textbooks… full of characters and symbols. These kids are able to read and write them, AS WELL as the ABC language of pinyin AND English! I’m amazed by what goes on in their little brains. My students are actually appearing to be little geniuses!

I look at their books and it’s just looks so beautiful, so deep… It’s like a secret language to which us foreigners will never truly be granted access to… Not unless WE OURSELVES take on the ‘task’ and make it a mission so POSSIBLE and start to DECIFER what the hell these 5000 symbols mean!

Am I making this more of an issue than it really is? It’s not so much an issue… it’s just a long long road ahead, when envisioning the journey I’m choosing to take as I ‘concur’ this alien language!

Monday, during our lesson, I had to stop myself from jumping ahead. BUT at the same time, I knew I had to be jumping ahead because that’s where the drive will come from and it will force me to study in my free time…

Hummm… I now have my textbook, I have my private teacher and I have my audio online… I have my… discipline…? Time…? And… mental capacity to absorb a new language?

Yes, yes, yes… I can only hope! This is where the fact that I’ve already learnt Dutch at a young age, comes in extremely handy. I can do languages! I may not be a child anymore but I can STILL absorb! As long as I start putting in the daily effort and NOT make it into a massive big deal. Or else I’ll panic, I’ll freeze and I’ll absorb ZERO.

It may sound like a big chore, but really, I enjoy it SOOOO much when I’m learning it… It’s fascinating... And it gives me so much respect for Chinese people who are able to communicate in English. They too have been shown such an alien language – but just from the opposite end… What minds and brains these people have!

And, actually, that fact that I’m a ‘teacher’ only helps the whole situation. Learning their Chinese as I teach the students English brings me ‘closer’ to the students. I understand MORE the fact that they don’t always understand me or what I’m teaching… I understand how complex English must be for them and so, any frustration I’d feel when they can’t say the word ‘sixteen’… is gone. Because… do you think I can say sixteen in Chinese? Nope! I’m just delighted I can already count to 10!

So, if there’s anything good that can come of my learning Chinese, is that me being a student and learning a foreign language (just like them) lets me relate to them more… They can feel misunderstood by me, just like I can feel misunderstood by them; regardless if it’s Chinese or English that creates the barrier!

Throughout this whole process I know I’ll love discovering the depth of this language, because I reckon it’s probably one of the deepest that exists. How exciting!

Ching Chang Chong --- Chinese???

Monday the 21st: First Chinese lesson. What can I say? I sat for 2 solid hours (or maybe even a little longer) with my Chinese tutor Jessie and was overwhelmed by this whole language. Yes, I knew beforehand it would be a big ‘task’… But, realizing how complex, how extensive and how ‘huge’ the Chinese language is, really made me feel… lost, swamped and blown away by it all.

As ever, I wanted to be sitting there, speaking fluently within a few hours of sitting with Jessie… If I was learning Spanish, Italian, German, French… this would have been a healthy approach towards the language lesson. It would almost be… do-able… At least with these languages you can read the letters; the alphabet is the same and there are many similarities to English.

But, on Monday, I sat and realized that Chinese basically like becoming a 4-year-old child again, who has to learn the sounds of A, B and C…. Most of us don’t even remember that this is how we all started out, when we first learnt to read and write… too young to remember and we all had a brain like sponge; we absorbed everything effortlessly. But… now… I’m an adult and my brain is no longer a sponge… and my childlike approach to the world (that every kid has at the age of 4) when feeling to have no inhibitions and no worry in the world when it comes to making mistakes… isn’t as it used to be either… whaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!

So, back to basics: “Hello, my name is…” “I come from…” “How are you? I am fine!”

Pronouncing sounds, learning tones and first of all… Learning Chinese in the normal alphabet, before taking it a step further and learning the 5000 symbols and characters! Wouw wouw wouw… I’ve realized that most Chinese words, when written in pinyin (our ABC alphabet) can differ, according to the 4 different tones (these tones are shown with different little ‘strokes’ above the vowels…) First, mastering the tones… if the tones are wrong, the meaning of the word changes and you’re still unable to communicate… which is the ultimate goal and main reason for learning a language in the first place!!!

If this is getting too complicated, then that’s probably because IT IS F***ing complicated! All I want is to read the symbols, write the beautiful writing and speak fluently!!hahah.. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Worldly Guidance 2

And has it worked? To a certain extent, yes! I’ve opened-up to others around me, instead. Not intentionally, but it’s simply how the events have been unfolding… I’m going to go back 2 weeks now… I received an email from an agency in New York. I needed to print-off half of my manuscript. But because I don’t speak Chinese, I had to ask a few girls from work to help me out. To cut an extremely long story short: from the moment of receiving this request from the agency in New York to the moment where I actually stood in the post office and sent off a printed version of the first 2 parts, a few girls have ‘found out’ what my book is about. This wasn’t intentional, but it was inevitable… And Helen (the foreign teacher from New Zealand) has read the first 50 pages. This, again, wasn’t intentional and wasn’t with my consent either, if I have to brutally honest. However, before asking her for help, I knew the chances of her reading it and finding out ‘the truth’ were quite high. I knew I’d have to involve her in the process of approaching agencies? Why? Because she’s the only foreign teacher who speaks fluent Chinese and knows how the world here works. So, for efficiency reasons! And so, I soon found I had to make peace with the fact that she took it upon herself to read those pages, in the silence of her own home…

Why would I even feel bad, for her reading it? I know why. It’s the same issue I was dealing with when I first went on the radio back in Ireland: I was ashamed to suddenly open-up and speak about that part of my life. But I was learning to give the illness a different place in my life. And now I’m being challenged by the disorder: I’m travelling again and meeting new people. So I’ll have this urge to bury the disorder I suffered from, just like I buried it when I travelled to Australia and India after recovery.

Back then, I hid it. I didn’t want others knowing. And for this same reason, the act of travelling to China, will force ‘my truth’ down to a ‘safer’ spot, because it’s what I’ve always done… But it’s not possible anymore. Why not? Because of what I was doing in Ireland: I wrote a book, I was interviewed about it and I was being supported by everything and everyone. What I started in Ireland needs to continue here in China: letting-go of the shame and WANTING for others to read my story. I need to continue feeling pride for what I’ve created SINCE recovering, regardless of what issues may have led me to the illness or what I went through throughout…

Bringing the coincidence of meeting Mike C back into the picture: I choose to see this randomness as a sign that I’m on the right path and that the book will reach the shelf. Also, the fact I DIDN’T feel UPSET or ASHAMED or EXPOSED when Helen read some of the book and ‘discovered’ so much of my past… tells me that the book is being opened and what I started in Ireland, is still ongoing. These are simple changes that I need to be grateful for – as they all support my story. Soon I’ll talk with Mike C…

I know now that China is opening-up chapters of the book that’s already been written and it’s supporting the concept of the second book that will one day need to be created!
Yes Yes Yes!!!!!!!

Worldly Guidance 1

It’s true what they say: the world really can guide us…

There’s something I’ve haven’t written about here in my blog, since arriving. But now that I’m on the subject of the book, I’m on a roll and I have to share this…

I’m back tracking 4 weeks. I arrived here at my apartment and met the other foreign teachers, who are now more than just colleagues  Happy happy happy.

Anyhow, one of them in particular, Mike C - who I’ve mentioned a few times before (the British teacher) - told me about his profession. He’s a therapist…I asked what he was specialized in… Or no… sorry, HE actually told ME what his ‘area of expertise’ was… And I got such a shock… He told me that back in England he’d been working for 7 years with sufferers of eating disorders… Well, holy holy holy moly moly moly!

It was the freakiest coincidence ever. Just picture this: Me, just after finishing a book on anorexia, willing to get it published, only 3 hours after arriving in China and I’M SITTING BESIDE AN THERAPIST FOR EATING DISORDERS! A mere 6 other foreign teachers within this company and 1 just so happens to be of this profession! To further express my excitement: Mike C is only the 2nd person for me to meet, so closely, so personally and SO RANDOMLY who’s an eating disorder therapist! Now please, don’t tell me that this isn’t just ‘pot-luck’… Really, the chances are way too slim for this to have happened.

So, what was my reaction when he told me of his profession back in England? I froze. He asked about me and what I’d been doing. I told him of my little Ireland adventure, and about the book, but not about the topic of the book. I figured: “I’ve just travelled 8300 km’s, just sat on a plane for 17 hours (with a few stopovers) and I’m jetlagged… this is too much for me to take in, so best to wait until the time was right to maybe tell him…”

Has that time arrived? No, it hasn’t. Have I been ‘keeping it a secret’ and been ashamed to open up to him? Huummm… Not too sure. He’s such a great guy, we get along really well, and I love that we go to dinner a few nights a week (with a few other teachers) and chat and analyze the world. It’s great and I feel so comfortable. But the topic of my book hasn’t come up… I might be making excuses here, as to why I haven’t told him… But then…why would I feel it necessary to tell him? Because I know for sure there’s a reason for our paths to have crossed like this… Am I reading too much into this coincidence? I actually think I might NOT be reading ENOUGH into it! Haha… Otherwise I would have done something earlier and I’d have opened-up to him. It might not matter though, if I do or don’t open-up to him. Maybe him being apart of these few months of my Chinese experience, is for me to still keep my focus on the book…

Book Focus...?????

My last note, ended on a high one: book publishing. I didn’t go into detail about what’s been happening on this front since setting foot on Chinese soil. But I HAVE been going in and out of the ‘book world’, so to speak.

I left Ireland and my book has travelled with me, in both the literal as well as the figurative sense. I still find I’m going through a big change, when it comes to focussing on that part of my journey. Before arriving, I knew it would be different: because I once focussed maybe 70% of my time on the book (while I was in Ireland) and now it’s a mere… 10% maybe…

I’m teaching full-time now and I realize it’s taking a lot for me to continue focussing on publishing. I learnt in Ireland that finding your way through the book-world is almost a full-time job; it takes time and effort. But now, in my daily life, after a day of teaching, sometimes all I want is to chill-out and unwind… But that feels to me like stopping the process; because nothing actually gets done in the world, if action isn’t taken (such a simple truth!). As well I know I’m the only one who will give this book the much needed attention and I need to make an effort to stay in the “game”.

Have I been slacking? Honestly, I DON’T feel as if I have been. But now that life in China is unfolding, I sometimes find it uncomfortable that the book is taking on a different role in my daily life.

What I’m currently trying to pursue, can be compared to the following scenario: you’ve just landed yourself a new job, it’s one that you love and it needs your focus - so you grow and learn through the experience and do the best you can, each day. You’re feeling like the luckiest person on the planet. At the same time, you dream of attaining another position in the world; one you desperately NEED to own – all in aid of helping others: becoming a published writer. This scenario boils down to this: I’m “applying for another job” when I’m totally happy with the one I’ve got. How contradictive…

But then again, this is my dream. I want to have BOTH positions in life! Is this greed? Or simply a desire to experience the unlimited potential as I healthily savour all that I’ve done and all that I’m currently undertaking? My dream: Published and travelling (and teaching just so happens to be the job that’s suiting me down the ground, at this moment in time)…

Hummm… Let me think… Right… Yes… the answer is coming! I think I’ve got it! This life is what I’ve been creating all along! It’s everything I envisioned it to become, when I was writing my book, when I started to approach the agencies and when I first signed the contract to teach in China... Yes, this is everything I set-out to do, all at once!

So, the dream is merging?! Yes… I think so… Or… I KNOW so…! To be a writer is to always want and need the world as the source of inspiration. Yes! And that’s why I am where I am, right now. One book is complete and another will, one day soon, be written. And in between the 2 books; a person simply needs to work, to thrive, to experience, to live, to express and to create in different ways… This person is me! Yes yes yes! This is brilliant… And to live, means to write (in my world)… therefore I can trust that I am a writer at heart, who is getting published. Without writing, there simply is no life, not for me… And so I’ll always be surrounded and supported with everything I need, in order to pursue this dream, the life, this journey. Yes, so much is happening for my book, here in this Chinese world already… The next post tells all!!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Loving my time

I’m walking to work everyday. I cross the bridge that feels to lead me from one time-zone to another. It’s like I’m constantly time-travelling! Why so? Because the part of the city where I live is new, clean and pretty wealthy on the eye. But as I walk to work, I cross the bridge to enter the part of the city that’s pure, authentic and ‘real’ – or so it feels to me anyhow. I love to leave the modern apartment and walk and I love that the landscape of the city changes constantly.

Everyday, I see the same man with his donkey, selling apples on the same street corner. I greet the same elderly men and women that stand along the streets selling their vegetables, from 8 in the morning, until sundown. On Saturdays and Sundays I greet the street cleaners at 7 am, who are sorting out the rubbish with their bare hands, in the exact same spot, just before the fruit sellers arrive. I then am delighted to see the deliveryman whose doing the rounds, bringing fresh dairy to all the little stores I pop into to pick-up some one of the gorgeous bottles of nutty milk, that I’ve only every seen and tasted in this part of Asia. It’s the same routine, each day. But it’s one I love. It’s never boring, but everyday is new. The world outside my apartment, always tells me exactly how I’m doing and how I’m experiencing this job, my colleagues, the Chinese people in general and this life on a whole.

People will always stare. But mostly I’m unaffected. This tells me I’m on top of life and on top of the world. But once the stares get to me, then I know I’m either stressed about work or temporarily not loving the fact that I’m always a spectacle that others will love to gaze or stare at. The same goes for the language barrier. On days when I can deal with hearing mainly Chinese around me, I know I’m good. But on days when I really want to tell the taxi driver to shut-up, when he knows I’m not understanding because I’m only replying in English, then I know it’s time to step away from China, because either the job is tiring me out or I’m simply out of focus, not on top of language barrier and needing some distance from this sometimes hectic world.

But the fact that this world feels to be speaking to me everyday, is something I love the most… In the literal sense, the Chinese people will always speak Chinese to me, whether I reply or not, whether I understand or not. They’ll never understand that I don’t understand. For some reason it’s beyond their comprehension. But I DO understand what it means, when hearing Chinese rambling and my ability to stay SANE when NOT understanding any of it. If I’m hating the sound of the language or if it’s doing my head… it’s time for me to stand back and temporarily ‘leave’ China… If I’m loving the sounds and not feeling misunderstood, even WITH the language barrier – I’m on the ball and everything is brilliant.

It’s only happened on 2 occasions where I really felt I CANNOT DEAL WITH CHINA TODAY! And luckily those moments were on my day-off! I have my apartment where I’m able to only hear and see things that give me temporary ease.

So, China speaks and I listen; whether I understand the literal Chinese language or not. And I’m taking the first steps towards MAKING MYSELF UNDERSTOOD… So soon the day will come and I’ll be starting lessons!!!! Yes! To be precise, it’s going to be happening from next week Monday. I’ve got a private teacher, a gorgeous lady by the name of Jessie. She’s from Jinzhou and has been teaching many of the Western teachers, over the past years. I’m excited to get started, even though I’ve realized that Chinese is the most challenging language in the world to learn… And it can take years to become fluent… Maybe I can be an exception… Hummmm. I’ll see how it goes. Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself!

So, as everything continues to fall into place and I work on creating whatever kind of life I feel comfortable with, the lessons I’m giving in school, are also the best they can be, at this moment in time. I love what I’m learning and I’m pleasantly surprised by the ease I find in this teaching. The kids are slowly warming to me, the planning of lessons (which is something I’ve always struggled with in the past) is getting easier and easier and so it’s taking up less time and less stress and freeing-up my energy to focus on other things… Such as: Publishing a book!

Wouw… Yes… the agents are still being sought and the internet is still being surfed on a regular basis and it’s still going to happen. The more settled I feel here in my space, the more focus I can give to the book publishing process. I haven’t neglected my baby throughout this whole adjustment! I still nourish her, I still give her attention and she’s still being introduced to the world. As I ‘speak’ I’m posting off a sample of the script to an agent in New York, who requested a review… So, it’s still unfolding and the book is still very much a part of my life… it always will be…

An evolving routine

I’m finding my own balance when it comes to filling in my spare time. But to be honest, it’s not something I feel I have too much or too little of. I’m not bored outside school hours. I’m never lonely, even when I’m alone. I’m not really seeing work and spare time as separate. It’s like the teaching and everything outside of the teaching, just merge into one. But not so much in the sense that I take work home with me… however contradictive that may sound. I guess I’ve always experienced work as something I always HAD to hate doing… if that makes sense. It was always a hurdle in my days and never a time to enjoy. But now, it’s different.

I’m happy to go to work and I’m to come home to my apartment in the evenings. I don’t count down the hours to leave school. Instead, the teaching is simply one of the many things I’m here to do. Not a chore, not a burden, but something that is offering me a different life.

So I leave the apartment everyday, I walk, even with the wind blowing a gale and the temperatures still being quite icy on the occasional day…

The weather is up and down at the moment, meaning some days it can be still -3 and other days it can be +10. It’s hard to know what to expect… but there’s nearly always bright blue skies. It’s such a dry climate with a lot of wind. I like to think the sands from Mongolian dessert are being blown over the rooftops of the Jinzhou buildings, causing the sky to have a red haze and feel even drier. The sandy winds combined with the dirt from the construction and the congested traffic around the city can sometimes cause a feeling of having a cold, with stuffed sinuses and a blocked nose. But, that’s a small price to pay for what I get in return; a sample of Chinese life… as well as the urge to also start wearing a mask on my face, to prevent inhaling such dirt… (just like every person who either walks, rides a bike or drives a scooter). How lucky I am to be living in a relatively small city… Can’t imagine what the major cities would be like!

So… This is China. I’m experiencing normal living… I’m getting into the rhythm of teaching and combining work and all else around it, together. With this routine, I’ve recently been introduced to a place where I can get a 2 hour massage – without any appointment - that costs the equivalent of… 7 euros! Yes Yes Yes! I’d heard of the massage places around the city, but only 2 days ago I was brought to a traditional and homely massage place by a guy from work. Man oh man… Full-body and foot massage, followed by a traditional ‘cupping massage’… This ‘cupping’ is apparently a true Chinese experience. They have these glass bulbs and first they burn the oxygen out of the glasses, just before each bulb gets suctioned onto your back. I got 12 stuck to my back and it lasted for 20 very painful minutes. It serves the purpose of releasing the toxins from the body. These toxins are brought to the surface of the skin… and what the toxins do from there, I haven’t a clue! (don’t know enough about it just yet)

Throughout the whole process, I really felt sick. It was as if I was being drained and pressurized at the same time. I nearly threw-up… But thankfully got passed that very weak moment and continued to endure, what I only hoped was good for my health! Haha…

It’s now 2 days later and I can feel that the intensity of the massage has truly worked all of my muscles and my back is bruised like never before, with 12 perfect circles that are dark purple… hummmm… It might sound a little extreme, but it was amazing… Afterwards, apart from aching muscles, I felt so relaxed…and I’ve definitely found something I’ll be doing at least once a week from now on! Yay!!!

KTV - Karaoke Night

My first karaoke experience – 2 weeks ago. We went to a so-called KTV. These are ‘bars’ that are apparently everywhere throughout the whole of China. Karaoke is a ‘serious’ business here. The singing isn’t a reason to get as many beers down you as possible- not like at home, where people will only sing if they’ve had a few… No, here in China, it’s almost a classy way to have a night out…

We went to a KTV with a group of 20 people from work and the way it’s set-up, says so much about the class and style that surrounds this social-scene. We were in a private room (which only cost 15 euros for the whole night) with a wide-screen tv and a play-list of English as well as Chinese songs. We had waiters on-hand who were providing the nibbles and the booze. It was, however, only the westerners who were taking to the drink. The Chinese amongst us would rather sit back and watch the foreigners slowly get drunker, louder and so much prouder of their own voice, as they would hold the microphone and sing their hearts out to Lady Gaga… Yes, suddenly there were no more ‘Poker Faces’; there was nothing left to hide and the Chinese were loving this unfolding spectacle!

Is this a description of my own specific behaviour or one of a general scene taken from any given karaoke-night when foreign and Chinese people come together? Both I guess! I was so proud of the echo my voice was creating, that was only increased by the surround-sound…  But it was so much fun, even if it was only to entertain the contained Chinese staff… I sang my heart out, just like my colleagues Mike, Matt and Helen did. But we or I, should I say, wasn’t revealing any hidden talents like 1 or 2 of the other staff, who literally sang their heart out for China…

What a way to socialize! I wouldn’t do it every weekend though. No… At the moment I’m just delighted to get these little samples of how this world over here, spends their free time... and so far it's by training vocal cords in the company of friend, in an isolated box with blasting music and flowing booze...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Highschool Grounding

The weekly schedule is as followed: Mondays & Tuesdays: Day off (it’s our weekend, because on the actual weekends the students take their English classes at our school, giving us the 2 busiest teaching days of the week, being Saturdays and Sundays). Wednesday and Thursday we go to the local high school where we give English classes, in ‘lecture’ form. Meaning: standing in front of each class, consisting of 60 pupils and talking about whatever we want, for 45 minutes per class. Friday, Saturday and Sundays we’re back at our own school again, in the smaller, cleaner and more intimate classroom settings, where each class lasts 1 hour and we teach from a text book and have a Chinese assistant on hand.

It's the end of the first week, after having the highschool classes on my schedule.
So, I really need to get this off my chest.

I was told beforehand how awful going to this school is going to be. Most of the other teachers hate going there, because it’s more ‘entertaining’ the students instead of actually teaching them. It’s like you’re a guest-speaker. Also I was told it’s unappreciated, unrewarding and dissatisfying. The students are piled into tiny classrooms and they aren’t really interested in what you’re saying. I was told of its intensity because of the fact that you’re talking non-stop almost, without any proper break in between and straining your voice AND it’s a time-consuming job because you’ve got less hours to plan your other English classes.

Okay… Can you imagine how hard it was for me to turn-off to all of this negative shit (once again) and to enter this experience without pre-judging or without expecting it to be so awful. Man, it took a lot...

Wednesday the 9th. First day, first impressions: when I walked into the school and saw the set-up of the classrooms and realized “what I was up against”… I didn’t feel threatened at all! To be perfectly honest, I was reminded of India. I saw the classrooms, the hallways, the students and the benches and I felt suddenly ‘down-to-earth. I felt at home, instantly. The first class I observed Matts lesson and the second and third class it was me, alone, with 60 kids and their teachers sitting at the back of the class observing my every move.

I felt I had touched base with real China and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. These kids, they show 'respect' when you walk into the class. They stand, they applaud. When they’re spoken to, they stand up… Throughout the lesson though, they tend to start tuning-out to what you’re saying and they slump, they slouch, they become disinterested and some really do fall asleep (huummmm, was this because of me... or was it just their exhaustion taking-over?). I soon realized what was going on. These high school kids work so hard, it’s unreal. They start their classes at 7am and don’t finish until 9pm, for 6 days a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it… And of course, knowing this, I understood why they would want to use my class as a time-out and a reason to sleep… A time to do nothing and relax – because that’s the only chance they get! Man… these are probably the hardest working high school kids you’ll find… and STILL they smile when I try to make them laugh.

I felt so disgusted almost, when I started thinking of the high school kids back in Ireland (or anywhere else in the west) – how they complain that they have to go to school at all! 9am till 4pm!!! Man oh man. When I shared this news with these Chinese students, you should have heard their disbelief at the injustice in the world… Poor kids… I guess the fact that they're being worked so hard, not only in Jinzhou but all of China, is one of the reasons for China to now be one of the strongest economies in the world… Such a strong achievement and status-oriented way of life gives the country strong and stable foundations when it comes to the prosperous future China is already creating. Man… what an eye-opener…

So, bringing this first day at high school, back to this present day: I can only say that my time there, will be rewarding - no matter how miniscule that reward may be and regardless of what others say. It’ll be a learning experience for me. Also I've found it to be extremely grounding. It brings the balance into teaching those who ‘have it all’ to teaching those who hope to one day ‘have it all’…
And, on Wednesday, at the end of my last class one of the students raised her hand, stood up and said: “Welcome to China”…

To round this up for now: I then had a dream that night of an Indian student. She was standing in front of me, reassuring me to enjoy China as much as possible because India will always be waiting for me and welcoming when the time come round again.

What a daze!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Visions in the classroom

I stand in front of the class and on fleeting moments see my Indian little kids… Such an impression they made on me – even though it’s nearly a year since I was teaching them.

This method of teaching is from a textbook. I haven’t created the lessons myself (which is different from how I taught in India). This current set-up can work so much to my advantage, when taking the lesson preparation into account.

So… I stand. And the kids are so close to me. The classes are relatively small – because so are the groups. A maximum of 16 kids… How different.

I’m standing in my own clothes, wearing what I please, with my hair as it wants to sit and my mood is just the way I wish for it to always be: positive, happy and flowing. The kids aren’t too impressed by seeing someone so upbeat! Probably because they’re forced to take these extra classes by the wealth their parents own; so it isn’t their own choice, and therefore not always a pleasure to see the English teacher!

They’ve been to a dozen classes this week already and every class is focussed on a different subject (maybe music, sports, language or tuition for subjects they struggle with at school) IN ADDITION to their full-time education. Their families are wealthy and they’ve enough money so as to give their only child as many opportunities as possible and to be educated to the max. They’re pushed almost to be intelligent, clever and to have the highest grades possible – even if their level of intelligence isn’t really permitting such pressure.

This English class I’m giving is just another hour for them. These kids are tired, lifeless and don’t even bother to take off their designer coat…

So of course they’ll get pissed-off when they see a happy person standing in front of them. Because it shows them their own mood is the total opposite from how it could be.

So… I stand. Do I let their mood affect my own? Without understanding why they’re pissed-off, I’d definitely let it affect me. But I do have understanding, so I accept and I realize I’m in control - as the teacher - when it comes to creating a particular outcome from one individual lesson.

Seeing as though I’ve only just started and I’m still new to these kids, they still need to suss me out. Some are shy, some freeze-up when I speak to them individually. Others are making witty remarks in Chinese because they know I don’t understand… So they could be saying anything.

The classes are small and the kids are sitting closely to me, in half a circle. It could be cosy and friendly – depending on their level of comfort. But, as I said: I’m new, so they aren’t as comfortable as they could be. But am I? Yes, I have to be. With comfort comes an ease in teaching and with ease they too will feel loosen-up and hopefully no longer freeze when individually spoken to…

When they DO freeze, I have visions of the Indian kids again… I see colourful clothes, I see them sitting cross-legged on a bamboo mat, and not in a clean classroom with only 16 kids. But there are 30 or 40 kids, all interested, all beaming up at me. Sometimes overwhelming - other times just ‘normal’. But I don’t smell India and the view out the back window of this clean, intimate and small classroom has rows and rows of buildings and shops with Chinese characters, symbols and writing everywhere. Also, I have an assistant, who doesn’t look Indian. She’s Chinese. She understands maybe half of what I’m saying; just like the kids. But she’s smiling and slowly the kids are starting to relax too. Some remove their designer coat and they don’t care to make mistakes… because this is what I’ve taught them: never be shy when making mistakes... it’s the only way to learn a language… So they don’t feel scared of what the teacher could say… She doesn’t bite, but she corrects and applies healthy discipline when keeping the kids under-control – should it so happen they were to get too comfortable and rowdy, once their coats have been removed ;)

I stand and I thank India for those months of teaching, because it enables me to escape from here should I feel the need. It enables me to already feel so strongly I’ll return to India and this in turn enables me to teach here wholeheartedly… because I know what it’s in aid of… Always looking forward by appreciating and relishing what I’m experiencing right now…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Clearing the confusion

Man oh man… in my place of peace (at home) I managed to brush absolutely everything to one side! I wiped my mind clean of everything the company represented IN THE MINDS OF OTHERS. What other teachers have experienced in the past, within this company, doesn’t mean I’ll experience the same. I shouldn’t judge how the company works the teachers and the classes, until I’ve experienced it myself. And on Friday night, there was no experience to speak of (on my behalf) and so I didn’t need to take on the negativity from other teachers… That would have meant: going into a situation already expecting for things to go badly. It’s looking for things to go wrong and for negativity to seep into my classes, into my lessons and into my overall teaching experience. Well… THAT WASN’T WHAT I CAME HERE FOR! I didn’t come here to moan, to complain and to offer certain teachers their own personal and apparently much-needed negative-feeder. That’s not my job! My job is to bring life and fun into the lives of the people I meet, no matter how insignificant or superficial our contact may be. I came to teach English and to learn and develop my own skills.

I created such distance from all of the deeper stuff behind the classes. And to put into perspective WHY I’d said ‘yes’ to all the classes I’d been bombarded with or ‘offered’, I figured the following: I said ‘yes’ to this schedule, because I’m here to work and I WANT to work. I said ‘yes’ NOT for NOT being assertive. But I said ‘yes’ because I can challenge myself by giving my first lessons, being ill prepared. I said ‘yes’ because suddenly going from having no classes to having… 30 academic teaching hours, along with a certain amount of preparation hours, means I can be thrown in the deep in the end, but I can find that I’ll never sink; I’ll only ever swim. And when I’m more certain that my position as a teacher in general, is strengthened, then I’ll easily float!

I knew I could do this and I wanted to see for myself, just how I’d take to the busy schedule. So I welcomed it all! I said ‘yes’… to please myself and to rise to the challenge. Also, after putting this situation into perspective, I got some advice from 2 of the more level-headed and laidback assets within the company - one of them happens to be my flatmate (Matt) and the other is the closest connection I have to home whilst being here in China, British Mike. They said: “Niamh, it’s so simple: you give the company what they want: a good teacher who the kids will feel comfortable with. And in return, they make your life here as convenient as possible”. So easy but so such wise words from M&M! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

I added my own little personal lesson to this simplicity: In the past I would have said ‘yes’ just to keep THEM happy and for THEM to approve of me. I would have said ‘yes’ for being FEARFUL of being rejected by the company. Now though, I say ‘yes’ for MYSELF – regardless of the warnings I received and the well-intended advice that I could be bombarded or swamped with classes and be seen as ‘easy’.

So, on Saturday I was on top of everything. I kept my distance from those around me who could have threatened my sanity and potentially resulting in a bad start to my teaching in China. And what happened? How did it plan out? It was brilliant! I loved that first class, I loved those kids and I felt such EASE EASE EASE!!! I couldn’t believe it had been since… June (!!!!) that I last was teaching. I instantly felt at home in front of these Chinese children and I was so eager for them to learn from me and for me to learn from them.

After 4 classes and 2 days of keeping myself happy in my bubble, regardless of what those around me were saying, doing or feeling… and I was on top of this teaching, like never before! I knew I’d do the best I can, when aiming for these kids to excel in my classes and I too would do the best to aim at excelling as a teacher. Bring it on!

Company craze....

First 2 days of teaching: Saturday and Sunday. The lessons came out of nowhere. I didn’t see them coming but they had my name on them! It wasn’t the amount of LESSONS that startled me, but more the amount of TIME I was given to prepare and plan what I was going to do in class. The time was minimal. I heard on Friday afternoon that Saturday morning I’d have my first class. Okay… get on top of it Niamh…

But before that happened, this happened: Friday evening after saying ‘yes’ to these lessons and saying it wasn’t too much and I’d have no problems preparing, I heard from one of the other teachers how unfair it was that I was thrown in the deep end like that. I was warned to start standing up for myself, whenever the office staff would be putting the teaching schedule together. I was told that by constantly saying ‘yes’ to whatever they were to throw at me, would start to take its toll on myself and the company AND I’d become known for being… easy…!!!! I was told that it would also start to look bad on the teachers who do say ‘no’… What was all of this ‘stuff’ and that was being thrown at me????????!!!!

Man… I didn’t need to hear this! It was the night before my first day of teaching. I needed to be feeling positive, upbeat and excited, level-headed and at peace! Instead, hearing of how the company treats the teachers was making me feel quite the opposite! My head was suddenly overloaded with what I can only class as ‘unwanted shit’ that I wasn’t easily able to put into perspective. It didn’t help that ‘China’ was happening all around me! Was the culture suddenly becoming a shock to the system, at that one moment when I was feeling a little weaker, a little more vulnerable and slightly less stable for the uncertainty that this company may not be right for me…???? Could very well have been the case…

I needed my little place of peace again. I needed to step away from China, away from the company and the deeper issues that OTHER staff-members have at work. I needed distance. And yes yes yes! I have that place of peace ALWAYS! It’s my apartment, where I temporarily leave the world behind… Fantastic!

It was still Friday evening; still the day before my first lessons. It was probably the hardest day so far. I felt swamped, I felt like some of the other teachers were WAITING and WANTING for me to crumble under the pressure of the full-schedule that was on the horizon for me. I felt they wanted me to already hate this company and to be negative towards the way it works. This could have happened. Because I was feeling so… temporarily lost in a corrupt school that didn’t have the teachers’ best interest at heart. I could have let those warnings and advice (that really were well-intended) bring me down. I could have let this ‘shit’ influence my first lessons and it could have let the start of my Chinese-English-teaching-experience not be a good one…

Saturday, March 5, 2011

'A rare breed'

Monday night I was spontaneously invited to a small gathering by the westerner in town, who is the ‘man of the moment’. I was told about this guy on the first day of being here. He’s the one to know and the ‘essential connection’ you need, when living in Jinzhou. His name is Leif (pronounced Lafe), he’s from Seattle in the States and has been living here for more than 6 years. He’s worked himself up to be bank manager of one of the main banks in the city. A pretty big accomplishment, when taking into account that he didn’t speak Chinese when he arrived and he too started out as an English teacher.

It was such a great night. There were around 10 people; a few from England, Belgium, America and…. China... hahaha… They welcomed me in and were delighted to meet the ‘new girl in town’. Even though it’s a city, the community of westerners is only made-up of around 100 people. So everybody knows everybody… It’s like there’s this tiny village of white people, within 800.0000 Chinese… So the word gets out that there’s a new kid on the block and everybody is suddenly curious as to who this person is, why she’s here and if she’ll stay or not…

To stay or go? Is that the question? Since first getting here, I’ve been hearing many stories about teachers who have arrived from faraway lands and who have booked a return flight within a few days or weeks because they couldn’t handle being here in either Jinzhou in particular, or China in general. As I’ve been getting to know more people and have been hearing their stories, I’ve realized those who stick in Jinzhou are of a particular ‘breed’. This city doesn’t offer what other Chinese cities offer. The cities that attract the westerners and where they tend to settle, are the cities offering exactly what China is known for throughout the world; millions of people, a large western community (usually made-up of 1000s of foreigners), a thriving economy and comprehension of the English language by the surrounding environment. These are aspects that aren’t really found in Jinzhou. So, to feel welcome and at home yet always in awe and inspired by the Chinese life, this city could very well offer stable foundations and an adaptability that can be used when settling anywhere else in the Asian world.

There have been teachers who have started their journeys here and have gone on to make it big – writers and artists have been known to have settled here too! Some of the current foreign university staff speak 7 languages each, and have lived in places that are unheard of. Travellers who have taught at this English school have continued to venture everywhere and have landed themselves in increasingly better life-situations, as they moved on. It was so eye-opening and exciting to hear of what holds people to this place, and what opens-up for those who eventually leave.

Also, the response I got on Monday night was something that told me I’d fit right in and not be urged to get the next flight out of here. The new people I met all wondered why I didn’t looked freaked-out by being here (which is something new-arrivals would usually be)… I simply sat there, in ‘Bell Air’ of Jinzhou, surrounded by friends and it was like a scene from a movie but real-life all at once.

So to stay: yes most definitely… After realizing this, I had a dream last night. I was supposed to be catching a plane to Thailand. I had only a few more days left in China and I had to leave. When I woke up, I felt so relieved that it was only a dream… I was relieved I didn’t have to catch a plane! I was awake and I wanted to stay! For the first time in my life, I wasn’t trying to get myself to the next place. There wasn’t anything pulling me from the inside or outside world… not yet anyhow! It’s not like it was, when I've been travelling before. Always, I’ve been thinking of where to go next, once the job was ending. Always I’ve been wishing to be elsewhere. And in my dream last night, yes I wanted to go to Thailand, but in my waking hours, I didn’t want or need to leave. Yesterday I spoke the words for the first time: I’ll be here for as long as it takes. What do I mean by ‘it’? The thing that’s brought me here… The ‘thing’ I’ll become aware of, as time passes. This is a first for me… I know I’m travelling differently this time round…

I’m travelling and settled, all at once. What a change and what a relief. It means I can do all the work I need to do, from this one place… Only 2 weeks into my China experience, and so much to process. But it’s all good processing: feelings, thoughts, impressions and adjustments… all to benefit the on-going journey, wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A 'Simple' Supermarket Sweep 2

The fun didn’t end there. I left, with my shopping, feeling great by the way… that I managed to get through those hours with sanity and understanding  The stares were bouncing off me and I was then on my next mission: to find a place to write. I wanted to find a coffee shop that would welcome me at whatever time of the day or night; one that would feel homely. And I did! It’s a coffee house with some friendly girls - who didn’t speak English and didn’t even get the message when I got out my little piece of paper with Chinese translations, to order a tea!!!! Man oh man… again I just had to smile at the scenes that were unfolding. But, yes! It’s still a welcoming place to be. And it’s where I can happily sit and stare out the window. And suddenly I’M not the monkey who is performing… but it’s THEM… THE WHOLE CHINESE WORLD… And they don’t have a clue!

So many things were revealed on that amazing Monday. But the most important thing was: I NEED TO LEARN CHINESE…
At work, I don’t feel this necessity so extremely; there are 2 languages going on… But outside work and ‘on the street’ is where there’s only 1 language and if you don’t have any understanding that of that one special language, then only the ‘toughest monkey’ will survive.

I know I can survive in China, because taking every other aspect into account (apart from the language), it’s a convenient and inspiring place to be. In comparison to India, here things can get done, quite swiftly… if you can communicate! The Indian difficulties in life, and the inconvenience I experienced, was more profound; due to their slow pace of life combined with the under-developed societies. On the other hand though… in India at least the majority of people will understand ‘yes’ and ‘no’… and they’ll know the basics. But, referring to China; it’s a convenient place to live, when you your head around the basics of the language. But then again, this is easy to say but more difficult to do. Chinese isn’t like Spanish or Italian, where the basics will stick easily and can be pronounced. No… the pronunciation is the tricky part, AFTER you’ve managed to remember the word… and that’s without taking the characters and the beautiful symbols into account! This is going to be the biggest challenge of living in China. Can I rise to it though? I think I can… I have to. There’s no other way around it.

I’ll bring down the current barrier that’s in place, by learning this language and I’m excited by what it will reveal and how I’ll take to it. I’m trying NOT to get ahead of myself right now, because it can take months to get the basics, and years to become fluent. I’m only here a week!!! haahhaa….What a great day, with great revelations! And it was even better when I knew I had an apartment waiting with a familiar face, who wouldn’t be staring… Yes!!!!

A 'Simple' Supermarket Sweep 1

There’s one thing in particular that causes a barrier between myself and this world. It’s a barrier I never considered that could be so strong and it’s one that can only come down by calling on my discipline and determination and… intelligence…. Huumm…. It’s the language! Never, have I been in world where the English language has made me feel so… alien.

Monday afternoon, it all hit home. When I was eager to get out doing things by myself, without any of the staff to help me, I realized I’m somewhat handicapped in this part of the world and by the end of my little adventure, I found that ‘simply’ doing the grocery shopping, telling the cabdriver where to go and ordering a cup of tea… can be huge tasks causing frustration and alienation to leave me standing alone on an invisible island - and the only thing to get me off that island – is knowledge of the Chinese language.

After my visit to the local shopping centre (maybe a 45 minute walk) I was absolutely shocked, amazed and bedazzled by their lack of English… or my lack of Chinese… I’ll (briefly) go through the events that came to pass. 3 full hours I spent walking around this supermarket – that has everything from electrics to clothes, from books (NOTHING in English!) to toys, from household goods to cosmetics. I had my list of bits and pieces to get… But once I was there, the list went out the window and I was on a mission. What mission was that? A mission to let the staring eyes bounce off me. The 1000s and 1000s of gazing eyes hadn’t been effecting me, not until this particular event. It temporarily changed my initial non-effected attitude. Why? Because I didn’t know what I was doing and so the stares increased… And the only way to stop the stares would have been by asking for help and familiarizing myself. BUT BUT BUT… How on earth was I able to ask for help and get acquainted, when their English knowledge is non-existent to the point where ‘yes’ and ‘no’ weren’t even hitting home! Wouw wouw wouw…

3 hours of walking around RT-Mart (the name of the store, which is very much like Tesco at home) and looking lost but still trying to make decisions, made me feel like I was monkey in a zoo. Being gawked at when I’m feeling familiar and when I know what’s going on around me, is fine. I can deal with that. The looks bounce off me and I’m unaffected. I can even make eye-contact, smile and say ‘ni hau’ because I know those stares mean no harm and it’s purely out of interest.

Being a monkey in the zoo - or being placed centre stage - a person can feel confident when they know the ‘act’ that’s being observed by so many eyes, is their best ‘performance’. Then the ‘performer’ will never let the hundreds of eyes catch them off-guard or affect what they’re doing. In relation to my visit to the supermarket; I didn’t know what I was doing and I couldn’t hide it. Did I want to? Maybe I did. But what I wanted more than anything, was to ask the locals about everything I was seeing. I wanted to communicate my lack of knowledge for Chinese food, Chinese language and Chinese life in general.

There was a distance between myself and the people of this city as I walked around the store with my overflowing basket filled with food I was simply picking up for the sake of it. For the sake of it, I say?! Yes. Because, when you think about it: how anybody select any type of food, when there’s not a single word of English on the 100s and 1000s of packed goods? When I was walking down particular aisles, I wasn’t even sure what each particular aisle was for! You may think: ‘can’t you open your eyes and look?’ Yes, of course I could… and I was! I was looking, smelling, touching… but it wasn’t enough to establish WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS IN THESE PACKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Was I getting frustrated, after an hour or 2? Not overly. Instead, I suddenly appreciated language and the ability to communicate freely, sooooooooooo much more! It was unreal. Instead of frustration, I felt I’d lost a limb and I’d lost a sense... And I was able to relate briefly to those who can’t hear or speak… Why? Because that’s what it was like! I’ll give a simple example: I was approached by a few ladies who saw my confusion and wanted to help me selecting foods. But they spoke in Chinese. So I’m standing there, looking at her, repeating in English: “I don’t understand…” But this statement was falling on deafs-ears! They continued to speak at me! So… Sign language? Yes… That’s what I resorted to… not to get the food I wanted, because I knew that was never going to work. But it was to get the message across that I hadn’t a clue what they were saying.…

Then, buying a showerhead for the apartment… I asked a lady who was initially scared of me when I first approached her. But I warmed to her, I smiled and I showed that I wasn’t a freak. I stood there, in the middle of the supermarket, doing the ‘act of showering’… so she would understand what I was looking for. But even this didn’t hit home! She still looked at me as if I was speaking…. NOT Chinese obviously… hahha… but instead whatever language the Chinese population consider to be alien – it could very well be…. ENGLISH???!!!! (just as well I’m here to teach them all some English!! Yay!) Anyhow, still trying to buy a showerhead… I proceeded to get out a pen and start drawing… Did this work? No. She had to call her colleague, just to tell me ‘no’. That’s all she could say.

Holy smoly… that’s all I was able to say at that moment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A new standard of life

Tuesday. Exactly one week after arriving. 7 days. 168 hours… or around about that…

Every Monday and Tuesday, we have our weekend. This isn’t the norm by the way, but in this particular school it is. The English classes we give are in addition to the students’ primary or secondary education. So, most kids get their extra English classes on Saturdays and Sundays, when their own schools are closed. The week ahead, is when I start teaching. I’m so eager to get in front of the class now. The past week, the observing of the classes and getting to know the ropes, has been cool. But now I need to start the work. It’s been since…. JUNE since I’ve worked!

I’m feeling so much more settled now than I was a few days ago. My head is feeling ‘grounded’, which is quite nice. And I’m getting more familiar with the city. For those who don’t know the name, it’s Jinzhou – pronounced Gin (as in the alcohol) and Jo (as in the name). It’s quite small and I’m able to walk everywhere – when the wind isn’t too icy. If it is, then I just hail a cab, which costs next to nothing (8 RMB, which is 0,8 cents) and there’s never any waiting around. Brilliant! Everything, by the way, is cheap here – when you’re used to the Euro or dollar. I’ve be inclined to constantly convert how much I’ve been spending, back into Euros. I don’t know if this is good or bad. The result of doing this, would be to spend more – simply because I can…?!?!

This approach doesn’t have to have a bad affect. Not when you’re earning a salary in a Western country. But if you’re not, then it can be a very deceiving way of convincing yourself you’re ‘rich’…when really you’re not… hhuuuummmm

I’ve already been told that we get paid extremely well, by Chinese standards. It’s 3 or 4 times more than average… As a foreign teacher, in this company, you get paid so much more than the Chinese staff (the teaching assistants as well as the office staff). This is something I think isn’t right, because they work their asses off, more so than us foreign teachers do. This, of course, can cause some resentment from the Chinese staff towards the Western staff. And I can totally understand why… But I haven’t picked up any negative vibes towards the ‘underworked’ and ‘overpaid’ Westerner staff, coming from the ‘overworked’ and ‘underpaid’ Chinese staff.

Instead of blaming us or expressing anger for this ‘injustice’, they’re more interested and eager to welcome foreigners. As well, they get to practise their English, they get to learn about different countries and it raises some excitement in the office. So, all in all, they’re happy to have us and we’re happy to be here… How nice!

I'll be earning a salary that will enable me to dine-out everyday (even 2x a day) and get a cab whenever I want. Having a job that ASWELL houses me in an apartmentblock where only the 'higher class' lives, is starting to sound like this job will permit me to live like a king... or queen should I say. Wouw!

Isn't that crazy! I'd almost feel guilty for having so much goodness in my life, with so many great people looking out for me and with all the perks I could ever dream of. Why would I feel guilty though? I know... It's because I still have to prove that I worthy of all of 'this' and of this big leap forward.

When I look around and see and hear of how other Westerner English teachers make it big in China (and I DON'T mean this ONLY in relation to the standards of living or the earnings or the perks of the job), it proves that the 'status' they (or 'we') automatically own - just for coming here and teaching English - is something that can lead to bigger things. Hummm... I guess I see such potential and big opportunties everywhere and I want to grab them before they vanish, but I'm not too sure I'm worthy of all of it, just yet. I know though, that the only way I'll feel worthy for receiving everything so effortlessly, is by putting everything I can into being an asset to this particular school, at this particular point of my journey. It's all about giving back to them - through my teaching services - the world of opportunties that they have given to me.

So, the next step I must take, is the one that puts me IN FRONT OF THE CLASS... I can't wait...

From here on in, I can only move on up.. Let's see how it goes!