Welcome to Xi'an
Nihao from Xi’an! On the 28th floor of our apartment, to be exact... Welcome to city living, baby. We said goodbye to Yangshuo and flew about two hours north to Xi’an last Sunday.
Our foreign affairs officer, Apple, and her assistant, Tracy, met us at the airport that afternoon. They brought us to our beautifully furnished apartment, about 30 minutes from the airport. And, damn, did they hook us up— a fully applianced kitchen (with a rice cooker... we love the rice cooker...), an outfitted living room, a washing machine/porch area, a nice bedroom (with a good-sized closet, might I add), wifi, an office, and a Western style toilet (praise). After a few days of unpacking, figuring out our Chinese phones, organizing our paperwork, and meeting with our school’s administration, we had a couple days to explore our city.
I’m still a bit of a lost puppy around here, but I’m slowly getting the hang of things. There are two ginormous malls within a 2-5 minute walk from our apartment. They’re full of name-brand shops, restaurants, and even Walmart-style grocery stores. We’re trying to stick to the traditional food... I swear. It’s just nice to have some real cheese and a fresh baguette once and awhile.
The city itself is very NYC-esque. I feel as though we live on the equivalent of 5th Avenue. Tall, brick buildings fill the horizon, flashy billboards line the three-lane streets, and vendors line up on the sidewalk, spreading out socks, electronics, food, clothes — whatever they’re trying to sell for the day. I feel a lot safer here, though. Maybe it’s because I can’t understand the language well, or don’t wander the streets at 2 in the morning, but I do feel safe. To even get on the subway here, you have put your bags through a TSA security check. Top-notch.
Our school, Fangxin Primary School, is a stone throw away from our apartment. Over 2,000 students from Xi’an go here. It’s very modern, with “smart” boards in most classrooms, turf fields, and several outdoor playground areas. We each have 20 classes Monday-Friday— I’m teaching 1st-3rd grade and Justin’s teaching 4th-6th grade. The classes are fairly spread out throughout the week, leaving us with one “light” day (Monday I have one morning class and one afternoon class; Wednesday Justin has two morning classes). Every day, lunch starts around noon, and then we don’t have to be back in the classroom until 3:15 PM. Jealous yet?
Last week, we experienced our first two days of teaching. I’m loving it so far! My 1st graders have never had any English courses, and the 2nd and 3rd graders haven’t had much more than that, so I spent the first two days introducing myself, going over the alphabet, and playing a few rounds of hangman. This week marks are first “full” week of teaching. For the rest of the term, the school has given books for us to follow, which makes lesson planning a breeze.
As I write this, today is my 23rd birthday. My 23rd birthday in China...Wow! I’m so, so grateful to be here, in this beautiful country, but I’m even more grateful to be celebrating another year of life. Now, off to celebrate with hot pot!
More on Xi’an to follow...