Dispatch from a cafe on a rainy Saturday

Dispatch from a cafe on a rainy Saturday

As I teach, I am learning to be more of a self-starter. I now direct the students’ learning: instead of sitting at a desk, I am now at front of the room, standing on a platform both literal and metaphorical. I have become very into reading teaching blogs and ESL forums and have taken to wearing my glasses and sweater sets more. (That’s not true, I don’t own any sweater sets but if I did now would be the time to break them out.) I am in charge of facilitating student learning, which is a big responsibility.

I have also been continuing to explore Nanjing. I discovered the charming on-campus bookstore and today plan to learn how to send mail. Yesterday, I went on an adventure that led me to take two buses an hour to the north of Nanjing to look at the bridge crossing the Yangtze River (南京长江大桥). It is one of the longest in China. When I exited the bus at the last stop on the line, I appeared to be alone under a highway underpass. There was no signage so I wandered for a bit, then discovered that the bridge is closed for construction. I will go back in spring!

On one of my more successful adventures, one of my roommates and I took the subway a few stops to Xuanwu Lake Park (玄武湖公园). Xuanwu is a gorgeous lake, right in the middle of Nanjing (pictured above). It is surrounded by a 500-plus hectare park and houses part of Nanjing’s massive Ming Dynasty city wall. We got lucky and the weather was stunning, 70s and sunny. The park was crowded with local families. I am thrilled to have access to such green spaces.

There is still so much to see in Nanjing, and I am hoping to wander more during the upcoming week. October 2-8 is a holiday week, celebrating China’s National Day (founding of the modern PRC) and the Mid-Autumn Festival. We have been warned that traveling during the National Day holiday is hectic — all of China is on the move — but may venture to Shanghai or Suzhou, a nearby city famous for its gardens and crafting.

Although teaching and adventuring are forcing me to be more independent, living in a new place reminds me of the importance of relying on other people. I don’t know all of the social norms and so must frequently ask people for information and help. My Mandarin is not good enough to call the bank or even set up a phone number, so the incredible student assistants help. They are so patient and I am very grateful! It is both humbling to be surrounded by such kind people and also good motivation for me to keep studying Chinese, so that I can be more independent.

Last week was the first week that I taught all of my classes and went to intensive Chinese classes. Nanjing Normal has a vibrant study abroad program and we are allowed to audit their Chinese intensive classes. Now I am happy to report that I study Chinese for a few hours a day, three times a week. I am slowly starting to be able to eavesdrop, which is hugely exciting. I will report my findings in the next blog.

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