I experienced what is probably the highlight of my time in China so far when, after concluding my first English lesson with my graduate students today, the entire class broke into spontaneous applause. As far as first classes go, it definitely went better than I expected. After beginning the lesson with a brief explanation of my course’s policies (“only speak English” being the primary one) and assignments, I conducted a basic “introduction” activity, where the class split into pairs, asked a series of questions to their partners, and then introduced their partners to the large group. The latter part of the activity was the biggest success, I think; it allowed the students to practice spoken English in a comfortable manner and allowed me to interact with their responses, occasionally making comments, clarifying pronunciation, and even writing English expressions on the board when a student introduced a good one (such as “surfing the web” or “sleep-talking”). By the end of class, I felt a genuine bond with my class and was even able to make some personal connections with some of my students, despite there being over forty in today’s class. It’s times like this that assure me that coming to China to teach English was a good decision.
On another positive note (or perhaps I should say chord), I finally purchased a guitar! Being kindly escorted by my Chinese-speaking (and mutually guitar-playing) Russian friend Anna, we took a taxi to Shenyang’s local music college, where countless music stores populate the area. For 1600 RMB (about $240 in American dollars) I found a nice acoustic Toyama. It’s no Takamine, which I’m currently storing at my parents’ home in the U.S., but it will certainly be a comfort during the upcoming cold, winter months when I’m likely to be snowed in my apartment.
Indeed, it’s already become pretty chilly here in Shenyang, to the point where I’m now wearing my favorite brown jacket and keeping an eye out for a good scarf at the local clothing shops. While recently exploring the city the other day, I discovered that there’s an enormous two-level shopping mall underneath the city itself. From what I could see inside, the mall seems to expand a couple of miles (a friend later confirmed for me that this is true), and I didn’t even have time to go down to the lowest level. Stumbling across this shopping center was, to me, almost as exciting as uncovering a hidden city. Most of the items down there seem a little overpriced, though.
The rest of the week has been nice, if not entirely eventful. I did manage to visit and explore Shenyang’s beautiful (and enormous) Beiling Park last Tuesday with a colleague from the U.K. and a former Chinese student from his class. Considering how noisy the city can be at times, walking deep into the park felt like escaping into another country entirely, although the numerous tombs and sacrificial alters helped to remind me that I was still in China. I especially enjoyed looking at the various animal statues and paintings of gods that decorated the area—cultural artifacts that I find fascinating in their complete foreignness to an American like me who has spent most of his life in Indiana, where historical sites are pretty much limited to Conner Prairie. Unfortunately, I had left my camera in my apartment, much to my irritation. I plan to revisit next week to make up for my mistake.
Other than that, I’ve been checking out other restaurants around the area this week, some of which I like more than others. My favorite so far has been Hot Pot, where a Chinese friend and I essentially cook our own food (shrimp, beef, lamb, and vegetables) in a boiling pot set at the center of the table. Anna and I also visited the local European restaurant a few days ago—a very upscale place where we had salad, soup, pizza, and lattes, all for only about $20 for the both of us. It was very delicious, and I may return when my stomach needs a break from Chinese food.
I will end this post with some more evening shots of the campus grounds (the first is displayed above), which I believe is preparing for China’s upcoming National Day: