Readers prepare yourself please, this is a wordy one for a photo blog as it is a summary of the Beijing training camp. So, I have divided my experiences into sections of the day-to-day routine with links to their specific posts (with pictures!) just read the titles if you like or just certain sections whatever you fancy.
Most people described Shunyi Hotel life as being similar to freshers week at uni, and i'd have to agree. With all of us foreigners in one block it felt a bit like a community whilst all a hundred or so of us were basically strangers. The daily routine usually went a bit like this;
- Wake up at an unnatural hour for our jet lagged bodies
Yes, whether you came on day one of the training camp or were the one of the majority late comers (while another half would not make training at all) due to the bureaucracy and lateness of Chinese VISAs, you were made to attend training class or teach the morning after you touched down.
2. Try and make it to breakfast at 7am for the hotel buffet
3. Try and make it on time to leave for your first session
As Li Ang considered my circumstances little I was not made to teach without any prep at 8:30am after arriving near to midnight the night before, (this was unfortunately not the case for many who had arrived before me). She instead placed me in group C. Along with group D we would have training in the morning while A and B taught.
We would walk to training at the nearby Middle school as a big group this is where Li Ang introduced me to Oyi the only other black teacher who had made it to training. This may have been the reason I was left with Oyi as it turned out she was in group D and had just arrived herself so had no idea where to go either, but after a few minuets of speaking with her I was glad to meet the fellow Londoner and Christian. I then shyly edged into the wider group and funnily enough I was eagerly mistaken for another girl in the British Council WeChat group but I was not her, so excitement over.
I then met Sophie who was immediately fun, as an early starter she led the way for Oyi and I and it wasn't long before we were taking a detour out of the hot sun and into a smoothie place, we then had to rush across the road (which is no easy feat in China) and the middle school campus to get to class on time. We rocked up with our smoothies almost late (Oyi joined us in group C for the first day).
The smoothie was not what I had expected as someone who does not like the taste of milk and has smoothies over milkshakes at every availability, the smoothie tasted like milk and a banana with giant clumps of ice, (that were huge and did not melt throughout the class) the strawberries were delicious though.
For our two sessions of teacher training we had two American teachers who went over the how to's and what not to do's of teaching in China that we had already spent months and hours trying to get though on the online part of the training, although I suspect this is to catch out those who confirmed they had copied and pasted webpages during their online exams. Aside from some personal advice and tips for coping in China these sessions were not of much real life use. the psychology methods and complex pronunciation techniques would not translate into the simple classroom environment where common sense could much better resolve a situation. The actually much needed lesson ideas such as topics, time fillers and how to react to real situations came from the other Language Assistants, these were passed around on USB's selflessly.
4. Head back for buffet number 2
After 'training' we walked the high street back to the hotel for lunch, this is where I would get my first taste of the public staring which I felt was very obvious but tolerable, even if it was more than I had expected to be stared at in the capital of all places.
5. Try and make it on time to leave for your second session
Within the 20 minuets time it takes to walk back to the hotel, then eat, then leave in enough time for your next session you realise how tight packed the schedule is. I was in a unique situation though as Shunyi Renhe Middle school, where we had training was also where I would teach too. This wasn't all good though as by not getting driven anywhere by minivan or taxi (I had to walk) I didn't get to see much of Beijing at all or even Shunyi aside from the road I walked back and forth from four times a day everyday. The benefit of this was that instead of someone waiting on you outside tooting, we set our own pace, be that running late or going early enough to pop into the convenience store.
6. Finally return to the hotel with nothing scheduled for a good few hours
This meant a moment to relax in your room for the first time that day and hang out with others in the communal areas. On my first day however this meant taking a well needed nap.
7. Try and make it to the third buffet dinner or go else where
Being new, jetlagged and not having a roommate or anyone on my floor (the lobby) meant I naively slept through dinner as all the dinner times in the schedule where actually incorrect and only an isolated newbie could make this mistake... a few times. However by the time I had reached camp half of the ELS's were already sick of the rarely changing buffet and explored, finding new places to eat nearby.
8. On every other day or two head back to the middle school for some basic Mandarin lessons
Yes, for me this would mean 6 trips back and forth in a day the Shunyi Renhe, but this was by choice, yet again meeting a whole new bunch of people.
9. Lastly return for the freedom of the night (but don't forget to set that alarm)
I despite tiredness managed to get in some Chinese TV with the Olympics being my priority of course, but while I could keep up in the UK until 4am for the best sports the China-Brazil time difference of 11 hours and me having no spare time meant it was almost impossible here.
Every night was usually a late one with most ELA's, we were up all hours making PowerPoints (or ppt.'s as they call them in China despite the fact the updated windows uses pptx.) and lesson plans for the next morning, they would sit in the halls as the hotel wifi was so bad for some. (So having a door in the lobby and no hallway had its benefit of wifi working in my room) These social gatherings were actually quite fun and could lead to food, drinks, films and music... a party essentially.