My first semester is done.

For the past two weeks my students had to present a 3-5 minute speech for their final exam. I gave them a few topics to choose from and I was delighted by the creativity they showed. Some talked about their favorite family Chinese traditions, Chinese songs or TV shows that have impacted Chinese culture, or what they don’t want to regret 50 years from now. I told them they could make power points to go along with their speech if they wanted to and many did. I loved learning more about Chinese culture and also enjoyed seeing into the minds of my little dream-filled freshman. (After they finished their finals we had fun reviewing English words with the game pictionary and a game Lauren introduced to me – “find the leader”)

It’s been a semester full of lots of challenges. And although I graduated last year and I’m technically a teacher, I’m 150% sure I learned more than I taught these past 5 months. About the Chinese education system. How to be a better oral English teacher. How to get students to stop playing on their cell phones in class (all you teachers out there – so much respect).

It’s also been a semester full of joy. I feel such happiness and peace and love here. I can’t let myself get all weepy now, but my students have blessed my time in China tenfold. On my last day with class 3, they all came up to me at the end of class with cards that they wrote for me. (Some of them think I’m returning to America for the winter holiday haha, but they were still very sweet.)

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Last weekend my friend Ruby, president of the English Association at Nan Hua, invited me and Lauren to the English Association drama performance. My friend Andy (who isn’t my student but goes to my class) was going to be a host for the show so I was excited to go anyways, but then Ruby told us we were going to be judges (we are so good at being English drama judges now haha). Andy gave me his (balloon) heart after the show!

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English Association…Andy, Ruby, Mervin, and a few others I just met

After the drama performances at the new campus, we rode the bus back to the old campus and went to a hot pot place, and then to a performance by 5how, the SUPER AWESOME DANCE TEAM at Nan Hua. We saw them perform last fall at the Mid Autumn festival show, and we’ve been obsessed ever since (I’m also in love with Hero, the leader of their group.) During the show Hero sent one of the dancers to me in the audience and had me do a countdown into the microphone (!!!). Later they asked people to go on stage and Hero told me to go too – at first it was super exciting but then I realized they wanted us to copy one of the dancers and he was doing some pretty not Harding appropriate stuff which was a little awkward, but still really funny.

I also had 3 more hot pot parties – my last three classes!! I finally had all 8 of my classes over. Although I’m a little sick of hot pot now haha, it was totally worth it to spend more time with my students! Most students have never been to their teacher’s house, let alone a foreign teachers, so they were just really excited to come “play” with me. (They use “play” like we say “hang”)

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They do such funny things. They call UNO “you know”, because they have no idea UNO is Spanish for one. I tried explaining it but they kept saying “you know” anyways. They get really excited about games they play – they taught me a new one on Friday where everyone picks a fruit and you say: “down up down up down up apple.” Then the person who is the apple does the same: “down up down up down up strawberry” and then the strawberry goes. If you don’t go when your fruit is called you have to do a punishment (of course. They love games with punishments where they can make their friends sing or dance!)

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I also joined a Chinese gym! Last week we went to a yoga class with Brittany and Lauren’s student Sally, and I loved it! Although it was Chinese and we didn’t know what was happening a lot of the time, the teacher knew English and would come around and help us as we needed it. I’ve been wanting to join a gym, and the owner Mr. Hu Yi Xin is a nice guy (who got my wechat info and wouldn’t stop messaging me until I went back and got a membership for 399 yuan for 6.5 months). I’ve been to two more yoga classes by myself since then, and now that I’m done with class I’m hoping to go a lot more.

And one of the most exciting updates – in ONE WEEK we kick off our month of traveling! We’ve been busy booking planes and trains, finding hostels, and talking to students about the best places to go. As much as I love teaching in Hengyang, I’m so excited to have time off to see more of China and THAILAND. We’ll hit Phuget and Bangkok in Thailand, then Chengdu, Song Pan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Wuhan in China. I’m not sure if I’ll blog again until after we start traveling but we’ll see…manzou! (Goodbye or take care…it literally means “walk slowly”)