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New Intern, Ben Baker has kindly agreed to write about his experiences in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province!

During our time in Beijing, there were all the obvious highlights but a personal one for me had to be “The Only One I Know” by The Charlatans blaring out during a half time footie match at Irish bar, Paddy O Shea’s. Apologies to all the purists, but I like my music!

Much time was spent at what became known as “the bar”, just a pebbles throw from base camp with fellow interns chatting about going off to a far flung place;  going ‘back to school,’ finding out what classes you had, trying to ‘fit in’. There were, of course, other obvious (and perhaps more prominent) things to get our heads round – a baffling new language, trying to write with ink and a paintbrush, seeing brand new things and spending longer than usual trying to decide what to eat from… anywhere, even the 7-11 was “a little bit Hogwarts”. Luckily the American fast food outlets were still dominant if you wanted to step back into reality for a while!

First impressions…

So, 5am and ready to leave for my new home for the next 5 months- Yuyao, Zhejiang. I begun to get a little concerned when I found  I was going to a different terminal from my school companion and flying alone, but after some noodles and a look out the window at my new home I collected my bag and was greeted with a sign saying “bakerbenjam” and decided that was me.

I introduced myself to Martin, the guy who told me he was the “driver” and he put me in one of those massage chairs (do not go on them!) while we waited for the other flight to arrive. I have since found out that my “driver” is actually the owner/headmaster of the school. They say this misunderstanding occurs because the Chinese like to practice being humble as a lot of our adult students are all bosses of their own businesses but would say they are a housewife or something of that ilk, but personally I’d liken it to me winning £20 million on the lottery and not telling my friends- but hey I’ve only been here one week!

Anyway – two hours later Donna, my new flatmate and fellow intern, and I were sitting in Pizza Hut in Yuyao trying to get information out of Yanni, a teacher at the school. Lack of sleep had made me somewhat impatient to know everything – Where? When? What? How?

So Yanni takes us to the school and we’re a little surprised, but hey – It’s China! We’re at a private Training Academy, we have all different mixes of levels and ages and the classes are small. We weren’t too sure how we feel at the time, but we’d just got there. Then we got to go to our new ‘home’, which is kind of great, I say kind of, the good thing is its new(ish) and clean, it just needed a few more things – let’s just say there was a lot of space!

After a little shut eye we went back to our school and watched a lesson with adult students of differing levels.  We were then taken to a cosy little tea room by the river by a teacher from America who has been here for 3 years.

Next day was shopping day; we have a Vanguard near us and headed to the city centre for a look around the market. People all over were shouting out “Hellos.”  A young boy came over and looked up at me like something just wasn’t right, I feared for him a moment so I gave him a “Ni hao” which didn’t help, it seemed to confuse him more and he looked like he was about to cry, he backed away and walked off at this point. Generally people are quite surprised to see us here but I don’t think it’s anything for either party to be concerned about, it’s just new. Yuyao has a lot of very rich people living within its city so the less privileged are perhaps starting to witness things that, say five years ago, they would never have thought they would see- or maybe they just enjoy a good gawp!

Our days so far have been scattered around preparing our lessons, both Donna and I have had different ages to teach and I personally think that this will be beneficial over the course of time we have here. The variety will keep us on our toes and provide a good challenge. I don’t remember ever liking a lazy teacher when I was younger!

The school has taught the American accent most of the time and now we are here the students have said they struggle somewhat with our accents but the s l o w e r we speak the better the response.  As a teacher intern, we are also learning at the same time as our students! I’ve already said to some “if you speak slower the words come out clearer,” – something I might remind myself!

Mixing with the locals…

Yuyao has a big hill bang in the middle of it called Longshan; I’m unsure if its man-made but the city is laid all around it and today we went up there for a look around.  We were up at the top in no time at all and found some guys charging two Yuan per throw for a game involving 5 cans and a basketball – it was proving quite popular. We watched for a while and nobody managed to clear all the cans… clearly we had to take a shot.

Tim, a guy I’d met from Cambridge the previous night went first and to be fair – he was god- awful but made up for this by bantering with the, let’s face it, Hustler, in mandarin, (he’s been coming here over a period of five years on business) and amusing the locals.

So up I stepped, chose a bowling stance and with my first throw smashed into the cans knocking three out- clearly, I was a natural thought the locals, he can teach us how to beat these crooks!  My second shot wasn’t quite so impressive, the ball bounced just ahead and over the cans…ok ok, just nerves, third shot- miss, fourth shot- miss. After about the eighth or ninth shot I think I got two more cans but dexterity had somewhat failed me and we made a hasty retreat back down the hill passing various other games going on that the Chinese folk have mustered up to earn a scrap to eat.

Wherever you all are or will be, I’m sure you’ll have an experience!

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