A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about caligraphy

Beijing Blog : Back to School

The trials and tribulations of TEFL-ing

So this is an incredibly overdue update about what has been happening since I arrived back in China’s capital after an incredible six weeks travelling. Coming ‘home’ has been tricky, to say the least. Writing this, I am halfway through week 6 (!!!) of the semester and honestly, I think it has taken until now to really find my groove again.

Going back to school was harder than I ever remember it being when I was younger! I think this was partially because for the entire first semester, I had been focussed on saving for and planning Spring Festival travels, and suddenly, that was done and dusted; the only thing I had in front of me was the prospect of 17 weeks of uninterrupted teaching… Having recently had the epiphany that I do not want to be a teacher, this therefore seemed (and still seems sometimes) completely overwhelming and like a colossal task. I had also completely forgotten how to lesson plan, and to top it all off, my timetable for this semester is busier and less condensed than last, meaning that my work days are longer and I spend a lot more time hanging around at school between lessons doing, well, nothing.

Restarting my Chinese lessons was initially a bit of a burden too. After a month of not using my ‘conversational’ mandarin, it felt like I was back to basics and my homework was taking me a lot longer than usual. And I was back to living in my school's accommodation, complete with its daily 6.30am communal alarm. So all in all, I was not in a particularly good mood at the beginning of the semester and was well in need of the mini getaway that was Nanjing.

The last couple of weeks have started to feel smoother, Chinese is becoming easier, it’s warming up, the morning alarm has been disabled and I’ve taken to being and incredibly strict, no-nonsense-taking teacher in most lessons, which makes my life much easier! I’ve also explored a few new parts of Beijing, namely Yuanming Yuan or The Old Summer Palace, which these days is more or less a park with some rather inauthentic ruins of the old palace structures. However, it is Cherry Blossom Season and so the brilliantly pink blossoms that lined the paths and reflected in the lakes around the park were definitely worth the trip.

Last week, I also took part in a Chinese Calligraphy lesson with my friends Lou and Rosanna. I had assumed that this would be a fun and creative activity but the first half of the lesson left me feeling horrendously inadequate in the world of calligraphy. We were tasked with writing the calligraphic version of the character 福 or fu meaning ‘fortune’ or 'good luck'. Simple. Not. Our teacher was a professor from a university in Hubei province and has been studying calligraphy for a few decades and so we were given a brief tutorial (which we videoed in slow motion so we could try to make out what on earth we were supposed to be drawing) in Chinglish and set to work. After several failed attempts - too much ink, not enough ink, absolutely illegible, “what do I do next?!”, “that’s um… wrong” - we finally achieved somewhat OK versions of the 福, put our brushes down and made a swift retreat. In the end it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the lesson but I’m not sure I will ever be able to describe myself as a calligrapher.

So my first six weeks back have been a bit hit and miss, but I’m starting to feel settled in Beijing again and it’s almost time to start planning the next lot of travelling! The weeks have started to pick up speed and I’ve begun to realise that before I know it I’m going to be halfway through and then nearly at the end of this semester, which I’m both looking forward to and also dreading. So in the meantime, I’ll be here, trying to make the most of this fantastic - albeit taxing - experience!

Posted by amysblog 05:45 Archived in China Tagged parks culture travel city china beijing spring chinese teaching tefl sakura caligraphy Comments (0)

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