Lattitude Blog

Ping Pong Tournaments and Sports Day in China. Now beginning Week 8!

After a crackin’ trip to Xuzhou the other weekend, where we climbed a small mountain, we were invited to take part in a Ping Pong Tournament between the teachers! We went and brought a cheap pair of bats and got to work. It was only after 2 hours of practice that the following week the day came. Into the gym Alexi and I roll in casual trousers and a hoodie, and we were met with 40 or so other people, most of which were teachers, and most of whom were dressed in sports shirts, shorts, trainers, you name it, the whole get-up! The way the chinese play Ping Pong is remarkable. Not only were the teachers inevitably better than us, but their movements when hitting the tiny ball are astonishing; whether you’re a tennis player or a ping pong player, the force and speed with which you use either sized bat, it seems, do not vary. The skills with a ping pong bat that these men possessed were not to be reckoned with, but it was huge fun, and has only made me want to play more.

Not only did we encounter the wonders of Ping Pong, but we also experienced the college’s annual sports day! The students at the school conform to a lot of rules in general, such as daily morning marches and exercise (remarkable to watch!). The college has appeared to take itself very seriously. So it was somewhat surprising to say the least that it holds a day where the competitions included are: giant-tyre-rolling, sack races, a large version of musical chairs only with a whistle instead of music (That was exciting to watch-no kidding!) and a team based 100 metre race – where each team runs in a line joined at the ankles by two long metal bars. They were huge fun to watch, and the students were clearly enjoying it too. It seems that even in countries where students start their school days at 6.30am and not relax till the late hours of the evening, they still have time to hold events like these.

Lessons are working out very well, this week’s centred around getting the students talking about what they like to do in their spare time; one of the exercises in my class involves acting out whatever activity or hobby your partner tells you to do, and as a result, almost every student ends up singing or dancing! Looks like it’s going to be a good lesson. Some classes would have covered this topic before, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve had a chance to practice the language, as they do not speak a lot in their other english classes.

In other news, we held an Easter Egg hunt at our house (Even though we discovered a few hours before the guests arrived that Easter Day wasn’t for another 2 weeks, but hey, they didn’t know that, and we had Lindor eggs fresh from England!) and this week we took a giant step and started cooking our own meals. Already over 1 month into our time here in China, but hey, we’ve cooked our third dinner now!

This week, we were also told that we have a 4-day weekend, and so after hasty decision-making are off to climb the mountain Tai Shan north of where we are now, here’s a picture of hopefully where we’ll be on Friday:

All for now folks, keep watching out on Facebook for more pictures, watch this space!

Cuenca, Teaching and all the stuff in-between!!!!

It’s been a long time coming but my second blog has arrived.

I have started teaching, yes los niños en Cuenca have encountered the best teacher ever, hopefully. From math to Spanish to colouring and of course to English, I am teaching the lot. With my volunteering set up I teach at two completely different schools, but they are both amazing in their own way.

I am going to start with my morning school, instituto de San Jose Calasanz. I work with disabled children ranging from 5 or 6 years old to the odd adult, one who is 64!!!! Due to the type of school I am working in I am not required to teach English, Joel is also here with me, the activities that we help with are based around therapy and achievement. These activities include baking in a fully functional bakery, sploshing some paint on wooden canvases’ made in the carpentry or the more therapeutic sewing or ceramic painting. Yes, I know I am volunteering in one of the best schools in town, however I had a tough choice at the start. Which place do I go to first???

I opted for the bakery, where I would be working with a very friendly pupil named Jonathan, he tried as much as he could to speak English, which shocked me, but it helped a little as my Spanish vocab was not the best. For first few days, I was baking bread in the bakery and then helped the kids paint their wooden canvases’, this got a little messy at points but Pancho, one of the nicest Ecuadorians I have met, provided me with an overall so that my bright orange trousers would stay orange and not a mish mash of colours. Then I was moved to my current location, a classroom of 8 children, working with Clarita first and then Cathy. The ages of my class ranged from 9 to 14 and their ability was also a wide range. When I first started working with the kids I thought, eight children in one class with two teachers, well a teacher plus me, the class surely they don’t need both of us. Have ever been so wrong!!!!!!

Working with the kids offers a variety of challenges, firstly, I am speaking and teaching in Spanish the whole time, secondly, I can teach one child the numbers one to ten and then test another on the numbers to a thousand, and finally, Cathy and myself have to keep them happy and healthy, whether that is playing with them during their recreation, helping them eat their food or clean their teeth. This is the most rewarding experience that I have had, just seeing a little boy or a little girl smiling and laughing because I have helped them down a slide or put them on a swing a given them a push. Getting them happy when they are sad, it makes my day every day.

As you can probably tell I love my morning school, but you need to; as there are some very difficult challenges that you need to tackle.

As I mentioned earlier the kids have varied abilities, this is putting it mildly. If I ask a twelve year old to recite the numbers from one to ten I would get a snarky retort or a look that meant I was born yesterday. Unfortunately, due to the blocks that have been put in their way and the challenges that they have to face every day, they don’t give me a snarky retort or look at me as if you I was speaking another language, well hopefully not the latter as my Spanish isn’t too bad, they struggle to tell me the first five. This really hit me as this not only means they do not know the numbers but they cannot tell me the date, they can’t tell me the time or even tell me how old they are. One can only imagine how difficult their day to day life must be. From my point of view, it is very difficult to see why they don’t know the numbers, or why it takes so long for them to learn then, but it does and I take my time teaching the numbers, the days of the week or the colours. This can be very frustrating at times because you feel that you have taught them the numbers from one to ten and then the next day they have no clue at all. So I go in to school with an open mind, one that is prepared to help them in whatever way they need, I will always be patient with them and, when I can, make them happy.

I feel it is time to talk about the school I am volunteering at in the afternoons, but before I do I have to talk about the amazing food that I am eating in Cuenca.

Food. Food is one of the best unexpected surprises that I have had whilst in Ecuador, well apart from getting my head firmly planted in a cake on my birthday. When I was getting ready to go, one of the worries I had was about the food; will I like the food, will it agree with my stomach, will I eat enough???? My mind was not put to rest when I was in Quito either, as I was not eating very much as there was not much or us to eat. I had fruit for breakie, soup for lunch and rice with the random bit of meat from that day. So by the time I left for Cuenca, my trousers were a lot looser than when I arrived. Then, I got to Cuenca and I haven´t looked back since. I have eaten rice, rice, rice and yes more rice, but that is not a problem for me because as we have some amazing meals. One such meal, the specialty of the family, a rice, cheese, marrow and prawns dish baked in the oven. It comes out with a crisp layer of golden cheese across the top. Lovely. It´s making me feel hungry just writing this!!!!!

From, food I must move reluctantly on. I work at a high school in the afternoons, this is great fun, the kids are aged from 12 or 13 right up to 20. I teach 5 classes a day, yes I do teach, they are all great fun to teach and at times they do talk a lot, which is annoying because I don’t really know what they say, but Marta, the actual teacher, always whips them into line. The classes are not all the same age, as there are the odd one or two students who are older than the rest of their class mates. As well varying ages there are also varying abilities, as you would expect, there are some students who can speak English pretty well, but there are others who I must use my expanding knowledge of Spanish to get the aim of the lesson across. Not all school life is in the classroom though, at the recreation times the teachers head of to the staff room and tuck into the treats that they provide that day, it could be cheesy bread, sugary bread or the traditional corn filled leaves with Durazno jam. Once I have grabbed myself one of these treats and a mug of hot water, yes I don’t drink tea or coffee the teachers cannot believe it either, and I watch the football matches that accompany most recreation times. These matches are accompanied by the girls screaming their heads off, be it teachers or students, and they are often cheering for it to go on for as long as possible as the headmaster waits till the end of the football till he finishes break, which is great and would never happen in England.

As well as football, there is a teachers day in Cuenca, and it is a few days before Cuenca Day (April 12th), where all the lessons are cancelled and all the students honour their teachers with cards and a fun game of Piñata, where teachers names were picked out at random from a bag and they then proceeded to be blindfolded and put in the middle of the playground near to the little terracotta pots and told to whack ´em. Why do I know this?? My name was one of the unfortunate thirteen to be picked out of the hat. I was promptly embarrassed in front of the whole school as they put a broken pot out for me and then put a new pot as far away as they could. So all in all I was not great at it, but I did get my sweeties in the end.

What about my time outside of Cuenca? Well, I shall begin with Montanita, often called the Ibiza of the Latin American world. From the beaches to the bars to the clubs, Montanita was amazing, and the weather was perfect for the beach I loved every second that I was I there. The beaches were long and sandy and stretched on for miles and had little beach bars along them at fairly regular intervals. I must say, the cocktails that we got from these little bars were some of the best cocktails I have had. The piña coladas that me and Richie were all too eager to drink were superb, and at only $3 we were even keener to drink them, and they were a decent size as well!!!!!
After enjoying cocktails as the sun set on the pacific, we headed to the bars and clubs in town. This was where the term ‘Ibiza of Latin America’ can be seen. Lots of booze, lots of chicas and plenty of salsa!! By the end we all knew how to dance salsa decently whilst being rather drunk. This did not stop us though and we had a great time.
Due to it being carnival when we went, the town’s population quadrupled and the streets were packed so we kept each other close and our cash closer. Everyone had little spray cans of foam or water balloons, so they coated is in foam and water which made us look like walking talking snow men, but we just went with the flow.
After loving the flow of life in Montanita I am very much looking forward to heading to Mancora, PERU!!!!

Until Next Time!!

Week 10, final week in Abrobiano

A lot happened last week as cycle 1 volunteers prepared to leave Abrobiano and head back home to the UK and to other areas of Ghana. This blog post is a feeble attempt at trying to convey my gratitude and appreciation for their hard work and to also try and explain what went on leading up to their departure.

Our Last Saturday
We in Abrobiano decided to go out and celebrate in true Abro-styleee by having a bonfire on the beach on our last Saturday before leaving our community. Each volunteer had to think of a song or dance to perform whilst sat in the glow of the fire, I have to say it was one of my personal highlights from my time here in Ghana and we’ve got some pretty good singers amongst our group!

Sachet nets!
The beginning of week 10 was taken up by volunteers joining together for one last massive group effort in creating 2 volleyball nets out of water sachets. Ghana has a pretty big problem with waste and has a lack of recycling so there’s a lot of plastic flying about. So, over the past few weeks we’ve all been collecting our drinking water sachets, snipped them all up (about 300 I reckon) and weaved them together to make two of the most beautiful volleyball nets I’ve ever seen. On Thursday morning, the morning of our departure, we presented the nets to the two primary schools where we’ve been teaching. We did it in front of the entire school during their morning assembly and emotions were running high. The kids and teachers seemed pretty pleased with them and, to our joy, we had people asking us to teach them how to weave sachets (something I think the next cycle will carry on with within the community) Then we were bombarded by about 150 sad/extremely excitable children, hopped on a coach and were chased down the road, then made the long drive to Accra for the team debrief weekend.

Volunteers making one of the volleyball nets out of water sachets

Volunteers making one of the water sachet volleyball nets

The debrief weekend was a great opportunity to see and hear from the Cape Cast group and also acted as a platform for volunteer feedback and recommendations for future cycles. It was also a chance to go out one last time as a group in Accra – note to self – always wear proper shoes when trying to get into a club in Accra.

The Airport
We took the UK volunteers to the airport as one huge group to say goodbye and enjoyed a pretty fruitful ‘revelations’ session with Abe in the bus on the way.
It was really sad to see the UK volunteers leave. I think what has stuck with me is how close people became on this programme. One thing Sammy said the other day at the Action At Home session was that the relationships we formed with the people on our placement is nothing like anything we’ll experience in any other profession. We have worked, lived and socialised with our team and formed incredible friendships and learnt so much from one another in such a short space of time. I know that everyone has taken some incredible memories home with them and you’re already very missed.

The Action at Home day with the Ghanaian volunteers was a lovely opportunity to squeeze just one more day out of seeing them before they too went home to their friends and families. It was great to hear everybody’s plans for when they finish the placement and chances are we’ll see a lot of them this weekend to talk to the new volunteers for a question and answer session.

Myself, the other team leaders and co-ordinators have already begun preparation for the next cycle but I will never forget the amazing group of people I have met. The foundations you have set on this programme are so important for the development of this community and is something you should all be very proud of.
Abrobiano team, you were incredible, thank you for making this placement fun, challenging, and memorable and for making an impact in Abrobiano. Spread the word with Action at Home and good luck

Wearing our matching print, looking gooooood

Wearing our matching print, looking gooooood

Victoria x

Weeks 7 to 9 inc

Sometimes in great struggles, sacrifices have to be made. After all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Sometimes, certain things fall by the wayside, for the greater good, to make room for more pressing issues. Sometimes, this happens to blog posts.

The past few weeks have been the busiest of the project so far. In order to save a lot of time and space (and effort, on our part) we have divided this post into the three main events that have happened during that time.


Event Number One: The Coasters come to town!

After a few trips to Elmina and Komenda, gathering supplies, we welcomed our friends from Cape Coast on the 8th of March. Before they arrived, there was much to do but, in the true spirit of volunteering we split the work evenly: the boys rose at 6:30am, marched to the lagoon, squeezed into a wobbly boat to make a hazardous journey across the water (almost capsizing on numerous occasions), squelched through thigh-deep water and ankle-deep mud (reeking), walked ten minutes to the coconut farm, clambered up trees 20 feet tall to collect 100 coconuts, carried the fruit back to the boat and set off again on an unsteady return to the shores of Abrobiano, in a canoe that, with the extra weight, rode barely an inch above the surface of the water. Meanwhile, the girls put up the canopies and cooked some pasta. We showed the Coasters around town and introduced them to the chief’s linguist. After a football match that ended in cruel defeat on penalties for the Abrobiano Antelopes, we went to the beach and enjoyed the fruits of our labour – pineapples and coconuts at the White House. It was a lovely day and we were sad to see them leave.

Coasters come to town for some football and a trip to the beach :)

Coasters come to town for some football and a trip to the beach :)

Event Number Two: Talent Show!

We had to plan for our next awareness-raising event, the talent show, immediately after the Coasters left. Prizes were wrapped up and much planning took place before Saturday. On the Saturday (the 15th of March), we placed benches and chairs and put up the canopies. We also had a wee tidy up before setting the stage up. Emma R kindly allocated each volunteer a duty for the course of the evening, so we kept busy. It was so amazing having little kids on stage singing and dancing in front of a massive crowd! Volunteers gave talks on sex education and Jodi and Kim performed a drama about teenage pregnancy. After the show was finished we felt tired but satisfied, and so pleased with how the day went.

Kimbrela acting as one of the MCs at our big talent show event!

Kimbrela acting as one of the MCs at our big talent show event!

Event Number Three: Infrastructure!

One of the requirements of our placement is that we contribute to the development of community infrastructure – a long winded way of saying that we had to build something. For our infrastructure project we were asked to help with the rebuilding of dilapidated classroom steps at the MA primary school, and to level out and cement the floor of a classroom at the Islamic primary. Previously the kids had been sitting in sand whilst being taught, an unhygienic and potentially health threatening state of affairs. On Sunday the 16th of March we collected sand from the beach – struggling in the heat with heavy buckets of sand perched precariously on our sweaty heads. The next day we collected bags of cement and dragged them across town to the schools. On Tuesday we met with the local masons who we were there to assist, and work began. Our main contribution was grunt work – shifting sand and water to wherever the masons required it. It was a day of strenuous labour under the African sun, but it felt good to get our hands dirty for a change. The next day the more artistically gifted of us painted the steps and floor with ICS and Lattitude logos. When we finished they looked amazing. It was great working with the masons too – their skill and efficiency was awesome. Hopefully the steps and classroom will last this community for years to come.


Avinash doing a cracking job painting our freshly made steps

Avinash doing a cracking job painting our freshly made steps

Life in Pizhou – students taking us out, making friends with strangers, Chinese Karaoke, and getting chilli in my eye.


Hi folks!

So I’ve been here in Pizhou for nearly 4 weeks now, and I haven’t really told you a lot about it here…

A normal day of teaching on average starts between 9 and 10, with 3-4 classes each day.
We can eat at the cantine in the college, but occasionally we eat out on the street, which usually tastes a lot nicer. As a result, and partly because of our laziness, we have not cooked a single dinner at our apartment yet. Customary meals are noodles with beef, potato, chicken, garlic, herbs, or large dumplings, and chilli. There’s usually lots of Chilli. And it’s rather spicy. I don’t often have it with my meals, I did have a bad experience with it early on a few weeks back, where clumsy chopstick skills led to flicking it right into my eye. A perfect image for an englishman adapting to foreign culture if ever there was one! The occasional spice is nice though.

When sitting on the curb eating noodles, you often attract a lot of attention from locals, although tonight this did include a woman, whose sanity was more than questionable, coming to sit at our table and happily try and help herself to our food. Apart from that incident, its funny to get a lot of giggling chinese children who are dared by friends to run past us shouting “Hello!” before darting off, delighted of having spoken to a white foreigner! Walking in the street in general is funny too; Alexi and I often play a game where we will walk past locals, and then 10 seconds later whip our heads round with wide-eyed expressions to find them still staring after us.
We have made some fantastic friends here. A fair few students who are confident in speaking english have taken us out to meals, to play some music, to their homes, kite flying (ahem…riveting), and parks. Chinese meals are humungous. For example, we went to a students’ birthday meal, and 24 large dishes were served for about 13 of us! Manic.

We have made good friends especially with our mandarin teacher Amy and another student Cindy; these two have taken us out on day trips to two beautiful parks, an Ancient Town (unfortunately just a tourist attraction now, no longer a habitable place), a night at a Karaoke club, of which our renditions of Kings of Leon’s ‘Use Somebody’ and Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” will not be forgotten..(Although it’s probably best that they didn’t understand the lyrics to Shaggy let’s be honest..) They’ve also cooked for us once in our home which was amazing. Chinese food is great.

A memorably friend we have made though, has to be our good friend, Mr Shen Ping We. We bumped into this man walking back home late in the evening, he was quite drunk, but as he saw we were foreigners, and he spoke good english, we proceeded to chat. After revealing he was a doctor, he spontaneously invited both Alexi and I to his hospital that evening, where he took us up to his office. It was getting a bit odd. He then proceeded to offer us chinese spirits, and cigarettes (both customary in China) and even one of his office pot plants, before exchanging numbers, and leaving. It was an unexpected night!
Since then, we have had tea, breakfast, lunch, and dinner with him and his family, as well as having him show us round another hospital, where he introduced us to the wonders of Chinese medicine. It was fascinating. He is an extremely kind and generous man.
We also had a fellow local english teacher who took us to a neighbouring province in China, Shandong, for the day, where we went and taught briefly at another school, where they had never seen white people before! They were also very excited to meet us. After being spoilt by another huge meal, we were then shown another ancient town, before heading back to Pizhou. The generosity of the Chinese is like no other.

Lots more adventures to be had in China, even after the ones we’ve had already! This weekend we will hopefully head to Suzhou and maybe Shanghai with some other volunteers. Speak soon folks! Watch this space!

Week 8 by Sean Harrison

As the end of the trip started to near its end, street league was in full flow, homework club was going as well as ever and life at the centre was just peachy. The street league though we were having some minor problems with it, mainly due to the fact that Ghana Man Time (GMT) started to rear it’s all too familiar head once again. Before this week the participants had been brilliant at turning up on time (well most of them) but this week really saw a marked drop in the punctuality levels. Whereas before we would get the majority of the participants turning up on time this week it was down to 3 for most teams who would actually turn up on time. The rest would turn anything from 30 minutes to an hour late which was worrying for the team as we had tried so hard to knock those bad habits out of the participants and it seemed that it was working, so it was particularly demoralizing to see them reverting back to their old ways.
The lessons though were plus point and we were beginning to get the hang of them and work out systems as to how best to teach the classes and both street league and life skills teachers were becoming noticeable more confident which made it all the more frustrating that there were so few turning up on time. To ensure that the next group of volunteers were able to hit the ground running we also started to develop easy to use curriculums that could be used throughout the street league programme well beyond our stay.
Homework club was going well the dip in numbers from the previous weeks seemed to have hit plateau. The children are becoming increasingly confident around the volunteers and their grasp of English is continuing to improve, making it so much easier to teach them. Also there has been a marked increase in confidence with the teachers and they were developing much better methods in which to teach the classes.
There were also a few infrastructure projects that the centre required us to help with one was the garden project in which the centre plans to have up and running in the coming months. This would allow the centre to grow its own crops which could be cultivated and eaten. So a group of volunteers set about clearing the land which was going to be used for planting the crops. The other project was to make a football goal net out of water sachets, we had previously made a similar net but this would be a much bigger task as the size of a football net is much bigger than a volleyball net never the less we moved on with our plans and plan to have at least one goal net completed by the end of the project.

WEEK 7 by Eamon Sullivan

Week 7. By this point we had all just about adapted to life in Ghana. The food, the culture, the weather, the work. There was a few sun burnt faces but the mood of the team was upbeat. We had just embarked on two new infrastructure projects the week before and were all excited to start making some real progress. The group elected to make two new water sachet nets and to weed and clean up the centers garden with the plan to grow crops in the near future.
The water sachet team started very quickly and very soon things started coming together. Previously we had made a volley ball net and converted the sandpit at the centre into a pitch. This time the plan was to create football nets. The method was the same so we needed no further education and by the end of the week our team had nearly completed one net. We are well on course to have completed them both before our departure.
The difference in the garden from the start of week 6 to the end of week 7 is visually the most impressive. What once looked like an overgrown jungle that was constant play place for local wildlife including pigs, birds, lizards, stray dogs and all sorts of insects, now began to look like land that may one day harvest some sort of crop. We spent several days of the week out in the morning heat weeding with machetes and knocking down the odd tree. This was very tiring and the work had to be conducted in the morning as the scorching afternoon heat would have made it unviable. The use of machetes was a massive learning curve for myself and the other British volunteers as for us they are not conventional gardening tools. Very soon I began to appreciate how difficult and strenuous this task was. Blisters appeared on my hand, but upon looking on the progress we had made I left each day satisfied I had down a hard day’s work.
Thursday the 6th of March marks a very significant day in the Ghanaian calendar. It’s Ghanaian Independence day. It’s a public holiday and we decided to attend the parade at Cape Coast’s Victoria Park. The parade was by local school children and the public services; military, police, fire brigade, prison officers, immigration service’s etc. Seeing all these people in all their different uniforms brought together for the celebration was most impressive and the atmosphere was electric. The parade was followed by traditional Ghanaian dancing and after its conclusion everyone moved down to the beach to continue the party!!
At the weekend we travelled to see how our partner team was getting on with their project. We went to a little village called Abrobriano and, even though it was less than an hour away from Cape Coast, it was a completely different culture. The community was extremely small and close knit and rurally based. It was a complete contrast to Cape Coast which is very noisy and urban. Meeting up with our friends and viewing there project was a very enjoyable experience and a nice note to end the week on.

Working away!

Okay so I thought I’d take the plunge and give the blogging a go. I have quite a few months till my departure to Japan in September 2014 but I have to start somewhere (plus it kind of makes it more real… that I am actually going away!).

After deciding to apply for Paramedic Practice at University I thought this would be a great opportunity for me so here I am, beginning my exam revision, volunteering for St John Ambulance and attempting to practice Japanese on the side!

In being the ‘early bird’ applicant I’ve already had a few months to try and find ways to save/earn money- the most dominant being getting a job… I’d been living for too many a teenage year in the denial of having to earn my own way but thankfully enough I found a great job working as a receptionist. It’s a welcoming little Osteopathy Clinic tucked round the corner from my house, so I can’t complain about the commute! Can’t wait to get out there, every time I see blogs from volunteers already on their placements it makes me wish I could fast-forward in time to my own!

Till next time,


Teaching at ‘Yunhe College’ here in Pizhou

I have been here in Pizhou now for 2 weeks.
Our apartment is a comfortable 1 minute walk from the College, its literally right next to it! When we first entered the large campus to explore it, literally everyone would stop and stare, giggle and point with their friends. It seems they don’t often see white people! Even 2 weeks in, we are still turning heads, though it’s calmed down a bit now. The campus has a running track, 2 basketball courts, a football pitch, 20 ping pong tables (early morning practice for table tennis and jogging, I think so!) badminton courts, 3 huge 6-storey class buildings, 2 humungous cantines, and a small garden area with intricate statues and ancient-looking huts. When it gets a bit warmer, plenty of photos of these will come!
On our first visit, we were given a formal introduction and welcome from the rest of the english teaching department, and later that night taken out to a banquet with them, especially for us! Now, its customary to drink Rice Wine with these meals, however, Rice Wine is essentially a spirit in English terms, NOT a wine, so when your are toasted 7-8 small glasses of rice wine, you are pretty much downing 7-8 shots. Accompanied by 2-3 beers. The Chinese are NOT light drinkers.

I am placed at Yunhe Teacher Training College here in Pizhou. I teach students aged 16-21. Alexi and I are not the only English teachers here, we are additions to the current English teaching apartment. Whilst the other teachers follow a text-book syllabus, Alexi and I have no textbook to follow, hence we must form our own topics, and plan our own lessons each week. Also, whilst the other teachers must teach the students english, us volunteers’ job is centred more around getting the students to converse more in English in our classes, although we do try and teach new vocab like the other teachers do. I teach 17 classes a week, each 3/4 hour long, and each class consists on average of about 50-55 students. All of the classes are about 98% girls 2% boys.

I had my first lesson last week, and I was so nervous, that I over planned, complicated, and worried way more than necessary. Hence, my first few lessons were a little rubbish. What should have been 3-4 lessons of fun games, introducing yourself, and getting to know the classes, was instead 3-4 rushed lessons about English food. I had no idea initially how good these students were going to be, or how they were going to respond; therefore the lessons just weren’t as fun as I thought they were going to be. I set the bar rather high for myself to begin with, which wasn’t a good move, so I slowed down a bit, and I planned a much easier set of lessons for the first week, based on introducing yourself, and getting to know my classes. It worked out a lot better, and has been improving heaps ever since. What’s more, is that this week, in which I have prepared more challenging lessons about musical instruments, and others on transport, our plans have been better, and therefore the lessons have been getting better too. We have small classroom games also which are fun for everyone, and what divide our classes from the other teachers’ classes.

Essentially, we are supposed to make our classes fun, and we’re improving bit by bit each time. For example, I have been starting each of my musical instrument-based lessons this week by playing a chinese song on my clarinet to them, which they loved! And I’ve also been enjoying teaching them vocab they haven’t had before based upon transport, which makes me feel like I’m really making a difference. The classroom personalities vary, most are shy, some eager speakers and give all the answers, some don’t talk at all, and, because of the long working days, some are even asleep at the back! Some older classes are even worse at speaking English than younger ones, so it’s a bit odd. But in general, the lessons are lively with a lot of laughter.

We’ve made good friends with some students already, and have been treated to a variety of meals, cooked meals at our place, outings, games of badminton, ping pong, kite-flying (The Chinese are crazy about kites), and even a game of Basketball (Yeah I wasn’t brilliant at that last one-)

Speak soon! Watch this space. More from Pizhou coming soon! Here’s a snap of a typical chinese vehicle, and in the background is a Pagoda! What more could I ask for :D

A Tuk-Tuk and a Pagoda, what more could ya want?

Recent Trip To Nanjing

After arriving and unpacking in Pizhou, it was only a few days until we would venture off for another trip in China: a 2-day stint in the former capital, Nanjing!
Having successfully gained two seating tickets, we were not expecting the giant surges of crowds that were to join us on our 5-hour train ride that evening. How we managed to squeeze our way through the people to get to our spaces, I will never know!
We got to Nanjing at 3 in the morning, greeted by a chilly -3 degrees, armed with nothing but our rucksacks, and a scrap of paper with tiny chinese characters that our link teacher had written on there, as directions to the hotel where Alexi’s (My budding teacher and volunteer) dad had offered to share us his room.
Now, you may have got a sense of what our apartment in Pizhou is like from the last blog, so it was kinda hilarious to go from that to a 5-star hotel only a few days later; perhaps not quite the living experience Lattitude was expecting us to have!
My trusty China Guide provided us with plenty to do the next day.
We first caught the busy Chinese metro (thank goodness for English translations) to our first choice, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum. It was documenting the city’s massacre by the Japanese in the 1930s, when they had invaded China, and threw Nanjing into months of terror, rape, and murder. Doesn’t sound exactly like a barrel of laughs, but the other volunteers (Emily Eymundson, Keejana Mackellar) and I were more than intrigued. I was especially wanting to go, as I had studied this event briefly last year for my A Levels. It was a shocking, fascinating, and daunting experience. The outside of the museum was lined with statues of chinese victims, and other sights inside consisted of genuine skeletal remains, as well as Japanese artefacts, war machinery and so on. At times it all seemed a bit too dramatised; it seemed so adement on leaving a black mark on Japan, and using as emotive language as possible to describe the horrors the victims went through. I am in no means excusing the atrocious events that happened, it was all nonetheless an eye-opening experience for me.
Other lighter events of the day included visiting the Presidential Palace Gardens. Although no Presidents were met, I got some cracking shots of the palace gardens which will be uploaded soon.
Later that night, Alexi and I went clubbing in their 1912 district, which proved to be an awesome experience. We met a local named Antonio who spoke decent english, and after we all tried some different and rather disgusting Chinese beer, he showed us the best places to party! It was brilliant, dancing like idiots because no one there would see us the next night anyway! No drunken messes though, I promise. You’d be surprised how much Western music is played there too!
The next morning, after visiting a quiet cafe on my own and planning my first lesson, whilst Alexi this time went and visited the Nanjing museum, we then spent the next 6 and a half hours trying to get back to Pizhou. That’s a lot of time to be spent sitting opposite a chinese stranger, who ate with the LOUDEST and most irritating chewing sounds ever.
Eventually, we got back! With lessons starting the next morning. But this was two weekends ago, and since then, I have gathered many stories about Pizhou life, and teaching at our college, which I will cover in the next blog! Lots to catch up on!

Zaijian folks! Here’s some photos from the trip, but all the photos from Nanjing will be up on Facebook soon!

Nanjing Memorial and Palace Gardens

Outside Nanjing Memorial IMG_3378 Palace Gardens