Need Your Advice

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A few days ago a dear friend emigrated to China. As you can imagine for a young black African man this move can be intimidating, lonely and daunting. He sent me an email a few days after arriving asking for advice. Reading his email brought back a flood of memories from my time in South Korea. Some of the emotions and uncertainties he describes are very similar to what I felt like in the beginning.

Below is our correspondence:

Hi Kate,

how are you doing? I’m in China you know. I don’t know about South Korea but over here, things are quite difficult. Its difficult to get around. The people are friendly but everything is in Chinese. The town I was supposed to go to, well because I came a bit late, they gave the position to someone else. Now they’ve thrown me into this village. Its quite tough to be honest with you and I don’t know how long I’m going to stick it out being here. Need advise from you big time because I might ditch China for Thailand or South Korea (although Korea’s recommendations don’t qualify me). 

 
Yesterday I met the school officials, principal, director, deputy principal and one Chinese English teacher. They have been really nice to me, trying their best to make me feel at home but the place is just so isolated and the language barrier is a big problem. My apartment is quite nice though. Summer holidays are coming up at the end of June and I’m already contemplating on leaving, seriously. It feels lonely. 
 
My problem now is, some of the classes I’m going to start teaching (perhaps on Friday), the Grade 3s don’t know English at all. This is a big challenge for me as I didn’t expect that. What do you recommend I do with such a class? I would have an assistant for one week though. 
 
I am 8 hrs ahead of you so perhaps we can skype? And China has blocked Facebook and Youtube, I mean come on…sigh…
My Response:

Dear Tom*

Good to hear from you. The Advice I’d give you is to commit to staying in your village for a year provided   your living conditions, and pay is good and your colleagues and bosses are nice to you. That is key. From my experience it is the cities which cause people more stress. Use this time of isolation to study via correspondence or do something constructive. On your days off go into the city for a change in scenery.

It’s never easy moving to a foreign country. The language barrier is frustrating. I always felt I was illiterate when I was in Korea. So I made an effort to learn the Korean alphabet so I could at least read their signs etc. Ask your co-teacher to help you learn the Chinese alphabet and during that time you can help her improve her English. That’s what I did.

Teaching children English from scratch can be intimidating but also very rewarding. The kids are like sponges if they are 9 years or younger. Please be patient with them, don’t let them see that you are frustrated or irritated.

Please find attached some material you can use in the mean time. If you wish to teach the alphabet from the word go I’ve included ways for you to teach it, which includes writing and readingthe alphabet.

Stay calm, you’re adjusting to a new environment. Make the best out of it, learn about Chinese culture, and food. It’s a bonus that you’re in the village you get a better feel of what china is about. Take lots of pictures, and send some to me. If you’re interested in business use this time to see what sort of business opportunities there are over there.

You’ll be local village Celeb,  It great fun if you’re lucky you’ll even get freebies. Just be friendly and smile a lot. Note that Asians are extremely ignorant when it comes to Africa and Africans in general don’t mistaken it for racism, use it as an opportunity to teach them that which they show ignorance . It will help make your stay easier.

 Hope this helps a little.

*Tom is not his real name
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