Weekly

Week 47: In Which We Visit the Middle-East of China

After a car journey back to Turpan Station we found ourselves on a double-decker train to Kashgar. Instead of a single floor three beds high, the carriage was split into two floors, two beds high. Though less convenient for a group of six (bays of four) it was more comfortable. Leaving a station with the platform at eye-height (standing up) was an odd experience! As evening set in we wound up through the mountains, Kashgar-bound. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 46: I Leave Karamay and the UK Leaves Something Else

This week started on a low and ended on a high of a slightly different variety. So first let’s address the low. The UK voted to leave the EU. Unsurprisingly given my age and the fact that I actually researched the likely outcomes of leaving, I voted for Remain by proxy. It was an entirely unemotional and logical vote, separated from the untrustworthy campaigns by several thousand kilometres. And now that politicians faced with triggering Article 50 have realised they don’t really want to, I can only hope they decide that 1.9% is not a convincing majority and stop consciously screwing everyone over with something that half the country doesn’t want, and a significant amount of the other half didn’t know they didn’t want or didn’t think would actually happen when they voted. Good job, guys. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 45: Last of the Summer Karamay (Becca’s Back Again!)

Found out at the last minute that this was my last week of lessons! I planned to play Musical Chairs and get students to write on my shirt. Only thing I was missing was white shirts to be written on - cue Paris from next door to the rescue! We wandered the markets hunting a price we liked for several hours until we got lucky. My students got into the games and once someone was out I let them choose the playlist. I was given a random assortment of lovely gifts, some even handmade, and asked by several students to sign their uniforms. Hope they don’t get into trouble - I was using permanent marker. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 44: The Fuhai Dragon-Boat Festival

The Dragon-boat festival warranted a national holiday from Thursday to Sunday. Technically our school started on Sunday (the Dragon-boat festival is a single day’s holiday, so schools tend to shift the weekend to make a three-day weekend); Cindy assured me that it was perfectly reasonable to request an extra day off, so I did. Tom and I got the Wednesday night train up to Fuhai to see Kieran. This time we splashed out for a sleeper, which meant we were only a bit tired when we reached his house (even with a bed, 2am to 7am does not make for a particularly refreshing night’s sleep). (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 43: Yurting up Tianshan

Tom and I began an early weekend boarding one of the (perpetually late) Ürümqi trains. Three hours later than planned we reached Fukang for tea with Ben and Calum. Brian, a re-returned volunteer, arrived later with Sean and Tom (three Toms caused way too much confusion). We planned to spend the weekend in a Kazakh Yurt in the nearby Tianshan mountain range. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 42: This Week I Have Mainly Been Sleeping

This week’s lesson was British Slang. I did it as a Multiple Choice team game: split the class into two, write the word on the board with four options for what it means. I had things like sup, alright (neither of which are actually questions), banter, chav and on fleek among others. The only problem with the game is that, since it was essentially luck as to whether they got the correct answer (I did give clues such as using the words in sentences), there wasn’t a particularly high success rate, which meant the classes generally lost interest after about six words. They don’t like it when they don’t get answers correct. I thought the fun was in learning new words. I thought wrong. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 41: The Karamay Social Club Closes its Doors

For the last time, Karamay played weekend host to Kieran and Calum (at the same time). This week’s classes involved a marathon of Hot Seat: the game where the class knows a word, but one kid (standing up) can’t see it and has to have the word described to him by his classmates. Taboo is the opposite; the one kid knows the word and has to describe it to his class. No new content, but their exams are coming up so this was a chance to practice existing knowledge of English. I let the class choose their own words, too, which led to one kid in 'Hot Seat' trying to guess the word 'god'. Someone in the front row pointed to the guy next to him and said 'him' and instantly, I kid you not, he got the answer correct. I don’t know either. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 40: This House Would Allow Gay Couples to Marry

Easily the most interesting thing to happen this week: debating. Opportunities to let my students express their own opinions is always a good way to get everyone involved regardless of English ability or enthusiasm. It was an innocent lesson; we started with the almost unanimously squashed notion that, 'Students should be given lots of homework'. To make it more difficult I decided which students had to argue For or Against. I made it clear that I was much more interested in the reasoning behind their decisions than the decisions themselves, so the debates were centred around justification and reasoning. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 39: Summer Swiftly this way Comes

The cold snap ended and we returned to peaks of low-twenties as this week progressed. On his way out, Calum suggested a lesson plan which led to one of the most successful and engaging week of classes I’ve had in a while. And it was something as simple as Noughts and Crosses, but brilliantly adapted with enough scope to keep twenty-something kids occupied for three-quarters of an hour and enough variation between lessons that I wasn’t bored by the end of the week. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 38: Kieran, Beth & Camels in Jiayuguan

Barely off the train from Lanzhou with the school, I was back in the station to find Kieran and collect tickets for our trip to Jiayuguan to meet Beth. It was slightly depressing having just come from Lanzhou (in Gansu), all across Eastern Xinjiang, just to hop back on a train two hours later to head back along exactly the same line to Jiayuguan (also in Gansu). Probably could have arranged that better, but never mind. It meant Kieran had company for the 12 hours it took to get back (hard seat, arriving at 2am). (more…)

By TJC, ago