One of the main differences concerning SoS this year in comparison to years previous is that we are teaching in a different building. Our four-story, concrete vault of knowledge that served us in the past is undergoing renovations, so this year we are in 三教 (“Teaching Building #3). While this may seem inconsequential, it has already done much to color the teaching experience.
For instance, last year our classrooms overlooked a busy Jishou street where farmers hawked vegetables and meat. One day we were treated with the distinct experience of hearing a pig get slaughtered in the streets. This troubled many foreign teachers—the cries of a dying pig sound disturbingly human. The students seemed used to it, though; they just laughed at the shocked look on the foreign teachers’ faces. A memorable cross-cultural exchange, to be sure.
This year, the classrooms are in a building wedged into a dark hillside, with little light reaching the lower rooms. This has been a problem recently, as we have had over three days of rain (and more still to come), and some of the classrooms have lost power. As a result, the students’ eyes have been heavy-lidded and the teachers’ lessons a bit more lowkey. I even felt compelled to teach my students the word “dreary”.
However, the rain has made me appreciate the part of the building that does get natural light: the connecting balcony that stretches along the row of classrooms. Standing there, one can see the Jishou river, winding away from the city and off among forested mountains and cliffs. Even in the grey weather, the silky clouds that graze past the mountaintop temples look appealing enough to make one want to venture out into the rain.
But then I remember the rather questionable quality of my 20 kuai umbrella, and I content myself with a walk to get milk tea.