Who would’ve thought that it would’ve taken me over 2 years to finally sit down, and reflect on my volunteer experience in Xi’an, China (Shaanxi province) which I did in May of 2014.
That year, I made my first stop in Beijing for 3 days to travel with a tour group, and then took a railway train to the city of Xi’an where I met my IVHQ’s Xi’an representative, or host I should call him. He’s name was David.
David’s family owns a place in an apartment block with quite a few rooms. 2 rooms, are used for the volunteers who visit – 1 for all boys, and the other for girls which is upstairs. Each room is quite spacious with heaps of room. The girls room is filled with 5 bunk beds – so maximum of 10 girls ! The girls and the boys each had their own bathrooms as well. And we all had to be home by 10pm or else no one can open the door and we’d be stuck outside all night. David didn’t live in the same place but his’ parents did. It was so nice that David’s mum happened to be the person who took care of all the meals for us. When we would go out to eat, we’d make sure to let her know in advance so she knew not to cook for us. It was a nice experience because you felt as though you were a part of the family.
2 days after orientation, I caught the bus with another fellow volunteer from the states to Weinan, a small town just over an hour from the city of Xi’an which is still located in the Shaanxi province.
The school is beautiful, in the middle of nowhere but very different to what I was used to every day back at home. And this was exactly what I wanted – a different lifestyle to what I was familiar with.
It really was such a joy to see so many students. And the best thing was, they were all very appreciative that I felt almost at home !
This was their cafeteria, or I should say – their lunch room.
The students really got excited seeing a camera for the first time – especially being able to see themselves on a camera ! It was soo cute.
These were some of the best memories in China. I remember on my last couple of days, none of the female students wanted to let go of me ! I really did struggle happily around the playground while I had like 3 or 4 girls on one side! It was sad at the same time cause I knew my time to teach these kids and be around them was coming to a close.
One of the teachers asked me to come along and watch the students practice for their dance classes. These kids really work so hard. They start their day at 7am and don’t finish till about 8pm.
I remember waking up at 7am to go outside and listen to the anthem, being one of the biggest struggles ! And then when the students had to take a nap after lunch, I’d be struggling to occupy myself.
Their playground is huge for a village school. It sucks because the bathroom is on the far left side of the field and the smell always seems to make it’s way around the place. For sports, these kids have to go for a jog around the field at least twice.
This was a special carnival day where all the students participated in different special ‘fun’ classes – so this was not an ordinary school day.
Here, I sat with a teacher who nicknamed herself as ‘Dream’ and two of grade 6’s top students.
Another of 2 teachers which I grew to be very close with and till today, still try to keep in contact with.
The person on the left of this photo is an art teacher. He is so talented. Upon leaving, he painted a very beautiful traditional Chinese artwork which we handed to us as a gift. Was indeed very special.
One of my grade 6 classes :
Girls will always be girls, loving to pose.
This would’ve been my grade 4 class.
And this was where I stayed. So at the front of the school, there’s the Principal’s office which has 2 rooms – one on each end. I took the left and the other volunteer took the other one. It’s a shared bathroom but the bathroom sits in my room.
That building there is the office.
The Principal was really accommodating that he took us to a restaurant nearby to try some of the higher end local food – Fu Bao Ge Shi Fu. There wasn’t exactly a meal which I did not like to be honest. Xi’an locals are very into their spices but are not huge fans of meat in general – which worked well for me!
And on our final day, the Principal took us along with a few other teachers to a restaurant to eat. And again, I loved the food !
This below is a very traditional dish in Xi’an. It’s like tofu with a spicy broth to it. But really nice. Although I think I had far too many of these.
And this – was indeed something which I had every day – morning and afternoon. These are plain buns – flavourless. I had far too many of these that I really did get sick of them. So what I’d usually do was dip these in the spicy broth in the above dish to add a bit of flavour to it. And it worked well.
And how can I forget that class when all the students left their notebooks in front of me and made me sign and write down my Weibo (obviously at that time I had no idea what that was so just gave them my email address).
Saying good bye is always by far the hardest. I remember walking out these gates and looking back. The teachers I’ve met, the students I’ve taught – it was an incredible experience. I have friends who still wonder wonder why I chose this city to teach in. To be honest, it was all very unplanned. Didn’t take me long to decide. I’ve always had the curiosity to explore life in a different place in a completely different environment with different conditions. And to me, it felt worthwhile for me to appreciate live in every different environment – and this really did it for me!
For anyone who is looking to teach english in China, especially Xi’an, I highly recommend doing it with IVHQ ! It’s an incredible experience you won’t regret !