The light of knowledge guides
Thy sons and daughters....
Actually I don't think there is a school song, and "Zibo Vocational Institute" doesn't lend itself to rhyme. But when I pedal my bike along the tree-lined streets of the campus, I have a pleasant feeling of being in a 1950's movie about campus life.
We've been living here on campus for over two months now. Our new apartment is made of two renovated dormitory rooms joined together. The students usually live six to a room, so we have the same amount of room that 12 students would have. We have a small but functional kitchen, a spacious living room and bedroom, and in the shower (cue angelic choir) a real shower, instead of the gravity-fed trickle shower in our previous apartment that, as Ross put it, could hardly get you wet.
We moved in just as the semester was starting up, so here's Ross pulling his suitcase across the plaza, just like the hundreds of other students arriving at the campus. We live on the same floor as the other foreign teachers (there are four of us, plus two spouses). ZVI has three campuses, one of which features a large artificial pond stocked with lots of goldfish.
I can see why some teachers would want to get away from school life and the sight and sound of students, but I enjoy being around them. Especially in the early evening, when their classes are done for the day, and they turn to the activities that really interest them, like roller skating and break dancing. The girls walk arm-in-arm, the boys travel in small packs; they stream by the hundreds around the campus, under the trees, across the plazas, to the dining hall, or just outside the campus walls to visit a local eatery or buy a snack from the street vendors.
For the students those precious hours of freedom are few. It appears that student life is more regimented here than in the West. All the freshmen (boys and girls) are rousted out of bed every morning for calisthenics. By 6:30 am. you can hear them shouting chants in the frigid air. After supper in the dining hall, they must go back to the classrooms to study from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Then its back to their dormitory, up six flights of stairs in some cases, carrying large vacuum flasks of hot water because they have no hot running water in their rooms.
The dormitories are strictly segregated -- no transgender-friendly bathrooms here -- and the teaching staff stay overnight at the school on a rotating basis to ensure everyone goes to bed and is present and accounted for. (That's another duty, like regular staff meetings, that we foreign teachers are exempted from).
It seems that any teacher, at any time, can assign some task or duty to a student, and the student must do it. So that's how a lot of the routine clerical work gets done, messages get delivered, photocopies get made, and offices get cleaned.
Ross and I have realized that if we hadn't moved to the campus, he would have been really isolated in the city, so this move has been a good one for him as well. He's enjoyed meeting my colleagues and my students. He's even volunteering several hours a week with a group of students to help them get ready for a big English speaking contest. The contest calls for a high degree of knowledge of every day life in the West, so Ross is able to answer their questions about the phrases they see used in advertisements and so forth.
Alas, we are having some problems with the speed of our internet connection in our apartment, especially in the evening, which is one reason I haven't been blogging as frequently. It takes a long time to upload pictures and so forth. Life here may be quaint, but I love my internet.