After two weeks of traveling, 14 days living out of a suitcase, catching my trains and booking my hostels, getting lost and finding the right directions I could finally settle down in a small town called Huayuan (Hunan province), unpack my backpack and start my job as a teacher. Right after I came back from my Beijing trip to Shijiazhuang, I booked my tickets to Changsha (Hunan province). I stayed there for only one night and the next day I was picked up from the hotel by a very friendly and nice Chinese guy, Mr S., who is a leader of English language in the school and his job is to look after foreign teachers. Now, he is my best friend and he and his wife treat me as a member of their family!
But before I met Mr S. in Changsha, a few stories happened to me within 24 hours.
First of all, all tickets to Changsha have been sold out so there was no way I could get there on time so I was forced to buy a ticket with no seat number. It meant that I had to stand on the train for 15 hours. For me, of course, that was not a problem as the price of the ticket was unbelievably cheap in comparison to other train tickets I used to buy. When I got into the train, I could not believe in what I saw: there were people everywhere, sitting or lying on the floor, pushing each other to go further. When they saw me, everyone tried to give up their seats for me which was very nice of them actually. I sat down on the floor but one of the guys gave me his small chair. We shared the chair together all the way long. I got bored quite easily on the train so I opened my English-Chinese dictionary and started to talk to those people sitting around me. They were so excited to hear me speak in Chinese and after a while all passengers from compartment were laughing and talking to me either in Chinese or English. I also took my laptop out from the bag and showed them some pictures taken in Spain, Egypt and England. Everyone was so focused and interested in it, I just couldn’t believe how excited these people were. We had lots of fun on the train listening to some Chinese music and my mp3 songs from my laptop. In this way I met a Chinese girl, a university student, who, as it turned out, was going to the same city as me and she helped me out with my luggage when we got off the train.When I got to Changsha, I had a huge problem with taking some cash out from the cash point. All my debit and credit cards, for some reason, were declined. I was standing in the middle of Changsha city on my own with no cash and idea what to do. The Chinese girl, who I met on the train, sent me a text message to make sure I was fine but I replied “No cash, no money, I need some help”. She arrived immediately and we were both trying to sort my problem out. We tried to use different banks and different cash points but none of them worked. Suddenly, she took my hands and said “You will go with me and you can stay overnight in my room”. I was speechless. Someone, who I have known only for a few hours, is trying her best to help me out and she is not asking for anything back? Is that real? We got into the bus and we were going to her school when I suddenly saw another cash point and asked the driver to stop the bus. It was the last chance for me to get some cash out and … it worked! What a relief! I took the Chinese girl for a breakfast and after that we said goodbye to each other. I took a taxi to my hostel, took a shower and spent all night talking to my mom and friends on Skype. This day I knew that no matter what would happen to me in China, there is always someone to help me out.
Next day, 7 am, I got a message from Mr S.: “I’m here. Please come downstairs.” He took me for a breakfast. We went to a dumpling restaurant where he introduced himself to me, told me a lot about the school, China and his family. After that, we took a bus to Jishou, a very small town surrounded by mountains, and from Jishou we went straight to Huayuen. The view of mountains and hills was amazing so I asked Mr Stone to stop the car every few minutes so I could take some pictures. Nevertheless, the biggest attraction of this trip for me was to see the Azhai Bridge– the world’s highest tunnel to tunnel bridge and the fourth suspension bridge in China to cross a valley so wide it seems to be connecting two mountain range (looked impressive).
When I got to the school and my apartment, my first impression was “Wow, is it the school I’m going to work in? Is it my flat?” The school was massive. There were lots of different trees and flowers surrounding the campus. Moreover, there was a river, a huge bridge, a park, a big schoolyard and a stadium. It all looked nice and made a great impression on me. It took me more than an hour to go around the school and see all the buildings. All students (junior 2 and 3) live here from Monday to Friday and only some of them are allowed to go home for the weekends. Moreover, all teachers (there are more or less 400 teachers working in the school) live on the campus as well. That’s why the school seemed to be so big, there are so many flats where all staff and students live. We are like a family here. Everyone knows each other. I can see my students every morning when I wake up and every evening when I go to sleep. My flat is big as well. There are 5 different rooms, all fully furnished, a big kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a balcony and a living room with a massive TV. At first, I couldn’t decide what room I should sleep in. I quickly unpacked my bags, stick some pictures of my friends and family on the wall and went to sleep. The next day was the 1st of September :-) !!