Beauty can be found in many places, as WorldTeach volunteer Brittany Johnson knows. Read on to see how Brittany has found joy in her students and the other hidden jewels she has discovered while in China. Thanks for sharing, Brittany!
A Day with Sunflower
If I had to choose a favorite student, I think I would choose Sunflower. She’s in class 363, which to be honest, isn’t the easiest of all classes! Despite the fact that her class lacks an interest in learning English, she is constantly trying her best, and she without a doubt improved her spoken English as well as her confidence in speaking in the past 10-months. For the past few months she has been trying to find a time where we were both free, she wanted me to come to her hometown for lunch. She lives around an hour and a half from Rongjiawan, and around 40-minutes from Yueyang. This past Monday she finally arranged for me to come to her family’s home for lunch. In true Chinese fashion, lunch turned into a day-long affair, causing me to be late for my afternoon plans. Even after 11-months, I still haven’t learned that when a student invites you to hang-out, you shouldn’t plan anything else for that day.
We had a traditional, and quite delicious, Chinese lunch with her parents. Her father speaks a little English, but her mother only speaks Chinese, despite the language barrier, I of course felt more than welcome in their home. When it came time for me to leave, my purse was filled with fruit and other types of snacks. After lunch, Sunflower and I visited Junshan island, the largest island in the Dongting Lake. The ferry costs 20 RMB round-trip and is about 40-minutes from Yueyang. The ferry takes around 35-minutes to get to the island, and the entrance fee is an additional 60 RMB. According to Sunflower, the island is typically visited by lovers, and here I was visiting it with my 16-year-old student. The island itself it really beautiful, the minute I stepped off the ferry I was met with a wave of jasmine, which is much different than the typical aromas of China. While walking around, we saw a variety of different birds, trees, flowers, etc.
I think the island is under environmental protection by the Chinese government, because it really was one of the cleanest places I have visited in China. The weather was typical for Hunan: hot, humid, and sticky. But, we still had an enjoyable time walking around the island, and it gave her the opportunity to ask me quite a few personal questions. The questions ranged from my love life to the type of feminine hygiene products that Western women use. At times the questions even turned political, Taiwan and Hong Kong are always interesting subjects to discuss with my students in private.
As much as I love teaching in the classroom, I truly enjoy teaching one-on-one the most. I especially enjoy the times where I have the opportunity to just hang out with my students and get to know them more. Their free-time is so limited, and I consider it an honor that on a rare occasion where she could have been playing computer games and chatting with her friends on QQ , she chose to practice her English and show me a hidden gem of Yueyang County. I look forward to keeping in touch with her and monitoring her progress during my second year in China, she is one of the many examples of why teaching in China is such a rewarding experience.