I'm not going to deny that teaching on a private contract outside of WorldTeach is still tempting because I'd get paid a bit more each month (~5,000 seems to be about the average for teachers, though some places offer as much as 10,000 or 12,000 a month for native English speakers or teachers in bigger cities) and I wouldn't be limited to middle school. I have wondered at times if I'm better suited for high school or college than for middle school, but I do like the kids and all their questions, not to mention that they have something new to ask you every time they move on to a new unit in their book. It can get kind of tiring though to spend a week telling people that you like hamburgers but you don't think they're very healthy and that you get to school by walking everyday, especially when you have over 700 kids on the same textbook unit who will all be taking their tests on the exact same day at the same time. It's hard to explain to Chinese teachers sometimes that the American education system isn't uniform in quite the same way the Chinese educational system is (ie textbooks in America can differ from school to school depending on state requirements and what teachers identify as important for their particular school). I think I listened to one episode of Important Chinese Things with Jenny Zhu/ChinesePod and a woman talked about how she wasn't sure what to do when the school told her to make her own curriculum. I guess the teacher from our middle school who went to teach in the US for a year was also kind of startled that the school didn't decorate her classroom or her office for her, they gave her a room and she had to do it herself so my liaison and I talked about differences in hospitality in China and the US. Mostly that Chinese hospitality requires that you give so much attention to your guests that it's a little too much sometimes for Americans, but I guess just being given an empty room seems a little cold too. When I got invited to another teacher's apartment, I was really nervous about saying too much about what I liked because I sensed that it might turn into a "your wish is my command" kind of thing and the last thing I wanted was to take advantage of someone opening their home up to me. I felt a little less awkward when she told to cook something to share, which was good because it felt more fair to me than worrying that stating some small preference would turn into my host going some crazy distance to find something I'd mentioned in passing. It's hard sometimes though, there are things I want and just won't say it because I know if I'm out walking with another teacher and say that some street food smells really good, I run the risk of finding that my companion is determined to treat. My thoughts run through "Yes I want it. No, don't go to that trouble, I can get it myself. I'll just say no and come back another time, because I don't want this person to go to all that trouble but I don't want to insult them by making it obvious I'm refusing when I really want that cake." Maybe I make too much of it, but there really have been times when someone asked if I wanted to stop for some kind of cake and I said yes just to find that person buying it for me and not trying it themselves. There are times when China is incredibly direct, and times when you have to adjust your thinking to something...more circular? I don't know how to explain it, all I can really say is that this is a culture big on relationships and the work you have to put into creating and maintaining those ties. Maybe the word I'm looking for is reciprocal. I'm still thinking about the example we got during orientation of a phone call between two Chinese people, one American and one Chinese person, and two Americans. Basically, it was a phone call about going to the airport. In the call between the two Americans, one called to say she was going to the airport and the other said "Have a good time!" (the shared mentality being, that if this person wanted something, they would ask). In the same conversation between two Chinese people, it ended with an offer to drive the person to the airport (I will tell this person I am going and maybe they can offer me a ride/I should offer this person a ride because they are calling). And finally, the one between an American and a Chinese person in which, as you might guess a Chinese person calls expecting/hoping for an offer of a ride to the airport and the American unknowingly refuses by simply saying "Well, have a good time!". That example probably best encapsulates what I'm trying to get at. The difference between expecting someone to ask and expecting someone to offer.
Hospitality and educational stuff aside, I've been asking myself what I like about China and what's harder to live with. Part of this is because my students ask if I like China and why, and I imagine it's a natural question given that they don't lead the easiest lives here. So here it goes: