Teaching English at Wuhan University 

Written by Nov 12, 2005 20:11
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Wuhan University English School

I travelled to China in 2003 to take up the position as Head of English at the School of Administration at Wuhan University in the Hubei Province of China. The University was a massive campus where students lived in dormitories and studied in class rooms along the stairways of the Dormitory Buildings.

Meals were available through the student canteen and restaurants on the campus, as well as street vendors, at very reasonable costs and one could live at the University for a very small amount of money. I had an apartment decorated in Western Style just for me and it was rather sumptuos and expensively decorated and very comfortable indeed. My chinese boss was very generous and treated me and the students very well.

China is very different from anywhere else I have experienced. There are touches of other places...traffic at times similar to Bangkok and Hong Kong, and totally different at other times. The streets are continually busy with people like in the eastern countries, and there are many hawkers and sellers and touts. However there is an air of dignity and pride in the chinese which I admired. They are very hard workers and take their jobs, however humble, with pride and even the construction workers and the labourers work constantly. I never saw workers relaxing on spades and shovels like in the west. When they were not working, they were usually eating or sleeping. It is a constant work ethic there and people are always meaningfully employed and industrious.

China is unique in many ways.. the beautiful people, the smiling charm of the older people in particular, the curiosity and interest in westerners, and the magnificent scenery shrouded in mists and magical clouds. The other startling difference is in the fantastic architectural structures apparent in many places.. public buildings, monuments, dams and bridges.

I visited the Three Gorges on a wonderful Cultural trip and was taken to see every sight on the way and back with a diligence same as they apply to their work. From 6am, the cultural tour started and went on till close to midnight. No time was wasted at all. We went to the dams, the tourist centre, the monuments, the temples, white water rafting, the bridges, many restaurants of a very high quality and I ate some of the most magnificent meals I have ever eaten, and met some of the lost fantastic people I have ever met.

Everywhere there was dignity. Teachers are treated with respect and my position was treated with the respect of the task. I was guest of Honor at numerous feasts and banquets and was introduced to some very imposing and important personages who treated me with the perfect manners China is famous for. I was feasted, admired, treated with respect and I made many friends and was welcomed everywhere.

I particularly enjoyed the Cultural trips, the visits to the Museums and the temples, and loved the Art and the Music and dance. Wuhan is a place of water. The East lake runs along the University and the University grounds are full of ponds and lakes and water features that make the grounds more like a Botannical gardens than an University. The chinese believe in the beauty of nature and this is apparent in everything they design. There is the element of peace and relaxation as against the constant sense of Industry and Purpose.

Teaching in Wuhan was a privilege and a pleasure, and I have many wonderful memories of Wuhan and the people I met and also still have contact with the students I taught via email.


Cultural Tour to The Three Gorges

The scenery was spectacular. I bought a couple of books about the Gorge and the Dam project so have spent this morning reading about where I have been and learning all about this amazing river that I have now seen. The start was by expressway through a very prosperous rice country all in water, and totally deserted, because of the vacation.

Large houses dominated, and I worked out that each house had so many paddy fields and the tiny cottages had just one or two. The houses here, all over the total area travelled, are exactly the same..white rectangles of either two or three stories..some looking more prosperous than others but all exactly the same. Tried to find out whether they are government owned/built with no success, but it fascinated me that rich and poor live in the same dwelling basically and right next to each other.(The houses were built by the Government and after 1990, houses and land are being sold to people who can afford to buy them.) The lowest level is like 2 garages in size, and sometimes shops are run at this level too.
Sometimes the top levels have no windows so I worked out these were the poorer tenants. or the houses were being lived in whilst being constructed.

After the water fields, there were fields which had some rice at the seed stage. Every so often an old man was cutting and arranging in piles of cut rice. He used a sickle. Ploughing is done with a single buffalo and a plough and the man walked along behind in the mud. Very picturesque but I did not get photos as the car sped along at a furious pace and it rained steadily, so most of the shots I did get are very misty. There are many tolls and toll gates..5 or 6 of 20 yuan a time...maybe the poor don't use tolls.

Excellent roads all the way. Got hopelessly lost in the first place and arrived late after asking directions, many times, and going through some spectacular mountainous scenery past almost the same houses, but with tiny gardens along the strips, and along the road. Planted cabbages, beans and herbs mostly and one tiny patch was a complete rice crop..all 10 metres by 1 metre of it.

Stayed in the mountains...overlooking water, then the next day went for a ride on a boat on the Yangzte. Spectacular scenery..just like the fiords of NZ actually...took many photos, but the weather was dull. At times, the rain actually ceased, but never for very long.

Went to an island and into some caves which freaked me a bit as I have a fear of caves ,and the interpreter did not understand what I tried to tell her. Grin!! The caves had some extraordinary carvings of dragons and a huge scorpion. Another cave had maidens bathing and figures.

Then we went to another island and the others walked up the cliff to a cave where some dejected monkeys were tied in chains. I stayed below and talked to the dancers and bought toys.

The cultural performance was interesting..young people
did several dances to very loud playing of cymbals and a drum accompanied by tooting of a horn and loud singing.
It was colorful and very jolly and here my camera gave up which was rather sad.

After lunch went white water rafting. This is a fantastic maney making venture. Tourists pay for the boat, then have to buy a cheap plastic poncho and
pants so 'they don't get their clothes wet.' I refused to go as I know there is no way one can raft without getting wet. My group took off shoes on my advice and bought cheap thongs and plastic shoes. Off they went, and I have two photos only... two to a rubber dinghy.
At the end..they were all soaking wet through and the traders were ready with cheap pull on pants and t shirts to sell to the wet, hopefully rich tourists. I laughed and laughed! What a racket! One japanese business guy looked extremely funny in his business shirt and tie wearing cheap stretchy,blue, windcheater type pull-on tight leggings and blue plastic sandals. It was bitterly cold too but not raining.

The toilet is on the ground and sometimes two or three open toilets together. I am getting used to squatting and wonder how I would have gone when I had the troublesome knee at the beginning after my fall at the ferry Terminal at Hong Kong.

That night we stayed in a very luxurious hotel at Yichang.

I did enjoy the Three Gorges Trip. It was a wonderful experience.

Maggi Carstairs

(Note: This would all be under water now with the flooding of the dams. You can see the photos I took on webshots:http://Community.webshots.com/user/ladymaggic )

Shanghai Experience

Shanghai was a fantastic adventure. I was driven to the airport in a car, and after wandering the shops at the airport, looking at delicacies such as plastic packaged whole fish and 3 roots of fresh ginseng for 50 yuan, I got to Shanghai with Air China who only gave me a thin packet of biscuits with my orange drink.

It was a pleasant trip and the views below were of green rice fields and a very beautiful Wuhan.

Shanghai was highrise buildings with adjacent plots of market gardens. There are many market gardens, some under plastic covers, near the airport. I was met at the airport, queued up in a long winding queue for a taxi, and then taken to my hotel, which had 2 rooms with a suite and two bathrooms. Two young ladies took me shopping to the Shanghai Market. This was a huge assortment of stalls of every description..scarves, hair accessories, spectacles, clothes, belts, fans, shoes, etc.

The weather was sweltering and the stalls were closely crammed together and very hot and humid. Sweat poured down my face in rivulets, and fanning myself furiously with little effect, we made our way through the stalls bargaining for items that we had no intention of buying. I thought many of the prices were quite dear compared with Wuhan, and did not buy much at all as felt disconcerted by the amount initially asked for, which seemed too much to lower, like 80 yuan for folding reading glasses. The seller conned me into paying 25 yuan. Every stall after this had glasses and I perversely
insisted on asking the price which was always wel below 25 yuan. I felt annoyed for I had bargained down to what was actually a starting price. Sigh!!!

Same with 'silk' scarves. I bought two which I cleverly bargained down from 160 to 25. Then in a huge department Store later, there were my scarves at 20 yuan. Sigh!! No wonder I hate bargaining...I always did, even in my florist shops.

The market was hot, crowded, colorful and very, very much alive. People swarmed in throngs of mankind..many westerners amongst the crowds. I started smiling at them initially, as they looked a novelty item after so long here in China, but I saw so many I gave up being friendly and concentrated on fanning furiously.

The buildings of Shanghai are amazingly beautiful. There are many ultra modern structures which the chinese are very proud of...and many more under construction. Glass, circular features, sweeping architraves, turrets and towers all interspersed with an another world unreality and beautiful with an ethereal dignity. I stood, in
the pouring rain without an umbrella, and admired the huge tower across the Huang Pu River..a stately monument to the modern times.

Behind, the ancient buildings were floodlit in pastel colors, with highrise gardens and balconies and little pagodas.The Lujiazui Financial and Trade Center with the Oriental pearl TV tower is ranked as the highest construction in China.

The People's Square was magnificent with 80,000 sq metres of gardens and waterfalls with colored lights. The entire place at night is a myriad of lights ..a mixture of Vegas and Sydney..a kalaidescope of color. Below the pedestrians amble amidst peddlers hawking flashing lights, single roses, and the odd food wagon cooking moving squid tails and kebabs on skewers.

The Shanghai Museum is a fabulous building, as is the Sciland..

The Shanghai Stadium looked like a huge amoeba with a capacity of 80,000 seats and takes 150,00 sq meters with flashing lights and an out-world impression which leaves one totally awed and breathless like all the things I saw there.

The Pudong Airport is another miracle...32 sq kilometers and 32 kms out of town (50 yuan by taxi) and the Nampo cable bridge is a suspension bridge across the Huang Pu River with a length of 8,346 meters.

I was overawed, fascinated, enthralled and amzed at what I saw in the short journey there and back. Yesterday it was hot, sunny and ultra humid, and today pouring rain and still humid. Shanghai is a place not to be missed...truly amazing and breathtaking. It is also very
cosmopolitan and much labelling is in English.

Stunning and supendous... I would like to have more time there..

Things I remember of China.....

I remember the hairdresser in China who washed away my newly bleached and tinted $600.00 hair color, while massaging my head for 30 minutes, with what looked like Palmolive detergent.

I remember the facial where the girl massages my head and neck and shoulders, whilst waiting for the concoctions on my face to dry. At a cost of $5..18 yuan..I had one every few days just for the relaxing
feeling it gave me.

The massages are wonderful and a beauty treatment is fantastic. Chinese women know how to care for their skins and bodies, and have regular facials and treatments. They also have skin fading treatments, which amused me as many westerners love the tanned skin colors.

I remember the manu driver Mr Wang, who waited for me at the apartment gate. When he drives me to market he waits for me to get my shopping, and then takes me back. You would never get that sort of service in a western world. I called him my smiling personel chauffeur in a ricketty tricycle.

He always wanted to talk to me..then one day iI got him with a student, Sharon, and answered all the questions he had been trying to ask me for the netire tme he knew me. He was always smiling and innovative enough to be ready for me when it was raining. They are very hardworking and very sincere and I got to admire the chinese very much for this attention to detail.

I remember the garbage man who carefully sorted the garbage below and sorted it out. I was amazed at the way the chinese constantly work.He always kept the garbage bins in meticulous order. I always said hello and shared a grin with him as I walked past 4 times a day.

The day before I left China I left him a very generous gift in the rubbish and watched him from the apartment above find my gift. I ensured he received it and knew it was a gift.

I remember Becky and Sharon my constant companions and pals..we shared lunch every day and I walked back with Sharon every night after class. She travelled by bus and had a vigorous daily routine and managed to do her homework too. I had many happy shopping hours with the girls..especially to the vegetable market which I loved.

I remember the bicycles that were always just missing me. I grew to hate them whizzing past after I got rather badly hurt by one exuberant girl riding blithely past. They were generally too fast for crowded walking areas and all students have them. I got run into many times and one incident had me thinking I had broken my ribs.

I remember buying everything with a fight. When the girls discovered I just paid for things I wanted, they started coming shopping with me and bargaining down the poor stall holders from approximately 2 cents a banana to such a minuscule amount that I was embarassed. In turn they were embarassed if I just paid for items, as it was carefully explained, that one does not do that.
Shopping was difficult as I could not understand the prices and the values, and could never get used to the bargaining when the original price seemed so very reasonable or even cheap.It is easier to just go somewhere, look at the price and buy the item paying with a credit card.

There were many memories of Wuhan, and now my students are studying in Australia and New Zealand and I remember with many smiles what a happy period this was in my life.

Maggi Carstairs 2005

 More Wuhan Travel Reviews
1. <A> Getting to China JVANDEMOORTEL Aug 20, 2005 05:08
3. Working and visiting in Wuhan : around the East Lake GRIP from FR Apr 29, 2005 03:04
Comments (2)


Jun 20, 2012 16:03 Reply

Ms.NANCY JING from The U.S. said:

There is great thing in China that I believe a contribution to the world.

Recycle bag.

People use plastic bag in so many countries, including The U.S. today. Some of them are charged for non-recycle but that is small percentage. China is a huge population uses recycle bag and paying for non-recycle bag, too. There is a fact, how big data base to save our world? China does great job on this contribution.

It is great impression to me about China.


Jul 29, 2011 19:56 Reply


l need ya' help please

Jul 29, 2011 20:16
Mr.BRUCE replied:

Hey, what's the matter?

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