I wake up at 7:30 am most mornings so that I can get to work by 8:30 am. I live in a newish apartment complex on the western edge of Jiaxing which is also the closest, nice apartment complex to where I work. I first take a shower, then have some peanut butter toast, a banana, and sometimes a small ice coffee if there are any in the fridge.
My Ride to Work
The bike ride to work is a fifteen minute pedal through a factory district. Since beginning work at our factory in Jiaxing in October of 2011 I have had the pleasure of visiting many of these factories and learning what they produce. There are lots of factories that do screen printing (which we use to print on metal and plastic), bending, cutting, and welding metal, plastic molding, metal store racking, electric bike manufacturing, and plenty of others. If you counted all the counties that have products that were produced in just the factories in this district, it would probably be almost every developed country.
Work at the Factory
After arriving at work I proceed to our company’s large meeting room where I hold classes for my Chinese colleagues Monday through Thursday. Classes are one hour long, though they sometimes go over the limit of course. I have about fifteen students in each class which are almost full if there is no pressing work to do in the morning. However, half the time there is pressing work and at those times I will only get 7-8 students in each class. We not only cover English lessons but also have lessons on American culture, critical thinking, and try to help my colleagues understand who our American customers’ are.
Our company makes interactive retail displays, which if you don’t know what that means, is the piece of equipment used to play a video game demo in a store or listen to music using headphones on display in a store. I didn’t know this either before starting work here, but there is more to a video game demo you play in a store than the console and a TV.
Translating and Interpreting
After class I retire to my desk where I summarize how the class went and record the class attendance for future reference. After this, I try to handle all the things asked of me by other colleagues. This often includes translating documents, interpreting in meetings, machine operation training, and interviews. I also help the Chinese talk to the foreigners and the foreigners talk to the Chinese when their language skills come up against a brick wall or something that is difficult to express.
Once these things are finished (though they usually pop up throughout the day as well) I focus on making sure messages between out US and Chinese offices are cross-culture friendly and when they are not try to find a way to make it so. I also try to make the rounds everyday and talk to most of the employees, not only to answer any English questions they have, but also to learn more about what they do and give them a chance to practice their English. Sometimes this is hard though when they have a low level of English because we end up just speaking Chinese to each other in order to communicate.
We also have a company website that I update and fill with Language and Culture-related content. A lot of it is guides for US colleagues who come to the China office from time to time so that when they get here they have some basic knowledge of China and our office. Other things include a basic language guide to learning Chinese and English-Chinese teaching material. A lot of the material is translations of words I have learned since coming to work here including: “laser cutter”, 激光切割机 (jī guāng qiē gē jī), “re-order”: 翻单 (fān dān), and “powder coating”: 喷塑 (pēn sù).
Lunch of Choice
For lunch I either eat at the canteen, bring my own lunch, or bike over to a Lanzhou Lamian 兰州拉面 (lan zhōu lā miàn) restaurant where I usually have beef and potatoes over rice for 10 RMB which is currently $1.50. Lanzhou Lamian restaurants exist in every Chinese city I’ve ever visited. They are like the McDonald’s of China. There are so many that there are often several in one neighborhood. Lanzhou used to be the most polluted city in the world at one time and why they have a successful noodle chain, I do not know. The Japanese word ‘ramen’ comes may have came from the Chinese word “lā miàn” (拉面) which literally means “pulled noodles” though this is still up for debate.
Lunch of Choice: Lanzhou Lamian
Creating Teaching Materials
In the afternoon I work on lesson planning, creating my own teaching materials, and researching other lesson plans on the internet. The day finishes at 5:30 pm which for me means it’s time to go home, but since many people often need to work over time, they do not get to go home at 5:30 pm.
In the evenings I go out to eat with friends and colleagues, cook at home and do some reading or writing, go to the bar, go to Chinese classes, go for a bike ride, drink tea at a tea shop, go to Starbucks, or wander around and explore the city. The weather in June is very nice and this week it hasn’t rained once, I guess it will be hot and miserable a month from now though.
After living in Zhongshan, Guangdong for three years I built up quite a community of friends so that I had a lot of people to hang out with. Here I have had to start from knowing no one and build a new circle of friends which can be difficult. Fortunately people from work like to hang out and when you are a foreigner it is not difficult to meet people in China. It can still be hard to make good friends though, it has taken me eight months but I think I have some good fiends here now and our relationships are getting better the more and more we hang out. My nights are mostly for writing, bonding, and meeting new people.