Volunteer Teachers’ Flat in Shanghai

Events continue to occur at an un-bloggable pace – yesterday we had a school outing in which 600 or so of us took the ferry to the mainland, then buses to an amusement park. That was definitely a blog-worthy event but it will have to keep for a future post.

This post will highlight my weekend living quarters at the flat (apartment) in Shanghai. Jessie Duanmu, the program coordinator, operates her volunteer-teacher business out of this flat. When I signed up for the program, it was through a non-profit organization called Travel-to-Teach (T2T), based in Thailand. I’ve since learned that T2T contracts with Jessie’s company, Xu Bo Culture & Art Exchange LTD, for their China placements. As owner and manager of Xo Bu, Jessie works with many international volunteer-teacher organizations and travels worldwide to establish and maintain business relationships with them. Once I chose Shanghai as my destination, I really put my destiny in her hands as it is Jessie and her staff of assistants that have been handling everything I need during my stay here. Meeting me at the airport (flight 3 hours late!), escorting me to (and helping me check-into) the hotel the first night and to the flat the 2nd night, providing language and culture courses in the flat, offering a sightseeing tour of Shanghai, providing me a cell phone for local use (left by a former volunteer), and escorting me and my co-teacher Monica to ChangXing Island the first time: these are some of the things Jessie and her staff have done for me. They have been absolutely great help, making the geographic and cultural transition much more manageable than it would be on my own.

The Shanghai flat is where Jessie runs her business, conducts her new teacher orientation classes, and provides living space for the volunteers who need it. Most volunteers are provided living quarters by the schools where they volunteer. Some volunteers live in these rooms 7 days a week. Some, however, like those of us who volunteer at ChangXing Island, only stay in our school rooms during the week and return to the flat for weekends. I may inquire about whether I could stay on the island for a weekend, just to have more time to explore. But, in general, it’s very nice to go back to Shanghai and be with the other volunteers. There isn’t much to do on the island and staying here for three months without leaving would probably be a little more cultural immersion (drowning?) than I would like. And although I really like the Chinese food I’ve been getting (even the cafeteria, as I mentioned previously), I must admit that on two previous Fridays, Monica and I celebrated our return to Shanghai with McDonald’s burgers and fries.

Living at the flat is like living in a small youth hostel. We share a bathroom, a kitchen, a TV (no programs but lots of DVDs), a washing machine, and a balcony where we hang our clothes out to dry. I’ll admit that hanging my undies alongside young ladies undies seemed a bit daunting. Indeed, I decided that some of them, though still useable by “wash-at-home” standards, could not pass the more rigid, “display-to-the-world” test and have been retired for good. We are on our own for meals on the weekends and we generally either go out to a restaurant (some are very close, good, and cheap) or bring in some food. We can cook in the kitchen but I think most of us are too lazy (or unskilled and lazy, in my case) to do much other than boil some frozen dumplings or add hot water to a dried noodles (Cup-of-Soup) package.

OK, this gives you some context for what you’ll see in the video. Hope you enjoy it. I certainly am enjoying living there on the weekends.

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