Half time: It has been three month now since I arrived in China. As a matter of fact, living in China comes quite naturally to me now. I do not feel weird anymore when I get stared at. Without any second thought I grab the chopsticks and it surprises me when there is cutlery. I even got used to the crowds of people in the city, on the buses or on electric scooters.

I share life in Zhengzhou with 9 million other human beings. It is the capital of the most populated Chinese province Henan where more people live than in the whole of Germany. During the week, I teach the students at No. 52 Middle School. I give English lessons in 10 different classes of Grade 7, supervise their self-study classes in the evenings and teach some basic German in an after-school class. There are usually 45-50 children in one class. Some classes, however, are subdivided into smaller groups depending on their English marks. I had hoped that it would be possible to teach older students, but as I teach in a middle school there are not many options.

Grade 7 is the first year of middle school which comes directly after primary school. The students’ levels of English vary greatly depending on the quality of their primary schools. While in some classes the children are able to give short talks, others cannot understand the most simple sentences without a translator. Therefore, my work at the school can be very challenging at times, while in the better classes I enjoy teaching a lot and then it becomes a very rewarding experience.

The city of Zhengzhou is not a city one chooses for its beauty. It has grown to its present size during the last decades because of its convenient location at the crossing point of two major railway lines. Though there is some effort being made to promote the cultural relicts of early settlements from 3500 years ago, the historic significance of Zhengzhou is virtually nonexistent. Also the slogan “the green city in the central plains” is a half-truth with only the localization of Zhengzhou being correct. The city is a Chinese city like many others and shares the same problems such as bad air quality and congested streets during rush hour. Though it is not as big and cosmopolitan as Shanghai, or of historical importance as Beijing, it is a place which can serve as an example of an average Chinese city. Perhaps for that very reason, the city appears to be a good place to discover the modern Chinese way of live.

Despite its many people, finding your way around Zhengzhou is still quite easy and the distances in the city are not as big as one would expect. Spending spare time in the city is a lot of fun as there is almost nothing that does not exist. There are many bars, cinemas, amusement parks and even international supermarkets with imported products, in case I miss Western food. All in all, it is a city which comes quite close to what people here call „the real China“.

I am very glad that I had the chance to travel a few times. Apart from the two weeks spent in Shanghai with XuBo, I have been to Xian to see the world-famous terra-cotta warriors and I have also been able to visit Beijing. Standing on top of the great wall and visiting the beautiful buildings from the times when China was ruled by an emperor were great experiences. In addition, a teacher at my school took me on their family vacation to the neighboring province Shanxi for one week to visit many old sights, among them Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian temples and a town dating back to the middle-ages. However, the best thing about the trip was that in this way I was able to experience living with a host family even if it was only for a short time.

I am very curious to see what else is in store for me during my next two or three months here and what impression of China and its people I will take home with me when I return to Germany.