I've been in Mianyang for nearly two months now and I feel settled and happy here. I've got my head around the layout of the city, how to get around and am really enjoying teaching at the school, Hua Yuan Creative Primary School. This has been the biggest surprise of the project. I wasn't expecting to find it as fun and easy as it is. The students are great, they love my lessons and are really willing to just get stuck in and enjoy it. Of course it helps that I'm a foreigner and I'm not teaching them grammar, but it feels easy and once I've taught the same lesson a couple of times there aren't any awkward moments where I can't explain what I'm doing, or don't even know!

I've mainly been teaching grade 5 and they've really been great. There's one class that likes to shout everything I teach them and there are groups of children in the class that seem to get the giggles when people speak English on their own. The great thing about being a foreigner in a primary school is you can just be silly and they find it hilarious. I was teaching grade 4 the difference between there is and there are. I got them to tell me what animals were in the zoo and how many. After putting about 30 animals on the blackboard I would then say 'There are 3 elephants in the zoo'. They would repeat this and then I'd say 'There are 3 elephants and 10 pandas.' which they would again repeat. Each time I'd add another animal and even I was finding it tiring!

People in Mianyang are really friendly. I’ve been out to dinner with so many people, everyone wants to get to know foreigners and make them feel welcome. On Saturday I went to the countryside to plant trees and have a picnic with one of the grade 1 classes. My host is their form tutor so I had to do a little speech with the megaphone. This mainly involved pretending to be a dalek planting a tree. I planted my tree with the grade 1 English teacher and they said that this was a symbol of friendship between our two countries which was sweet. After planting the trees we cooked lunch on open fires. However, once I'd finished eating and was full I then had to go round all the different groups and try their food to judge who's was the best. Perhaps I wouldn't have eaten so much if I'd known! After I got back I went bowling at a hotel with a couple of friends who work there. We had the place to ourselves which was nice as I feel I'd have stuck out a bit in a bowling alley full of Chinese people.

I was also invited to go to Chengdu which is about 2 hours away by bus and is the biggest city in Sichuan. There are two parts of the city which look like traditional Chinese streets with the roofs with upturned corners which we went to. Most of the buildings were actually repaired or new so it didn't feel very old. And the shops were very modern and expensive, even by western standards. There are also a lot of posh cars in Mianyang. Some people have said that after the 2008 earthquake, people realised they wouldn't be around forever and decided to splash out and enjoy their money more. However I feel it may be more of a sign of success and wealth. Whilst they aren't driving around in hummers with gold yuan symbol chains around their necks, they do like big new shiny cars with blacked out windows. The same is true about their mobiles; everyone seems to have a brand new phone. The best thing is the headteachers mobiles. It seems to be an unwritten rule that if you’re a headteacher of a school, you must have a big black and gold mobile with lots of buttons. I suppose this kind of attitude has developed from an economic boom, with a growing middle class and a successful country. I haven't experienced any extreme poverty while I've been here, other than the street beggars. They'll come up to you and nudge you and follow you a bit. They’re typically old, and many have some kind of disability. I've often been told that they don't need the money; that they have places to stay and food to eat, but it's impossible to know for sure, so I give them money anyway. At night, there are plenty of people just sleeping rough on the street. As well as beggars there are many people trying to make money however they can. There are often people selling different coloured chicks, turtles, mice and pigeons on the street, as well as toys, sweets, sugarcane, candy floss, mobile phone screen covers and slippers. It feels strange, standing next to all the new western style shops, feeling almost like a western city, and then having these very Chinese street sellers all around the place. It gives the city a bit of hustle and bustle which is fun.

When I first came to Mianyang I was put in a hotel but after a couple of days I moved in with a host family. The mum teaches Chinese in Grade 1 at my school and she also has a son at the school, Lo Lo. He's very cheeky, there's lots of "不要" at breakfast time. They can speak about as much English as I can Chinese, but Google Translator is great if we can't communicate through gestures. It makes getting to know them a lot harder though. I have my own room and a computer from school. I'm much happier here than at the hotel though. The meals are generally very nice, and I'm beginning to get to grips with the Chinese style of eating; lots of slurping, eating with your mouth open, hoovering up the rice and spitting out the bones. My weird food list is increasing too. So far I've eaten: donkey meat, pig ear, pig lip, pig bowel, pig foot, a variety of tofu, white carrot, pink carrot, chicken feet, and lotus root. At least breakfast is easy... milk and bread. I am starting to miss fresh coffee though. I saw a Bialetti coffee maker a while ago and got a little too excited!

People in Sichuan love food. Hot pot is really popular in Sichuan. They have a bath of boiling sauce in the middle of the table which you put the food in to cook. Once it’s ready you pull it out and dip it in some spicy oil with seasoning and eat it. It’s quite nice, although I prefer shoukou, Sichuan style barbeque. They have some amazing seasoning they put on the food, it’s sort of salty and spicy and really delicious. Sichuan people love hot food, I’m not sure why it’s specifically Sichuan, but if you come here be prepared for some hot hot spice!

I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here, but not leaving! After finishing the project I’m hoping to stay in Mianyang for a few more months and continue teaching English. I’d recommend this experience to anyone, it’s definitely been the best thing I’ve ever done!