Meet Mr. Wang

Mr. Wang

This is my Chinese tutor, Mr. Wang (pronounced “wong”).

He is a 74 year-old, retired Chinese teacher who lives on the 1st floor of our building. He is very famous around Huairou and since being retired, he often speaks at conferences and teaches foreigners for free. Our lessons are completely in Chinese since he doesn’t speak English. Since coming to Huairou, Mr. Wang and I have met every Tuesday and Thursday night from 8 – 10pm.

During our lessons, not only will Mr. Wang teach me conversational Chinese, but he also teaches me poems, songs, and traditional Chinese stories. My favorite part of our lessons is being able to read and write more Chinese characters.

I am blessed to have him as my Chinese tutor.

Hello, Chinese New Year vacation!

We are now at the end of our 1st semester here in Huairou.
Since we didn’t have school the past week, Irma and I spend the last week in Hong Kong. We took the bullet train, which is the longest in the world, from Beijing to Shenzhen which took about 8 hours. We then took the subway in Shenzhen to the Mainland/Hong Kong border.
One of my favorite parts of being in Hong Kong was the warm weather!
We went from snow in Beijing to temperatures in the mid 70’s in Hong Kong. Very nice!

My favorite thing about Hong Kong is the mixture of different cultures all in one city. While it is still very Chinese, you can see the British influence along with the influence of the many refugees and immigrants who have come to the city. As a result, there are a lot of different foods available that we wouldn’t be able to find easily in Huairou such as Vietnamese food, Thai food, and Middle Eastern food.

Here are some highlights of our trip:
Staying in a 300-year old Chinese village
Visiting “the Peak” where you can get a view from above the city
Going to Hong Kong Wetland Park
Hong Kong’s “Symphony of Lights” light show
Shopping in Mong Kok (according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Mong Kok has the highest population density in the world)

The Peak

The Peak

Hong Kong skyline at night

Hong Kong skyline at night

Market in Mong Kok

Market in Mong Kok

300-year old Chinese village we stayed in

300-year old Chinese village we stayed in.

Only 1 more week until I head home for Chinese New Year break!
We will all be heading in different directions for the break. Irma will be going to Mexico for a wedding, I will be in Kenosha, Annamarie will be spending 10 days in Japan, and Mike will be visiting another province in China with friends he has made here.

It has been a great semester and I am looking forward to having some R&R at home.
See some of you in about a week!


Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

One Chinese tradition on Christmas Eve is to give your teacher an apple. The Chinese word for apple, 苹果 ping guo, sounds similar to the word for safety, 平安 ping an. By giving your teacher an apple, you are wishing them safety. This is one apple that a student gave me.

Christmas Eve Apple

Christmas Eve Apple

We celebrated Christmas by having a few Christmas parties, one of them sponsored by the Huairou Education Bureau. Our party consisted of leaders from the Education Bureau, the four principals from each school, English teachers, and some students from each school.

Presenting Christmas cards to the Education Bureau and four principals.

Presenting Christmas cards to the Education Bureau and four principals.

During the party each school did a performance such as a song, skit, or dance, we played English games, and ate cake and other snacks.

For me, it was my first time away from home on Christmas. Although it was different, it was definitely a Christmas that I will never forget.

Santa Claus makes an appearance at the Christmas party

Santa Claus makes an appearance at the Christmas party

Students from No. 4 Middle School singing, "Jingle Bells"

Students from No. 4 Middle School singing, “Jingle Bells”

Mr. Xia, leader of the Education Bureau, cutting the cake

Mr. Xia, leader of the Education Bureau, cutting the cake

Not all who wander are lost

On the weekends we love wandering around Beijing!

Visiting the Great Wall Mutianyu in Huairou.

Visiting the Great Wall Mutianyu in Huairou.

Our first outing together shortly after we arrived in China was to the Great Wall. We are lucky enough to have the Great Wall run right through Huairou! We took the long hike up stairs to reach the top and once at the top, we tobogganed our way down!

Many tourists come to this part of the Great Wall because it is not as crowded as some of the other sections of the Wall.

Toboggans going down the Great Wall.

Toboggans going down the Great Wall.

Our first outing into the city of Beijing was to the Temple of Heaven. This was the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would worship the god of heaven and pray for good harvest.

The Temple of Heaven is now part of a park complex where locals and tourists can go to spend the day. In the park complex you can see locals dancing, playing chess, and enjoying each others company.

Annamarie Carlson '12 in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Annamarie Carlson ’12 in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

A stay in China would not be complete without seeing the pandas! Although the wild pandas of China are located in Sichuan Province, you can also see them at the Beijing Zoo. The more famous exhibits at the Beijing Zoo are the Giant Pandas, the golden snub-nosed monkey, South China Tiger, Chinese Alligator and the Chinese Giant Salamander.

Our last visit was to Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square is a famous city square in the center of Beijing.

Throughout history, Tiananmen Square has been the site of many protests and the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
Located around the Square are many of Beijing’s other famous sites such as the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China, and Mao’s Mausoleum. While at the Square we stopped into the National Museum and viewed an exhibit containing gifts given to China from other countries of the world.

Jason Hartfield '12 in front of the panda exhibit at the Beijing Zoo.

Jason Hartfield ’12 in front of the panda exhibit at the Beijing Zoo.

Although we go into Beijing almost every weekend, it seems like there is always something to see or do. That’s one of my favorite parts about living in Huairou. We have the smaller town feel of Huairou with the larger city nearby.

Hope you all had a great Christmas! Even though our classes continued throughout the Christmas season, we were able to celebrate in our own way. My next post will be about how we celebrated our Christmas in Huairou.

Jason Hartfield ’12
No. 4 Middle School

Off to school we go!

Many people have been asking about my typical school day, so here it is!

I wake up around 6:30am and ride my bike to work at 7:15am.
The schools work differently in Huairou in that a teacher won’t be teaching the entire day but usually only have 2 -4 classes per day. When not teaching a class, they can do other things in their office such as grading papers or preparing lessons. The students stay in the same classroom all day while the teachers move from classroom to classroom.

Since I have no classes on Monday morning, my Monday mornings are usually filled with planning lessons in my office. They have given me my very own office complete with a desk and computer, a bookshelf, chairs, and even a bed! During my lunch break from 11:15 – 1:30pm I usually eat at the school cafeteria and then go for a walk behind my school which is by a big reservoir. If I’m tired, I can take a nap in my office.

The Huairou Reservoir near No. 4 Middle School

The Huairou Reservoir near No. 4 Middle School

On Monday afternoons I have 3 classes, 45 minutes each, with 10 minute breaks in between.
My last class on Monday is called English Corner. This is an extra class with 30 of my best students from all the other classes. Since these are my best students, they move along quicker than the others and I am able to teach them more vocabulary and focus more on their pronunciation.

All my classes are conducted entirely in English so no knowledge of Chinese is required. I’ll sometimes forget that the students don’t know I can speak a little Chinese. They’ll be completely shocked when I respond to something they say in Chinese because they assume I can’t understand them.

Some of my 7th grade students.

Some of my 7th grade students

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into a typical school day for me.
Stay tuned for my next post about some of the cool things we’ve seen in Beijing!

Jason Hartfield ’12
Huairou No. 4 Middle School

Greetings from Huairou!

Primary School in the mountainsAfter much paperwork, waiting, and two trips to the US Embassy in Chicago, our journey to Huairou finally began on October 1, 2012.

Being here for a month and a half now, I can safely say we are all settled down and adjusted to life in China.

Our first two weeks consisted of Mike, Annamarie, Irma, and I living at a hotel, meeting many of the local leaders and teachers, getting all our paperwork straightened out, and exploring the city.

Huairou is a district with a population of 300,000 located just north of Beijing, about a 45-minute bus ride into the city. What makes Huairou unique to other cities in China is its proximity to the Great Wall and its clean environment, many trees, a fresh water reservoir, and blue skies.

Although the four of us are all teaching at different schools, we all live at Hong Luo Si Middle School. We have one dorm room for the ladies and another for the guys. I thought my dorm days were over after graduation! Guess not. =)

We spend Monday-Friday working from morning to the evening. Our main goals as foreign English teachers are to stir up excitement in the students to learn English and to improve their oral English and listening comprehension. As a result, we don’t teach grammar lessons.

No. 4 Middle School

Jason Hartfield ’12 in front of No. 4 Middle School in Huairou.

At the schools, we travel around to different classrooms throughout the week. For example, there are 10 seventh-grade English classes at No.4 Middle School where I teach. Each class has their regular English teacher four days of the week, and me once a week. Having hundreds of students each week has made learning names a daunting task! I’m still working on it!

In general, all four of us have adapted quickly to life in Huairou. In just this first month and a half, we have already built many friendships with the locals and continue to learn more about Chinese history and culture.

We are all looking forward to the journey ahead!

As the weeks go by, I will continue to update this blog about our time in Huairou. If you have any questions for me or the other teachers, you can send me an email me at

Jason Hartfield ’12
Huairou No. 4 Middle School