I teach in what can probably most accurately be described as a Learning Fortress. Housing, feeding, and indoctrinating 5,000 young, nubile bodies minds and souls is accomplished on the grounds of some dozen enormous buildings, each five or six stories (no elevators), each built according to ideals of Socialist-Realism: individually, you are small, but as a group, we are strong.
If it reminds you of an army barracks or prison, well, it sort of is. Fences keep the students in and unsavory individuals out. Guards are posted at the only entry point. Although the students are free to leave during their breaks, they have a strict study schedule that has them starting classes at 8am and finishing classes around 10:30pm.
They get two hour breaks for lunch and dinner, and the classes are only about 40 minutes each, but you can imagine how that leaves little time for anything else.
The students go to school 6 days a week, although classes only go until noon on Saturday. Occasionally, there are vacations and breaks (Spring Festival, combined winter break and Lunar New Year, lasts about a month and a half).
Surprisingly, the students seem pretty well-adjusted, healthy and happy. I mean, as much as I can tell with anything in China – life is very much about appearance and face, so they might be the same miserable little bastards I went to school with and admittedly was when I was in middle and high school.
Kaili, being situated in Guizhou, one of the poorer provinces of China, isn’t one of the most privileged and luxurious places to be a teenager. So a shiny, relatively new campus with nice facilities, good teachers, and, one would hope, supportive peers ona co-ed campus seems like a much better option than possibly living four-to-a-room with your family, during the hot and sweaty sexually formative years of your youth in the heart of Kaili, where pollution is much worse. Not that it’s all sunshine and flowers up here in the mountains; that haze is pretty much caused by the smog that is forever blotting out the sky here in China.
Looming over the school are the skeletons of several development projects, testimony to China’s burgeoning growth. If I were of a much milder temperament, I might be creeped out by all the spooky, deserted buildings, both within and without the school grounds… oh, and the abandoned amusement park that’s just up the opposite hill. If I were of a milder temperament.