Arrival in Shanghai 2013

This spring, Peddie continues its longstanding relationship with EFZ-Shanghai with a visit to China by three Peddie faculty members. Art teacher Andrew Harrison, English teacher Eric Gustavson and former French teacher Anne-Marie Gustavson will be experiencing life and teaching in Shanghai. Below is their first report, penned by Mr. Gustavson.

After an uneventful and relatively comfortable 15-hour flight (highlighted by a second viewing of Searching for Sugarman), Andrew Harrison, my wife Anne-Marie, and I arrived safely in Shanghai Tuesday afternoon, just after a torrential downpour hit the city.  Amy, an English teacher at EFZ, met us at the airport and conducted us to the school.  Once there, we were taken to our rooms, quickly toured the campus, and then headed to the dining hall because they stop serving dinner at 5:15.  Afterwards, we returned to our rooms, unpacked and tried to stay awake as long as possible to try to get on Shanghai time, which is 13 hours ahead of Peddie time.  (As I type this at 1:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon in Shanghai, it is Wednesday midnight at school.)  None of us lasted long.  Even I, totally a night owl, was asleep at 8:30, and we all were awake for long stretches during the night because of the time difference.

We had no difficulty making it to breakfast at 7:15 on Wednesday to start a busy day.  We met several English teachers in the morning and visited a class with over 40 students, who had a very animated and active discussion, revolving primarily around The Phantom of the Opera.  At lunch, we met with Shaun, assistant head of school, a frequent visitor to Peddie, and Jason, who is in charge of international programs.  After lunch, Amy took us via subway on a 20-minute trip to Lujiaziu, the futuristic center of the city, dominated by the 1,500' Oriental Pearl Tower, which comes out of a science fiction movie and looks like a rocket ready to take off.  It is surrounded by many other spectacular and unusual buildings, some of which are so monumental themselves that the Pearl Tower is no longer the tallest building in town.  After some shopping in a ten-story mall, we headed back to campus just in time to crash and sleep through dinner, so we later ended up heading down to a shopping mall five minutes away.  On the way into the complex through a narrow passageway, we resisted various outdoor vendors who were selling everything from gyros and other grilled meats, to crepes, and hot pots, and even hot dogs, plus a variety of foods I had never seen before, and eventually chose a restaurant where we could only order by pointing at pictures.  We ended up with quite a scrumptious meal of Thai chicken, spicy eggplant, and fresh veggies.  That evening we lasted substantially later before falling asleep and woke up this morning at a more reasonable time.

This morning we had a tour of the “innovation” section of the school, which included their arts program, much to Andrew’s delight.  Then we met with the eleven students who will be coming to Peddie next month and made plans to meet with them again before we leave EFZ.  They were a charming group.  This afternoon, we will be visiting another English class.

Some quick impressions:  the school has an impressive and very practical layout.  Classes tend to be large, but the students are lively and engaged, and they like to laugh.  Several of them have come up to us spontaneously around the campus to talk a bit and to welcome us to their school.  Many teachers have also gone out of their way to welcome us.  One of the charms of the school is that the playing fields are well-integrated into the campus and that students are using them all the time.  All day, students are outside shooting hoops, playing volleyball, or kicking a soccer ball around, or they are inside playing badminton.  Andrew got into a pick-up basketball game this morning.  The happy sounds of kids at play give a special feel to the school.  In gym classes, also outside, students are trying to master the fine art of throwing a spiral with an American football.  I have to admit that I didn’t expect to see that.  This morning, the students began the day on the playing fields with the national anthem and a mile-run (everybody!) around the track. 

We all enjoy the energy of this campus and the friendliness of the faculty and students.  We are looking forward to becoming involved with life on the campus and also getting to know this great city more.