Volunteer English teacher program in Zhongdian (Gyalthang)
The town Zhongdian, 3200m, is principally Tibetan but because of its on-going construction it is becoming a Han Chinese town. Fortunately the old town remains interesting with a strong Tibetan architectural character that has been recreated through a massive building campaign during the last few years - although unfortunately many older Tibetan residents have rented their homes to outsiders or been driven out by the higher rents brought by the tourism boom. Tourists flock to Old Gyalthang because of its quaint old-fashioned guest houses, cafes serving international cuisine, boutique shops, and lively night life. By day tourists visit the nearby monastery Songzangling, large and splendid and home to about 800 Tibetan Buddhist monks.
Conditions for volunteers
Most volunteers will be posted to primary schools in villages in (very) remote areas. In the villages there might be a lack of many things: electricity and telephone service (though some places do have mobile phone signal). You might even have to fetch water from a well or nearby river and cook on a cast iron stove with wood or dung for fuel. It is unlikely that you will have internet access.
We try to choose schools which are not too far away from Zhongdian, so at least during the weekend you can spend your time in town, check your email and visit with other foreigners.
For the foreign volunteer, life in the village can be quite isolated, especially if you don't have good language skills. If you have a friend who also wants to teach, we encourage you to request postings in the same village, so you can support each other.
Volunteers are most needed during the academic school year, roughly from September to January and February to June. The academic year does differ from school to school, and headmasters have been known to make last-minute changes, so it's difficult to say exactly when school starts and ends, and when holidays will occur. Most schools do close during the Spring Festival (week or two on either side of Chinese New Year), during the May Day holiday (first week of May), and the National Day Holiday (first week of October). Most schools have classes five or six days a week. Volunteers wishing to be absent from class at other times, such as Christmas, will need to request leave. We have very few requests for teachers during the summer holiday although sometimes special classes can be created at a school that would otherwise be closed. Volunteers willing to commit to longer stays will find themselves in far more demand than volunteers who want to teach for only a few weeks.
Travel Expenses to Zhongdian
Check www.flychina.com for information on international airfares to China. Domestic airfare between Beijing and Kunming, the capital of Yunnnan province, runs about 1600 yuan (US$200) one-way, or you can take the train for roughly 1/3 that amount. Airfare from Kunming to Shangri-La airport in Zhongdian is about 750 yuan (US$92) one-way, or you can take the bus (10-12 hours) for about $19 each way. There also buses from Zhongdian to the nearby towns of Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Dali, Diqing, Xiangcheng, Daocheng,
Living expenses in Zhongdian and at your school
There is a wide range of hotels and guesthouses in town, the cheapest start with 20Yuan (U$2.4) per bed. For a meal you pay like 5Yuan (U$0.60) for very simple noodles, about 12Yuan (U$1.5) for one Chinese dish with rice. During your stay at school, school will provide free lodging and also free food at the school canteen, though it will be very basic. If you don’t like the food they offer, you may cook for yourself and do your vegetable and meat shopping at the nearest market. Cooking for yourself, you might spend 1-4 US dollars per day, depending on the amount of meat and processed foods you prefer.