Binzhou is in Shandong Province, located on the famous Yellow River. It is a small city by Chinese standards with “only” 600,000 people in the city and 3 million in the county. The city is split into a new and an old city so while it has all the features of a bigger city it has the feel of a smaller city. Perhaps due to its small city status the locals are extremely friendly and helpful; more than happy to chat with a new foreign friend.
Binzhou is a perfect example of a real Chinese city. There isn't the international atmosphere of China's big cities and it is much more outgoing and welcoming to newcomers. The new and exciting differences you will find in the new culture and city are interesting and rewarding. From laughing over boiling hot orange juice to local artists you just met giving you impromptu demonstrations of their art, daily life is tonnes of fun.
Binzhou is one of the newest Aston schools; it opened in July 2011. It's located in downtown Binzhou near all the local amenities.
Teaching is very fun (How bad can playing games for an hour with 16 or less kids really be?), and you will be properly trained and supported by Chinese and Foreign staff alike. You'll work with great Chinese teachers who will help you with your lessons and classroom management. The kids are great, better behaved than your average Western kid, and are usually very excited for class.
Being new, the school looks awesome and has great classrooms, large teacher's room, and the much appreciated Western style bathroom. We also have imported a library of children's books from the UK, which is located on the second floor and can be used for class and browsing in the children's free time.
The foreign community is currently small, spread around various training schools, and the local college. So there are foreigners to hang out with when you want a break from the very fun and rewarding, but sometimes tiringly different, Chinese lifestyle. The Binzhou locals, it’s worth saying again, are extremely friendly and although most can't speak much English, a little language study on your part will go a long way.
The city has a wide range of excellent Chinese food, as you would expect, but also has some options for Western food with a German beer hall/Brazilian barbeque, a pretty good pizza place, standard Western fare in the big hotels, a steak restaurant, and immensely popular in China: KFC. Binzhou supermarkets also have a larger selection of Western products (especially cheese which is a rarity in most of China) then in some much bigger cities.
Binzhou is a good looking city by Chinese standards with tree lined streets and several public parks around some of the many lakes near the city. One park, Pu Yuan, has a great, large outdoor swimming pool, cheap and fun laser tag course, several amusement park rides, old men fishing, and a zoo. Also, as of writing a small golf course and driving range was about to open. The Yellow River is also nearby which is a nice place for a picnic by the beach. There is a nearby temple, Qing Huang Tai, commemorating what used to be the ancient shoreline where the Emperor sent his followers off in search of a mystical island he saw in a dream. A full-size, fake aircraft carrier graces a lakeside park in sight of a three-story steering wheel highlighting an eccentric, interesting city.
Binzhou city is in the north of Shandong, a four to five hour bus ride to Beijing and within easy reach of other sites: Tai Shan (one of the five holiest mountains in China), Qufu (Confucius's Birthplace), and Qingdao (one of several beautiful beach cities) being some of the more famous ones. It’s also two hours away from Jinan airport in the provincial capital which offers flights to all major destinations in China.
It rarely rains in Binzhou and summers are beautiful, hot and sunny. Spring and autumn are short and often consist of a month or so of quick temperature changes. Winters are cold with an average temperature of around -5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit). An average summer temperature is 30+ Celsius (86+ Fahrenheit) and while these numbers might seem too hot in summer and too cold in winter there is good central heating and air conditioning to keep you comfortable indoors and you really do get used to the temperature quite quickly.
Binzhou for some completely inexplicable reason has great nightlife. Chinese clubs everywhere are lots of fun with lots of dancing, competitions, and shows, and Binzhou is no exception. But Binzhou's bars are a class above. Usually Chinese bars are quite different from Western ones. They aren’t made for meeting new people, and often are either too loud or completely empty. Binzhou, however, has a few bars which are lots of fun.
There are always new and friendly people there to meet, the atmosphere is right for chatting and the bar staff and helpful and fun.