Located in Ningxia Dawukou, Shizuishan Aston was built in 2014. Now we have almost 200 students. There are 4 classrooms, all equipped with interactive whiteboards. Shizuishan Aston is popular with local parent and is quickly becoming the number one English school in the city. There are 6 staff in Aston, and they are all hard-working and friendly.
Dawukou is located in the north of Ningxia Plain, with the Yellow River flowing from the east, and Mount Helan to the west. Dawukou is the political, economic, cultural, commercial and information center of Shizuishan city. The green rate of the Dawukou area reaches 35%. The Sand Lake is only 20km away from the city. Wudang temple, Helan Mountain, Ming Great Wall site and other historical and cultural heritage sites can be found both inside and outside the city. The peoples square, gyms, restaurants and other venues can be found within the city itself and are great locations to meet people. Dawukou is renowned for its Muslim cuisine, with famous dishes such as Yangrou Paomo and Shouzhua Yangrou. Hotels of varying quality are available to visitors, providing warm and comfortable places to relax. The city has a very relaxed atmosphere and the locals are extremely welcoming.
Here is a letter from our teacher: During my stay here in Dawukou I have felt very comfortable and welcomed. Parents are very interested in providing their children with good education. Beginning in grade 3 in primary school, students receive formal English education. This training continues through grade 12 in their high school. The local Chinese teachers are very capable in preparing their students for the various tests and exams which include English evaluation. However, oral English is seldom tested formally. Most of the local teachers will readily confess that they are not very confident in their oral English. It is in this area of oral English instruction that the foreign teachers are especially appreciated and seen as very valuable.
Parents are willing to send their children for English instruction before they reach third grade and to supplement the formal English training in their primary, middle school, and high school years.
Dawukou obviously is not Beijing! While foreigners are relatively common in Beijing (or even Yinchuan), Dawukou’s foreign population has been in single digits for as long as I have been here. Presently we have four foreign teachers (English language) at our college, Ningxia Institute of Science and Technology, on the eastern shore of Xing Hai Hu.
I have found that the reaction to and acceptance of the foreigners here in Dawukou has been very favorable. The people are quite hospitable and friendly. The children are generally very respectful and studious. The administrators and fellow teachers here are also very friendly and helpful. I think one key to good relations is having a supervisor or liaison in your school or business who can help the “newcomer” understand and become acquainted with the lifestyle and culture.
Ningxia’s name includes “Hui Autonomous”. A very significant proportion of Ningxia’s population is Hui. Most (but not necessarily all) Hui will classify themselves as Muslim. I am sure there are many Hui who are not religious. There are many mosques (2 large ones) in and around Dawukou. The Hui (and all others) whom I have met is very friendly and cordial. This is not the Muslim environment that one might associate with the Middle East or even in the western part of China with the Uighur.
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the smallest of China’s provinces, is divided into 5 cities. Shizuishan, Ningxia’s northernmost city, contains two districts (Dawukou and Huinong), one county (Pingluo), and many towns and villages. Dawukou (sometimes identified by the city name “Shizuishan”) is the seat of government and has a population of more than 200,000.
Since my arrival in 2003, I have seen continuous expansion of buildings and infrastructure. Dawukou has been spreading out and growing upward. Travel is very convenient: bus, taxi, bicycle, motor/e bikes... and, of course, walking. Dawukou is very flat and the streets, bike lanes, and sidewalks are very well laid out. When I arrived we had about 3 traffic lights. Now we have the traffic lights at nearly all intersections. The traffic has increased, but the flow is generally quite smooth -- except for the rush hours in the evening.
Taxis are readily available (initial cost is 5 yuan for the first 3 km). Buses are very regular and provide convenient travel on several different routes (1 yuan). Travel to areas outside of Dawukou is also available by taxi or bus.
The bus station in Dawukou is 5-10 minutes from most locations. You can travel to various locations, including the capital of Yinchuan quite conveniently. The airport in Yinchuan is about 70-90 minutes away. The most common means of long-distance transportation is by train. While most connections are made at the Yinchuan station (about 60-90 minutes), some connections are in Pingluo (usually listed as Shizuishan -- the city name) which is about 15 minutes from Dawukou.
The climate is quite dry with very little rainfall or snowfall. The summers are hot and the winters are cold, but not nearly as extreme as experienced in the Midwest of the US. I actually find the climate quite comfortable. People may “complain” about sandstorms, but the truth is that the incidence of sandstorms is very, very low; the inconvenience is very slight. In my 10 years here, I can recall only a couple times that the air was so filled with sand and blowing dust that it was difficult to be outside. Such occurrences are not long-lasting.
At an altitude of about 1,000 meters, Dawukou lies at the foot of the Helan Mountains (Helan Shan). Xing Hai Lake (Xing Hai Hu) is a large man-made lake which is at the eastern edge of Dawukou.
I have found little need to go beyond Dawukou for purchasing items. But if a person wishes to find more “western” items, he/she could travel an hour to Yinchuan on the bus and shop in a few of the decidedly western-type stores (especially for food and household items). I have found all that I really need here in Dawukou.
Food is very readily available in the variety of restaurants and small shops. Most menus will center around noodles or rice. The variety of dishes and foods can keep a person well satisfied. Perhaps the major difference between the local food and what most foreigners consider “Chinese” is the spicy flavor available (but most often optional) in the Ningxia/Dawukou meals. Dumplings (meat and/or vegetable fillings), noodles, vegetables, fruits, breads, teas, meats (chicken/sheep/goat/beef/pork) and fish are readily available. While pork is one of the most common meats served in China, obviously it is not served in the Hui (Muslim) restaurants.
Several street markets are located in various locations around Dawukou. Fresh fruits and vegetables and meat are readily available. If you prefer to shop in the supermarkets, you can find several very well-stocked businesses also.
We will provide single apartment will basic living facilities: oven, sofa, bed, bedroom, shower and kitchen unit.
There is also one very large Christian church and (I am told) one Roman Catholic church in Dawukou.
I have not felt any degree of “homesickness” during my stay here. Each year brings additional friendships and associations. Our college has grown from 800+ students to over 5,000 during my time here. Since ALL college students have had at least 10 years of formal English training (not all with the same efficiency or competency) by the time they reach college, they are able to communicate to some degree in English.
I would be willing and happy to respond to any questions you might have regarding living and working here in Dawukou.