I’m getting closer and closer to leaving my city and heading out into the great unknown-to-me, aka South China. I’ll be honest I’m nervous. I don’t speak Chinese and it’s not an easy language I can fake my way through like Spanish. Once I’ve left the city limits and reached my first destination I’m sure I’ll be fine but breaking out seems riddled with obstacles. Which train station do I use? Which bus do I catch to get to the train station? Do I have to book tickets in advance? Luckily I had lunch today with a very kind friend who answered all my questions and even helped me buy the train tickets. So before I leave on a jet plane high speed train here is my final blog post.
Sunday 18th December
I make friends with everyone including dinner ladies I don’t share a common language with. In the new canteen there are several dinner ladies who clean the tables and floors all day long. I know most of them by face and chat/mime with them when I see them. One of the dinner ladies, we call her Aunty out of respect as she is older than us, invited me, Aimee, and Ping (a student) to her house for lunch today. Her husband (Uncle) picked us up from the university and took us to their house. On the way he treated us to strawberries which were so delicious. When we reached the house the Aunty was already preparing the food. We offered to help but her and her husband insisted on doing all of the cooking. Whilst they were cooking I walked around the house. Interestingly I saw a cement pond where neighbours gathered to hand wash their clothes – intense work!
After the delicious lunch the Aunty and Uncle gifted us with beautiful hand-embroidered insoles. It is a traditional minority craft, but one I don’t fully understand, as I think they are too beautiful to use! We were also taken to visit their daughter and granddaughter and a local tea park.
After a lovely afternoon with the Aunty and Uncle Aimee and I stumbled upon a children’s talent contest.
Monday 19th December
No matter how organised I am I never know what my day will hold in China as invitations are often made at the last minute. This morning for instance, during my office hours, a friend and fellow teacher, named Xing, asked if I wanted to choose some pottery from the Art Department before it was thrown away. “Goodbye!” office hours and “Hello” new pen holder and bamboo picture!
In the afternoon I taught Class 1 Tourism English for the last time. Unbeknownst to me it wasn’t just the student’s last class with me – it was the last class of their university degree! Had I known this in advance I might have made the lesson a bit more special – Oops!
In the evening I attended a Freshmen party by the School of Business, Chinese Policy and Logistics. A few days prior I received an invitation with a wax seal which was so pretty I daren’t open it. Like other Freshmen parties I’ve attended there was great sing, dancing and acting.
Tuesday 20th December
You never know who’s watching you. Yesterday when digging around for some half-decent pottery the Dean of the Art Department noticed me and realised there were foreigner teachers on campus. Next thing you know Xing, who’s an Art teacher, tells us we are all invited to the Dean’s house for dinner.
Have you ever gotten off a lift in an apartment building and instead of it opening onto a corridor it opens into a person’s apartment? It would seem the Dean is successful at selling his artwork and has a two story apartment complete with CCTV so no paintings goes missing. It’s no surprise as his work is stunning landscapes painted in traditional Chinese style. After touring the apartment and eating dinner we went to the fanciest karaoke bar I’ve ever seen. It was based inside a casino so everything shone gold. Our karaoke room was huge with shiny microphones and a mini stage. It was amazing – enabling us to release our inner Taylor Swifts, Lady Gagas and Britney Spears’.
Well before the glamour and glitz of the evening, at 9am in fact, I was at a nursery school teaching forty 2-3 year olds ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. I was asked to teach them it for a special performance on New Year’s Day. I had so much fun despite how tiring it was.
Wednesday 21st December
This morning Aimee also came with me to the nursery school. It was nice to have an extra pair of hands as 2-3 year olds get distracted easily and English is not their first language.
In addition to visiting the nursery school Aimee and I also exported our magic to Number 6 Middle School in the afternoon. We were invited there by a teacher who we meet in a park a few months back. That sounds a bit random doesn’t it? But I’ve noticed in China, at least the city I live in, people make friends fast (for example, swapping phone numbers in the street with no hesitation). Aimee and I were asked to teach basic greetings for 30 minutes. The children were lovely and the teachers too. It was really nice to visit them.
Thursday 22nd December
After teaching my last two Sophomore English classes, with only a blackboard, I had lunch with a student named Nina. Then in the afternoon I returned to the nursery with two students named Ivan and Ping. It was nice to see the nursery students again and to see their development. Going through the ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ flashcards was so much quicker today than it was on day 1!
Thursday 23rd December
At 9am I visited the nursery for the last time. This time Aimee and Ivan came along and Aimee led the activities. It was great to watch the children having fun doing a body-parts sorting game and then rehearsing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ in a horseshoe arrangement.
At 10am Santa Clause visited my last class of semester and last class with Class 4 Tourism English. The Class Monitor Bob donned a Santa hat and distributed lollipops to all the students. During the break I introduced the class to my favourite Christmas songs.
After class Bob and Amy, both Class 4 students, took Aimee and I to lunch. We ate an amazing hotpot which was really hard to stop eating. If it weren’t for our next appointment I would have stayed munching away.
Our next appointment, which Bob and Amy took us too, was a rehearsal for the Monster English Christmas party. The Christmas party was being held in a hotel and we needed to practice our entrance, stage positions and lines. When we got there I recognised lots more students – all of whom I taught Tourism English. They were at the rehearsal to learn about the roles they would be doing at the Christmas party. You can read about how the Christmas party went here.
At 6pm my best night out in China began. Little did I know but the Number 6 Middle School teachers we met on Wednesday know how to have a
good great time. First they showed Aimee and me a fancy wine bar with tasty food. Then they took us to a music bar with glitzy indoor fireworks, DJs, singers, and an elevated dance floor. Epic.