Apologies for not sticking to the Sunday routine, I was too tired to post anything last night.
Anyway, I have now been in China a month now and I am getting used to eating a bowl of rice twice a day and everything else that is different here. In fact, I love that nothing is the same here.
I had to work quite hard this week as it was a 7 day school week once again. A lot of the week was geared towards Friday; Parents Day. All of the teachers were dreading this day and in preparation they were training their children how to act on the day (basically cheating). Unfortunately for me, I do not stay within one particular class so I couldn’t practice my parents’ lessons beforehand. Instead I decided to observe some of the classes that I would be teaching on the Friday, but this made me more scared.
Thankfully many of the little children are warming to me. There is one particular little girl who will run 40mph towards me when she sees me, so I try not to make eye-contact first thing in the morning. However, my lessons seem to be relentlessly energetic and I end the day extremely tired (there’s lots of boys who want flying lessons in the class room). Therefore when Tuesday night came I was prepared to go home and have an early night. But up pops Angel (badminton lady) and asks me to join some of the girls for dinner (I had already eaten and they knew it). They wouldn’t take no for an answer so I took a short walk with no money to a restaurant. Despite being full I wasn’t rude enough to turn down free food, plus everything here is delicious even if I don’t know where the meat comes from. At one point one of the girls told me that there were conversations in 3 different languages happening at the table and that she only understood two of them. People are teaching me bits and pieces of a language, but I am still unsure which language I am being taught as everyone speaks Mandarin but the language of Guangzhou is Cantonese. I have been told my Cantonese pronunciation is better than my Mandarin, but I can’t really tell the difference.
I was glad that I went for the meal in the end. However, it can be very frustrating when I know that people around the table are talking about me in a language I don’t understand. I am thinking about filing a sexual harassment claim (does that count as sexual harassment?).
Wednesday came, and the lessons went very well. I am teaching the older children body parts, which they find really enjoyable I think. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes works well. To my surprise one of my lessons was filmed. Apparently the school website uploads one video per month to show the parents. I will try to get hold of the video so I can post it on here. The school seem to make sure parents know that foriegn teachers exist in the school. I think the school is quite expensive to attend so it is important the school shows the parents they are doing their best. I have never been used as a marketing tool before.
After school had finished and as I was waving off the children Tony appeared. He admitted that he only came to the school because he was in need of an English conversation. Therefore, after a brief game of badminton with several of the teachers in the playground (they are mad for it) we recruited David, bloke from New Zealand, and went for a pint. David is another foreign teacher but keeps himself to himself. I think he must be in his late 40’s and has a Chinese girlfriend. We didn’t go very far to get to the bar but I have never loved the taste of a cold beer so much. As nice as it was to have a beer and talk real English, the conversation got a bit cringe and I kept out of most of it. It appears that Tony has been very successful in setting up his own business in China, which means he has achieved what David wants to do. As a result David got a bit too excited about ‘tapping into the olive oil market’.
As Friday loomed I was very afraid of the classes I would have to teach in front of the parents. Unfortunately I have two year olds all day on Fridays, many of whom are capable of crying at any moment. For this reason I decided to go shopping in one of my free periods to get a hand-puppet (surely it would be less intimidating than a white man?). I ended up buying a puppet and named it ‘Chloe’.
In the Friday morning I had to perform the English morning in front of many of the parents, clearly watching their child closer than me, but I was still very nervous. However, when it came to my first lesson I was not really prepared for what I was greeted with. At 9am I arrived at my first class with the parents standing outside. The door had to be unlocked before I could get in and inside were children screaming in tantrum and many sitting at the window crying whilst trying to find mum. It was chaos! There was one boy who was unfazed by everything and walking around with a smile on his face, to the point where he looked a little odd.
Once the parents were finally inside and the children had calmed down I was able to start my lesson; on colours. Many of the children were still restless but it went a lot smoother than I thought it would be. In fact, Chloe the puppet was quite a big hit. However, some children decide to punch her in the face instead of saying “hello”. In all, the classes went more of less the same but I hope the parents are aware that the children don’t always get locked in a classroom until they can’t cry any longer.
Thankfully most of the children went home after lunch so it was relatively peaceful in the afternoon. Aside from the teaching the high-point of the day was being approached by one of the more attractive teachers and being asked “what shall we do tomorrow?” (a bit forward but nice nonetheless). However I had to tell her that I had already planned to go to an art gallery with the art teacher, Zoey. Joy!
This was not the end of the day though. It was now time for the kindergarten social/principals birthday. As I was getting ready I decided to do a little bit of research on the place we were going, KTV. The internet informed me that these are often brothels disguised as karaoke bars. Therefore, as I was going with 20 women, I was apprehensive about what lay ahead of me that night. We departed in a school bus from the school at 8pm. At this point I was the only male, but Tony and the principal’s husband’s friends would meet us there (thankfully).
When we arrived I was a little overwhelmed. The girls immediately started eating fruit and singing karaoke and egging me to join them. Then, by my surprise, they suddenly started drinking far too much alcohol for their little bodies. So now they were eating fruit, singing, playing a weird little dice game and drinking. No-one seemed to be embarrassed about singing so I was forced up quite early on and made to sing many Westlife songs (big here apparently). As the night wore on the men began to behave a bit manly. The owner of the club came into our booth for a while and asked me to down a jug of the drink people had been having shots of. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of my workmates so declined. However he managed to get everyone to clap and pressure me so I had to down it. I was quite pleased with myself afterwards but my biggest mistake was downing it faster than him…now all the other men wanted to beat me (o no!). Thankfully I made it through the night though. As it got to 3am I was ready to go home and hopped back onto the school bus. However we ended up going to a late night restaurant for more rice, meat and wine. It was a fitting end to a truly great night.
As promised I got up early to go to the other side of the city with Zoey. She seems to be picking up English very quickly and she is also trying to teach me vocabulary (I set her and another teacher english homework each night which they take very seriously). We eventually arrived at the Art Exhibition. She was really into all of the paintings of grapes and rabbits but I struggled to be enthusiastic about it (but acted as if I loved it). What I preferred was the Tibetan art on one of the floors. The original artist was there and approached me speaking English. After a brief discussion he gave me his business card and told me to contact him if I want to go to Tibet (he said they are always looking to work with foreigners). I have been considering venturing to Tibet but I think he presumed I was some kind of artist. I’ll keep hold of his number though.
Once we got back I intended to sleep for a few hours as I had got up early. But I received a text. It told me to meet at the bus stop at 6.20 for some badminton…again? What was different about this one is that I would be playing some of the parents of the children I teach. Anyone left to play with? Anyway, I decided to play, with the intention of getting back for the 10pm (3pm UK time) football kick offs. We drove out of the city for about half an hour and arrived at a sports centre containing about 20 badminton courts. Here we played for about 2 and a half hours, I was literally dripping with sweat. This also meant I was pushing it in terms of time.
Badminton was finished, and we got back into the car. However, this time we drove in the opposite direction to the school (‘Am I being kidnapped?’ was my initial thought). As it turned out we went for a meal with many of the people on the other badminton courts. Of course I once again got the sniggers for being left handed but I have got over that now. Despite being in a very awkward situation, the food was incredible. The restaurant was clearly very posh and I think the meal may have ranked in my all-time top 10 (I am unable to recall the other nine though). If Chinese takeaways cooked real Chinese food they would make a fortune…cookie :P.
I eventually made it back, with all the football matches about to finish. Thankfully the Arsenal highlights were on straight after the games finished.
It has been a while since I have been able to sleep my required 8 hours and Sunday was no exception. I, Iain, Benny and Kevin went to the Waterpark. Sunday was the last day of the season so it was our only opportunity to go. When I woke up I was greeted with a text from Zoey asking to join us. So we had 5 people for the trip. I don’t think Zoey entirely knew where we were going because she initially forgot a towel and then had to buy a swimming costume once we arrived.
Anyway, the Waterpark was really good; basically a generic Waterpark. Unfortunately for Iain some of the rides had height limits that he exceeded. He also refused to take his t-shirt off in the beginning so missed out on some of the rides. However later in the day we were able to go on all of the rides together. Thankfully I was with a great bunch of people, which made the day even more enjoyable. I also think it was the first time Zoey had been swimming because she was quite afraid of the water and struggled to stay afloat (probably quite funny to a bystander).
We returned home and ate some food at the nearby restaurant, but we were all knackered and ready for bed as it had been a long week/weekend. I noticed that I had a bite on my wrist that didn’t look like a mosquito bite.
In fact, today (Monday) I woke up with a red mark that stretched up my arm. For this reason I was told by the school doctor to visit the local GP and get some medicine. I have been informed by one of the school teachers that the Waterpark may have contained some sort of snake (don’t panic Mum I don’t think its life threatening :P). As people don’t seem to be too worried here I kind of hope it was a snake that has bitten me, and will now tell people that I was once bitten by a snake.
I have written this very quickly so sorry if some of it doesn’t make sense.