China: Week 6

Week 6…week 6! It sounds a long time but seems a lot longer. However, this week flew by! It featured pumpkin soup, fits of rage, my first school trip and a casual trip to Hong Kong for the weekend.

Before I go into what has happened in the previous week I must mention Alex Song. I spent over a year putting a bet on him to score first for Arsenal and then he waits until I go to China to decide to get that first goal. What I hope is that someone realised that I wasn’t able to place a bet and has been doing it for me? Whoever it is, feel free to keep 50%.

As for this week, it started with me as a very tired young man (as is becoming a routine for mondays). I had arrived in the early hours on monday morning and was required to attend school by 7.30. After my morning lessons, which i got through without nodding off, I went for a little sleep before the afternoon. I could afford to miss lunch after being stuffed full of food over the previous weekend.

After school I usually stay around to eat dinner with the teachers and some of the left-over children. On monday I was invited into a classroom with one of the older teachers and the other teacher in her class. This woman is part of the furniture here, both feared and respected by the other teachers. I think shes lovely. The three of us sat down for dinner in the classroom at 6pm and didnt leave the classroom until 9pm. I had intended to go straight to bed after school but the coversation in the classroom was far too interesting to pass-up on. Mrs Li (or Stacey) knows everything about China and Chinese culture, both of which I am incredibly interested in. What she doesnt know about is anything outside of China. so, via translation from the third teacher, we exchanged knowledge. She told me about everything she had been through as China has been delveloping and her views, some of which we would deem controversial, on politics and race. In return I told her what language they speak in Spain and that Diana was not the Queen. I was amazed that such an intelligent and socially aware woman could be so ignorant about happenings outside of China. The conversation was definatly worth sacrificing the early night I craved though.

Despite this, I woke up overly energetic on the tuesday morning and really enjoyed my english morning, perhaps more than the children. Everytime I perform an english morning there is one child (you may recall from the sneeze in face incident) who continuisly hits me on the backside, which can get fustrating during ‘I am the Music Man’ as I am not a piano. I have attached a photo of this boy, James, and I think you can tell he is a naughty boy just from the picture.

I continued to feel engergetic as school was drawing to a close so asked the P.E teacher if I could borrow a football. She gave me one and I was a little excited about kicking a football, perhaps a little too excited. I quickly rushed down my dinner and called for Iain as he said he would be up for a kick about. It was important that we got going quickly as darkness comes early and suddenly now. We soon realised that football isnt the same with 2 people so actively seeked children to play with. We ended up playing against a class of primary school children, who basically play like drunk midgets. I was so relieved to finally kick a ball, it was a welcome bit of escapism from chinese culture.

However, wednesday I plunged back into being a Chinaman. After school I was invited by Angel (who refers to herself as my Chinese mother) to her house. For some reason she does not live in the school, but her house is beautiful. I did not really know why I was invited to her house (and was no wiser after leaving) but it was nice of her nonetheless. Of course I took my trusty sidekick Zoey with me. We spent the evening drinking chinese tea (honestly litres of it) and eating pumpkin soup and moon cake. Halloween is only just becoming popular here so the timing of pumpkin soup was nothing but a coincidence. Angel put her television on in the background, trying to be a good host. Since she couldnt find the english channel (which I was quite glad about as its just about the stock exchange) she left it on the football; China U16s vs UAE u16s, I had to look interested.

After a pleasant evening with Angel, myself and Zoey went back to our dorms. The weather is quite a lot colder now and long trousers are need. On the short walk back I noticed that I felt cold for the first time, quite an alien feeling.

Thursday morning was even colder than the previous night and many of the children wore gloves and scarves (bit extreme but I guess this is realy cold to them). Once again it was my english morning which I am genuinely beginning to enjoy. In the first few weeks I was dreading the english mornings but now it fits nicely into the routine and I dont really have to plan much as the children know the songs. It was this morning that I went on my first school trip (albeit over the road to collect leaves). Myself and another teacher took the children over the road to collect leaves, presumably to draw. It was good, although I had to keep my eye on James as he probably would throw himself into the road for some attention. The trip was good fun, even if it did run into one of my precious free periods.

At lunch I have two options: either to eat in the kindegarten with the teachers or go to the other school canteen and hope to bump into one of the other foreign teachers. This week I seemed to bump into Iain quite a lot at lunch. We discussed a possible trip to Hong Kong and decided there was nothing to hold us back. However, one of these lunchs revealed a part of his charector that I didnt expect, anger. I sat with him over lunch discussing our morning lessons when he suddenly got all flustered and started shouting ‘I hate them! I hate them!’ (in reference to the school children), he then preceeded to thump the table. I was a little embaressed as there were several chinese teachers on the tables around us. So embaressed that I raised my hand in apology, which may have made it look like I was the one who thumped the table or the one who made him angry. Anyway this side to his charector was suprising, but made him an interesting subject (still a nice bloke though).

Friday has often been the day that I least enjoy as the children are so young, but this week was totally different. In fact only one child in the whole year cried during my lesson. When she began to cry her teacher suggested I should hug the girl. I wanted to say ‘thats just going to make her cry more considering she is terrified of me’ but didnt and gave her a bear hug. she then screamed and tantrumed…thanks teacher. Other than that the lessons went very well, seeing if they can decide if they are a boy or a girl. Generally the children understood and could respond ‘i am a boy’ or ‘I am a girl’ correctly. However, one girl was so insistant that she was a boy that she refused to even point to the picture of a girl. It got to the point where I guessed she would discover herself one day.

In the evening I planned for an early night as I would be leaving early for Hong Kong. But instead I decided to clean my apartment. It hadnt been cleaned for years and there was definatly something living in the mop. But it was a pretty uneventful friday night as the last few go. I was very excited about Hong Kong.

Myself and Iain got up very early for the train. In comparison to the train that I took the previous week it was like travelling first class.In fact it was very much like an airplane in terms of seats and leg room. To think only a week before I was trying to sleep under wooden seats I couldn’t believe I was in the same country. As a result the journey went very quickly and smoothly.

Once we arrived in Hong Kong it seems that customs desire to fill up everyones passports with stamps. I have 2 pages of stamps from my two trips to Hong Kong which look impressive but take up a lot of passport room. However, that is the only bad thing about Hong Kong (other than its prices).

Once we were out of the train station it became clear that the two of us were in Hong Kong for very different reasons. Iain was intent on taking advantage of the many electronic stores whereas I was intending to be a shameless tourist. It was clear that comprimise was needed, which I was more than happy with. However I decided that it would be wise to find accomadation before we do anything else.

As we walked about I popped into random hostels asking for rooms, but they all seemed to be out of our price range. When I asked each one for directions to a cheaper hostel they always sent me to a place more expensive than theirs (business I suppose). As we sat for lunch I asked a waitress where we should go and she directed us to a place quite close. It was called Lucky House and featured 7 stories of beds. It was dirty, run down and slightly out of town; which must mean it was cheap. As it turned out it was (by Hong Kong standards anyway). We dropped our stuff off and began exploring Hong Kong.

I soon realised that I would have to be assertive if we were to get anything done so got a map and planned our weekend. I was quite keen to see the victoria peak, and since darkness would soon be coming I guessed it would be the perfect time to go there. I was quite suprised that I was able to follow the map and get to he right location, to the point of smugness. We queued for about an hour and then got a tram to the top of the peak. We then got a view of Hong Kong in the darkness from the top. The view was actually breathtaking (once again my camera doesnt live up). I actually couldnt take it all in, and still cant believe it.

Once we had been there a while we were getting hungry we decided to head down and get some food. As we passed an American diner I hoped Iain wouldnt see it…he did. I didnt want to object to eating there as he had come with me to a destination that I intended to visit. It wasn’t quite a Hong Kong delicacy but it was quite tasty nonetheless. we then retreated to Nathan Road (one of the long streets on the over side of the river) and looked in a few shops. On this road was a nice Irish bar, it was suggested that we have a beer, which I accepted (knowing full well that the Arsenal game was about to kick off…lucky me :p).

Once the game finished we made our way back to the apartment and put our heads down, knowing that the sunday will be a busy one.

That morning I woke up very early and started planning our day on the map (hoping/assuming Iain would agree with it). Fortunatly it seemed to include various tourist attractions with ample time for shopping, perfect. The first task was to walk to the waterfront, which is very much like what I imagine the view of the Sydney Opera House looks like. It was another jaw dropping sight and seemed a perfect day for it. We were also able to see the Avenue of the Stars (hand prints of Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan were all I recognised).

The next stop was my main request for the weekend (and also the one that was the hardest to get to). This was the giant Buddha. In order to get there we had to get a ferry to Hong Kong Island and then another ferry to take us 45 minutes to Lantau island. Once we arrived it soon became apparent that the Buddha wasn’t the first thing that greeted us on the island (as I ignorantly expected). Instead we had to get a bus to the Buddha location at a cost of $27 (about £2.50). As we sat on the bus Iain realised that niether of us had brought enough money for the bus or ferry back. I told him theres always a way back but I sensed from the atmosphere that Iain was getting a little stressed to stayed relatively quiet for the majority of the 30 mintue bus ride.

Once we arrived the Buddha dominated the view, which was again a spectatular sight. I decided to worry about the money issue later, but I knew it was playing on Iains mind (particularly when he suggested that he would ‘squash the bus drivers head’ if he refused to let him back on the bus; scary but also very funny).

I just found it amazing how such a large bronze statue could be put at such a height on such a romote island. I was amazed and baffled. But there is only so long you can stare at a buddha so we decided to head back. We pieced together the money we had and I then approached the bus driver asking if we could hop on a few dollers short, ‘of course’ was the response…of course it was.

After the bus journey we then had to get the ferry (with no money?). We got dropped off at 14:01 only to discover the ferry had left at 14:00; cue Iains next bout of rage, I love this guy! In fact I cant believe God could have created two such different people and put them on a romote island just outside Hong Kong together. As it turned out there was an ATM close by and we didnt have to wait too long for the next ferry. why panic?

The plan that I had made in the morning saw the next stop as another tourist destination, which, as it was getting late, seemed a bit unfair as we had done very little shopping. For this reason we then went around several stores looking for games and books. I have become a little bit obsessed with China and found myself reading many of the books on culture. I’m a bit wierd. What was most impressive about our shopping trip was that one store sold deoderant! at last!

We planned to get the last train to Guangzhou so made our way accross the river and walked along the promenade. At sunset this view was even better than the morning. I had had a really interesting time in Hong Kong but two days is not nearly enough to see it all. I shall be returning in the near future (providing they don’t keep stamping my passport).

As for the journey home, it was as smooth as the first. The weekend was a success and even featured a little bit of a problem on Lantau Island to create a real ‘adventure’.

ps. thanks for all your advice and comments, I have been reading even though I seem to be too rude to reply.
Thanks for the information on a contact Suse, unfortuatly I can’t access facebook though.

One comment

  1. Hi Todd.

    Glad you liked Hong Kong, sounds fantastic.. How is your arm now and are the mossies leaving you alone now? All ok in England except Mum is missing her son!! lol.. Todd I need your address so I can send you a parcel for Christmas, (Take it you are not coming home!!) Will have to conquer the Wii all on my own. Did you sort out the DVD player, if not I will look up how to play them.. The Inbetweeners is out and was going to send it over,, Can you send me your address please, I can print it off then.. You take Care, seems like everyone is looking after you,, I’ve been working the weekends so not been on line, got to work this weekend so if you have a free night I will leave the Skype on. Miss you and speak soon,, Mum xx

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