And so a month has flown by since I completed my PGCE, yet for the first time in over a year I have no care for the time, day or month. It is only on reflection that I have realised this. This is the reason why I love travel!
Anyway, this week continued in the same unpredictable way that the last ended. We continued to be treated like the local celebrities that we are, have regular visits to KTV, drink lots of chinese wine and eat so much Chinese food. Life.
The first day brought about a long-awaited meeting with the principal of Liupanshui No.3 Middle School, the most influential man in the school. However, we first had to complete another day back at the summer camp.
Naturally I woke up in time to get to a street restaurant selling Pork Baozi and Jaozi. I have been so impressed that all of the girls have grown to love my favourite chinese foods. I have also made friends with one of the local fruit sellers. She is more than happy to give me her best bananas in the mornings.
I have now permanently acquired class 1, the most loveable yet disruptively energetic of all of the classes. A few of the younger children have adopted me as their favourite friend, which I secretly enjoy. I am enjoying teaching these children, despite the few little emperors that make themselves known with demands only a spoilt child can make regularly during the day.
The principal invited us to another round table dinner and insisted that myself and the other foreign teachers sit around his table to drink with him. We have learnt lots of new customs in Guizhou, such as the 3 shots of Maotai before commencing a meal out of respect for the host and being willing to drink upon request to whoever decides to toast to you next. The taste of Maotai is similar to what I imagine a liquid designed to kill taste-buds tastes like. However, after the first few the mouth becomes numb to the rest and you begin to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Despite this, it is still not my drink of choice, but the people of Liupanshui LOVE it.
As per usual we ended up in KTV with the Number One Bad Boy (Steven). He invited us to join the KTV manager (who I suspected was another hired lady, a suspicion that was unfair). Steven became the highlight of the evening as he began dancing with the hall whilst the girls sang Westlife ballads and left me to the Carpenters.
The following day at the camp featured a dodgeball tournament (justified by providing the rules in english). We had decided to do this for two reasons; the first because it is fun and the second because it is funny to watch the children lob the ball at each other. However, there was very little competitive spirit amongst the children. Despite the very successful athletes in China it appears that competition is not in the forefront of the children’s minds, not like it is in England anyway. My theory was backed up when the boys were given a football to play with. My experience with British boys is that they would find a way to make a competitive game with the ball but Chinese boys are quite happy to kick it to each other with no particular end product. This is something that interests me, but I also found quite frustrating. Competition is healthy.
Later that evening Oliver decided to take us to a Western Restaurant. Kaylieghs allergy to nuts means we now have to be extra careful with what we choose to eat considering lots of chinese food is often cooked in nut if not served with them. However, this decision backfired as Kayleigh felt ill after eating a Baozi. Oliver and Dina were clearly worried about how to help Kayleigh through her time in China. She pulled through though and we managed to get some much-needed shopping.
During the shopping I was able to by ample WangWang milk for my own personal pleasure. I have become so in love with the stuff that I have genuinely considered getting a tattoo of its logo, a boy with a heart-shaped tounge, on my torso. Thankfully I am capable of thinking twice. The taste of this milk will never be forgotten once it reaches your mouth. Heavenly sweet milk.
Throughout the whole stay in Liupanshui I have famously never been hungry, but it shouldn’t be such a surprise as we eat so much and so often. What is more surprising is my continuing weight lose. If I do have a tape worm he likes chinese cuisine.
After school today we went out for two meals. The first of which was to celebrate Alan’s 13th birthday (a student from the camp). Alan is a rather excentric young man with an effeminate manner but massive hands. He is a very likeable character and we were initially honoured to be the distinguished guests at his birthday party.
Fortunately for him his parents own a very successful restaurant and were able to offer us a lot of food in a posh round table. The restaurant specialised in fish, much to the displeasure of some of the girls. We were quite happy to have a break from the Maotai tonight but were not so sure about its replacement: singing songs for Alan’s pleasure. Fortunately this was a little light hearted and it was great to see Dina get involved in singing English songs.
Once we had stuffed our faces full of the best food Alan’s parents could offer we were ready to call it a night. Yet Dina received a call from Summer (the girl who’s wedding we attended). She invited us to join her husband for a walk and some BBQ food…why not?
Note: Summer married a man named Mr vegetable, thus making her Summer vegetable.
We met with Summer, her sister, Mr vegetable and his friend at a rather romantic bridge over the river running through Liupanshui. It was here that I was really able to chat with Summer and get to know her a little bit more. She is really interesting and it’s a shame we havent had the opportunity to work with her.
As it began to rain we decided to head towards a place selling chinese BBQ (not to be confused with out BBQs). These are one of my favourite places to go as it means you can sit outside with cheap beer and order lots of food to be cooked there and then (ignoring the odd slaughter of an animal, but at least it’s fresh).
Mr vegetable and his mate introduced us to a very odd drinking game (which Oliver made comical). In fact, I have decided that I want to write a sitcom on Oliver as he has the best mannerisms of any chinese person I’ve ever met. Juliette introduced her own game formally known as bakarrrkaaa.
The next installment of the camp featured the school talent show. Throughout the week we had been preparing a performance in each class to demonstrate individual or group talents in the class. Despite the lack of talent in my class I had the ‘cute factor’ on my side because of the 2 little girls everyone adored. For this reason one of them was asked to sing ‘you are my sunshine’ at the talent show. (Since it was a inter-class competition I saw this as a dead cert for a winner).
Additionally my class had put together a dance to a rather childish song about opposites. Still, it demonstrated their new english skills and provided entertainment for everyone in the audience. I did sense, however, that the teenage boys in my class felt a little old for a children’s song. Yet they did me proud. As per usual, Happy class came second in the overall competition.
Later that evening we had another birthday meal to attend to. Initially I suspected New (the girls name) had made up it was her birthday to get the same Olympic wristband I had given Alan the previous day. It turned out she wasn’t that desperate to put a cheap bit of plastic around her wrist .
Once again we were treated to a swanky meal at a nice restaurant. Unfortunately having 4 others in the group means that one of us has to sit out during Mahjong. I once again decided to leave the girls to it as the teenagers we were dining with seemed reluctant to leave them to play by themselves. This meant that I was able to sit with Dina and have a great conversation. Everyday we are becoming closer friends and both of us are a little confused about our similarities. We come from different worlds but appear to have the same views, likes and dislikes on most things. It’s quite scary.
Inevitably being at a 13 year olds birthday party we ended up in a cake fight. I managed to steer clear of becoming caked, but Cat and Juliette had a personal battle with each other, and neither of them won.
This friday’s highlight was meant to be performing Kung-Fu with the children, but I had an unexpected meeting during this point in the day which made for a very different and uncomfortable experience.
Dina asked me to the office after one of our classes where I was met by what she refers to as ‘the big boss’. He was slumped in his chair and smoking a cigarette. He immediately appeared provocative and intimidating. After asking me to sit down he asked Dina to translate his message for me. He told me that he needed a foreign face to represent his company in England. He then asked me, based on my experience of teaching in China and England, to be his general manager. He told me that he would be willing to offer me a substantial amount of money to do much less work than I would be doing in teaching if I gave up my teaching job. It seemed like a very good offer but I couldn’t possibly give up my job on the basis of one man’s random offer. He then offered me a cigarette, which I refused. He offered it again in a rather forceful and aggressive manner so I obliged and began to smoke it, reluctantly. I was later told that this may have been a test of my resilience, a test I failed. Despite this, it seems that there are many opportunities for me in China if I want them, and they won’t take much seeking. Bt for now I am happy to do what I am trained to do and teach in England.
I left the office quite shaken and Dina could sense it. She found the whole scenario quite funny and was quite amused at how scared I and Oliver seemed of the ‘big boss’. The boss didn’t seem so big when I found out his english name was Kevin.
Later that evening we went out for a meal with another of Dina’s students, Tristan. He had a rather good British accent because of his time at Worthing College and referred to Liupanshui as ‘bloody dirty’, much the amusement of all of us.
After a small meal, by recent standards, we went for a massage and a haircut. The girls had a lovely time having their heads played with whilst I had my hair cut like a chinese man. Still, they seemed to enjoy cutting a foreigners hair. Kayleigh had unfortunately made her hair up beautifully before we left the hotel. So she didn’t get a massage but remained elegantly coiffed.
We had decided to stay up for the Olympic Opening Ceremony this evening so went for a drink or two with our new hairdos. We eventually decided to have a beer outdoors with some BBQ food. As with everything Juliette and Beth are like me in their desire to try everything. So we got some Chicken kidney and snails to go with our chicken’s feet. Dina is a Hunan girl and people who know Hunan girls know that Hunan girls like their food spicey! Dina was the first to suck one of the snails out of their shell and her reaction indicated her body didn’t enjoy the chilli it exhaled. Still, Dina is addicted to spice and carried on through the pain. This lead us to ‘have a go’ at the snails. First I tried to eat one using Dina’s suck method. As soon as I sucked my throat reacted with a rejecting cough, my eyes filled with tears and I wasn’t sure if my lips were bleeding. The snails were spices and I’d lost a lot of man-points (especially as Dina was still munching away). Next were Juliette and Cat, both of whom enjoy some spice and both of whom struggled with the snails.
After that little episode (the chickens kidney was nice too), we headed back to the hotel. Dina and Sherry decided to stay in the hotel with us for our Olympic Party. The beers that we had drunk had opposite effects on Juliette and Cat to the rest of us. We all decided to get a few hours sleep before the 4am ceremony but they decided to go out and stay up. They later described the night to be ‘the best night of their lives’ but I am still not sure what I missed out on. There night ended, sitting in my shower with wet bums (from which liquid we will never know) trying not to wake Dina or Sherry. I decided my rooms won’t be hosting any parties from this point onwards. Old man?
When 4am eventually came we tuned in to the opening ceremony. Juliette tuned out after Jerusalem and Cat eventually fell asleep in a star shape on my bed, leaving me with the chair. I came in the evening with 2 double beds to myself and ended up in a chair whilst 2 drunk girls slept in my bed and another 2 chinese girls slept in the other. Still, I was able to enjoy the Olympic opening ceremony with national pride. I was so happy that this event had started.
The next morning was a kind of repeat of the night before, without the drunk ladies. We gathered all the children in one room and tuned into the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. Initially it was hard to gather their attention but once the meaning of each performance was explained to them they were engrossed, and so was I again.
Following that easy few hours and the afternoon it came to the point of the camp that we were most uneasy about, the homestay.
I was allocated to stay with Alan (who I’d already spent a lot of time with during the week). I would stay at his house and shadow him over the next day and a half.
We met at the hotel and then went with his mother to his restaurant. I was greeted there by his father and a few other rich men. They invited me to a game of Mahjong, which I obliged to and appeared to hold my own.
During dinner I had the customary 3 shots of Moutai (despite being forbidden from it) and a rather luxurious meal filled with the expected ‘eat more!’ from my hosts. Alan liked to put food on my plate rather than his, which I found quite frustrating but I already know this is part of their hosting.
Later in the evening Alan asked to take me to KTV. This is not something a British man does sober but I sat with him and his family and sang love songs upon request. I was already feeling like a bit of a puppet. Later his friends arrived to sing and watch me sing. Thankfully a girl called Mary joined us and helped me out with some of the English songs. When we got back to the house I was thankful the family put themselves to bed. It meant I could relax and watch some of the olympics without being asked to perform.
The previous evening was only a sign of things to come during the homestay. I was woken by Alan and greeted with some fabulous egg noodles cooked by his dad. They really were some of the best noodles I’ve had in China.
Myself and the other men in the house then went for a morning walk to stretch our limbs and work off the breakfast. I like this aspect of Chinese culture. Alan wanted me to do some kung-fu in the park so he could take pictures of me, I some how managed to avoid that performance.
However, the next part of the day was almost comical, if not very degrading. Alan asked me to meet and play with his friends (a 7 year old boy on a pushbike and a 10 year old girl). Together we were gong to play “a very exciting game”. I followed the ‘gang’ to an elevator where Alan pressed every button. The elevator then rose to the next floor where Alan got out and banged on a random door before running back to the lift. We then went to the next floor where Alan instructed me to do the same. I told him I didn’t want to but then he looked so disappointed. I reluctantly left the lift and taped on a random door before scurrying back to the lift. That was it, I was playing ‘knock-knock-ginger’ with Chinese children against my will. My life had hit a new low. I told Alan that it isn’t a nice thing to do to people on a sunday morning and I think he sensed my dis pleasure and cancelled the game. I felt like a 23 year old puppet and was beginning to wonder what the next 12 hours had in store for me.
I was so relieved when I came to our next stop and Beth appeared with her Chinese homestay partner. I wa snow not alone in the world of puppetry. Whilst Alan and the 7 other children played on small bicycle things I was able to chill out with Beth driving a rickshaw. Beth had been ill the previous night so was only just warming up into her homestay adventure.
We were then taken for lunch at the old town where we ate some lovely fried food. Again Alan was filling my bowl and not eating from his. I was stuffed within 5 minutes. The sight of Dina and the other teachers gave fresh hope that we would have some sane and adult company throughout the day, but they soon left to go shopping (as if to rub it in).
Our next stop, still with Beth at close call, was to dress up in traditional Chinese costume for the children to take pictures of us (at one point Alan actually used my arms as if I actually were a puppet). Secretly I actually enjoyed the dressing up. I did not, however, enjoy the themepark we went to afterwards. This was especially true when a ride that would not pass any safety tests at home took us upside-down upon Alan’s requests. Only 5 hours remained.
Eventually we ended up back at Alan’s restaurant where he asked us to perform a game in the car park. Fortunately we managed to stay inside as the food arrived. Again Alan hardly ate anything and made me eat double. I was close to bursting.
Thankfully we managed to get back to the hotel alive. The homestay may not have been enjoyable but it was certainly memorable and an experience I am glad I have.
The night ended by saying goodbye to Oliver, my one true male companion, as he was going to Japan in the morning. We relaxed with a couple of beers and some BBQ lotus root. I’m going to miss that man!