13.11.2011 14 °C
Friday was performance day as I had to give one of my classes in front of ten other members of staff from the International department. Quite what the purpose of observing someone who has been teaching for two and a half months is, I’m still not sure, other than to give her unnecessary nerves and remind her that Friday is not slacking off day, despite it being the end of the week. After trying to convince my students that we would all be able to pretend the other teachers weren’t there, and with a little movie watching on Monday bribery, it has to be said, they were amazing. I never usually have any problems with this class anyway, but on Friday I feel that we went into the lesson as a team going into a sports match. Most days when I ask them “Is everyone ready?” the response is a few mumbled yeses as the rest of the class takes this as the cue to open their books, however on Friday their books were already open and when I asked the same question, the whole class answered “Yes!” with eager smiles on their faces, proving that when I told them we were going to be amazing, they had really listened. I actually love them all and want to bring them all back with me. They literally are the loveliest people.
The lesson went as well as can be expected, however the feedback afterwards was rather blunt, as are many comments in China e.g. “You have a big nose” “Thanks…” and “You look like Barbie” “Thanks…”. Without beginning a rant, the school seems to tell me to do something one way and pulls me up when I try to do things my own way and then changes its mind every now and then, which seems to be the result of them not having actually decided how they want to run things yet. It is also a bit of a clash between the way they learn and Western learning. I’ll leave it there as this could go on for a while. I also realized in the feedback moment that I do not take constructive criticism very well, although I think I managed to defend myself whilst remaining professional. There were some nice and positive things said too but of course these were afterwards once I was already frustrated and their faces had turned into bottles of wine…
On Saturday, we had agreed to go on a school trip. Once the initial shock of getting up at 6am at the weekend had subsided, it was actually really nice to be up this early. As we waited for the bus to leave, we watched people doing tai chi next to the river and as the bus began its journey, it was lovely to sit and listen to my music as we passed by the sun rising above the mountains, and the sky turning from a misty pink to bright blue.
The first stop on the trip was an ancient Chinese town where, as well as the old wooden buildings and tiny, winding cobbled lanes, the people who lived there also looked like they had been there for many hundreds of years. In true Chinese tour group style, we were all given hats to wear and began to follow a woman with a microphone and a tall stick, however we didn’t really keep up with her after the first five minutes. The town was very pretty and we saw many old buildings whilst passing by women washing their clothes in the river that ran by next to all the houses. It was nice to see the students outside of their classrooms too although I think they all felt they would have preferred a different kind of trip.
The next part of our journey was a visit to a power station, apparently known as ‘electric tigers’ in China. As severe signs of pollution are starkly evident everywhere we have been so far in China, it was ironic that this power station was the cleanest and most modern place I have seen so far. We took a bus ride around the site and that was the extent of our visit as well as lunch before we had to get back on the bus and return to school.
In the afternoon there was a parents meeting which we had been told we could attend ‘if we want’. We have learnt that that’s not really what this sentence means, but we decided to take it as that and on returning to school, we left campus and took a walk instead. We discovered a hilly forest trail and walked by a river to the other side of town by which time it was getting dark and so therefore time to quench our thirst.
On Sunday, we got up very impressively early and took the overcrowded bus to Ningbo, this time delighted by a little boy who had to wee in the stairwell. After some very successful winter wear shopping, we went to a sports centre where there was a climbing wall. As Kat has a climbing trip planned with her dad in the new year, she wanted to practice and so roped (haha) me into coming with her. To begin with, we climbed on a wall freestyle which, as expected, I was pretty terrible at. However, when it came to the serious stuff and the harness and ropes, my confidence grew slightly as I was no longer afraid of falling. It was very frustrating though as every time I got to a high point, my arm strength and my little weak small veins would fail me and I would have to come down. It was also very tiring and so after three attempts each we could climb no more. Still, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon and we have plans to go back.
We got the even more overcrowded bus back to Beilun as it was getting dark where holding on the bars in order to stand and not lose balance was painful after the climbing. We went to our favouite noodle lady when we got off and I had a big huge bowl of soup filled with all the things I had chosen to put in it, something I will really miss when back in England.
Before we knew it, another weekend was over. This week we are beginning Mandarin lessons so hopefully I will be able to pick up a few more words alongside ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘noodles’ and ‘ok’. I also have to prepare for a daunting 45 minute presentation on ‘British culture’, whatever that is, which I will apparently be giving up my next Sunday afternoon to give in front of sixty plus people. Oh China…you really have challenged me.