A Travellerspoint blog

Friday Feeling

overcast 23 °C

As Friday rolls around, I have to admit it has been one long week of teaching. I can't help but feel increasingly frustrated about my class of boys whose level of English is still much lower than it should be, as well as their general attentiveness - "What's the word for when we set a building on fire?" "Arson." "Good." "Frank what's the word for when we set a building on fire?" "Umm..." "We just said it" "Umm..." "I'll give you a clue, it's on the board" "Umm..." *Pointing to the board* "Umm..." *Exagerrated pointing to the board plus hitting board with hand* "Umm...". Despite the other teachers being well aware of this, I am still being asked to work through a book that is beyond them and give them assessments that I already know they don't stand a chance of passing, particularly if I have to wake them up in the middle of it like last time...

Aside from this, I actually do like the boys a lot, even if their answers to some of my questions are not quite what every teacher would hope to receieve and they insist on using words such as 'drumbility' with nothing I can say to convinve them that this is not a word.

My other class, the younger aged of the two, are excelling as usual, however I did have a disappointing lesson the other day as, all excited I was as the topic was ghosts and I had a whole collection of scary stories and thought they would too, it turns out that young people in China do not believe in such things. As in, not at all. As in, their love for me has dwindled slightly now that they think I am a crazy woman who is afraid of loud noises in the dark and once moved a glass round a table for fun... Oh dear. Let's hope I have better luck next week when apparently all fourteen teachers from the International department are coming to observe my lesson. Gulp.

On a more positive note, we took a dance class with some of the other female teachers after school yesterday. We were learning a traditional Chinese dance and it was lots of fun, however despite all instructions being in a completely different language to my own, I don't think I can blame this on my complete lack of co-ordination and inability to dance without looking like I am an extra in a comedy sketch...

This week I have also learnt:
- Dried beef is actually delicious, unless you're expecting it to be chocolate brownie, then in which case you will get a shock.
- Mosquitos like eating feet. A lot.
- Explaining the term'vaginal reconstructive plastic surgery' to a very innocent and naive assistant teacher is not a pleasant experience
and finally...
- It is often very difficult to explain parts of a language that come as natural to you. 'It is impossible to have too many pairs of shoes'. "Well it is possible, but we can say it is impossible when we are joking...".

Two hours until the bell rings. Bring on the Tsingtao!!

Posted by hannahinchina 23:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

Sunshine and Sparrows

sunny 23 °C

Having been given Friday off and this time, not had it taken away from us, Kat and I made a trip to Ningbo again as it was our friend Annah's birthday. We arrived, and after a brief 'country girls make it to the big city' moment of being in awe of all the clothes in H&M, we successfully avoided not buying anything and went and met Annah and Lindsay for lunch.

After lunch the girls had to go off to teach and so Kat and I decided to go in search of a pretty lake called Moon Lake. Despite being in the middle of the city, as soon as we entered the park area that surrounds it, all the noise of traffic and people seemed to disappear and we were overwhelmed by how peaceful and tranquil it was. It seemed to be a very masculine area with groups of old men gathered around stone tables undertreees playing cards, fishermen throwing their rods into the water and one man even swimming across the lake, crying out "Hello!" with a toothy grin as he came close to the rock we were sitting eating ice cream on, before he swam back to the other side. The only disappointing part about Moon Lake was the locked up pedlo boats that we had so desperately wanted to go on. However, I have my eye on a little evil swan boat and so hopefully we will be able to go in it before leaving China.

After the lake, we wandered around some small shops before walking back to Annah and Lindsay's flat to wait for them. A quick power nap achieved and we decided to go for dinner at the little eating place just across from their building. Having built up the confidence to now walk into places like this and order select dishes with our basic Chinese, we were perhaps feeling a little too cocky. We usually end up with delicious food and are rarely disappointed; even the duck soup from Shanghai had a nice flavour if you ate around the insides! However, today clearly was not our day. After some pointing and "Hao hao hao" (ok, ok, ok) with the chef, we sat down to wait for what we expected to be two bowls of beef noodles. Nothing could prepare me more for what I received but it can only be described as chopped up sparrow in a bowl. To be honest, it could have been any bird but the spindley bones, tiny features and black skin led me to believe it was one of the smaller varieties.

Somehow, Kat ended up with the requested beef noodles (how saying one thing and holding two fingers up could mean we wanted different things, I am unsure) however, with grey meat and a broth that tasted like whatever creature was floating around in my bowl, she wasn't too kean on her dinner either. To make it worse, we had both been given a warm beer to accompany it. We deliberated for an unnatural amount of time about ways to escape, such as pretending we had received a phone call that meant we had to leave or asking for the noodles to be taken away before, in the end, I made the executive decision that we should both man up and pay and leave the shop. We then hurriedly went to buy some dry cereal to take the taste away, naturally the food anyone would turn to, and of course, some cold beers and then went back to the flat.

When Annah and Lindsay returned we lit some candles on a big cake that Annah had been given from her school and sang to her. After this we headed out to the bar street for some serious celebrating. We went to a bar that we usually go to called Office, which at the weekend is packed full of Westerners, most of whom are either teachers or studying at Nottingham University which actually has a faculty here. It was someone else's birthday too and so there was a big party involving lots of beer drinking and dancing on tables and the bar. After a good few hours here we decided to move on to take a taxi to a nightclub. However, not before we had ridden some KFC takeaway bikes, had our photo taken with a dead rat and I had had to act out 'going to the toilet' to a man in a restaurant before he understood what I meant and allowed me to use his facilities.

The club was pretty busy and very lively but after an hour or so, Kat and I decided to go in search of some food (clearly unfulfilled with sparrow bowl and cereal of the dried kind). The food outside the clubs in China involves lots of different things on sticks which you pick and put in a basket and then wait for it to be pasted with herbs and spices and then barbequed. It tastes delicious. This particular vendor had a marquee tent which we sat underneath whilst we waited; Kat for her meat sticks, me for my barbequed cucumber and green beans - don't knock it till you've tried it!

At around 4am, we returned to Annah and Lindsay's flat where Kat and I assumed our usual passing out positions on the sofa. The next morning, we continued with tradition and went to Starbucks for breakfast, slowly waking up whilst clutching hot milky coffee and watching people out the window from our regular armchair spot.

After this, Annah left for work and Kat and I went to visit a temple. The weather was lovely; hot and sunny and perfect for strolling around outside. Although the temple was in the middle of the city, it is actually one of the nicer ones I have visited, purely because there was not the usual throng of tourists and it was more or less empty. We bought some incense from outside and burned it in the way we had been shown on our trip to Putoshan Island which provided a nice spiritual moment. The best moment came however, when a monk took an apple off the alter in front of a giant Buddha and gave it to Kat, causing much confusion and pondering over whether or not she was supposed to eat it. She did in the end and is not spiritually enlightened.

After the temple, we went and sat in another park by a river, sprawled out in the sunshine and took an afternoon nap, much to the amusement of some passers by. As the afternoon began to disappear, it was time to take an overcrowded bus back to Beilun where we stood for the whole one and half hour journey, which again was made much more bearable with the use of an ipod.

On Sunday, we were supposed to be working, however on my way to the office, I bumped into my assistant teacher Sarah who informed me that we actually had the day off. Obviously, I was very pleased as it was another beautiful day, yet I couldn't help but wonder how I would have found out about this vital piece of information if I hadn't been walking past the school gate at the same time as her, and I was yet again baffled by the school's notion of just changing their mind at very short notice.

Dwelling on it for no more than two minutes however, I went and sat on a rock in the sunshine next to the pond outside my room and read my book for a couple of hours before the peace and quiet was interupted by the students returning from home and I had to respond to the many waves and calls of "Hannah!" and "Hello teacher!".

Kat and I went for a walk and then went to the supermarket to buy a picnic to take to the park, although it wasn't quite the ginger beer and triangular sandwiches feat we had in mind...After a few hours we returned to school to do some lesson planning and private tutoring.

It was soon Monday morning again and I woke up with impaired vision due to a swollen eye which I can only put down to either a) being bitten in this area by the mosquito I shared my bed with last night, or b) smacking myself in the face to avoid contact with said mosquito. Apart from this, the day went quite soundly and I had fun with both my classes. Sadly, my computer is well and truly broken and so my evenings at the moment are involving lots of Chinese tv, yoga on my floor and reading, reading, reading. I also had a run in with little baby cockroach who was allowed to live in the door frame but who suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, turned into big daddy paparoach scuttling behind the toilet. He is now a gooey mess in my bin...

Posted by hannahinchina 17:03 Archived in China Comments (1)

Rained Off

rain 25 °C

I think this has to be the only country in the world where you are given a day off, asked about your plans for the day off, told to have a lovely few days off and then are called at 7.30 in the morning on your day off and told, "Actually, you have to come into work". Hmmm.

The reason for our time off was due to a school sports event, but obviously it was raining and the students couldn't possibly get wet. I hurried to my first class which started at 8.30 and told the students they would be spending the whole lesson learning and writing all the words that we have talked about this week. A sea of extremely disappointed faces looked back at me before I announced that I was only joking and we were going to watch a movie, and the disappointment turned into clapping and cheering. Bless their little Chinese socks. I love making them happy. What I had in mind for the movie was something Disney related or an equally lighthearted film, however they informed me that actually they wanted to watch Final Destination, and so I spent my morning wake up time watching people get crushed in escalators and electrocuted which I watched from the back of the class with my hands in front of my eyes as the students laughed and pulled their chairs closer to the screen...

After the lesson, we were told that the sports event was back on and I could go back to my day off. Thank you? Can I have my lie in back please.

I returned to my room and Kat (who had successfully avoided the early morning phone calls and door knocking) and I hurriedly got ready to go out for fear of it beginning to rain again and us being dragged back to the classroom. We went into Beilun town and discovered a whole new area next to an International college - most importantly, a coffee shop. No more Starbucks for us. Although I love the food and the culture here, coffee is one thing I miss and so it is good to know we have somewhere close by that we can go and spend rainy and relaxing days. Plus, you get to choose your own mug and put a stone with your name on it next to the mug on the shelf so that only you can use it. How exciting.

After this, we got straight back to being Chinese and spent the afternoon wandering through some tiny little backstreets where we seemed to be the entertainment of the day. We picked up some delicious street food from carts on wheels that literally serve some of the best food I have ever eaten, and we mingled amongst the locals - Nihao! A good few hours of walking later and some playing on the outside gym area (yes.) and we were ready for a rest, so we bought a beer from the shop and went and sat in a park next to the river.

Sadly, we could only sit and drink the one as I had to return to school to do some private tutoring (£15 an hour would be rude to turn down). My lesson with William and Jin was pretty hard going however as they had lost all of their races in the sports day, and I am very well aware of how upset boys get when losing any kind of sporting competition. I tried to avoid all talk of it and instead found myself going into the details of protesting with them before I suddenly remembered which communist country I am actually in....woops.

After this, Kat and I went to get noodles from a place which has now become a regular haunt, with the woman knowing exactly how spicy each of us likes our food cooked and what kind of noodles we want. With our stomachs lined, we attempted to get a taxi to a particular bar, however with only the name of it and no idea of the area or road, the taxi drivers were pretty stuck. The second driver we asked claimed to know but then ended up dropping us off at a nightclub in a completly different place. We had heard about the club and have kept saying we would go there, so despite it being only 9.30, we decided to go and explore. It was already quite busy and we ended up sitting at the bar with some of the staff and playing a very popular game in China involving dice and cups which seems extremely complicated after many beers, however after just a few is actually not so difficult. The games seemed to go on forever though and a crowd of people had gathered around the two foreigners. We will definatly return but this was not the night and so we said our goodbyes and left. Plus, we are supposed to be off again tomorrow but you never know....

  • To conclude, here are my current top five signs that I have become very adjusted to living life in China*

1. The Chinese national anthem is now my alarm clock and now, wherever else I may go to sleep, I always naturally wake up at precisely 6.30am with the sound resounding in my head.

2. Buying barbequed green beans on a stick seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to eat after leaving a nightclub in Shangahi and the thought of wanting a chicken kebab has been long left behind in Liverpool.

3. Eating vacuum packed tofu as a snack is a regular occurence.

4. Drinking 2.8% lager makes me drunk and floaty.

5. Squatting to go to the toilet is normal, and, even more worryingly, I feel very proud of myself for mastering the art of it.

Posted by hannahinchina 08:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shangy shangy shangy hiiiiii

overcast 20 °C

Starting back early at school after a five day break in Shanghai and totaling about ten hours sleep for the whole time, I suddenly had a realization. At primary school we used to play a game called ‘sleeping lions’. This was a fun game where the winner was the person who stayed as still and as quiet as possible whilst lying on the floor. I now understand this was clearly a game for when the teacher was tired and hungover. I can’t believe it has taken me twenty three years to realize this, but what a good idea. This is what I felt like playing with my class today but sadly they have too many desks and piles of books…

Shanghai was amazing. I have visited a lot of cities and although they all have something a little bit different about them and distinctive sightseeing spots, a lot of them end up being the same and you feel like you could be anywhere in the world. Shanghai was not like this. It felt like a completely unique place. A lot of the buildings are strange and round and they look a bit like spaceships, making you feel like you could be in a city on the moon. The amount of shops and shopping malls is ridiculous, and you would need at least a month to see all of them. The city also seems to be a perfect mix of European and Eastern. As soon as you leave the Western restaurants in the small winding streets of the French concession, you walk through a park with a turtle inhabited lake and you reach a Chinese market that goes on forever selling ‘antiques’ and Mao related souvenirs, with dumpling carts on every corner (nom!) and birds in cages hanging from walls.

It was nice to have a bit more choice for food and I indulged a bit with ice-cream, spaghetti and bakery delights. However, it wasn’t all non-Chinese. I ordered a lovely duck soup, which turns out contains mostly duck intestines, duck liver, duck lung and duck blood. Being open minded, I tried the intestines which worryingly I think I have eaten quite a few times before thinking it has been mushroom… I also tried some liver but I couldn’t quite face cubes of duck blood for lunch so I mostly just picked out the noodles!

Word had spread with everyone from the internship from Beijing and so there ended up being a good crowd of about fifty of us and it was great to see everyone again. This is the source of my tiredness however as there was something to do every night, including £5 night club entry with a free bar (uh oh…) and KTV (karaoke in your own private room, very popular in China).

I came back on my own late last night as Kat missed the bus and apart from a worrying moment when I got off the bus and couldn’t find a taxi, it was a good journey. The bridge that connects Ningbo to Shanghai looks amazing at night although sadly when captured on camera looks much less impressive. I also watched Twenty Twelve in Chinese and can safely say I could work out everything that was happening and do not need to see it in English.

I am now a walking picture of lack of sleep and too much beer and am looking forward to 4.30 when I can go home and sleep like a lion. Zzz.

Posted by hannahinchina 18:55 Archived in China Comments (2)

Now I know how the Queen must feel...

overcast 24 °C

Sometimes it would be nice to walk to the shop on a Sunday morning (you're first day of rest in seven days so the chances of your eyes opening fully are very slim) and not have to say hello to every child in the school. It would be nice not to have small babies thrust into your face on the way to the market and have to say Nihao and wave to every single one, and sometimes it would be nice to climb a mountain without people taking photos of the sweaty white people as they climb....however, most of the time I actually do enjoy this attention and will probably feel a huge ego knock, when on my return to England, I blend into the background and no one wants to wave at me in the street anymore.

Yesterday was Saturday. The weekend had finally arrived! However, I woke up at the normal school working hours of 6.45 as we had arranged to meet early with some of the other teachers to go and visit Jiufung Mountain, a mountain just ten minutes away from the school, the top of which is the highest peak in Southern China mountain range.

Despite feeling resentful for the first half an hour of waking that I was being forced from slumber at such an early time on my day off, the trip was completely worth it and a great day was had by everyone. We squashed six of us in a taxi, which apparently is perfectly acceptable as long as you beep your horn plenty of times along the way so that everyone knows you're coming, and drove to the foot of the mountain. A slow walk up, taking lots of photos along the way, and by lunchtime we had reached the middle point, a lovely waterfall, where we stopped to eat and sooth our feet in the cool water.

After lunch, the other girls were ready to walk back down, however Kat and I were eager to climb to the top of the mountain and initially agreeing to see the others at the bottom, they became swayed by our adventerousness and when we called them when we reached the top, they were on their way up too! The climb to the top started off as a nice steady incline, however with just 1km to go it suddenly became very steep and a lot of hard work. Seeing small children on their way back down though and a woman infront of me powering on in high heels, there was no way I could not do it.

It was very hot but the view from the top was worth it as well as the feeling of satisfaction. We had a bit of a rest before the others made it up to, knowing that we were already there as they had asked on their way up "Have the foreigners made it yet?", to which everyone on their way down knew the reply! Oh how famous we are....

Walking back down was hard work too as my legs started to turn to feel very wobbly, but we took it slowly and had a few well deserved rest stops along the way.

By the time we got back home, I could have easily got straight into bed, however Kat and I forced ourselves into town and went for dinner at an outside restaurant that we have started to become regulars at. Dirty tables on a dirty street but the tastiest noodles, where on arrival you are handed a basket which you put in everything from the fridge that you want in your noodles, place in the basket and within ten minutes, you are eating your wonderful creation. All for about £2....

Today, I have so far spent Sunday doing what Sundays were made for; generally doing nothing. Reality will return later on however as lesson planning must commence for tomorrow as well as a lovely two hour private tutoring lesson which was impossible to turn down or make up a good excuse for.

Peace out dudes.

Posted by hannahinchina 21:04 Archived in China Comments (0)

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