12.09.2011 26 °C
After completing our first week of teaching, which felt like about a month, we very much welcomed the news that we would be getting a four day weekend, due to it being Teacher's Day on September 10th and Mid-Autumn Festival on Monday, a day in order to celebrate the moon!
As the bell finally rang at five o clock on Thursday, Kat and I literally threw our books into the air and scrambled to the door. We had a bit of an awkward moment, when, as we marched out the door to the sound of the Chinese National anthem, waving our arms in the air and singing an improvised and on the spot song about beer, we realised that everyone else was standing respectfully and in silence to listen to their patriotic song...However, this did not seem to cause too much offence as we were then informed that we could go to the school gate and collect our free gift of a box of mooncakes; a traditional cake eaten on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival. These cakes range from being tasty to having what you think is a pecan nut in the middle which turns out to actually be something squidgy that tastes of fish.
A few well deserved beers and a late curfew later and our Friday plans of preparing all our lessons in advance for Monday had flown right out of the window alongside the mosquitos. We spent the day relaxing and wandering slowly around the town, feeling as though all of a sudden the past week had really caught up with us.
After an early night, we woke up on Saturday at 6am, to be ready for 7am when we were to be taken on a trip. The trip had been organised by Grace, the lady in charge of the International department in which we work, and Mr Jing, the man in charge of many international departments throughout the province. Grace and Mr Jing knew that we had been to visit the beach but had told us that there was a much nicer one to see which was on an island called Putuoshan which is where they were taken us on Saturday, alongside each of their sons.
The drive to the main island took almost three hours and then once there we had to get a small ferry onto the actual Putuoshan Island. Once we arrived, we took a private bus right to the top of the island where there is a very famous Buddhist temple. Although I have visted many temples over the course of my travels, it was very interesting to go with Grace as she explained to us what everything meant and what the Buddhas represented. Mr Jing also bought us insence and they showed us how to burn it and pray. Mr Jing speaks no English and so I thought it was going to be a very awkward day, however he was very enthusastic, taking pictures for us and showing us things and Grace did a very excellent job as translator!
After the temple, we went for lunch overlooking the sea. We picked our own fish from some happily swimming creatures unaware their lives were about to end, and enjoyed a seafood feast of about six different types of mussels, crab, squid and seaweed to name but a few dishes. With lunch over, we went on the see a huge Buddhist statue, some more smaller temples, a beautiful beach (where we even got Mr Jing paddling in the sea with his trousers rolled up!), a lake covered in lily pads and then a steep mountain walk to get us back to the ferry port.
Back on the main island, we were taken for dinner which was another delicious banquet of ocean creatures, including caviar, which left me feeling as though I had eaten far too much seafood than is normal for one person to eat in the same day and will leave me in a state of extreme guilt next time I go swimming in the sea!
It was a long ride back home to the school, but it had been a great day and so completly worth it. Mr Jing had paid for every single thing not to mention driving all the way there and back and it seemed as though he wanted to thank us personally just for doing our job. I was very overwhelmed by his generosity and even as Kat and I tried to give him a small gift when we got out the car, he seemed very upset that he had nothing for us, promptly jumping out his seat and giving us each an apple from the car boot! This seems to be the level of kindness I have experienced so far in China, with everyone wanting to greet you and find out about you rather than judge or offend.
Still aching slightly from our mountain hiking, Kat and I got up early on Sunday to take our long awaited trip to Ningbo. We arrived around midday and spent the afternoon discovering what delights Chinese clothes shops had to offer before meeting up with our two friends from the internship, Annah and Lindsay. We had a good catch up over a few drinks at their apartment and then headed off to a greek restaurant where we had dinner with some other people who are out teaching in Ningbo. The new people were all lovely, however slight social awkwardness problems meant that we had to do a lot of the talking! Our "greek" meal over (there is a reason why there is only rice and noodles in China...) we went out to see a more lively nightlife than our hometown Beilun and spent the rest of the night chatting away and dancing with a crowd of crazy and sweaty Chinese people. As in it was very hot and crowded, not any kind of racial comment...
This morning, we all woke up dreaming of fry-ups and toast and jam that we couldn't have and so we paid a little visit to Starbucks to cheer ourselves up, where a latte and a blueberry muffin never tasted so good!
Forgetting it was Mid-Autumn day, and probably one of the busiest days of the year, Kat and I then got the bus back to Beilun. It turns out it is also 'see how many people you can fit on a bus day', and just when we thought no, there cannot be anymore room on this bus for even a fly, the doors continued to open. Thank the Lord for if I listen to my music loudly enough I can pretend I'm not here Ipods.
Arriving back, I remembered now why I had wanted to do all my lesson planning on Friday. A feeling of Sunday night = homework, swept over me, which I have not experienced since back in the day in 2006. I have now given up and written a 'To Do' list of everything I need to complete early tomorrow morning, when another week begins...