Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ink Blots and Broken Specs

This week I have been teaching about Daily Routines. What you on school days and weekends. Pretty routine stuff but I remember doing it for both French and German when I was in High School, so I thought it was probably the sort of thing that I should be teaching them.

The main part of the lesson is based around writing a paragraph or two on the school day:
"On School days I usually wake up at 6am. I get up,have a shower,clean my teeth and get dressed. I then eat my breakfast at 6.20am. I usually eat toast with jam and drink milk. I leave for school at 6.45am. I usually walk to school and it takes me 20 minutes. I arrive around 7am, our first class is at 7.45am. We have our lunch at 12pm. I usually eat rice and vegetables. In the afternoon we have two more lessons. My favourite subject at school is English. We finish school at 5.25pm. In the evening I like to listen to music and play, but I must also do my homework. I usually eat my supper at 6.30pm. I like to eat Dumplings and Noodles. I clean my teeth and wash my face and go to bed around 9pm".

This was a very good answer. Most of the children worked hard and took part well. It made me realise how hard they work and what sort of lives they lead.Especially when you consider school is 6 days a week for them. When I asked them to do weekends they consisted of going to school, doing homework and watching TV. Only the occaional one or two actually did something fun. The senior kids even have to go to evening classes which last until 9.30pm. So they have even less of an opportunity to actually do anything fun.

The lessons have gone quite well, one or two trouble makers as usual, but I think that is always going to be the case. The worst was a boy who thought it a good idea to throw a leaking pen across the classroom. He covered the walls, desks and floors in ink; as well as the clothes of 8 girls. I absolutely lambasted him in front of everyone, made me stay on his hands and kness picking up paper and rubbish all lesson, brought him back at break to clean up the ink and had him apologise to all the girls personally. Think that did the trick. Ben Dai! Idiot!

One of my favourite hobbies in China appears to be breaking glasses. In litle over 3 months I have broken 2 pairs.Now that I am a primary school teacher I appear to be regressing back to how I was in Primary where I easily broke a pair of glasses every fortnight. I think they actually kept glasses waiting for me just in case I came in.

I broke one pair playing football, so I bought a replacement and today I broke the replacement whilst teaching. It was at the start of the lesson and made it hell for 30 minutes. I could not see whether they actually working and when It came to correcting the work it was very difficult, but this was the very naughty class and they seemed to behave better because of the glasses-so maybe I should break glasses more often!

This weekend marks 100 days and 100 nights in China so we should do something fun. I'll keep you updated.

Thanksgiving....Whatever that is?!

So last thursday was Thanksgiving Day. This is America's biggest public hloiday of the year, the people we live with tell us that the whole country gets the thursday and friday off work so everyone has a 4 day weekend. I think England could do with inventing a similar holiday and giving us all a nice long weekend. Despite it being such a prestigious occaision all I gathered that the yanks actually do for Thanksgiving is eat lots of food, drink lots of beer and then watch American Football- sounds like how I envisage every day in America.

Brock and Becky want to Pingyao during the week, so "celebrations" were held off until the weekend. We went back to the World Trade Plaza hotel for another of their splendid buffets. I had seen the Head Chef in the bar a few weeks prior and he promised that when we came back he would make it extra special-and he did not dissapoint. They had all the usual fayre such as steaks, lasagne and lamb chops. But they added a lovely joint of beef, a roast turkey (from which I scavanged a whole massive leg), huge cumberland sauages and then prime fillet steak that was cooked to perfection and they brought round to your table and carved you off as much as you like. Despite Dave and my promises that we would go slower this week and get the most out of our meal, as soon as the lady came over and inquired "buffet?" we launched out of our chairs and got at it. I think we both managed 3 or 4 heaped plates.

A few funny things happened. Across from our table was a little boy having a meal with his parents. He came to mine and Dave's attention early on in the evening because of the large plate of Watermelon he had carried to the table. There must have been around 12 huge slices on it. He slapped it down at his place and tucked straight in. Dave and I thought nothing of it until he made repeat journeys for yet more watermelon, and again and again. He must have eaten about 4 whole water melons. It was ridiculous. We gave him a huge cheer when he came back to the tables. We got a bit worried when he went to the toilet and dissappeared for about 10 minutes. We thought we had made him sick. He then came back, picked up another plate and carried on. Superb! He didn't even let the photo interupt him- look how proud his father is!

Also I managed to shoot a bowle of ice cream off my plate and on to the floor. I stood there red faced and laughing to myself thinking that I had got away wtih it, until Dave came in and dobbed me in.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Explanation.

Blogger appears to be working again for a while. So I've quickly copied across the posts and pictures from my Live Journal Blog-so all those that refuse to change or were not aware of the change can see the posts here. Live Journal will probably continue to be my primary blog as I can't tolerate the sporadic periods of up time of Blogger much any much but I will update this page as much I can. Think it's probably better to keep everything in one place if I can.

There is a link to my Live Journal on the left in the links collumn-top entry and also one just :
My Live Journal Blog

Some new pictures on FlickR as well.

Take Care

93 Days. 13 Weeks. 3 Months.

This week marked the third month that Dave and I have been in China, and for me a half time point in this little "adventure". So far I can say that I've enjoyed my experience and enjoyed teaching 90% of the time but at other times just wish that I had the freedom to travel around a bit more. Dave and I keep saying that we have to try and get somewhere a bit different next time we have the chance-I agree, we can't come home from China after 6 months and say that we lived in Shijiazhuang (where no one has heard of), Visited Beijing 3 times and Tsingtao once. Not really good enough is it?! In January Dave and I are going to try and get away somewhere for one last trip together before I go home, I fancy Hong Kong but we'll have to see how finances are.

The Second half of the trip is definitely going to be colder. Dave and I were amazed when we got here and the weather was so good. I certainly just presumed it would be freezing from the word go and that we'd spend our whole time here in big furry hats and long johns. Instead we had 2 months of nearly tropical temperatures which I think have made the sudden drop in temperature in the last week or so harder to take. So much so that I am actually considering going out to buy some long johns today-they're all the craze overhere all my class wear them!

The worst piece of news I've had in a while came on Thursday morning. Woke up for another day at the fun factory, bleary eyed and too tired to function properly. Slipped on my work clothes for wednesday and thursday-everything normal so far- and then I thought to open my curtains. My face suddenly dropped!

Whilst most kids revel in the delights of snow I can't honestly think of one thing I like about it. This mainly comes from having a bully of an older brother who used to thrust vast quantities of the dirty grey slush down my jumper at every given opportunity, but also from school where because I had an outside form room for 3 years getting to lessons was absolute nightmares and everytime we needed to cross the playground we were like sitting ducks- sound like a complete girl now I know. THe idea of 6000 kids waiting in front of the school in eager anticipation of throwing rocks covered in a thin layer of snow at the novelty foreign teachers is something I was dreading. Thankfully the snow we had on thursday wasn't enough to cause mass snow fighting outbreaks but it was enough to result in all my kids coming to class both looking like and smelling like drowned dogs- not pleasant. They are still making the kids do their PE outside in their normal clothes and this has just turned into a mass snowball fight which the teachers seem to allow. Dave has already caught one student with a 'ice rock' in his class, so I've read the riot act to my kids and told them that if any one throws at me or brings me in contact with snow in any way then I will "absolutely throttle them". The only defence I have against it at the moment is a thick coat, two scarfs, massive wooly hat and some gloves, but Dave and I are coming up with a better plan.

I do admit that some snow covered scenery can look quite nice though.

Parents have left for New Zealand for 2 weeks and then on the 8th of December will be flying to China. They are staying for a little over 10 days i think. We will spend the first weekend in Beijing and will hopefully take them to the wall and maybe the Summer Palace and Forbidden city. Then they will accompany me back to the Shiz where there isn'tso much to do so they will probably look around the town and come to a few of my lessons and then at the tail end of the week we hope to fly to Xian to see the Terraccotta army. Booking plane tickets in England is an easy everyday type affair but, of course with this being China, things are not quite so easy here.

Lessons this week were showing Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire. Which in theory sounds good and sounds like I have a easy week but really there are a few problems with showing a film. Firstly its not ideal showing anything to children on a small laptop screen with the equivalent of bake bean cans for speakers, so you try and find alternative ways of presenting the information. Firstly the went to the theacher's class room and asked to use her multimedia facitilites. One agreed and whilst the picture was great and all 60 kids could see it fine the sound was arguably worse than on my computer and the kids could hardly hear it. So the only solution was for me to take Dave's TV and DVD over to my classroom. I didn't just knick Dave's btw it's just that he hardly ever uses it so it would have been silly to take mine and deprive us of our lunch time West Wing Fix.

The other problem is the point of showing a movie means I have to sit through the movies 21 times. Whilst the first few occaisions are fine and I found some things to do at the back of the class. I would say that maybe 15 classes past in absolute gut wrenchingly slow time. I sat at the back playing PSP for the majority but when the battery ran out I just walked around the school. I couldn't stay and watch the film as they had CHinese Audio on and I don't think I wanted to anyway. I can honestly say that I think I prefer teaching a normal lesson, more interesting for me and arguably less stressful, and I can also say that despite me being a fan of the Potter Franchise;

See you Later!

For the Pride of Your Nations, Start Your Engines!

The reason why we had organised to go back up to Beijing was to see the A1 racing. Dave and I decided to do this after we missed out on the F1 in Shanghai for one reason or another. The race was at a specially designed and built street circuit in the north of Beijing and due to problems getting the track finished the race had to be postponed until the 11th of November, a week after previously scheduled. Even when the race was on they had to cancel the friday practice and saturday qualifying due to problems with a hairpin corner and some lose manhole covers!

Before the race we had done our research into ticket costs and so on and found out that the price for three days started at £60. Whist this wasn't too bad compared to English Prices we didn't want to pay it, especially as we were only going for the sunday. However we had read about the F1 in the paper and how Ticket Touts, rather than upping the prices, sell for dramatically under the face value. Everything is backwards in China! So we were hopeful of getting something a bit cheaper.

So we left the hotel around 11am and got taxi's to the circuit - thankfully the driver straight away knew where he was meant to be going and we weren't needed to do any racing car impressions. We got dropped off and straight away were harrassed by touts-exactly what we wanted on this occaission. We were hung over and not in the mood to negotiate for hours so when they said 300yuan i just said 500 for 5. They agreed and we left. Worked out at about £7 each per ticket. Looking at the ticket the face value was 1500 yuan- a little over £100. Ridiculous.

So we happily made our way into the circuit. As we were walking we could hear the cars racing around the track and we saw a gaping hole in the fence at the side. Dave, being inquisitive as ever, sticks his head through the hole and nearly has it taken off as a car speeds by at 200mph. Not the safest thing ever but he managed to get some quality pictures and videos and it didn't stop the rest of us doing the same, until a steward moved us on.

We got inside the main circuit next to the grandstand where we would be sitting. It overlooked the pits and the exhibition centre. I got talking to a Chinese girl who was doing surveys and had a press pass. It didn't look anything too official but it was an accreditation, which was more than we had so I asked her cheekily if she could get us over the other side into the pits she answered that she thought she probably could. We followed her and her friends around for 20 minutes as we walked back out the circuit and around the side. Every now and again we would bump into some police or stewards who they would chat to but at no point did anyone ask for our passes or tickets. Eventually we found ourselves on the inside of the circuit and saw our first cars- some rally cars that had been on as an exhbition race. We neared the main centre that we had seen before and there was a huge table with passes and tickets on so we thought there was no hope of getting in. We didn't stop at the table and just walked past the guards and ticket collectors smiling and straight into the VIP area. Rediculous!

In there we were treated to free food and drink, escorted around by Dolly Birds and even had access to the pit lane and mechanic's garages. We got to see the drivers' working on their cars before the race and even saw some being completely reassembled. We spoke to the Mechanics and team leaders-who were all British- the whole time Dave and I both had a grin wider than that of a Cheshire Cat. We really couldn't believe our luck.

Inside the centre there was a A1 car challange where volunteers had to change 1 tyre in the quickest time possible. Taking into mind that it takes a proper mechanic about 5 seconds to do one, the leading time of just over 10 seconds was very impressive. Dave and Gaz stepped up to the platter, laughing at the girls before them who could only manage a paultry time of 50 seconds. They were introduced as "A Screw Loose" and Britains first contestants of the day. Big things were expected and they got off to a good start until Dave had his job to do..... the rest as they say is history!

After all this we walked around a little longer and then went back to get our seats for the racing in the grandstand.
We were sat right opposite the pits and the starting grid so had a good view of everything that was going on pre-race and during. Seeing the Yanks making a complete hash of the pit stop was very good viewing indeed! The noise of the cars was tremendous (especially with a hangover) not quite as loud as F1 maybe but still very very loud. The start with all the cars revving was incredible.

The race itself was very good fun. I quite like the idea of it being nation against nation with all the cars the same but at times it was quite processional. However the street circuit was quite thin and so there were lots of mistakes made. The Irish Drive only lasted 3 laps and the Chinese driver crashed out spectaculalry half way through-which lead to a mass exodus by the local fans. We stayed on and watched Team GB climb up to a respectable 4th place. With 10 laps to go the leaders Netherlands were given a hefty shunt by second place Germany (what is it about german motorsport and shunts hey?) and both were forced to retire. This left Team GB in Second place. Whilst we cheered every time the car roared past hoping our encouragement would spur them on to a famous victory it wasn't to be and 2nd was all we could manage.

A funny moment came when the drivers were on the podium. The winner was announced and no one realy applauded or cheered but when they announced the driver for Team GB as second place all 5 of us stood up and shouted as loud as we could. The driver blatently heard us and looked over in our direction and waved. We then left as they played the Italian National Anthem- couldn't stomach listening to that!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friends Come to VIsit!

We met Mike and Gaz at our hostel on our first trip to Beijing. We got on well with them at the time and spent several nights out together and visited the great wall together. Mike and Gaz have been travelling together since February and unlike us are not tied down to any particular town, city or country. Instead they can just meander across the world in true globetrotter style.

After Beijing they went up to Mongolia for a month which both looks and sounds amazing. If I have time then I would like to go and visit there myself but I don’t think it will be possible as it takes about 4 days to get there and in February (when I am to do my travelling) Mongolia will be about as warm as a block of ice.

Mike and Gaz made their way back down into China to come with us to the A1. Due to the track not being completed they had a week going spare so decided to come and stay in the Shiz and see what it is that we get up to. They came accompanied by Jamie, a friend that they made in Mongolia, and all three lived in my front room from Tuesday to Friday – the smells in the morning were not pleasant.

Overall we had a very fun (but tiring) week. The things that put downpoints on it were that Mike lost his Camera whilst visiting the Mao Statue in our town and that I had my wallet stolen when we went out on Thursday night. But Mike had uploaded his pictures the day before and a wallet is only a wallet. The only annoying things I lost were the family photos I had inside, all the cards etc can be replaced.

Anyhow on Friday we all made our way to Beijing. The other teachers- Brock, Becky, Meredith, Hiliary, Kavitha, Zack, Wallace and Renea- were all meeting us there later on. We spent Friday night drinking and eating. Unfortunately the taxi that Dave, Zack and I were taking to the club where the others were got us lost so we never made it – this happens an alarming amount in China.

On Saturday we visited Chairman Mao. He died in 1979 and his body has been laid in state ever since. It was quite a strange experience. Due to the number of people that obviously want to see him- he’s amazingly revered in China, and seen as something like a god- you don’t actually get to stand still and look at him and are constantly moving. His body is lay in glass case and due to the amount of time he has been there he has taken on rubbery yellow type look. This, of course, leads to conspiracy theories that he is in fact a waxwork – interesting, but I’m not convinced a country of some 2 billion people would all fooled quite so easily!

Saturday night we went out to Browns Night Club – where the others made it to on Friday. It was quite a good venue but it was very strange being there as there was only a handful of Locals. Everyone else was Western and they played no eastern music at all- prodigy, nirvana, black eye peas were all preferred to Jay Chou, S.H.E and Jolin. We had an excellent night but it didn’t feel quite right.

We got back to the hotel about 6am and there is a photo of me somewhere asleep on a couch in the lobby at 6.40am so you can imagine how easy it was for us to get up the next day at 10am to get to the A1. But we all managed it!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Change of Blog!

Hi All,

Despite last weeks optimism that this might eventually start to work I've decided its time to bit the bullet and move to pastures new. I can access here to post entries but am finding it very difficult to put up any pictures.

We have a new site called livejournal which is very similar and should not cause you (the readers) any problems at all.

Anyhow here's the link - just copy and paste it into your browser.

There should be a post up about my latest trip to Beijing and our time at the A1 grandprix by tomorrow.

I'll leave this post up at the top here for later reference.


You do not need to type www. - just copy and paste the address as it is below!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Catching Up.....

Sorry this post has been such a long time coming. There's a few reasons behind the lack of activity. Firstly Blogger has been playing up majorly. Since its been banned in China we have to try a few different ways of accessing it. Ususally we can access the page to post things, but not to read our blogs back but for the last week we just havn't been able to log on at all. We have even signed up to a proxy service so there is no way the internet can see that we are accessing from China and it still wouldn't work. But it appears to be back online at the moment and hopefully it will stay that way *fingers crossed*

The other reason is coming up but i'll run you through the last week or so first.

Last Monday night Dave and I got an authentic chinese take away. We walked down to our favourite local restuarant and ordered our meals to take away. They made the dishes on the plates and then poured them into styrofoam holders to take home. We had a a mixed vegetable dish- su shi jin- which was carrots, cabbage, bamboo shoots, water cheshnut,spring onions, ginger etc fried in oyster sauce, and also a kung pow chicken-gong bao ji ding- and some rice. We platted up our mass amount of food and sat back, relaxed and watched the West Wing. Heaven! Just like home!

Tuesday was Halloween. We didn't do anything on the night itself, think we just watched even more West Wing. Incidentally we are now onto the 4th Series, so we have watched 66 episodes at 40 minutes each, meaning so far we have spent about 40 hours watching it and we aren't even half way through yet! Time well spent.

Now for the second reason for the lack of blog activity.On Wednesday night we were invited out to a Kids' Halloween Party. It was being hosted by a Publishing Company who , amongst other things, publish english magazines for children so I think they wanted some western representation to give them some kudos. They had gone to quite some effort and cut out halloween shapes, gave us all masks and played spooky music. The evening was a little boring but going fine until the pumpkins came out. They brought out a pumpking for every table and gave us a stanley knife with which to carve it into a "jackle lantern". Whilst they were explaining to the kids how to do it they said "and our western friends will do this all the time at home, so we expect theirs to be very good".

Initially I sat back and allowed Meredith to carve ours. But this was going nowhere so in a gung ho move i grabbed the knife and ploughed it into the pumpkin, at the same time I also managed to plough it into my hand, between my thumb and forefinger. This sent blood spurting everywhere over the table akin to something out of a horror film. They organiser's quickly moved me off and got me to a doctors. The medical centre was quite clean but not as spotless as western ones, expected though. The process was quite difficult with the language barrier, but one of the publishing company stayed to help. The best moment was when to test whether I still had feeling in my hand after having the anisthetic they just stabbed me with a needle until i stopped telling them not to. I had 2 stitches which were relatively painless but felt wierd as they pulled the strings through.

Afterwards they tried giving me an injection, presumably antibiotics but I wasn't too keen as they coouldn't tell me what it was. I tried to explain that in England we have Tetanus injections but they were not able to understand. They did a test of the injection, which really hurt and there was no allergic reaction but I still decided against it, tetanus covers me against things like this anyway. They gave me some pills, which had penicilllin in-i'm allergic to penicillin so thank God for the internet- so I got some more the following day. I've been going back every two days to get my bandage replaced which is annoying but necessary i guess. Anyhow the stitches are coming out tomorrow. The kids have been nicer to me with the bandage on though, I guess they feel sorry for me, so I might just bandage my hand up every now and again!

The publishing company girls came around with some gifts and some flowers to say sorry. Which was a nice touch and greatly appreciated. They were so sorry but you just can't legislate for an english idiot can you!