54 Chinese children singing me a song….. what am I supposed to do apart from smile and clap…… my introduction to teaching!  I’m so proud of myself, I wasn’t nervous, I had my lesson all planned out and the schedule worked perfectly.  Unfortunately my topic was introducing myself/getting to know the students and family….I thought it was a safe topic, unfortunately one student got terribly upset over the family aspect and burst into tears 😦  Thankfully she was one of the students who could speak English, so a quick hug, an apology from me and she was fine – I can only assume she must have recently lost a family member but it does show just how perilous any teaching subject can be.

The classes are set up in 9 groups of six which makes it really easy to navigate around, with a little sort of stage bit at each end of the class – there’s something strangely powerful about standing on the stage pointing at students and encouraging them to speak!  Out of 54 students I’d say only 4/5 of them have any grasp of English at all – my lessons are a compulsory 45 minute class every 2 weeks and I have 22 classes, all of students aged 16-18 although some of them look literally about 10 – I actually checked the age again with my FAO when I had lunch with him.

But a smile, a round of applause and a well done when someone gets their English right goes a long way.  My timing was perfect, the bell rang just as I was finishing and I had to write down my name about 10 times in notebooks thrust in front of me.  As I went round the groups to chat during the first discussion period, one chancer even wrote to me “you have beautiful eyes…..”!  Ah the innocence of youth!

But I did it – I stood up and took a class for 45 minutes…..:-)  At times I had to ask/yell at the students to be quiet when one of them was speaking, but I think that my class is the only time they can actually relax a bit.  They start their classes at 6.30 a.m and some don’t finish until 9.30 p.m. so I think I’m going to try and make my classes “fun” and not intensive learning – although I am going to make sure every one of them can speak the basics before the end of the semester!

I was on such a high after my teaching success I decided to go shopping – bad move….there is only so many times you can wander into a shop and be knocked back because they don’t stock XXXXXXXXXXL 😦  The giggles and sniggers of the department store girls didn’t exactly boost me confidence either!  Whilst I know I’m not a size 12, I thought I might at least be able to get some men’s t-shirts or fleecy tops.  However I did manage to get a pair of jammies for £6 (in preparation for this minus 25) and back in my familiar supermarket I stocked up on fruit and yogurts, and got this really cool massive fleecy blanket for £5.  I did yet another sweep of the supermarket and there is nothing in the slightest that I am able to buy and cook.

Supper tonight didn’t work out the way it should have done – but it was a success!  My attempt in a restaurant opposite the bus station around the corner from the school and the apartment to ask for Dai Zou (takeaway) didn’t work in the slightest and I was presented for a bowl of steaming noodles with tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs.  It was absolutely fantastic, all for £1.20 but sitting there on my own was a little intimdating at first, with all these men coming in after their work and chomping away and smoking, but the food was wonderful and after a while you just resort to smiling and saying ni hao and wo shi Zugerland (I’m from Scotland).  At least I’m getting out and about and they’re unlikely to forget me, being blonde, old and on my own!

Clothes are worrying me thought – I’ve spent four days now fighting to try and sort out my paypal account – it was limited because they didn’t seem to recognise my location, I’ve tried to add my credit cards and now it’s saying that it does’t recognise my bank account – Santander have already written to me c/o my parents saying there is unusual activity on my account, despite having told them numerous times I was going to be in China for a year.  I’ve sent another pleading email to paypal asking them for help but all you get is a generic email in reply.  I was hoping to be able to buy winter clothes from ebay, but at this rate I’m going to pleading with friends and parents to mail me out winter clothes as I can’t even buy a sweatshirt here.  However, I’m off to Xi’an at the beginning of October for a few days and HOPEFULLY I can get stuff there.

Two more classes tomorrow, it feels a bit lazy using the same lesson plan for all 22 classes, but it’s a good way of breaking the ice – although by my calculations (maths never was my strong point!) I will have taught 1110 students by the end of next week  of which I’ll probably remember about one person from each class……oh well at least they will remember me!

Oh and as a point of showing how random people want to speak to you- standing outside the supermarket I was hot so was having a drink (of pepsi of course!) when this girl came up to me and began speaking to me in English – very good English actually, turns out she’d been a student at my school last year.  A crowd sort of developed around me, this was 3pm in the afternoon and the place was mobbed, and people were asking the Chinese English speaking girl all sorts of questions about me.  She was so kind and explained that most of the people had never seen a westerner before, and a couple of women even started to touch my hair!

You’re never alone in China 😉