“and now we have our foreign teacher Jenni to say a few words”…….hence my introduction to speaking in front of around 1300 students/teachers and assorted dogs!

It was the English-speaking competition on Saturday, the day all my poor students had sweated blood and a few tears for.  I hadn’t actually anticipated how big this thing was, I sort of assumed it would be me and a few randoms sitting listening to the students in a classroom – nope it was every student from Senior 1s plus teachers sitting out in rows in front of the school main building – in a blowing gale and fairly cold temperatures.  It was actually totally surreal, there was a DJ set up at the top of the steps, and a man really did go 1,2,1 in Chinese to tests the microphone!

So me, Tony, Matt from No 3 School and two random females and males sat and judged all 20 students in their speaking….scoring was…….difficult, as we had to grade out of 10 but no less than 8.5 and judge in three different categories, speaking, content and another one I can’t actually remember!  As soon as the student had finished speaking, another student would be ready to whisk away out tiny pieces of papers with our scoring….. mental arithmetic is not my strong point, I had 3 pages of adding up when I’d finished, and Matt cheated and used his mobile!

There were also singers in between the speakers……some good, one of my male students murdered some Chinese song (I really mean that, I was wincing at the high notes) but there were two lots of female duets and they were fantastic, as well as looking beautiful in what were like prom dresses.  I tried to take a note of each student’s score as it was read out, not easy and it wasn’t actually entirely clear to anyone who won…….I think it was student 4 but I may have been wrong, we as judges had to present books with certificates to students standing in front of us, and then the obligatory photos.  The whole thing was also videoed as well, so unfortunately my random and totally off the cuff speech about being so happy to be in Jingbian, everyone’s made me feel so welcome will probably end up on Yuko or Youtube.But there is photographic evidence to prove that I did it, courtesy of Matt who had the insight to take pictures of me standing at the top of the steps looking very small and cold in a massive scarf!  I didn’t even have time to be nervous, I had to literally run up about the 15 steps and then look down on the sea of people and frantically think what to say.  It wasn’t fun, but I did it, and I still smile when I think of it, I’m soooooooo proud of myself 🙂

Me, Matt and Tony were invited out to dinner on Saturday night.  Again it’s not entirely clear why or who indeed the 7 or 8 men were who we were dining with (thankfully one of the Chinese English male teachers was there, and then in the middle of the meal a female Chinese English teacher and the two Chinese female judges turned up, otherwise we could have just been gatecrashing a dinner!).  The food was amazing, the staff just kept bringing out dish after dish, again I’ve no idea half of what I was eating, pigs ears made an appearance again and I ate a few (I’m not having anyone say I’m not adventurous!) and then the special dish for us at the end was sweet and sour pork 🙂  It was really really good, just a shame that I’d stuffed myself with so much other food (I was so grateful to be eating food!) I couldn’t eat too much of it and it was left on the table…..I remember looking longing at it as we were leaving thinking “I could eat that for breakfast tomorrow”!.

It’s been a weekend of food as well – Friday night me, Matt and Max, the two teachers from No 3 school went out for dinner – to a western restaurant 🙂  We had salad, sort of BLT sandwiches and fries and PIZZA – with REAL CHEESE!  I’ll probably never find the place again, but it was so lovely to sit and relax and eat identifiable food and just chat.

Weather-wise it’s damn cold now – with still no sign of my clothing from Hong Kong nor my food parcel from my mum – which contains hot chocolate apparently!  The halogen heater is right next to my desk, and I’m now in four layers of clothing at night.  Today I went shopping, I seem to spend half my life in supermarkets here, and bought a kettle (apparently white goods are expensive here, so my kettle was a bargain at £6.50) and a rather unattractive chinese patterned but very thick body warmer for £2.80 – no one seems what I look like, and I’m past caring as long as I’m warm!  Thursday I need to go back out to buy a duvet and an electric blanket, but I’m not doing that on my own, I need to rope in one of the Chinese-English teachers for that!

This is my week of teaching the classes at the lower end of the classes, those that can barely string two words together in English.  I spent ages yesterday writing up a lesson plan on movies and trialled it on Class 20 today.  Class 20 is full of some fairly large chinese teenage boys so it’s a little intimidating at times….however I’m learning and just told them that if they chatted I would stop speaking until they did.  It sort of worked, some people were saying shush to them, and I worked through the lesson but it’s not easy even talking about movies.  Whilst researching yesterday I found out that there are only around 20 Western films given certification in China each year – god knows what those movies are as half of my students had never heard of James Bond, Star Wars or Titanic….Superman and Spiderman were hits!

But I’m not giving in to these classes, I’ll try the same method tomorrow, as long as I can stand my ground and hope that they stop talking…..otherwise it’s back to the shouting at them!  I’m going to try charades about movies, I can see that being as successful as hangman (!) but I’ll give it a go.

The electricity has also been a bit hit of miss over the last day or so.  It’s like the signal at times isn’t strong enough, so the laptop hasn’t really been working properly, my ipad is fine for some reason – I managed to spend yesterday afternoon curled up under a furry blanket eating pea crisps and Walmart smart price maltesers (strangely not as bad as they sound) and watched three hours of Come Dine With Me!  The skype call to my parents wasn’t great last night, I really really look forward to that each week just to hear about the normal things in life, like skip runs or catch up on family news, as sometimes (and I am!) it feels that I’m on the other side of the world and totally isolated away from real life – there are no dramas (even my two taxis to and from the supermarket today were totally uneventful, for the first time in two months!) and apart from class management, nothing to worry me here.

However at 8.30 I am going to bed…..bed is warm, bed has a heater above it……if the bed doesn’t have another two layers on it and an electric blanket on Thursday night I will cry – temperatures are forecast to be minus seven from this weekend 😦