I tried to do a blog on Wednesday, and typed up a big massive one and it didn’t save 😦 so this is the condensed version of a busy week…..

Today is Saturday – and I’ve been working.  In the nature that is the way of life in China, I found out from my students yesterday that they have exams Sun/Mon/Tues so I was doing classes today – I found this out at 3.30 yesterday and had to quickly check with the Chinese English teachers.  As far as I can gather, and this is still not clear, I’m working next Wednesday and then off to the following Monday but the school don’t seem to have decided what’s happening yet!  So today’s classes were just gentle ones, reading out the assignment for the English exam (and getting a round of applause each time!) and randomly answering the students’ questions – do I have QQ (like MSN), do Iike tofu, what music do I like.  I find that in informal situations the students’ english is so much better than in formal teaching classes, and there is always some little student that you’ve never really noticed before who suddenly sparks up a conversation in perfect English!

Tuesdays/Wednesdays are the bad classes.  Confiscations included a rubic cube, a pingpong ball, a basketball, numerous magazines, a mobile phone……I feel bad doing this but the students have to realise that I’m not a pushover and that they WILL have to partake in my classes.  Weirdly the classes I was dreading turned out to be good, and Class 14 who are normally amazing and always are keen to learn I lost the plot with them as they would not be quiet and shouted at them so much I think I put the fear or god into them.  However, in hindsight Wednesday is the day the students found out about these exams, hence the chatting and panicking.  The language barrier comes into play again.  However I did have one lovely male student who has a habit of appearing and shouting in my face “nice to meet you” run up after the class and say that I was a good teacher…..

Thursday – day off and shopping with the two Chinese English teachers.  Jingbian has a population of 339,000 with 2 high schools – mine (No1 ) has I think 4500 students and No 3 school has about 3000.  There is a middle school with students aged 11-14 which has about……god only knows, thousands and thousands of students as they feed to both high schools.  Myself and one of the teachers were standing at the intersection of Jingbian’s main roads waiting for the other teacher when all the middle school students piled out for lunch…….

So imagine thousands of teenagers all pointing/taking pictures/shouting hello at you for half an hour.  Girls came up and shyly spoke to me and Natasha the Chinese English teacher was able to translate for me and the students.  I had vaguely remembered this, No 2 school has an English speaking competition I think next week, I know I’ve got to go and judge that as well (better prepare a speech this time!)  and one tiny little girl eventually plucked up the courage to come and speak to me, surrounded by her friends, and asked me to check over her English speech for this competition.  And, guess what, it was perfect 🙂  Not ideal conditions, her standing in the middle of the street reading her speech, but that’s why I came to China – to make a difference, to help, and I was so proud of this little girl for being brave enough to ask me for help.

The ongoing issue of my eating continues, but in a good way 🙂  There is a Chinese English teacher that lives in my apartment block, he has a really cute little baby and I see him quite a lot walking back and forward to school.  Somehow he knows that I’m struggling to eat (there is no privacy around here!) and suggested I make soup!!!  So after lunch with the girls, we went shopping for clothes as the minus 25 is due soon and I’m now the proud owner of what look like fishing waders, lined with fur!  I’ve since worked out that all the Chinese girls up here wear them as leggings with boots and a short skirt – today I was so hungry I went to KFC and was able to just sit observing (and smiling, and having my picture taken!)  I’ve no idea where on earth I will wear these but they’re actually really warm so probably under trousers for teaching.  I also got, to my shame, a long furry jumper with some awful logo on it, something like “I love New York”….I don’t care, it fits which is always a bonus with clothes here, it’s warm and it was cheap.

The main purchases were an electric blanket and the thickest duvet you can ever find from the supermarket – and stock cubes for my soup-making!  I can’t tell you what a difference the electric blanket makes, seriously, I now have that and three massive blankets and duvets on the bed and it’s amazing. 

After classes today, having totally forgotten it was Saturday, I went to the supermarket – again – to get vegetables for my soup.  The owner, the woman who brought her daughter to meet me the first time I ever went there, was working again, and she was so kind and gave me a hug – and her mobile number (that’s standard in China, I’ve pages of mobile numbers!).  Through a variation of my bad Chinese and her decent English I was able to tell her I shopped there all the time and that I loved the place……..so she escorted me to the checkout and I seem to have got a load of my veggies for free! 

It being the weekend the place was busy, so I had the random calling of hello, how are you, and everyone taking pictures of me – some even asked this time!  Oh and walking to the supermarket from the bread BREAD shop (I now have three loaves of my precious fruity bread stuff in my freezer!) I passed what I assumed was a shop but must have been some sort of bar, and me a load of drunk – but very nice – Chinese men……so lots of photos/hugs/kissing of my hand and everyone in the street looking at what was going on (you wonder why I don’t leave my apartment very often!).

So tomorrow is making soup with the stock cubes and the ton of potatoes/onions/carrots/leeks I bought – I’ll run around to the local shops to get some little freezer boxes as I think I sort of overdid it on the vegetables and could make enough soup for the apartment block!  I also went to the little shop outside the apartment where I always go and buy my pepsi at about 5pm tonight, and came back with four MASSIVE chinese cabbage/celery sort of things for free – literally these things are abut four foot long!  I took two to Tony next door and his girlfriend says that I can add them to soup, so I’m figuring with my bread and soup and the seafood dumplings Natasha recommended for me to eat which are actually really nice, I may just survive the winter……

And my clothing from Hong Kong has arrived…….or at least they were signed for and delivered to the school two days ago!  God only knows where they are, I’ll call Mark my FAO tomorrow as he will be able to track them down for me, but that’s a massive load off my mind as all I need to get now are boots.  The deposit from Douglasfield finally made it back into my bank account last week, and after a call to Santander I was able to take money out today…..the limit is £300 a day – I ask for 3000 yuan but because with the exchange rate the amount came to £305, so thanks Santander for blocking my card on Monday, it cost me £18 to call you to unblock it and be told that! 

The weather is forecast to be mild for the next five days……so tonight I’m frantically washing everything I own!  At the beginning of the week it was down to minus 2/3 from 6pm until about 9.30am.  Tuesday night I did a washing and hung it up on my balcony…….thinking it would take days to dry.  90% of it was dry by the morning, despite the cold!  So I might as well wash towels and large jumpers and jeans as I’ve got three days to slob about 🙂  However if we are only working Wednesday and have the next four days off, I’m going to head down to Xi’an again – the lure of a warm hostel, a soft bed and Starbucks/Subway and Walmart are too much to resist!  I bet now I’ve planned that we will be working Thursday and Friday! 

Short update – not!