If these four weeks are any indication of how fast the year is going to go by, then I had better warn you all now that a second year may be on the cards.
I had a lovely first week exploring Foshan with my little sis; seeing the sights, introducing her to my new friends, and discovering some interesting dishes (including barbecued oysters and an outdoor bar where you can catch your own shrimp). We also spent about two days cleaning my filthy flat; it seems that my idea of clean differs greatly from that of the Chinese cleaners. I even found a Christmas tree under my bed… along with several inches of dust, about 20 plastic bottles, and a few pairs of Calvin’s – grim. With Erin’s help, the flat is now nice and homely and I’m all settled in – the first and possibly last time I will ever have a place all to myself!
I experienced my first Chinese nightclub with Erin and all my fellow foreign teachers on the Friday night at a place called Grammy’s. We were pleasantly surprised when we walked into a massive room complete with a stage, girls dressed as mermaids swinging from the ceiling, unicorn dancers prancing down a walkway rising from the floor, and even people selling bunches of flowers! We were treated like VIP guests everyone at the party had been waiting for. We were given free bottles of ‘champagne’ – which I managed to chip my tooth on – and platters of fruit, and the stage was cleared for us to dance on as people rushed to get a photo with us- especially of Erin with her long sun-bleached hair. On the downside, I had to have my fourth shower of the day when we got home at 5am to get rid of the horrible smell of smoke that had clung to absolutely everything since you are allowed to smoke indoors everywhere in China; I’m not sure I can get along with that, no matter how good the club is. Another bizarre experience to add to my list. It was so nice to have Erin here to share my first week, and so sad to say goodbye until July when she will come out agin to join me for my final weeks!
On the more professional side of things, I have now been teaching for 3 weeks and am getting to know the school and the students. It is a semi-private boarding school with around 1,500 pupils that sells itself as a foreign languages school. There are 9 of us ‘foreign teachers’ employed to teach oral English alongside International maths, science and English classes which parents pay extra for. I teach 13 classes a week: grade 2 and 3 english (7 and 8 year-olds), and grade 1 and 6 science. The classes are going well, although most of the time I feel like more of a kids party entertainer than an actual teacher – exhausting! It’s pretty tough teaching science to 6 year old kids who can’t even say their own name in English let alone understand the word eco-systems; science class is a bit of a joke really considering that they don’t even start learning science in their own language until they are in grade 5! At the other end of the spectrum, it’s also pretty tough teaching grade 6 about how organ systems function when I haven’t studied science for 7 years. Winging it would be the correct term.
I have also managed to pick up some extra hours – and cash – doing private tutoring on some Saturdays and evenings. The organiser of these classes has sort of become my sponsor, come agent, come adoptive mother. Anyway she is lovely, and when the long weekend arrived for mid-Autumn festival, she invited me to go away for a night with her family and friends to Yingde, a near-by city. I have decide that the best way to make the most of this year is to just say yes to everything, so having met her only once, I found myself on the way to spend a night 180km away with her, her two daughters and 5 other non-english speaking Chinese families! Don’t panic Mum, I made it back alive! Her gang of friends were obviously from the wealthier end of Foshan society (adorned with head-to-toe designer and plastic surgery), and they generously paid for absolutely everything. We stayed in an incredible villa situated in the middle of a tea plantation in the mountains with its own pool and private hot springs! It was a eye-opening and interesting weekend to say the least…. look out for my next blog about it – the dinner alone needs a whole post to itself! In aid of the mid-Autumn festival all the foreign teacher’s at my school also got invited to a ‘Banquet’ hosted by the local government of Nanhai for all the international people living here. It was a very elaborate evening in a fancy hotel with amazing food, lots of wine (which I hadn’t drunk since arriving in China!), and traditional entertainment featuring lion dancing and sand painting.
Foshan is starting to feel like home now that I have got into more of a routine, and stopped feeling so much like I am on holiday. We even got our official residents permits yesterday! I have joined a gym, and started running again; hopefully I will be able to follow the yoga class a little more successfully now that I have started Mandarin lessons. Having discovered the IKEA and the international section of the supermarket, I can start to cook for myself again too so I don’t have to eat the school canteen food all the time. As my friend said, now that I have found the cheese in the dairy section, I have everything I need.
Until next time,