Been a while, sorry! I'm going to try to ramble less and make my blogs shorter and less boring. I've been leaving writing them until a while after things happen which is a bad habit and I felt the need to run through everything that happened which makes for a boring blog. Plus now I have lots more photos to upload!
Anyway, December was alright. For the first couple of weeks I showed my kids Elf. Now I love that film but after 16 times you kind of wish Buddy hadn't saved Santa's sleigh and it had crashed into a burning fireball about 10 minutes into the film. We watched it in two halves and for the majority the internet in school worked so we could have subtitles. I think something is lost in translation though, some bits that I think are hilarious not a single child in about 1000 even blinked at whereas other bits the whole class is in stitches and I have no idea what the joke is. Must be a Chinese thing. I'm proud to say that by the end of the second week I could actually recite the film in time with the actors on screen word for word. I'd sit at the back of the class and recite entire bits of dialogue with different voices to myself - I wish I could learn Chinese that fast. To stop myself from jumping out the window or something I had to do something to stay amused and I tried watching the film in different ways. I spent about 3 times completely blanking the main characters and just analysing the background characters. I spent at least 2 run throughs looking out for continuity errors (I only spotted one small one in the entire film) and too many showings reciting dialogue in time with the film.
I taught a lesson on Christmas as well about why we celebrate it and some of our traditions etc. I'm not a huge Christmas fan normally but we made a big thing out of it for the kids. No-one where we are is really religious at all but all our students were really excited about having two Englishmen to celebrate it with. We both got Christmas cards through the post and from students which we stuck up on the wall in our apartment and we also did our best to decorate the place. There were already paper chains and tinsel up from when Beth and Cat decorated for Rob's birthday and we added some decorations my Mum sent to set the festive spirit. Cue the small MDF Christmas tree, intended for small children. I know I'm 18 but it kept me amused for about 45 minutes while I carefully built it. And it had glitter glue pens! Of course my slight OCD tendencies meant it had to be decorated in colour co-ordinated neatness and I was kept quiet for ages decorating it. Until I dropped it. After that it was more of a salvage job and I like to think of it now as modern, abstract art that's sitting on top of the TV. Yes, I still know I'm 18 but I finished that tree and got glitter everywhere. My face, hands, floor, chair, table, clothes. It washed out but I still have a glittery crotch in my trackies.
The weather started to turn really cold, really fast as well. I mean I was still teaching in short sleeved T-shirts while everyone in England was playing in snow and stuff but then it did actually turn cold. So I made the excellent purchase of a Chinese army jacket to match my fur hat and started wearing that to school. The coat makes me look even bigger than I already do surrounded by all these small people and it kept me warm for a bit. Ivy told me that it was poor quality though - I knew it wasn't the best but try finding clothing intended for Chinese people to fit someone my size. This one is a little loose and has the customary slightly too small sleeves but it still looks cool. Anyway, because of the weather and because I was amusing everyone so much by my daily costume that the headmaster insisted the school bought us winter coats. We went shopping with Ivy and Rob got a black, normal, sensible coat and I got the giant, black, police coat with a huge fur collar that neither Ivy or Rob liked. Well I liked it and it's warm and when Ivy told me people might laugh I told her that's all people do anyway; at my Chinese pronunciation, when I mix up Chinese words (awkward when the Chinese for 'nose' and 'b****' sound similar - how was I supposed to know?!), when I trip up in front of a class, when I dress as a Chinese soldier. The list is endless. I think the coat's cool anyway, it suits my hat.
Originally we thought we'd have to work straight through Christmas, that's what we were told. But it turns out PT insist everyone has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off which was perfect for us as that's next to our weekend so we had a 4 day holiday. All 8 volunteers in Jiangxi province met up again at Ella and Nicole's in Jiujiang and we were joined by Ned's French girlfriend who was visiting him for Christmas. The house had been beautifully decorated with paper chains and snowflakes and they even had a Christmas tree purchased from somewhere in their huge city. We'd all made the journey to Jiujiang laden with bags filled with presents - I had plenty from various people at home that had arrived in the post and we'd also all bought presents for each other. We even had a stocking each which we all contributed something to!
Because we had to start teaching again on Boxing Day we needed to spend Christmas Day travelling back to Yihuang so we moved Christmas Day to the 23rd. On Christmas morning we arranged a time that everyone had to be downstairs for and Rob, dressed as Santa, with a loud and boisterous Beth woke everyone up (bar me, I'd been up for a while already as per usual). We took it in turns to deliver presents to each other from under the tree and made a morning of chilling about. I got the belt my trousers had been needing for ages from Rob, a pokemon hat to add to my hat collection from Cat and Beth (plus an as of yet unknown present), a big, expensive bottle of baiju from Ned and Matt (manly present) and lots of cool stuff from England. Mum and siblings sent a guitar book, a jigsaw to keep Rob and I occupied and an itunes card among other things, Grandma sent the woolly socks my feet had been needing, more English sweets and toiletries, and Sarah sent a 'hilarious' mug, guitar plectrums, Christmas socks and jumper among others. All in all a pretty good Christmas day and it was lovely to have so many presents to open, especially ones that had come all the way from England! Due to Chinese post I've been receiving things up until late January and the Chinese teachers thought it was hilarious to watch me stomping round the office in the comically huge Rudolph slippers Dad sent and we can also play scrabble on the fridge thanks to the family in Southend. Thanks everyone!
Grandma and Grandad sent a present which I was instructed to open early - I wore the enclosed Christmas socks, singing tie and santa hat to my last few classes! The tie didn't sing for very long unfortunately, I lost the button somewhere in Ella and Nicole's vast house but I still dressed up for Christmas dinner! Beth and Cat were the main chefs as usual but everyone lent a hand and I volunteered to peel the giant pile of veg and potatoes and then decorate the dining room to make it extra Christmassy. Jiujiang is Jiangxi's second biggest city and we were all amazed at what you could buy here - they have proper supermarkets! We all sat down to a delicious Christmas dinner of peppered pork, broccoli, carrots and expertly mashed potato by Rob and Matt. First time I've ever eaten Christmas dinner with chopsticks and drank wine out of an offensive mug but we kept the Christmas spirit up. Everyone scrubbed up well for the meal - I wore my maroon shirt and Christmas tie topped off with my Christmas jumper, santa hat and Christmas socks and after we'd eaten we all just went and flopped on Ella's bed. We had intended on a family walk around the lake but we'd left it a bit late and we were all far too stuffed to move. After a bit we pulled ourselves together and ventured back downstairs where Christmas drinks were in order to finish off the day.
Another highlight of Christmas was kite flying on our Christmas Eve - on our last visit to Jiujiang I'd painstakingly rebuilt a couple of kites from three very broken kites but we'd never had the chance to try them out. After me and Beth went shopping for last minute Christmas presents (and ended up skateboarding round the supermarket on a two wheeled board clinging onto the trolley that the other one of us was pushing) we went home to find some of Ella's students round. So I invited everyone to come kite flying with me in the square because we'd seen some guys flying some impressive kites. Unfortunately our kite flying just involved lots of running around and dragging a kite on a string behind us. I managed to get it airborne about twice but both times involved far too much effort for the amount of time it lasted so we gave it up and went shopping for Christmas dinner stuff.
Christmas was always going to be different this year but all in all we made it pretty successful and we had a good time. Sorry it's taken so long for me to write this again! I hope everyone back home had a very Merry Christmas and thank you again for all the presents, cards and messages.