If Peru is, to my mind, the land of mountain giants, this part of China is the land of mountain dwarves - small, friendly hobgoblins, rising up like colossal mole-hills and presiding over the fields of rice, the palm trees, the ugly, tiled houses and even uglier high-rises, not serene and majestic, but looking surprised and skittish as if, at any time, they may just disappear! But enough whimsey...
How to earn a fortune in China - become an umbrella salesman!! There is just no let up but, at least it's pleasantly warm and the alternative is suffocating heat which leaves one drenched in sweat.
Last week Bianca and I were relieved of a third of our classes. The grade 9's are heavily involved in exams and need to spend the time revising. So we now have a lot more free time. I have one lesson on Thursday morning and nothing more until Monday a.m., so more opportunity for weekends away. I'm spending this one back in Yangshuo, where I had the initial 'orientation' for a fortnight, before starting at the current school and I've actually found a hotel with an American owner who understands the importance of mattresses on beds! The fact that it is alongside a noisy, loud, ravvy, all-night disco DOESN'T MATTER!!! It's not like my beloved mattress at home, but it's a mattress! With the warmer weather, I am able to sleep at the school, precariously, in Princess-and-the-Pea fashion, on 7 folded blankets, with just a sheet over me, but it is not the same at all.
Apart from the attempts at sleeping, I read voraciously and conduct all-out war on the ever present cockroaches. I've prefected a method of killing them by using the almost boiling water that emits from my shower. I corner them in the toilet, where they seem to lurk and turn the full blast on them for at least 10 minutes and that does the trick. I can't bring myself to squash them - the noise and thought of them sticking to my shoe...! There are not many creatures that I begrudge the gift of life but cockroaches, to my mind, just don't qualify! So. although the shower's almost useless as a means of washing, it's a mighty effective weapon. (I do have cold water as well, but it comes from a completely different shower. so one ends up being scalded and frozen simultaneously!). Am I painting a sufficiently graphic picture of life in China...??? It is proving a bit of an ordeal. Much more difficult than South America. Much more backward in many ways. I imagine that this is because I'm in a fairly rural area where nothing much seems to have changed for the better. People still live in squalid and quite primitive conditions but they do seem to be a happy lot and they do love their children! I imagine that once tourism really takes off in China one will start to see more Western influences, as in South America. (Idon't mean by that that the country loses its cultural identity, just that the standard of living gradually improves).
We are terribly isolated at the school. The very unappealing town of Yongfu is about 5-6 miles away and the only way in is by bus, which stops a 5.30 p.m., so it's beginning to feel like a bit of a prison sentence and with less teaching to do, I really hope that the time won't start to drag. The internet on my computer at school is pretty much non-existant, certainly as far as my emails are concerned, and that doesn't help either
As far as food goes, we eat at the school 95% of the time and although it is the same every day, it is tasty and plentiful and there's quite a lot of choice. The rest of the time I stick to Chinese and only very occasionally spend a whopping 4 or 5 pounds on a meal. Usually it is more like 2 to 3 pounds! The food is good and, at times, delicious. Each town, with the understandable exception of Yongfu, has its quota of MacDonalds and if there is a corner to be had, a KFC is stuck on it, so I don't lack the opportunity of having fast food, but it really doesn't appeal a lot. I was relieved to be told that dog meat was considered a delicacy and, therefore, unlikely to be served unless specifically ordered. (There is a sign in the local market indicating the presence of 'The Dog Meat Restaurant', just the thing to get the taste buds going!!).
Meat, generally is used as decoration rather than as an intrinsic part of the meal and a typical meal at the school would be a stainless steel bowl (actually bearing a marked resemblance to a dog bowl) with a generous helping of rice, a ladle of spicey green beans, cabbage, or similar, a slightly sweet sausage, a small omelette made with spring onions, a pork dumpling and a piece of fried chicken. There would be several other less identifiable dishes, including tofu, perhaps mushrooms, carrots and something that looks like (but isn't) raw, chopped up liver, so there is quite a variety to choose from. Bianca and I eat in the dining hall with the children. The other teachers disappear somewhere upstairs but we are happy eating with the kids, who often want to know Bianca's opinion of Lady Gaga, etc.
Well, according to my son (and The Sun) we now have a 'Con-Dem' government!! Well, there is no way it could be worse than the last lot and, who knows, they may just be a lot better, on the basis of 2 heads being better than one. Am I right in thinking that Clarke has been made Chancellor? I hope so... My salutations to one and all and until the next time, Bye, bye!