Well, I haven't, so far, been putting my 3 (almost 4) day weekends to particularly good use due to the fact that I've been afflicted with a bit of sciatica (cause - hard beds, I'll say no more!). So, last weekend I went to see a Chinese doctor (as recommended by readers of the Lonely Planet),and was given the most murdurous massage - the worst pain since childbirth (and as we all know, that is the most extreme ever!!). Anyway it has done some good and I've been told to come back again next weekend, which I shall do, in the hope that she cures me completely. So I was able to take a bus to the town of Xing'an to have a look at the Ling Canal - built by the first Emperor of China (of Terracotta Warrior fame), to link north and south China. It was very attractive, lined with peach and willow trees. It winds through the centre of the little market town and looks remarkably good for its age (approx 2,240 years!).
Last Thursday I was asked to be one of the judges at a series of 9 'plays' (in English) performed by grades 7 and 8. They were mainly based on English (or, perhaps, European) fairy stories, with a couple of Chinese stories with which I was not familiar. The titles ranged from 'The Little Girl who sells Matches' (The Little Match Girl), 'A Pretty Sleepy Girl' (Sleeping Beauty) and 'Hoping for Gains without Pains' (origin unknown). The acting and productions were superb, the English less so. The actors mime the dialogue, whilst groups of children on the side of the stage say the words. It was all great fun and they certainly put their heart and soul into it but I do find their English very difficult to understand. I think that the problem lies with the fact that they have Chinese teachers teaching them English, so the pronounciation is never going to be quite right. Everything else is spot on - the teachers certainly know their stuff, but pronounciation floors them!
I strongly suspect that this 'school' experience will be best enjoyed retrospectively. I suspect that I will look back on it with a great deal of fondness, once it is all over! I am also sure that I will be a better person for having undergone this trial! I am, after all, in the unique, if not privliged, position of being part of a community, totally alien to my own, yet accepted; on nodding terms with the bus driver, recognised and greeted by the assistants in the supermarket, (Bianca and I being the only Europeans in town!) and sharing in, and contributing to their lives. What are a few cockroaches and mosquitoes compared with that!!
The Chinese are dainty, graceful people, enviably slim, always cheerful and, inspite of the unsurmountable language barrier, they do try to be helpful. It is only when they open their mouths that the illusion is shattered. For the most part, their voices are not mellodic (is that a word?). It is either a shrill squawk or a crow-like caw (???). They tend to shout and usually sound angry. I think that it is because Chinese words tend to be one or two syllables long which, possibly, makes their speech sound harsh and truncated.
Well, it is now well past my bedtime, so I will love and leave you.