Dogs, KTV and Chombee Square.
Life here in China is continuing to blossom for me and make me smile everyday. The weather has picked up (only to about 20 - 30 degrees that is…) making it incredibly humid. I now know why air conditioning units and fans are made in China. But I am enjoying this heat, and at least everyone looks as sweaty as me!! I am continuing my dance class which is going great; I will have to look into this in the UK! Along with the accommodation provided here I am lucky enough to have my own bike! Which isn't a patch on my racing Giant, however, is enough to help me fit in and sometimes get me places even quicker than the local taxis due to my apparently enormous powerful legs…! See the pictures.
I think my life in China had just been a little too comfortable for me lately; everything was just too good, until one Wednesday morning. As I left my apartment to go to my first lesson, staring at me on the wall was an enormous spider. This is no ordinary spider; it is just a tarantula… You probably heard my scream in the UK, I completely went to pieces. Last time I saw something like this it was in Chester Zoo. So I call my foreign affairs officer, who laughs, then proceeds to inform me that it is very common in the small towns and also informs me not to touch it or go near it. Hmm, you don't say! I then go to my lessons very worried and thinking the worst (of course) and have to call a teacher, who kindly came, killed it and removed it for me. Phew. So I gladly took her to lunch and was more than happy to pay. Needless to say my hero is about 5ft, size -6 and a very sweet young girl who also claims to be scared of spiders…whatever!
Last week after dancing I receive a random call from a teacher in the junior school who invites me to a party! So, not being one to say no to a party, off I go to meet him. His name is Kelly, so I immediately take a shine towards him as he shares the name with the Stereophonics lead singer, which of course he is utterly amazed by! So he takes me to a party at a KTV (this is a karaoke bar and very common in China). I manage to impress his male friends by my beer guzzling abilities and yes you guessed it, GUMBEA it was!!! So after many beers the mic was finally mine and out came the most delightful, inspiring out of tune Celene Dion you have ever heard…followed the Backstreet boys, Shakira, Ronan Keating, The Beatles and of course Abba. However, they loved it!!! I am sure my friends and family will agree about my angelic vocals? I think my English accent pulled me through this one! After about 11pm all of a sudden the lights are turned off, a strobe light comes on along with the most hardcore rave music I have ever heard! Then all of Kelly's friends are up with their tops off and hardcore raving on the stage!!! It was hilarious!! So of course, down with another pi jio (beer) and being the only girl I join them (with my top firmly on of course…)! These guys know how to party and have become good friends of mine (surprisingly!) much fun was had and will continue to!!
However, teaching with a hangover on the other hand was not a good idea with this humidity…urgh.
The latest "animal update" is one you may want to read when you are not about to have a meal maybe?? I was lucky enough to be invited to a student's house for dinner last week; her mother had put together the most delicious dishes you could imagine. So tucking in, I become rather fond of one in particular, this turned out to be "dog". I suppose it was inevitable…I finally ate dog. However, I can verify for you, dog is delicious, a delicacy, incredibly tasty and soft tender meat. I just had to block all images of Lassie. Lassie who? I continue with this mouth watering dish until I notice something else at the base of the dish. Remember I have said that the Chinese do not waste any part of the animal? Well there it was "The dog's brain!!!" Yikes!! So it was rice and the vegetable dishes from then on.
After the dog incident, I was lucky enough, or maybe unlucky to witness a funeral. When someone dies, the friends and families walk through the town, wearing white gowns exploding fire crackers and fireworks all over the place. It is so noisy!!! They march through the town with the body from the persons' house to the potential grave and then they sit there for a few days for mourners to come, where they set off more fire crackers. The body is always cremated and ashes spread at the grave or wherever requested. I am realizing lately how often people actually do die, as when you hear fire crackers you know that someone has passed and this happens quite frequently here! A fair few times a week at least, however, I somehow doubt there are any problems related with death and the population here.
With regards to the population I found out that you can have the first baby for free but after this you are forbidden to have another. In most towns there is a one child policy. If you do happen to have another you have to pay for it!
After small persuasion from a student I get up at 5.15am on Sunday to climb the mountain…(so she can get to school on time!) and is so far one of the best things I have done, will continue to do and I highly recommend it. I can tell you, life starts at 6am in China. Women are out shopping at the markets, stalls opening up, children walking to school, many people walking and running up the mountain, alone and with their families. There is Tai Chi going on in the square, children and adults playing Badminton and cards, men going about their work driving trucks, building things and cleaning up. The local restaurants are filled with people slurping noodles, left, right and centre. This was a Sunday morning! The air is also so fresh (up the mountain that is...) It is at this god forsaken time of the day that is what makes Chinese communities so special.
I have also just begun my Chinese lessons! Which is very exciting! I have two different teachers and get two 2hour lessons per week. I really feel like I am in a school now! So far my pronunciation is quite good because a lot of the letters have similar sounds to our ABCs, the only problems are the Zhs, R's, Ch's, Sh's and remembering the words!!! I am also beginning to write in characters which are another language in itself! The pingying (normal letter writing) is okay for the time being.
In Xintian there is an area in the town called "Chombee Square" aka Mecca for the people of Xintian. Every evening the locals come here to dance, they sing, they go roller skating, they play badminton and just hang out. Which of course I do with them! It is a fabulous place, I will really miss it. It is so busy and a lot of fun. Even I have seen people I know or recognize! It funny, as I am skating around there, I have heard a chorus of "Hello miss Sally!" and the reply, "NiHao girls, how are you?!" Brilliant! I seem to remember hiding behind supermarket shelves if I was unlucky enough to spot a teacher, from my school in Tesco and begging mum not to go and say hello!!!
Recently I have fallen in love with China and have even extended my stay here. The culture is special and unique. Something you just cannot experience if you just holiday here for a short time. Living in China has become one of the best things I have done and im going to be really sorry to leave it. Infact the principal asked me to stay forever the other day! (Don't worry mum, I have flights booked!) My hero friend (Jane aka Spiderwoman) even said I should hook up with a nice Chinese boy and then stay here forever and marry him…hmmm I don't think so…one step at a time...speaking Chinese fluently would help!
(Honestly, I do have flights booked!!)
People have a very high regard for their peers and they are so welcoming and friendly, especially towards me, the locals love it when I say the odd Chinese word to them! I feel quite honored to be here, welcomed, relaxed and very happy. I am really excited about being able to learn Chinese to communicate better with them. Not once have I felt lonely as there is always someone knocking or randomly calling! The people of Xintian are kind, relaxed, friendly and active. Just the kind of people I like!
Thats all for now, so back to work! I will add more pictures soon, keep the messgaes coming! Lots of Love Sally aka xi ni