As I said in the last blog I spent a bizarre few days in Heng Yang in the Hunan province as part of a PR exercise for Owen College (Where we get our bed and board)! Mr Owen asked me to go to meet another college dude, Daniel (Mr Xian) and work with him in a local primary school where he teaches English a couple of times a week. According to Laurie I'd be treated like a queen (Nice) and wouldn't be left alone for a second (Not so nice!). Anyway, the office at Owen College arranged my tickets and I was due to arrive in Heng Yang on the overnight train at 6AM....but in China things don't always go the way the should....
It transpired that noone actually knew when the train would arrive and it was an "educated" guess from Mr Owen that led Daniel (And myself!) to believe I'd be arriving at 6. Unfortunately I arrived at 3AM and had nothing to do except wait and watch the bizarre goings on outside a Chinese train station! First, a middle aged lady was chased out of the station and dragged back into a little room...I don't know what she did but they weren't happy! After that a woman started screaming bloody murder in the park next to the station, a MASSIVE crowd proceeded to run towards the noise and there was a lot of shouting and carrying on! The policeman outside the station calmly finished his fag, and after about 5 minutes sauntered over to the crowd, presumably to do something but I don't know what! Finally, I watched in disgust as a woman took the nappy off her child and got him to pee in the street. Not even anywhere private but right there on the road!! Add that to the constant spitting, and staring and I was not a happy camper! I was tired, cold and hungry and just wanted to go to sleep! Thankfully, Daniel eventually arrived (Promptly at 6AM of course!) full of shocked apologies and rage that I'd been waiting! He seemed to take it personally and blame himself for an organisational c*** up! This is something I've really noticed here in China, everyone wants to look after you and even those that don't speak English will try and help foreigners out which is really nice, especially when you're travelling alone!
Anyway, after that palava I made it safely to my (Very nice) hotel room, was escorted right into the room and left to go to sleep for a couple of hours. The hotel really was lush, and had...wait for it... A WESTERN TOILET!! WOOOO HOOOOO! Those of you who've travelled in places where squat toilets are the norm will appreciate my excitment when I realised I could sit down and pee! After a rest and a shower I was taken out for a (VERY tasty) lunch, for those of you that are interested, the Hunan province (And Sichuan) are famed for their spicy food so my belly was VERY excited at the prospect of some good stuff! I wasn't disappointed, the foodies amongst you will like to hear I ate rice grain fish (A local delicacy), spicy bean (Tofu), spicy bok choi and rice. Selina's belly was HAPPY!
After being fed and watered I was in a much better mood and was excited about getting into the school and meeting the kids. Daniel had to run home for his computer so I was escorted into the school by a Chinese girl who'd been learning English for 9 years but still couldn't get beyond hello/goodbye/sorry my English is bad! Every time I tried to speak to her she said sorry and banged erself on the head...bizarre.
I met thekids, 19 who had been hand-picked by Daniel as the better English speakers in the school and they were (MAD) lovely! Very excited that a foreigner was coming in and very keen to learn a song so I taught them "the sun has got his hat on." It was so cute! Obviously word had got around that there was a strange looking woman on the premises (Me) and before long the room ws filled with curious little kids who pointed and laughed at me! THe funniest was 3 little boys who were standing at the door when I had my back to them, because of my black, straight hair, from behind (If you don't look at the width of my hips..) I could pass as Chinese so when I turned around and clearly wasn't these kids nearly died of shock!! HEng Yang is a very small place and isn't in the Lonely Planet so doesn't see tourists at all! FOr the duration of my stay kids were actually stopping in the street to point, giggle and stare. It's funny at the moment but I'm womdering how long it will take me to smack one of them!
As far as I was aware I was going to be teaching for a few days but Daniel had actually written a play and my job (As I was actually being paid for this PR exercise AND getting my expenses paid...) was to participate in the play as the Gardener! The play was all in ENglish, included some very cute ballet style dancing and VERY loud, VERY excited versions of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "B-I-N-G-O"! Absolutle brilliant! The kids loved it and were really confident in speaking the few lines in English that they had which was the whole point.
I had a great couple of days in the primary school but my next task was to go and give a lecture to some University students. I was NOT happy about this bit as I'm used to small kids not adults but there really wasn't much diffreence! All I had to do was lead a discussion about how to learn English well and give them someone to practice their oral English on. The students were all really sweet, very giggly and VERY shy. It took them 10 minutes of coaxing before one of them stood up and read out a little speech she had prepared and eventually they all got up and started asking me questions, telling me I was beautiful (I think it was one of the first English phrases they had learnt) and one even sang me a CHinese song! At the end Daniel told them they had 10 minutes to take pictures with me and all hell broke loose! I felt like a pop star as I was grabbed, dragged, hugged and kissed, posing for about a million pictures! As I've already said, Heng Yang is SMALL! IT was hilarious again and I couldn't stop giggling the whole way back to my hotel.
Sadly I left the following day but not without my final few experiences of Hunan hospitality! Daniel saw me RIGHT onto the bus where he proceeded to ask everyone (In CHinese) to make sure I got my connecting bus to Yangshuo...As we arrived in Guilin I had an entourage of people looking after me! The bus driver drove me to the ticket office, accosted some poor old man having a fag gesturing at me saying "Yangshuo, Yangshuo!". This old dude took me to the ticket office by the arm, made sure I got my ticket and told me where to wait for the bus! When I was safely in my seat, the bus driver reappeared, gave me a big smile and a thumbs up and waved me off to Yangshuo! It was so sweet! I can't get over how much this country has made me smile in less than 2 weeks! Everyone wants to help out and they have all (So far) gone out of their way to do so!
Anyway, I'm back in Yangshuo now, have a day off tomorrow so am going to hire a bike and check out the surrounding countryside before getting back to work on Tuesday afternoon.
So far China has been amazing, the food, people and scenery are fantastic and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of months! Anyway, that's all from me for now, will update again in a few weeks.
Hope you're all well,