It's been a while since my last blog so I though I'd better catch up on my homework! Things have changed quite a bit, after my little PR exercise in Heng Yang I went back to Yangshuo and got stuck in to the volunteering which was great fun. Spent a few great days cycling through the countryside,along the Li River and chilling out in the multitude of bars and restaurants in Yangshuo! After a couple of weeks I got offered a paid job teaching Secondary school English in a VERY small part of China, as the previous teacher had a family emergency and had to leave. It wasn't sure at first, as I'd come to China as a volunteer but after speaking to mum and checking my bank account (Which is not so healthy after 9 months!) I decided to take it and see what happens!
As with my last journey things didn't run smoothly! I got stuck on a stinky sleeper bus but made it to destination without too much hassle. I was due to be collected by an agent in Jinan, capital of the Shandong Province at 10 AM...she even rang me to confirm my arrival time...so I waited, waited and waited some more but noone came! MY phone had chosen that exact time to go mental and I couldn't receive or make any calls, I had no idea where I was supposed to go, no idea where I was and if I'm honest had begun to panic a little! I eventually found a nice lady who spoke English and who kindly rang the (Stoopid) woman who was supposed to collect me! She eventually arrived (4 hours late) and then said in amazment "Your hair, it is like us..." Basicaly translated into, "You are English, I expected you to be blonde so I actually WALKED PAST YOU in the waiting room and didn't register you, the ONLY foreign person in the whole damn bus station because your hair is the same as Chinese people". GRRRR. ANyway, they put me up in a nice hotel, I treated myself to Pizza Hut for dinner and took another bus to Weishan...from now on known as Hicksville.
I was collected by 3 lovely little men, 2 Mr Wongs and a Mr Hou, who took me to my new home for the next few months. I started teaching the next day and so far it's been great, though I was swinging bwtween laughter and psycopathic violence for the first few days. Hicksville is VERY small. So small that I don't think they have ever seen a foreigner in real life and as such I was the subject of MUCH staring which was all a bit too much. People were stopping in the street, nudging their friends, pointing at me and I even had a crowd of children chasing me around a park chanting "Nee how low wai" basically "Hello foreigner"!! I'm laughing about it now but it was incredibly uncomfortable to begin with. They seem a bit more used to me now, and Patrick, the other English teacher so I've settled in OK!
The students are great, SOOOOOOO different from English Secondary school kids it's not true! They stand up and cheer when I walk into the room, have a HUGE mix of language levels and many believe that the Eiffel tower is in London...the one thing they ALL know about Engand though is David Beckham!Anyway, I feel like a bit of a pop star and a warning to the Salusbury people, I will have an ENORMOUS ego when I get home and will expect the red carpet every morning!! (Just kidding) The respect they have for foreign teachers out here is amazing. I've had students telling me that I'm "selfless" for helping them and that they "thank me so so much" it's weird!! I've even had 3 SEPERATE people tell me I look like a Hollywood actress...HAHAHAHAHA!! Good for the ego I suppose, but yet another example of how strange China is!
The school is ENORMOUS with over 5000 students. I will teach 1600 of them! I have 40 classes of 40 students and teach 4 classes a day. It's a bit boring teaching the same thing OVER AND OVER again but by the last lesson it's up to Ofsted standard!! What I'm finding a little weird is the babysitting though...there is a police station right outside the school grounds and they provide security for the school...(but I think they're DODGY) whenever we try to leave they say "No" and make us ring Henry (Our "boss" type person who looks after us) to check it's OK! They would be happier if we stayed in our apartments and asked them to go to the supermarket for us! Apparantly they're just so paranoid that something bad will happen to us and if it does they get into serious trouble! It's quite sweet really but a bit weird when you've been on your own for 9 months with no troubles!
So far the funniest experience was the school's Track Mett, which involved an opening cermony not dissimilar to the Olympics (It was MAD! Choreographed dancing, they made the rings and everything, a marching band, live music it was CRAZY!) It all started at 7 AM and I was roped into the teachers race...I was very nervous, as all these Chinese teachers are TINY...I am not so much and I expected them to be super fast!! But I didn't embarress myself and came 3rd, much to Patrick's dismay as he came last Haha. It was a great day though and it continued for 3 days whilst myself and Patrick escaped to Beijing!
So, that's what I've been up to anyway! Weishan is tiny with VERY little to do, NO BARS (No that wasn't a typo) and nothing really to see but the people are lovely (If a little freaked out by the foreigners) and only want to help us out! I had some minor stresses with Russian and Indian Visas but they seem to have been ironed out now, but just in case could you all please say a special prayer that they all come through on time!
Anyway, that's all from me, I'm in Beijing at the moment (Will blog that next week) waiting for an Indian Visa and enjoying being on the road again! IT was strange to stop in one place and actually unpack my bag! Have made all my plans for the route home and fingers crossed it will all go off without a hitch! Less than 4 months now till I'm back in London, can't believe how quickly it's gone!
Hope you're all well