I've finally arrived in Wenshan after a 3 hour flight from Beijing to the province capital, Kunming. I was met in Kunming by my 'waiban', the foreign affairs person who will be in charge of my welfare and the College president's driver in his Buick. I was shown around Kunming, where we stayed the night in a pleasant hotel. After a breakfast of rice noodles with spicy meat and various vegetables, eaten with chopsticks, we started on the 6 hour drive to Wenshan. It was a fascinating journey through mountainous and agricultural terrain. I identified maize, tobacco and sunflowers to name but a few.
We stopped for lunch en route. This gave me my first experience of the Chinese rural toilet. Suffice it to say there wasn't a lot of privacy and the view below didn't look or smell good! My 'waiban' asked where the tap was in the restaurant as there was no water in the toilet building and she did find one. Note to self - take wet-wipes wherever you go.
The meal was tasty and freshly cooked with plenty of the usual chilli and garlic accompanying meat, fish and vegetables. No intestinal re-allignment needed yet but watch this space.
We arrived mid- afternoon and I was driven to my flat - home for the next 12 months- and it's really quite pretty. At least it was until I flooded the floor the first time I used the washing machine.
I unpacked and freshened up before going for dinner with my new college and various dignitaries including the aptly named Mr Left, (Guo) the local Party leader. We toasted everybody (many times!) and tried to consume the vast amount of food. During the meal I discovered I was to start teaching at 8am the next day.
My co-volunteer, who has been here 3 years, talked me through what to expect. My 2nd year English students would be delightful (they were) and my TV class would be a 'Challenge' -we'll see. The photos are of my TV group to help me remember all 51 of them! They're there mainly because their parents thought it would be a good idea for them to study English at College as part of a government initiative which didn't really work. They skipped Senior High school to come to the College and seem to have neither the wish nor the ability to achieve much, seems to be the staff's opinion.
As you can see, most of them look quite charming. Also, all Chinese students stand up automatically when asked a question directly. It's quite unnerving. They also chant answers a lot and find group work a novel experience.
After work today I bought fruit and vegetables at the market. I bought several bagfuls of veg including carrots, potatoes, chilli, ginger, spring onions and something unidentifiable and still spent significantly under 1 pound. Life is cheap here.
Well, roll on tomorrow. It's going well so far, except for the flooded floor and getting lost in the market, but those haven't got me down.
Keep your messages, e-mails etc coming. I may need them as time goes on.