I've now had my second week of teaching and part of another weekend and I have now mobilised students to show me around , help me at the markets and improve (and laugh at) my pitiful Chinese. There was a virtual stampede to sign up and several of China's 1.3 billion were nearly killed in the rush. After my lesson on my first weekend's experiences they were so keen to help so Tuesday is cooking dinner, Wednesday is at the market and supermarket, Saturday and Sunday are showing me the local sights.
After Wednesday's shopping with my students I now own soy sauce, which is better to cook with than last week's vinegar and have been introduced to various new types of gourds. They bargained for me and I got bagfuls of vegetables for next to nothing.
This morning I was taken to Xihua park and we climbed up the steps, past the Buddhist temple, through the Hoopla stalls up to the mountain where there were stunning views all around. The girls were great fun and we talked in broken English with them teaching me a bit of Chinese. We had a picnic in the sunshine,watching the wonderful butterflies which are just about visible in the photos, before coming back. All the students wanted to pose for photos, doing what we think of as a victory sign with their fingers. I'll know I've been in China too long when I start doing the same.
On Tuesday evening I was taken up the 999 steps of 'Wembley Tower'. (That's what it sounds like but no one knew why). Great views of Wenshan's lights by night and full of people excercising. walking forwards and backwards (it's good for the back, apparently),running etc. Once back down we watched the people dancing in the square - they followed a strict routine and every individual knew all the steps. It was awe -inspiring. The girls said it was mainly for old people though. They have to do morning excercise at around 6.45 am every day but when I went to have a look, and jog round the rough track with many others, I noticed they did their tai chi very half-hearttedly.
My TV classes are great but I was warned! Some of them catch up on their sleep in the daytime so they can stay awake for the Internet cafe at night. It's not just in my lessons honestly! I was given a text book for these classes which is wholly inappropriate and old fashioned (eg. Mrs Smith's afternoon tea in Selfridges) but ,as most students are poor and they've had to buy it, I feel duty- bound to dip into it occasionally. In fact, when I used it, they were very much in their comfort- zone, blindly reading with little comprehension. Exams here are memory -based and you see students everywhere reading aloud to themselves so they can re-gurgitate it all verbatim in exams.
Enough teacher -talk. It's been a good week mainly due to the politeness and welcome of the students who have looked after me to the extent of holding my arm when we cross roads. Zebra crossings here can be a death-defying experience.
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