Happy Christmas to all at home. We're celebrating it in China too. There are Christmas trees and decorations for sale here now and the most hideous Father Christmases you ever did see as the Chinese have begun to celebrate some Western festivals as well as their own. This led to an interesting argument at last week's English corner, with some students welcoming it and others arguing against further Americanisation of China. Anyway, I've been busy teaching 'White Christmas' to the staff of the English department for their slot at 'The Performance'. Some of the staff are are a challenge! To say that many of them are reluctant to speak English would be a huge understatement and I realised why at a meal out last week. They all dashed to get a table as far away as possible from me and Tim - I've never seen them move so fast -and we asked one of the poor souls who was stuck with us 'Have you been to this restaurant before?' and she looked at her friend in total mystification. We tried. 'Is this your first time here?' No better. I tried my very limited Chinese and they eventually got there. They're terrified of me engaging them in conversation because, it seems, some of them just can't do it .It's easier for them not to try, or to even pretend they haven't seen me. Fortunately they're not all like that but it seems to bethe majority. Most of their lessons are conducted in Chinese and, one day soon, the students will start questioning it, but they don't do so yet. They know all complex grammar terminology but can't string a sentence together. I feel sorry for their students.
When my oral exams are over, in mid-January, I'm off to Lijiang, which is one of Yunnan province's beauty spots, with a couple of students, I'll be staying with the family of one girl, eating traditional foods with both families and will be shown around the area with pride, introduced to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the rest of the town, I think. I really have no idea what to expect but the excitement my visit is generating is amazing. I expect 'the foreign teacher' will be remembered for years to come so I'll try not to get drunk on the 'bai jiu' and will try to enjoy the traditional foods whatever they may be. Wish me luck. I'm really looking forward to it too.
My next adventure, after Lijiang, will be to make my own way by bus and train to Hanoi, where I'm meeting up with Tim on 1st February. Flying would be easier but I fancy the challenge of the bus trip to the Vietnamese border and the railway journey through to Hanoi. We're finishing up in Ho Chi Min City and I'm planning to fly back from there to Kunming.
Before the trip to Lijiang I have a couple of weeks free and I may travel around Yunnan solo to visit other volunteers but haven't made up my mind yet. I'm only just getting confident enough to get around, using a little Chinese, and was pleased that, when Tim was here, I could make myself understood in limited situations, and get us onto the right buses, order more or less the meals we wanted and so on. I think he was impressed by my 'chat' with the taxi driver. It was good for him to see why I'm enjoying life so much here. The students really are a joy. He also loved their enthusiasm and happiness despite, or maybe even because of, their lack of material wealth.
Have a great break. My colleagues at Weydon certainly sound as though they need it!