Just some minor problems this week. You'd think sending a postcard home would be easy, wouldn't you? Not so. My local P.O. lady is used to me now, and smiles broadly when I come in, but when I arrived last week with three postcards this was obviously a first and not included in the job training. You can't buy postcards in Wenshan and she'd never had to deal with such things. After a phone conversation lasting at least five minutes, to someone who might know the answer, it emerged that they'd all have to be sent in an envelope. Then she presumed they could all go in one envelope (well all the addresses were in 'foreign' so they must all be going to that strange place where all 'laowai's live) so asking for three was the next challenge. The letters I sent a few days later came back to sender so I just hope the postcards do arrive eventually.
Getting to Xingyi in Guizhou, the next province, was a doddle in comparison. There's one direct bus every day and the woman at the bus station told me clearly when it was, at 14.20, so I was able to go after my Thursday classes. I had no problem finding the bus and the driver was helpful, showing me to my bed on the sleeper. Though I couldn't understand what he said ,he managed to convey how long we were stopping each time and gave me fried rice 'on the house' at the supper stop. We arrived at around 2am, after delays due to a lorry having to be heaved out of a ditch, and were able to stay on the bus until a more civilised time to phone Jacq to announce my arrival.
It was a very good weekend, including some Spanish teaching to a 3rd year class. I think ithis was in answer to the question 'How do you teach in a secondary school in England?' They seemed keen to learn some more and it seems that Xingyi students are as charming as those in Wenshan. One of Jacq's lovely students, the only Clive under about 50, cooked dinner for us and others wouldn't let her pay for lunch in a great local restaurant.
Local beauty spots were only a 1 kuai bus-ride away and we visited Maling Gorge on Saturday and Wan Feng Ling on Sunday, both boasting wonderful scenery. Maling Gorge rates a well-deserved entry in the Lonely Planet as the place to go in an otherwise un-inspiring Xingyi. Wenshan certainly doesn't rate an LP entry. There's a walk through the gorge on a good but wet path, across wobbly bridges advising that no more than ten people should be on them at a time and plenty of photo-opportunity views of cascading waterfalls, enhanced by recent rains.
Wan Feng Ling I loved too. Its mountains start abruptly from the flat plain, some emerging in the most pure 'mountain' shapes I've seen, like a kid's drawing, up to a pointed peak and down again. I could imagine the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down these.
As I was due to teach at 8am on Monday, I decided to take the Saturday 5.30pm bus back, rather than arrive back on Monday morning and teach directly, after a night on the sleeper. I think this was the right decision as I didn't get a lot of sleep with the twists and turns on the country roads bouncing me around. No safety belts on these - or loos. The 5.30 bus got out of Xingyi at around 6.45, not too bad! Maybe it's nice that buses wait for late passengers to arrive. No one seemed to complain, like they would at home, but there seemed to be some teasing going on because the late-comers had thought the bus left at 6.30. Imagine that in England, a bus waiting for an hour? There'd be a riot. And then to stop for petrol within five minutes of departure!
No problems on the return route, a leisurely walk back through a waking Wenshan, a stop en route for my favourite rice noodles then a restful day. Great.