I did it. The Graduation party has come and gone, I did my speech in Chinese and the audience seemed to react appropriately, laughing (at me?!) in the right places, so I think they understood some of it, thank goodness. It's a pretty scary concept for me to be on stage and, for me, that was brave. For all those people who tell me that spending a year in China, travelling around solo with little knowledge of the language is brave, I disagree, but standing on that stage certainly was. I then did my song with student helpers, plus Peter. I'm sure this example of British culture (This is the way we brush our teeth)probably stumped most of them but it seemed to go down OK, and it's done. In fact life here is also nearly over and I'm feeling horribly anti-climactic at present with Graduation party over, graduate meal eaten, photos taken, final lessons taught, flat emptied of accumulated rubbish, goodbyes said and just the exams to be done, when there will be precious little time for proper goodbyes to my lovely students. Maybe just as well. The 'plan' is to be off at the weekend for my final travels and I'll buy my ticket to somewhere as soon as I decide where it is. The only definites are meeting up with a VSOer in a few days, heading off to Hong Kong with her then flying back on 19th July. In a way it'd be good to fast-forward to the end of the week...this nearly finished limbo time is the sort of thing I find tough.
It's difficult to describe my feelings right now. I spent a day yesterday sorting out what to take and not to take back to the UK, off-loading lots of un-wanted lesson plans, worksheets and random ideas on my fellow volunteer here, who obviously didn't want them either but was too polite to say so. To coin Tom's phrase, my flat now looks scarily empty, and not like the home it's been for twelve months. No photo wall, no piles of stuff that I'm so fond of, no anything. I started the process too early and yesterday I had too much time to dwell and brood. Even my usual Sunday routine barbecue meal was cancelled and I wasn't in the mood to plan anything else, inflicting my long face on others. Routines are dangerous things for me. Regular events, planned activities, teaching classes, I miss them when they're not there. My maudlin mood did pass soon enough though as students phoned to talk about their exams and came round to have a chat, give me photos and invite me to lunch.
Today continued to be emotional for me when students said how much they'll miss me, when I looked at my bare walls, when students just said their usual 'Hello Valerie', when they talked about accompanying me to the bus station when I leave. I really don't think I could cope with this, feeling as I have been over the last couple of days. I need to give myself a stern talking to, I think. That or a dose of the 'yang mei' cure.
Even the oral exams had emotional moments. A discussion on 'how important is money' led to tears when one student explained that her mother had died five years previously as the family couldn't afford the hospital treatment. This, unfortunately, is far from rare in this poor area of the country. This student's a tough girl, about 4 foot tall in her high heels and an ace table tennis player, when she can reach, and she carried on beautifully. Another, talking about sport, discussed at some length the influence Tom had had on him when he'd explained the rules of snooker during his recent visit. Yet another spoke about how much she'd loved playing table tennis and badminton with me this year. And the 'story' one of the students told was a true one about a much-remembered English class with a certain oral English teacher not so far away.
I can take all this flattery!!! I'm still going to need those tissues, though.