Val's VSO year in China
It was hard leaving but it's done. After the photos came down from my walls I thought I had to leave as soon as I could to avoid the emotional farewells. I succeeded in the former but not the latter The last week was full, with exams, students saying goodbye, umpteeen photos being taken (I reckon I'm popular at the photo shop), meals with students and staff and many presents being given. I was ready to go. There's only so many times you can hear people saying how much they'll miss you, talking about you in exams 'and so on' before you start to feel emotional yourself and it cetainly hit me once or twice The College took me for a final meal, as is tradition, and I put them in a panic here when I said I was leaving immediately after the exams. It was fitted in though and was even quite enjoyable, with the Director of Education trying to converse in Chinese with me. Maybe 'converse' doesn't quite describe it but I tried. One of the English teachers who never speaks English seemed to appreciate it, hearing all the mistakes I was making, as she actually spoke more English in one night than I've heard all year and even came to the flat with a present for me before I left. The banquet included the first dog meat I've seen on a table and bees, by the way. The final leaving day came, with students helping me buy tickets (they still don't think I can do it by myself), helping me to clean up my flat and insisting on seeing me to the bus station. I was taken by the College driver but they followed and it got pretty tearful. In one 'photo shoot' I'd said to one student that in England we'd hug each other on occasions like this and gave her a little hug. I asked if they'd ever do that in China. Never, she said, shaking her head vigorously making me think I'd offended her. She was the first in the queue for a hug, however, at the bus station as the other passengers looked on in disbelief at this 'laowai' being hugged by many teary Chinese girls. It was the end of an era, a fascinating one, which I'll miss so much. A lot of the students mentioned my farewell speech in Chinese and said how much they'd enjoyed it.....wow, they understood. Ah, well, I'm now at the sea-side in Guanxi province and feeling a little low. Maybe I should have stayed longer in Wenshan, maybe I should have stayed 12 months longer..... but life's too short for regrets, decisions were made and now I've got two weeks or so to enjoy here in China before my flight home. I'd better start enjoying myself. A swim in the sea tomorrow should do it, I reckon. I'm editing this two days later to put the new perspective. The journey here, to Bei Hai, was a long one and maybe I was tired after 17 hours in the sleeper bus to Nanning followed by another three to get here. Bei Hai struck me as a bit of a dive and, at first, I wondered what on earth I was doing here. I got off the bus at Bei Hai, looked for the recommended hotel nearby and, yes, it was near the other bus station! Couldn't get out of China without another bus station problem. Two lovely students escorted me, my huge bag, smaller rucksack and lap top bag, to the right place and I negotiated myself in to a great room with Western loo which I thought was worth paying for as I don't want to budge from this spot for a week. So, I was worn out and very hot. My first view of un-made roads, slummy buildings and dirty-looking restaurants didn't impress me much. What a difference a couple of days make. The' Yintan', 'Silver Beach', a 2 kuai ten kilometre bus ride away is a white sand beach that goes on for miles, with not a soul in sight, apart from Vietnamese looking fishermen. The Chinese tourists don't move far from the entrance.The skies and sand make a spectacular sight and the sea is really warm. It's been great to dive in the ocean after so long, amongst the small jumping fish, and enjoy the warm sunshine and rain. Yesterday evening I went for a stroll along the 'prom' back in Bei Hai and spent ages sitting on the sea front watching the amazing colours of the sky changing shape. Even the town looked better, with some wonderful buildings, friendly people and good fishy snacks. The only problem is I don't like eating alone in restaurants but that's a small thing. I'm enjoying a very relaxed existence here and now I don't feel any need to move on until the 8th, to Guilin, the last but one stage of my year in China.