Saturday, 8 February 2014

Its February already....time flies when you're having fun - don't it?

My last post was early December and so much has happened I don't think I can cover it in one blog without boring you all to death so I'll try and split my news over a couple of blogs.

I'm currently on my spring break holiday. This is a pretty huge event in the Chinese Calendar as its a long holiday for most and everyone rushes home.  Later in the blog I'll talk about my spring break and add some pictures. But suffice to say at the moment I'm off work from about the 24th January until the 17th February.

I finished my last blog looking forward to Christmas - which came all to soon. Christmas is strange in China. They have taken all the western christmas symbolism on board, except for the Christian bit, and of course its a great business opportunity for the canny Chinese businessman/woman.

During my classes I obviously use Christmas as a topic to add new vocabulary and teach them a bit more about our culture and traditions. But I am aware of the religious connection and try to walk a fine line between passing on knowledge and information and proselytising which is illegal in China. Although I do know that a couple of my students are actually Christians.

But before Christmas came I was obviously teaching and taking part in the life of the school. What this also means is having to go to meetings that are being called at the last minute as well as teaching.

The air quality has also been really bad leading up to Christmas with the pollution levels over 400 times what is deemed to be safe.  So precautions have to be taken.

This is me in a variety of guises  trying to protect myself from the air. 

The fase mask was actually provided by the school. In Nanjing at the worst of the pollution all of the state schools closed and the kids stayed at or went home. In my school? Well as its a private school all the kids stayed and we had to teach. And as I have mentioned before all of the classrooms are open to the elements and thus to the bad air! And I can't teach with a face mask on.

This is an Acer on the campus. You can see the quality of the air behind it.

But back to the meeting, despite the bad air, we were bused to a country park where we had a meeting. This effectively means the meeting is held in Chinese and me and Stephen sit there like lemons sipping green tea.

The good thing about the bad air is that the light is diffused and you an get some nice photos.

These are lotus plants and lotus root is a very tasty vegetable


The team

This is Alice, Julia and Jerry - the guy behind is called Colin of which more later, cos he's a dick!

After the meeting we had a walk around the grounds then on to a banquet room, where, yes we had a banquet. It was the usual inedible (for me) fare.  With the added bonus of lots of alcohol. The big boss only drinks water, but takes part in the drinking toasts as if he was drinking alcohol. What they drink here is called Baijiu or Bijo which is like a Chinese form of vodka mixed with diesel fuel! And they do lots of toasting. But strangely there was some other bloke at the table we'd never seen. And he was leading the toasting and knocking the stuff back.  It turned out that this was the big bosses 'drinker'. An indication of just how BIG the big boss was. He had his own personal drinker so he didn't have to!

This is Sheri and Grace on the bus home, after too much wine. 

 Later in the month we had a visit, which I had arranged from a guy called Henry Evans, from Plymouth University - he is an ex student that won a competition to become an Antarctic Explorer as part of the Scott celebrations. Now he works as a university ambassador and has his own business linked to his experience. He was here as part of a Plymouth University promotional trip. He gave a good talk and I think the students enjoyed it.

In full antarctic kit

With some of my senior A students - from the left - Torres, Niven and Jeremy. 

 Then once again we were told at the last minute of another meeting we had to attend. This one was out of town and was going to be of all the teachers from across China who worked for Linkfun, my agency.

This is Scott a Canadian teacher at my school, but not in the International Department having a close look at the tea plantation in the hotel/resort where the meeting was.

Ann my line manager - one of the good guys!

This time the meeting only lasted NINE - 9 hours, with not ONE - 1 word of English being spoken. So there was me, Stephen, Scott, Taylor another american teacher and two other foreign teachers who just had to sit there. The reason, to give the organisation 'face' - to show that there were foreign teachers there. 

 Rebecca - studied at Newcastle Uni, Christine and Scott

After the meeting and banquet - at the party. Julia, Rebecca and Irene

 There was entertainment as well

But the best bit was me getting a "Best Foreign Teacher' award. 

Its also orange season in China and these mini oranges/mandarins/tangerines whatever, are sweet, cheap and delicious

Then we soon got into the swing of thew Christmas season. First off was the Christmas party for my Saturday Job.  En-route AJ was stopping off at his tailors to pick up some stuff he'd had made. I took the opportunity to get my suit trousers turned up as they were dragging on the ground. This meant taking my trousers off in the middle of a big store. Fortunately I had my long Crombie on. But it did cause hilarity amongst the shop assistants. 

 The tailors assistant doing my trousers
 AJ in full sartiorial elegance....
 The party
 This is one of my colleagues whose 'English' name is 'Shining'
 Me in  the Christmas spirit

Teaching on Christmas Day - yes Christmas Day! It's not a holiday here. 

But there I was half way through my class - when in walked the principle and a camera crew!  So I carried on but I was soon told I had to 'interact' with my students for the cameras, despite me having a lesson plan.   Then it was insisted that the students dance. So I put some K Pop (Korean Pop) on a group the kids love called Big Bang - Im not sure how it went down with the principle!

This is the video on You Tube

B ut I had lots of gifts off my students. Note the 5, yes 5 Eiffel towers!!

We taught in the morning then we repaired to Stephens apartment for a suprise Christmas dinner he had knocked up.
 Christmas dinner

 Then in the afternoon there was a spectacular Christmas show/competition between local schools. Each school put on a show, generally based around christmas type themes, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The hare and the tortoise. All showing off their proficiency in English. All taken very seriously with judges and all.

Stephen and my classes put on a danceshow first. And you have to say they all put a lot of work into it.  This is Cherry from my class.  

Cherry and Jo, Jeremy and two boys from Senior B


Stephen was the 'narrator' dressed as Santa for our schools performance. 

Our show was Beauty and the Beast- this is Thomas being the beast.

The beauty

Eva in blue and one of the girls from the senior B class

Niven was the prince released from being the beast. here they ENJOY a kiss!

The'Beauty' is revealed as Torres which had them howling in the aisles. And howling in the class when I showed them these pics - especially the kissing ones. 

All the classes were involved the Juniors were animals. 

After the show I rushed off to my friend Marks place - art gallery, coffee shop sort of place.  For a meal with assorted Chinese students and Mark, the guy with the beard (from Manchester) his girlfriend Ariel not in the pic, and two Russian Sculpture friends Konstantin and Nik from St Petersburg.

This is what Nic did with my 5 Eiffel towers...

All in all it was a good Christmas

And of course I got to see my beautiful daughter Matilda open her presents on SKYPE!! Which was fantastic.  But of course underlines how much I miss miss miss her and how much I love love love her. Darling daughter of mine xxxxxx

So enough for this catch up - more soon.....

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