Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spring Break and the Chinese Lunar New Year

After the Christmas and New Year celebrations it was teaching as normal as we headed towards the end of semester on the 24th January and the big Chinese Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival Holiday.

School got a bit stressful as something was happening between the agency I work for who runs the International Department and the Principle of the actual school. This meant that our management started ordering us about and getting a bit heavy with the Chinese teachers.  One day, out of the blue we received a txt that basically said you now must be in the office 9am - 5pm every day. And it was a missive from the boss. Basically we were just doing our teaching hours and wandering back to our apartments, which you will remember are on campus. So we are never more than 2 minutes from the office at any given time 24/7.

So the next day I wandered in for my class which was mid morning and I was remind of the txt message to which I simply responded, 'Well thats not what my contract stipulates' and went on to teach. The next day a representative from head office came to explain the situation which was basically the School was pretty pissed of with the laizze fair attitude of the International Department. Not just us foreign teachers.

You have to remember a Chinese school is a pretty disciplined place, very regimented. Corporal punishment is still allowed. Its not unknown for teachers to hit kids. So to have a bunch of 'enlightened' language teachers around seems to have jarred. This is the first year that the International Department has been in this school.

Anyway this was explained to us and it was clear we weren't being told the whole story.  Basically we responded by saying that we expected to be treated like professional teachers and not just ordered around willy nilly and that if this was going to be the case we could, because we were professional teachers, get a 100 jobs the next day in Nanjing.

The next day Emma, the representative, turned up with another boss and this time we were spoken to individually.  We were told not to tell anyone we worked for Linkfun - this at the end of a semester where we had told everyone we worked for Linkfun and some other stupid stuff. We reiterated what we said yesterday and agreed that we would work the 9-5 office hrs until the end of the semester to help them out with the sc hook, but that come the new semester we would be doing our contracted 10 hrs a week office hrs. Which to be fair we had not been doing.

Anyway all this arty barge had left some of the Chinese teacher really disgruntled and I sorry to say some of them have left the school and/or not had their contracts renewed. School life in China can be a dog eat dog sorta place.

As school finished I was asked to attend a meeting - where once I'd turned up suited and booted they commenced to speak in Chinese for the whole meeting. Plus I attended a parents day where I had to give a 10 minute speech in English (translated by a colleague) of course I totally used the speech to promote myself!!

But spring break was soon upon us. And first up was a visit to the zoo. First up had to be the Pandas - and they were out and about. Somepeople had said that sometimes you don't see them cos they are sleeping  but not these two.

The meerkats were good value

This was a pretty mad, in the sense he was psychologically damaged, which is really why I don't like zoos that much  - just pacing up and down with a demented look in his eyes.

And a demented mad human in the next cage.  This one was open, the cleaners were in and they didn't seem to mind us wondering there as well

And the bear shows what he really feels about all the humans staring at him!

There were lots of other animals as well and it was a good day out really even if I don't like zoos.

The main event of the holiday was a trip to Anhui Province with my Chinese friend Sam and his wife Ci Ci. This was a special invitation because the Spring Festival is a big family event and people travel back from all ends of the earth to spend the holiday at home.  So to be invited into peoples homes at this time was a bit special.

The holiday started off with a bit of a road trip from Nanjing to Huianan which is where Ci Ci's parents were and was Ci Ci's home town. It was about a 4 hour drive sort of north from Nanjing by the time we had stopped for a pee and stuff  

In Huainan we went to visit Ci Ci's parents and have dinner. Her Dad is a teacher and I think her mum works in HR. So we had some food and then we went downtown to have a look around. I was also put up in a nice hotel at no cost to myself I might add. _ this was a theme throughout the holiday - I didn't spend a penny and I wasn't allowed to spend any money, even when I tried.

This is Ci Ci's mums flat

  CI Ci on the left with her sister and dinner. Special red cabbage salad just for me

Later out in town with Sam and wife eating popcorn or what they called 'Boom Boom Flower'
 The food market

Then next mooring we had to wait for the fog to life and then we jumped back in the car and drove from Huainan to Tongling. 

In Tongling we were soon in a new hotel and driving off to see Sams parents for Dinner - This was New Years Dinner so it was a pretty special time.

This is Sams sister and his nephew Han Han and the loaded table. All the food was home cooked and delicious. Sams parents are 'country' people so this was Chinese country food at its best.

The kitchen and the running water and Sams mum

Sams dad setting off the auspicious fireworks

Dad tucking into lotus root (yum)

Eating doesn't stop those mobile phone moments even in China

Sam, me and his Dad, I'm wearing the 'Tong' jacket given to me by the school out of respect of being asked into their homes, I think that gesture was appreciated.

Dad in the kitchen

The front room - you will notice there is NO heating and the doors are open - fortunately we were having some reasonably mild days - but even in the coldest weather they have no heating and the doors are open, they just wear more clothes.  And of course - heating cost money - which they don't have, even people with money will not put the AC or heating on - they just wear more clothes.  They might just have a point!

Han Han - the nephew - a very nice and friendly boy

As this blog is now really 'belated' I'm going to press swiftly on and get it published.. (March 26th!!)

Me on a train in Tongling

More food at another relatives house - delicious it was too

We are always the focus of attention as of course not many Chinese people get to meet foreigners - this is one of Sam's cousins - she's 21 I thought she was about 15!!

Then another meal back at the Anhui Cultural centre - only about 3 hours after a huge lunch -we were all flagging...

But then KTV (Karaoke) and beer

Then another meal the next day - this is another relative, the village 'mayor' - he was 50!

This is 'traditional' I was told

Then the meal - all home cooked and delicious.

Then we went to Hefei where Ci Ci's family lived - they are City folk so it was posh restaurants for food.

The grandparents and Ci Ci's mum and Dad

Then Karaoke again

 The contradiction of China The modern and the ancient side by side, very rich and very poor - people still washing their clothes in the lake

Washing machine

Sams granny

So this was a great trip to Anhui Province at a time of great significance for Chinese families. I was really honoured to be welcomed into their homes during this time. Plus Sam and Ci Ci would not let me spend a penny as I was their guest. Everything was covered from the hotel room to a 20p bottle of water. 

Ive tried to give you a flavour of the trip and the Chinese New Year. 

I'll get onto the next episode asap.  Sorry for the delay but work and having a busy life is to blame, plus my tardiness and a bad poor wifi in my apartment.  

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