April 2014’s posts

Now the drugs don’t work…

2 Apr 2014

Don’t worry the title is based on Verve lyrics.

Last night Nikki typed on the blog for around one hour – before opening a photograph in Firefox, without saving the blog draft.  There are many words lost, please return to Nikki if found.  Nikki worked really hard on it, I was pleased to see her write so much.  It made me proud.  I hope she will re-write the lost words, I want to read them too!

Today, a student shown me a picture of something I thought was so space-aged it had to be Chinese.  The student had shown me because www.bing.com had this as the landing page image.  It was in fact the Falkirk Wheel.  Like an up to date Anderton boat lift.  I had to explain the purpose of canals and why we had them and still use them.  The student in question wants to visit the U.K. to see canals.  Don’t thank me Visit England!

Last week I thought I ended the flu.  Since then I have had a sore throat (occasionally), coughing fits late at night and keep losing my voice.  I have also been bitten a fair bit this last week or so.  Last night, and the night before, it has taken me around two hours to get to sleep.  I cannee lay down laddy.  A dilemma arrived for me today…

Option 1:  Chinese Medicine.  I’ll give that a very wide berth.  The scientist and carer of all things horned, tusked and stripy indicate I should back the flip away from this line of placebo healthcare.

Option2:  The Doctors.  Enter the least inviting medical practice ever.  The doors and walls remind me of a derelict building I one stepped foot in.  Greyed, scaled with smears of who knows what and grime from many decades of neglect.

Option 3:  K.B.O.  Sir Winston Churchill said, “Keep buggering on.”  The problem is that he probably was used to lack of sleep and parliament aside, he didn’t have to teach classes of 40 children, cooped in by recent torrential thunderstorms.

I have exited the doctors with 4 different prescriptions for a 3 days course.  The doctor told me (via Bright) I have late flu symptoms caused by flu.

One medication is the Lian Hua Qing Wen Capsule and Flu Prevention Tea used locally to battle the H1N1 Flu Virus.  It has very little English on the box other than:  “It has the function for cough; phlegm and adjusting the immune system, strongly improving the symptoms of cold fear; headache; high fever; muscle pain; fatigue.   It can kill a wide range of virus and bacteria.”  The Food and Drug Administration of U.S.A. has banned it, but what do they know, they ban life-saving drugs all the time.

One medication is Ribavirin is a broad scope antiviral drug, mainly for viral hemorrhagic fevers and hepatitis C.  The NHS use it for severe flu symptoms.

Qingre Xiaoyanning Jiaonang is written on one box.  The leaflet inside says, “Alleviates fever the disintoxicating, the sterilization stops pain, relaxes the muscles and joints and stimulate blood circulation.”  It appears purely herbal.  http://cmctasly.shenzhou.nl/products/en/patents/23161

One of the medication types has no English label but like the others it carries professional packing, holograms, proper seals and Bright (my superior at school) says are safe to use.

I have been told to avoid spicy food (hard to do), drink only hot water, and avoid tea or coffee for the next three days.

I wonder what is on the menu later…

A long weekend

7 Apr 2014

Well I’m going to try again, but not write as much.

The last post described about the weekend before, which I’ll now do in short. Saturday was a chilled out afternoon in Houjie after the evening before was spend at KTV. It was just myself, John, Esban and James in Houjie. We went for food and suceeded in finding the best place ever, an Italian pizza restaurant. The guy there was amazing and loved us for coming in that he gave us a free greek salad with feta cheese, and some italian bread like stuff. the evening was a DVD evening with the girls while John was out drinking with the boys.

 

Sunday I went to Dongguan with the girls shopping. We ended up at a very western style mall that had zara, h&m and even a clarks shoe shop. It was great to find clothes that fit and we all bought something. Shopping aside the weather was terrible just one big massive thunderstorm for hours. Getting back from shopping was interesting due to the weather as many roads were flooded, plus we got soaked trying to get a taxi, but we got back safe just took longer than normal. John stayed in and enjoyed the thunderstorm from the dry seeing the lightening hit the cranes nearby. Highlight of the day was an English pub where I had bangers, mash, beans, onions and gravy. Going back for sunday roast at some point.

 

This weekend we have had Monday off as well, this is due to to Tombs sweeping day http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/qingming.htm. However with the uncertainty of the weather with thunderstorms and rain most of the week, we all decided to stay nearby and explore further afield when the weather gets better. Friday we went out for food us and 6 other foreign teachers in Houjie and we ended up at the pizza place. this time we got a free cake for afters and a shot of rum each. This is going to be a place we visit a few times during our time here! We then went to bar street for a few drinks and then to a different KTV which was really good and it sold rum, so I was very happy!

 

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and me and the girls went to the temple nearby. It was packed, but nice to see in the daylight. Lots of people were taking our photos, which to me is the normal now. John went to Irene’s bar to watch rugby with Tim a Kiwi who we have meet a few times and has just come back from Japan. The evening we watched DVD’s bought from the cheap DVD shop in Houjie. We watched Frozen which is great and Saving Mr Banks also great.

 

Sunday was a rainy day so me and girls went shopping in Houjie, they introduced me to some good clothes shops, where I bought a dress, and a cheap jewelry shop where I bought a new watch for £3. good to know I can get stuff close by when I need it. John wasn’t up for girly time, but did try and notice the word try and go on a bike ride. However his pedals fell off! Luckily he was only down the road when it happened. I do hope he can go on a bike ride soon.

 

Monday (today) its been a me and John day. We decided to head to the local sports park, complete with a football/building site pitch, olympic sized swimmimng pool and kiddies pool, badmington and basketball courts, a full 400m track and an outdoor gym. Think we may go back and soon in our exercise gear. We then walked to the top end of Houjie to what we thought was a temple, but a pavilion and a park. It was nice and we will go back to explore the woodlands around it another day. So now its the evening we are chilling with a random movie and I’m finally writing on the blog. This time I will save and then add my picture.

What is the fear of crushing a smaller person?

13 Apr 2014

People of wherever, this weeks 20 years since Supersonic by Oasis, their first single.  I am feeling Supersonic…

Last Tuesday (back to school after a 3 day weekend) was pretty damn hard but flew by.

On Wednesday, our co-worker (supervisor) came from Guangzhou to observe two of my lessons and two of Nikki’s lessons.  This time she appeared with a video camera in tow.  I hate being recorded so sweated doubly as much in the 30°C heat (the fans above doing absolutely nothing to break the thick humid air).  My first class that day was to teach the PE teachers key terms for their lessons.  That and they always conspire to get me to act out the odd gymnastic or dance move.  It is good fun, but hard work.  I really like the PE Teachers, Jan is now renamed as Star and one of the other teachers is named Moon.  So I teach Sun, Moon, Star, Winnie (as in the Pooh), Nicole, Jane, Vivvy, and Fabulous – and occasionally one other teacher drops in to join in.  Their Chinese names are so much more interesting but I could not type them other than Feng Shu Lei (AKA Moon).  In the evening, around 1730hrs, I went running, in baking 26°C heat.  I did break it up with a kick around with two Chinese teachers and a student.  We kicked a ball around, not each other.  I went in net for a bit, most shots hitting the neighbouring badminton court, security building and occasionally being so far off target they went out for a throw in.  Never-the-less great fun!  The evening concluded with Team Liam Has E.D. winning the pub quiz at Irene’s Bar by a single point.

Thursday arrived, my busiest day:  6 classes, a foreign teacher meeting and workshop.  Today, the teachers from Grade 7 asked me to delay doing the next topic/module of the text book for two weeks.  I asked the Grade 8 teachers if they also wanted a delay on the next chapter.  They also wish for this.  So next week, I am teaching greetings and the theme of Easter holidays.  The following week I’ll introduce the U.K. culture and differences between China and the U.K.  There are many, many differences.  Some odd, some simplistic and some baffling beyond belief.  That evening, as is typical of the school, my final class was cancelled with just 5 minutes notice.

After school on Friday, the Chinese teachers who lacked skill in football, invited me to play basketball.  The boot was on the other foot.  I have not played a competitive basketball game since year 11 in Reddish Vale Technology School.  I only made 2 fouls, about average for each teacher in the 3-on-3 half court version of the game.  We played two games, I scored a few hoops, and was on the winning side twice.  Not bad, and I am bobbins in comparison with these technically sound Chinese players.  They like height and strength but have buckets of drive.  Oh and bar one player, all were in their early twenties.  Stay still.  Sinophobia is the fear of the Chinese or Chinese culture;  Stasibasiphobia is the fear of standing or walking.  Is there a name for fear of crushing a Chinese person?  Speaking of fear, I want to go here.

To conclude the day an evening using the pub quiz prize of a bottle of vodka (and a few beers on top) wasn’t a bad night out.

On Saturday it was settled that all foreign teachers would assemble at 1000hrs for breakfast.  Following this we would jump on the number 5 bus destined for Shuilian Mountain Park.  By half past ten most of us were taking in a delectable light breakfast and drinking a peculiar milk and oat based tea, up there with glugging dishwater.  James soon arrived very leisurely and relayed to the tribe that Liam was still very much in the land of dreams following the previous night’s drinking.

One stuffy, cramped, but cheap (2 RMB or about 20p) bus journey of around 30 minutes later we arrive at the Shuilian Mountain Forest Park, Dongguan, Guangdong, China.  The highest point is 378 metres high (1240 feet; shy of Bodmin Moor’s highest point).  We took the path of steep steps, humid, hot (easily around 30°C and no sign of cooling).  Two litres of water later and a fair few leg stretches, stops en route we reached the summit.  Here greeted us another temple, complete with more steps.  Up we went.  Up I returned swiftly.  The wasps up there were bloody big, hopefully not too closely related to the deadly Asian giant hornet.  Panic over, time for an ice cream.  Oh, one has just flown past me.  Care to wear my ice cream?  In actual fact I started walking down the other path away from the temple and ice cream shop.  I will do anything to minimise the subsequent panic of me sharing airspace with wasps.  Risk analysis at its best.

The descent of the mountain-hill was pretty, lots of hidden temples, shrines and mini-waterfalls – and photo requests with Chinese folk.  We eventually arrived at the lake by the main entrance, passed on the peddle boats, the 200 Yuan deposit being a problem, as collectively 7 foreign teachers and Birgitte’s sister could not fit onto one swan-themed craft (seating for two) – and carrying large amounts of money is discouraged.  Here we decided to have an ice cream again, a light snack and head home for a shower (how much sweat was sweated makes me sweat thinking about the sweaty sweat).

Last night we returned to Jerry’s Wow.  James and I are veterans now, having called by 4 times in 3 weeks.  Pizza was had, a cracking Greek salad and some hard earned feet up and natter time.  Liam nattered about his love of spotting phalluses in Disney cartoons, much earning his puppy in a pack status.  Esben, Birgitte, her brother and sister compared their Danish and Norwegian dialects.  Nikki looked tired but content with the Pizza Vulcano.  My option being the bell pepper topped Pizza Diavola.  Don’t think we eat Western that often, this is very rare – and it is only because the place is so welcoming.  The staff split a bottle of Bacardi between us, complimentary, gratis, free, appreciated.  Afterwards we stopped at Top 85, a rip-off Starbucks comparable with U.K. prices but very, very good in quality.

Today’s plans involve surprising Birgitte later this evening with a birthday cake – she has not mentioned it is her birthday to any of us!  Her older brother and sister are over from Norway for a week or so here (Norwegians are mega-rich, so treat globetrotting like a walk to their local park).  Straight after that the Scousers versus City shall be popped on the television – and live commentary via BBC Manchester’s The Goat and Cheesey.  Oh and we have to go shopping for provisions.

  • Has it really been 9 weeks since we arrived here?

Zài jiàn!

“Teacher, Teacher, let me try”

21 Apr 2014

  • What’s different?  What’s the same?  So many differences, so many similarities.  Above all we’re all human, just.  The sense of euphoria that everything was new at first is starting to fade.  Things seem normal.  There is yearning to see family and friends but not at a painful and unmanageable level.  I do miss football madly, that was expected too.  The 3 Fs rank very high in my life priorities.  New foods, new cultural traits and habits, new oddities, new temples or sculptures, landmarks and parks are still everywhere still.  China is like a game of top trumps, something always steps up to the plate and throws the last shock into the shadows.
  • Last Thursday, I held a few egg and spoon races at school, proving a chuckle and then some.  Explaining Easter with as little religion as possible (we cannot preach or promote beliefs) was actually quite easy.  Friday’s egg and spoon race took a few hits early on, with students opting to eat their eggs prior to the event.  The pupils do arrive at 6.30am, have breakfast at 7.30am and lunch at 12pm so yes, I can see why the eggs were gobbled early on.
  • Friday’s lunchtime was entertaining, in essence a photo of the foreign teachers with the primary school was required.  It took some time to be done.  The weather was hot, we were exposed to the rays of the sun for far too long.  That and I had to wear red.  I almost got out of wearing red – as their largest size (Large) was too small, until a reasonably large teacher from a different part of the school let me use his shirt. Grrrrr.  I hate red.  I keep reading about and being warned about culture shock, and the sudden crash when you realise things are very different.  So far the two fingers of defiance are placed firmly up.  I am far too relaxed about this shock of shocks.  I know there are ups, there are downs and there are plateaus.  All is good on that front.  Just go for it, go with the flow.  I won’t wear red with a smile.
  • The media here is great, because I don’t understand it.  No scaremongering.  As far as I am concerned, life is going on.  Peacefully.  Oh, Crimea, North Korea etc you hear in the news, but not muggings, etc.  In some ways ignorance is bliss.  I love reading the news, I love hearing things globally but I hate the repetitive nature that the media churns over, quotes Twitter, shows the most indistinguishable cameraphone footage of what appears to be something doing summat by that thing, you know.
  • Before leaving, Nikki and I took a few small pieces of home.  We did our research, looked around at sights and places to visit.  I also believe in the mentality that I am not Chinese, I am just a working tourist.  I will act professional and try to deliver above and beyond, but I’m here to see a culture different to my own.  We definitely no longer need a map.  We are venturing further afield, into the bits between the streets we’ve perused and scoping out the new.  Work, colleagues, students, the locals, the foreign teachers and other expats working in the area are making for a good community here.
  • So, teaching, what is like?  Well they stick you front and centre of 30-45 adolescents and make you sweat.  Think of the guy at the open mic comedy night that evidently had too much lemonade and made a comprehensive posterior of his self.  Yes, it is always a man.  We are unsurpassed on this front.  In the bright classroom lights and by the overhead powerpoint projector rays you can burn.  There will be moments when you wish the ground will realign itself in some sort of new fault line, swallow you whole and spit you back out in Elysium.  There will be times so tense, a pin dropping will be as quiet as an Old Trafford end of season party for the 2013/14 season.  But do not panic.  Do not worry.  You are the weapon of choice.  Use banter, bottle it, spray it, and deploy in massive payloads.
  • If banter fails, have a Plan B, try bribery.  Chocolates, sweets (candy?  Back off Americans), points, prizes, money, A-stars… anything.  Positive reinforcement is a posh name for bribery.  Plan C is punishment, but beware, anything you tell a Chinese student will not strike the fear that the native teachers can instill to them.  You’re threats will be empty in comparison.  That said, we don’t do threatening, it isn’t pleasant.  I recommend Plan D, “I’m going to make a phone call to your parents.”  Result.  This is the last resort.  A sudden change of attitude shall be seen.
  • In class time can equally freeze or evaporate.  Some classes are similar, but others break the mould, smashing a well-established and successful lesson plan into something akin to the SwissMiniGun (look it up!).  The balance between dictating, activities and games, or open conversation needs to be timed, assessed and reviewed with precision.  The classes generally fit into several categories:
  1. dynamic, flowing and bursting with energy;
  2. rowdy and the whole class call or shout out answers, arms up, shouting “Teacher, Teacher, let me try”;
  3. the one or two kids who do not give other kids a chance;
  4. still, tired, devoid of energy, (usually sweating buckets after P.E.);
  5. Friday afternoon classes.  Pandemonium, hell in a hand basket, sheer agony.
  • Often classes have lulls, peaks, troughs, but on the whole my 8 different class groups are very good.  I observe the other foreign teachers in at least 4 classes each week – and am thankful I do not have grade 1 (straight out of nursery/kindergarten) or grade 2 (equally chaotic).  The grades between (3 to 6) are fantastic and angelic in many senses.  Grade 7 and 8 is where the teenage mode kicks in, is all about saving face.  The Chinese care a lot about their face (reputation and how they are perceived).
  • Friday night, we ate chicken (shaped like some sort of crucifixion) from sticks at Irene’s Bar with last Wednesday’s pub quiz prize.  Yes we won again, two wins on the bounce.  This time we won by a considerable margin, thanks to the round on 90s album names and artists.

 

  • Saturday night, we popped to Dongcheng (just outside Dongguan) for food with some of Briony and Becky’s training partners from Beijing.  We had Mexican.  It was okay.  My review of El Caliente is here.  Afterwards we popped into Beijing Bar, on Bar Street, a smart looking club laid out with precision and a massive DJ who looked a bit like a young Reg D. Hunter (comedian).  Everyone seemed to scatter, so me and Nikki decided to stay.  Then we tried a club across the road, Vita Bar, where the owner’s husband from Irene’s Bar (in Houjie, where we live) happened to be drinking.  His band came on and soon he was drumming.  Not bad, cover versions, but entertaining.  It then happened.
  • My stomach decided to make a noise similar to a bear dragging a bar stool through a wind turbine turning backwards into a headwind on a windy winter’s night.  Up went my feet, faster than any other boy I’ve ever known, in through the swing door.  THE FOLLOWING TEXT HAS BEEN REMOVED BECAUSE THE CONTENT IS DEEMED TOO SH!T FOR PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE.
  • The next day was okay.  I did not eat.  Nothing much happened.  I had another Milk Salt Black Tea (these really are wonderful, creamy, sweet and a drink to die for).

Tomorrow, our school is off to a zoo in Shenzen.  It may be this one.  I am half looking forward to it, half reserved and have very low expectations of the zoo.

How the mighty have fallen:  James and Liam, zonked.

On Wednesday, I winged two classes, due to a power outage.  The sodden ground next to my school block had flooded a wiring section.  Without the use of a projector, I soldiered on with chalk, blackboards (or chalkboards to the more politically correct amongst us, not that is matters, the boards are olive green), and dim lighting.  No ceiling fans helped me to sweat a morsel more too.

By Thursday morning power was restored, after the teachers and possibly one outside contractor later on, fixed the faulty power supply.  By Thursday evening, power had gone again, and with it two classes became cancelled (the classrooms can be very dark).  In the evening I finally Skyped my family back in Blighty, at long last!

The next day the power at my school had returned and the trench where the cable section was being repaired had a diverted power supply resembling that of a goalpost in the school garden.  Friday flew by, with highs of 28°C initiating an avalanche of aqua from my back.

I’ve got the power

26 Apr 2014

Shut down your browser with the listed timeline of Daily Mail shame, here is the next installment…

“We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…” was not sung on the journey thankfully.  We had an entertainer/guide onboard prompting renditions of Chinese power-ballads from the students. The day started in both chaos, pandemonium and pure civil order equally.  Birgitte, Esben, James, Liam and I had been told to arrive for 07:30hrs.  We did as instructed.  Bright then ushered us away to the canteen for breakfast, most of us having eaten prior to arrival.  Sometime later, on popped the class marching music and out trooped the children to the parade square/football pitch/running track.

A hoard of blue and yellow shirted guides led each class to their own bus.  Of around 1800 children, teachers and support staff, coach number 34 was last to leave.  The coach for the principal, support staff and foreign teachers, alongside a grade 9 class.  Bright sat with Esben and soon after it transpired the entertainer/guide wanted us foreigners to sing a verse.  Off the cuff, I could think of nothing but football chants.  Esben chipped in and recovered our bacon (and he’s the Dane!) with a ditty about something in Danish.  Not an inkling.  James and Liam appeared to be in a state of slumber.  Convenient.  The rest of the journey was mostly lacklustre, with just the usual amount of honking, illegal road manoeuvres and near misses that every road journey in China commands.

Our arrival at Shenzen Zoo was much better than our departure from school.  The efficiency in which we parked, departed and shuffled into the zoo with instructions to be back for `15:00hrs was almost Germanic.  After looking at the map, the zoo was laid out in a huge loop.  There was one way inwards, one way outwards – albeit via a small amusement park.  The first enclosure had Gibbons in it, and as zoos go, it did not look too bad.  We tottered around, greeting groups of students left, right and centre, passing a lake containing some pretty lethal looking Storks.  Another Gibbon island was surrounded by visitors flinging the Chinese equivalent of Worther’s Originals into the expectant apes.  To the credit of the zoo, every enclosure had signs saying, “Do not feed”; “Do not tease or stir the animals” or something protective of their stock.

 

After spotting a solitary Rhino in a small paddock, an Elephant wandered by us on foot.  I’m glad it went by foot, a bicycle would have been stranger, although in China this would also be equally likely.  I decided to pass the elephant enclosures with great caution, the blatant circus style showing and trance music left my head uneasy.  Many enclosures and a wandering wander later (including a single Chimpanzee, a huge pit of Siamese Crocodiles and some students drinking vodka based drinks) we arrived for lunch… at Ocean World.  Think a big auditorium, a pool for three dolphins and sealions, and some foreign divers.  We sat in amongst the whole school group eating our chicken, rice, tofu and vegetable takeaway delivered in a truck – for every single teacher and student in attendance.  Whilst we ate the sealions did their thing, a mermaid swam by, and three dolphins performed.  I didn’t enjoy much of it, but the students lapped it up with vigour.

We departed after viewing the remainder of the zoo, energy zapped we did not display vim or gusto, so dozed on the journey back to school.  That evening we reconvened with Bright at the market and spent around 300 Yuan, paid for by the school, on a banquet of sorts: dried squid, barbequed fish, aubergine caramelised with garlic, fried dumplings, pancake bread and many meats.

The evening arrived, food at the market (stir-fry and fried dumplings) preceded a stop at a wonky floored bar for some Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier, a break from the local produce.  This started a mini-pub crawl, somehow.  We all aimed for the new Anchor-brewery pop up bar outside Tesco.  We just did not envisage seeing four teachers there drinking, in school uniform.  They welcomed us, we joined two tables, played a dice game, emptied two 3-Litre beer towers, and a free jug of beer from the bar staff.  Soon after another teacher joined us, photographs snapped, we watched and stopped an unusual bar brawl/domestic, followed by a second tussle.  My PE Teacher colleague, Sun, being very useful (he also teaches Taekwondo).  Soon, the Chinese teachers lack of drinking ability gave rise to their departure.  We shuffled a whole 50 metres to the Snow Bar, where the owner gave us a 3 Litre tower to drink from, for free!  It really is odd at times, we tried to pay, but were told no!  We’ll have to go back sometime.  Robert, an Indian teacher, from a partnership school of our school called by, so we had a few drinks with him, his nephew and a friend Liam had met recently.  We then went to Irene’s Bar and chilled out.

Irene’s Bar had that day held a ceremony for expats to remember Anzac Day.  The national day of remembrance that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.  Nikki and I stayed in the bar as the more spritely members of our group (Liam, Esben, James) cajoled others into a trip to Pink Lady (a massive nightclub/seedy bar).  We chatted with Troy, the nephew of the bar owner, who is in Houjie on business, shoes.  Dongguan is renowned for shoes, leather goods, furniture and prostitution, so you can usually work out somebody’s trade within minutes of saying hello.  Anyway, Troy knows his shoes, and this Sunday he is going to show us some shoe shops that make big shoes.

Ta’ra,

John

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