June 2014’s posts

A week of 36°C heat

4th June 2014

MONDAY:

As heat builds, energy saps.  Standing on an open athletic field watching the flag raising ceremony at school seemed perpetual.  Make it end, please make it end.  Even wearing a cap, sunglasses and a thin shirt counts for little.  I feel sweat seep, run and drop from lower legs, it feels warm and sticky, bloodlike in texture.  The stifling heat bakes me, stood up, feet exhausted and my brow draining of anything resembling liquid.  To the left, in amongst the classes, a young girl, maybe only 8-9 years of age, heaves up her breakfast, collapsing with a lack of energy.  Two teachers dash to her, lift her limp body up and haul her away for a quick checkover.  It is inhumanely hot.  8am should not be 33°C.  The forecast says highs of 35°C today.  Oh dear.

TUESDAY:

VIP Class for grade 5 faced the chop today due to an impromptu poetry competition.  I say impromptu, I mean, nobody told me or the foreign teachers.  We at least had chance to practice on a stage bigger than the London Lyceum Theatre.  Yes, I heard an actual pin drop many miles away.  Stage nerves are to be added to by the thin steal plating and rickety nature of the ground beneath our feet.  I advise my peers, do not stamp.  I do not want to die in China.  The rehearsal went well, even if the early stages had been interrupted by an eight year old student from one of James’s classes.  His actions with a toy chainsaw left many bruises on Esben’s and Liam’s abdomens.  On a lighter note, the student (who nobody seems to know his name) is calling me John rather than James (the standard greeting he shouts to anyone white).  It hit 36°C today.

WEDNESDAY:

My sunburn is receding into a form of peeling dry skin.

Today, we are supposed to record the Singing On The Rain song for our show this Friday.  This was supposed to happen at lunch time but did not due to James and Liam being kate by twenty minutes at lunchtime.  From 13:30hrs to 14:00hrs is a quiet period at the school.  Nap time, flumoxed kids by the midday heat and teachers equally dazed gives near tranquility.  Noises drift from outside of school such as hooting of horns, construction and general loudness, typical of this neck of industrial China.  Because Liam had only just set up the lap top for 13:55hrs, we have had to abandon the recording until the evening, after everybody has no more classes.  This is assuming the microphone works okay.  Again it hit 36°C today.

Liam and James could join us for the quiz in the evening.  They were running it!  Team “Trim The Fat” (we’d shed several pounds of Liam and James) won with just Esben, Nikki, Becky, Tim (from New Zealand) and I.  A staggering 2.5 points seen us over the finish line, despite dropping a massive amount of points on the final round.  Result.  Next week I am the quizmaster.  I’ll keep my quiz under lock and key until then.  Next week I cannot be on the team of Champions.

THURSDAY:

One quick show infront of the principal and his panel of judges later, and we had conformation that around 8am tomorrow we shall be in the Children’s Day Show.  Arghhhhh!  Earlier in the day 36°C was recorded, later on a storm cooled things off briefly, but later on it rose again to 36°C.

FRIDAY:

Dear diary, I hate mornings.  I hate being on stage.  I hate acting.  I’m not even sure I like Chinese food, children or being at school.  After we improvised facepaints using ground-up blue chalk, donned a very homemade and whimsical outfit each, our audience awaited and then action.  To follow ancient Chinese musical productions and displays of sheer obidient organisation was going to take soemthing.  Order, structure, organisation, professionalism, stability and neatness look better when shattered by a splattering of pandemonium, disarray, disorder and confusion.  I thank you.  That said we did provide a wealth of proper belly laughs from the audience, something I had not heard from the previous four acts and the 12 or so that followed.  The hours that followed the performance allowed me to teach class 701-704 without hitch.  My foreign teacher peers all had no classes, Children’s Day applies to children up to Grade 6 only.  Afterwards, I strolled around with James and Liam, enoyed masses of watermelon and was gifted more sugar based treats than should be legal (to which I passed them all to my Grade 7 students later).  The day itself was beautiful, like a friendly, welcoming version of Christmas slapped into summer, without all the religious pomposity and bullshit.  It also looked like the lower grades of school had done some proper crafts with their decorated rooms, costumes, hats and enthusiastic smiles galore.  Britain needs a Children’s Day, but the first rule would be – no commercialism.  And it Britain it will not be 36°C.

In the evening Birgitte and Esben flew separate ways to Shaghai and Guilin respectively.  The remainder of our clan went for pizza, before heading to Irene’s Bar to drink the quiz prize and buy a bottle of single malt whisky (sadly not Penderyn single malt whisky – remember Irish and Americans spell it whiskey or whiskeys, both are wrong).  On the way back Becky spotted a toad kissing a cockroach on the road.  This is very normal for Becky (who we would later find out, randomly that her dad does not eat cheese).

SATURDAY:

Nikki and I boarded the number 310 bus, crammed in, but breathable, headed to Daojiao.  We looked around the food festival (complete with water fight arena) and sidecourse of dragon boat racing.  Some blueberry liquor was purchased and lots of things tried, some foods so pungent that the nose was tested to the extreme.  We headed home early evening as the 36°C heat was far too much to brunt.

In the evening we met Tim and the foreign teachers and played Ring of Fire on the 9th storey roof of their apartment, complete with plantpots for Tim to add to the compost.  Tim also decorated the pavement below.  Báijiǔ (rice based spirit) does have that effect.  Especially mixed with Chinese brandy and other oddities.  Try tomato based alcopops.  Fantastic roof party, without music.

SUNDAY:

After waking up, doing some work, popping my head outside and realising that the weather was far too hot, I decided to lounge around.  Pretty much all day.  Nikki went back to Daojiao food festival with some of the foreign teachers.  In the evening we started watching a film with James, Liam, Bryony and Becky but could not finish it, a combination of lack of proper sleep, heat exhaustion and giggles killed the mood.  The Sunday high was 36°C.  Grrrr.

The horde on the embankment

4th June 2014

Dragonboat festival day and Monday being a day that school was closed allowed us chance to explore.  Liam, Bryony, Becky and James joined Nikki and I in a trip to Wàngniúdūn, a lesser known part of Dongguan.  Most people pass by this town on the nearby G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway blissfully unaware of a very traditional area beneath them.  From Houjie we caught the 310 bus to Daojiao packed to the gunwales.  James and I stood somehow between the driver’s seat and one of the doors.  I’m fairly certain one of the foreign teachers had an unwelcome face full of Chinese lady armpit.  From Daojiao we negotiated through pigeon Chinese and Becky’s dragon articulations two taxies to Wàngniúdūn.  Becky, Liam and I split off from the others.  After driving for a while we agreed the taxi driver’s licence picture was certainly not the driver.  Unaware that Nikki, James and Bryony also having an unlicensed taxi driver.  Their driver was an older woman, the picture being of a younger man.  Still it was cheap and safe.  This is very normal for this neck of the world.

On arrival, at two different times, having had each taxi travel two different directions, we meandered towards the main river and presumably the race area.  I spotted a solitary dragon boat, untenanted to my left.  On wandering down one of the embankment roads to either side of the canal channel, distant drumming sounds rode up the water.  Two dragonboats drew closer.  Drums banging, chanting and filled to the brim with red baseball cap wearing, sportswear clad Chinese versions of Scousers on holiday.  Their smiles, and shouts of “ní hǎo” welcoming our band of foreigners curious by their customs.

Nikki and I abandoned the children (Becky, Bryony, James and Liam – it was hot, they were tired and grouchy) finding an alleyway through an impoverished estate with houses built from anything spare – the closest thing to slums I have witnessed to date.  On reaching the end, maybe a kilometre or so along, an elderly gentlemen gestured us to turn right, I bid him, “xiè xiè” to which he responded, “bù kè qi.”  We tottered on by a shop, and an English Major student spoke scarily good English as we grabbed two bottles of much needed corporation pop.  Next stop, the river bank and Liaoxia North bridge, both in view.  Up the bridge we strolled, the sun baking down from above and the clamour from a huge throng was instantly heard.

The crowd lined the river along the kilometre race section.  In the middle of a wide section of river lay five boat lanes colourfully marked with buoys and on a slight bend, the start line position was hidden.  We stood at the business end of the dragonboat race lanes.  After the other parts of our temporary expat clan caught up, we sauntered to the west shore (the shadier side, shady as in sun, not underhand).  A very zany and odd local individual seemed to admiring our camera and unswervingly talking to us, in Mandarin, to which I understand nothing.  He seemed sweet… and unthreatening.  Maybe he was just excited foreign people were there to see the boats.  If a load of Chinese folk came to watch Manchester City, I’d say hello too.  They should have a banner placed up with “Welcome to Wàngniúdūn.”  Instead of Carlos Tevez, perhaps place an image of Chéng Lóng.

After a few races, we wandered ever deeper along the horde on the embankment.  Photogrpahs of the white folk were captured and my ears destroyed by a chain of firecrackers comparable with placing one’s head into a roaring tornado.  It was ear-splitting, piercing strident but at the same token amusing.  After seeing several races, the Champion teams paraded their trophies on the water.  The heat had gotten to us all – the other foreign teachers had snared sunshine on their shoulders and other peripheral bits.  Food was needed and shade.  We all scattered to the four winds, homeward bound without the cat or dogs.  An exceptionally pleasant day was had.

Conragtulations on your engagement

4th June 2014

To my best buddy Daniel Lee Ridyard and Vanessa ‘vanTrouble’ Dreuter – and all within your tribe. I love you loads, and congratulate you wholeheartedly on your engagement, may your two beautiful boys, the cats and your tribe be happy forever. Thank you for always being there for me Dan and here’s to your family, past, present and future. Now I’ve been sensible and sensitive, stop reading and pop on some Star Trek.

It’s about time someone else wrote on this blog!

6/6/2014

Hello to all. Sorry for not writing much, I’m really not much of a writer plus I’m just not as entertaining as my husband. I’ve not much to say seen as John has told you about everything we have seen and done.

Really enjoying work and exploring locally. Last week was especially good as it was nice to see some Dragon boat races. The South of China is the place to be, however actual races are declining due to village/town budgets. Just read this in our monthly magazine ‘Here Dongguan’. So most places now only plan to race every 3 years or so, however the place where we went and another place will still continue with yearly races. Dragon boat races have now turned into Dragon boat parades in most places.

Last weekend was also Children’s Day as John has already mentioned. His school had a big celebration on the Friday morning and I managed to see the foreign teacher’s act, along with a few other acts, including a weird western style interpretation of the hokey pokey. My school decided that we teach most of the day but have fun from 10.30-11.30. Fun in the sense the kids are practicing what they have learnt in phonics classes. All kids had a book and had to get 3 stamps in it to get a ticket to the school teacher’s show. Stamps were given for correct answers – so K1 had to say what the picture on the flashcard was all stuff learnt in class like tiger, umbrella, dog, cat etc. K2 did the same as K1 but also had to fill in the missing letter of a picture e.g. f_sh, K3 had to spell words like box, pot, hop etc and also put words into sentences that have been taught from their conversation books. Even though the kids had to work they loved it running around the school to different classrooms to get their stamps. Me well I was the ‘Help Station’, so if a child didn’t know word etc they would come to me. I’m pleased to say none of my K3’s came for help so my English/Chinese teachers have done a fab job. I just had a few K2’s with missing letters, which they knew as soon as they asked me as I made the sounds of the letters. I also had a few K1’s visit and again if I did the start of the word like ‘um’ they would then go ‘brella’, so they just needed only a little help. This went on for 20mins or so and then it was the show, which all teachers were involved with, including me. All acts were of groups of 3 and the first act was a group of Chinese teachers acting as animals, then it was me and 2 Chinese/English teachers Amy from my K1 class, and Crystal from K2. We decided to act and sing the song, which all my classes know and love, ‘Walking in the Jungle’. It was a lot of fun and we chose 4 kids to pretend to be the animals in the songs which they loved! Next was the next group of Chinese teacher doing a mini drama, looked great just wish I could of understood it all. Then my K3 and baby Chinese/English teacher did a song with kids singing with them. All in all a great little show and at the end the children got given alarm clocks, which they couldn’t stop showing me. Boys got green frogs and girls got pink rabbits. TBH after lunch and naptime I didn’t teach much, instead for my K1 class I put on Despicable me 2 on TV, and actually another class came in to join us too!

Other news with my school is the fact that the other foreign teacher called Simon, just up and left. He didn’t tell the school and I found out just before he flew out. So not a nice way to leave the children he taught, but they have been told he has left and many kids now don’t ask about him.

This semester is flying by I have only 6 weeks of teaching left, finishing on the 18th July. My K3 are learning an English poem and song to sing at their graduation, which I chose. We practice every lesson and my teachers are getting the kids to practice in their lessons too! Both of my K3 classes have a different poem and song to learn, both are doing really well, it is going to be really sad to say goodbye soon.

Well that’s all folks I’m sure I’ll write again soon, well maybe in a months time!

The Fēng Shuǐ Masters

9th June 2014

Called off.  Wednesday night I was supposed to run the pub quiz, the problem was only two teams turned up.  The quiz was called off due to a waterlogged pitch around 9pm.  No lightning strikes meant the game was not delayed.  The following day, my co-worker at Worlda, advised me my last working day at Dao Ming Foreign Language School is to be June the 20th.  Although since then, the 19th of June and 18th of June have been mentioned.  Either way, it isn’t long off.  Yesterday (Sunday), I was advised at which point I move to the sister school, Oxford Kingdom International.  That is a kindergarten (nursery and reception school to us “stiff-ass Brits”).

Happens to be that since the fallout of Nikki’s colleague Simon left his role midterm, things have been bumpy.  Whilst Simon enjoys a new job in Sognefjellet, Norway (Northern Europe’s highest mountain pass) Bryony has had to transfer from the Oxford Kingdom International kindergarten to the Junior Kingdom kindergarten that Nikki works in.  In the meantime our company Worlda has supplied Taneisha for 2 weeks to the Oxford Kingdom International.  As it stands I will be going to Oxford Kingdom International after my role here, but as is apparent Bryony is slightly miffed and wants to return there.  However, this would result in me working with Nikki in the Junior Kingdom kindergarten – something our company does not want to happen, nor do I.  Too many working hours and too few feet between us could create unnecessary stresses.  Ah well, I’ll do as I am told.

Anyway, Sat’day was a chilled out day, I went shoe shopping with Nikki – for me!  I found size 14 (EUR 50) a few times in Uggs, Crocs, basketball shoes with football studs/blades affixed (very odd and I bet they never ever sell) and a few walking boots.  The shop I spotted some decent walking boots in had sold out of my size but did have 15,16 and 17.  Good luck selling them in China!  After which I sent Nikki back to relax, prepare to go to Irene’s Bar to watch the rugby (England v All Blacks).  I then tottered a tad further, found a pair of walking boots that looked solid, of sound quality – and asked for the price.  800 RMB (bābǎi), ouch.  I decided to negotiate.  Before I’d even thought about it, my mouth just opened, it just left, I don’t know why I said it, or even started off with, “èrbǎi.”  I might as well of said, “bú yàoliǎn” (the worst insult here, it translates as “doesn’t want face” – shame or “face” is important in Chinese culture.  Surprisingly I got one of the shoes.  The left shoe hit my shoulder with a clunk.  Maybe I’ll not be giving them customer feedback.

Me and my shadow set off again, plodding, back to a shop I had spotted many big work shoes and walking boots.  I managed to get a pair for 220 RMB but oddly their size (UK: 13; EUR 47) was bigger than the bigger labelled UK 14s.  Not to worry.  After this I decided a round hat I have fancied buying was needed, I negotiated the sale from 80 RMB to 40 RMB.  All I need now is a new belt and some trainers.  After which I went to join Nikki at Irene’s Bar.  A few of our fellow foreign teachers turned up in drips and drabs (James definitely the latter, having been drunk the night before – with possible food poisoning turned up last, pale as a ghost).  After the main game, Irene’s husband, a cheery Maori called Marcus brought out dishes of pork belly, loin and ribs – alongside salad and bread sticks.  It was the first time since February that I had tasted mustard.  Mustard being up there with Vanilla Slices, Manchester Tarts, Bakewell Tarts and other such homely tastes.  That evening Nikki and I returned home and watched The Lego Movie on DVD.  The film is well worth a look, it reminded me very much of my childhood.  During the war…

Plenty of sunshine was seen this weekend. On Sunday, Nikki went with Birgitte to the world’s largest shopping centre/mall.  The South China Mall is 99% unoccupied, some of which looks and sounds severely derelict.

No. of stores and services: 47 (20 planned) (Total spaces: 2350, Unoccupied: 2303)

In the mall there are seven zones modeled on international cities, nations and regions, including Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Venice, Egypt, the Caribbean, and California.  Features include a 25 metres (82 ft) replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a replica of Venice’s St Mark’s bell tower, a 2.1 kilometres (1.3 mile) canal with gondolas, and a 553-meter indoor-outdoor roller coaster.  Nikki’s words were, it is interesting but very much a building site with lots of closed areas and construction workers still living on site.  See also Chenggong District and Ordos City (the latter looks stunning).

Often things like shopping can tire me out – but I wasn’t there, so afterwards Nikki and Birgitte later explored a few other historical areas of Dongguan.  I simply spent the day on my bicycle de-cluttering the mind of dust and cobwebs.  That and the floor needed mopping, some finances needed checking and I had to finish two lesson powerpoint displays.

New developments this week concluded with an evening arrival of our co-worker Casey and new colleague Taneisha from Guangzhou.  Taneisha is an American lady, very plain accented and confident in character.  We all met her briefly in our first week’s training in Guangzhou.  She has been teaching in that city but finished her role last week.  Like me, she moves from teaching middle school (secondary school) level to kindergarten.  After re-introductions we shown off the market barbecue facilities and range of available foods before nipping to Tesco for provisions.  It sounds so British until you get there and smell Durian fruit, see fish being slaughtered freshly and note the distinct lack of queuing systems and order.  Chinese men have fantastic poker faces and will happily stare you in the eye before slowly sliding in front of you at the cashier’s desk.  If you stay still, you become part of the map, and that means fair game to overtake, undertake and clamber over, barge past or fight to get to the cashier.  I recommend you be polite but not too polite, as you will never escape a shop ever again by being too polite.  Etiquette means nothing; China is too big; the people are too busy, you are not important to their family centric social lifestyles.  You’re always made to feel welcome, just don’t get in the way!

Seriously where does time go?  Today is Monday, I have class 801 soon.  I am a wee bit tired, during the night the Gods decided to move all the furniture several times over.  Honestly, their fēng shuǐ (it means wind-water) is well and truly out.  The Chinese English Teacher said she won’t be attending – so can I run the class without her, “you never need me anyway.”  I take that as positive feedback to couple with Casey’s, “You’re a good leader” comment yesterday.  To think, the first week here, I wanted to scatter.

Loves Got The World In Motion

2014-06-11 02:26:23.0

I’m on the outside looking in.  BBC Football is my starting point.  Here I can locate the fixtures and fittings of the 2014 World Cup held across Brazil.  From here I can head to the Manchester Evening News sports webpage, MCFC.co.uk for key World Cup links to my Champion team, and afar into the cosmos of illusory information.

World Cup fever has not hit Houjie, a few loosley flagged footballers in shop windows, the odd advert on TV for Harbin Beer (sponsors of the competition) and the odd mention at bars for foreigners.  Some bars will not open locally for any games, some may if the games are on in their regular hours.  Most of the foreign teachers here don’t care much for football, Bryony wants to see a few games, as does Liam.  Becky likes Edinson Roberto Cavani Gómez‘s cheekbones.  He put three past City in the 2011/12 season Champions League, whilst I rate his quality, his character at the time struck me as being a bit of a knobhead (no affection included in this term).  That said Uruguay play in a decent colour.

Image:  Between the group of foreign teachers we did manage to draw 4 teams each – the winner will take the stake (yet to be determined).  Some got a decent set of teams, others like Birgitte and James did not.

Put aside the lack of long-term legacy for this contest; wash away the negative news of fragmentary stadia and facilities; pack away the political white washes and the common man being crapped on from above; this summer is all about football.  The beautiful game.  Money may rule the roost off the field but on it, eleven souls face eleven souls who want the same thing, to win* (*unless they play for a draw like a Mark Hughes squad).

In previous finals, I could watch the game on television, at fan-parks in Manchester or at a public house or two.  Here in China, my options are limited.  Time difference, enemy of the football fan.  Brazil is -3 hours on the UK, China is +7 on the UK.  I started writing this at Rio de Janeiro time of Wednesday 03:34 AM – it is Wednesday 02:34 PM here in southern China.  Then you factor in games held at Manaus & Cuiabá are an hour further behind…  Here I am 11 or 12 hours ahead of the host nation.  My attention has been brought to fake sick notes for the tourney – but I shall pass on that!  The World Cup kick off times are ”inhumane” for players, say some, to some TV spectators globally, they are just plain inconvenient.  Based on this website, for games you can see that are convenient to your timezone, I may catch around 9 games from 48.

Which players from City can inspire their national squad to excel at this World Cup?  Yaya Toure should do well with Ivory Coast, but they have never excelled at the World Cup – I think they’ll go one better than Round 1 though – 3rd time lucky; England’s number one bears the weight of the U.K.’s cut-throat media and has the support of “There’s only one Jimmy Milner” but England’s group will be very tough.  They could finish third in the group stages.  A lot of attention has been rightly directed at the hosts and with Fernandinho – and ex-City star Jo on hand, why not?  Brazil will gets to the semi-finals.  For me Argentina have strength in depth – they’ll make the final, Demichelis ended the season on form, Aguero is a proven striker of massive quality and Pablo Zabaleta will run every second of the game like it is his last.  Are Belgium in good Kompany?  Yes, he is brilliant and they have a very strong outfit at the finals, they’ll make the quarter finals.  Edin Dzeko’s Bosnia and Herzegovina may well be debutants but I think they are more than capable of a quarter final berth.  I fancy David Silva’s Spain to win it overall and end the no European team has ever won a World Cup in (four finals held there) South America streak.  That said, I’d love Ghana, Cameroon or Iran to win it.  It’s all about the underdog.  The Netherlands, Germany and Italy have reached 16 finals between them, so again, they could be there come that fateful last kick-off.  6 of the 19 finals have been won by host nations.  The only thing undeniable is not a soul considers that blasted Lightning Seeds song anymore as being achievable.

I so want to see the opening ceremony and first game but I have school the next day.  The timezone/referee is a… (at least the Tour De France finishes before bedtime!)

Nikki and Bridget’s adventure

2014-06-11

Firstly let’s get where I work correct. In John’s blog a few days ago he mentioned I worked at the Junior Kingdom Kindergarten. This is wrong as far as I’m aware I work at the Oxford Kingdom International Kindergarten to set things straight.

 

Anyways Sunday last week was nice. It was great being with Bridget nice to chat lots and just enjoy the day exploring at out leisure. the mall is a building site only the front end is open. Currently it does not feel like the world’s largest mall. Who knows what they are building to the side of it, but builders were busy at work. Getting there was the first fun part of the day though. Firstly John said to get the bus opposite Tesco. We stayed there for 15mins and saw no buses with the correct numbers. So I called John and asked if he put the starting address as our apartment. The answer was ‘no!’ So after searching from ours we knew we had to go to the main road. We could get the 66, 67, 217 or 219. 66 arrive first we managed to stop it and hop on! I showed the lady who took our money the mall address. It sounded like they didn’t go there so we just decided to stay on the bus and see where we end up. I used my map app on my phone to see if we were going in the general direction. It did stop at the Nancheng bus station, where we have been before, we weren’t sure if this was the end of the line so we waited to see if everyone got off. Luckily many stayed on and so did we. We then went over a few bridges and turned off down a street and then suddenly we were at the main bus station, directly opposite the mall. We did a little cheer to celebrate that we had made it!

 

After looking around the mall we decided to take a walk to the Jin’aozhou tower which wasn’t far. We walked along the river which was nice, as it was quiet and we got good views of the tower as we were walking. The river was a lovely brownish colour however there were people swimming (or rather floating with rubber rings) in it, as well as people fishing and washing clothes. It was free to walk around the tower and its gardens, gates stopped anyone from going inside the tower though.

After having a look around we then carried onto head to the People’s park across the river. First though we followed the river path to a square just after the tower. On this square a big golden dragon. This is where Dragon boat races end in Dongguan. We found this out at the tower as there was a small museum with pictures of races.

We then continued through some gardens, which had an Egyptian feel to it with a few carvings on the walls. We then crossed over 2 bridges and arrived at the People’s park. This was stunning and well worth a look and very peaceful. There were a few large ponds with koi in and also there were black swans, ducks and geese swimming around.

There were also some building’s which we could look around. After enjoying the park we decided to head back to the mall for food, however we were hot and hungry so decided to take a bus back. Just as we left the park via the main entrance we kinda realised you had to pay to go in. We hadn’t as we came in via another entrance which had no gates, kiosk of guards, so one to remember when I visit again. Bridget asked a couple at the stop which bus to take as we had no idea with all the symbols on the timetable. Another cheer for making it back to the mall. We then grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then walked back to the bus station. We got on a 66 back to Houjie and managed to stop the bus where we wanted to get off. So another cheer deserved!

Irene’s Pub Quiz (Round 1)

Round 1: At the movies [13 points]
#Question
2000
Who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his fine performance in the movie Traffic? [1 point]
Benicio del Toro
2005
The Stylish film Sin City is shot in black & white with little tints of colour here and there. One man in particular even goes by the name of a certain colour, he is called? [1 point]
Yellow Bastard
2007
The Oscar winning movie No Country for Old Men, is set in which US state? [1 point]
Texas.
2008
A Pixar’s WALL-E see the little robot go on a journey to where? [1 point]
B Where did the name WALL-E originate from? [1 point]
A Space.
B The name “WALL-E” is a tip of the hat to Walter Elias Disney. /WALL-E stands for: Waste Allocation Load Lifter earth class.

2009
A In the sci-fi film Moon, who voices the robotic assistant GERTY? [1 point]
B Who is the director’s Dad? [1 point]
A Kevin Spacey. B David Bowie
2005-2013
Put the Legendary Pictures films in order of release date.
a Superman Returns, b Inception, c Watchmen, d Batman Begins, e 10,000BC, f The Hangover, g 300, h Pacific Rim
[2 points for the full order, 0 for out else]
d (2005), a (2006), g (2007), e (2008), f/c (2009), b (2010), h (2013)
2010
In 2010, Leslie Neilsen died. A How old was he? [1 point]
B What was the name of the TV series that preceded the Naked Gun film trilogy? [1 point]
A 84. B Police Squad.
19??-2014
a) In what year was the first Godzilla (Gojira) film released? [1 point]
b) How many official films have Toho, Tristar, and Legendary/Warner brothers franchises created based upon the character Godzilla? [1 point]
c) True or false. Godzilla has a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame. [1 point]
1954. 30 (28 by Toho). True.

 

Irene’s pub quiz (Round 2)

Round 2: Tag, you’re it. [16 points]
Match the Movie Taglines [1 point for each]
Life is in their hands. Death is on their minds. 12 Angry Men (1957)

The ultimate trip. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

…and remember, the next scream you hear may be your own! Birds, The (1963)

Earth. It was fun while it lasted. Armageddon (1998)

He’s a man of peace in a savage land…Suburbia. ‘Burbs, The (1989)

Her life was in their hands. Now her toe is in the mail. Big Lebowski, The (1998)

Buy the ticket, take the ride. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

For three men the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice. Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (1966)

You’ve never been scared until you’ve been scared in 3-D. House of Wax (1953)

Earth. Take a good look. It might be your last. Independence Day (1996)

A disgrace to criminals everywhere. Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

From the brother of the director of Ghost. Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

Great trilogies come in threes. Scary Movie 3 (2003)

It’s not like they didn’t warn us. Signs (2002)

The future is history. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Trust a few. Fear the rest. X-Men (2000)

Irene’s Bar pub quiz round 3

Round 3: No cheating [17 points]
# Question
Weaver
A How many Tour De France wins did the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) strike off Lance Armstrong? [1 point]
B What two films has the above mentioned cyclist made cameos in? [1 point]
C He is now known as a cheat, but can you tell me one of his two nicknames? [1 point]
7 (1999-2005). DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story; You, Me and Dupree. Le Boss; Big Tex.
Crooks
To the nearest 10 years, when was the first recorded case of drugs use in competitive cycling? [1 point]
In 1886/1896 (was confirmed later on), Arthur Linton from Aberdare in Wales died aged 24 of ‘exhaustion and typhoid fever’ a few weeks after finishing second in the Bordeaux–Paris race
Edghill
In Major League Baseball what was the longest ban for drugs cheating? (15 games being the shortest ban length) [2 points for the exact figure, 1 point for within 5 numbers]
Ramón A. Castro, Washington Nationals, missed 105 games from July 1, 2005
Wiekens
Which recent World Cup (28th May 2014) warm-up game/friendly is being investigated following a serious error by a goalkeeper? [1 point]
Scotland 2-2 Nigeria
Morrison
I copied this question. What does the Latin word plagiaries literally translate as? [1 point]
Kidnapper.
Horlock
Which essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic said the following? [1 point]
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. Bad poets deface what they take.”
Thomas Stearns Eliot
Brown
What is Cryptomnesia? [1 point]
Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original
Whitley
Jeff Rovin, Raymond Benson, David Michaels, Mark Greaney, Peter Telep, Grant Blackwood, Jerome Preisler are all ghost-writers, co-writers or pseudonyms for which writer? [1 point]
Tom Clancy

Dickov /Goater/Cooke/Taylor
A Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili is known by what other name? [1 point]
B Robert LeRoy Parker is known by what other name? [1 point]
C Florence Nightingale Graham is known by what other name? [1 point]
D Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu is known by what other name? [1 point]
Joseph Stalin. Butch Cassidy. Elizabeth Arden. Mother Teresa.
Bishop
What is the Capgras delusion? [1 point]
A disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.
Vaughan
The names on the left hand column reflect the 1999 Football League Second Division playoff final between Manchester City and Gillingham. Which current Premier League team is managed by the manager of Gillingham from that day? [1 point]
Crystal Palace, Tony Pulis

Irene’s Bar Pub Quiz Round 4

#Question
400
What movie title is linked by a Madonna song on the 1998 album Ray of Light; a 1997 released film by Wang Xiaoshuai; and a 2004 stage play by Bryony Lavery? [1 point]
Frozen
441
In World War I, why did tens of thousands of ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) end up in Weymouth (England)? [1 point or 2 if you state the reason]
It was an ideal site for their recuperation – due to the seaside climate.
484
In 1794, British troops capture Port-au-Prince in Haiti; 1913 – Emily Davison, a suffragette, runs out in front of King George V’s horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby. She is trampled, never regains consciousness and dies a few days later; 1917 – The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded; 1940 – World War II: The Dunkirk evacuation ends – British forces complete evacuation of 338,000 troops from Dunkirk in France. To rally the morale of the country, Winston Churchill delivers his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech; 1975 – Angelina Jolie was born. What was the day and month? [1 point]
4th June
529
How many days remain from today until the end of the Gregorian calendar year? [1 point]
210.
576
Aside from the hosts, which team becomes the first team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup (Brazil 2014) on this day in 2013? [1 point]
Japan 1–1 Australia
625
What name links a Greek goddess (one of the Horae); a daughter of Poseidon; a wife of Byzantine Emperor Leo IV and empress regnant; a town in South Dakota (and also smaller towns in Texas and West Virginia); and the names of several Hurricanes/tropical storms? [1 point]
Irene
676
A traditional method of paying in a drinking establishment; a type of musical composition; a ritual in medical education and inpatient care; a planetary cycle of reincarnation in Theosophy all can share which other word as a name? [1 point]
Round
729
As of the 3rd of June 2014, how many English Language Wikipedia pages was listed… was it A: 4,527,242 B: 5,527,242 C: 6,527,242 D: 527,242?
[1 point]
4,527,242
784
Name the year that…
The Commodore 64 8-bit home computer is launched by Commodore.
The first computer virus, the Elk Cloner, written by 15-year old Rich Skrenta, is found in the wild.
The DeLorean Motor Company Car Factory (in Europe) is put into receivership.
Cal Ripken, Jr. plays the first of what eventually becomes his record-breaking streak of 2,632 consecutive Major League Baseball games.
In Hong Kong, health warnings on cigarette packets are made statutory.
The first compact discs (CDs) are released to the public in Germany.
In Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World opens the EPCOT Center, to the public for the first time.
The population of the People’s Republic of China alone exceeds 1 billion making China the first nation to have a population of more the 1 billion.
[1 point for a year either side; 2 points for the exact year]
1982.
841
What is significant about the question numbers within this round?
[1 point]
They are all square numbers (202-302)
900
What is significant about the numbers 199, 211, 223, 227, 229, 233, 239, 241, 251, and 257? [1 point]
They are all prime numbers (45th-55th prime numbers to be precise)

Irene’s Bar Pub Quiz – Penultimate Round

Who’s behind the anagram?

FILTH LOADER
A RACIST LORD ONION
MOBILE UNIONISTS
MOILED BANANAS
OLD WEST ACTION
NIGEL, FETCH AN IRON LEG
SCREEN IS A STORM
Read, Shun Islam
A Crap Trek Twist
Nerd amid late TV
He bugs Gore

Answers in the same order:

ADOLF HITLER
CRISTIANO RONALDO
BENITO MUSSOLINI
OSAMA BIN LADEN
CLINT EASTWOOD
FLORENCE NIGHTINGAL
MARTIN SCORSESE
Salman Rushdie
Patrick Stewart
David Letterman
George Bush

Irene’s Bar Pub Quiz – Final Round

A table was created to add the following World Cup Host (12pts) / Mascot (13pts) / Golden Boot Holder (12pts) from 1966 to 2014.

Hosts: Argentina, England, France, Italy, Mexico, Mexico, Germany, West Germany, Spain, South Korea/Japan, South Africa, USA
Mascots: Ciao, Footix, Fuleco, Gauchito, Goleo VI & Pille, Juanito, Naranjito, Pique, Sreiker, Tip and Tap, The Spheriks, World Cup Willie, Zakumi
Golden boot holders: Gerd Müller (West Germany) 10; Eusébio (Portugal) 9; Ronaldo (Brazil) 8; Grzegorz Lato (Poland) 7; Mario Kempes (Argentina) 6; Paolo Rossi (Italy) 6; Gary Lineker (England) 6; Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) 6; Davor Šuker (Croatia) 6; Miroslav Klose (Germany) 5; Oleg Salenko(Russia) & Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) 5; Thomas Müller (Germany) 5 {NB: David Villa (Spain), Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlán scored the same too}

The Man with One Blue Shoe

16th June 2014

Today’s title is a reference to a lesser celebrated Tom Hanks film.

Last week was a peculiar one.  Friday was no exception.  All four classes faced the axe, students instead had a fun day, with games and activities spread across grades 7 and 8.  At lunchtime Taneisha had me hunting a cockroach in her apartment, I found a shedding but no actual cockroach.  Taneisha or Tanny to the students departed back to Guangzhou for the weekend – hopefully with no unwanted guests.  Bryony and Nikki watched on, one for support and one to screech when anything resembling an insect was unearthed.  On Friday morning, Esben asked me to record a class lesson, which did not go well, his camera decided to stop functioning after 28 minutes.  Still, following that he has around 12 minutes of footage.

On Thursday as I can call it, so can you for that matter saw an eclectic diversity in classes, my reasonably sane 704 class bounced off the walls with energy; 801 decided that without a teacher they’d say much more than usual (I hope the teacher fleeted by the classroom during the notorious, “What does f**k you mean?”  In the last month or so the students, particularly Grade 8, have been looking for offensive English words, words they can trick a teacher into saying.  I do tell them that the words are naughty, offensive and not to be used sparingly, but for meanings they should consult their form teacher.  This usually quells any curiosity.  They’ll see them in 1 of 34 foreign language films permitted to show at Chinese cinemas each year anyway!

Wednesday, was as The Sun or some other bad taste newspaper would it coin it, “Quizgate.”  I ran the weekly quiz at Irene’s Bar, usually there are 4 or 5 large teams.  This time round there were four very small teams.  Fractions in the foreign teacher camp caused Bryony to side with Birgitte and Taneisha.  Esben slotted off to take photographs of the evening.  James, Liam and Becky segmented with Nikki.  My aim of the quiz was to make it hard, but hard enough a team could only get 50% or so.  In the end, Nikki’s team scored 38 from 107.  They won.  The other teams dipped below 20 points.  Needless to say it never went down to well.  One American, who I will call Mr Mustard The Nemesis (he wears a mustard shirt, is always accusing other teams of cheating and seems to be a social butterfly through choice, not his) arrived in the last round.  Within milliseconds the abuse levels shot up from banter to downright bullying.  I wouldn’t mind but he missed the earlier round on cheating, included just for him!  After a few moments I went to collect the final round scores, and he took charge of his new team, ripped up and screwed up the answer sheet and threw it at me.  He also called me a word associated with the phrase, “see you next Tuesday.”  I don’t usually get angry, it takes a lot for me to see fire.  I have a younger siblings after all and regard myself as tolerant.  I avoid fights.  Right then I really wanted to lash out.  I turned on my right heal, walked out the bar, started jogging and left it all behind.  I pounded the streets in my walking boots.  A good run burns anger, a sprint here, a dart there, burning adrenaline and anger.  The hot night, the exhaustion of a long working day, the notion of arrogance from Mr Mustard The Nemesis.  It evaporated.  I soon relaxed.  My body and mind became at peace.  I started to notice the bats I crave to relax my mind.  Their fascinating fluttering flight patterns, their dynamic mould, their hunting.  Hunting to survive.  Just like I had done, I had hunted silence.

In my escape frogs bounded over one side street from a small patch of food growth to another patch of rubble.  Those who fear night, do not fear it here.  Houjie after dark is loud yet peaceful.  The hard workers of the day eat and drink at street restaurants, sit outside shops, play pool on rickety old tables, they digest their long days and await the next same old, same old.  The stares at a westerner wandering the streets alone double at night, but curiosity is the only emotion conveyed.  The odd “ní hǎo” or “hello” is heard.  Some trying to welcome you in for food and to bring further customers, curiosity breeds curiosity.

Soon after my toes rewarded themselves with a sit down.  Nikki and the others knew I needed to escape and soon after Nikki walked back to meet me with Liam and James.  It is quite odd seeing the boys of the group be responsible – especially since one confesses to early morning power naps on building sites!  I won’t say who, Liam.

Friday night of last James disappeared on a magic taxi journey (more to follow); Liam, Bryony and Becky went to empty a bottle of vodka at Irene’s Bar; Birgitte was ill and stayed in; Esben, Nikki and I watched a movie.  I personally experienced some odd floated drunken sensation without touching a drop.  Rather than carry on outside, inside with the prospect of a nearby bed seemed more sensible.

The weekend was judged to be too hot to travel.  I woke up feeling okay Saturday, cycled a fair distance to Dongcheng in around 32-36°C heat.  I cycled past a lake, a B&Q DIY warehouse, numerous oddities – a man selling brushes in the middle of an eight laned highway; a rollerskating tournament; and a tower reflecting so much light it was melting the tarmac below.  Upon arriving there I had a tomato quiche and a drop of peppermint tea at Alan’s World Of Cornish Pasties & Devon CiderNikki was jealous when I told her later.  I did bring back apple pie.  In Dongguan I visited an abandoned football stadium, mostly converted into a police station.

Later that day I arrived back (much later due to a double puncture, always on the mould of the inner tube).  Slightly shattered and seriously worn out, I went to join Nikki, Bryony and Becky at Irene’s Bar.  They had been there watched England versus New Zealand in rugby.  Marcus was also holding his birthday party.  Esben met me on the way.  On arriving Esben emptied the remaining piles of meat onto his plate and tucked in like he was at home.  I looked on, thankfully not hungry.  Later Irene and Marcus gave us all some birthday cake, it turns out Marcus is 53, he looks much younger than this.  After a couple of drinks and birthday wishes the strange sensation of dizziness or nervous fatigue of sorts came back.  Nikki and I went home, just as James and Liam arrived.  It transpired James had been into the centre of Houjie on Friday evening, tried to get a taxi back to Liaoxia (around 2km at most) but ended up in some random place.  He trekked back and decided to stay in Iron Bar.

Yesterday (Sunday), Becky and Bryony called around at 6am for England’s defeat to England.  Why always Balotelli?  After the game we went to KFC for an egg and bacon muffin.  Later Nikki and I finished watching series 2 of Dexter and I stayed in for the most with a very bad belly (probably KFC-related).  In the evening I ate a few crisp butties and some aubergine later at the market.  An early night was had.

Today, I feel hungry but better.  The customary morning flag raising ceremony was a tad dramatic.  I had to lift teacher Kate (lower grade teacher) up from the parade square/athletics track to the cooler confines of the administration office.  The Chinese teachers here were lifting her by really odd parts of her body, feet, lower arms and even the groin!  On dropping her (I didn’t drop her) at the office, the accompanying 4 or 5 teachers insisted she lay on a wooden settee char, with a dip.  I needed to place her down and keep her breathing, her breathing was laboured, gasping at dry hot air.  I compromised –the floors here really are not safe – and placed her down in the recovery position whilst holding her head straight so she could breathe.  The other teachers seemed to be stroking and manipulating her hands, feet and legs to keep the blood flowing.  It really was quite odd.  I managed to push a few away from her head so she could breathe.  I told James to pop the ceiling fans on, who on arriving late, had assisted me.  After a few minutes Kate came around, her eyes focusing and her breathing back to normal.  Within minutes, student after student followed in similar fashion.  The heat, possibly combined with slight underlying illnesses caused at least 25 students to collapse.  Needless to say the flag-raising ceremony curtailed ten minutes earlier than usual.  Afterwards I wandered by the administration office to see if Kate had been taken to hospital or a nurse had been called for.  She was sat up okay, smiling – surrounded by a class of collapsed children – all okay.

In the last week Nikki and I have been running or trying to kick a ball around several times.  It is so hot on the evening but we must keep being active. Every now and then a few boarding students join in.

This last week has seen one pair of trousers lose a button (not through weightgain, it got caught on the belt and pinged off… down a toilet); my watch strap lost a link pin so needs repairing; a pair of work shoes split (the humidity here is my prime suspect); my new walking boots detached from their soles (it seems they were a tad crap); and my mobile phone is on the blinkers occasionally (the screen is cracked, humidity is seeping through).  I can afford to sort these out, but one thing at a time.  Tonight, I shall attempt to go to a shoe repairers – before buying a new belt.

As I finish writing this Jane, a PE teacher has dropped me a pile of Lychees off.  Yummy!  Very juicy indeed.  It is lychee season now.  On my cycle ride every roadside corner seemed to be accompanied by a lychee seller or two.

Anyway, be more noble

 

The obligatory caramelised aubergine

23/6/14

Last week we came 2nd in the pub quiz.  It was a toughie.  We lost by 7 clear points – and a new team turned up and won on their debut, good on ’em.  Time to sack Becky as the manager and bring in David Moyes.  On Thursday evening we returned to Jerry’s Wow for pizza and lovely gratis cake.  Taniesha’s last day being Friday and her impending coach journey back meant we had to go on Thursday.  It was most enjoyable, followed by a naff film at our place.

Day 133 is Monday 23rd June 2014.  133 days since leaving Manchester International Airport.  Most people would mark 100 days, or 125 days.  I’m unconventional.  We should no longer dispense with the unadventurous and start afresh in a brave new world.  I’m not inebriated – sometimes you just have to rip up the strategy and edge from a starting scratch.  Today marked my first day at Kindergarten.  Like my first day at Dao Ming, I was and remain nervous and apprehensive, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

On Saturday (Shaun Goater Day) Nikki and I had a lazy day.  Something to do with going to bed around 4am the night before and rising from the sheets long after noon.  Nikki did not want to see the football, so I tagged along with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Liam and James).  The Friday evening started early at Irene’s Bar with James, Liam, Bryony and Becky.  This was followed by a meal at a lovely Chinese coffee shop/café opposite the bar.  They do a lovely Thai Grass bread with eggs and an amazing chicken dish containing nothing actually labelled in the title, barely any chicken too.  After this we made the journey (100 metres at most) back to Irene’s Bar to natter some more.  We watched, or attempted to understand Australian Rules Football.  Not the foggiest.  Soon after everyone became knackered, so I tagged along with the boys.  Off we went to Iron Bar, a night club of sorts.  Part seedy, part European styled and part Chinese, this really is East meets West, doesn’t know if East and West should talk, but sits down and invites West in for a cuppa before smearing West all over the walls, general apparel and engages in full blown relations whilst trying to appear local, international and hip all in one go.  Any venue that intersperses dance music with a solo saxophonist or a traditional dance or a live singer or two followed by some random draw from boxes for prizes only described as your very own servant for the night wins my vote.  The down side of the venue being the seedy prostitution in the undergrowth, around the unisex toilets and the overpriced beer.  That said, a wall sized television to watch Costa Rica win over Italy wasn’t bad.  After watching Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum get jiggy with it on a stage, I managed a wee blether with the D.J., a fellow giant, from Jordan.  It turns out he obtained his trainers in Beijing.

Esben and Birgitte had been away to Guangzhou (James joined them later) in yet another reunion with their fellow trainee interns from Beijing.  It seems they reunite every second weekend.  Soon enough, within weeks our new found friends will start to scatter.  They’ll fledge the nest shortly.  New foreign teachers will soon arrive.

Full time arrived, like my last day in Dao Ming Foreign Language School and off we ambled to Pink Lady/V-Bar.  The boys have always raved on about this venue.  Prior to entering we had a roof-beer.  It was essentially a beer on a roof.  The view was good.  In the distance the flashes of lightning slinked around the town of Houjie, appearing to inch closer but actually hit the town.  Into the club we stepped.  Talk about dead.  It was closer to a morgue than a club.  There were some big tunes playing, mostly European popular dance hits slapped together with gnarly rap.  The night churned over and around 4am a taxi ride back was had.  That paid the price of Saturday.  So, the remainder of Sat’day was spent trainer shopping.  No joy.  I have a belt though.  My watch strap cannot be repaired or replaced.  Sekonda is a British watch brand (originally Soviet but now manufactured in Asia, but not likely China, and marketed to Brits).  Great scott!  During the evening food was had at the market barbecue – some lovely garlic-drenched oysters and meats accompanied by vegetables including the obligatory caramelised aubergine.

I hope my mother had a wonderful birthday (Shēngrì kuàilè) on Friday.  I’m still unsure if the present voucher has arrived in her emails – due to the fact I sent it to the .co.uk and not .com version of her email, and the company have yet to respond this week!!!  Email number three has been sent today.

After watching Argentina’s late victory over Iran (football not war) I managed to get up before noon on Sunday.  Nikki and I went to Dongcheng (东城区), just outside Dongguan (东莞市).  Whilst we want to see more Chinese culture, the pursuit for some Yeti-sized shoes goes on.  On arrival Nikki led me to One For The Road, where we had our first roast dinner since February in Blighty!  It was delicious, beef with proper English mustard and gravy.  The potatoes weren’t bad.  It came with sweetcorn, swiftly shipped off to Nikki’s plate.

Afterwards we wandered, and wandered, and wandered, and carried on wandering through ghost shopping centres and malls barely filled with shops and streets with endless restaurants, shops and cafés.  No big barge-footed trainers to be had anywhere.  I treated Nikki to a Devon cider and apple pie at Alan’s in Dongcheng before we made our way home.  It had cost us 6RMB each to get to Dongcheng by bus (4RMB on the number L1 and 2RMB on the C1) – so around 60p.  On the return we missed the last L1 bus back to Houjie (厚街), so our 2RMB journey needed an additional 50RMB taxi… still not bad, but hardly cheap for local travel (even if it is a 15km route taking around 30 minutes).  The day’s high point was the purchasing of Weetabix.  A 48 pack to be precise.  A massive 116RMB (or around £11.00) was exchanged for said rarity.  It is a habit I cannot kick.  Addictions, ey!?

Yesterday, Mum and the tribe were back in Blighty at a garden party for the deserving Dr Kershaw’s Hospice where my late Gran passed away earlier this year.  My thoughts wandered throughout the day, all happy ones.

This week marks the first week without Mandarin lessons.  I look forward to sitting down at some point and practicing the limited phrase book I have to date and really knuckling down with the learning processes of this wonderful language.

Today, kindergarten, has been different – massively poles apart from teaching Grade 5, 7, and 8.  Firstly, I woke up to texts from my co-worker saying she would not attend today and introduce me to the staff.  I walked into a hornet’s nest knowing only Yuki (from an introduction by Bryony.  Yuki is petite, even for the Chinese, and very smiley) and blindly asking for Mrs Jian.  On meeting Mrs Jian, I was introduced to someone else who in turn introduced me to someone else, “oh and get the flashcards from Winnie.”  “Here is the computer.”  “You’ll need this video.”  “Print out your songs here.”  “Class Lychee is here, here is class Banana…” and so on… A whirl of information, in a blip.  This, capped off with a sore gullet and croaky voice did not formulate a virtuous day.  To quote Meat Loaf, “And some days it don’t come easy. And some days it don’t come hard. Some days it don’t come at all. And these are the days that never end.”

Class Cherry (Say and do); Class Lychee (Sentence Pattern), Class Banana (Sentence Pattern) and Class Peach (Say and do) came and went…

Oddly, the day ended sooner than expected.  The ear-marked Interaction Class gave way to an early 1530hrs finish.  I did question this.  However, a welcome escape was appreciated and greeted with a get home and convalesce response.  I didn’t even have lunch today, I wasn’t hungry.  I am now.

Zài jiàn!

Hǎo, huài, Chǒu.

25/6/2014

Today marks the passing of Eli Wallach (known for his role as “Ugly” (Chǒu)).

Tuesday was a write off, up early, ready to go, but my stomach was tighter than my dad’s wallet at a convention for stereotypical Jewish spending habits.  [Caution:  graphic descriptions follow] I managed a bowl of four Weetabix, walked to school with Nikki, about turned in her neighbouring school, waddled back and proceeded to decorate the apartment’s gardens with a weetabix-cum-last night’s tea mixture I like to term disgorge.  I advised my co-worker Casey of my illness whilst downloading into the porcelain pot, so to speak.  Hereon the graphicness ends.  The previous evening I had to pound the pavements rapidly from a shopping trip with a cold drink outside Tesco at a drink’s stall.  I bid farewell to Esben (who popped along with us, undoubtedly to release his words of upset following his break-up with Stephanie at the weekend in Guangzhou – long distances never help) and shuffled back with an intestinal pain causing as much discomfort as humanly possible.  This was all bad (huài).

A day in bed, and I mean properly out asleep, numb, dead to the world around me, was followed by a trip to the doctors.  The doctor, with assistance from Bright at my school, advised me what to take and what to avoid.  Pretty much everything resembling cold food, foods with flavour or grub with spice was noted – fairly simple choices remained.  Porridge or noodles with nowt.  The doctor gave me a combination of 4 medicines, one being Montmorillonite (clay-type stuff) and another being Lactobacillus Complex Capsules (for adjustment of my intestinal flora).  The other two medicines are white and yellow – and entirely dubbed in Chinese Mandarin scripts.  Not a clue.

Today, I woke up feeling better, hungry, drained of energy – devoid of alertness but on the whole better.  Today’s classes with K2 Banana (say and do); K2 Peach (Song and chant); K2 Cherry (Song and chant) followed after lunch by K2 Strawberry (Say and do) went reasonably well.  In the classes marked say and do, I said and did with Kitty.  Kitty is a soft-voiced Chinese teacher from the region of Guangxi.  She has been most welcoming and has assisted me in this kindergarten pool of female only teachers. There are around 10 different classes in the school, and at least 30 different teachers or staff member zipping around.  By zipping I mean head down, not paying too much attention, the teachers appearing exceedingly stressed out owing to an inspection taking place on Thursday and Friday.  For these two days I am expected to hide in Dao Ming Foreign Language with several classes and mostly run games or activities.  This could be a very long end of week run-in!

Anyway back to classes today, Banana class are like monkeys, clambering all over their new found English climbing frame with buckets of fervour.  Despite warnings that this class are sheer agony to control, they weren’t too bad.  Following that class Peach seemed placid but attentive and assiduous in their renditions of “If you’re happy and you know it…”  Cherry class proceeded lunchtime and you can always tell a hungry class, especially when you teach them the phrase “I am hungry.”  That said all classes had some wonderful examples of dramatisation of “I am angry.”  Enough to make the heart warm on the wintry day with a cold snap to the heart.

And now I am properly hungry – again.  This is good (Hǎo).  This leaves me with a wee quandary, something caused my sudden ill spat.  Now, here, germs are everywhere.  It is tropical so bacteria, fungi etc grows well.  One drop of bad water, one handshake too many, a missed spek of dirt by handgel… anything can carry it.  Now I feel better, now I carry on as normal.  I might go for a bite of Chiellini, Ivanović and Bakkal.

(I’ll never forgive Luis Suarez for the injustice when Suárez blocked Dominic Adiyiah’s goal-bound effort on the line in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Ghana)

FEED THE SUAREZ, LET HIM KNOW IT IS BREAKFAST TIME…

Today’s weather has been mild – only 28°C.  Whilst I have felt warm, I have hardly experienced heat today.

Zài jiàn!

the international icebreaker – namely Sun Jihai

30/6/2014

The weekly Wednesday quiz was entered by James, Nikki and I.  Our breakaway team “Baldilocks and Co” from Bryony, Becky, Birgitte, and Liam did us well.  Esben scattered and joined another team entirely – one including my quiz nemesis, Mustard Shirt Man.  With expectations low, knowledge limited and trepidation the battle began.  Like Manchester City we came out on top.  Champions.

Thursday marked the exodus of my kindergarten to the neighbouring Dao Ming Foreign Language School’s art and music rooms.  The music room is a hall, very large and typical in polished wooden flooring, matt white walls and several pianos coupled with a random drum kit.  A lone triangle hangs on the wall.  Not a cowbell could be found.  The roof of the hall is flat.  The sun baked down.  The room was hotter inside than the outside walkway in direct sunlight.  This room, after one botched class with my N1 students of Apple class (aged 2-3) became dormant soon after.  It was too hot for everyone – and not healthy.  Initially the day started in a makeshift canteen under a giant plastic roofed garden area.  Kindergarten kids from the four grades seemed to sprinkle with the neighbouring grade 1 and grade 2 Dao Ming.  The adjacent toilets heaved with extra capacity and an odour akin to an animal farm spread over the site.  The bordering grade 7 and 8 students frequently came over to say hello and ask when I would return to their classes.  Then, they’d testify truthfully that the toilets tang terribly.

The afternoon was so hot, the waking students had an extra long afternoon nap.  The mercury tapped 36°C.  Bryony came back to say hello to her students, and as we entered the sleeping area of the dance room – reminiscent of a refugee camp – it became apparent that classes would not start shortly.  The teachers informed me, there was to be no classes, “please go home and rest.”  So I asked a dozen times, if they were sure, and then made my escape.  And no one’s gonna stop me now, I’m gonna make my escape.

For the final Thursday night as a group of foreign teachers, Bright gathered us at a restaurant near to school.  The restaurant is owned by the family of a school bus driver and had several students inside.  However, upstairs a booth dining area was set aside for us.  Here we dispersed around a circular table with a rotating central piece to assist with sharing multiple dishes.  Eight different plates arrived, with food as varied as Sìchuān cài (food from the Sìchuān region) fish doused in spicy , pork with noodles; chicken with bones in peppers; sizzling potatoes in spices; some deep fried meat parcels; and more.  After stuffing our faces, we exited stage right (or through the very centralised glass doors), had a photograph, wished each other good luck (and went our separate ways for the night).  The low point of the night was finding out that Bright, our supportive and intelligent mentor, point of absolute reliability and contact has not got a place in University at Shanghai.  Their loss.  He did mention he’ll try for Beijing’s Normal University.  Good luck to him.  It isn’t easy in China, and he deserves to succeed.  There aren’t enough people like Bright.  He is as his name says, vivid, dazzling, happy and light, brainy, smart, cheerful, optimistic and positive. 

Friday came, I arrived early and joined the breakfast tables of the exiled students of kindergarten.  Their exile imposed the day before as a result of an inspection at the two kindergarten schools (I believe they are technically registered as one, although I cannot be certain).  The wee blighters bounced around gleefully, shouting out “teacher John” at frequencies parallel to that of a crowd at the Etihad Stadium crying, “City, City…”  As the day progressed I managed three classes, The Wheels On The Bus; Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and a few other random classics being sweated as much as sang out loud.  In the late part of the afternoon the green light of play was passed to all students.  I chose some ground, sat down, constructed with some plastic toys and talked (as best possible) with the students.  The responses to questions like, “Did you see the football?” or “What do you think of the rumour about De Jong going to Man U?” weren’t deep or meaningful, but never the less I now know how to count to 100 or identify the colours of anything within sight.

That evening was designated, a drinking leaving do evening.  Vanetia and Peter joined us from a different school.  We started at the other teachers’ apartment, hit the market for some grub, then Irene’s Bar, (where else?), before arriving at Rubik’s KTV in Houjie around 2300hrs.  Surprisingly, they had Blue Moon, it said by Frank Sinatra – but it turned out to be a homemade version from what sounded like a regular drinker of morning visits to Wetherspoons.  After a few too many Dewars and cokes with ice we all left on Saturday morning at exactly 0230hrs (the last song ends then, mid-flow).  Immediately after we strolled to Pink Lady/V-Bar and ordered a rum and coke, on entering.  Some dancing by Birgitte “I’m not dancing”; Esben “the music is rubbish”; and t’others was observed within nanoseconds of passing the raised dance stage.  I slinked away to enjoy my drink at a table with Peter and James.  Soon after, the saying if you can’t beat them, join ‘em phrase was put into practice.  All the while Nikki seemed to be enjoying the fragrant dancing aromas of China in the dead of night.  At some stage several Chinese men grabbed Liam and I as we passed their table.  A cold Budweiser was thrusted into my hand, and we chatted football – the international icebreaker – namely Sun Jihai.  The beautiful game at its best.

On exiting the club around 0430hrs, we sauntered to the Chinese equivalent of the Kebab House, the western golden consonant of capitalism tinted with bullion colouring.  The night ended after a taxi journey back and a much needed air-conditioned late night of slumber.

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