ALL CHANGE.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

August 2020 has seen a few new components to my life. A new apartment. A new place of work. A new kettle. A new model bridge in the balcony garden. And finally, like Star Wars, a new hope. Moving from Changping to Songshan Lake and Dàlǐngshān (大岭山) was relatively straight forwards.

The new apartment sits over the line of the township borders. I live in Dàlǐngshān but I work in Sōngshānhú district (piànqū / 松山湖片区). Dàlǐngshān Zhèn (大岭山镇) is part of Sōngshānhú but these days Sōngshānhú is a very high-tech centre within the 6 townships that surround Sōngshān lake itself. Shilong (石龙), Chashan (茶山), and Shipai (石排) aren’t really that close to the lake area but they’re part of the district. The lake area is mainly surrounded by Dàlǐngshān, Dàlǎng (大朗) and Liáobù (寮步). Sōngshānhú as a town has grown from 2003, from a simple high-tech park to the mammoth green living space around the lake that is now. Huawei and many other tech giants are here. It has a railway station on The Dongguan West to Huizhou railway and will soon join the subway with three stations in Dàlǐngshān on the line 1 route (东莞轨道交通1号线/Dōngguǎn Guǐdào Jiāotōng Yī Hào Xiàn), and one at Sōngshānhú itself. The new line opens in 2022, so I won’t get too excited right now. The subway Line 3 will also have 4 stations in Sōngshānhú but that hasn’t began construction.

The new job has been welcoming, well-paced and full of encouragement. I am confident that this is a new start with great potential. Two former students are following me from grade 3 at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese School to the new Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). I’m sure that they will enjoy their grade 4 class – and I will have to work hard as their Home Room Teacher to ensure that they do. Between various conference calls, meetings and introductions there has been good coffee and ample time to down tools to think of a plan of action. I am terribly excited about the coming semester. Even amongst these COVID-19 times there is a lighthouse and beacon when we look in the right places.

Dàlǐngshān town isn’t far away, and in the relatively short time since I first went to Dàlǐngshān, the place has grown and has modern districts, several branches of Lauren’s Pizza and even a Walmart. There are universities and amongst the Guangdong Medical University is just over the road from me and DG University of Technology (东莞理工学院) isn’t far off. The lake has one large section that is completely free of cycles and cars. There is a parallel cycle route below a highway and under a cooling tree canopy. Cycling around the rest of the lake is a must. It is a great spot for tourism with backdrops of Huawei’s impressive European-style town and numerous picturesque places along the way. Lotus leaves, lush green sprawls, flowers and bird call should be abundant. Around the many tranquil pathways, you can see Tai Chi, yoga, dates holding hands and families flying kites. I can’t wait to hang up my hammock sooner or later.

“I feel invigorated.” – Those were my words spoken to a new colleague on Friday. The evening was finished with a leaving day drink for Calum from Murray’s F.C. He’s only moving to Shenzhen but felt the need to arrange a leaving meal and drinks. I didn’t attend the meal as all new team members of Tungwah Wenzel International School were treated to a splendid buffet meal at the stylish Dongcheng International Hotel (owned by Tungwah/Donghua group). Even the coach journey was on a Tungwah group coach. They own factories, gardens, estates, hospitals and schools. They’re a sizable group and well-known in this region. Between the blooming peach and plum trees of Dongguan, the group’s assets aren’t far off. The ministry of optimism within my head is thankful for such a great opportunity. My only regret is not buying a crane from the car park exhibition at the Dongcheng International Hotel. Dahan Construction Machinery have some great pieces, ideal for placing hammocks within.

There are plenty of places within a short cycle ride now. Tongsha lake and the parks around it are just a stone’s throw away. Dalingshan Park is between here and Houjie. I’ve already cycled back to Irene’s Bar for a sandwich. There’s much to see and do in the area that I have yet to explore. On my doorstep, I will find the Tongji Bridge (通济桥 Song Dynasty, 920-1279) and cross that bridge soon. It will help me forget my worries. That’s the literal meaning, I believe.

“Quite apart from its meaty content, we believe we have found a real dramatist” – Gerry Raffles of Theatre Workshop speaking about Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey.

Every story should have a beginning, an end, and some middle parts. There should be a plot, a setting with characters, some form of conflict (because something must happen), and a resolution (the smooth end). Some books carry the resolution or conflict over a series. That is life. Some things drag on. Others happen and fade away. There is no one-size-fits-all story to life. There will le a logical following and flow to a story because they must run smoothly to allow the follower to tag along. British dramatist and screenwriter Shelagh Delaney (who featured on album cover Louder Than Bombs, by The Smiths) intended A Taste of Honey to be a novel. It is a very famous play now. The drunken working-class single mum of Helen, and a daughter called Jo have spread from the monotonous 1958 skyline of a desolate Salford to London’s West End, Broadway, BBC Radio 3 and the Royal Exchange Theatre amongst other places. Peter, the wealthy southern lover of Jo’s mother Helen and a black sailor called Jimmy feature alongside a camp art student called Geoffrey. It is a complex and heavily questioning piece of drama. Class, gender, sexuality, and race are dissected which for mid-twentieth-century Britain was highly risky. The stars have followed the play with Stockport’s Sally Lindsay, a cluster of soap TV stars and Dr Who extras, Joan Ann Olivier, Baroness Olivier, DBE (born 28th October 1929) and notably Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury DBE joining the productions. A certain Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) has also featured on the stage for this production. From Salford to Home and Away to a Galaxy far, far away…

But, right here, right now my story at Dongguan’s Tungwah Wenzel International School has just began.

The Trials of Life

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Have you ever found your mind to be scattered almost everywhere simultaneously at the same time? Have you ever doubted the ground you stand upon as being this very Earth? Have you ever wondered why some things happen to you and not other people? Did you ever start to believe karma is real because once you threw a crisp packet into a litter bin, but it hit the side and blew away in the wind? Do bad days last forever? Has a music number from the genre of the blues been written just for you? Just exactly, how rainy is the day that never stops raining? If pain is temporary and class is permanent, then why did it hurt for so long? If good luck and bad luck are in a bar, then why does good luck choose to stay there and not visit you? How many instances of terrible fortune does it take to defy a fortune cookie? Did Coldplay write your life story? Anyway, it could be worse. I could support the Red Devils!


 

Today, a Thursday, and the fourth working day of a six-day week. Today and tomorrow are exams across the school. The midterm indicator exams. Nothing too special or worrying but amongst our foreign teacher team we have eradicated the need for oral exams at this time. Continual assessment and encouragement is of much more value. Besides it shows that you have more familiarity to the students and parents. For me, it has much more value. On Monday, Operation Greenblue commenced in class 1F. We have now five small rectangles of mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes and lemongrass in the process of growing. Even after two days, excited students peered upon the first sprouts of life. Marcus, the tallest boy, requested that we grow watermelons soon. We shall do our best. Victorie, the tallest girl, has given us all a huge rosemary plant. I encourage their enthusiasm and in turn their new plants will discourage mosquitoes. Meanwhile. my own small crop in my apartment is emerging well. Bye, bye mosquitoes?

 

In around 3 weeks we must stage a school drama and I am working on a script. I’ll add it after the final signature. I want something original and challenging for my 6-7 year-old tribe of talent. That’s why I am here, right? To be the CHAMPION equivalent of Pep Guardiola in the classroom. Surely, I cannot stop evolving simply because I have taught the words long, short, same, and different, this is not enough. Aim high. Later the job will be more rewarding.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Act 1: The dawn chorus [Music: Bring Me Sunshine, Ashleigh Wood]

Location: by a tree.

Lewson (narrator): A new day is dawning and all around the tree, sleepy nights are ending with waking yawns.

Sabrina Sunshine: Wow. Today will be a beautiful and bright day. I will make sure of that.

Aaron (bird): Yes, what a delightful day it will be.

CK/Tik (bird): I can’t wait for some yummy worms today.

Hardy (bird): I’m going to sing in my beautiful voice and wake everybody.

Doris (bird): I am a bird – and that means there is no homework!

Angela (Miss Rabbit): I love hopping, shopping and beat box popping.

Kristy Kangaroo: I like hopping too. I hope you get to see me hop all day!

 
Act 2: The Storm steals the sun [Music: Blue Moon]

Location: by another darker tree.

Allen (narrator): A naughty team is being led by Naughty Natalie. She really is very naughty!

Naughty Natalie: I don’t like the sun. It is all shiny and bright, shining in the sky so happily.

Monster Marcus: Yes, I like a dark night with the glow of the moon.

Typhoon Tyler: I like wind. Lots and lots of wind. I don’t mind of it is sunny or dark.

Marline the moon: I shine best at night. I need the sun for my light, but I can reflect with a smaller light if needed.

Tony the Tiger: Naughty Natalie, I have an idea! Let’s steal the sun and give the moon a new home.

Leon the Lion: Oh, you are naughty but I like you!

 
Act 3: The hunt for the sun [Music: Benny Hill theme tune]

Location: a tree by a small bridge.

Alice (narrator): In the U.K. people are always looking for the sun. Today, all around the world, many more animals and people are looking for the sun. Will they find the sun? Will they save the day?

Happy Henry (goat): I’m big Happy Henry, they all know me. I eat grass, whilst you sit on your…

Billy the kid (goat): Stop, I’m Billy the kid, a goat that did, not do homework, for I was chewing some grass, sat upon my…

Jimmy Jams (goat): Stop! I’m Jimmy Jams, a goat who slams, words for fun, out in the sun.

Candy the Caterpillar:  I have too many legs. It takes me an hour to tie my shoe laces. We’ve been walking for hours looking for the sun. It is too dark to find our lovely sun.

Kitty Cat: Don’t worry, I’m a cool cat and we look for food at night. That’s right. We can find anything at night. [Kitty Cat trips over in the dark]

Jumping Jessie Cat: Meeeeeoowwww, sunny, sunny sun, where are you? The sun is far too big to hide!

 
Act 4: Saving the sun [Music: Run Boy Run]

Location: A different tree, that looks like the other trees.

Allen (narrator): Many hours passed. A team of superheroes was called into action. Let’s get ready for action. Action!

Rocket Roselle: We have been flying around schools, parks, hospitals and even Manchester but we cannot find the sun!

Super Soffy: We can look around like the Old McDonald song. We can look here, there, everywhere…

Daring Dongyee: [sings] Old McDonald had a farm… [laughs] We can save the world, one step at a time. Where shall we look now?

Doctor Evan: I have been thinking and the sun is too big to hide. It must be on the other side of the world.

Kind Kelly: Okay, let’s go. Super Soffy and Rocket Roselle, you can fly there. Doctor Evan, Special Sharon and I can take a taxi.

Special Sharon: I might walk there. I don’t like taxis.

Altogether: Off we go, to save the day! We are stronger together!

 
Act 5: Altogether now [Music: Fight for the right to party]

Location: by two trees.

Allen (narrator): Our bold heroes find the other side of the world. After waiting for the taxi to arrive and making a very large payment, our heroes find the sun. The sun is trapped by Naughty Natalie.

Super Soffy: Give us back the sun!

Monster Marcus: You will not stop us. Ha ha ha. You are no Super Baby!

Doctor Evan: A baby can’t be super. I’ve never even seen a baby cook for themselves!

Typhoon Tyler: We will fight to the end!

Sunshine Sabrina: I just want to shine in the day and make everyone happy.

Daring Dongyee: Okay

Naughty Natalie: I will win this fight. Ha ha ha.

Marline the moon: I want to be alone – all by myself. No sun. Just me, the moon!

Tony the Tiger: Grrrrrreat

Leon the Lion: Let’s eat the sun. I bet it tastes lovely and hot.

Kind Kelly: You will do no such thing.

Special Sharon: I don’t want to fight!

 

[breakdancing battle]

 

[rock, paper, scissors fight]

 

[arm-wrestling fight]

 

Justin Time: Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop! Stop! We all need the sun. We all need the moon. We all need day to play and we all need night to sleep.

Doctor Evan: Yes, Justin Time, you are right. We need to be friends. We must enjoy both the day and the night.

Jumping Jessie Cat: All we need is love.

Altogether: {sings} du du du duhhh

Victoire Violin:

[sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family.

Altogether: [sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family. [and dancing]

 
Students bow to audience and say, “Thank you kindly for watching our performance. Have a happy day today, tomorrow and keep smiling!”

[Music: Hello Sunshine, Super Furry Animals]