Best foot forward.

After a week of nightmares ruining my sleep, perhaps something was in my psyche warning me…

Last week, I started to wear grey K-Swiss trainers (or sneakers, if you’re that way inclined). These swish grey (or gray?) with white trims and soles felt a little tight. Size 13.5 UK (or 49 globally) sometimes can be that way, but, when you’re in South China’s Dongguan and limited to opportunity, something about choices being unavailable to those who beg.

Saturday and Sunday involved a walk around West Lake (惠州西湖) in Huizhou, in my new footwear. Having a few aches and pains in new shoes has always been normal to me. Size 14 UK has always been damn hard to get any comfortable footwear. Seeing as I flit between brands, owing to inconsistent sizing, sizes 50 and 49 usually fit the bill. A bit if wear and tear here and there usually molds them to my feet.

An agent of Timberland in Guangzhou helped me to get walking boots and shoes. Sadly, I’ve been wearing the latter to death. Their sheen has faded. I was just about to get them refurbished. I still will. I only need one shoe this week. That’s due to a run, with a football, without anyone challenging me, and not a soul nearby resulting in a sudden sharp pain. I jumped up and landed on the other leg, rolling sideways and yelping like a shot dog.

Sunday night, I needed to shower, and hobbled about from a car to my apartment, then ensured Panda, the dog, had a quick walk. I used a sweeping brush as crutches. I stupidly went to bed, thinking that staying still from 9.30pm would alleviate the pain. What a fool! A proper grade-A eejit! A plethora of pain and discomfort helped me to sleep at God Knows O’clock. I recall seeing the time at 4am and thinking sleep would be amazing. No. It was a terrible night’s sleep in a week of bad sleeps.

So, having awoke late on Monday, I felt ashamed to let my principal, Miss Ann, know I wouldn’t be coming in. By text. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’d tried to get to hospital the evening before but wasn’t willing to go without crutches or a wheelchair. Neither could be sourced. After frantically making arrangements to get to hospital, I rolled over and slunk into a deep dark place. Eyes open. Mind empty.

The temporary depression lifted and in the afternoon, I was offered help by Charif and Miss Keisel to walk Panda for a few days. That was a great relief. Then I pottered around and panicked. Worried some. I needed to know why I couldn’t place my foot down. Even touching the edge of my foot to the ground caused shooting pains. Agony in less than a full footstep.

With the assistance of Charif, I was dropped at the Tungwah Hospital. I had to hop, and abandon my broken sweeping brush crutches on the way to the elevator. I went down to the humid and dark vestibule of floor -1 and awaited Charif to pull up by the glass door. The journey to hospital was less than 5 minutes, by car. I can see the hospital emergency door from my bedroom window. It seemed too far. Thankfully I arrived. Charif went because my friend Maria and her boyfriend offered to come and translate.

Prior to their arrival, a kind security man placed me in a wheelchair. A porter smacked my foot against the reception desk having not noticed my outstretched foot. Further pain. Quite unwelcome. Before my translation arrived, I was dropped at an emergency room consultation room to see a doctor. And five nurses. A good chance for them to practice their English and for myself to use my crap Chinese.

On registering, again, at the hospital, I eventually seen a doctor. I stressed the pain and shown the swelling in my foot. They kept checking my ankle. I insisted it was entirely in my foot. A CT-scan and X-ray was arranged. Off I went. Eventually. Some instructions had been lost. Maria and her boyfriend arrived with a guy called Peter. The graduate of Nottingham University works with Maria and her boyfriend occasionally. He’s a genuinely nice chap. Eventually we worked out that we hadn’t been sent to the right place to wait. So, up next the hospital wheelchair sped towards to the X-ray and CT scan, department of radiology.

Whoops.

An hour later, following my first meal that day (I’d ate nothing since lunchtime on Sunday), the wheelchair and its posse went up to floor 8, met Dr Li (李医生) who was a colossal man. His hands the size of shovels and his huge frame made him appear like a Chinese Jack Reacher. The writer Lee Child may want to open his audience with this guy. Despite his towering physique and broad shoulders, the good doctor was gentle and kind. He consulted the scans and sent me for further scans to the toes. The CT scans and X-rays had focused on my ankle. Off we trotted, and rolled.

By 10pm, we had the necessary scans and Dr Li then suggested two options of recovery. That followed a rather comedic look at how my injury had happened. The verdict translated as something like a 5th metatarsal stress fracture with a Jones/Tubes Avulsion twisting injury. The X-ray clearly showing a fractured. I guessed it to be a complete fracture. No evidence of displacement. Possible line indicates some connection remaining. Partial fracture possible. Certainly not compound or showing openness. Minor displacement but not out of line. No sign of a simple stress crack. The doctor suggested surgery or plaster and immobilisation. The latter option requires rest for 4-6 weeks. The former, depends on my body’s recovery after 3 weeks and involves bits of metal implants.

I opted for the plaster cast and Doctor Li agreed. He said that my age is just about young enough to recover that way. With lots of rest. I should use crutches and rest well for the first week. After one week I must return for a check-up. After two, three, four, five and six weeks, I must do the same. Tick tock. Time and healing.

So, why am I writing all this? To understand myself. To help my mind. This has a serious effect on my physical and mental health. My work life at TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School) is in its final chapter. That final chapter shall entirely be on crutches. I’m gutted, frustrated and upset at this finale. I can’t even wear trousers. They won’t go over the cast. I wanted to do my absolute best to leave doors open and gain a favourable recommendation letter. All that feels in danger. Evaporated like my hope.

There are far worse places to be in life. Even throughout this, I pass my best wishes to me Mam who is bravely going through breast cancer treatment and ensuring no recurrence from the removed tissue. I hope me Mam pulls through and retains that strength she’s always had. I barely have a patch of her self belief and courage, so she always gives me hope. And myself sister Astrid, at the Priory, hopefully recovering fast and gaining balance of mind. I miss them so much, at the best of times, but now, I wish I was embracing my whole tribe. These challenges, help us to find our feet and put our best foot forward. No matter how hard it may seem.

Online reflection.

A recent e-mail at Tungwah Wenzel International School, invited teachers to reflect about their online teaching experience. Students were also invited to complete a similar survey. Reflection about enforced online teaching is important. The pros and cons of how effective classes were, when following government instructions, need discussion.

Being confined to a garden compound indoors and working remotely is like asking a fish to walk on land. Some species can do this, but they are rare, highly evolved creatures…

Online learning requires additional training to tailor classes in order to properly provide highly informative means and structures to students. Lost routines and structures make at seat teaching feel highly immobile and unfamiliar.

The duration of online classes were prone to technical issues and excessive screen-time for both teacher and student. One size does not fit all. Several students had access to some platforms but not others. Speed of internet varied.

Online learning requires students to focus and have self-discipline. As we know some students can work independently, and some have never learned this skill under supervision by adults or teachers. Fidgety students may have an extra abundance of materials to provide distraction. I found myself handling things in and around my desk. It’s damn hard to focus on a black mirror, without an episode of Ozark playing.

The comfort of home can be a huge distraction. Some MYP students haven’t gained the maturity to stop showing off, change their settings or abuse the systems. The convenience of location can be distracting. It can be too comforting and the draw for a student to reach for their pillow or slope away on the sofa can be all too tempting. And, that’s before fart noises. Or rude words. Lego too.

Thin walls between a neighbour’s house and my own allowed excessive drilling sounds. Thankfully, few sounds came from outside but the air conditioner sounded like an aircraft engine, in a relatively quiet room. Factoring in Panda the dog, occasionally invasive and ever seeking of attention proved tough. However, walking Panda at lunch time was a pleasant break.

Worry about other external factors, lockdowns, life, extra time on screens planning, possible and actual enclosure of self etc. also proved to fill my mind. Remaining entirely dedicated to teaching online, was not easy.

Few students requested one to one support, and those who e-mailed queries refused to answer the calls I returned. Also, my eyes needed a substantial eye break. So, trying to maintain contact was tough. Student engagement and involvement was sub-standard. Even, the most positive classroom students looked bored, dejected and worn out.

Miss Ann advised me to keep my books handy long before this online teaching spell. I’d carried them home daily and ensured my wireless-fidelity connection was ready. I’d looked at sites such as Padlet and other known online teaching platforms, used by online teachers. Few stood out, but I tried to vary tasks to incorporate tools used by successful online teachers.

Being able to walk the dog at lunch and having more choice of salads proved benefits of online teaching. Let’s hope this is the last online experience. Nothing can be a substitute for in situ schooling or reality as a learning experience.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Nucleic Acid Tests to date (update).

By December 26th 2021, I’d experienced 35 NAT Covid-19 tests. For the remainder of that month,

January Nucleic Acid Tests: 1

February Nucleic Acid Tests: 3

March NATs: 9

April NATs: 15

It’s getting tedious… May Day, or Labour Day in China. 1 test already.

64 tests (to date). More to follow.

Right to Return.

How do.

The following months are going to be difficult. The future is sat on a knife edge. The inevitable travel home for summer is not intended to be one way. The logistics, however, are impractical and almost unworkable.

A friend, Stephen, estimated costs for return to hit the best part of 5-6000GBP. God bless the economy seat options. I wonder if a seat in first class is much different. Others have mentioned 7-9000GBP. All those pounds could support a charity or something more worthwhile than a 30% occupied flight destined for China, far away from the intended city of stay. Even now China has no scheduled flights to or from the U.K. June is the loosely mentioned rumoured return. Even that was delayed from February. China isn’t ready for COVID-19 case increases? Well, it has flights to other countries with high caseloads. So, that doesn’t sound right. Political? Perhaps.

Regarding the next academic year, Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) placed an offer to extend my stay there. I was touched and happy to receive it. Three years ago it would have been a great offer. The problem is that the world has changed. I had to place a counter offer. To commit to two more years here makes the uncertainty of return, high quarantine costs and extortionate flight prices untenable. If I’m supported and with understanding from my employer then all is good. Patience and planning will be key. If not; well, here lies uncertainty. The ball is in their court. I await their reply.

In the meanwhile provisional offers and begging messages are flooding in from LinkedIn, and an agent representative of a company offering Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) via ITT (Initial Teacher Training) in a school in Beijing. Doors are opening and hands are gesturing to come in. All this as the foundation for the Diploma Programme at TWIS is being laid and prepared for. A change of location isn’t something I desire.

I’m sat watching Gomorra, an Italian drama series deeply entrenched in the organised underworld of Naples. Currently, I’ve enjoyed a gritty trio of series and have the fourth installment under my scrutiny. As a fan of The Sopranos and its gripping characters from the get go, choosing to view Gomorra was a simple choice. Gerry, from Ireland, recommended this show for months on end. Many, especially in Napoli, argue the TV series (and spinoff movie The Immortal) glamorises violence and gangland culture but a viewer seeks entertainment. The script-writing is sharp and the direction flows. I thoroughly recommend the serial drama.

For now, I’m just planning a holiday to see family and friends. How I get back is anybody’s business. Whether I remain at TWIS now is debatable. I wish to stay but now that IB continuum has arrived, I know I’m easily replaced. Private education is all about the money. And money is cold and unforgiving. Just like COVID-19. It’s there, dividing and conquering. In these days, living without money is like trying to live without COVID-19. You’re in a bubble, isolating all. Outcast.

Outbound doesn’t look too complicated. Return costs are from 4077GBP upwards. Then, add quarantine costs for 21-28 days…

Ta’ra.

Vimto Underdose.

How do! Hello! 你好~

I’m up to 4 subcutaneous injections and 6 other blood extraction or CT Scan related pricks. That’s ten holes more than my nod started with on Tuesday morning. It’s been a funny old brace of days. The red notice behind me is still red. I’m still on oxygen. I’m checking my urine and stools for blood. The fantastic attentive nursing team are keeping me on my toes whilst keeping me firmly off them. The bed complete with side bars feels like an oversized cot. I haven’t breast fed but the toilet methods are dangerously close to nappies (diapers). Something to catch the manure for salad farming is always necessary.

It seems that today’s ultrasound from feet to neck, missing nowhere, is key. It missed nowhere. Nowhere. Everywhere accountable. Shyness wasn’t an option. Anyway, this full body check aged 39 and week isn’t a bad idea. We all need a check these days. Men’s health. Women’s health. All need it. So much to watch out for. Best to catch everything sooner or we’ll be customers of the Grim Reaper.

The love and care shown by colleagues has been overwhelming. Betty in Human Resources has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Her peer Maggie has called by once too. They’re a lovely team within our TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School 东华文泽国际学校). When the first doctor suspected myocardial infections and heart troubles, Betty supported me and calmed me when I worried that’d be the end of my job here. It could still turn that way. Maktub (it is written).

My first day in was not only scary, it was terrifying. I’ve never really been in hospitals. I still cry every time I go to Crumpsall hospital in Manchester. I was born there. My Nana and Granddad passed away there. I hold fear for these unknown wards and uniformed peacemakers. It’s a mixture of illogical and emotional over – thought. They’re so often the keepers of our destiny.

Jamie and Jaime delivered some essentials like positivity and snacks on my first day. The comedy duo born in different lands were well welcomed by a nervous and worrisome patient in bed number 9. We nattered about owt and nowt for a wee while before they left putting wood in t’ hole.

Miss Ann, our esteemed principal and leader, swung by with Miss Nicole and Miss Junny from her office. It was like a Royal visit. I couldn’t get up and bow. A deeply touching visit. They brought a huge basket of fruits and enough water to fill a swimming pool. Very caring indeed. I’ve heard many, including Miss Ann, are covering my classes. I’m thankful. Also, Betty called by again.

Yesterday, the doctor in perfect English explained everything about pulmonary embolism. She said they’d investigate my veins. All of them. Neck to feet. There’d be particular attention given to my right calf and thigh. Today’s ultrasound definitely lived up to her words. I’ve never needed to pee so much! Ultrasounds mean nil by mouth and no toilets in the preceding four hours. Since then I’ve been told I should be out in a week’s time and under a three month medicine recovery programme. Accepted.

I miss my Dad’s salads. Dad is my no means a chef. Michelin stars were not meant for him. He’s an artist trapped in a body that was formerly a painter and decorator. And he should be a gardener. Dad does gardening well. He’s a clever man but his calling seems unanswered these days. Age is not an excuse. I love my Dad and I miss eating his salads. They’re rich in cucumber, fresh tomatoes (locally grown ones, always), seasonal greens and mushrooms. Never a bad salad at Dad’s house. Our kid, Ace, with his Mrs Stephanie do good salads but Dad’s is best. Simple and hearty. Sorry to Mum’s Paul who also makes a fantastic salad. Too much thought goes into these artisanal salads. They taste delicious. No doubt. They’re in my top five salads. Sorry, but Dad wins. I say all this because the Lauren’s Pizza salad I had for a late breakfast/lunch wasn’t bad.

My homeroom in Grade 8 have been busy planting my mint outside my classroom. They’ve also prepared a card. I do like Lisa’s little steamed bun-pooh shaped character on the bottom right. I hope this unfortunate hospitalisation gives students the motivation to create and do things because time is precious. They’re young and have the chances to do anything with a bit of hard work. They shouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital. Even though I’m here, I’m wishing their studies well. All of them. I can’t wait to hear poetry and Shakespearean arguments from the Language and Literature classes. That’ll be when I’m out. Soon.

Ta’ra! Goodbye! 再见~

Lately.

Good evening 晚上好 / 你好 Hello!

Lately it has been a manic period of hustle and bustle at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). Also, in my free time, I’ve been heavily hard at work procrastinating and doing the things I enjoy doing, whenever I feel they’re necessary. Whoever said a lack of responsibility was easy, lied. Cappuccino has been close to hand. Almost as luxury as the pair of Ravemen CR900 cycling lights. An upgrade from the N900 models. Remote controls and battery level monitors were too tempting.

The Diploma Programme team have been working solidly under great leadership. The application and candidate status has become approved. Not bad for a school without any current high school students! Now we’re gunning, pedal to the metal, for the completion of MYP’s International Bachelorette status.

The uncertainty of when travel to the U.K. hangs over my head like a Titanic-sized Goliath of scrapped metal. At times it feels like it may drop and make my noggin more squishy than nature intended. At other times, the optimism factory is producing positive vibes and sending them out in Olympic-sized swimming pool proportions. With every passing news article, input by experts, advice of Olympians going to Beijing 2022 and chilling in quarantine for twenty-one days prior to the Winter Olympics. Nothing is certain.

For two of our Language and Literature class groups, students selected Lord of The Flies and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Exams have been prepared for the former and the latter shall be assessed by essay. In the meantime, the second units are in full preparation. As are units three to five. The school year map is freshly under way. And that’s before looking at Science classes with grades 6 to 8. Hopefully the weather will drop below thirty degrees Celsius to allow some extra evening preparation motivation.

I recently caught up with Shenzhen Blues, Katherine and Stephen in Shenzhen. A fantastic Turkish meal at Mevlana (#154 Zhenxing Road, Huaqiangbei, Futian) with a witty Pakistani waitress made for a fun afternoon. Shenzhen is a city with great food and a fantastic place to recover after hiking. And matter about City’s impressive draw at Anfield.

The relentless and ferocious Guangdong heat has tested my mind and body, and ruined my balcony garden. The grape vines perished in the inexorable sunlight and the numerous passion fruit plants became single digits. The uncompromising sunshine has dried my daisies and ruthlessly culled my apparently less than shaded herb garden. The harsh weather has seldom given way to rain, typhoons or monsoons this summer. It’s dogged single-minded unyielding approach to the environment has been cooking and drying for too long. Today hit 34 degrees Celsius and that was a cool part of this last week!

Goodbye 再见

TWIS#1: Back to School

What a wonderful place to be.
What an excellent team to see.
The beginning of another school year.
Facing it without any fear.
Confident in the team founding.
Faithful to the conditions surrounding.
The seasons and reasons full of hope.
To the next climb we have our rope.
Up the mountain and down the hill.
Great days we have to fill.
To the team, teachers, staff and all:
Let’s go have ourself a ball!

Thank you for these days.
May every moment be full of rays.
We’re going to change many a mind.
New roads we can find.
Values and morals we can teach.
Making new avenues in reach.
Guiding one another with the other.
Father, sister, friends, mother and brother.
The family are invited together.
This new week brings bright weather.
Thank you all for sharing all you know.
You’re the community I want to grow.