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Celebrating My Second Birthday in China

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya

Unbelievable, I can't believe a year has past since the huge night at KTV in little southern Tianyang where my last birthday was celebrated with a little too much beer for all and a microphone with my happy family amongst fields of rice.

This year found me once again turning 'twenty one' but in a much more sedate environment. I nearly got through the day without any mention of a birthday. Strangely though at lunch time a middle school girl that sits with me from time to time to practice her English in one of the little eateries I visit said Happy Birthday to me. Not long after another lady and her son sat at the next table and said Happy Birthday to me swell.

How strange, I've never told the middle school girl my birthday and I had never spoken to the lady or her son. I asked the middle school girl how she knew, her answer was a teacher from her school told her. How strange when I didn't know any middle school teachers.

Easy answer was a teacher from my school told the middle school teacher. The middle school teacher remembered but my school didn't. In a way this made me happy.

Sometimes it makes me feel REAL bad when a huge fuss is made over me. In Tianyang I was taken out by the school and we all had a huge night. The night was of course paid by the school. What makes me feel real bad is that this is not done for any other teacher no matter how long they have been teaching at the school. No matter how many dinners I attend I'm also never allowed to pay, the answer is always 'next time'.

Some would say 'how cool, that's less money you spend!' Easy to say until you find out how much they earn LESS than yourself! Easy to say until you find out how much the bill is!

Sometimes teachers will bring in fruit or another type of 'goodie' and hand them around the office. If I try this the bag is put back into my hand and I'm told to take them home for myself. The schools here in China hand out a lot of presents to their teachers. It is such a wonderful idea. You arrive at school and there is a huge bag of fruit on every ones desk or a huge bottle of cooking oil etc. The other day it was a massive bag of rice each.

Finally, for the first time since my arrival in China I persuaded someone to actually take something from me. My bag of rice was handed to another. Believe me, I was so happy. I'm yet to find an owner for my huge bottle of cooking oil.

Anyhow, back to my birthday.

The day got to around four and finally Mr Wang, my Foreign Affairs Guy stopped in mid conversation and said 'oh my, it's your birthday today!' After my Grade 5 & 6 classes and singing Happy Birthday to Jee Dunn (that's my Chinese name 'Egg') a million times I returned to the office to find that dinner reservations had been made and we were off to a fancy rester aunt on the west side of town.

All the English Teachers came along. It really was a beautiful evening. The food was amazing and chosen by Jo Jo my assistant now turned part time assistant. She is so heavily pregnant that it's too hard to climb all the stairs several times each day to join me in class. In two or three weeks there will be a little Jo Jo or Joe Joe entering the world.

The birthday cake was a typical Chinese Birthday Cake...HUGE and full of cream!

In the 'west' we eat our soup first, then the main meal and then sweets ie; the birthday cake! Here, in China on both occasions the cake was devoured prior to the meal. The soup, always last in China. Even if you have a main meal of Lamb or Beef Noodle Soup, you will still get a clear soup with a green thing or two floating in it at the end. I love the idea, swish it around and clear the meal from your teeth.

In summer it's refreshing too.

After the only traces of the cake left were on the childrens faces and all over the table it was present time. Oh Man, not a present too. I had to laugh though. It is so, so, so, so, so and I mean SO typical in China that when someone gives you a gift, they tell you what it is. It's like;

'Hey, it took me ages to wrap your present but here, these CD's are for you'

Your jaw drops and you kinda go...huh. I went through the whole, its a new car, its a rocket ship etc for the kids sake. The entire time someone was saying, 'No they are CD's'. I couldn't stop laughing. Finally I unwrapped my present to find that it really was a new car! No really, my present was 10 double cd's. All were the 'gold' editions and they ranged from Traditional Chinese Folk Classics to separate traditional Chinese instruments.

I was over the moon mate. All the stuff I got to experience so much of live whilst living in Guangxi. I have developed a huge taste for, I think it is called the 'er hu' or something. The wooden two string instrument played with a bow. Love the sound. There was two cd's of this, meaning four disks, Chinese flute and a Chinese dulcimer (or is it dulcimer). Very happy was I, yet I still had that 'feeling' in my stomach knowing that this wouldn't happen to the other teachers.

Earlier one of them had asked me why I never reminded anyone that it was my birthday.

My reply was that I was one of the lucky few in the world who get to live in another country for as long as they desire. Of course others stay for six months or a year but they HAVE to go home for some reason or another. I can come and go as I please for as long as I please.

Life has given me a very glorious gift that makes each day my Asian Birthday.

So, that was how I spent my second 'change of age' in China.

Of course I missed my friends and family dearly and would have loved them beside me sharing my birthday cake and doing their best to eat it with chop sticks. Even that got too much for me, I just couldn't do it. Not that it was hard but;

NO MATTER WHAT COUNTRY YOUR IN, YOU CAN NOT EAT BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH CHOP STICKS! IT'S JUST NOT NATURAL I TELL YOU! IT'S JUST NOT NATURAL!

Chop sticks and faces full of birthday cake to ya...shane

PS: some of the above may sound like I am being 'ungrateful.' Please believe me when I say I am NOT ungrateful for what life has given me. Sometimes it is hard in a country such a China where everyone is so giving. Many don't have much but they will give you what ever they have left on their plate. I guess I gave up my life of 'having everything' to come to China to learn to live a simple life.

For those who haven't read the rest of my blog, I once had everything a man wanted in life 'materialistic' wise. All this was given away leaving me nothing but some clothes and a lap top computer. Here in China the people are just so beautiful, so friendly and so giving. It is hard to say no to things as it will offend them greatly, yet a lot of the 'gifts' are things I have learnt to live without and really don't want to have. I know most of the people around me would benefit greatly from what is given to me freely, yet it is so hard for me to pass it/them on.

I have now learnt to live on fruit for breakfast as each time I use my electric cooker a fuse blows. I am happy with this as I know that if it is to be fixed the entire fuse box will need to be replaced. Who pays for this? The childrens parents pay for it.

I only cook two poached eggs each morning, these I can do without.

For those who don't know, it's the parents who pay the schools bills in rural areas etc. When I was in Tianyang there were always lines with parents forking out money. I'd ask why are the parents paying money this time. The answer was usually; the electricity bill has come in etc.

So for a person who only cooks two eggs each morning and eats out all other meals, I think I can help save them some money for their home living expenses and childs education expenses.

It is still hard for me to bring a family down to 'a childs or their childs'. I'm so used to 'their childrens or kids' meaning plural.

One day I will get used to the 'single' of it all!

Beers, Noodles and one a one child family full of smiles to ya...shane

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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