Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you all
As I haven't been in contact with the family since I arrived in Salem's Lot I'll give a brief run down on life over the past week.
I had a great few days in Yangshuo but like usual I HAD TO GET OUT of Salem's Lot. Too many 8ams to deal with. Like usual they were fantastic and a heap of fun. Mark and Kelly (the Londoners) are back in China. They began teaching here for Bucklands when I did but returned to London after six months.
I can't believe they have been gone for one year!
Buggers didn't even write to me to let me know. I was walking up the street from Bucklands and said G'day to a foreign guy eating noodles and there they were with big smiles and pure white English skin. It was great to catch up with them again. They are teaching on Hainan Dao (Island). Oh the beach, I miss the beach the beautiful beach!
OK, the catchup... What have I been upto since Salem's Lot?
OK...on Friday 25th August 2006: I woke up some time in the afternoon and said to myself, ' Mate, ya gotta get out of Salem's Lot!' So when I got out of bed I went to visit Tracey (Bucklands) and asked her to book me a ticket out ASAP. She got me a flight out the next evening...whew! As this was the last night we began at MC Blues like usual. Conversation, music and beer were shared between Micky, Derrik, the Londoners, me and whoever wished to join our table. The longest visitor and the most fun was a young street girl aged around seven. She was a heap of fun but sadly was swept out the door at a late hour. Poor little thing, one minute she was the center of attention, the next she was out in the street and a no body again. How sad! Later a few of us headed to the Market Place for a heap of beer. I got home around 2:30 am and couldn't sleep so I headed back around the corner and sat with some locals until 5am or so.
Saturday 26th August 2006: Up around mid day to give Tracey the flight money. Had lunch with Betts 'The Great' and the Londoners. Betts is a Canadian lady whom works for Bucklands. She and her husband have been in China for years. Laurie her husband runs a Volunteer English Program in Yangshou. Betts gives the intro lectures to all new Bucklands teachers and offers great support to existing teachers like me. She is the greatest and a heap of fun. I feel so bad sometimes in Yangshuo that I don't catch up with her as often as I would like to.
Salem's Lot is Salem's Lot. The night calls and there is not much I can do about it!
After lunch I got my bags organised and at 3:30 I said good byes to everyone. I caught a cab with another teacher into Guilin. He got off at the bus station and I continued to the airport. When I got to the airport I checked my bags in and had to unpack my big back pack as they wanted to check what the amp and speakers were. I admit, they did look strange on the x-ray machine. It was such a bugger getting it all back in.
The worms were biting so I decided to grab some food at the eatery there. WOW, 48 Yuan for Yangzhou Fried Rice! Seriously, this dish is usually priced between 6 and 12 Yuan. I gave a little laugh reminded them of the 'real price' and decided on two minute noodles and hot water instead. Even they were so over priced. Should have cost 2 Yuan but being in an airport they cost 10 Yuan.
Whilst I was nibbling on my noodles a huge storm hit. Heaps of lightening and thunder stopped all flights. My flight was supposed to leave at 7:30pm so the storm had an hour to leave Guilin and go bother someone else. Luckily for me it did pass quickly and my flight took off at 7:30pm.
It was a very bumpy and scary take off. Whilst being thrown around I was thinking, 'Hell, a three night train ride wouldn't have been that bada idea!' My flight got in around 10:30pm and I found some of the school teachers I had met previously waiting for me. Finally the luggage began to come and around 11:00pm we headed to Baiyin. We arrived around midnight and all headed for noodles across the road from my apartment.
From there the night went a bit astray.
We got to my apartment, dropped off everything and went for a beer. The teachers had to work the next day so they left early. I grabbed some beer and headed home. I spent the next hour trying to get into my huge steel security door. These things are unbelievable. They have about five locks on them. I finally figured out that right at the very end of the key turn you have to push in and the 'near cell door' flings open. Mate, I tried everything and was getting real frustrated. After watching some TV and a beer or two I decided on a shower.
The night went down hill fast from there!
When whoever it was who cleaned the bathroom left, they left a metal bucket and two huge mops ONTOP of the drain. The door from the bathroom into the lounge room has no levels and ALL THE WATER went out and flooded the entire place. I spent hours with two of those stupid big mops trying to soak it all up. The metal bucket didn't have the rollers on it to squeeze the water out so my hands were very tired and sore afterwards. There was still water under the couch, desks and other places when I gave in and decided to try from some sleep.
Needles to say, by the time I got to bed and finally fell asleep about thirty minutes later the school was knocking at my door to bring me my DVD player and to set up the computer. 'They' looked at the floor and I pointed to the bucket. I had no idea there was a drain under it and I said 'There is no drain'. They had no idea there was a drain under it and said 'Oh No!' Luckily one of them grabbed the bucket to continue cleaning and we found the drain.
Somehow I managed to drag my tired butt to the school to have lunch with the headmaster and other teachers and then went home for a BIG sleep. Late in the arvo 'they' come back again and we deleted the old computer software and installed my XP and Office etc.
Monday 28th August 2006: 'They' or 'the school' arrived around mid morning. Luckily I was up and renaming some of my 3000 Summer Holiday photos. 'They' wanted to put in a new CD Drive for me. Why? I still have no idea. 'They' said it was compatible with my DVD Burner and not to use MY DVD drive if I didn't need to. Ooooo Kkkkk, I guess! The rest of the day was spent at home. The telephone people came to install the new lines, the fly screen man came to install the new fly screens and finally around 2pm or so everyone left and I headed out to do my shopping.
By now my floor looked like a complete mud pit. I decided not to even bother cleaning it. Over the next few days people were to come and go completing tasks that remained unfinished until now.
I walked around the supermarket, got some Tang, Milo, Fosters Ice, Tiger Beer and other assorted goodies and headed home to unpack. When I got home the school guys were waiting for me to see if I was ok 'out there' by myself and to grab my Passport and Teaching Certificate. The police had called the school and it was time to register me. There is nothing worse than being overseas and handing your passport to someone with the knowledge that you won't see it until the following day. Actually, there is one thing worse, when it's 'New Visa' time I have to send my passport through the Chinese mail system to Bucklands whom process my Visa for me. Now that is not a good feeling.
So far the Chinese mail system hasn't let me down...so far!
Tuesday, 29th August 2006: Up early and began to back up my summer photos. I ran out of blank cd's so I went for a walk in search of more. This is part of life that I love. Walking from store to store trying to find things. I just look for a computery looking store or a camera store and do my best. I finally found some at Lanovo. It was so funny, first I wanted only five and then decided on ten. The guy helping me thought I wanted to pay only 10 Yuan for them and began harping on in Chinese. No matter what I tried I couldn't get it through to him that I wanted ten disks. One of the counter girls raced over and said something to him which I'd say was on the lines of 'You're a bloody idiot mate!' grabbed the cd's out of his hands and handed me five more.
In the afternoon a guy came around to put a wooden block at bottom of the bathroom door to stop any water coming through. I decided on a walk and headed into the park beside my apartment bock to check out the Chinese Castle...thingy. The phone guy came back to finish the line and the school guys returned to ask me to come in the morning to begin teaching.
I wpent a few hours walking and by the time I got home the sun had left Baiyin and headed elsewhere. I sat for a beer and read a book for awhile in the lounge. When I got up to go to the fridge for water I could see the out line of people on the roof top of the building next door peering into my windows. I turned off the lights and went to the window. There was about three of them and when they realised I was at the window they all ran and hid behind some pillars. I yelled at them to 'Fark Off with the knowledge that most Chinese in their late teens and up know exactly what this means from watching foreign movies. I then had to search for something big enough to cover my windows. I can't believe people would actually get on a roof top to watch me. I understand and have lived with the 'interest' that I and other foreigners create in the town where they live, but this was taking things a little too far!
They were actually on the roof watching me!
Wednesday 30th September: Whilst cooking my breakfast the power went out which was a bugger for me. I was really looking forward to my poached eggs on vegemite bread! I ended up having bananas and bread instead. When I got to the school I was given my Passport back. It was time for class to begin and I was sooo nervous. My first few classes were Grade 1 & 2's. The teachers wanted to come in and watch and I told them please don't come in today, not today!
I think one of them was offended and after my class I got the 'We have a rule that any teacher can watch another's class at anytime' talk. I stood firm and said, 'Mate, it's my first day and I've never taught kids so young, please give me at least my first day to get comfortable!' He seemed a little better after that.
My assistant Jo Jo is really cool. She's a cutie and very pregnant. She is so cool with the kids and doesn't bother me at all in class. She knows when I'm out of ideas for the youngins and steps in only then. I had told her and the Headmaster that I didn't want an assistant but now I think I'll change my mind and tell her she's welcome.
The arvo classes were 3's and 4's and a heap of fun. The school guys came around after school to look at the power problem. They replaced the fuse wire and luckily I then thought of the electric hotplate. I turned it on and in about thirty seconds they fuse went again. They replaced the fuse wire but nothing worked.
Bugger, the main switch had gone so I was powerless for the night.
Instead of staying home in the dark I went for a big walk and got sooooo lost. I only wanted to walk for thirty or so minutes and ended up lost for nearly two hours. It all looks so different in the dark and of course I didn't have my map on me! I finally found my way home around 1am or so.
Thursday 31st September 2006: Classes went great. Jo Jo helped out a lot with the 1's and 2's and a heap of teachers sat in on my classes. One of them (my offended friend ) tried to tell me what I should be doing and how I should be teaching. When we got back to the office I once again stood firm and told him the role of the Foreign Teacher and if they want 'repeat repeat repeat' then I would happily leave and they can get another Chinese English Teacher. I then explained that it's not our job to have 50 students out of 50 students understand EVERYTHING we say 100% of the time...that is an impossible task to offer a foreign teacher.
I spent thirty or so minutes explaining role of a foreign teacher (as I understand it to be). I have a feeling the school had way too much expectations prior to that. I think they believed I would walk in and be able to teach even the Grade 1's and 2's in a miracle way. I wanted to tell them they are wasting a lot of what I 'could' do on the Grade 1's and 2's. I have 2 Grade 1's and 2 Grade 2's and only one 3, 4, 5 and 6. Makes no sense to me as the youngins have no vocabulary and don't understand much at all. I really do believe they should be left to the Chinese English Teacher and a foreign teacher should begin at Grade 3 level as they can comprehend most of what you say and act accordingly.
So my challenge is to prove myself wrong.
I will spend a lot of time researching games and teaching methods to help me teach Grade 1 and Grade 2. I am happy to teach them but if it really is to be only games and simple words then I guess the only real point in having me teach them is to get them comfortable around foreigners.
I hope to prove myself and several other teachers wrong and have a great time doing it!