Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A bit of a catch up….one manic weekend in August!

So….this is how rubbish I have been about starting my blog…It is about 3 weeks and 3 days since we arrived and I am actually now in Tianjin! But I did make lots of notes about what I have done since we arrived and about our two weeks in Beijing so I shall begin (whilst listening to Stornoway…I have not managed to get into any Chinese music really except one very catchy song because Jake had to perform it at our TEFL closing ceremony. My group’s song however was slightly annoying and is now permanently ingrained into my brain – will explain more later!)
I have been saying to people that it feels like I have been here forever and it is so true! Even though it has only been just over 3 weeks! Time moves at half speed in China and so much has been crammed in to such a short space of time…I have now moved to a new country, completed a TEFL course, taken 11 English lessons with real Chinese students and am now some sort of ‘real’ English teacher which is rather daunting. But anyway I shall start from the beginning and remember as much as possible as I do love to waffle…..!
It was all a bit manic before jetting off to China as I had an amazing month travelling around Indonesia with Anna then it was off to the mud fest that is Glastonbury, followed closely by summer school. Everyone kept asking what I was doing next and I would casually mention that I was moving to China (not quite realising that I was actually going!)
During the week leading up to China I was excited but also thinking “don’t make me go!” Before that week I hadn’t really had a chance to properly think about it as I had been so busy with other things. It was a week of goodbyes and this was slightly emotional….I only cried a few times! But everyone was so excited for Jake and me which was lovely to hear! I remember that as the time to depart for the Middle Kingdom was rapidly approaching I kept calling it “stupid China” as I didn’t want to say goodbye to everyone but really China is wonderful and I am very lucky to be here! So I found myself organising everything from currency to making sure I had purchased all the toiletries not available in China (tampons, spray on deodorant and make-up) to the last 5 days (forgetting the tea bags, which I regret rather a lot now…it has been 3 weeks and 5 days since my last cuppa!). And, as expected, my packing was also left to the night before my flight (following a five hour lunch with my favourite girlies). My Mum deserves a huge thank you as I never would have got everything into my suitcase without her expert packing skills! Naturally the scales decided to break that evening so we only had a rough idea of what my bag weighed! Dad poured the Asti and Steph made a wonderful lemon crunch pie for my last night at home which was lovely.
The flight was great and I got through with 30.5kg and luckily Emirates did not weigh my hand luggage as they would have found another 15kg in there! Some people did get their bags weighed so I must have been one of the lucky ones! I did not do any of the reading on EFL teaching that I was supposed to but I did watch about 5 films and slept for approximately 6ish hours.
Arriving in Beijing was slightly surreal as we bumped into a lot of other ELAs which was nice and this eased us in gently to the hustle and bustle of Beijing airport. Annoyingly we queued up for about 25 minutes at passport control only to find we had to go back and fill out an arrival form to then queue up again. Then Doris came to meet us (she was to look after us for the two week induction course while we were in Beijing, along with Nancy and Penny who were all amazing and stayed calm through everything!
Our hotel was very interesting and the name translated to something like ‘Shiny Expensive International Business Conference Hotel’ which is rather nice. Our room was fine, however we were severely lacking in windows and the one window we did have, gave us a lovely view of a corridor. So we never knew what time it was which was slightly surreal! Waking up thinking it’s the middle of the night when in fact it’s actually time to get up is rather disorientating! Oh and the ‘do not disturb’ sign doesn’t really mean much here as the cleaners will knock for a bit, shout for a bit then come in just to make sure…locking your room there was a must if you were to have any chance of sleeping in (not that we got much of a chance for that!)

For the first weekend we were left to our own devices and on our first night a few of us rocked up at a little restaurant with orange tables and chairs not far from our hotel and we randomly pointed to pictures we thought we liked the look of…although I think at that point we had the Mandarin word for ‘beer’ down (pijiu) so we got those at least! My chop sticks skills were not as bad as I had expected and I managed eat a nice amount and at least not look too much like ‘I’ve just rocked up here and have no idea what I’m doing.’ On the Sunday we spent about 20 minutes with the waitress at another restaurant  attempting to order something we could all eat. She spoke a bit of English so we were like “great!”. Then another waiter came out with, what I would describe as, a large ‘table charcoal pit’ full of hot coals for the large hole in our table. Turns out that somehow we had ordered about half a lamb that you cook yourself on a table rotisserie. But it ended well because it was very tasty and everyone loved it!
Everyone was a bit worried about internet access before we left so I was thrilled when the VPN that we had downloaded at home worked in China and I could get on Facebook! Then I thought what if they somehow track you down and I get in trouble before I have even spent one night in the country! But my worries were soon eased later in the week when we were told by one of our TEFL teachers that apparently the guy who is in charge of all the internet censorship in China actually admitted to using 5 VPNs so I think we are ok! It is not really as bad as everyone thinks regarding online censorship in China and most people here know about the different ways to get around things…it is only really a couple of the obvious things that the Government don’t want people to see. We did also find out that Google China has an agreement with a whole load of record labels so music can be downloaded for free if you are in the country! Great news! Although Jake looked for ‘Everything Everything’ and no luck…so in order to use that, I reckon we will have to stick to Chinese music, pop or chart stuff….still, what a great resource! Although come to think about it, I did recently find the Mystery Jets’ first album on there which was rather impressive!
Soooo to sum up….we left London on the Friday evening, flew about 5070ish miles and by the end of Sunday it felt like a whole week had gone past! Our Chinese transformation had begun!

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