This afternoon, at 2pm China-time, I turned 26! Whoopee! Today, at 2pm China-time I also started work, drained and unenthusiastic, even though I knew that I would learn so much today. Let me take you back to 0700am.
Upon waking at 0700, we were greeted by a blocked toilet. Although we have a western-style toilet in our apartment (thank gosh), it is still a sin to flush paper. With no plunger (as we only moved in two days ago) we left it and hoped for the best.
At 0900am Callum and I had a medical exam. In order to apply for visas in China, one must undergo a medical to prove that you will a) not be a drain on the countries resources, and b) that you will not contaminate any small children with colour-blindness.
At 0900am we met a representative of the school at the school and jumped in the nearest taxi (as you do) to go to the medical centre. As he started his car, over his shoulder I noticed his “engine warning” light was on. Oh well, I thought, maybe it’s just the exhaust – I had previously been driving my car with the aforementioned light on for some time. It sounded a little clunky and chunky, but it got us on our way quickly enough. As we pulled away from a red light, I noticed he re-started his engine. Not strange for the UK, but as you remember there are no rules to the road here, and so to me it seemed a little odd. What was even odder was when he turned the engine off whilst doing 30kmp/h. And turned it back on again at the next junction before accelerating. I said my prayers.
We got to the medical centre and we were seen soon enough. The Chinese have a funny way of queuing, and so the rep from our school just walked up, leaned over, and took the relevant forms for us off an empty desk. After a brief filling in (all in Chinese) we got a slip of paper and were directed to the second floor. Upon reception we handed our slips (as you would in a British hospital) and waited for direction. The direction (as you would assume) was “take a seat”, shortly followed by a rolled up sleeve, tourniquette, quick slap on the inner elbow and she took your bloods right then and there. What a way to have your first ever blood test.
Further to this we had ECG exams which entailed crocodile clips on our ankles and wrists, eye tests with the facilitation of a soup spoon, a psychology test with questions such as “in the last week have you ever cheated in a game of cards?” and “in the last week when you were a kid did you ever when your parents play, were disobedience?”, and a blood pressure test taken by a doctor who politely asked “are you English?” before commencing with everything in Chinese. By the end of it we were slightly insane.
But that’s okay. We went from there to receive the best birthday present of all… a bank account! The bank was huge and shiny and all the tellers were in waistcoats and scarves. Now, don’t be fooled, it took them three or more goes to spell each of our names correctly. Yet, we walked away an hour later with two flash new bank cards in our pockets. Not that there’s anything in the accounts yet, but the thought is there.
Now, without a proper breakfast, we catch a bus back to our apartment. All busses in China cost 1.yuan (about 11p) for all trips, near or far. On the bus they are playing an English sitcom – there’s a TV screen by the central doors – where one fool is hitting himself in the face and bad-mouthing his girlfriend by proxy on the phone. I have never felt so ashamed to be British.
Into school/work we went for our first ever teachers meeting. All the teachers took part, with some leading activities and filling our tiny brains with loads of fresh exercises you can use in the classrooms. We had demonstrations and even took part in them ourselves. The other teachers were happy to welcome us into their groups and really fed us with wonderful activities and games to play. After this, we “observed” classes again (by “observed” I mean “played awesome language games with kids”). One class was fantastically rich in participation, kids were eager and dancing, and having a great time. The other, the kids just couldn’t hold the information shown to them, which resorted to a game of snap. Either way, the classes were inspirational and eye-opening.
Finally (if you’re still reading, I hope I haven’t completely bored your socks off) we made it home with some dried noodles and a packet of beans. Whilst making a loosely- termed stir-fry in our only pan (it’s a saucepan), I noticed a little flutter out of the corner of my eye. Low and Behold! Gary had showed up to wish me a happy birthday! Thank you, Gary the cockroach!