Week number ….. I’ve lost count already

Teaching this week has been a sad one. One of endings – we have to give back the classes that we have been covering for two weeks. There were a lot of high-fives (and a few hugs), with one super young student declaring at the door that she “loves teacher”.  Saying goodbye to some of the students has been hard, however this week coming we both have new, and permanent, classes that we will be taking on for the foreseeable future. Look out for next weeks post about new horrible/adorable classes 🙂

This week we have also both been observed by our boss, and although we haven’t had feedback yet, we both feel our individual classes were absolute poo. From a shaky hand on the whiteboard due to nerves, to completely forgetting how to speak the English language, anything that could have gone wrong did. Needless to say one of the students even burst into tears. The classes before and after these have been really good, and we can only fathom that our nerves around being observed affected the classes. A smidgen of advice to anyone pursuing a career in ESL teaching; don’t worry about the observations. you’ll be great. Because if you’re not, you’ll just be kicking yourself for the next few days that that was the one bad class this week. Although this wasn’t a perfect start to our teaching career, we are looking forward to being provided with useful directions in which to turn; helpful activities to aid with student motivation, and informative ways in which to discipline students (apparently we aren’t allowed to use the cane any more).

So the teaching experiences this week have been mottled, although we haven’t had to cover any more classes – and therefore been slightly bored in the office. We have had time to get our head around the printer, look for things on the computer, and decipher exams that we are to be providing later in the course.

On a positive note; on our equivalent of Wednesday this week (Friday – Hump Day), one of the teachers was followed into the office by the most gorgeous sandy coloured puppy. Apparently he had found it abandoned at Silly O’Clock in the morning (after a session at World Beer) and had adopted it. Not wanting to leave it alone in his flat, he brought it to work. We lovingly named her Glenka, or Brown Puppy, and she thoroughly enjoyed her time in school, although none of the teachers (or TA’s) got any actual work done. Well, someone had to entertain the puppy. Needless to say, she wasn’t allowed back. He still has her, and is looking for a suitable home for her to go to.

And here we found ourselves at the weekend. Friday (actually Sunday), we all finished work at 6pm and decided a cool down at the pub would be a shout. So we pootled out of the office without a care in the world. Four hours later when (still sober) Sam decided she would like to go home and asked Callum for the keys, we realised that we no longer had them. They were sitting quite happily on the desk in work. And so, as Callum continued on with ‘the guys’, Sam ended up having a sleepover at a colleagues house with two gorgeous Chinese girls, a beautiful kitten called Sammy, and a turtle named Jack. Oh, and the sleepover was right next door to Brown Puppy, so through the windows we called and waved and passed pets back and forth for a stroke and a cuddle. All’s well that ends well, as they say.

Saturday, therefore was something of a write off, spent on a hungover morning walking back across town to rescue our keys from the office and get back into our house. Consequently, we awoke on Sunday, after a great nights sleep, and ventured to “Old Town” – a pseudo-historical quarter town locally known as “Three lanes and Seven Alleys” – San Fang Qi Xiang. This area was once home to The Emperor when China was run from Fuzhou, during the Something Dynasty. The buildings here are as close as you get to historically protected sites in China, even though some of them are only a couple of hundred years old. The interiors are constantly being renovated for local craft shops and tea rooms/coffee shops (there was even a Starbucks); the wide pedestrianised streets, picturesque stream, and traditional architecture made for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

After curiously ducking into an open doorway to find a labyrinthine museum – all in indecipherable Chinese characters – we were “Hello”-ed by a very confident and incredibly lovely Lady who invited us into her “Oasis”.

It transpired that her Oasis was a quiet reading room replete with an extensive Chinese library, and a lavishly furnished lounge of sofas and wing-back arm chairs, where we sat as a second woman silently made us a cup of the best tea yet in china. After the usual small talk about what we were doing in china, and how we liked it, we found out a little more about our host. She is the secretary of the chamber of e-commerce for the region, and divides her time between trying to establish a digital infrastructure for local rural farmers to sell their amazing produce online, and lecturing on international business studies at the university. She also runs the oasis as a “place for ladies to better themselves”, which we took to mean the Chinese equivalent of a women’s refuge, as many women here marry young and divorce rates are very low. There was a whiteboard in the corner where it looked like some lessons had been taught, and she also hosts gatherings of foreigners to share their stories of travel with students who wish to do the same. We promptly volunteered our services for anything and everything we could do to help, and hopefully will have some stories to follow this up in future.

She left us to greet a local artisan stonemason, who ran a shop we later found in old town, which sold huge soapstone carvings and statues of incredible intricacy. They talked business for a while over tea and then she returned and took us out for lunch as a restaurant/tea rooms across the road. With a wave she had them open up the private rooms upstairs, and we chatted around everything from long distance relationships to business opportunities. She was particularly interested in the differences between Scottish and American whiskies and the lifestyle of English Ladies, asking about our experiences from England and all over the world. As she left, we wondered who her friend was; the lady who had served us tea at the Oasis and later joined us silently in the tea rooms. She was given no introduction and we therefore concluded that she was an equivalent of a handmaiden; her own lady in waiting. And that is the story of how we made our first political connection in China.

Some pics from the day below, the porcelain statues were in a gallery and were particularly cool, but i didn’t have much camera kit to do them justice, so apologies for blurry night shots and reflections. – callum.



5 thoughts on “Week number ….. I’ve lost count already

  1. Wow hardly does it justice. What some great carvings and art… wonderful photos and such interesting news. The Chinese lady ( secretary for chamber of e commerce) and your time spent with her sounds facinating. Thank you so much for taking the time to do your blog – it really is good to hear and be part of your journey. All of us here, are there with you, ( luckily for you, not in person!)

    Getting under the skin and meeting the real, ordinary chinese people and seeing their culture before it starts to get erroded by McDonalds etc is something you will never ever forget. You are there at such an interetsing time. Heaps of praise for getting there.

    I think that when we all imagine teaching English as a foreign language, we assume wrongly that it can’t be that hard!

    After all, we can speak English, we don’t have to speak Chinese! ; but of course, on reflection, its probably much, much harder when you can’t speak the language of your pupils. And aren’t allowed to in class anyway.

    Being watched when you do anything makes it a million times harder, so that must have been bloody difficult!
    I would hate it.

    Don’t be hard on yourselves, I’m sure that the examiners would expect you to be nervous when you haven’t done it before and have only just started there. As you say, they will give you advice, and the ones that have done it for years will help you.

    Your biggest ally is your confidence, but its also your biggest foe. Remember ( says Confucius) Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. That bloke Confucius has a lot to answer for hey! Full of good sayings…… wonder where he got them from….. Christmas crackers do you think?

    Don’t worry , the kids are more scared than you – and therein lies your salvation. If you can totally concentrate on them, your nerves won’t have time to get a hold.

    Quite honestly though, you are both doing amazingly. Blub blub blub.
    Love you loads and loads as always – from your immensely proud H&S XXXXXXXX


  2. We love reading your blog – it’s really fascinating – your take on it all – both of You’s – -as well as China herself – is she a she? I’m both really jealous of your eexperiences and pleased you are doing (not me)! Some friends of ours who live in Woolhope – their eldest son, Harry Rhodes, has been in China doing Tefal for some time and he has married a Chinese girl and they have just had a baby – Kunmil is where they live. I looked on the atlas and its about 2000 miles west of you! All the best, lots of love xxxx


  3. It’s really special to feel connected to you both through your blogs and well done on the regularity as it gives us a sort of ‘live’ insight into your weekly doings and is very enjoyable to read.
    Brilliant photos too. Love the ‘raining’ Chinese umbrellas and the Anthony Gormley type figures and the spooky white lady on the seat.

    Looking forward to hearing how your new, more permanent pupils are shaping up.
    Lots of love Soph xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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