Xin Nian Kuai Le to everyone! Happy Chinese New Year!
I apologise that we haven’t written for so long: we have actually been strangely busy…
The Chinese Public Schools don’t get so many holidays (like we do in the UK with 2 weeks end of term and a weeks half term and six weeks summer holidays….) So when they do get a holiday (winter and summer) they tend to get a month off. Whilst they are out of school for a month, our school run extra lessons for them, quite aptly named Summer Course and Winter Course. Thus we all end up with four extra classes (2 hours each) to teach a week. They are a mix of ages, and although they have been interviewed before being enrolled on a course, they are a mix of abilities. Therefore, you cannot assume that one student knows something the others do, and viceversa, because usually, they don’t. Hence you have quite a difficult class to teach… how do you stick to the curriculum whilst providing activities easy enough for the lower students in your class, but also challenging enough for the higher? And so we have had a busy couple of weeks, planning, resource-making, teaching, these exceptional classes. We have a week left with them, and so I am sure we will update you on the outcomes at a later date.
Our outcome is that we all need a break. Before I begin on our Winter holiday break time, however, let me tell you about our Works Christmas Party.
We left our office and walked straight there; an expensive looking hotel on the outskirts of WuYi Square. Inside, we ascended a flight of stairs before being in a highly decorated, and incredibly loud, function room. It wasn’t unlike any other function room – with it’s round tables and fabric covered chairs, but what was different about it was the video playing on the screen behind the stage. As this was a function for all 250 (ish) staff at our workplace, every school and every team within every school, had recorded a New Years message (the Christmas do falling between English and Chinese New Years). And so we saw our fellow teachers on the stage, “Happy New Year!””Xin Nian Kuai Le!”-ing. When it came to our video (that we had only recorded once, and even that one begrudgingly) we realised that the sound wasn’t great, making us all sound as though we had inhaled helium before filming. It was a hilarious medley.
And so began our Christmas Party. Awards were given, for longest without a sick day, most students who have stayed with the company for another course, etc. Everyone received a (rather heavy) award and a red envelope with – of course – money or gift vouchers in. There was even a lottery, where everyone’s names were spun on the screen and a random teacher in the audience shouted “STOP” and whomsoever was on the screen won money. I even think our hosts – the people announcing and giving out awards – were famous. As we are so new we didn’t win any, but no worries, there is always next year.
As the food was brought out it was a typical Chinese Feast. Food is brought out at different times and your table filled, before they take an eaten (or uneaten, as the case may be) dish away and replace it with another course. All in all I think there were 13 courses, ranging from boiled rice flavoured with sweetcorn and rib meat, to snails (which were horrible) to chicken feet (which are also disgusting…. they don’t wholly taste like chicken) and pigs trotters (which weren’t too bad but were an absolute pain to eat with chopsticks). Once we had all eaten (and all the English staff were still hungry) our Schools Band played. We are far from the American Classic movies of the High School Bands being all tubas and clarinets. These guys were three or four guitars, a drummer and a singer. They were pretty good, getting everyone up and dancing, including our board of directors and investors. The only people who weren’t dancing were the staff who, I don’t think, appreciated the 6-piece rock band we had on the stage, and all the drunken English screaming after them.
Oh, did I mention that the beer was free? Given out in crates to each table, you could just go and pick up a crate if you felt you needed one.And so our band (and boogie) ended, our food was gone, and our beers were empty. The staff had made a line across the back of the hall and were slowly advancing, with the hope that they would eventually filter all 200 of us through the door. Upon leaving a lot of us went to a KTV, Kareoke-Tele-Vision, where not only is the song projected up alongside the music video, but you are also filmed. We, however, ended up (you’ve guessed it) at World Beer. I’m not sure anyone remembers getting home.
The next day was spent in bed, waiting, hoping, that someone knew where we could find a kebab shop (there’re no Kebab Shops here). Darn Shame.
A waste of a weekend one would say, before we were back in school for our Winter Course.
That week we experienced something incredible – a Chinese Funeral. Many in the office whinge about Chinese funerals; that they are too loud too early. “I’m so tired, there was A Funeral downstairs,” they say, “I was woken up at 5am!”. And we both thought, yeah yeah yeah.
One day, we are awoken at 6.30 by the sound of a klaxon and a large bass drum. There appears to be a marching band in our living room (or at least outside our apartment) that is playing a hodge-podge song- or maybe all the songs at once. There’s coloured paper streamers everywhere. The music goes on (loud enough to wake us up) until about 9am. We had experienced our first Chinese Funeral. And in the office later no one heard about it because really, it wasn’t a nuisance. People were celebrating another’s life. They were revelling and partying in someones absence. All I could think was that I wish I have a jamboree for a funeral. I want to wake people up and cry “Here! This Is My Life!”. What a spectacular way to celebrate the dead, with a marching band and coloured streamers.
And so we are almost brought up to date with the exception of one excursion to XiHu (Westlake) Park to visit the Rainbow Bridge (when Callum is awake I will ask him to put some photos up) – a bridge so curvey it arches like a rainbow. A beautiful stone carved mural of FuZhou on a wall. Lakes full of large fish and water voles. Beautiful trees, all still green, with large flat leaves. Hidden archways and stone paths around tiny glistening pools of water, statues hidden by trees and foliage – and an excursion up GuShan again, the mountain we spoke about all those posts ago. This time it was easier, going up and coming down. We went with a host of other teachers, and goodness, I ache today. However, it was a spectacularly clear day and the views from the top were unbelievable. We took a different route up and back, we went up the Pine Trail, which was a bloody lot of stairs. It was completely worth it though, I mean, just look at these views.
And so we are brought to Chinese New Year (which is today). For a few days there has been the sound of fire crackers everywhere, and I mean everywhere. They are set off usually on people’s balconies, or in the street, we even saw one set of IN someones living room, with the flashing lights being constrained behind the glass of their penthouse, that we were sure would no longer be intact. Strangely, we have seen neither fires nor the fire service, even though there are so many fireworks being set off between buildings.
Last night we went for a walk, up to WuYi Square, in the hope that there would be a procession, but no such luck. There are some amazing lights, however, signifying that this year is the Year of the Rooster. We aren’t sure what that means, so we shall get back to you. Wondering aloud if people stayed up until midnight, we decided that they probably didn’t, as there weren’t so many people out then, no where was open to get food (it is like Christmas Day in England), and so people would go to bed at a usual hour.
Weren’t we mistaken! Awoken at midnight to a dazzling display of fireworks, oh I wish I could post videos on here, right outside our bedroom window! All red and green and gold, they were beautiful! Its strange here, there are no firework displays, as such, because it is not their beauty that people use them for – it’s the noise. The loud noises of the fireworks and fire crackers scare away evil spirits, and so everyone has their own display of fireworks to cleanse their house and keep it evil-spirit-free for another year. They set them off in such built up areas, like I mentioned, some are even just off their balconies, that it really is a sight to see.
And thus I finish, I am awake on New Years Day to the sound of more firecrackers, both near and in the distance, and will promptly go back to sleep! Good night and Happy New Year!