Happy Easter Everyone! As you can guess, China doesn’t celebrate Easter, and so whilst you’re all having a two week holiday we’ve been working extra hard… Educating our students about Easter! Akin to the Christmas activities that we blogged about before, (where Callum was Santa) we have been teaching our students about our spring festival with a powerpoint presentation about chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, a few exciting activities to learn all the new seasonal words – Bunny, egg, Easter Basket, chick…. jelly beans? – and then a wonderful craft. It’s a shame that they don’t have an Easter Bunny delivering chocolate eggs though; my students couldn’t comprehend the idea of a 6ft bunny rabbit.
So from Callum and I, Connor and Tom, Candy, Jenny, Tony, Kevin, Becky, Suzie, Sophie, Neo, Ella, Coco, Yoyo, Paddy, Sally, Michael C, Olly, Jack, Sara, Leo, Josh, Amy, Michael H and dragon,
The weekend was greatly appreciated after all of the terrible terrible Easter jingles we had been singing on repeat all week. The first day of our weekend we’d signed up to a “School Trip” type adventure trail for the teachers only. We turned up to see familiar faces from all over Fuzhou, Chinese and English alike, before jumping on a stiflingly hot coach for an hours drive out of the city. On the way we had a safety briefing delivered by a chappy from the Fujian Mountaineers Union, which was unfortunately all in Chinese. Translated, we found out it meant “Rule number one: Stay together in your allocated groups. Rule number two: Do not stray from your allocated group”.
Arriving, we were sorted into lines, and then groups, and then lines again. When each of our groups were given a Mountaineering Leader and a coloured flag to decorate we all had a sinking feeling in our stomachs that this was just going to be another all-singing-all-dancing following-the-leader type team-building activity along roadsides to a climbing centre. Our team (aptly named Glenk after the local beer, as two of our group were more than a little hung over) started first and we soon lost all imaginings of a well paved road as we were led off into the brush. There was no real footpath to follow at times, and our lovely leader Jason (we named him, he neither had an English name, nor spoke a word of English) had to usher us in the correct direction. When we weren’t looking at where our feet were landing, the view was stunning. Walking down into a beautifully green river valley we headed for two hours through dense bamboo forest and open grassland towards our destination – the Wall Of Death.
Only kidding. The wall was a 100ft sheet of rock with carabinas screwed in, that we were expected to abseil down. When asking Jason how we were to get up, he replied with “up”. Good help.
Once we reached The Wall Of Death, we realised that it wasn’t so deadly. Below it ran a crystal clear stream, full of boulders, that were just asking for being jumped on. After asking Jason (in Chinese) if I could swim and getting the go ahead, we all stripped down and jumped in. The water was cold and clean – some of the mountaineers were drinking straight from it – and was a cool reprieve from the hot walk of the morning. Whilst we were swimming and boulder hopping, Jason was busy making us lunch (with help from the less adventurous of our group). We returned to camp when “food!” was called, to find a pan full of steaming hot ‘fish balls’. They are exactly what they sound like – boiled dumpling type-things full of fish. We were craving a ham sandwich, a pork pie, a scotch egg, maybe some carrot sticks…. no such luck. After the fish balls we ate fresh clams – which would be lovely if they hadn’t been walked up there in a sweaty plastic bag for two hours – and instant noodles. Not a sausage roll in sight. Oh well.
Finishing fish ball noodle soup, we laid in the sun watching the first of our groups abseil down the Wall Of Death. With only a few unsuccessful attempts, most of our school came down without a glitch. We were the last ones up, enjoying the smaller queue for harnesses and hats.
Now, as Jason had earlier stated, we had to get “up” the wall to come back down. That meant walking around the side, pulling yourself up and over the top of a natural waterfall, and along another non-existent path to find the top of the wall. Everyone coming down had said that there was a smaller practice wall, and going over this did not do anything to ease nerves. The guys strapping us in didn’t speak a word of English, so we were relying on the Chinese members of the group to translate “hold this”, “don’t hold this”, “this gets hot – don’t touch it”.
The abseil itself was amazing, however, and coming down it felt like a successful trip. I am glad I did it.
It was here that it started to rain, large, hot, heavy raindrops falling through the trees. Jason handed out shiny plastic ponchos for all of the unprepared (myself included) though as we started our walk back through more unkempt forest, it started to snag and pull on the trees around so mine came off as quick as it went on.
The walk back was as glorious as the walk there, even though we were more than a little soggy by this point. We walked a different way out to which we came in, following the valley and coming out at the other end by a temple and some bewildered locals. On the way we walked past a cottage for rent in the middle of nowhere, a reservoir over 40 metres deep (according to Jason) which we weren’t allowed to swim in, and scenery so beautiful it would make you swoon.
Eventually we got back to a coach and back to Fuzhou, to a hot shower and some much needed dry clothes. The fish ball lunch had left most of us starving hungry for more, so we met a few friends and went to the local tepenyaki restaurant where a chef cooks Japanese style dishes on a hot plate grill at your table. For £17, its all you can eat and drink, and I like to think we got our moneys worth.
Now completely stuffed, we waddled home with full bellies and aching legs, to fall asleep on the sofa watching a kung fu movie.
After 6 months in Fuzhou, we thought it was about time to have a house warming party, so we got up early and jumped in a taxi to Metro, the local wholesale superstore, like a Bookers back home, for a big shop. It has a good selection of imported foods you cant buy in the regular stores, and we loaded up a trolley with mince beef, Pimms and frozen peas.
Another taxi ride home, manic tidying the flat, preparing some potato salad, and then off to play badminton. It’s officially hot here now, most days are over 30 degrees, and humid, so playing a solid 2 hours of badminton in a sports hall is like running around in an oven. Still it’s a lot of fun, and a great way to make friends with the teaching assistants and their friends, so despite our aches and pains from the previous days hike, we gave it a good go.
Home for another shower (up to 2 a day now), prepared the last of the food, (homemade burgers, chicken skewers, roasted veg, 2 huge pitchers of Pimms.) People started turning up and we soon had a smokey bbq going, and about 15 teachers crammed into our flat playing drinking games and swapping stories. A good time was had by all, apparently we make some of the best burgers in China, which isn’t saying a lot, but it’s something.
Now back to life as usual, thunderstorms every day, busy teaching weeks for both of us, and a messy flat to clean up. At least we have a fridge full of left over food 🙂