Monday, 9 March 2009

Feeling frazzled

The events of the last two days have left me undecided as to whether I’m attracting disaster or good luck. I had arranged to have Sunday lunch with two of my junior students, pictured above with a traditional Chinese toffee fruit stick thing – hmmm, really should find out the real name for them! They had very generously bought me one, they’re quite peculiar, the outside of it is hard and very very sweet, whilst the inside is a tart and slightly mushy fruit. Quite an interesting combination, but I think sampling it once will be enough for me.

We went to Vivian’s (the shorter girl) apartment, which is very close to the school, in a housing estate where many of the teachers at my school live. Her parents are both high school politics teachers, so their apartment is a good idea of what the living conditions of the aspirational middle classes are here.

the living area of their apartment; the Chinese knot (big red thing) is a symbol of good luck
Vivian’s father had left a selection of wonderful looking dishes, and some noodles to boil. We spent some time boiling the noodles and making fresh orange juice: let’s just say I don’t think I could cope with the stress of being a home economics teacher. The dishes left by Vivian’s father were cold but were ones normally eaten hot, so I assumed that we would reheat them in the microwave, but this was didn’t happen. I found this very surprising, as most Chinese food is served hot, with the only exceptions being some appetizers and ice cream. Even in hot weather it is difficult to find cold drinks or ice.
please don't burn the kitchen down girls!
Unfortunately, being served cold rendered most of the food almost indelibly disgusting. Luckily I had my noodles with egg and tomato to keep me going, as although I did my best to try and eat as much as possible of the cold plates, I didn’t do so well. I noticed her friend picked at the cold food too. I’m now quite worried that I’ve offended her.
dishes best served hot

Later on that afternoon I was due to meet up with my friend Xin, who speaks perfect English after spending five years studying in the UK. I was really looking forward to this, as we’d been meaning to meet up for months but one of us was always ill, busy or away. We’d decided to go and visit Shijiazhuang’s café and Xin had persuaded her mother to lend her her car for the occasion.

noodles with egg and tomatos, a traditional and very popular Chinese dish

In the end, we didn’t get as far as the end of the road I live on. We were sitting at a red light when we got rear ended. Someone had driven into the car behind us, somehow not seeing the red light or the queue of traffic! Thankfully Xin’s mother drives a sturdy Audi, so their car was barely damaged. The man who had caused the accident was driving a cheap Chinese car, which was written off, the front crumpled like a used napkin. Luckily, nobody was injured, but I had to spend the next hour standing around until the police came and ascertained who was to blame.

When they arrived, some of them were far more interested in me than the minor car accident! They were all very pleasant and efficient, and told the possibly blind afternoon wrecker that the accident was entirely his fault and that he was a very stupid man.

My issues didn’t end here, as I for some reason that evening I found I couldn’t call my family using Skype. This resulted in a stressful search for the nearest internet café, until a very kind shopkeeper took pity on me, and got two equally kind teenage boys to escort me there – they even accompanied me up the five flights of stairs! It never ceases to amaze me how helpful Chinese people are to me.

Then today three out of my four classes were unusually badly behaved: if I hadn’t had a relaxing yoga class at lunch time to refresh me I think I might have lost it by my last class who were absolutely shocking. I even had one kid throwing a tissue at me. I think I’ll be speaking to their teacher tomorrow.
Nothing has really gone right, but it also hasn't been as bad as it could've been, so I'm trying to be thankful for that rather than getting stressed out. Note the word trying!


  1. Does sound like you've had an unusual run of luck, mostly not so good. But at least no one was injured in the auto accident!
    Wonder what was up with the cold food?

  2. Glad to hear you survived a rough day, hopefully things will improve from here. Noodles with egg and tomatoes looks good. Wish they'd serve that in the Chinese restaurants in America.