Saturday, 16 May 2009

Different Faces

First of all, I have a feeling that either China or my school network has blocked all blogger websites. I'm hoping this will resolve itself in the next few days, but if it doesn't I've set up a wordpress account. I really hope it isn't permanent though, as I love visiting so many blogger blogs and would be quite upset at not being able to do so.


Today has been a day when I have very much seen two different faces of China. I sporadically teach at an IELTS preparation school 'on the side', and, as per the timetable I received earlier this week, woke up at 6.30 on a Saturday to go downtown and teach there. Once I got there, I found out that actually, the class was meant to be tomorrow not today. Obviously I had an old timetable and China standard communication has struck again. My face fell. And then I was incredibly surprised.


Instead of telling me it was all my fault for not being psychic, as seems to be the norm here, a senior member of staff apologised, and as by luck the oral class I was due to teach was there for their listening class said that they would swap the oral and listening classes. They also promised to make sure I had the new timetable. This took less than five minutes to sort out.


Then I had the class, which consisted of four new students. It was fantastic: eager, intelligent, interesting, the students are a teacher's dream. It barely even felt like work.


This afternoon I was meant to cover my colleagues at another school. I got there, went into the office smiling 'Hello' and was greeted with the 'Why are you here?' delivered in remarkably vicious and aggressive fashion. I quickly explained the situation, and I was told that the classes no longer existed. It was all delivered in a very spiteful, malicious tone that clearly told me where I could go, whilst all three women in the office were grinning broadly and looking extremely self satisfied.


Out of tiredness from lack of sleep, menstrual hormones, frustration at the waste of my time and the loss of earnings, and their meanness, I nearly cried. I feel that probably they've decided to cancel the classes themselves, knowing that the owner won't care about a sub teacher, as they get paid more money when they teach a class themselves rather than 'assist' (i.e., sit at the back of the room playing on their mobile phones or picking their noses) a foreign teacher.


On a more positive note, I did have a very friendly taxi driver on the way back, and I taught him some English and he taught me a little Chinese.


Now, the humid and close day has given way to the first thunderstorm I've witnessed in China. The sound of torrential rain is strangely comforting, taking me back to my Lampeter bedroom, listening to rain at night, or staring over the blurred, drenched green Welsh landscape, and reminding me of a friendlier land.


I do miss rain, even that incredible Welsh rain, that could come down in torrents, day after day, for a week or more, to the point where the shallow brook through campus would become a feisty torrent, rising three or four feet up its rocky banks and then another foot over, bringing about stories of the time that it lapped the doors of the riverside union building. After the first year, you became strangely impervious to rain, valued a thick winter coat and a pair of Wellingtons, and realised what useless contraptions umbrellas often are. And now, strangely, I find myself here in China, nostalgic for a week when we were cut off from the rest of the country and stocks of fresh food in the supermarket started to dwindle more than they usually did, and there was only one footbridge over the river, mounted on steps to make it a foot higher than the others, that was usable. 


  1. Aww J...

    I remember about four months into my time in England (from Canada) and I spent a whole freaking day trying to find a mop...

    It, that elusive mop, tipped me over the edge that day. I went home and cried. Sad, angry and frustrated about a million little things... all suddenly encapsulated in that stupid mop.

    If I had had one of those Star Trek transporter beam things, I would have beamed myself back to Canada, then and there. Now, of course, I'm glad that I didn't.

    Enjoy the rain and the friendly taxi drivers.

  2. It must be very challenging to live in a country so very different. You are brave! My home is South Africa (many thanks for your visit to my blog, Thatchwick) and although I work at a university I trained years ago as an English teacher. I still tutor English in my spare time and currently have only young students either from China or Taiwan. However, they are all very fluent and excellent scholars. They take lessons from me as they (or their parents, I suspect) want them to do even better at school. We are all good friends!

  3. I'm so glad that you were able to get your teaching in. Sometimes it's really hard to balance everything, and it's always a great treat when people are willing to work with you : )

  4. You know, in spite of the issues you are having to deal with, I found this post to be so comforting this evening, and refreshing to read. As I don't feel so much alone now in this wilderness of being treated so inhumanly. I am not being unkind, here .. but I know this place, and right now you feel like a kindred soul. I've been crying all evening .. now I feel like stopping. Thank you so very much for posting this.

  5. What a frustrating day for you! I'm glad you did get to teach a class, though. Your words about nostalgia for Wales reminded me of my first weeks in Dublin as an exchange student at Trinity College in 1968. Several frustrating things had hit all at once and I felt like crying and thought, "I miss my mom." I missed my home in southern California.

  6. Hugsss J. I've been there so i understand. Lucky you, you are so understanding though you very felt bad inside. But at least you got that 1 class that made you feel "not working"

    btw, i decided to come by here to read you daily so i hope this china blocking blogger thing will be resolved. :)

    Have a nice day today!