Working, wandering and the everyday…

[PHOTO: Guangzhou Tram line stations]

This week has been loooong. My Sunday started well, I managed to sleep until 9am (the latest lie-in I’ve had for a few weeks), I knew today was going to be productive, and someone on Facebook had shared a link to my favourite scene from the amazing, yet totally messed up, not suitable to watch with family, TV show, American Horror Story. This clip was from the 2nd season: The Asylum, watch it for yourself. . You don’t really need much context apart from the fact they’re in a mental asylum, the singer (Judy) used to be the nun who ran the joint, and the two other main characters, Kit and Lana, are totally sane (one of them just saw some aliens take his wife and baby, and poor Lana has just been locked up for being a lesbian and a reporter who snooped a little too much.)

Anyway, so after watching that clip, I was fully awake and in a good mood to take on the day. Sundays are supposed to be for relaxing and enjoying the weekend while drinking lots of tea. I don’t know anyone who actually manages to achieve this every week. Sundays usually turn out to be a day of house work, shopping and catching up on things you didn’t have time to do during the work week. I knew this was the fate of my Sunday but I didn’t mind.

Up I got and out I headed to the bus stop, Kobo e-reader in hand. (I’m reading NOS4A2 a book by  Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son. I wasn’t aware it was over 700 pages when I started it, but I’m really enjoying it so far!) It may be mid-October but my god; it’s still so hot here. We have days when the temperature drops to the mid-20’s with a breeze, but most of the time it’s still pushing 34`C. I waited for the bus and got off at Vantin, the closest and most convenient supermarket near me in Country Garden. I did a big load of shopping; groceries, house hold stuff etc. Bumped into Kim and her dad as well as a kindergarten teacher called Drew, also Canadian, and headed to the checkout. I had my rucksack and my awesome new Bill & Ted inspired tote with me to carry everything home in. The lady scanned all my items; I packed them up like the skilled Tetris player I claim to be, and handed over my UK Visa card. (Because I’m still waiting on my 1st paycheque from Worlda, sadly, my poor UK account has taken quite a bashing over the past month. But hopefully this will be the last week I have to tap in those 4 digits into the pin machine, and I can start using my China card.) Please bear in mind that I have been to this supermarket many times since being here, and have also used my Visa card on multiple occasions to pay for my big shops. For some reason however, today the store, machine, and staff decided that, nope, they didn’t want to accept my card. Chinese card or cash only please. Through broken English, limited Chinese, many hand signals and frustration, I managed to get across the point that I have used this card there many times before, and I was short by 30rmb in cash, so they have to take me card. Waste of time arguing or trying to communicate this, so I ended up gesturing that I would leave my bags, including my personal bag, at the checkout counter, and would go to the ATM and get some cash out to pay for my shopping. So after much frustration and confusion, I was finally able to walk out with my rucksack and 2 bags of shopping, all paid for.

China, I love you, but my god you do test me sometimes! I came home and stumbled upon a quote which sums up my Sunday morning stress pretty well:

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.        – Clifton Fadiman

So, let’s talk about my 7 day work week. It has been emergency meeting after emergency meeting. Change of plans, curriculum, observation requirements, inspection reports, rocket launching, IB training, alterations of exam content and structure, flag raising preparation, and anything else you could throw at us. I sent an email to Meghan, the International Grade 5 Coordinator, last thing on Friday to thank her for her constant support and confidence in the rest of us in Grade 5. She takes so much hit for us from the “powers that be” and the big bad boss men at the top that decide to change and alter things last minute. She’s a great leader for us and will defend us and support us all she can. She even called a last-minute emergency meeting on Wednesday evening before we had to present and perform our Flag Raising Ceremony Performance to the principal. We all dropped what we were doing and rushed to Room 323, expecting some more bad news, last minute changes and stress to land on us as soon as we stepped through the door. To our surprise, we were greeted with a smiling, slightly dishevelled looking Meghan and a box of eclairs. I cannot explain how good these eclairs were. There were 3 chocolate and 3 caramels. Unfortunately, the only picture I have of them is one we sent to Emilija, one of the teachers, who was running very late for this “meeting”. They may taste like heaven, but at 25rmb each, I can see they’re definitely only a once in a blue-moon, special occasion kind of treat, and Meghan had got them for us as a thank you for our efforts!

I’ve mentioned this Flag Raising Ceremony Performance a couple of times now, and basically, every Monday at 7.45am the whole primary section of GCS has to stand outside and sing the anthem while the flags of China, the IB and Country Garden School are raised. They’ve also introduced a section where each grade takes it in turns for their international teachers to do a little skit and tell the kids some rules or things they should think about. Monday is our turn, and we were given the title of Water Conservation. We were given this task the same time as we were told we had to create not only the real end of unit test, but also a mock, and record the listening section. Stress caps on, I said I would take on the script and planning of our little performance, and I was happy to record the listening section of the Mock test. I wrote up a script to tell kids how to conserve/save water each day in school, and created a character; Bubbles the fish. He would be used to visually show what happens when we leave on the tap and waste water, compared to when we save water. (Save water: he’s happy and has enough water to swim in. Waste water: he’s sad and runs out of water!) I also instantly regretted volunteering myself to record the listening section as this then meant that later in the week I had to listen to a recording of myself which was played to all 13 classes in Grade 5… great! When my students heard my voice for the first time during the mock exam, they ignored the test and span round to look at me: “Miss Charlie!! It’s you!! Ahhh!”

Tuesday marked the last evening training sessions for the new international teachers and it has been a long few weeks focusing on the IB system and a thing called PYP. Our last session involved us all preparing some kind of food, presenting it, and comparing it to the IB system. Obviously. So Tuesday night wasn’t too bad, it involved free food and milk tea! Due to it being a new month, I’ve also been told that me and Vivian have to swap classrooms. So whereas I’ve been based, very happily I might add, in Class 502 (Room P314), I’ve now got to spend the month of October based in Class 512 (Room 423). So I’ve gone from the 3rd floor, a nice big desk, a comfy supportive chair, female homeroom and math teachers who speak a little English, and the stronger class. To the 4th floor, a broken Air Conditioning Unit, a desk that’s half the size, a chair with a broken back, a male homeroom and maths teacher, and neither of them speak any English…. Excellent!

So when Friday rolled around, we were all soooo ready for the weekend, after 7 days of working straight through, and probably the most stressful week any of us have had here (so far…) we all had the same great idea, Korean BBQ. There was quite a good group of us again, maybe about 11 in total (me being the only one not a Kindergarten teacher), all around one small plastic table, and an empty box on the floor for dead beer bottles… (There were quite a few at the end of the night). One of the guys there though, I really really do not like. I rarely say hate, and I won’t even say it now, but god it’s pretty dam close. He’s one of those overly stereotypical Americans that cause other Americans to apologise for him and make them almost shamed to be affiliated with where they come from. He throws a lot of “facts” around and stories about himself, very few, if any, are actually true, but he’s in that mind-set and confidence levels that no one ever fact-checks him and he goes on bragging and, excuse my language, but bull-sh*tting his way through conversations… Enter me and Kyle. We’re British, we’re not used to having to deal with people like him, and when he threw out the “fact” that his state, Arkansas (you have no idea how long it took for us to try and spell that after a beer or 2), has one of the least amount of gun crimes and deaths, in the world, despite having the biggest percentage of guns to people. So, me and Kyle were quickly on Bing.com (obviously not google with the great China firewall), and we did some fact checking, much to his horror. We found out that of all the murders or accidental deaths in Arkansas in 2011, 82% of them were gun related. So, clearly not what he said! Anyway, I was glad when he finally left and he “broke the news” to us, that he’s actually just been fired from CGS for being too rough with the children. I think the kids, staff and parents all had a bit of a party Friday night!

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Side note: I love the BBQ place, its great food, really social, and cheap beer, but… this is the bathroom. And yes, that curtain on the right is actually just the kitchen on the other side…

 

Saturday rolled around and I had a pretty lazy morning around the apartment, it was kind of needed after the late night the evening before. I’d made rough plans with another Worlda employee, Cassie, who works at a different school, but used to be with CGS. She’s from Newcastle, and pretty loud/brash, but I thought, hey, she invited me, may as well mingle with some others for a change! Kim’s dad arrived back from his quick trip to Beijing on Friday night so they didn’t fancy a day out in Guangzhou, and Kyle, well, Kyle is pretty lazy on weekends so I didn’t hold out much hope when he said he might come along! Danielle came with me and we got the 125 [short] bus from East Gate and arrived 35 minutes later at Hanxi Changlong Metro station on Line 3 [orange] of the Guangzhou Metro system.

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The 125 [short] Bus journey from Country Garden East Gate – Line 3 of Guangzhou Metro

[Side note: on the bus to East Gate I witnessed a fight between 2 Chinese guys one of their girlfriends, it got so intense a random woman dragged the single guy off the bus and kept him there while it drove off…] About half an hour later Cassie and her mate Mickey (Irish guy I’d met at the BBQ one time) arrived and we headed to Canton Tower. Canton Tower is 595.7 meters and is the tallest TV tower in the world. At night it’s lit up in all sorts of colours and patterns, in the day though, it’s just a very tall, skinny, odd shaped tower. There is stuff you can do at the top, but I’ll save that for another day. We walked along the river front looking out at the other side and all of Guangzhou’s fancy buildings until we came to the Tram line. None of us even knew GZ had a tram line, so we decided to hop on and see where it took us! Plus, the stations were really cool… It took us all along that side of the river, past Party Pier, Canton Fair Complex, a couple of bridges, and we got off at Pazhou Pagoda. We walked around the garden area and wandered up to the base of the Pagoda in the 35`C and bug infested day! Sadly, the Pagoda was inside a locked fence, so we just walked around and took in the surrounding area. Very pretty indeed and nice to see a calmer, greener side of the city.

Cassie headed back home to change and beg her “mam” to send her some money from the UK, while the 3 of us headed to The Mall of the World. Yes. Another bloody mall. Shamefully, it’s the best and easiest way to pass the time, and get some cool air-con. This mall is split into a few sections, one section of which is under a big very green, lovely park area. I’m not too sure why but there were a lot of statues of firemen around the park, even the arms of the benches were designed to look like the hose reels. There was also a strange variety of classical, Chinese, and orchestral music playing from hidden speakers. I’m glad Mickey (Mickey Finn, the most Irish guy I’ve ever met) showed us the park, it was nice to be surrounded by trees, but look up and see the huge buildings.

We later met up with another Worlda employee, his boyfriend, and a Chinese female friend of theirs. Cassie was running late, very late, a common theme I’ve noticed with her already, and we all went to the cinema! Kay, the Chinese girl had managed to get us the tickets for 35rmb each, and off we went to watch The BFG, in 3D. I can’t lie; I was not exactly looking forward to it.

I loved the original adaptation so much, like, so so much, that I was worried about seeing the new one and the level of butchering they’ve done to it. To my pleasant surprise, it was a good movie. The animation of the giants, the dreams, and the visuals in general were really good. Sophie, the little girl, the poor little actress that played here got on my nerves quite a bit though, but it was good. HOWEVER. They did miss out my favourite line; “Now you is getting nosier than a Parker!”

So me and Danielle managed to catch the last 125 bus from Hanxi Changlong back to Country Garden at 10.35pm, but due to crazy traffic and the fact that a Halloween Fair event had just finished, it took over an hour to make the 35 minute journey. Which by consequence, meant that all the [free] buses inside Country Garden had stopped running by the time we made it to east gate, thus resulting in a long walk home for both of us.

So that was my week: Lots of work. Lots of late nights (work related and not). Exploring in the sunshine. A stressful shop. And now, a lazy Sunday afternoon/evening, probably chatting to friends and family before climbing into bed with a movie. This coming week is probably not going to be much easier than the last, but I know I now have friends and colleagues I can rely on to get through the tough times! I’ll leave you with another quote I found today, and plan to live by:

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.

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