Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mood Festival

We had a memo from the college saying this is the "mood festival" - it certainly has put my class into a funny mood. They are all really frisky, grabbing each other and throwing things and changing seats all the time - fortunately I know who they all are now!

Actually its the autumn moon festival, and there was a big yellow moon last night. The days are really hazy and humid, it looks smoky but you can't smell smoke. Everyone is eating "moon cakes" - they are like little pies with special things inside. Some of them are really nice. Some have like a thick fruity jelly-ish paste inside, I think its lotus paste - I think they are the best. Others have like fruity, crunchy, nutty sweet stuff - the kids reckon they are 'disgusting' (I said 'that's a good English word to use'). Then there are the surprises, like a fish filling when you are expecting something sweet …

But at night there are lots of fireworks - not the pretty ones, just the loud bangy ones. And last night it sounded like they were launching them through a pipe so they exploded high in the air.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Today is Tuesday here - well, "day 2" in the timetable. I have no lessons this morning, but three this afternoon at 2.50, 3.45 and 4.40. That last one is a real killer, "graveyard shift"! It finishes at 5.25pm when my stomach is telling me its time for tea, and the students are all sitting there counting down the minutes. Mind you, they have more lessons after tea, but at least they do get a break before them.
With this being a private college our students don't have to do all the "political training". We can hear them at another uni/college/school not far from here from early morning til late at night. Sounds like a polital rally, calling and shouting and repeating slogans at the tops of their voices.

Last night we went to a wedding. Our deputy principal was getting married and invited all the staff to a special dinner at the college. It was a nice change from the usual rice and wild gourd laced with hot peppers. Its amazing what "the smoking man" (our canteen chef who regularly comes and watches us eat, and yells complaints at us in Chinese out of the corner of his mouth, while puffing smoke all over us) can come up with when he puts his mind to it!!

Anyway, there were lots of speeches. Everyone laughed a lot - except the few of us at our table who are "foreign teachers"! No one would give us a translation. Then there was the drinking ceremony, which went on while the traditional Chinese feasting went ahead - plates being brought out and placed on the “lazy susan” in the middle of each table and everyone pulling bits off with their chopsticks. Fortunately we are reasonably adept with our chopsticks now. The bride and groom and MC went to each guest with a tray with three little cups, like egg cups, and a bottle of their "white wine". It is a strong liqueur, smells foul, and obviously there is no need to clean the cups between use, nothing could live in that!

Peter did his bit - drank his three cups for the happiness of the couple. But I just told them my doctor wouldn't let me - I was finding it a bit stressful. The single Canadian guy had got himself tanked up before he even went and was in fine form refilling everyone's glasses and talking loudly. The tiny Canadian lady went ahead and drank her three, whispering "save me Jesus" between each one, and then sat down swinging her legs, and with her face going all shades of red and purple. The Sri Lankan, a Moslem, sat and neither ate nor drank the whole time. Our new Filipina teacher, sitting next to me, got louder and more drunk - until she ate a lolly and discovered she had a hole in her tooth. She wasn't drunk enough to cover that pain! We were most relieved when the party suddenly broke up at about 9.30pm.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Getting Started

I am sitting at this incredibly old, grotty computer - just now I pressed the "enter" key and it stuck and the cursor went spinning down the page before I could unstick it ...

Talk of sticking, my wrists are sticking to the desk, I'm so hot and sweaty.

But we are having lots of fun.

There was the "Opening Ceremony" for the college this morning, for the new semester. We were introduced, lots of things were said about us in Chinese and they all clapped. Then we sat down on these little stools behind a bench thing covered with red velvet. My stool was rotten (I noticed later) and almost collapsed - I managed to catch myself, and also not to giggle openly, which would have been most inappropriate!

I love the vehicles. They remind me of movies like Mad Max or Waterworld.

Yesterday we saw one that looked like a modified lawn mower or rotary hoe (with two wheels and a handle reaching back) being driven by a guy sitting on a trailer that was being towed by it. There are little blue three-wheeled trucks everywhere, like trucks with only one wheel at the front, and carrying heavy loads of bricks or sand, and making a loud slow deep "put-put" noise.

The little motor-bike taxis are fun to travel in - the back half of the motorbike is a little trailer that can seat up to about six people.

Its not all just fun you know - I had to do some work today. I had to teach two lessons with one class ... that's it for today. Its very hot and humid today, and for some reason the air conditioners in the college itself are off (we still have air conditioning in our unit) - don't know if they are broken - it doesn't seem likely because each room has its own split-system unit - or they have been turned off to save money. So the poor "kids" (teenagers) keep falling asleep at their desks.

(Yes, he is genuinely fast asleep - he was amazed when I showed him the photo later!)

They have no qualms about putting their heads down for a sleep because they can't be bothered to try to listen any more. Even when I make the lesson a real interesting one, they are just too hot and tired.

We went out to a restaurant last night, right here in this complex that our college is part of. Just a few of the teachers went; paid for by a traveling teacher-person from Adelaide (she has some sort of special organizing job.) We five were the only ones in the restaurant; there were lots of staff around. And they didn't have any rice and very few other dishes because we hadn't warned them we were coming.

There are two Canadians teaching here. A chap who lives upstairs from us, and a funny little lady who mutters to herself a lot (after being in China 'alone' for 9 years). Downstairs there is supposed to be a Filipina lady, but she seems to have "done a runner" and not shown up this term. Also downstairs is the Sri Lanka guy who does the computers. Last night he fixed up this computer in our apartment with an ASDL (?) connection. Brilliant!

We are told there are about 280 foreigners in Zhengzhou (a city of about 5 million). I guess that's why people walk down the street just to stand in front of us and have a really good stare.