Monday, January 10, 2005

Watered Down Electricity

I would normally have lessons right now ... but I have just attended a very tearful goodbye meeting with my class and now they are all gone. Its amazing to look at that bunch that seemed like such "sweat-hogs" a few months ago, and now they are such fine young men and women about to leave for Australia. I feel a bit weird about it ...sort of sad and sort of happy - for them at least. Its so different from kids graduating from year 7 at primary school. I have only known them since September and yet I am very fond of them. It was quite a wrench to say good-bye to them.

I had one lesson this morning with the class that (I assume) will be my next class, the group that goes to Australia this time next year. Now there's a bunch of sweat-hogs! George (our Canadian colleague) teaches them at the moment, and they are really giving him a bad time. They were awkward and restless this morning for me too, especially a bunch of the bigger boys. (George is counting down the days til he leaves at the end of January.) Somehow I never saw myself teaching high school, especially the older kids. But it has very special rewards, I am discovering.

In between sentences here I am having a second go at breakfast. I tried to cook myself some porridge this morning but the microwave just wouldn't heat it. So I tried cooking toast but the toaster was only luke-warm. On a morning when the temp is about 5 below, somehow a cold banana for breakfast just doesn't cut it! It seems that besides the trick of turning off our electricity periodically to share it around, sometimes they just kind of water it down. I don't know if that makes sense scientifically, but it sure happens. We really do put things in the fridge to stop them freezing. We have found that it is not good to buy fruit in the street markets after a few very cold days because the fruits are frozen inside. Now I finally have a bowl of steaming-hot porridge.

Bea is still here. She is a bit limp these days, just getting over a cold. I know she is lonely and a bit bored - she is finding it hard to know how to fit in and what to do. They have offered to let her work here, but its hard to teach people your own age and older when you are only 17 and inexperienced. There is an offer of a job teaching younger kids, classes of 60 or so, at a nearby school - but she is understandably apprehensive about that because she has no idea whether she is capable of it or not. She also has an offer of work in Beijing teaching younger kids - we may go with her during our winter break (soon) to investigate that. And there is a job teaching English to pre-schoolers at a school about three hours from here. She wants to return to Australia in early May before her 18th birthday.

So this morning I woke her up as I usually do to ask if she wanted to come to class with me - sometimes she does, sometimes she'd rather lie around at home and watch videos - at least its warm inside. But this morning I handed her a 100yuan note and told her to go "fly solo" and spend some money, after all it’s a fine day although its still cold. So it looks like I gave her $100, and she can buy about $100 worth of stuff with it, but in "real" (Australian) terms it is only about $16! There are some lovely little shops full of Chinese trinkets she's been itching to have a better look at. She is quite familiar with how to get a motorbike taxi-ride, how to ask in Chinese, she knows her Chinese numbers and hand-signs, and how to get home again - it’s walking distance to the nearest little shops anyway, and she has her mobile if she gets into strife. I saw a bit of her old spark return to her eyes when I handed her the money, so maybe it will give her the motivation she needs to get out and about a bit. And once she starts to really enjoy spending money she may get more of an urge to get adventurous and earn some too.

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