The week/weekend that was

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Mar 01, 2013

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Flag of China  , Tianjin Shi,
Sunday, May 27, 2012

So this week just passed has been a little uneventful - after the trip to Da Hu Tong; see our last post – due to us having to wait a day and a half for the waterman. We have a water cooler type contraption in our apartment that dispenses drinking water; as the water in the taps is near toxic. We needed another of the big 20L bottles that go in them and had been told that the waterman would arrive early Tuesday morning to give us a new bottle. So he eventually turned up on Wednesday afternoon, after we had wasted all Tuesday morning and a good chunk of Wednesday waiting for him! Time in China is quite relaxed.  Running a little late for an appointment is not 15 mins - half an hour.  It could mean anything from half an hour until 2 hours later, as we found out.  Ah China. 

We have still been continuing with our Mandarin lessons and can now confidently say what we do and don't like, ("Wo xi huan …" [woa shhi who-an] and” Wo bu xi huan ...” [woa boo shi who-an] respectively), as well as give directions such as turn right, turn left and stop here:  you guai [yohh gu-wai], zuo guai [zu-o gu-wai] and ting zher [ting jherr]. We also learnt the names of the colours and seemed to spend that rest of the week talking about food. We learnt the names and characters of different kinds of meat – so that we might be able to recognise them on menus – and we also learnt the names of the common fruits and vegetables. We seem to be making good progress with it and are going along in leaps and bounds. It’s quite amazing what you can pick up in only two weeks, hopefully we will be able to hold a conversation by the time we leave – hopefully.

The weekend just passed has been very busy for us both, hence the lack of blog postings. Steph has been on her normal schedule with her now regular classes. I on the other hand am still on a fairly light schedule; one demo class on Thursday – which has a tendency to be cancelled – and another demo class on Sunday morning. However when I was at the school on Thursday for the demo – which was cancelled – I was informed that I would be doing a kind of marketing demo class on Sunday afternoon in some sort of park, and I would be talking about the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – more on this later.

There is a bug going around the office at school that the other foreign teachers have all caught. The teacher that I am replacing, Chris, had been sick all week but turned up on Saturday to do his classes. By the end of the day he looked totally exhausted. Late Saturday night I got a phone call from the head teacher asking if I could step in and take a couple of Chris’ class on Sunday morning as he was too sick to do them himself. So Sunday morning we got to the school bright and early so that I could do some last minute prep, the classes I was taking over where the first and second classes of the day. They both went really well considering, and they are also classes that I will be teaching normally when Chris leaves. It was nice to get see the kids go from scared and unsure of me to being keen to get involved and all giggly by the end of the lesson. At one point a child had cut himself during the break so the TA had to disappear to get him patched up leaving me with a class of 8 rowdy 10 year olds to take care of. I managed to get them playing a class game of memory on the interactive whiteboard and even devised/stumbled upon a neat technique to get them to be quiet and listen. I know it is part of the job description, but I felt quite proud that I had been able to handle the class by myself for even just that short period of time.

That afternoon while on the way to the bathroom I was walking past a newly renovated Latin restaurant when the owner spied me and came over for a chat. He was a South American man with good English and was keen to know what I was doing in Tianjin and where I was from. When I said NZ he was delighted as he had spent some time doing business in Otago and invited me into the restaurant to have a look around. I had spied through an open door into the space on Saturday afternoon and it had been a completely bare room with the walls stripped. But when he showed me around, (only 24hours later!) the place looked immaculate and the designers were just putting the final touches on some signage around the restaurant.   They already had customers in and enjoying the cuisine! The pace of development in China is simply unbelievable! I asked the owner about the renovations and he said that the tradesmen had worked through the night and had it completed in one day! He gave the impression that the restaurant was only a side venture to him and he showed me a copy of two of Tianjin’s biggest English language magazines which he said he was involved in publishing. When I told him what I had studied he wanted me to write a piece for one of them as they are, apparently, always looking for new contributors. I eventually left after a bit of a chat with his card and a promise to come back for a beer sometime!
I walked with the surreal feeling of “what just happened?”

The marketing activity that was scheduled for Sunday afternoon was something different entirely. The demo was supposed to start at 6pm and was to be done in a park within an apartment complex. But everyone I asked on the office had no idea where it was or what it was going to be there. So at 4.30pm I trundled off with a couple of TAs and a few of the girls that do the marketing/sales and we got into cars. We got into two of the marketing girls’ cars and headed off to this place which nobody, including the girls driving, knew where it was. A few U-turns, heated phone conversations in Chinese from the driver and many consultations to Google maps and about an hour later we got there! The place was a courtyard that sat between a large grouping of low level apartment buildings, these were only 6 or 7 floors high, so it kind of looked like a cheap apartment block that had been run down quite a bit. I was informed though that this is where the rich people live and hence why we were doing a promotion in their back yard.

Before the demo began they children were registering and getting name badges/stickers. At our school all the children have to take on English names. I think that the parents expect that they get one for when they learn English but I don’t know if they use it outside the class room; I kind of hope not as that would be a little too much like English imperialism for my liking. Most of the names are pretty standard; i.e. Harry, Tina, Chris but you do get a few Apples. One boy at this demo didn’t have an English name and so the girl in charge asked me for male English name to effectively re-name this kid. It was the last thing I had been expecting and so the kid got the first male name that popped into my head – Adam (a certain Mr A.G Irvine should be a little chuffed; the next one will be a Simon lol).

The demo class itself went well.  We started with the Chicken dance and the kids all got into it. The rest of the class went well, with much more Chinese translation than usual but I fear the words we were trying to teach, recyclable and unrecyclable, were a little above most of the children’s level of comprehension. The lesson ended with the kids sorting through a pile of trash, literally sorting between recyclable and unrecyclable items. This got a few odd looks form the parents so I’m not sure if this was the best marketing tact; “Send you kids to us, they’ll learn English and play with garbage!”

Hopefully this next week we will be able to do a bit more exploring, get a bit more of the language under our belts and maybe even try a bit more of the “local” cuisine.

Sorry for the super long post again, 1,400 words and counting! As always keep the comments coming :)
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Gramz on

The crepe sounds nice. Name a kid `Kiwi'! Don't worry about your word count. I'm sure no one minds how long they are - they're so interesting. Luv ya xoxo

Mike and Lou on

The chicken dance wins out very time huh!? We really enjoy your updates ev and Steph.thinking of you every day xx with much love from us both

renwei on

this place is where the rich live in·····you may also see a lot of 7 -floor buildings which are the home of the poors and once you see them ,you can tell the difference. Very obvious difference

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