18 months on........

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hello from Beijing!

Hope you're all ok, tried not to leave it quite so long before writing this time!

Beijing is getting colder, just below zero at night but some lovely bright sunny days still, although I think the big winter coats will be needed soon……..

School is going well still, I’ve passed my 2 month probation period and they want to keep me!! I feel now that I’m just over 2 months in that I’m getting there, worked out all the different levels of the children, and matching the right lesson plans to each one. Still a few that don’t join me in my English corner, but I speak to them all the time, and they come to the English circle every day so at least they are still exposed to the language as much as possible. Most of the kids are still cute, some not so cute but I’m getting there with the discipline, perfecting 'the look’ even if they can’t understand whatever the hell I’m saying most of the time!

Had a few issues though and I will try & explain it but it’s very much a typical ‘China’ thing. There’s this thing called ‘face’ which is incredibly important to the Chinese, basically to you & I it would be the times where we may suffer some embarrassment over something, or got something wrong & looked a bit stupid in front of others. Here it’s important to ‘save face’ or ‘give face’, rather than lose it. Well, unintentionally I lost my lead teacher face.

She speaks very little English (all lead teachers should speak it to a certain level as it’s a Bilingual Kindergarten) so as you can imagine, it causes some issues in the classroom on a day to day basis, one of the other teachers speaks a little but not much, sometimes simple questions can take forever to solve. You think about how often you communicate with your colleagues every day. During a meeting our team of 4, something was brought up which when roughly translated was a little confusing, so I brought it up at our English teachers meeting just for clarification, which is sometimes my only outlet and way to get to the bottom of things. It was to clarify something, a very simple question & should have been a simple answer, but it dragged on & on, got totally blown out of proportion, and the bottom line is my lead teacher thought I was being dismissive of her in front of the others, therefore losing her ‘face’ .…….. she said we should communicate more as a team, but we can’t, and it’s incredibly frustrating.  It was awful as that so wasn’t my intention, I hate the thought that she now may think I’m a trouble maker. You know how in English you can relay thoughts & feelings through tone, well you just can’t here, it’s so difficult. A frustrating day & big lessons learnt in the cultural differences. I’d heard about it, knew about it, but to experience it was something different. Sounds silly really when I read this back, but the importance of it here to them is HUGE. In future, I will just keep my mouth shut & get on with it! It’s probably easier that way!!

Halloween at school was quite a bit thing, us ‘foreigners’ were tasked with planning the Halloween party, which was after school from 6pm until 7.30pm, so a long day for us having been at school since just before 8am. We all had different themes in our classrooms, getting scarier the higher up the building you went, being on the 4th / top floor, we had to be scary! We all dressed up as witches, and I had a ‘couldron’ made very effective by using dry ice, pretending I was cooking frogs, spiders and naughty girls and naughty boys!!! I had to laugh though, you wouldn’t get this in the UK, a health & safety nightmare….. get this…… black bin liners covering the shelf units, with metal tea lights lit on top of them, box of dry ice next to me, dangerous to touch, with a jug of hot water next to it, a dark classroom other than glow sticks and candles, paper everywhere, anyway I could go on but you get the idea!! It all went well though & everyone enjoyed it, and no fires or nasty accidents!

A big event a few weekend ago was the British Ball, which was really good fun, we had organised and booked 2 tables, us and 20 friends. This years’ theme was Dr Who, they even had a tardis there! The evening started with a champagne reception whilst you watch everyone arrive and ‘ohh & ahh’ at all the pretty dresses! This was followed by a delicious 5 course dinner and wine, then we danced the night away to a fab band from Australia, they even did Gangham Style!! We just about made it through the night until the survivors breakfast, making it home at 5am……zzzzzzzzzzz, managed my high heels until right at the end for breakfast, they had to come off! Odd thing was, as the night went on, the pours of alcohol got bigger and bigger, I finished off on Baileys, Andy on whiskey, so with basically half pint glasses of the stuff, we headed down to breakfast. Hmmm…. Sausage, bacon, hash browns, washed down with Bailey’s and whiskey!! Not the norm, and I should have really found some coffee to pour mine into, make it more breakfast like!

Before the ball that morning we joined some friends, one of who’s birthdays it was, for a cooking class at a hutong cookery school, it was great – we made about 4 different dishes & then enjoyed them for lunch, we made my favourite, gong bao chicken, very spicy chicken in a lovely sauce, with spring onions, chilli’s and peanuts, yummy. Andy enjoyed it much more than the last cookery lesson making dumplings, which got a bit tedious rolling out the dumpling dough!

Andy went horse riding the other weekend, I’ll let him tell you more about it as a) I didn’t go, b) I don’t like horses, they scare me!! He had a wonderful time though, and has been wanting to go ever since we got here, so arranged for a few of them to go out to the grasslands for a few hours.

I abandoned Andy last weekend and had a lovely few girly days away in Shanghai. Charlie & Dan are from the UK, we met them here in Beijing, they arrived about a month after we did, lived here for a year then moved to Shanghai a few months ago. I stayed with them, they have a cool traditional apartment in one of the lanes, it’s an alley really with lots of old houses, theirs is a galleried apartment over 3 floors, wouldn’t be out of place in a trendy New York district, old & vintage but trendy too. All mod cons such as a gas stove AND an oven! Jealous!! I arrived before they got home from work, so had a good wander around the district they live in, a cool antiques market in the next street along, a nice small park / lake, and lots of leafy lanes, leading to a nice pedestrianised area with lots of cafes, bars and shops.

Friday night Charlie cooked dinner, and we polished off 2 bottles of Prosecco, before having a few cheeky Jager shots! A lovely meal followed by ice cream & chocolate, very indulgent but very nice. Saturday after breakfast in a cute little café we went wandering around the local area, through the leafy lanes, to a lovely park, and onto the French Concession area which I hadn’t seen before. It was so nice having been twice before, once as a tourist, once for the F1 race, then with a couple of ‘locals’ to show me around, the weather was beautiful too, a little wamer than Beijing and a prettier place in parts, a little more civilised too. I really liked it more this time. Saturday afternoon friends of theirs were having a house warming party so we went to that, and then into the main bar street for the evening, so a fun night out. Sunday morning we went out for coffee, and then they cooked a yummy and much missed roast beef Sunday lunch before packing me off on the train back! 5 hours later I was back in Beijing!

So, Christmas is fast approaching, feeling pretty homesick as Christmas is my favourite time of the year, keep seeing Facebook updates about Christmas shopping, Christmas jumpers, Coca-Cola ad, John Lewis ad etc etc! I’m sure if I was home I’d be stressing about shopping & sending cards etc..!!

Catch up again soon!

Tracy & Andy


PS. Just realised in a few days we've been here 18 months, time just goes by soooo quickly!!
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Fev on

Sounds challenging for you as a teacher...........!
Your chicken dish sounds great and i will have to try it.

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