Chinese driving

In many nations, the style of driving quite accurately reflects the stereotypical temprement of the people. For example, in Italy the general style is probably best described as ‘hot-headed’, in Germany it is done with precision and speed. However, there really is no experiance quite like going for a drive in China.

The roads themselves are quite nice – few pot holes and other nasties, but part of the problem seems to be that anywhere that is paved is permissable for driving – it is generally safer to walk in the middle of the road than on the pavement as there are less cars there. Cars are only a small problem though when compared with the uncountable number of scooters and motorbikes around, however these are less dangerous as they can swerve quite easily. The worst has to be the busses and trucks which drive round everywhere and will stop for nothing.

The expreience of crossing a road is one which is to be avoided wherever possible, as one team-member remarked the other day as we were stranded in between 6 lanes of heavy, fast-moving traffic “the only safe way to cross a Chinese road is to take a plane”. Not only do you have to look to the direction you expect the cars to be coming from (ie the left and the right) but you also have to check in front for scooters or cars coming at you, and behind for scooters and other traffic which is trying to cross the road as well. It is quite ok for a bus to do a screaching U-turn which blocks off 5 lanes of traffic as long as there are a few inches of space for the rest of the traffic to keep moving by.

In addition to this, unlike in England where the presence of police seems to calm the traffic and make people watch the speed limit, the police themselves are catalysts in the general chaos that is the Chinese road. It seems to be the Chinese policy of actively encouraging dangerous driving – perhaps as an alternative means of population control.

Anyway, I’m off to go shopping now which entails crossing a mere 4-5 lanes of traffic (the lanes themselves are fluid – it’s simply as many cars as you can fit abreast), so if there are no more updates here you know what’s happened!

Teaching again

Ah back to teaching again today but these kids are much better behaved and much more eager to learn than the previous school’s children, which is a very good thing. Ruth’s class, which I also teach are better at english but much more apathetic. I was drafted to the arts and crafts group this afternoon to help with the origami, which suited me much more than playing football outside.

Last night we all went out to a Pizza Hut – the first time we’ve had proper american style food over here (MacDonalds didn’t really count as it didn’t really have any food at all). We had a wonderful time and we also had a waitress come up and entertain us with magic tricks; so much better than the UK branches. After that we went to a massage parlour which was very good fun again. Anyway, am really tired at the moment, so I ought to go to bed now.

The last few days

Sorry for the lack of update for some time; but things have been rather busy and we’ve been in transit. We’re now at the new school and it’s the first day of the second camp today. However, we’ve got the first two days off as the American team has come to take over for the first few days.

On the Thursday evening, we had a camp fire. I was one of the people organizing it and I think it went ok. We had lots of dancing and some singing and a three-legged competition with all of the teachers. We also had a big camp fire and cooked bananas stuffed with marsh-mellows and chocolate on it. Afterwards, we danced for about 30 min and it was good to see about half the kids crying because they would never see us again after the Friday. Many were asking me if I would come back next year and were amazed when I said that I did not know! As I was walking to supper, I met my class just coming out of supper and they ran up to me and clung to me. I’ve never seen a group’s reaction change from love to hate as quickly as when I told them that they would be having a test in the morning!

On the Friday, we did tests which the school seemed really serious about before and then when we had completed them, they said that the results didn’t matter and the kids shouldn’t be told about their results… Another example of the way that Chinese culture is all about apearances, especially in this school – we have to give them big vocab lists each lesson to show that they learn something. Anyway, I got given two presents by my class and we took some photos etc etc. In the afternoon, we had the closing ceremony where we had to perform the dance which Roger had taught our class. Also, five of us boys on the team got togeather and did a boy-band take off of “When you say nothing at all”. The other team-members loved it and were in hysterics, however the kids and their parents didn’t really understand… Oh well!

For a few hours after the kids went, we relaxed and I went for a bit of an explore around the back streets of the town we were staying in. It was a real cultural experience in terms of seeing how the average Chinese city-dweller lives after being kept in the coushy school. In the evening, Mr Nie took us and the Chinese teachers out to a 5star hotel and resturant. The food there was amazing, and I’ll probably never have such good food again. There was a swimming pool, a grand piano, a bowling alley and so much else to do there. Had some good conversations on the bus each way as it took a few hours to get there, and it was simply an amazing night! It started raining just before we left, but the Chinese rain is quite hot so Katie and myself took a nice walk along the river-side which was covered by palm trees. We bumped into a Hong Kong person who seemed to be the owner of the hotel and he was very friendly and told us we ought to come and stay, something which we could doubtless not afford.

The day afterwards, we had a Meeting and then left about 10ish. We arrived at the new school about 1pm, had lunch and went to our rooms about 2:30ish. Most of this delay was due to the Chinese faffing around mentality which I’m getting quite irritated by. You see this in quite a lot of cultures – especially Spanish and Italian, but it seems I’m more English or German in these respects as I just like to get things done. When we had had our lunch, we were ushered back into the coach where we had to remain stationary for about 30 minutes whilst they debated who would drive the coach. We then moved about 50meters and had to wait another 30 minutes while tehy inspected the dorm rooms were in a usable state. They then allowed us to go in even though they were quite a dump and we had to sort a lot ourselves. The new school is, well, different from the previous one. The food is worse; we have to eat in the canteen with the kids rather than eating special resturant style food in a secluded room with waitresses and so on. Whilst I’d be quite happy eating normal food it was good to be away from the kids so we could havea team meeting while eating. The rooms are better but they are smaller and there are only communal showers and no mirrors anywhere, which makes shaving rather difficult. There is a department store around the corner which puts on street entertainment such as line dancing every evening; which is where we’ll probably go this evening. The school has better classrooms – they have AC, but they don’t have the large rear-projection screen connected to computer which I got quite used to in the previous school. They have a swimming pool and a gym, but we’re not allowed to use them. This is a much smaller camp; we have perhaps 85 children signed up at the present moment with more perhaps arriving tomorrow.

In the evening, we had to cross the border to HK and then back again as our visas expired at midnight. This was because when we were in HK before we could only apply for 30 day tourist visas which is very annoying and means that somehow we have to get new visas for our travel. It’s not a major issue really but it just costs more money, especially since China raised the visa price for English people in response to England charging stupid prices for visas (free 2 years ago, 120 pounds last year and then 240 pounds this year…). So, we left China then had to take a bus ride to the HK side to enter HK. We then had to take 2 bus rides to get back to the other side of the glass barrier and leave HK and then fourth bus ride to re-enter China. What a waste of 2 hours, and at each point we had to queue to fill out sheets of paper saying that we didnt know where we were going to stay. Finally we got back to the coach at about 10ish to return home, stopping off at MacDonalds on the way back. Pfew! We got home about 23:30 and then realized that we’d left Anna behind somewhere! Wayne, Ben and myself jumped into a taxi and tried to get back to the border to find her, one of the most scary 45min in my life but miraculously we found her as soon as we arrived at the border; she had stayed where she was for the past 2 hours and been planning her lessons! Got to bed about 2am but didnt get to sleep until 3am and then woke at 7 in time for breakfast.

Sunday morning, we had a Meeting, and then in the afternoon most of us headed out to a party organized my Mr Nie on a private beach. We got stopped at one of the inter-district checkpoints and realized that we were meant to travel with passports at all times, which we obviously didn’t. Fortunately we were allowed to turn back to the school and get them and then we headed off again, wasting an hour. It was several hours by coach but we joined the American team half way through and had a good chat with them. The beach was amazing, we went swimming in the pacific, saw a beautiful sunset and explored the rocks. It was Mr Nie’s son’s birthday and so he tried to find a birthday cake. In the event, he couldn’t and so Ray was given a 3-tier wedding cake which was most delicious! We then had a BBQ into the night where we had to spear our own meet or prawns or whatever and hold it over the fire. We had many sources to coat them in and several other methods of cooking as well. It was really amazing. We then took some pictures on the rocks and caught up with the other team and some of their Chinese teachers. Hopefully put some pictures up really soon now…

I forgot to mention that I got a haircut in China, although it was in fact more a massage with a hair cut thrown in. For 25 yuan (about 1.70 pounds), I got a 30 minute scalp/back/arm massage and then a 20 minute haircut. The scalp massage was simply awesome but for the hair cut, I had about 6 people standing round me inspecting my hair and comparing it with Asian hair.