I am switching to Thursdays as ‘ blog post day’ over November as my weekends promise to be busy. Apologies if you were sat up on Sunday night waiting for an update and then found yourself unable to sleep, concerned that I had finally disappeared into the uncharted depths of China. I haven’t.
But I might be about to. This evening I am going on my first solo mission using Chinese public transport. At 23:44 local time I will catch a ten hour sleeper train to Zhangjiajie. Zhangiajie is a city near China’s first national forest park and world heritage site which is where the movie Avatar was filmed. I have been assured that I have the middle bunk (the best one as you don’t get sat on, but also your nose isn’t touching the ceiling) – so fingers crossed it all goes to plan. I will let you know how I get on next week… hopefully.
The other weekends in November will be filled with fun things as well I hope, namely my birthday and a weekend in Changsha, hence the switch to midweek blog updates. Sadly the weekend just gone I was busy for less enjoyable reasons – 250 essays needed grading. Because of this no single exciting thing has happened in the last ten days or so for me to write about. Instead, maybe a description of a typical day for a Cornishman in China might be interesting to some people… my mum mainly! If you’re not in this category then you’re welcome to stop reading now.
I generally get woken up at 6AM. I think I have mentioned about the military training which always began at 5:30AM in the morning during freshers week. They seem to love shouting their heads off before sunrise and a super keen few have continued to do it voluntarily. Good luck to them – just not at 6AM when, upon waking, my feelings are considerably less charitable.
After a shower and a breakfast of English porridge, (the only meal of the day not laced with chilli) I walk to class. This used to take about ten minutes but somebody has decided to destroy the road and start building a lake where I used to walk, so it now takes twenty. This building work is ongoing. They’re an industrious bunch but I can’t help thinking the pedestrian bridge will not be completed before the summer when I head back to England… so my extended commute is here to stay. It is brightened by a street cleaner who always bellows ‘HELLO!’ at me. Whether he is two feet away or on the other side of the street makes no matter, his volume remains the same. ‘Hello’ seems to be the limit of his English though.
I normally have a class at 8AM. The students are surprisingly lively at this time. I remember struggling with 9AM lectures and they actually have to do work during their classes!! There are about thirty in a class, and the level and style of teaching is more akin to A-Level standard in the UK, rather than degree level. This is despite the Hunan Institute of Engineering being a university. The novelty of having a genuine foreigner as their teacher has pretty much worn off for most of the students, yet most are still keen to learn the English language and hear my thoughts on British (and Cornish) culture.
The lessons last for about two hours, after which I return to my flat. I generally have lunch at about midday. The students like to get it as early as possible as they have a siesta style nap at around one o’clock before class begins again for them at two. As a lot of cafe owners will sleep at this time as well I have been forced to deviate from my preferred 1PM lunchtime. In the two hours or so after the morning class and before lunch I will either read or maybe do some exercise.
After lunch I like to go swimming. Really I like to go swimming in the morning, but, for some unknown reason, nobody else in China does. Because of this (and the siesta) the pool doesn’t open until two o’clock in the afternoon. I go there at this time pretty much every weekday and I have got to know the lifeguards fairly well. We have a bit of banter, but of course they don’t understand a word of English nor me Chinese so it’s pretty limited stuff. As I am generally the only person who arrives before 3PM they were at first a little annoyed that I was interrupting what would otherwise be prime napping time… but now, especially if I don’t go for a couple of days, I get an especially boisterous welcome upon returning!
After another class at 4PM I return to my flat and normally have dinner in a local restaurant with the other three foreign teachers. It’s a good time as it gives us all a chance to sound off to sympathetic ears about the sometimes frustrating and occasionally incomprehensible aspects of Chinese culture that we have experienced during the day.
And then it’s back home to send a few emails back to the UK, do a little reading, and finally go to bed… something I would be about to do now if a taxi wasn’t waiting to take me to the train station! Wish me luck…