I have mentioned both here and in various Facebook statuses my mostly amusing near-clashes with my contact teacher, Doreen. I feel I need to present a more balanced view of her as in fact she is incredibly kind.
On my first day when I arrived at the shack and I couldn’t hide my disappointment, she took pity on me and her, her husband and her young daughter, Happy, took me to somewhere that would make everything better….Pizza Hut. As most of you know, I’m too much of a food snob to even consider eating in Pizza Hut at home but as I was still in shock about where I would be living for the next year, I nearly cried when she said that we would be eating something I’m more familiar with. That pepperoni pizza was like a big bear hug and I subsequently ate in Pizza hut another two times that week! Anyways, they spent the rest of their evening taking me to various supermarkets to kit me out with essentials for my shack – plates, chopsticks, etc. The school had allocated £20 which didn’t cover much so, despite my ardent protests, she bought me some food items, including Cheerios (!) as a welcome gift. My second night, Doreen and Happy took me out again. They showed me around the area, took me to a 24hour book mall nearby called Book City and again treated me to dinner. All this extra time is not part of her job or anything; she just does it out of kindness.
Doreen is also fond of giving me food. Chinese people eat a huge amount of food at meal times. Breakfast consists of some sort of watery rice porridge, fried bread, corn on the cob, fried eggs, boiled eggs, noodles, pak choi, sweet potatoes and a whole host of other things that I don’t know the names of. Lunch is more of the same but with steamed buns and rice and lots of meat dishes often taken from unspeakable parts of the animal. At breakfast and lunch I would eat from only one bowl whereas most other people had three so I think Doreen was convinced I was under-eating. I wasn’t, in fact I was eating more than I would normally just to please them but evidently my efforts were wasted. So every day, she would come to my desk with some form of food taken from the breakfast hall, be it a boiled egg, a sweet potato or a carton of milk (Chinese milk is not like our milk, it’s gross). One morning I came down to find a large fruit bowl filled with porridge on my desk! For Doreen, having a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice for breakfast is the equivalent of being anorexic.
Doreen also likes to give me random gifts. She gave me a handbag the other day for no apparent reason and a bottle of perfume on teachers’ day. Today, she gave me a new purse because I am about to go travelling. It’s madness! I was once told that Chinese people take great offence if you refuse their offerings so I’ve had to just smile and say thank you. I feel so awkward because all I have to give her is some novelty English tea and a Mr Men book for her daughter…