Now, I am convinced that my school is quite poor in comparison to the other schools that the other British Council foreign teachers have been posted in. I have based this on three things. Firstly, the quality of accommodation, the lavishness of the teachers’ day banquet and the welcome banquet held for the foreign teacher. I am the only one living in the school in a one roomed shack; most others live in apartments with several bedrooms and a balcony all to themselves. For Teacher’s Day, a couple of the other foreign teachers were taken to stay overnight in hotels and had a large banquet where the alcohol was flowing aplenty along with the Karaoke and spa treatments. I went for a meal in a hotel that I’m sure serves as a brothel after a certain hour that is across the road from the school. My wine glass had about 2 centimetres of wine in it and when people had finished eating they left. However, I did ‘win’ a box of 500 biscuits. I say ‘win’ but it wasn’t exactly exclusive. Every teacher went up to the stage, picked a piece of paper out of a hat and was handed the same box of biscuits. Doreen told me that the leaders want all the teachers to feel like winners. As for the welcome banquet…I didn’t get one. So for these reasons, I was convinced that my school was quite poor. However, something happened that made me appreciate my school just a little bit.
So as I mentioned before, everyone has to work a 6 day week to earn the long holiday. The leaders at our school however had other things in mind. The cynic in me says it’s because they didn’t want to pay the teachers an extra day’s worth of work but I’m going to be positive about this one, at least for a bit. While the other foreign teachers had another day at the office, my school and I went to a theme park. The kids were taken care of by the entertainers at the theme park so the teachers were free to roam and enjoy the day.
This place, like a lot of things in China, is a little strange, completely man-made and completely pointless. It’s been placed a little way out of the city and consists of a host of random displays, shows, fake European mountain villages (that all happen to be full of Chinese restaurants, just like the real thing!) and the odd rollercoaster. We wondered to a stunt show. It was a replica of a shipwreck with half a ship jutting out from a rock face, a mast with several platforms to jump off of and a mini mountain that had water gushing down it. The performers acted out a story of some evil lord and a damsel in distress who was saved by an Indiana Jones type character. They were all western but were miming to Chinese voice over. There were some appalling fake fighting scenes and a lot of jumping off things into the water as well as a Jet Ski chase. One man was even set on fire. The whole thing didn’t make much sense and it came to a rather abrupt end but the Chinese crowd loved it. I think A LOT must have been lost in translation judging by the amount of enthusiasm those around me had for this cringe worthy act. We then went on a 3D ride that explained the beginning of the Earth, although it looked a lot more like a series of scenes from the movie Avatar. One of the teachers, Mr Fey, was extremely eager for lunch at this point and we had a conversation about German sausages whilst in the queue for the ride. Somehow, the fact that I was leaving for the dreaded Japan the next day managed to surface in this most innocent of topics and of course a slight awkwardness ensued. We then went for our free lunch in a pretty ordinary looking establishment in the faux-Swiss village. On the inside however were several round tables set as if they were expecting a wedding party. There was buffet complete with popcorn chicken and chips and some people belly dancing on the stage. This, may I remind you, was in the middle of a strange theme park, chosen for a school trip. It was just so random. So we sat and ate and were entertained by tap dancers followed by flamenco dancers who finished off the set.
Once we returned to school, Doreen asked me to stay behind in the office. I was a little perplexed as it was already home time but since I am learning to accept things that don’t make sense (which is most things nowadays) I just went along with it. In came her daughter Happy carrying a box larger than her head. She is normally too shy to say anything to me but as it was just the two of us in the room we actually had a short conversation where we exchanged pleasantries and she then told me that she was carrying cake. My two neighbours in the shacks next door and I were all turning 23 within 3 days of each other so Doreen had decided to throw us a small birthday party. We lit candles, sang Happy Birthday, made wishes and ate cake. It was such a nice surprise and I dare say I enjoyed it, day and all.