On Wednesday, I had a typically ‘China’ experience. I was told a couple of days ago that I was going to go to another school in a suburb named Longgang to give a guest lesson. Of course this was after it had been cancelled and reconfirmed several times in the last week.
At 8am we drove out of town along toll roads and up towards the mountains. 45 minutes later we arrived in a very sorry looking district. It looked run down and neglected with shutters over shops and not a soul was to be seen walking the broken pavement.
We pulled into the school and were met by a very smiley man – you will notice that a lot of people in this post will remain nameless; this isn’t (for once) because I forgot their names but rather because no one exchanged names neither in English with me nor in Chinese with Doreen. We were taken by said guy up to a plush office. A large wooden desk dominated the room and to the side of it was a seating area with black sofas. Judging by the office, he must have been one of the leaders. He served us tea and we talked about the awful weather we were having at the moment. I have no idea what they spoke about as it was all in Chinese and Doreen did not care to translate on this occasion but the weather was pretty rubbish this morning so there is a fair chance that Chinese small talk does not differ too greatly from that of the Brits.
After a while I was taken away to teach the class. I was led to an auditorium where I was met by the stares of 250 Grade 4 children sat in cinema-like chairs so large that their eyes were just about visible above the backs of them. There was a camcorder set up slap bang in the middle of the room and a roving photographer. I was greeted with applause, oohs and aahhs, and after a short introduction I was handed a microphone. I felt like a celebrity.
I gave a pretty successful lesson on Halloween. The kids seemed to have enjoyed it, I enjoyed winging it and the other teachers who were taking notes seemed to be rather interested in what I was doing.
After the kids screamed “Happy Halloween” at me I was led to another plush looking office for some more tea. On the way, I was followed by a crowd of my fans who desperately tried to wave in my face and say hello, giggling profusely when they got a ‘Hello’ from me in return.
One of the young teachers who had been taking notes in my class complimented me on my lesson as she began a sort of tea ceremony. There was a small clay teapot, a glass beaker and several small cups with no handles that could hold about 4 sips worth of tea. She boiled water and poured it in and over the clay teapot. She then poured it over the cups, handling them delicately with a pair of tweezers. She then put tealeaves in the clay teapot, poured in more boiling water and repeated the whole process. She then poured more water into the clay teapot and put it through a strainer that sat on top of the beaker. THEN she poured us all some tea. They all watched and waited for me to take the first sip before starting to drink themselves. It was worth all the effort because it was delicious. It was the kind of cuppa you continue to think of far into the future.
I had been told minutes before my class that I would have to field questions from the school’s English teachers on the latest teaching techniques and how China compared to England. However, the teachers just sat and spoke in Chinese for the whole 45 minutes. Doreen told me on the way home that in fact it had just turned into a bitching session about how much stress their respective schools put them under, nightmare kids, and pushy parents. Evidently Chinese and British staffrooms aren’t that different.
As a token of thanks, I received a very Chinese gift from the school: a box of assorted vegetables and a box of FORTY eggs! (What does ONE person do with FORTY eggs?!). It would seem that I may actually have to figure out where to buy a saucepan now and cook my first meal.
If anyone can identify what some of these things are and/or post a simple recipe, me and my overflowing fridge will be greatly appreciative.