I am now once again back in the shack for my second term. Although I was dreading it terribly and spent the 9.5 hour flight between Sydney and Hong Kong in deep despair, someone ‘up there’ has decided to finally give me a break. I can firmly say that life is not so bad here now (so far). This is probably 100 per cent due to the fact that I have spent the majority of this week in Hong Kong but for now I shall try and overlook that minor detail. First evening back and it was straight to Rapscallions, our usual haunt, for a night of fun with the British Council guys. We frantically filled each other in on the various details of our month-long holiday as we comfortably slipped back into our usual routine.
The first weekend back was spent living the high-life in Hong Kong. By high life I mean things I used to take for granted all the time such as orderly queues, people standing on the right-hand side of the escalator in the underground, savoury bread, good coffee, Marks and Spencer and English-speakers. After a month off, my Chinese is a little rusty.
On Monday my good friend from university, Alex, was nearing the end of his time travelling in China and swung by Shenzhen for lunch before heading across the border. It was so exciting to see him not only this side of the world but literally on my doorstep, waiting outside the metro I take every single day. We talked and dined as he told me of his thoughts having spent a few weeks in the country. It was oddly reassuring to hear him express similar opinions on various aspects of China and Chinese culture. It also showed me how immune I had become to some of its idiosyncrasies and made me realise I had better leave before I start seeing these as ‘normal’! His enthusiasm and excitement was infectious and was just what I needed at the start of this final part of my stay. I crossed over to Hong Kong on Tuesday to spend the afternoon with him wandering around the markets of Stanley. A lot like Lamma Island, this side of Hong Kong Island has a relaxed holiday feel to it in which we fully indulged by sipping a cheeky afternoon beer or too in an English pub on the water front. We then went for a wander, during which Alex spotted a rather large snake on the beach and we hastily made our way back into town to meet Charlie for dinner and ‘le after-work’. The last time the three of us were together was at university and it felt like very little had changed. Everybody needs friends like these.
At school, things have improved. Forget ‘lucky money’ the best gift I received this Chinese New Year was the news that I would no longer teach Grade 2!!!! No more screaming ‘ball’ at the top of my lungs for 160 minutes per week and feeling my brain slowly disintegrating with every passing second. I was so happy I could not hide it from my new contact teacher, much to his disapproving surprise. Even my naughtiest classes have started to behave themselves – it would appear that the maxim ‘New Year, new you’ also applies in China. It’s either that or the fact that I made them copy out ‘Ozymandias’ twice when they refused to be quiet in my previous lesson. Other highlights include making the entire class sing me a Chinese New Year Song, being applauded by the class as I attempted to recite the animals of the Chinese Zodiac in Chinese, a couple of gifts from students’ travels, a full-page spread in the school’s bi-annual periodical dedicated to yours truly, receiving ‘lucky money’ in a quintessential red envelope and even one 5 year old kid showing me how he could break a piece of wood in half using his foot…during class.
All in all, things are looking a lot brighter….for now.