So, i've been reading a few forums for teachers coming to China, and teachers who are currently here.
I have a question for all of them: What is the obsession with 'bringing Christianity' to China? It is against the law to preach at the citizens, yet a lot of people seem to think that they'll be ok because they'll be protected by some bloke in the sky.
I have no issue with what religion you are, but when you start trying to change the beliefs of students and those around you, then i have a problem! The Chinese are doing perfectly well being Taoist/Daoist/Buddhist. They have their own set of beliefs, some of it enshrined in the ancient religions of China (I know one student who told me that every room in her Grandmother's house has a shrine for a particular god) some of it comes from Confucianism.
Teaching religion is a risky thing to do here. If you are reported and found to be guilty then deportation is the best thing you can hope for. The other side of that coin is jail. Pure and simple.
At the last place, even after the government sent a directive to the college telling them that there had been reports or Christianity being preached, the other FTs STILL taught religion in their classes. I'm not talking the stories of Christmas and Easter, but whiteboards FULL of religious wording, teaching the students hymns etc.
For anyone coming to China to teach who thinks that they can do some kind of missionary work, don't bother. It is offensive to these people and their long-held beliefs. If you NEED to go to church every sunday, or cover your living quarters and classrooms in iconography or tell everyone you meet how a being in the sky saved you and is the greatest thing and they should talk to him then stay at home and do it there.
If, however, you can tone down your fervour and enjoy your religion in the privacy of your own home and not feel the need to change everyone around you, then this is a good country to come to. Some people are more than happy to talk beliefs with you as long as you don't berate them for not believing the same as you. I have had some wonderful conversations with Chinese people about the similarities between paganism and buddhism. We all go away having learnt something. I've been fascinated by the fortune telling here and the beliefs in the 'room Gods' - literally, the Kitchen God, the Bedroom God and the Family God who watch over the rooms. You only get these good conversations if you're prepared not to judge, not to preach and to speak in a civil manner.
That leaves me the other question: Why is it that the 'Christians' I come across are always judgemental and anything but Christian? I got told by a very upset student last year that the other FTs had told her (before i got there, before they'd even met me) that i was a bad person because i wasn't Christian, and they were better people because they were. Luckily, this was a student that i taught the first year i was there. She was upset on my behalf, but we had a chat about ignorance and how if you make decisions without knowing the facts then you're likely to make bad decisions. She agreed that this is what they had done and she would ignore anything else they had to say about me, or would come up to me and ask. I don't know how much damage they did to any other students that i had either taught previously, or begun to teach that year. I just hope that they now realise that their unchristian-like behaviour might have earned them a reprimanding at the Pearly Gates.
Rebecca is my new FAO (Foreign Affairs Officer). She is lovely! Not as outgoing as Susan, but a generally lovely person.
Today was her birthday and she came to my class this afternoon to invite me to her birthday meal. I was honoured to go! Then she told me it was a family meal...i was a little apprehensive, but i went.
I am so glad i went! The food was amazing and her family are so lovely. They all said that i have another Chinese family now, so i'm up to two chinese families - one in Chongqing and one in Huaian. There will be photos later. For some reason they won't upload at the moment :(
The Children (Rebecca, Her husband, Steven and Me!
Look who's here! It took a whole day and lots of sitting around at the airport waiting, but she's here at last!
So, after getting the medical in England, i had to go through it all again here.
The blood test was a lot less stressful this time. The nurse understood that i wanted her to wear gloves, she opened the needle pack in front of me and did a good job! Half the medical got cancelled because the doctor was late, which was a good thing! I didn't have to do the pee test because i wasn't allowed to drink before the blood test, so they realised that for me to pee, we'd have to wait the whole day!
Explaining urticaria to a Chinese person is interesting, especially when you explain that basically, you're allergic to your own sweat! I have a bit of an attack on my feet which is uncomfortable, but not too unbearable. I had a small attack on the back of my hand where i got bitten the first night, so i showed her the red mark and said that i am allergic to something and that is what urticaria is, she showed the nurse who shrugged and said 'ok, we just want to check that you won't die in China'. I assured her that i will try very hard not to.
The ultrasound got cancelled because the doctor wasn't there. I was a bit worried that they would send me for vaccinations, but i explained that i already had them, and that i had a vaccination card if they wanted to see it. They decided that it would be too much hassle to try and translate everything on the card so they told me that if i had had vaccinations in the UK then i would be fine.
So much less hassle than last time!
So...I didn't stay in CQ in the end, I've moved to another city completely. I'm in Jiangsu, which is about 3 hours away (by train) from Shanghai.
I came with Emirates. They're a nice airline! I have found the secret to good food on planes - always order the vegetarian in advance! You get fed before everyone else and you actually get good food! I got a sandwich on the flight from Dubai to Shanghai which was very nice, and asparagus in white sauce with pasta on the flight from Heathrow, which was absolutely delicious!!
I got to Shanghai and found Rebecca, the teacher meeting me. She had a sign with my name on! No-one's ever had a sign for me at the airport. I felt really special!!
Yesterday i got a tour of the campus. It's bigger than Hechuan and more attractive. It's newer (mostly built in 2002) and has more modern buildings. They have decent aircon in the language labs, which is an excellent start!!
Today i went shopping and spent a fortune on stuff for the apartment. I've got a one bedroom apartment to myself. It's a proper double sized bed. Rock hard, but comfortable. I sent some of my bedding from Chongqing to here before i left, so it was nice to have my own bedding to put on my bed. The room is huge! I feel a bit lost in the middle of it. The living room/kitchen is open plan and the kitchen is a little small. It will feel even smaller when i get my oven!
So...last night, for the first time in about 25 years it snowed. Not enouogh to settle sadly, but there was definitely snow. It was even more evident because of the screaming and shouting of 10,000 excited students who had either never seen snow before, or who realised the massiveness of this event - Snow...in Chongqing!
4 students phoned me to tell me, and another asked if we could go and build a snowman. I don't think she realised (never having seen snow before) that 5 flakes does not a snowman make. I have promised her that if the snow comes back and stays on the ground, i will help her make a snowman.
So...i have a dog. Originally, it was my ex-friend (more about that later...) Vivian's dog. Now, she is mine. She is a little white chihuaha + Something mix. I think it's Chihuaha x Pug. She's quite adorable and i have to admit, i have been trying not to like her too much because she was Vivian's. Now, however, she is mine.
I am really annoyed at Vivian. She seems to not care about the dog at all. I suppose i should have accepted it. Chinese people in general have no clue when it comes to pets of any kind. They don't treat them well (see: fish kept in small tanks with no filtration or air bubbles...) and don't seem to realise that animals have feelings and thoughts and will miss you if you go away, and they can't live on rice! I'm annoyed at her for just expecting me to find Lucky a new home. Lucky's already been abandoned by one set of owners, now she's been abandoned by Vivian as well. I guess her name's not very apt!
So the next plan: Stay in CQ next year.I've been offered a job earning more money in the Translation University. If i can aim to save as much as possible, i'll then try to get a job in Hong Kong for at least a semester and get Lucky quarantined there for 4-6 months. I'll also seek out a good vet who will spay her. To get to HK she needs to have rabies and some other immunisations, which is not a problem as i can get them done in CQ. After that, she needs to get a pet passport...and then it's off to the UK to meet Finlay! With the pet passport from HK, she doesn't need to be quarantines in the UK. If i take her home directly from here, she'll need to be quarantined in the UK for 6 months. If i quarantine her in HK then i can see her more often, and make sure that she gets good treatment, and that she gets spayed. I don't trust Mainland Chinese vets to do it. i don't like them. Like Vivian, they have no thought for the animal and don't believe it is a sentient being.
The only thing is...will it ruin my image too much if i'm seen in public with a Chihuaha? She's a celebrity on campus! Not only is she small and cute, but i keep telling the students that she speaks 3 languages - Chinese, English and Dog. But in the UK?!
National Day is the first week in October in China. We had a whole week off to celebrate.
My parents arrived on the 26th September and stayed in Beijing for a few days, then they came to CQ. They stayed in Hechuan for 2 nights and had Harry's for dinner! Then we went to CQ.
We stayed at a place in Chaotianmen - the port area of China. Not only was it impossible to find, but it's not that nice a place. Sadly this part of CQ is used to toursts going on the Yangtze Cruise and so decides that all foreigners have a lot of money and want to spend it...They also decide that the foreigner discoutn is applicable to all (roughly +300%). Also, unfortunately, the Hostel owner has guaranteed that i will never go back there after encouraging this rip-off. Luckily, i know the basic taxi prices in CQ as a whole. I also know that from the train station to the airport is Y35. He was trying to get us a car that would cost Y300 to the airport. Hmmm...don't think so. I got us a taxi from Chaotianmen to Chongqing North railway station, then changed taxi to the airport - total cost: Y85.
Chinese people really need to learn that overcharging is not a way to endear themselves to the rest of the world!
The night before we left, i had promised Susan that we would go for dinner at her apartment. Her and her boyfriend, Lotus cooked us a really nice home-cooked meal. It was delicious!
After a hearty meal, we left and went back to the hostel. In the rain! I have never known that much rain in CQ! Normally, we have 2 weeks of rain as a spring/autumn (they don't have spring or autumn, it goes from bakingly hot, to nicely warm and then rains for two weeks and goes cold, and then the reverse). What i didn't know was that a typhoon was almost touching down on Chinese soil...in Hainan!
So, after that meal and the taxi ride to the airport the next day, we got our flight to Hainan. The airport process in CQ was painless as normal. CQ's airport is pretty small and fairly well organised, so flying from there is always a pleasure.
We get to Hainan to be greeted by more rain (interesting...Hainan is supposed to be tropical...) and the most useless taxi drivers ever! We got a taxi, i negotiated the price for a while, the taxi driver had the address of the hotel, he knew where it was, so off we went. 45 minutes later we weren't at the hotel. We had passed the same roundabout 6 times and i was becoming a little irritated. I asked him where we were going and he replied 'Hotel!'. He pulled up at some random hotel...that wasn't our hotel and said 'Here'. He lied. I must remember this...if there's money involved, Chinese people lie. You might think this is a bit of a generalisation. It is not. It is the truth. Especially if your are a foreigner and they are looking to give you the 'Foreigner Discount' of +300%. So, i called the hotel and alarm bells should have started ringing when no-one at the other end understood me...even in Mandarin. I passed the phone to the taxi driver who then shouted down it for a while, passed it to me and said 'ok!'. Any normal person would assume, as i did...wrongly, that he now knew where he was going. 30 minutes later...no hotel...so i call again and he gets more directions...then he pulls over and says 'to get to the hotel, another Y10'. I argued with him for some time and explained that we had already agreed a price and we were not paying any more. He carries on and eventually we get to the hotel.
You would think, wouldn't you, that a hotel that takes international guests would not only have a good grasp of Mandarin, but basic English as well. Hmm...you would think wrong. They pretended not to understand for some time, and then had to phone someone who spoke a little English. She managed to convery to them that we had a booking and that we wanted to book in. That was the wasy part! The next thing was that we had to pay a deposit...of Y3000. The whole stay for both rooms wasn't Y3000, so i had issues with that. The other problem was that we didn't carry that much cash. We were expecting an international hotel to have a Visa card machine...apparently they only have it in the winter! So, we argued for some time and eventually got the the point where they agreed that we could stay if we gave them the deposit tomorrow. The taxi driver had still not left. I gave him the money we had agreed and he threw it back at me telling me that he told me he wanted another Y10. I told him that this was the agreed price and that after an hour or so of him getting lost, i was not paying him any more. He threw the money back at me again, so i asked if the ride was free, because he obviously didn't want the money i was giving him. He picked up the money, scowled at me and disappeared into the night.
The hotel wasn't too bad...if you think a garden is a building site, the only restaurant is some dodgy open air barbecue and you like instant noodles.
The next day, before i had gone anywhere i decided that we were going to a different hotel. I asked to use the internet and had the 'manager' hovering over my shoulder flicking through MY phrasebook looking for the English for 'money'. I cottoned on to this little act and brought up Google translate and asked him what he wanted. He said deposit. I explained that we had not left the hotel, and did he really think i could magic up Y3000 from nowhere? He just kept asking for money. So...i did what any sensible person would do - threw the phrasebook at him, got my parents and went out!
The first stop was the bank to get some money - a disaster! Apparently it is virtually impossible to change Sterling for Yuan on Hainan. If you do change it, the notes have to be perfect - the slightest crinkle and they won't take it. Naturally, i inspected every single Y100 note that they gave us very carefully and rejected one with a small tear. Just to make a point...
After the bank, we went to an internet cafe and booked into a new hotel. We went back to the first hotel and checked out. The manager followed me round like a lost puppy whining 'money, money'. So i gave him the money for the night's stay and no more. Then, he started telling me that it wasn't enough, so i showed him my booking and how much it was and walked off.
We got a bus and found the next hotel. Much much better! They had a visa facility - as long as we paid for the whole stay and the deposit, and the rooms were pleasant. However...they did suffer the language problem! I really don't understand why on Hainan - China's International Tourist Resort they cannot understand basic English...or Basic Mandarin!
After a while of trying, i eventually managed to work out which bus took us to the train station. So the next day we trooped off to the train station to try to get some ticket to go somewhere...anywhere! But...no tickets. No tickets at all. No explanation, just no tickets.
The next day we went to Binguan, which is the Li/Miao people reservation type thing. It was very pleasant (unlike the rain!), it was a fascinating day out. I wanted to know about the ethnic people of China so this was a great thing for me to see and i enjoyed it very much. It was slightly marred by the 'travel company' that we booked to go there. They charged us Y310 for the day, which was supposed to include the miao/Li reservation and Monkey Island. What they didn't tell us was that that was only for the drive...they were an overpriced taxi service! Welcome to Hainan - Get ripped off everywhere you go!
So, having managed to see something of interest, we decided to go back to Haikou a day early. I got the hotel booked for my parents, my plane was leaving at Midnight, so i didn't need one. We got to Sanya bus station, got the tickets, everything was fine. We got on the bus (30 minutes late...) and went merrily on our way for the 3.5...no...sorry 6 hour journey! After 6 hours on a stinking bus we arrived at Haikou and got another taxi to the hotel. Predictably, the taxi didn't know where we were going. The driver at first was more interested in whether my phone was an iphone (it's not, it's a chinese shanzai iphone). then, we met a lovely local...maybe the ONLY lovely local in Hainan who explained to the taxi driver exactly where we were going. Suddenly, he knew! It was pouring with rain as we drove to the hotel. He stopped at the side of the road and pointed vaguely in a direction and said 'there' i said 'no, take us to the hotel' at which point he admitted that he didn't know where it is. Again, i called the hotel and they gave us directions.
When we booked the hotel, we made sure that there was an airport transfer service because i needed to get my parents there and then leave straight away to get to the airport. When we got to the hotel, they didn't seem to know what this was! Yep, you guessed it...they lied! Eventually, after much runnign round in the rain and floodwater i was thrown into a taxi and told that i was going to be Y100. Luckily for me, i got the Best Taxi Driver in China! He was great. We were talking about my basic Mandarin and his basic English. I asked him what the word for flood is in chinese, he answered 'not good, i can't swim' Brilliant! He had a sense of humour!
We got to the airport and he only charged me Y70. I tried to give him an extra Y10 telling him that he was the best person in Hainan, but he refused and said 'You are here safely, i am happy'. How brilliant was that man? He restored my faith in Chinese people everywhere (except...maybe Sanya).
Have you ever been delayed in an airport? Maybe had to be ferried to a hotel somewhere? It's bad enough if they can tell you this...it's bloody terrifying if they're shouting at you in some unintelligible strain of another language! I got herded places and shown buses, but no-one would explain to me in basic Chinese, or in basic English what was happening. I got taken to a coach and loaded on, then the coach spent 45 minutes travelling around Haikou. People got off, i tried to get off and was shouted at 'NO', so i got back on and tried to sleep. Then, at the last hotel, a person came up to me and hit me on the arm to wake me up and said 'OFF'.So i got off and wandered about, dazed a bit into this hotel. I waited...and i waited...Chinese people don't do queues, they do Bundles. Eventually i got to the desk where i met 3rd Good Person on Hainan - the hotel manager who manged to explain in simple English that i was to stay there, in a room and they would wake me in the morning to get my flight. I could have kissed that man!
The next morning i eventually managed to leave Hainan. I got back to CQ at 1pm. I am determined i will NEVER set foot on Hainan again, not until the locals adjust their attitude to visitors, stop being obstructive and act like civilised humans.
When i got back, i learned that is was the worst storm Hainan had had in 50 years, and that it was the tail end of a typhoon. My flight was the first to leave Hainan in 3 days, and a week later 100,000 people were evacuated from the Island because of fears of flooding.
I suppose it explains this:
So...after a summer at home I'm back in Hechuan. Its the same as it always was!
I now have the apartment to myself, because there are 5 female teachers and 1 male teacher, so he's got his own apartment too. There's also another girl teacher at Pisi, we met for dinner tonight, and there's Nick who's teaching at YiTong. Last year, the teacher at YiTong wasn't interested in meeting the other foreigners, but Nick is. The best thing about him is that he's another Brit! Yeay! So there are now 7 American teachers and 2 British teachers in the area.
Roach wars has 12 casualties so far...don't know how many more there will be. This is more than last year's total. There's also a large jumping Spider living in my room (Cyril), and i'm leaving him at the moment, he can eat all the mosquitoes as long as he doesn't try to cuddle me at night...we have a deal!
I haven't done anything amazingly interesting yet.
I will blog about the summer adventures and the journey over when in get the pictures off my camera.
I've finally got my flight sorted to come home. I'll be home on the 30th June. That gives me 2 months exactly before i come back here...so...drinkies in the pub are a definite! hopefully, i'll have enough money to travel a bit in the UK too. See you all soon!!