A Travellerspoint blog

The First Week of School (with the kids this time!)

...plus a few more medical adventures & some more food!

semi-overcast 30 °C

Monday had an interesting beginning. We all had to line up on the school grounds in our classes, before going to our classrooms, for the flag raising ceremony. A girl introduced it, 4 older children then raised the flag & the national anthem was played. A few people sang, but not many. We then had a bit of a speech from the principal (translated by the vice-principal) & a short presentation to children that had achieved a special award for their work in school last year. Once that was done, we could go to class. The rest of that first day was a bit of a muddle – there was some confusion over the timetables, as various versions had been put on the server & no-one was really sure which was correct! I sent the children down for PE at the time I’d been given, but they were sent back a few minutes later saying that I have PE on Wednesday now instead. At which point, we had a nice discussion about what the children did for their summer holidays. It ranged from staying at home & playing computer games all summer, to visiting family in India for 2 months, and a lot of variation in between.

I spent some time getting to know the children – they all seem very nice & (generally) well behaved, although there are of course a few lively ones (all boys, the girls are all lovely). I have 20 children in my class, although one child hasn’t been to school yet, with almost twice as many boys as girls – 7 girls & 13 boys. Most classes seem to be top-heavy with boys. Although I have previously said about the amount of non-teaching time I have, I do have to explain that the days are a lot longer in school here. We start school at 8.10am, when we register the kids, followed by two hour-long lessons then break from 10.20-10.40am. We then have two 50 minute lessons, and lunch at 12.20pm for an hour, which is followed by the afternoon register & 20 minutes of reading time (DEAR – Drop Everything And Read). The afternoon consists of two more hour-long lessons after reading, finishing at 3.40pm, with 10 minutes at the end of the day to finish off, give out letters & get the kids ready to go home at 3.50pm. Staff are allowed to leave from 4pm, which makes it a 40 hour week. Luckily, this school has lots of specialist teachers, which means that I don’t teach PE, ICT, Art, Music, Performing Arts, Extra-Curricular Activities (which are during school on a Friday afternoon) or Chinese (good job to on the last one!). This gives me 12 hours non-teaching time a week, four of which are designated personal hours, which means we can use that time to do things like go to the bank, pay bills & anything else that needs to be done during normal working hours. This means that (hopefully) I’ll be able to get most if not all of my planning, preparation & assessment done during school hours & I’ll have very little to take home with me. Yay!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to do any of that today (Wednesday), even though I only taught 2 lessons (my best day!) first thing this morning, plus reading in the afternoon. I went back to the hospital with Jessica as soon as my last lesson was over at 10.20am, because although my foot & ankle are a bit better, they’re still swollen & slightly painful to walk on, so I (& everyone else at work) thought it would be best to get it looked at again. Jessica, bless her, she’s great, went ahead to get my place in the queue so that I wouldn’t have to wait too long once I got there. I had to wait a while to see the doctor even so, but this one spoke a little English, which helped. He sent me to get another blood test to compare it to the first one. This one was even faster – walked straight in, took the sample to the processing dept. & then only had to wait about 10 minutes for the results! We took said results back to the doctor, who gave me a long prescription for about 4 different things. The end result was that it is an infection caused by bacteria & probably due to a low immune system, and it could have been bacteria from anything, including me. The doctor said it often happens around the toenails, but mine is around my ankle & the top of my foot.

We went back downstairs to pay for & collect the prescriptions, only to find that the pharmacy didn’t have one of the items. Back upstairs we trekked (thank goodness they have a lift!) to the doctor, who gave me a different prescription, & downstairs to the pharmacy we went again, via the registration/cash desk where you have to pay for the prescriptions. The good thing was that the new prescription was cheaper than the first one, so I got a bit of a refund. I came away with a bag full of drugs! I have one tablet to take once a day, one to take two of three times a day, some liquid stuff I have to soak a flannel in & place over my foot which I have to change every 10 minutes for an hour, four times a day (which isn’t going to happen! Maybe twice) & the grand finale is the antibiotics – which I have to have administered via a drip. Apparently this is a very common thing to happen here – as the antibiotics didn’t really work the first time around, they then prefer to use a drip as they can give a stronger dose & it is absorbed more quickly. I had one dose done today, for which I had to go back to the hospital this afternoon. It only took about an hour (one thing I will say for the Chinese medical system is that they seem to be very efficient), but I have to go back tomorrow (Thursday) & Friday for my other two doses.

It was really interesting – they had a whole room of people just sitting attached to drips, like a very strange waiting room. People were processed in a very factory-like fashion: bring your medicine & instructions from the doctor, get a number, wait your turn, have the drip attached, go & sit down in the same waiting area, hanging your bag from the pole joined to your chair, wait for it to empty, call a nurse over to remove the drip, go home. I found a ‘Sudoku for Kids’ book in my classroom, so I brought that with me to do while I was waiting. Jessica had to go to a meeting, but she only left once I was all sorted & settled with my drip, & she told me what to say when it was done. The girl opposite me was kind of chatting to me (kind of, because she was speaking Chinese) – she wanted to see what I was doing so I showed her the Sudoku book, then when my drip was done she got the nurse for me. People are so friendly here, even though you don’t speak the same language. It’s great. The nurse spoke some English & told me about coming back the next two days & what I have to bring with me, after removing my drip. I felt exhausted after that, so I went home. I wasn’t expected back at school anyway.

Now I need to sort out something for my Teaching Partner, Susan, to do with my class tomorrow & Friday afternoon while I go to the hospital. Anne (the head) said that’s what I need to do, as there are no spare teachers, but at least it’s ok to leave my class with Susan. Laird (the other year 4 teacher) said he’d help me sort something out for them to do, which is a relief, because currently my brain doesn’t work (as well as my foot) & I have no idea what to leave them to do. Thankfully, I have two free sessions tomorrow morning to sort it out.

I’m not sure when I’ll have time to upload this, as I’m probably not going to make it to Starbucks any evening this week now, & I can’t really do it at work, especially not when half of my time this week is going to be spent at the hospital instead of in school. I just hope all this works!!

On a completely different matter, I cooked at home for the first time last night – proper cooking, not just beans on toast. One of the odd things that came with the apartment is a large shallow saucepan with a dividing section down the centre. Useful for cooking two different things at once, you might think. And you’d be right – if it didn’t let water through underneath! Anyway, I boiled some noodles in one side & veg in the other & added a chicken stock thing (not a cube, one of those jelly pot things) to the noodles for flavour. It was very nice, even if I do say so myself! I really need to get a proper saucepan though – it’d be much easier.

That’ll do for now. I want to go & eat. I’ll write more tomorrow…

Now it’s Saturday, & I’m so relieved it’s the weekend! This week has been really odd & very tiring – partly because it’s been the first week of school proper, with the kids, and partly because I’ve spent half my time at the hospital. Wednesday, Thursday & Friday afternoons I had to go & sit in the drip waiting room for my antibiotic drip. It didn’t take too long – only about an hour each time – but it made me really drowsy afterwards. Wednesday & Friday I was able to go straight home afterwards, but on Thursday I had to go back to school for a staff meeting. A couple of other members of staff said I should go home & they’d fill me in on the meeting, but the head (when I told her I was feeling really drowsy) said that I could fall asleep in the meeting & they’d poke me when something interesting came up – essentially saying that I had to be there. And of course there was nothing really that interesting or useful in the meeting! My TP, Susan, has been great, as she’s looked after my class Thursday & Friday afternoons. Laird (the other Year 4 teacher) has also been great – he did my duty for me on Wednesday & Friday, sorted out some things for my class to do on Thursday afternoon & had the whole year group for an hour on Friday to show them a video (Planet Earth) to do with our Humanities topic on deserts.

My foot now seems a lot better; it’s still slightly pink & a little swollen, but much better than it was & I can almost walk normally (as long as I don’t walk too fast, because then it twinges). I’ve still got a couple of doses of the other tablets to take – corticosteroids & antihistamines – so hopefully by the time I’ve finished those it’ll be completely better & back to normal. It’s become quite frustrating that I haven’t been able to do much or go places. I was invited to a champagne brunch at the Sheriton Hotel this morning – 368rmb (£36.80) for as much food & champagne as you can manage from 11.30am until 2.30pm – but the antibiotics I’ve been taking via drip (having looked them up on the internet at school in my lunch hour, as all the instructions were in Chinese) say that I have to avoid alcohol completely while I’m taking them & for three days after. So there wouldn’t be much point going to a champagne brunch if I can’t drink! Also, I thought it was probably best if I took it easy this weekend; although I really want to go out & do things, taking it slowly is probably the sensible thing to do, as I really don’t want the infection to come back again.

Hopefully next week me & Caroline are going to find a gym to join (I really need to, as all I’ve been doing is sitting every evening for the last two weeks, so I’m sure I’ve put on weight – plus all the food is so nice & there’s so much choice!). We’ve been told about a couple of different ones that aren’t too far from where we live, and the price is around 1200rmb for the year (£120), which isn’t too bad. Hopefully on Monday (as that’s pay day) I can start getting the internet sorted out too! That costs around 1600rmb (£160) for the year; you can pay monthly but it makes it a lot more expensive (about an extra 800rmb or £80 over the year), so paying yearly is definitely the better option. For now, Starbucks will just have to do!

Yesterday (Friday) I went with Caroline, Janine & Cathy (all teachers at school) for a head massage at a spa not very far from where we all live. It was quite different from head massages I’ve had previously. We went through a hair salon area & lay down on what looked like massage tables with a sink at one end. We had to lie with our heads over the sink, propped up on a small headrest in the middle. Our hair was then washed (which was very nice) & massaged through the washing. This was repeated several times – shampoo, massage, rinse, repeat – and the neck was massaged a little too, which was quite nice & got some of my knots out. We then went back through to the salon part, where our hair was blow dried & styled. The guy who did my hair spoke a little English, and tried to have a bit of a conversation with me, asking if it was my first time here, was I working here, & telling me I should come back & get my hair cut & when I did I should ask for him – number 6! The others all had their hair straightened, but mine was finished with a bit of a curl, and we all looked really good. This all took about an hour, and cost the grand price of 25rmb (£2.50)! Definitely worth it. I felt nice & relaxed afterwards. I think it’d be a good thing to have done before a night out; Janine & Cathy told us they’d done exactly that before the staff Christmas do last year.

After this, we went our separate ways home, Cathy & Janine one way, me & Caroline another. I thought I’d try the walk back as it wasn’t too far (we’d got a taxi there) & as long as we didn’t walk too fast. Caroline had the bright idea of popping into VanGuard (supermarket) on our way home to get food – they have quite a large takeaway section, where all the food is ready prepared & you just have to reheat it at home, or they can heat it there for you. We got a selection of things, most of which we had no idea what they were – various dumplings, wraps & bread-looking products. As Caroline’s microwave needs a good clean before she can use it, & her kitchen is still not finished, I invited her back to mine to eat. We tried all the different things we’d bought: there was a seaweed wrap filled with pork & sweetcorn & with a crabstick in the middle, a dumpling filled with some kind of onion mix, some kind of savoury naan bread, a dumpling filled with chestnut puree, a steamed bread roll, a small pork open-topped dumpling, a sweet thick pancake-like flat bread with a sesame puree filling, and Caroline had some sushi, half of which had ham pieces instead of fish. Apart from the sushi, which I didn’t try, it was all really tasty. I shall have to go back to VanGuard & try all the other things they have there – there’s a huge range of foods available, so it might take me a while!

Whilst in VanGuard I also picked up some more random food products to try: Seaweed Pringles, mint ice cream Oreo cookies, barbeque Copico crisps (they look like Pringles) & some weird looking square crisp/rice cracker things that have no flavour on the packet – I tried them & can’t figure it out, other than they taste a little like paprika flavour but different! I also got some giant black grapes from a barrow outside my apartment complex. 20rmb (£2) for three reasonable sized bunches isn’t a bad price, although I’m sure she overcharged me because I’m foreign – apparently most people on markets, etc. do! They’re good grapes, although the skin is a little bitter & they have lots of seeds in them, so I don’t know if I’ll get them again. I still prefer my papples! There are still so many food types to try, that I don’t know if my planned diet is actually going to work…

Later today (& tomorrow!) I’m meeting people for coffee in Starbucks, which’ll be nice. I think it’s becoming our regular haunt already. One of the girls who works there already remembers my order of black tea when I go there! Mind you, I have got a cup every morning before school this week. It is expensive (20rmb or £2 for a cup of tea) but they have reusable teabags, which means I can just get it topped up with hot water when I’ve finished my first cuppa, so I get two cups for the price of one. Obviously this doesn’t work with the takeaway ones I get on my way to work, but still. And you get free internet use while you’re there. I should probably try & get the rest of my planning done before I go so I can email it to Laird. He’s planning English & Humanities, I’m planning Maths & Science. It doesn’t seem like much when you put it like that, but it suddenly seems like I have loads to do before Monday, especially as most of my non-contact sessions last week were spent at the hospital instead of planning & preparing. I also need to mark the reading & writing tests we did with the children this week to get their levels for English, so I think I’ll make a start on that as soon as I’ve finished this. Speaking of which, I think I’ll stop there so I can get some work done!

Now I'm in Starbucks, having marked the reading tests & levelled the writing. They're almost all below where I would expect Year 4 children in England to be, but then that's to be expected really, as English is their second language. My Chinese isn't anywhere near as good as their English! Hopefully I'll be able to start having lessons soon though, which will be very useful. I think that's enough writing for now. I need more tea!

Posted by Persephoned 19:48 Archived in China

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Long-time reader, first-time commenter. This is great stuff, am really enjoying reading about a whole other world! Keep living the dream! X

by MMT

Glad you're enjoying it! I'll keep writing if you keep reading! & I'll do my best to keep living the dream! x

by Persephoned

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