(Sorry it's taken me a while!)
28.10.2011 - 26.11.2011
I can’t believe it’s November already! And it’s been four weeks (make that five, as I had a bit of a break from writing during the week!) since my last blog update – where does the time go?! It really doesn’t feel like November here – more like late summer or early autumn, as a coat or jacket of any sort is still only necessary occasionally, and the middle of the day is still quite hot (I’m in imminent danger of getting sunburnt whenever I’m on duty at lunch time!). I’ve been living in China for 3 months now – in some ways it still seems as though I’ve only just arrived, in other ways it feels like I’ve been here for ages.
So on my birthday (Friday 28th October), we had a Halloween day at school. It was decided that Friday would be a better day to do it, rather than Monday, even though Halloween was on Monday, purely because of getting the kids all excited! Everyone (well, almost everyone) dressed up & there were prizes for the children for the two best costumes in each year group. We had a costume parade on the school field where the prizes were presented. Of course, I dressed up too & got some funny looks as I was walking to Starbucks in the morning! I think this was mostly due to my green face… I was a Witches’ Brew – dressed as a witch with a giant teabag that I made hanging round my neck, stripy socks & everything! The morning at school was full of activities organised by the Year 11 students to raise money to buy computers for a local school for migrant workers – children had to pay ¥20 to come to school in costume & take part in the activities, then there was a small bazaar selling various things – the most popular stall was the candy floss stall. Guess what I had for breakfast?! The children all loved it & had great fun, and in the afternoon, after clubs, we had a class party for my birthday. I brought in some drinks & cakes, & some of the children brought in crisps & other nibbles, so we ate those & watched ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit’ while we ate, followed by games until the end of the day. After school, a few of us went out for dinner & margaritas to a great Mexican restaurant in Coco Park, and everyone insisted that I wasn’t allowed to pay. All in all, it was a really good birthday, and even though I had to go to work it didn’t feel like a proper work day because I was in fancy dress & taught no lessons!
The next day, a few of us (mostly the girls because most of the lads had arranged to go to Hong Kong for the weekend to watch the cricket) went out for Halloween & my birthday (again in fancy dress, but different fancy dress to the costumes worn at school!). We met up at Jen & Alex’s (although Alex was off with the lads in Hong Kong) to have some food & drinks & get ready to go out together. It took much longer for us all to get ready than we’d all thought it would! My costume this time was Charlie Chaplin, complete with moustache, walking stick & bowler hat. I had quite a few compliments on my costume that evening, which I was very pleased about! Eventually we made it out & met up with a few other people at McCawley’s. After a few drinks there, and a small incident with Janine’s false nails, we decided to move on to Rapscallion’s, round the corner, which turned out to be much more lively with more ‘get-up-&-dance’ kinds of music playing. It was a great night, lots of alcohol was consumed (it got to the point at the end of the night when I asked for my last vodka & cranberry juice that they had run out of cranberry juice!), some dancing was to be had, various comments about the numerous costumes were made & new people were met.
Some of the new people were a few Americans who are over here teaching English. We met up again the following week & they mentioned they were going to Hong Kong Pride. I didn’t even know it was on, so of course I invited myself along! Various other normal things happened in the week in between, but I won’t bore you with that! We met up the following Saturday (5th November), horribly early in the morning. The funniest thing at that time was that Sarah, who had organised the whole trip, was the last person to arrive! Which meant I had time to pop to McDonald’s & get a couple of hash browns for breakfast – yum! So we eventually made it to the hostel we were all staying at (there were 8 of us), dumped our stuff & went out for lunch in Hong Kong. We found quite a nice Italian American diner, which had a great deal on for lunch – 3 people get the deal, the fourth meal is free – so we order four meals & split it between the six of us (the other two had opted for Burger King). Near our hostel (which was just round the corner from the parade route) we found a stall selling merchandise, so me, Sarah, Nina & Alex bought HK Pride t-shirts & various other bits like flags, bracelets & pin badges. After chilling for a bit back at the apartment (we had an apartment almost to ourselves, owned by the hostel & rented out by the room) we went to find the parade. Suddenly millions of people were crowding the streets! We ended up walking in the parade, because the security people wouldn’t let us stand by the side (apparently we were blocking the way for other people). The parade walked along one of the main streets in central Hong Kong; it was quite amusing whenever one of the double-decker trams went past on the other side of the road – the people inside were either giving us evil looks or leaning out & waving at us! It took probably about 45 minutes to walk to our destination – a playground area in Wan Chai district, where a small stage & a few stalls had been set up. Hong Kong Pride only started in 2008, which means it’s still a relatively new thing, so it was really great to see so many people there & such a positive atmosphere. There were lots of speeches (mostly in Chinese), which we would generally cheer at whenever everyone else was cheering! This was followed by a few acts – some singing, some dancing, most really good, & of course topped off with a drag queen performing.
Once the whole thing had finished, and we’d got a couple of photos with one of the dance acts & the drag queen (has to be done!), we headed back to the hostel (via a 7-11 to pick up some drinks & Cadbury’s chocolate!) to chill out for a bit & get changed ready for the evening’s festivities. We headed to Lan Kwai Fong (an area in Central Hong Kong) for food & a few drinks. When we got there we discovered there was a carnival on there! The streets are pedestrianized in the evenings Friday to Sunday & lined with bars & restaurants; when we arrived they were also lined with various stalls selling everything from alcohol to sewing machines & millions of people! We went to an American diner for dinner (really good food, huge portions & not too expensive for Hong Kong), during which we spotted a carnival procession walking past – people in costumes & masks, feathers everywhere & stilt-walkers walking impressively down the rather steep street. After this we ploughed our way through the crowd to one of the many bars, had a couple of shots, found another bar to dance in & have a drink & did a fair amount of wandering around, seeing the sights (there were small stages set up at random points with various entertainments, plus all the people dressed up & random drunk people!) & getting the odd drink here & there. Eventually, at about 2am, there was only me, Nina (whose birthday it was) & Alex left, so we decided to call it a night. We attempted to get a taxi back to the hostel (after a small detour to McDonald’s), but the ones driving past wouldn’t stop to pick us up, which then meant we had to wait in the really long taxi queue. So we decided it would be a better idea to walk back (a distance of about 5km or 3.125miles)! We had a few mini adventures along the way, but we eventually (due to my superb map reading skills) made it back to the hostel in one piece at about 4am.
The following day some people left early because they had to get back to Shenzhen, which left me, Ammon, Lindsay, Chastity & Sarah to go for lunch. We headed to Times Square (no, not the same as the one in New York! It’s a huge shopping centre with a giant Christmas display outside) to look in Page One, a fab book store with a good choice of English language books. We then found an amazing Italian steak restaurant (not that any of us had steak) which had a great deal on for a buffet lunch (including dessert) – the food was fantastic, & the choice on the buffet seemingly never-ending (every time someone went to get something, they came back with a different dessert!). I would thoroughly recommend it. We then found our way to Starbucks for a bit of a rest, where Emma (my friend from work) joined us. The Americans departed shortly after, as they had a dinner date with Chastity’s cousin who lives in Hong Kong. Me & Emma wandered off to do a bit of shopping, which turned out to be very successful on my part – Emma persuaded me to buy a new phone (probably because I’d been complaining about the rubbish phone I’ve had since I moved here every day!) - & it’s fab! (Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro, just in case you wanted to know!) I can finally change people’s names in my contact list, take photos & access the internet on my phone! I then took Emma to City’Super – a great supermarket that sells loads of Western food – she thought it was great & we ended up having to drag each other out of the place! I stocked up on squash, cheese & crumpets, plus odd bits like risotto rice & mixed herbs (none of which you can get in Shenzhen, apart from a small selection of cheese at a few places).
At this point it was getting quite late, so we thought we’d better head back so that we didn’t miss the last train to the border… We made the train, but managed to get on the wrong one! Which meant we ended up at the other border; halfway across Shenzhen from where we live, instead of 10 minutes down the road. Doh! We made it home with all our many purchases, which we sorted out on the street corner. Really could have done with another day off before going back to work the next day!
Other things I’ve done in the last few weeks: a trip to Ikea with lots of successful purchases (duvet, clock, fern, cushions), another visit to the Arts & Crafts fair in OCT (where I bought a lush purple bag) & a quick look at Splendid China Folk Village (must go back another time & spend a day looking round), quite a few meals out with various people, a few evenings out having a drink & a laugh with various people, the usual work stuff (including overseeing APP as part of my new role as Assessment Coordinator & running a staff meeting on moderation [I really don’t like doing staff meetings!]), & attempting to learn Chinese (I’ve had 5 lessons now & it’s still really hard!).
One other thing I will tell you about is the school fire drill. Completely different from a fire drill in the UK! Children are supposed to run, bent over double, one hand covering their mouths & the other hand over their head, down the stairs & out of the building onto the football pitch when the alarm sounds. There are four staircases & about 350 primary children & I think about the same number of secondary children all trying to run down the stairs at once, hunched over with their hands over their heads – quite a sight to see! We also had ‘Fit Friday’ today – all the primary children outside at the start of school doing aerobics – with the teachers joining in of course!
On Wednesday a few of us went to the stationery market – 3 large buildings of 3 or 4 floors each filled with stalls selling every kind of stationery plus everything else you could possibly think of! The reason we went on Wednesday was to stock up on Christmas decorations (the same place I got my Halloween decorations & witch’s hat from) – so much stuff it’s hard to choose! I bought a small Christmas tree, loads of tinsel (about 13 strings), two sets of lights, two packs of baubles & a pack of mini silver fir cones, loads of stickers for school, a pack of Christmas cards & some light-up snowmen badges for the kids – all for the grand total of about £25!
There’s probably millions of other things I could write about, but a lot of it is just becoming part of everyday life here in Shenzhen & working at Green Oasis School, so I can’t really think of anything else significant enough to add! Generally I am really glad I made the decision to come here, even though I miss everyone at home. Getting packages from people at home is so exciting! And we’re all starting to count down the days until the Christmas holidays – 3 weeks to go!