1 week in…

It’s been a whole week. I have learnt 1-10 in Mandarin, as well as other useful phrases such as ‘sit’, ‘stand’, now’ and ‘idiot.’ (Although the latter was an accident as it sounds very similar to 700. My supervisor said if I use it in shops to mean 700 someone will hit me on the head ‘very hard’.)

On Wednesday afternoon I was told to bring spare clothes for the next day. When I asked why, the response was deafening “we have WATER FUNNN.” I looked at her with my eyebrows raised. The swimming pool was only slightly bigger than the average size of our jacquzzi’s back home and I can bet you with the teeny tiny height of these children, it is only half a metre deep. “It’s a welcome party, to say HELLO!” She was hysterical again. “You will be soaked, so then you change ok?” I agreed. Why the hell not! Getting paid a stupid amount of money per day to play games and sing songs was already too good of a deal but to add in a whole school water fight, I was laughing! That evening I went home and purposely chose my outfits…”which of these are going to look the least see-through when drenched I wonder?”

Thursday morning. K2A are sat in a nice line near the school gates waiting for me to collect them. They each have a giant “Stanford American Language School” bag, which look like laundry bags they are so big (the kids can actually fit inside them.). Inside these bags, the kids are fully equipped for the fight. They have swimming costumes or trunks, goggles, water pistols, buckets, towels, flip flops and spare clothes. The Taiwanese may be the most organised people on the planet. Breakfast comes and goes (rice milk and sponge cake) and 2 tournaments of ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ later, we are ready to go. The playground is quite small compared to those back home and luckily the Taiwanese have had the sense to AstroTurf the entire thing. (For teachers and TA’s alike, you will appreciate what a blessing this is and the distinct lack of cuts, grazes and bruises is like a gift from Heaven.) The rules were these: only teachers can use the giant hose, if a child is crying do not squirt them and if a member of staff is not paying attention they are asking to be supremely soaked.  I’ve never seen so many children having so much fun. In the bright sunshine,  the laughter of 200 Chinese kids and the smiles from all of the teaching team made me feel so strangely content. There I was with a whole heap of people who I shared very little with and I actually felt at home.  About 10 minutes in, the principal invited me and another new foreign teacher to the top of tree house which overlooked the playground. She made an announcement in Chinese through a microphone and the fighting stopped immediately. “Good morning everybody!” (the response back was robotic) “good morning Miss Monica”. “Today we are welcoming two new teachers. Give a big cheer for Miss Sophie (huge cheer) and Mr Brad (not so huge cheer, haha!)” My class have some big shouters, annoying but beneficial in this circumstance.  We cheered in response and then the giant hoses got us. Staff laughed, children were in hysterics and the fight continued.

My superviser was right. I did get drenched. In the 36 degree heat it was blissful. We dried off on towels in the sunshine and then I had to dry all of K2A’s hair with a hairdyer!  Then it was lunch in the playground with the whole school. Miss Monica acted as dinner lady and served everyone (including the normal dinner ladies) some chicken stew with carrots, rice, soup and then some watermelon. I’m still getting used to the food, but Stanford really are helping me adjust with their huge menu range. All the classes sat together on the floor. The Autistic boy, lets call him E, sat next to me. He had forgotten his swimming trunks this morning and was not in a good mood. I tried remedying the situation by giving him the special hose which kids weren’t allowed to touch. Viola, one happy child. At lunch, he was good as gold. I asked him how he was. “I’m fine zank you, how are you?”… the classic robotic response children in the far East are taught from the day they are born. E and I sat for about 10 minutes and I observed him as more children joined us and made conversation. A lot of his problem (as the Head tells me) is his baby brother who gets a huge amount of attention at home. E dealt well with the new people coming to speak to me, although he did interrupt a few times. To me, this is a good sign that more attention from me can help calm his behaviour.

Before leaving the school for my half day, Miss Monica approached me and gave me some bananas. The teenies tiniest bananas I’ve ever seen (and the tastiest I’ve had). Call me crazy, but is this a nice boss or what?! I thanked her and made my way home.  That evening I walked onto the high street (about 10 minutes from my apartment) and half way there remembered I hadn’t put any mosquito repellent on. I hurried the whole trip along, anxious to get back and immerse myself in AfterBite only to find I didn’t get bitten at all. Perhaps beginners luck, but to me that is incredible.

Yesterday I had to sit with my supervisor and ring every single parent to introduce myself. Some conversations were pleasant, most were just painful and went along the lines of:  “Hi, this is Miss Sophie. I’ll be teaching *Peggy* this semester”…”I’m fine zank you how are you?”…”I’m great thank you, I’m Peggy’s new teacher for this year”…”erm, my English. Zis very bad. You no like Peggy?”… and so on. Most of them called me ‘Miss’  as in “yes Miss, ok Miss” and I get the feeling foreign teachers are very well respected in this country.

Today I have had a very glamorous day spent entirely in the classroom making a million and one signs and labels (yes I’m aware it’s Saturday).  I could probably spend double this time and still not be happy with it but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. Summer Camp finishes on Wednesday, which means all 21 children will be in on Thursday September 1st.  Check out the pics below to see my handy work.

Right now – on my 9th night in the city – I’m showered, insect repellented up just in case and am about to venture back down on to the high street for a meander on this slightly cooler Saturday night. I bought an interesting little something for breakfast a few days back and want to stock up on it. It’s called “breakfast flan”. Imagine a crème caramel (except, less caramelly and more semi-skimmed milky) that comes with a separate little pot of chocolate covered cornflakes. You peel off the seal, tip the ‘flan’ upside down and sprinkle the cereal over the top. Amazing. Better than aunties soup that they serve for breakfast at school (as lovely as their efforts with variety are). I can make my peace with Chinese food for lunch and dinner every day, but when it comes to breakfast, I am English through and through.



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