So, it occurred to me, that although people know I’m here and what I’m doing, they don’t know the particulars. Like what time I wake up, what I do at lunchtime or what flavour tea I drink at night. Thus, for you nosey lot, I took a photograph every hour to show you what my life is like nowadays. Things are about to get wild…
First thing to do in this bi-polar climate is look out the window. It’s pretty consistent (ironically) that whatever it’s like in the morning, it will be like for the rest of the day. Occasionally it will change half way through the day (I’m talking like 10 degree drop or increase) but mostly, you can bet if it’s raining in the morning it’ll be raining ALL day, and likewise if its sunny, and so on. So, first thing, check the weather. It’s cloudy. Don my sexy sweatpants and fake Abercrombie tee, do the usual girls 40-minute getting-ready-for-work routine, grab helmet, Starbucks thermos and take the lift down 13 storeys.
Pack the scooter. Although the whole idea of having your own mode of transport is that you can carry more with ease, my boot (slash trunk) is teeny weeny and I have to strategically pack my bag, books and essential full body raincoat (just in case) into the 10inch by 10inch space. Then there’s the 20 minute commute along the terrifying freeway. Which -thank the Lord- is becoming less and less terrifying the more I drive.
All the cars/lorries/tractors (no joke) and any other crazy vehicle you can name sit in gridlock. The Taiwanese treat riding a scooter as if they were playing on little plastic motorcycles in their back garden. If there is more than half a meter between you and the guy in front some idiot will almost certainly speed up like crazy, cut you up, only to then brake insanely quickly making you brake even quicker and the guy behind you too. This happens repeatedly through the entire crawl until you get off the freeway and onto the wide normal roads when all those scooters that wanted to overtake you earlier (but couldnt because you left less than half a meter) then zoom past you at twice the speed and weave in and out the traffic.
Making it to school and coffee in hand, it’s now time to face the music and enter K2A classroom. My assistant is on the ball, even at 9am and already has the kids school bags organised, communication books on my desk, tracing books ready for the 1st lesson and breakfast being served. I wander in, say good morning and begin reading all the parents responses to the 3 sentences I wrote yesterday. “Karen will not take the school bus today”. “Peggy spoke English at home last night”. “Thanks for helping Isaac change his pants.” – my pleasure.
10:15 – Tracing lesson is now well under way and I can hear the constant cries of “I need to eraser” or “ayer Michelle my crayonnnn”, “may you sharpen my pencil?”. As it’s the end of the semester we are racing to complete A-Z and whilst some children already have the most beautiful handwriting there are others who are still learning how to hold a pencil. Then there’s always the kid who thinks it’s hilarious to write his ‘W’ page as a simple solitary zig zag from one side to the other.
Having endured my constant erasing of errors and screams to hurry up, I give the kids of K2A a break and take them to the playground. I use the term ‘break’ losely as there are a few rules I impose very heavily. 1. You speak Chinese, you sit out for 1 minute. 2. If you want to play with a certain toy you must approach the person and say “you have 2 minutes left, then it’s my turn”. 3. If someone is doing something you don’t like, you cannot hit. You must say “STOP. I don’t like it.” To this end, after a semester of drilling and drilling and drilling, K2A can now fully govern themselves at playtime. I even have 2 ‘little helpers’ who patrol the playground listening for anybody who might be speaking Chinese or not adhering to the script. This leaves me able to sit back with the 2 kids who like to play with my hair and massage me. Their idea, I swear.
After playtime, lunch is served and the kids then brush their teeth and head into bed. Naptime lasts from 12 to 2. Most teachers use this time to plan lessons, fill in paper work etc. Not me. No no. The kids nap. I nap. Oh yes. Most days I sleep at least half an hour. I even have my own little blanket and pillow. When I’m ill (which is far too frequently for my liking) I will sleep for the full 2 hours. Best job ever.
1:15 – Communication book time. There are a whole load of boxes to check. Behaviour: excellent, good, ok, argue, fight. Attitude towards school work: Fully participated, participated, distracted, needs improving. Can’t remember the others. They’re all in Chinese anyway, most of the time I make it up. At the bottom I must write a few words to let the parents know what we’ve been up to. Today I write that we worked hard with our tracing books, enjoyed playtime and learned a new song. (I’ll teach them after lunch)
Wake the kids up. They all know they cannot leave their sleeping bags until the lights go on. As soon as I do, it’s like lifting up a rock at the back of the garden and watching all the bugs run around like crazy. They climb out through the little circles and start laughing with excitement that they are now awake.
3:15 – Song and dance complete. It’s snack time. It’s always a boring old soup but today one of my kids has brought in some fancy popcorn. We sit round and share it. K2A have been particularly good today, as the bribe of popcorn all day was more than enough motivation to speak English, eat lunch quickly, fall asleep properly and wake up at the right time. We pack our school bags, communication books, lunch bags and jackets and make our way down to the front gate. I drop them off and head to the office for my 35 minute break before P-class.
6:15 – P-class are always a handful. There are 8 kids who make enough noise to be 20, they know enough English to happily get by if they ever went to the Western world and, unfortunately they know it. They can be extremely cocky (one of them actually asked me if I had farted because “sumting is vewy smelly” … I hadn’t, for the record) but most of the time extremely funny.
Today is a serious matter however, because we have our final semester test. Luckily, these kids still have very very strict parents (naturally) and a test means a test score and a test score means a parents signature. Only 90% and above will suffice with these kids, so they knuckle down and follow instructions perfectly.
Leaving the building I punch my card and brace myself for an even crazier commute home. For some reason the evening drive is always so much worse. However, like I said, I am slowly acclimatizing. Home sweet home.
I try to take full advantage of the gym downstairs. However ‘full’ is pushing it and although I always aim for 4 times a week, it’s normally 2 or 3. It’s a small gym, but it does the job. And its free! To get to the gym you need to walk through the Lounge Bar.
I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my bedtime routine, like showering, choosing what to watch on TV and what tea to drink (honey or peach?). So for you guys, the day ends there.
Of course it’d be a shame to say all of my days were like this, but I can thoroughly assure you this: Monday through Friday this is me. Most of my problems consist of what to wear on a Friday, where to find a pedicure before my Thailand vacation, how to communicate to the taxi driver we want to go to one of only 2 clubs in town (this always involves some kind of mimed dance and drink) or new game ideas to bring the classroom. It’ a tough old life.