Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fixed, Finally.

Finally Fixed!

The past two weeks have been pleasantly uneventful, although this, of course, is bad news for my blog.I have not had to work weekends, and my life in China seems to have stabilised (for the time being at any rate).Even my teeth have been fully fixed.To celebrate, here's a pictorial recap of my orthodontic journey through China:


Temporary replacements.


Needless to say, I'm happy with the outcome.To top off this new look, I also went for a haircut, which I was expecting to end horribly.Fortunately, I was mistaken in my pessimism.In all fairness, the barber was obviously nervous when dealing with my thick, curly hair as he insisted on washing and blow drying it straight before he would take his scissors to it, but the end result was fine.I did have a few complaints from my students who mourned the loss of my curls, but I assured them they would grow back soon enough.Some of my fans were pleased with the change of style though.On entering one class room, a female student of mine let out a loud groan.After asking her if everything was alright, she sighed, 'The shape of your's beautiful!'Here's a selfie of the new, improved me:

Looking good.

As well as these outward improvements, I've also been making progress with my Chinese speaking.My confidence is growing, and when speaking to people around Xindu they more and more seem to understand what I'm trying to say.Most pleasingly, whilst at a restaurant the other day, I was able to order a dish that Edi (my Chinese speaking neighbour) could not remember the name of ( - steamed beef). Of course, this was a tiny victory, and it is no surprise that my food vocabulary is growing the fastest, but nonetheless, it was nice to know I am making progress.Of course, for every success, there's also a cock-up.I had promised to make Spaghetti Bolognese for some students who were keen to try 'Italian noodles', so headed to the market to buy some ingredients.On the whole, the trip was a success, and for the most part I was able to haggle and successfully buy the items I wanted.I say mostly, as knowing that the Sichuanese love their spice, I wanted to grab a couple of chilies to add to the sauce so they wouldn't find it tasteless.Due to some miscommunication, I ended up with a huge bagful, rather than the couple I had initially set out to acquire.Lucky for me, it still only cost 5 RMB (roughly 50p) so wasn't a mistake that left me too out of pocket.

The chilies in question.

In other food-related news, I've taken to eating my breakfast in the pavilion, overlooking some gardens on the school campus.I'll munch on my baozi (steamed bread stuffed withlightly-spiced pork meat; the Chinese equivalent of a bacon butty) whilst sipping tea out of my beizi (a glass flask).A great way to start the day.

Breakfast view.

Maybe it's these relaxing breakfasts that have been the cause of a plain-sailing two weeks as they help me prepare for anything that may come my way.Last Tuesday, for instance, I was walking back to my apartment after a Chinese lesson when Ms Liu, a Chinese colleague of mine came running out of the Senior 1 building calling my name and asking for help.She explained that she was meant to be supervising a lesson on Western Literature, but her partner hadn't showed up, so would I kindly take their place.Having graduated with a degree in Literature, I assented, thinking the lesson would be of interest, and thinking that it would be no great difficulty to act a Ms Liu's assistant.However, as we entered the classroom, Ms Liu headed straight to the back where she promptly took a seat leaving me open-mouthed in front of a class full of students.Totally unprepared, I was able to deliver an off the cuff lesson on Shakespeare, which, all things considered, was well received.I'd like to compare my performance to the inspirational speech of Henry V, but in all honesty I probably came across as more of a Falstaff; entertaining, but essentially a windbag full of nothing but hot air.

Of course, gluttony is also something which allows me to be compared to Falstaff.This trait is only made worse by the fact that the Chinese on the whole are so hospitable, inviting me to dinner and feeding me at ever opportunity.The best meal I've had in the last two weeks was a gift from Livian, a student at the Junior school, who I met through Chris, my neighbour and her teacher.I was picked up from my apartment in her father's car and driven to her grandmother's 'time-honoured' (her words!) restaurant.There, I was served dish upon dish of lavish food as her family watched, encouraging me with chants of 'eat, eat!'The most bizarre part of the meal was when Livian turned to me and said in a quiet but strong voice, 'If you ever need anything, I mean anything, just ask my father.He is a powerful man and has lots of connections in Xindu.'I asked what he did, and the reply was simply 'agriculture'.I can only conclude that they are, in fact, a mafia family of some sort. Not that I'm complaining, after seeing their lifestyle I'm more jealous than anything.Plus the food was great and I was sent home with a goody-bag full of fruit.

There's also been reason to celebrate over the past two weeks as on the 23rd October, it was Andre's (a foreign teacher) birthday, and of course, the 31st was Halloween.We celebrated Andre's special day, by having a nice meal at one of our many favourite restaurants.A lavish looking cake was also brought, overdecorated in a manner that only the Chinese can achieve:

Let them eat cake.

Sadly, the cake wasn't as delicious as it appeared, being made mostly of whipped cream.The cakes in China all seem to be ridiculously light, and have none of that comforting weight that I love in a good British cake.All this didn't stop me helping myself to seconds of course.As my father would say of a Mr. Whippy, 'It doesn't count, it's mostly air!'

For Halloween, Kathy, our boss, treated all the foreign teachers to a meal, which was also great.The highlight of Halloween though had to be a party that I was invited to by one of my students.She has an English tutor out of school who also runs an English club for primary school children and the Halloween party was for their benefit.The children were astoundingly cute, and it took all of my willpower to restrain myself from kidnapping a bunch of the rascals, Brangelina style.Here's a couple of pics of them dressing up as mummys:

So cute, he makes an orange gilet look good.

Finished product.

And after that incredible dose of cuteness, I believe there's no more to say.

Until next time!
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