Arriving in Zhangzhou

In which I arrive in Zhangzhou

My holiday posts are nearly finished, just need to attach photos. In the meantime though I know you’re all dying to know how I’m getting on in the new place. So here you go!

After a few days of washing clothes, packing and sending boxes here, there and everywhere, I’m finally in Zhangzhou!

On my last night in Ordos I was meant to go to dinner with all the other FTs, but a phonecall around 6.00pm changed that. One of my students, Cherry, who I knew would miss me, confirmed by the fact that during every lesson in February she had at Aston she would ask “Where’s Sarah?” and “I miss Sarah,” invited me out to dinner. Well, I say she did, but it was actually her mother, who is very lovely too. We went out to the 3000 restaurant and had hotpot. I kept being asked what I wanted but the English politeness came out in me. I chose a few things on the menu, then let Connie, who also came with us, (thankfully, as without a translator it would have been more difficult, still lovely, but more difficult!), and Cherry’s mother choose the rest. It was really nice; I love hotpot and Cherry’s mum kept making sure I had enough food in my pot! Cherry was as cute as ever, and if you find me with a Chinese child in the future, it’ll probably be her as I’ll have stolen her. At the restaurant, there’s a lot of side dishes which you can help yourself to which are free. Cherry’s mum and Connie went down to get a few things and after we’d eaten that they went down again. This second time they brought up oranges, which Cherry ate most of. S

he then wanted to go downstairs with me to get some more (we were on the 2nd floor, and I mean that in American, not English terms!). It was hilarious as we took the lift down, because there were 4 small boys in the lift. They saw this huge Waiguoren (foreigner) with a small Chinese child and could not stop staring. As Cherry and I were helping ourselves to more oranges, one of the waitresses waved at me, it was quite funny. Cherry kept holding my hand, which people could obviously see, and see that Cherry liked me, and I’m not sure what they all made of it to be honest! We went down a second time for oranges, and this time there was a family in the lift. Again, I think they were very confused to see this small Chinese child holding a foreigners hand! We had a great time and I got some photos with Cherry, which I will send onto her mum via Connie. She was a lucky girl as I taught her twice a week, once a week with Aston and then I was in her Kindergarten too for three months, so maybe that’s why she’s become so attached to me.

Apparently she’s not going back to Aston as I’m not her teacher, which is a shame because she is very intelligent and a quick learner, but at the same time it’s a massive compliment to me. In the most modest way possible, Cherry’s mum was very complimentary about me, she said she likes my personality and that I am good with children. I do know that, I know that I work well with children, but it’s definitely nice to hear it now and again, even if, with more English politeness, I try and shrug it off.

Moving day, and a palindrome too, if you hadn’t noticed (21/02/2012), and I woke up to complete my packing. I was doing this when Connie came around with some jiaozi (dumplings). She said that people always eat dumplings when people leave. I told her that I eat dumplings all the time, and to be honest, so do the Chinese, but they have them for special meaning or whatever. We stuffed ourselves and then waited for Trinity to come and pick us up as Connie was going to come to the airport too. Daisy was on her way back from her hometown and was not going to get back in time to catch the taxi with us, but she was going to try and get to the airport before I left to say goodbye. We had Ruby in the car as well, Phil’s dog, as he’d tried to get her on the plane the week before, but was then told, after phoning many people beforehand and actually getting Ruby to the airport, that she needed all this paperwork. So it was left to me to take her on the plane, fortunately with Trinity to organise! Anyway, we headed to the airport, our taxi driver got stopped on the way because he ran a red light, and got there in good time.

We sorted Ruby out, which didn’t take that long in all honesty, her paperwork was fine. Trinity told me that last time, when Phil had left to get on the plane, Ruby was barking after him as she was pining for him and a policeman told her off. Ridiculous. Anyway, she was in a box this time and was pretty calm, or nervous, I’m not sure which. Daisy managed to arrive on the airport bus in time to see me off, I’d waited around to see her, plus make sure everything with Ruby was going ok. Unfortunately, when the plane landed we were told that Ruby couldn’t go on it, as it was not the usual plane and the hold was not suitable for her as no air could get to her or something. Unbelievable!We’d got so far but fell at the final hurdle.

I gave Trinity all of Ruby’s documents back and was told by the check in staff that I should go to security now, as Ruby was not going. I got to security and said goodbye to Daisy and Connie. I know all the CTs in Ordos are going to miss me, but as I’ve said before, if a new opportunity presents itself to me I can’t really turn it down, especially if I’ve been pretty much selected to go… Once through security, I continued to wave goodbye to Daisy and Connie, as I knew that I should be boarding the plane very soon, when I member of staff came over to me and asked where I was going. I replied “Xiamen” and she said “we’re waiting for you!” I was the last passenger! I couldn’t believe it, I am never the last passenger, I hate those people! I did tell myself and the nice lady that it wasn’t my fault and that I was waiting on the dog, but she didn’t seem to mind all that much. Her English was good and she explained that she knew it was me as she had seen that the last passenger had a foreign name. I got on the plane and shown to a seat, not mine however as the flight was ridiculously empty, definitely less than a third full anyway. I don’t know why, but couldn’t Ruby and I have sat in the back away from the other passengers? There was so much space, she could have sat on my lap, or stayed in her box, whatever the crew wanted, but she’d be in the flat right now if that happened, and not having to take a plane by herself, if Phil doesn’t go back to Ordos for some business stuff.

Anyway, our flight took off about 20 minutes early because all the passengers were there. Ordos is definitely not the smallest airport I have ever been too, Leipzig-Altenburg in Germany takes that accolade, but at least there they didn’t have to taxi down the runway and turn around at the end! I’ve never experienced that before. The flight was ok, bit too much turbulence for my liking but you can never choose that obviously and we landed early too, around 7.25pm, when we were meant to land at 8pm! Needless to say, just as my original flight to Ordos was early, meaning that Phil was “late” in picking me up, it was the same here. I was there for around 10 minutes before I saw him and Rachel. They had checked the flight before leaving for the airport, but even they weren’t expecting me to land so early. At least I knew who I was looking for this time! I also met Rachel’s twin sister, Wendy, who will be working at the school too. I could feel already that the temperature was completely different and it was lovely. I couldn’t believe it.

Phil suggested the best thing he could at that point though, “Pub?” so we went to a pub and I met Gavin, who is Phil’s partner in the Zhangzhou school. He’s from Ireland but has been in China a while now and has a Chinese wife, Shannon, who I met later on in the evening. She was lovely. We had a nice evening in Xiamen and I think the school team is going to work very well together; Gavin is easy to get on with. It was late when we got a taxi back to Zhangzhou, but my new apartment is brilliant. My room is smaller, but still not small and this morning I managed to unpack all my things. I’m just waiting on a box that I sent to myself from Ordos with things like coat hangers in. It’s cold inside but warm outside and I got excited by rain the first morning, as I haven’t seen that for a while! Unfortunately, our electric and water was off the first morning, and according to Rachel who went down to pay the bill, wouldn’t be back on until 10pm, but we headed out to the school.

It’s different from my old one, as it was a former interior decoration office, so it looks pretty strange for a school, but at the same time very attractive. Once we’ve got some more pictures on the walls it’ll be good. The staff are lovely, so along with Phil, Rachel and Wendy, Rachel’s sister, there’s Melody, the CT and Candy and Jack who are on the Front Desk with Wendy. Thursday was my first day of teaching after almost a month. It was good, I got broken in gently by teaching Candy and Wendy English. In fact, all 4 of the staff came, including Melody whose English is pretty good and Jack who could hardly understand me! We did some flyering after I’d finished the lesson, then it was down to the demo! I had 4 students turn up, including two small boys who were silent at the beginning of the lesson, but ended up getting involved. One of the students had signed up already apparently, and the two little boys did too, so 66% isn’t bad?! I think we’re up to 6 students altogether now, as Phil had a few sign up earlier in the week. More demos still to be done and we don’t start the semester until the first weekend in March so plenty of time yet. There’s apparently more competition in Zhangzhou, English schools-wise that Ordos, so it’s always going to be a little difficult at the start. Looking forward to the challenge though!

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Author: Bennett

2 years as an expat in China and now doing the same in New Zealand, Bennett sure likes to experience "slow travel!"

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