In which I fall in love with China once again
It’s always the same isn’t it, when you return back from a holiday? That slightly depressed feeling from coming down from your holiday high. Imagine that combined with coming back from a holiday you’ve dreamed about for over a decade… Not pretty, right?
Yesterday however, I was reminded why I had chosen to extend my initial 6 month stay into a 2 year one. It’s lovely when these little reminders come when you least expect them to.
It wasn’t even that big nor impressive an event, just a trip to a new kindergarten than Phil had been teaching at whilst I’d been away. Teaching in kindergartens is nothing new to me, so off I went with Rachel.
Only to be greeted with the room of biggest smiling faces I have ever seen. They were enthusiastic in their hellos and this little thing made me fall in love with China again, knowing I have one of the best jobs in the world. The smiling faces continued for the other 2 classes until the teachers were ushering me to the waiting room, where I would wait to say goodbye to all the students when they went home. They also present me with a baozi (steamed dumpling) and some milk! I have never received anything like this at a school before, so I was enjoying something new in China, even 16 months down the line!
However, I didn’t have all that much time to dive into my baozi, as the school security guard came over to talk to me. I’m usually pretty wary of these guys, as we’ve had altercations with some in the past, but this guy was unbelievably friendly. He asked me about everything, and most of what he said to me I could understand and reply to. Here’s a rough outline of our conversation and remember this was all in Chinese (his comments are in italics and mine I’ve very proud of!):
- “What’s your name?” Sarah
- “Where is the male foreign teacher?” He’s my boss and he’s in Inner Mongolia.
- “Where are you from?” I’m from England. I’ve lived in Zhangzhou for more than a year, and Inner Mongolia for 6 months. “Inner Mongolia is cold” Yes, very cold!
- “I can’t understand English. I can’t speak English, I’m too old. There are many people in China but not many can speak English. The children learn it, but the old people forget it!” Yes
- “How old are you?” 24
- “Do you like spicy food?“ Yes I do, do you? “No, I don’t like spicy food.”
- “You are very tall” Yes, some women from England are very tall. My boss is quite short though. “Yes, he is! How tall are you?” I’m 1.8m “1.8m! That’s very tall!”
- (A teacher walks in) “You are younger than her, she’s 25, a dragon“ I’m a dragon too. So I’m 25 in China and 24 in England. “Yes, that’s right” The next is snake? “Yes, the snake.”
- Mimes and says: “Do you have a boyfriend?” No! I don’t want one. I want to go to other countries. “How about Chinese men?” Chinese men are too short. “Yes they are and you are very tall”
Shortly after this the parents began to arrive and the security guard was telling them all about me as they were all a little surprised to see me. Some of the mums were also talking about my hair, how they wanted my colour and the fact that my skin is very white. Although, my colleagues are constantly calling me “black” now, because I’m pretty tanned after my New Zealand trip. I try to put them right, but they don’t seem to listen!
What was great about the security guard was that he was patient with my answers. If my tones were wrong, or I took a few seconds to think of the answer, he didn’t mind. Sometimes when I try to speak Chinese I find people can’t even be bothered to try an understand me, so the fact he was listening to me really meant a lot.
So, there you have it, I’ve fallen in love with China all over again through a simple experience at a school. There are still little surprises, little observations that I make everyday which would bore most of you half to death if I were to explain them. They all however, make up the reasons as to why I am in love with China. I may not have travelled all that much but I feel safe in saying that there is definitely not a country like it.