Sue meets China - a battle of wills

[EDITOR'S NOTE - Sue's blog is sent via email direct from China and therefore includes any grammatical errors caused by character set incompatibility and/or Chinese government censoring]

See Virtual Tours of China

Hi Heres an update on life here in China.

First pay this week ¨C after lots of calculating and long division we were very excited to be receiving approximately 140 pounds¡­.as usual this was not quite what happened with Sharyn the wicked witch of the east. After tracking her down throughout the day ¨C she finally deemed to see us. The wages were ¡®not quite ready¡¯ but could she see our insurance certificates. We showed her but she wanted copies¡­.me ¡®wheres the photocopier?¡¯¡­small tilt of the head and puzzled look on her face ¡­¡¯oh you have to go into town¡¯ pointing vaguely in the city direction¡­me ¡®there is no photocopier here in school?¡¯ ¨C cos you wouldn¡¯t expect one would you in a school with 5000 pupils and 400 staff and more electronic hardware than Ive ever seen in my life ¨C greater tilt to the head¡­finger to chin¡­¡¯oh yes there may be one but you will have to pay¡¯¡­I said ¡®you want the copy, you go and get them..¡¯! Later a non-english speaking lady turned up with a bundle of cash which I took but it bore absolutely no resemblance to my wages.

Off I went to challenge Sharyn who immediately said she knew it was wrong and it was Mr Way - her leader and a bit of a ladykiller we think, he is certainly very dapper - being generous¡­and the conversation continued with Sharyn denying that there were 12 months in a year. I took the cash as I may never see any more. This week has been the week of ¡®forums¡¯ ¨C two forums with teachers and students to discuss western and Chinese education ¨C I tell you all this is going on my cv ¨C and it was all filmed and photographed for prosperity. Also Womens Day ¨C the local Workers Party Leader turned up with gifts ¨C a duvet and cinema tickets ¨C and he was a very charming man. We were meant to have the day off or overtime if we worked ¨C of course Sharon said there in fact had been a ¡®little mistake¡¯ and in fact we had to work but we¡¯d get 40Y for whole day ¨C that’s 2 pounds 80p!!

Saw the terracotta army over the weekend ¨C it was amazing ¨C went there on the bus which only cost 5Y instead of the tourist 240Y ¨C so a bit of a bargain. Quite exciting too fighting through the massive mob at the bus station. And when we went past the official toll station everyone who was standing (ie overcrowded) had to crouch on the floor. Also went to the wholesale market which was massive ¨C just indescribably big ¨C I bought a dressing gown and 13 dvds for about 1.50!! This poor guy sorted through his entire stock to find English language ones. Everyone ¨C excepting Sharyn of course ¨C is so nice.

List of Bank Holidays in China

On the food front still no poisoning but we are working our way down the levels of luxury. The first night we were here we were taken to a very grotty looking cafe¨¦ on the corner… ¨C this now looks like haute cuisine premises! We have been going to the ¡®Muslim¡¯ (there is a big muslim population here) It is very local place and really really busy. They cook outside and the guy who does the noodles is amazing. He gets the dough and pulls it until it becomes noodles. There is a brasier on the go with a wok on top and every now and then he switches on a fan which blasts air in and stokes up the fire. The food is amazing. But last night we went for the street food up the road. Every time we walk past they are creating what we call the ¡®green lasagne¡± it is actually green noodles. This time it is not a cafe¨¦ at all, just some stools on the pavement and cooking from a brazier and kebabs from a coal fire. Last night we had the green noodles and the spicy bread I really liked it. It isnt really sensible to negotiate the whole shopping and cooking thing. All that bargaining and picking and weighing¡­

Last week was sex week. Some of you might have heard this all before but ¡­..We have another language assistant here ¨C Tom the Finn. When we asked him out he said he couldn¡¯t go cos he is a vegan. Well last week he asked us out¡­where¡¯d we go ¨C yes the local brothel for a foot massage ¨C and extras if you wanted!!! It was very unsettling and additionally that morning I¡¯d found out that the last language assistant ¨C Saint Ben as he has been named by me as he appears to do no wrong with the kids ¨C was actually using the school computer for access to THOSE WEB SITES ¨C can¡¯t say as already had one email blocked but you do know!! It was a bit of a shock hunting for yahoo and finding ¡­..just general genitalia!!

When we came back from the brothel ¨C as you do ¨C there was a big crowd outside of school. Lots of singing and the most amazing Chinese instruments. I went round the back to have a good look at it all ¨C it was like a tent ¨C like a fair but tiny. Anyway, everyone was on the jo (vodka) and gave me a seat and cigarettes and peanuts and everyone was very jolly bar the old ladies at the front who looked miserable to me. Anyway next day I happened to mention this to the kids who told me it was a Chinese wake!! I have never gatecrashed a chinese wake. In fact I was really privileged cos this particular thing is very rare in urban areas and dying out in rurual areas too.

Your China travel photos

And on Saturday there was more singing and dancing. When we were dropped by a demented cab driver at the city wall we followed a crowd who were singing and dancing traditional Chinese folk songs (I think, frankly it could have been anything but they had red scarves and stuff and looked suitably communist). Then they haul us in and we have to dance (I apparently have ¡®good time¡¯!!!) and then horror we have to sing. Yes the fiddler player insisted ¨C What do you sing in china when you need to be accompanied? Frere Jacques, Happy Birthday and Jingle Bells!!! ¨C see my singing is now known worldwide. And later the evening was finished off by me being chatted up by a 26 year old who was very very cute and very very drunk!! Anyway that is most of my news ¨C I wont bore you with my domestic cleaning which is a major part of my day and the constant bells ¨C no not Notre Dame but those bloody school alarms from 6.30 am.

Love to everyone and stay in touch
lots and love sue xxxxxxxxxxxx