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]

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Hi, Nearly a week in school and it feels like a lifetime!! We had a few teething problems but my party piece this week which was addressing 5,000 chinese school children and their 400 teachers ....I don't remember the conversation when this was discussed...!! It was staggering to see all these black haired children silent and bowed!!! Yes and the classes smallest class has 43 'olympic' children in it and the other 16 are between 59 and 70 - its just as well they have a reputation for being passive and quiet!!! Though there have been a few challenges to that sterotype (thank goodness!) We are woken up each morning by announcements and music (!) yes I'm not sure what they mean but its clearly not anything Im familiar with.

Xi'an is seriously dirty and polluted - Im getting a mask today cos Im sick of choking - and there is a constant moving around of either dust (when its dry) or dirty water when its wet. The traffic is a tufty club here! We – that’s me and my colleague Jill usually take a cab but its always to the same place cos its the only landmark I can say in Chinese! Its a good laugh though - last night we got a dvd cos I have the privilege of a laptop! We had a pirate copy of Oceans 12 with an awful lot of background noise in Chinese. It was quite a challenge renting it though nothing compared to eating out with my only chinese vocabulary of 'bill' 'beer' 'spirits' or 'dumplings'! The other night I resorted to walking round the tables pointing at everyone's food. Every single thing is hard work - its a really labour intensive country.

The accommodation was a bit of an issue to start with ...actually it continues to be a bit of an issue.. We arrived and were shown the accommodation...Jill's was filthy..thick dust everywhere and clearly someone had only just left the bed!! And mine ...well mine was almost beyond description!! I had an enclosed outside space with a cold tap into a stone sink....the loo - squat of course into an open drain - was in a narrow cupboard with a shower over head. there was no tiling just broken and chipped was truly ghastly!! Anyway, there was some discussion with Sharon our contact - locally referred to as 'dragon lady' - who told me I should be grateful to have the privilege of a shower over an open sewage drain!

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I have now moved to a very nice apartment that still has a shower over an open drain and still has only a cold water tap but- my sink is glazed and I have a very nice slatted wooden tray to put over the hole so I dont lose my soap!! I have spent all my spare time scrubbing with some sort of evil soap which seems to be the only cleaning product available! Sharon was so funny over the lights - most of the bulbs were gone in the flat. I said - can you replace the light bulbs Sharon. She brought a man along and when the bulbs didn't fit said ...these lights are only for decoration....then....the man can't get the light bulbs out.....these bulbs use too much will pay for all this extra electricity...!!! I can now see at night but I did take my life into my own hands when I replaced the light bulb in the 'kitchen area'... standing on the window sill...unscrewing an ancient bulb from a broken fitting ..Anyway I survived.

There are few tourists here at the moment cos its out of season but we have met about four Westerners and eaten and drunk large quantities while comparing notes on accommodation, pay, children etc. The food so far is excellent and no food poisoning but its not a bit familiar ...there was a nasty moment around 'snake' last night...but mostly its delicious. It was 'lantern night' on Wednesday which is the last night of the New Year. We went to the public square and watched the fireworks ..actually they were all thrown quite literally into the sky which was a bit unsettling. The noise was trememdous with the firecrackers everywhere...and you couldn't get a cab for love or money ..I had a big barney with a toottoot driver...and so he lost his 4Y fare - thats 28p!!

Anyway I have to go and address my kiddies now..the same lesson for the 14th can be a bit tedious but at least it gives you the chance to perfect it. There is an expectation that you are in at 8.00 a.m and dont leave til 5.00 p.m. Of course I haven't done that and cos the chinese dont like conflict they haven't challenged us...but it clearly going to be an issue as everything else is...All the teachers sit around eating nuts and playing on the internet ...for me I only need to prepare one lesson a week so I did that day one!! Ive now transferred it to power point which Ive never used before ... and Ive certainly not used in chinese...yes computer in chinese too..

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Email me cos Ive got time on my hands in this staff room!!! Lots of love Sue