We went back to the office where Baruch gave me my teaching books. As he handed them over he told me although these were the books I could teach what ever I wanted. I was a bit confused at, and a little alarm bell rang in my head.
. All my students, across the three classes, were in their final year, so there was little motivation to turn up, even though they were required to ‘by law,’ and will fail their course if they were away for more than one third of the classes. Despite this they were not turning up. I was told these students were the ‘worst English students’ of their year.
When Richard turned up, he looked surprised to see me. ‘What are you doing here?‘ he asked. ‘Arthur told me to come,’ I said. ‘Arthur told me that you had told him what time I was to be here.’ I wasn’t expected to be there until Sunday apparently, things get lost in translation, or just not mentioned at all.
We were given a quick tour around the college, it was MASSIVE, from the front gate to my classroom block was a fifteen-minute walk.
Arthur is a LOUD exhibitionist that camouflages deep insecurities – he will say this himself, so I’m not doing him a disservice in describing him like that.
Tim and Suzy (notice teacher in bed behind Tim)
I had met Tim and Suzy, an American couple, in the grounds of my apartment, as I was coming or going one day. They were new like me, and fortunately were going to be working at the same college as I was. They were a bit younger than me; Tim had been a successful builder in Florida until the great American crash had wiped him, and his business out.
“Nanjing is a very pleasant city, despite being known as one of the three huolu, or furnaces, of central China, on account of its hundred-degree summers. Located mostly on the south bank of the Yangtze River, it has a population of more than 6 million people.” China Road: One Man’s Journey into the Heart of Modern China by Rob Gifford
“The name Nanjing (formerly spelt Nanking) means nothing fancier than ‘Southern Capital’. (Beijing means ‘Northern Capital. Tokyo is called Dongjing, which means ‘Eastern Capital’. There is no Western Capital). The city rests on layer upon layer of Chinese history.” 1421: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies.
In the Hong Kong departure lounge I had soon tracked down a cappuccino, and a blueberry muffin. Although I was quite tempted by the Sea Blubber and Chilli – it was a toss up as to whether I had the poached vegetables in oil … oh well another day perhaps.
In the hotel – I pressed the button marked Jingle bells – but Santa never showed.
Then I checked out the things that were nicely presented on a shelf next to the water bottles. There was a little rack that had men’s underwear, ladies underwear and condoms all lined up.
Escaping the tedium of the office, and salary and the nine to five slog
I have had Darling Daughter stay with me every other weekend practically since she was born. Like most dad’s I really wanted to be a twenty-four – seven, three hundred and sixty five days a year dad, but that wasn’t to be. I have tried to be the best dad I could be. I love my Darling Daughter, but I too have a life.
The goodbyes were swift and painful, tears were spilt, but it was best they got in their car and just went – I had a plane to catch.
It was made official I was on the scrapheap. My voluntary redundancy from the university was confirmed. I had been getting a bit worried as time was moving on and the agency in China had started to talk about getting visa’s and airplane tickets, and seminars in Beijing.
I couldn’t believe I had been at the Plymouth University for twenty-four years. That’s a long time.
Packing for China – the final 20 kilo
In no particular order and with some explanation… plus an afterthought did I need it or could I have bought it in China?
Black shoes for work
Running shorts – Lycra – can buy in China
Running shirt – long sleeves – can buy in China (unless large size)
Fred Perry Polo Shirt
Waxed type Jacket
Black and White Kefeya Scarf
Casual Rugby style shirts x 2 – 1long sleeve and 1 short sleeve
Track suit bottoms – new and thick and warm x1 – can buy
University of Plymouth Hoodie – parting gift from my job – I asked for it, and they are warm and good quality
Large Bath sheet – smaller ones can be purchased in China but not bath sheets
1 pair black jeans – can buy H&M or Uniqlo
1 pair Khaki Chinos – can buy H&M or Uniqlo
4 cotton shirts – for work etc – can buy H&M or Uniqlo unless large size (can be made)
2 x thermal vests and 2 x thermal long johns – I’m told that there is no heating in Chinese schools
6 pairs underpants (M&S of course) – can buy look out for Mini So stores
10 pairs of socks (1 pair a month huh?) -can buy look out for Mini So stores
1 woolly hat (courtesy of Darling Daughter, she bought it in Marrakesh)
1 woolly bobble hat – can buy
1 pair thick socks – can buy
Running trousers (Lycra) – can buy
That’s it in terms of clothes
Also in the suitcase is:
A bag with 6 underarm deodorants (from the £1 shop) – reduced from 10 – apparently you can’t get deodorant in China! You can buy it’s rare and expensive – Find a Mini So shop
Plus 5 small bottles of shaving oil.
Various prescription medicines, 3 Ventolin and 3 of the steroid puffers. 3 packs of Imodium (just in case!), about 12 of my migraine drugs (but hopefully will not need) cliploc bags x 2 boxes for teacher in china. 2 x large bars of chocolate requested by teacher in china.
Swiss Army penknife.
Unfortunately Snooks couldn’t fit as she’s 5.5 kilos….and this wasn’t posed she got in my suitcase – she’s been following me around like a shadow for the past week – I think she knows…..
Im also allowed 7 kilos in my carry on cabin bag and I can take my laptop bag on with me.
My carry on allowance is 7 kilo. I’m using a backpack and have just about squeezed 7 kilo of stuff in.
This is it:
From the bottom up:
Canvas tote bag with a big plastic bag of PG Tips in it! Talk about coals to Newcastle – I’m taking tea to China! – Very important – you cannot get decent tea.
Clean shirt – Ben Sherman
Micro fleece – can buy
Multi coloured fleece – can buy in Uniqlo
Rough Guide to China
Recharging cables for kindle, camera and new mobile phone (you can get the plugs and peripherals everywhere)
In the front pocket:
First aid kit
Shoe polish for the Cherry Reds
Toilet paper (moist) Apparently this is crucial when out and about around the Chinese City (you can buy)
6 migraine medicines
Lemsips x 10 (gold dust take more)
Anadia extra (take more) (Also think about your favourite cold remedy and Olbas oil for steaming your chest)
And in my Laptop bag which is also pushing 5 kilo
Photos (to show students)
Spare glasses x 1
Spare sun glasses x 1
4 x teaching books
2 x 100 index cards – useless
Mac book pro and charger (technology is priced the same as UK in China)
Plymouth photo souvenir book – for students
Ventolin (be prepared – I was a scout after all)
and Brown inhaler
pen pencil etc
So that’s it apart from the clothes I’ll be wearing,
I am planning on wearing during the trip, blue jeans, shirt, Dr Martens shoes, black jacket – and the crombie overcoat I’ll have to carry.
I had a response to an application from a school in China. A school in Shanghai was considering me for a September start. This was more than exciting – I felt that I was getting somewhere and despite my age I was still employable, at least by a school in China. Shanghai – who wouldn’t be entranced by the oriental mystery that is Shanghai?
It’s a name that conjures up a million images, mostly stereotyped and hackneyed images of pigtailed coolies pulling rickshaws, while beautiful black haired Chinese girls in qipao’s lounge in the seat smoking, and looking sexy and exotic while the sharp suited Westerner shouts at the locals. All in sepia tones, because for some reason, my daydreams of Shanghai were all set in the 1930’s.
But I was offered another option – Mongolia. My inner adventurer told me straight away to choose Mongolia. For me it was the place to go, I mean who wouldn’t want to choose Mongolia – Inner or Outer? The wide-open steppes and grasslands dotted with yurts and gers, Genghis Khan, men on horse back playing ‘polo’ with a decapitated goat.
JANUARY 21: Afghan horsemen compete in the traditional game of Buzkashi in Kabul, Afghanistan. Buzkashi, which translates to ‘goat grabbing,’ is the national sport of Afghanistan. During this team sport players try to grab a headless goat carcass from the ground and pitch it into a scoring area. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
But first I had to start to think about the process of getting my Chinese Visa which meant a visit to the doctor to pay for a medical.
The first of March 2011 was the first day of the rest of my life. I was refusing to be a slave, a wage slave, and I was marching on.
Happy doing the TEFL course
Even though I was a bit scared of the English, and of being a student of English grammar, it was still exciting. I had ninety days to do the course, before, I supposed, in a quasi-Mission Impossible way, the Internet course would self-destructed.
There were twelve of us and it was nice to meet with others who wanted to get abroad and teach English. I was the oldest the others were mainly students. We had lots of fun, although it was pretty intense at times.