Well, after a bit of an absence, I am back! I have been laying low for awhile, getting back into routine and organization for school, and filming many of our students as they get closer to having their own newscast. This project involved the students picking out a news article from the paper, writing it in their own words, and then reading it on camera as if they were on a real news broadcast. They really got into it and chose some interesting topics, and I am finished filming them all. Next week, we will film them doing commercials that they wrote for products that they came up with on their own. Once that is finished, the really big job begins…..the editing! It will be a long process, but we hope to put together all of the reports and then show the classes their work on the big screen in one of our classrooms. We are also trying to convince them that we should have a blooper reel, but we have met with some resistance to that idea!
As we make our way around town, we are still getting the long, long looks and actually having people stop what they are doing to stare at us. Most days it doesn’t bother me, and I say hello in either English or Chinese whenever it happens, but when I am tired, it seems that I am more sensitive than I would like to admit! As much as I love being here, love my job and enjoy working with some great people, there are some things I just can’t get used to:
-spitting in the street, on the subway, in the buildings……they even have “NO SPITTING” signs in the subway corridors now, so they are trying to change it……but I am a person with a weak gag reflex – all I have to hear is the sound of that coming up and I either make a run for it or plug my ears!
-in Shanghai, there is a separate lane for bicycles and scooters/motorcycles. However, apparently it is more fun to scare the foreigners walking on the sidewalk, because even if the scooter lane is empty, the sidewalk is where they want to drive! I will never understand it! Oh, and they honk their horn all the way, because you are in their path!
-the “me first” attitude is prevalent here. We were paying for something and another customer thrust his purchase in front of us to pay first. When we resisted, he looked shocked!
-along the same vein, the amount of pushing and shoving to get on the subway is crazy! We try not to take the subways during rush hour as it is too much for me! I have never seen so many people pushing at once, not even giving the people on the subway a chance to get off of it! I have nightmares about us being separated with one of us on the train and one left behind, hehehe!
-lack of communication: here, things are told to us on a “need to know” basis…..and apparently we don’t need to know many things. Tonight, there is a parent – teacher meeting going on at the school. We found out about it quite by accident, and when we requested information about when to come, we were told that it wasn’t necessary for us to be there. As well, we were supposed to go on a field trip today (which was cancelled due to rain). When they came to tell us about it, they didn’t know where we were going, only that it was a “Shanghai suburb”. They weren’t sure of the time, or the address, either. There is no parental consent form, and I am not even sure that the parents knew about it!
-lack of safety. In anything. There are no seatbelts in the taxis, except up front, but if you put it on, you are insulting the taxi driver’s ability to drive. Many times we have been in a taxi where the driver just decides to go into the oncoming lane to get ahead. I ALWAYS sit in the back, where I can’t see what’s coming. ALWAYS! At school, they did a fire “safety” demo…..with a huge metal bin on fire, with all the kids surrounding it. They used 4 fire extinguishers to put it out, and the pavement was covered in the white powder from them. Again, the kids were all standing outside watching this, fairly close by! There is no supervision at lunch, inside or out, and one day we saw 3 middle school students(their building is on the same site as ours) climbing to the top of a 6-storey building and balancing on top of the “safety” bars that are in place to stop one from falling. One slip and they would have fallen to their death! We ran to get a teacher but by the time they got there, the students were gone. Crazy! After sports day, I saw 2 kids playing with the starter pistol in the schoolyard. I guess no one else did!
-it is now very cold in our school, as we have an area at the top of the building that is open on the sides to the outdoors. The hallways are freezing, but we all have heaters in the classroom. I go in about 10 minutes early to warm the place up, and SHUT THE WINDOWS! For some reason, none of the Chinese teachers use the heaters very much……or they have it set to 30C, and then have the windows wide open. Then they have their coats done up to the top of their necks. It’s nuts, I tell ya! Many of them sit in their offices all bundled up, no heat, and a window open!
-smoking in the school. I can’t believe how many teachers smoke in the hallways on their way to class, or in their offices(or, believe it or not, in the kids’ bathroom between classes). There are numerous “NO SMOKING” signs all over the place, and it was a bit of a struggle for us to tell them that we were not going to allow any smoking on our floor. They don’t do it anymore, but the teachers from the floor below us do, so the smoke from them wafts up to us because our floors are all open.
This past week we had sports day as well. It was a beautiful sunny day, but quite cold. We walked to a different field, as ours was too small…..but it was only our school, not the entire district, as we were led to believe, so we could have done it right at home! The students had different teams according to their grade level, and did things like the three legged race but with 16 people (quite funny to watch), a skipping competition, a dance/cheer in front of judges, running 100 metres, and lots of marching! At the end of most of the events they had tug-of-war competitions that got rather crazy, but the kids had fun. They had a starter pistol for all of the events, and used it with no regard to safety, or other people close by(see above comments about “things I will never get used to”, lack of safety is a big one!). They do not get any ribbons or recognition that we know about, but it’s a half day off of regular school, so no one complains! The kids are expected to make their own way there and back, no supervision at all. No one skipped school, however, so whatever they have told the kids about coming back seems to work!
Now don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy it here! I didn’t want to make this one long complaint about things here; it’s just that I find it hard to understand the way they do things sometimes. It’s never easy to be a foreigner in a strange land, but you make your adjustments, move on and learn to appreciate the good things we do have here. I know we have mentioned the foot massages before, but I can tell you that when we return home, I will shed many tears over not having my weekly massage because they are THAT GOOD! It’s heavenly times infinity. Also, this weekend, I am going to pick up my new red trench coat and 2 shirts I had made when we went to the fabric market last week. I got all three items made to order for about $100 Cdn. Luckily, I have Bruce, who is the best negotiator you will ever see in action. I’m usually all ready to give in to their price, and he gets them even lower! I have since learned to just keep my mouth shut! We have become more adventurous in our dining, too. There is so much to choose from, you could eat food from another country every night of the week for a very long time! I usually cook for the first half of the week ( Sun to Wed) and then we eat out the other 3 nights. I do miss red licorice though!
Well, those are some of the random thoughts flying around me these days….there are more, but I will save them for another time! Hugs! Take a look at some of the random photos I have taken as I learn to use my new camera!