23rd December – 29th December 2019
I went into Christmas week with high hopes, they were soon dashed! Last week I asked my point of contact with the English department if it would be ok to do a Christmas lesson on Wednesday as it was Christmas day. She gave me the green light and said I could even do the whole week! So I planned my little Christmas lesson, complete with “Santa Shark” (oh yes, there is a Christmas version of “Baby Shark ladies and gentlemen) and went in on Monday fully dressed for Christmas in my “Santa Paws” T-shirt and candy cane earrings. Things were going well, most of the children knew Santa Claus but the other Christmassy characters were unfamiliar to them so we had a bit of fun as I tried to explain each one.
Then there was class five, and to be honest I don’t if it was because I am sick or if it was because we had no Chinese teacher to help us communicate or what was happening but things quickly went awry. The first hurdle seemed to be the word toy as they didn’t understand exactly what the word “toy” translated to in Chinese and they aren’t allowed toys in school so it was hard to give them an example. I tried to explain using a skipping rope but skipping is a competitive sport in schools in China so I don’t think I really got the message across. One student got a little too excited about his skipping rope and as he pulled it out of his desk managed to smash his glass water bottle, which I think actually contained corn juice, on the floor. Queue ten minutes of cleaning up corn juice mixed with glass and one of the Chinese teachers throwing my Q&A prop cards in the bin… even though they were nowhere near the scene of the accident!
Q&A cards retrieved and thoroughly dowsed in hand sanitizer I had about ten minutes of class left to get through about twenty minutes of content and all I wanted to do was go home and have a nap! We rushed through the questions and sang “Santa Shark” before anything else could go wrong.
And here comes the dashing, no I haven’t got one of Santa’s reindeer’s names confused, I mean the dashing of my Christmas hopes! Christmas was banned! Cancelled! Forbidden! Basically the Chinese government has told schools that they must focus on Chinese culture and as a result our school decided that there would be no celebrating Christmas of any kind, including the foreign teacher giving a lesson on the subject. So Monday evening I received a message asking me to plan a new lesson on the topic of food instead.
On Christmas Eve I stopped in at my friend’s restaurant to give her daughter a little Christmas stocking/boot thing that I had put together. I filled it with chocolate a sweets and a tiny little mouse hair tie, I also found a Santa pillow with a tartan Santa hat for sale in Miniso and just had to buy it for her (and one for me too…). I woke up on Christmas morning to a photo of her holding the little mouse hair tie as she slept and it warmed my heart! That’s what Christmas is all about really, it doesn’t have to be a big expensive gift, the little heartwarming moments are what make it special.
It was a beautiful sunny day on Wednesday and it was about 20 degrees Celsius, I wore my Christmas jumper anyway. China might not have been celebrating Christmas but that wasn’t doing to stop me being a walking, talking pot of Christmas spirit! It wasn’t all doom and gloom on Christmas Day though. I tutor three kindergarten students and the main aim of each lesson is to read a book together so I took the book “What’s a Christmas?” into our lesson and played some Christmassy games. I also took three little boots of sweets to class with the deal that if they were well behaved for the whole lesson they would each get one.
The evening was when it really felt like Christmas. One of the other foreign teachers here invited us round for a few drinks, nibbles and Christmas songs. It was lovely to have a group of people together to celebrate Christmas, for a little while I honestly thought I would be celebrating alone!
This turned out to be one of the busiest weeks I’ve had since arriving back in China and I think that helped to keep my mind off of being away from home for the holidays. On Thursday evening the primary school held an “English Competition and Show” for grades one to three. I was asked to come and judge the grade three “Story Telling Competition” and as a result was sat right in the front row. Usually when I go to watch any of the school performances I am way up the back so it was nice to have such a good view for a change. The show lasted about an hour and a half and had everything from songs to spelling bees to short plays. There was even a Christmas song despite the schools no Christmas rule (apparently the head teacher stormed out when he saw it…) It was the perfect way to spend boxing day and it made me strangely emotional, especially when the students sang a song about their dads. It is amazing the amount of effort that goes into these performances and the students all looked so cute in their costumes. In all, just a magical evening.
This week I turned 26, still feels strange to say it out loud. The school is closed for five days starting Tuesday so I ended up having to work on my birthday which wasn’t so bad to be honest. My English department teachers invited me out for dinner to celebrate. When I arrived at the office the exact invitation I got was “We will go for pigeon, to celebrate your birthday”… I had to tell them I was a vegetarian but I happily went to the restaurant and ate all the side dishes of vegetables. It was such a lovely thing for them to do as most of them only had an hour break before they had to go back to work. The school day for primary school here is 6:50 am to 8:30 pm with a two hour lunch break (12 pm – 2:30 pm the students have a scheduled nap in that time) and an hour dinner break (5:30 pm – 6:30 pm) and the teachers take it in turns to shepherd the students from class to the dinner hall to nap time and back to class again.
I share my birthday with my friend’s daughter, Ning Ning. I actually think this fact is one of the things what led us to become good friends, when they found out last year they got so excited and insisted that I celebrate my birthday with them and I quite happily accepted. This year was much more chilled out because Ning Ning’s mum is pregnant and due at the end of January but there was still plenty of love and, most importantly, cake to go around!
If you’ve been reading these weekly update since I started back in November then you will know that I lost my lucky bracelet on my way to China. I’m not usually a superstitious person but even I had to admit that my first few weeks in China didn’t exactly go smoothly! My friend Rose (Ning Ning’s mum) helped me realise that all my bad luck started when I lost that bracelet. As the weeks have gone by my luck seems to have evened out and to be honest I stopped thinking about my bracelet, but Rose had not. For my birthday she gave me two bracelets; the first is a traditional Chinese style bracelet made by bending and drying a plant stem to fit the wrist, attached is a little money bag to bring me good luck and, to quote Rose, “a lot of money.” Here’s hoping! The second is made from Chinese red beans, red is the luckiest colour in China. In Chinese culture it represents joy and happiness as well as luck, it can also mean celebration, vitality and even fertility in the traditional colour system and it is commonly believed that red helps to ward off evil spirits. Basically I am super lucky now.
What a final week of 2019! It’s been a pretty wild ride to here but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world because every experience has made me whole. This week has made my heart so full and it’s about to overflow because in one week I fly home for a month and a half of catch ups, adventures and freezing temperatures.
Happy New Year and remember… Christmas will never be banned if I’m around!
For more of my China adventures click on one of these: