This was the first school at which I worked (I was later dismissed due to the fact that I “Don’t talk to kids enough”, about which I could rant for hours -or certainly a good few paragraphs- but I shan’t enter into that just now.
Leads is a boarding near the Nanshan checkpoint in Bao’an, Shenzhen. The kids are there from Sunday morning to Friday evening (Except some of them who live close and come and go)
Which means that the responsibility falls on the teachers to get the little blighters out of bed and dressed in the morning…
The school is situated fairly far out for city standards, surrounded by mountains (See below). It was very nice and peaceful.
I didn’t get too many pictures here. But it was really nice. The hours were rediculously long (About 45/week including training when my contract stipulated less than 25) but the staff were awesome and I really didn’t mind spending every waking moment working.
I had Friday afternoons off (In theory, but we had training), Satarday’s (Which I didn’t get to enjoy due to monatery issues (Which I’ll get into in a minute) and Sunday mornings (Which while I didn’t have to physically teach, I was still expected to stand around, wait for the kids to arrive and talk to parents when the oppertunity presented it’s self. A difficult and decidedly futile task considering the parents spoke about as much English as I did Chinese but I endulged in it with all good nature.
ANYWAY. A few days into my stay and the needs to wash my clothes, not have to raid classroom tissue supplies before bathroom visits and to be able to make coffee in something that wasn’t a plastic water bottle were becomming more and more pressing. SO I decided a visit to the supermarket was in order! A supermarket to which I had never been, had no idea of how it looked, how long on the bus it took to get there or what was sold there. Due to this, a former-English-teacher-unfairly-demoted-to-classroom-assistant named Mina from the Phillipines (Note here a change in my formerly negative views towards Phillipenos) offered to accompany me.
It’s note-worthy at this point that before moving in to Leads Kindergarten, I was given almost no warning what-so-ever before being bundled into a taxi with my bags being forced to spend every last jiao of physical money I had (bar approximately 45RMB I had in 1s which I had erstwhile avoided spending). This naturally meant that a simple visit to a cash machine was in order before I could so much as get on a bus. After having established this, it was a simple matter of finding the nearest one (At the gate to the Middle School a 5 minute walk from the Kindergarten), walking there (it was a bit damp and somewhat cold, but it was no ordeal), inserting my card and withdrawing money. Now, it was at this point that everything in life started to suck that bit harder as the machine gracefully accepted and then proceeded to retain my bank card and only source of currency.
After having gone back to the School and recruited the help of Paul -the head of English- and Linda -his assistant- we returned with high hopes as Paul explained to the guard at the gate (Whom we had failed miserably to communicate our connundrum to) that the machine had kept my card. The guard, upon finally understanding the situation, laughed and said something that I can only assume meant “NT MI PROBLM. LULZ.”
we then returned to the school where I proceeded to live as the hermits live – no money, precious little food and without the ability to wash my clothes.
After a few days, enough became enough. There was no way I could continue rotating through unwashed clothes. So I resolved to embark on a pilgrimmage to the supermarket. I scraped up every last RMB I could find, which as it transpired was just short of 50 -which was more than I had anticipated- and left one warm evening to get the bus. After half an hour of waiting, however, for two busses that were parked at the stop with no apaprent intentions of moving, I got fed up of waiting and returned to the school, spirits somewhat dampened.
The next day at lunch time, I regrouped and made a secont attempt on getting the bus and was thankfully successful! My lunch break was three hours long (Due to the fact the children had a nap), half an hour of which I had already squandered having lunch. I passed through a very down-trodden street market, which had previously been the norm for me in China -The area of Bao’an in which we recieved our training was not a wealthy area- and continued on through the city, all the while growing more and more anxious that I may have missed it. Just when I was at the point of getting off the bus and making my way back to the school, I reached the supermarket (Which incidently puts Brittish “Super”markets to shame). It was a collosal building, which as I discovered after entering, occupied just as much space below ground as it did above. I spent a good 10 minutes completely lost in this department store, wandering amongst clothes all the while feeling more and more uneasy before finally stumbling upon the “supermarket” department. After another 10 minutes or so wasted trying to find detergent and toilet paper in a veritable labarynth, I managed to lay my hands on all three necessary items. (My mug was plastic but it was still a step up from the bottle I had been using previously. I stood for another 5 minutes, counting and recounting my 1RMB notes to try and get the exact money for when I went to the till. (The whole lot came out at about 42RMB, why did nobody tell me detergent was so damned expensive? D:)
Upon arriving at the till, my goods were scanned through no problem, and then the social faux-pas of the century happened. She asked me if I wanted a bag and performed a brief mime (Because obviously I’m a stupid foreigner) but due to the fact that I wasn’t fully certain how to respond in the affermative to this, I resolved merely to give a nod… Which was unfortunately accompanied by an action that I use frequently in Britain as an augmentation to the word “please” -To place my hands together in the manner of one at prayer- which, unfortunately when not actually accompanied by a nod instead of the word please, I realised imediately must have looked identical to racist impression of a Chinese person. This naturally resulted in me recieving no bag and a dirty look from the checkout assistant. So, since I had no idea of the vocabulary to apolagize for such an action, merely ran away and got on the bus back.
But at least I had what I needed now! But even less money than before… Which, in its self, wasn’t a problem while I was at the school -They gave me three meals a day there, so I was fine. Untill, that is, the weekend rolled around, and I was suddenly informed that I would recieve no food for two days. Bollocks. I had three cuppa soups that I’d had with me for two-three weeks since I had left Britain, which I had abstained from drinking because I was sure they’d come in handy. (Bwahaaaha.) Anyway, they were insufficient. On the first day, however, I was attempting to leave the school to have a cigarette (My accomodation was a room on the top floor of the school building it’s self) which meant circum-navigating a large locked gate and I met the most gracious gentleman ever. He let me smoke in his office and gave me some instant noodles. His name was pee-ay (I have no idea how to spell it, but that’s it phonetically). On the second day he took me to the shop and bought me two more instant noodles, a coke and some swiss roles. Brilliant. Anyway, I digress. That all happened over Friday-Satarday. On the Monday, after having just taught my class, Linda -The head of English’s assistant- pops into my class and tells me that she needs to talk to me and THEN tells me that I have to get my things and be off. We had a wee fond farewell (Me and her got on pretty well) and then I went off to get packet. “Accidently” packet the ethernet cable they let me use too. Figured it might come in handy. (Where I’m living as I write this I can see 4 ethernet cables lying around from where I’m sitting alone, so it didn’t really come in very handy at all. But more on that later.)
Soooo off I went back to the ol’ hotel where I did my training.
I’m going to jump past the tale of my quest to get money out. Suffice to say, It took three days of solid walking, the balls of my feet were bruised by the end of it but I managed to have money sent via Western Union.