Paying up front

In China people typically pay up front. From buying phones outright and then paying-as-you-go, to gyms or lessons for the kids. I’ve always balked at it. So it was with drama lessons we bought for Elise that we’ve just found won’t be starting again. Apparently the money isn’t coming back and we don’t have any interest in the online lessons they’re offering.

I’m hopeful that, in the future, that paying up front won’t happen so much. That people will more hesitant to put down a lot of money. We’ll see…

The Home Office

This story of a British lawyer being refused a visa he didn’t apply for always gets me as I imagine us in that situation, trying to navigate the UK Home Office to get Lyra a visa. It’s not a simple process.

Deep breath

The classroom is nearly as set up as it’s going to be. We have new students coming in tomorrow for a short while to meet us. Then we start in earnest on Monday. Most of our students will be in school, with a few not because they’re unable to get into the country.

It feels like this will be the last pause before everything becomes chaotic next week. Trying to take a moment to breathe before that all starts.

Full names.

It’s interesting to hear Elise talking to classmates as she leaves school. In Chinese she uses their full name - which is normally two or three characters and so that many ‘sounds’. So, it doesn’t make saying the whole name too long.

I thought how strange that would be if children did that in the UK or similar places.

Adventures.

Our youngest likes to see the light rail trains.

We always point them out when we see them. Yet, we don’t ever take them even though the station is only 5 minutes walk from our flat. It’s easier to drive or take a Didi (Chinese Uber). So this afternoon we took the kid on it. Lyra found a restaurant near* a stop that’s 6 stops away. So we donned our masks since it’s one of the few places that you still have to wear them and we went.

It was nice. It felt like an adventure.

We walked (and walked). We saw things. We explored a new area a little. It made us realise we didn’t do this much. We drive and and we go to the same places a lot. We said, we should do this again soon. Admittedly we also said it would be easier when the kids are bigger too!

Then we found the place, a Korean bbq restaurant, that was busier then we expected but was worth the wait. We’d bought some baozi (steamed buns) for the kids on the way to keep the kids occupied a little. I had a couple of beers, Lyra and I shared some plum wine too. The place was busy in a good way. I started to feel a little drunk, in the best kind of way.

Here’s to next time.

*It wasn’t near.

Holidays.

We travel a fair bit. Partly, I think because of our location - which makes Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam relatively short flights away but mostly because of our global family. We travel a lot to see family. The joke is that we couldn’t be further apart. We’re in China, Mum and Dad are in Mauritius, sister is on the West Coast of America and my brother is in the UK. Mum and dad buy round-the-world tickets to visit us all.

When we had just had our eldest we travelled a fair bit with her because 2:1 is a decent ratio for childcare but we’re finding that with a second child that ratio ain’t so grand. It’s a holiday, but not as you know it.

We’ve just got back from 6 days in Sanya on the island of Hainan on the south coast of China. I realise we are lucky to have gotten away in the current situation.

It was very up and down. The pools were lovely, obviously hotel breakfast is great but the much smaller space of a hotel room made things more difficult sometimes and stressful.

I am glad we did it though. I am back and feeling a little calmer about things generally. Now to start put my computer down a little more, spend a little more time with the kids and wife, exercise a little more and read a little more.

School finished today.

Students had their last day yesterday and teachers finished today. We did a little more packing up and that was that.

It’s always a strange day. In international teaching, there’s always staff leaving as contracts end. As well, this year, some teachers are still out of the country. Of whom some will return and others won’t. The last we saw of them was them was the end of January. Those who won’t return, we likely won’t ever see them again.

I’m trying to dampen the anxiety of next year. There’s going to be so many changes and I can’t help let the worries build, a little at least. How will I do this or that and how will things work out? I’m trying to let them go, for now at least.

Instead, to try and relax a little. To maybe reflect on the last 5 months. Of our the quarantine, e-learning programme, of going back to school again.

Sometimes

Sometimes, I like living in a country where I don’t speak the language and where people who do speak it are few are a far between.

It appeals to my introverted side.

I liken it to living in a bubble. And sure, it’s more complex than that but, really, most of the time I’m ok with it. After, 8 years of it. It’s my normal.

And the people who do speak my language are typically, almost exclusively, the people that I work with. And if those are my people, that’s great. And sometimes they are. And often, they never stay long.

And that’s really hard, sometimes.

Driving in China - Lessons in life.

I rediscovered that I had a journal in Day One titled Driving in China that I’ve tried to write some pithy words talking about my experiences driving here and to turn them into ‘Life Lessons.’ My experiences of driving are of driving in the UK for 10+ years and now driving in China for nearly 4 years now.

Driving here, there are the official rules and there are the rules of the road. At first, driving here was terrifying. Yes, the lane markings indicate two lanes but the physical space can fit 3 cars, so we’ll do that. My biggest gripe is the, as I see it, impatience of drivers. Like yesterday, I stopped at a crossing to let someone go across but the car behind me undertook me, because why would you wait? Anyway, that’s my second idea: Driving in China - Lessons in Mindfulness.

Lesson 1 >The ‘fast’ lane isn’t always the fast lane. >Sometimes people will say, “do this, it’s the quickest way,” and sometimes it is. Don’t assume the quickest way is the same for everyone.

(In the UK we have 4 lanes some places but here there’s 4, 5 and 6 lanes everywhere. There’s no lane discipline. It’s normal for people to undertake, to speed down the ‘slow’ lane and go between two cars.)

Morning jealousy

I’ve always been a little jealous of other’s morning routines. Since, these days, mine rarely involves, peace, quiet or stillness. Instead it involves 1 or 2 small children, argy-bargy, nappies, a rushed coffee and getting out the door with my head-not-right at 7am.

It wasn’t always like this, and I’m sure it won’t be like this forever but for now, it’s hard. Especially since work is especially is, how to put it - time-consuming at the moment. We continue to support out students not coming into school, while some students are in school.

With all that said. Every morning, either in the Didi (Uber) or sitting in the car park after driving to work, I’ve been putting a few words into my Day One journal. And it’s been good, actually. Not all of it has been positive but I’m hoping it’s a start of a habit…

China!

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Work in progress.

Hanzi

 

火锅

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Put over a high heat until boiling. Add meat and veg.

 

Meeting with Liz

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Short, expensive visit to the British Consulate today to promise I’m not married.

Chinese notes

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