Sorry for the lack of blogging and pictures lately; I have been rather busy getting used to a fair bit. Since my last blog, we have finished our teacher course, the volunteers have all separated into pairs to travel to different provinces. I have left Kunming, and flown through to the other side of this large country, to the north eastern province of Jiangsu, into the small town of Pizhou, where Alexi (fellow Aussie-English teacher) and I have moved into an apartment right next to our college where we will be living and teaching for the next 3 and a half months.
Before I delve into Pizhou life, I can successfully say that, after having vowed so, the following day after my last blog, I went for a run again with some of the other volunteers and we tried Tai Chi!! We stumbled across a class of about 7-10, mostly elderly, along the banks of Green Park Lake, where we melted into the session. The instructor switched on a track of soothing, traditionally sounding chinese music, (of which I have finally found on youtube and is already engrained into my brain) and in the sun by the lake, we spent a beautiful 10 minutes (maybe longer, not sure!) performing tai chi. Not that any of us volunteers had any idea if we were doing the right thing or not! It was probably the strangest site for passers by to see white people taking part in this. It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.
Anyway, back to the travels. After a 2 hour flight from Kunming, instead of mountains, it was farmlands and fields in a much greyer sky that we saw when landing in Jiangsu. This was going to be vastly different to living in a city. We met Susan, our link teacher of our college, a lovely kind smiley person who speaks VERY good english. Something we’re hugely grateful for. Susan drove us to our placement, where on the way we discovered the common vehicles that are around in Pizhou. Bikes. So many bikes. And Tuk-Tuks (tiny mini 3-wheeled trucks) which I’ve seen in Kenya as well, which are slowly becoming my dream vehicle of all time. The streets are always busy and hectic, crowds of people. Packed with small markets and of course, street food stalls. Typically ran by elderly locals who are the masters the giant pan over a small fire, the meals range from pancakes, wraps, noodles, broth, the list goes on. The grittiness of it all is what makes it such a spectacle.
We had been shown our apartment through a Facebook video by former volunteer Josh Gilbert, so we had a vague idea of what we were going to be met with when we arrived at the front door for real. It was slightly bigger than I expected, but little did we know about the things we were to be experiencing for the first 2 weeks here. The place is tucked away in a small alleyway beside the busy streets. The walls leading up to it are laden with literally hundreds of numbers and chinese characters, which we believe are workers doing their best to advertise their services to others. It’s unbelievable. Eventually, you get to our door. Unfortunately is more or less the same as outside, with the exception of a few warm days, mostly 2-5 degrees. As I’m writing this post I am currently sat in my room in 3 thick layers including thermals, a beanie hat, and slippers. Warm enough. I have a good room, with a nice double bed, with which I can also achieve a toasty temperature, and a heater that does next to nothing. It switches off after about 20 minutes. We have a TV with one english channel, hence, Alexi and I have mostly been resorting to movies on my laptop, so far, ‘Blades of Glory’ and (culturally immersive of course) ‘The Last Emperor’. Our kitchen was flooding small puddles for a day or 2 after switching the tap on for the first time; there was a leak, and it’s not until we got it fixed and the mopping stopped that you finally appreciate running water! The same goes for hot water, of which we had none for a day or two, and was glorious to have when that was fixed. Having a shower is still proving to be a bit of a problem, there’s usually quite a bit of mopping up involved there too. But don’t worry. We’ve scrubbed the place up well. We have also restarted the foundations of something that the previous volunteers here began: the beer wall. Covering a whole locked door with stacks upon stacks of empty cans. We’re only 6 beers in. We’re also going to attempt to incorporate a rice wine stack: the Bastion of Baiju, put our own twist on it. We’ve stocked up on house-keeping stuff, various snacks, and our fridge has everything we need (a single jar of blueberry jam and beer), we eat out, or at our school cantine most of the time.
Blog about our trip to Nanjing 2 weeks ago will also come soon, as will more shenanigans about life here in PIzhou, and whats its like to teach a class of 60! Lots to post about!
Watch this space!