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Aunty in China
A new month, a new challenge. Will this month be completed? Here’s the beginning, the first day of the second month of this year.
It is Chinese New Year today. Everything is closed, well, nearly everything. McDonald’s haven’t closed and a few other shops haven’t. It is a good idea to stay with foreigners unless you’re Chinese. If you go out you will find children dressed up in new clothes and buying new toys with the money gifts they’ve been given. The aroma of all the special food being cooked, wafts from every kitchen. Something you really need to experience.
Second day of the Lunar Year. Sunday. I’m off to church.
On Sunday Cheng Chau fills with tourists and the ferries take advantage of that by doubling the fares. Island residents going to Hong Kong can purchase a return ticket at regular price. Being a temporary resident I qualify too.
The ferry is full and in a festive mood. For very many people this is their only holiday period in the year. There are many people who work every single day in other weeks. Travelling as a tourist is not yet the norm for most Chinese, even in Hong Kong.
One joy of the break in Hong Kong is going to church where it is actually possible to understand the sermon. Although most members are Chinese or from the Philippines, the language used is English. English is legally still one of the two official languages here.
It is warming to walk into church and to be recognized; to meet friends again. As the opportunity only comes twice per year, I ensure that each Sunday I am in Hong Kong I attend the service there. Can I say it is like charging the spiritual battery? Ready for another semester in China.
This day is exciting. We haven’t seen each other for 27 years.
Everyone has very special friends. It was in Frankfurt A/Main that they were of such great assistance to me. Only committed christians understand such help. They introduced a life changing experience.
I left Germany in 1976. Later they returned to the States. Some phone contact, some letters, then e.mail, but today I’m meeting them again. Of course we’ll recognize each other; exchange of photos over the years has shown that features haven’t changed much. Waists are a little wider, hair a little grey, but smiles still the same.
Bob and Julie and daughter Anne; a welcome to make the heart warm. They met the ferry at the pier in Hong Kong. Words weren’t necessary; a strong hug all round and 27 years were bridged. We were back where we had left off.
After looking over the primary school Anne has established, Julie and I went to see the film “HERO”. After that we dropped into a department store. The ladies’ wear department had a 50% off sale. Need I say more?
I love the jumper I bought.
Bob, Julie and I had Chinese dinner to finish the day.
Being a tourist is not for me.
In ten years I’ve not gotten to see Hong Kong’s tourist sights. Bob and Julie put an end to that. We went to The Peak, a misnamed mountain lookout. It is several hundred feet lower than the actual peak.
From The Peak all of Hong Kong’s harbour and far beyond, is visible. It would have been great for photography if it had been clear. However, today, no photos!
Return, we took the special tram. Knowing of accidents on alpine trams, I admit to being terrified when the tram was going down almost vertically.
Bob and Julie came out to Cheng Chau with me yesterday and stayed overnight. They liked it as much as I do. The walk around the island and seeing the sights took a few hours. Extensive look over Bethany was also important. They learned its history and the extension plans.
After lunch they caught the ferry back. We said “Goodbye”, unsure we’ll meet again this side of eternity. My feelings are mixed; how exciting to have been together again, how sad having had to part again.
Life is one long series of meetings, friendships and partings and memories to treasure.
This is incredible. Tonight I’m the only guest at Bethany. It had advantages; I got to choose the evening menu, some staff had dinner with me so I wouldn’t be lonely.
I feel special!
Being the only guest means the place is very quiet. I can watch some TV tonight and read, read, read. Bethany has many books by all sorts of authors on all sorts of subjects. There isn’t anyone who can’t find reading material.
There’s rain forecast for tomorrow and I want to catch the early ferry. Guess it will be umbrella in hand. Hope it doesn’t rain.
A pig on the spit requires planning and preparation. Three a.m. this moring it was all started. It cooked till late morning and the aroma filled the air.
Lunch time people started to arrive bringing with them dishes of vegetables and desserts which were added to those already prepared. The table was a spread of delicious food by the time all guests had arrived. For lunch everyone took their choice of favourite foods and added their favourite drink as well.
An afternoon for British, American, Phillipinos and Chinese adults and children to enjoy and celebrate several birhtdays, re-unions and farewells.
To the dentist!
Memories of dentists are not good. Pain, nerves and tears are foremost. No matter how minor the problem, memories are still there.
Today the hightech drills and other equipment means that it is possible to undergo treatment without adding to the horror memories.
The dentist’s rooms are in the No.2 tower of the Admiralty Centre. It is high enough to overlook the harbour and ferries can be watched going back and forth. Beyond that there is the Kowloon peninsula and further the hills of the New Territories. What a shame that the patient”s chair faces the wall!
Two more days and it seems that they are "lunch" days. Today I walk down to the ferry, ride it for 50 minutes into town and walk another few minutes to the meeting point just to have lunch. Then I will take the same way back again.
Going such a long way for lunch means that the person is special, and today's person is. French Canadian, she has been in Hong Kong for many years. We will have a great time chatting, something that we can only do at the most, twice a year. Today is one of those days.
My other lunch date today. Poor Heather, slipped on the wet bathroom floor and now has her left arm in plaster. She lives on Cheng Chau, so had to nurse her broken arm all the way into Hong Kong on the ferry, to get it set and plaster put on. She lives alone, so at present it is not too easy for her. She is managing though and still had me over for lunch.
Her little flat overlooks the Cheng Chau sports ground. It is nice to sit in the sun on her little balcony at this time of year.
Catch the train!
After final packing and farewells, there was help for me to get my luggage down to the ferry. A leisurely ride into town sees me being met by a young lady who had offered to help with my luggage at the other end. What a darling. People like that should be honoured.
She dragged my trolley all the way to the Star ferry, Hong Kong's famous icon, and then we took a taxi to the station. She had to catch a train to her office and I needed the international train, but first a bite to eat.
Valentine's Day does not have a lot of meaning when you have already spent fifteen hours on the train. The six of us in our section are all females, that is a nice change. We can put up one of the blankets and change in "privacy". I did not have a bottom bunk, but the young lady who did, swapped with me. We could not see the famous Yangzte river because it was too dark. The night was cold but with good heating we had a very good sleep. At 11:20 we arrived in Zhengzhou and took a taxi home.
It is cold after Hong Kong. On the train we had seen a lot of snow, much further south than we are. Here there is still some around but the temperature is back to over zero so it will soon be melted away.
Students are returning to college. Parents are bringing their precious only child as if this were kindergarten. Bags of fruit and goodies come with them to ensure they remember home's care and love. Some come in private cars. Others come on buses and then take the three wheeled cycles to help get their luggage to the dormitory.
Sunday! I wanted to go to the local church but was told last evening that the preacher who speaks standard Chinese will not be there today. It will all be in the local language so it is not a lot of good for me. It is too late to change my mind to go into town so I will spend the time alone in devotion. After all, it is Sunday.
At meal time I go to my favourite little restaurant. It has all new staff. So do all the others. It is so good to have my regular diet again.
First day of classes today. I have the same students so there is some continuity. My schedule is lousy. I have only one afternoon free per week and one more every fortnight. Don't know when I am supposed to prepare lessons or do corrections.
Ask the stu-dents about their holidays and there is a long silence. Truth is that they go home and don't do anything for the whole month. Maybe some help their parents. Else it is watch TV and eat and sleep. That is their ideal holiday. Doesn't give much excitement. Very difficult to get a discussion going.
Now how can I possibly do that? I am teaching oral English and therefore need to have the students in small groups facing each other so that they can talk and complete the task I set them. The classroom they have assigned me for this semester has desks for three students abreast, and bolted to the floor. A lot of talk I will get sitting like that.
We located an empty classroom with moveable desks and re-located there. Later told the of-fice and it now appears that an even better classroom is available. From tomorrow we're in the new room.
It is a struggle to keep that weight and cholesterol under control. What am I supposed to do when I am handed a whole tin of KitKat bars? Should I refuse them? I am sorry, I have chosen to enjoy them.
In Hong Kong I had my cholesterol checked and it was stable, even if it is higher than the doctor prefers. But there is the choice of either exist-ing with low cholesterol or living with it a little higher. And if it means that I die a year or so earlier, so be it. I will enjoy the KitKats.
Been home a week from my holidays now. Seems like I was never away. Memories keep telling me that I was on holiday and that I had a good time. It would be good if I could just get to and get the work in this place up to date. Cleaning and putting things away is something that I am particularly bad at. If I would just do it day by day I would not have the problem. However, there are so many more interesting things to do that I get way laid every time. Food is not a problem.
Need to finish class early today so that I can catch the teachers' bus into town. That is the bus which transports our part time teachers to the school in the morning and back to town again at noon. It is the beginning of the seminar today and I don't want to be late. We will finish at 9 tonight so there is no way to get home. I will stay with a friend in town. It is good being at her place and the couch bed is also very comfortable.
Believe there will be about 20 participants all together.
We've had fifteen hours of our seminar so far. It is good. There are 17 participants and some have travelled from other cities although the majority are from here. It is a wonder-ful time to network and get to know what other people are doing. This will change my teaching and it will enlarge my vision for what I am able to do in this country where needs are so great. The following three days will be from one o'clock to six o'clock daily.
It is a rush to get the last bus home, but the effort is worth it.
I am getting tired. The trip into town so many times and home again, is getting at me. The bus station has decided to get some order into the system of getting onto the bus. Now everyone has to buy a ticket before hand and queue. The theory is great. We were all queued and a bus arrived. All the passengers got off. Some passengers who had just arrived and not yet bought a ticket, swarmed onto the bus and the driver took of with a ‘full' bus and we remained in the queue.
Six of us took a taxi.
Like Friday I have had to rush in after class. This meant an early start and then getting everything ready before class. I made it. Everyone else is in town somewhere, but I ar-rived first of them all. This meant a late start and then the sessions having to be rushed because of it. Still we finished so that I was able to catch the bus home. I am more and more interested in the content and see that much of it will re relevant to my teaching. Implementing the method of instruction would give a change for the students.
Re-scheduled this afternoon's class so that I could be at the last session of the seminar. It is worth having to teach late on Thursday, the only time the students had available to change the class to. Today's sessions pulled all that we had learned, together. Today I really saw how it would fit in with my work and my schedule. How exciting! I am now really motivated to see if I cannot set up a teacher training program for the local English teachers in the rural secondary schools where the English teaching still leaves a lot to be desired.
The weather has turned cold again. Mornings we have not been able to see for more than 50 meters. On the TV they were trying to explain why we were having these foggy mornings, but as I am just a mere English teacher and not a meteorologist, I still don't have any idea. I guess it is like all weather. We talk about it. It is either too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry or too windy or too humid, but we still put up with it. There still isn't a way to control the weather.
Taught late today to make up my class. I have a real soft spot for all these first year stu-dents. Everything I give them they soak up like a sponge. It is really great to see them participate. It helps of course that I too enjoy the oral English classes most of all. Over the years it has become my speciality and I know I can do it well. Variety is the key. The students never come to class knowing what is going to happen. It is my aim to have each class different and so keep them talking. Great!
The last day of another month and catch up time. Everyday when I just did not have time to write all had to be done today. I know I have a few days grace, but I dare not count on that because I know how busy I will be in the next few days. Today I have 123 assign- ments sitting here which need correction, this morning I did my washing which now needs ironing, (well some of it does) and I would like to get all of the next week's lessons prepared. Don't worry, I really do enjoy being busy.
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