English Corner, and Calligraphy…
My school runs an “English Corner” for the Chinese staff once a week just after lunch when none of the teachers have a class. We take it in turns to plan an hour lesson, and create an open dialogue to practise new grammar structures and sharing ideas. For mine this week, I decided to cover popular Western films, so decided it would be a great idea to include short clips from famous films, without context, and ask each member of the class their thoughts. Including ‘my name is Jeff’ from 22 Jump street and the freedom scene from Shawshank Redemption, I struggled to find a third scene that would complement the other two, but provide a diverse mix. I asked for advice, however, ended up laughing at my colleague who suggested the death scene from Lion King, only to quickly retract it because it was ‘too emotional’. Instantly excited – how could my favourite childhood film not be suitable – I was determined to prove him wrong. I ended up sniffing my way through an apology though as I came back from the bathroom to grab some tissues for my leaking eyes. I might be 22 but apparently Mufasa’s sacrifice will never cease to be the most traumatic memory of my childhood.
We ultimately settled on the scene from Stepbrothers where they try to build bunkbeds.
Later that week, I tried my hand at calligraphy, at an extra event run by my school. Not for lack of trying, we have a smaller amount of students than the rest of the branches under my organisation. As a newer school, and in a further out part of town, we are often required to take part in out of hours activities as incentives to bring in new potential students. Whilst its not quite what I signed on for, nor what was mentioned at any point prior to signing, it has turned into an enjoyable way to meet new potential students, and to try out the activities for myself. Initially put onto dumpling making, I requested to swap for religious reasons, which was swiftly done without fuss, and one of my favourite TA’s taught me how to write Happy New Year in Chinese! In return, I taught her, and all of the fresh new faces how to write it in English. The finished results were an entire wall of Chinese and English blessings. Result!
A Photoshoot in the Stunning Fuzhou National Park
At the weekend, a friend and I decided to venture out to the Fuzhou National Park, known simply as ‘Forest Park’. Far out in the greenest part of Fuzhou, it’s an easy bus ride away (or a cheap 20RMB/ $3/ £2 taxi for the lazier ones out there. AKA me.)
First, we had the very unexpected but hilarious experience of Bird World. For 40RMB, we walked freely in the enclosure around the large variety of birds the park boasted. They were a little less than exotic, and other than the Emus and Peacocks that could inquisitively roam around us, the pigeons and seagulls were less than interested by the human presence. There was even a loose pig, which my companion took a warm liking too, after admitting to me (post ticket purchase) that she suffers from Ornithophobia, the irrational fear of birds. We quickly tired, and carried on with our adventure.
We stumbled into the plum and cherry orchard tree section of the forest, just past the overgrown, impressive bamboo trees. Currently in full bloom, the view was glorious, even with the overhanging clouds and slight drizzle. It couldn’t even be ruined by the mass crowds surrounding the trees, each holding their own photoshoots. Inspired by the different poses and the beautiful varying shades of pink, we sought out a free spot and held our own ‘candid’ shoot.
Unprepared is probably the best way to describe our trip, albeit for the packed lunches and large water bottles, but the most fun always comes from impromptu plans. We walked the entirety of the park, all the way up to the dried-out waterfall (anti-climactic), successfully mastering 22,000 steps for the day, and filling our lungs to the brim with some of the freshest air in China. And as they say, ‘a weekend well spent leads to a week of content’. (Anon).
A Girl’s Day at the Amazing Fujian Hot Springs…
The past weekend has also been relaxing, spent at the Guian mountainside hot springs park with a group of fellow teachers (each of them also Opportunity China alumni!). After a long, hardworking week, there’s nothing more needed than some self-love and a bit of ‘me time’.
We each bought tickets for 119RMB (£14/ $20), which effectively covered the bus, the ticket for entry, dressing gowns, towels and access to 90% of the park. Words nor photos on my cheap camera will do it justice, but I can try…
As customers take off their robes and hang them away from each spring they choose to take a dip into, we’re advised against putting anything of value in our pockets in the unlikely case of theft. Hence, a cheap camera had to suffice. But the experience itself was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in my five months of living here. Flitting between mint, tea and aubergine springs, each a different temperature, under the blazing sun, you could see the tension from each teacher slowly fade away, and chatter from work disappear almost instantly. Instead, we focused on relaxing, clicking on the different sensors in the sensory pool, which would set off multiple different powered jets aimed at the feet, the back and the body.
Snacking on cheap local noodles, we all slipped into a blissful trance, and post shower, each (slightly sunburnt) travel companion fell asleep on the bus back into the city centre.
My love of Fuzhou has strengthened immensely these last two weeks, as the weather has started to heat back up, and the natural beauty of my very green tier two city has been there to enjoy for little to no money. Relaxing is a necessary element of teaching abroad, as stresses can come from every angle, and they do. But this fortnight, my love of China won.