Just your average Sunday…


Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

Today has been special. The sea has magical powers. Our new friends, Rik and his son George took us out for a drive along the coastal road and we stopped for a while to be daft and lark about on the beach. Not the sunniest of days, but a great laugh non the less.

Then this evening involved more food glorious food at a fancy hotel with President Chen, Miss Liu Headteacher and their adorable son Anson.

Early flight back to Yinchuan via Wuhan so TTBFN!

Suzi x

Let’s talk tea and toilets

Where to start…

Tea is a big thing in China. When done well, it can be ceremonial and delicious. Today was neither.

We popped into the local coffee shop opposite the hotel and had to pay 80 ¥ for a lukewarm, frothy tea, a coffee and a piece of Matcha tea cake. Green cake today, not blue.

The cake was unusual but nice. The tea was not.

The Chinese are only just getting used to the idea of dairy so milk is a bit of a no no. What I would give for a nice cuppa Yorkshire!

Then there are the toilets. Nasty and no loo roll. You have to remember your own or do the shimmy/shake! The loo roll has to go in a bin by the loo, which is, more often than not, a dirty hole in the ground and the bin tends to be full to overflowing. Oh, and it’s rare to find soap or a hand dryer.

It is always a true joy to stumble upon a sit down Western toilet.

Simple pleasures!

Suzi x

A glorious day with a 4am start #embrace

The day started with a 4am wake up call (see what I did there) as Embrace had announced that their new single would be played on Radio 2. A very giddy 2 hour wait and much buffering before tears of joy at a job well done! Never will I tire of hearing my boys. Never.

Then at 6am a three way Skype with the boss back in the UK to catch up on the last week and do some exciting forward planning which will see the team head off to Shenyang, Shanghai, Guangzhou and possibly Mongolia!

Then it all kicked off on FB to find that Embrace had pushed out the video for their new single (what a belter!) and I’m in it! Wooooooooohoooooooo.

Slightly later start in school (we travelled in by bus alone and made it in one piece) followed by sports day rehearsals, a visit to Diannah’s new flat and a bit of shopping (wifi speakers to belt out Embrace in my flat back in Yinchuan).

Out for dinner with teacher friend Maggie and her gorgeous husband and baby bump. Great food and yet again fabulous company!

Then, just when you think the day can’t get any better, super exciting Embrace gig news. Some sweet talking to the boss about an essential return trip to the UK in March already in the planning stages!

Back to base to pack ready for a busy day today (Saturday) before heading back to Yinchuan on a really early flight tomorrow…

Looking forward to that nana nap tomorrow afternoon already!

❤️ Suzi

The fattest boy in the class

Today has been another eventful day for #chinagirl.  It’s funny because when going back over each day, and considering what has happened, every day feels more like 2-3 days!

I won’t talk too much about breakfast as it really isn’t nice.  Still no knife to spread the butter or jam so the end of a spoon had to suffice.

We spent a good 20 minutes trying to flag down a taxi to take us to school, dodging passing delivery bikes, pedestrians and mopeds.  We finally arrived in school and were whisked straight into lessons.

One teacher informed us that his pupil Michael was fat. He added that said boy was, in fact, the fattest boy in the class. Speechless.

In the afternoon the children had a talk about dinosaurs and given their age (some are just 2), they struggled to listen for long periods and it was pretty much carnage for 45 minutes. And all in Chinese!

One of the children, Dax, was celebrating his 5th birthday so we all ate blue cake and sang to him in English, which was sweet.

We went for a bit of a wander round by the hotel after school followed by a superb dinner of seafood with friends Richard (and his son George) and Mr Wang.

🍷🍷🍷Too much Gambe! Enough said.

Until tomorrow…

❤️ Suzi

Nana naps in Nanan – a trip to see the new Kindergarten

The day started with another interesting choice of savoury items for breakfast so we opted for toast with butter and jam, but they had no knife so we had to spread the toppings with chopsticks.  As you do!

We were collected by King and taken to XKM Kindergarten in Xiamen where we were then driven by Miss Liu, headteacher, to Nanan, a neighbouring city, to meet the staff in their new, purpose built Kindergarten which is set to open next term.

We took in the sites along the way (a one hour car journey)  dirt tracks, unfinished roads, old tower blocks mixed in with new, lots of Stone warehouses (the local industry revolves around stone) until we finally arrived at the colourful new school, greeted by Xiao Kong Ming, the school character.

We were invited to rest (standard – the Chinese love nothing more than resting at various intervals in the day) with a cup of hot water before setting up the classroom ready for a demo lesson.  As the school is not yet open, the headteacher had invited in 2 pupils who will be attending the school once it is opened.  They took part in the lesson on farm animals with their children and several enthusiastic English teacher colleagues.

For the third time in 2 days I managed to make a small girl cry!

We enjoyed some lively singing, flash card games and a visit from mini Polly.  The children (aged 3) were fairly unresponsive on the whole, but given their ages, listened attentively and seemed to enjoy the music and actions and playing around with the animal sounds.

At 11, we had a nice snack of grapes and green dates (which looked like apples) followed by lunch in the staff meeting room.  By 1230 we were escorted to the top floor where we were given a room with a double bed to share, and instructed to rest until 230, when we would be called to a meeting with the teachers to discuss plans for further supporting the staff and students in the school, longer term.

Tired from the excitement of the last few days, we both managed a nap and the meeting went well, and we got several rounds of applause, which is a very Chinese way of showing your appreciation to guests.

Once the meeting had finished, we were taken off for a sightseeing tour in a nearby town, where we visited the tomb of important local man, Zheng Chenggong, a famous Chinese Ming loyalist who conquered the Dutch back in the 1600s, when they tried to conquer Taiwan.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koxinga for more information.  We also had chance to visit the museum dedicated to the same man.

Miss Liu then drove us back to Xiamen and treated us to a wonderful dinner (duck soup – with duck ankle floaters – mmmm, delicious), various Chinese dumplings, spicy beef, deep fried mango and purple sweet potato cakes (much nicer than they sound … and for once, no rice.

On our return to the hotel, we battled with reception to renew our rooms before witnessing a very drunken Chinese man throwing up red wine in the cigarette bin by the lifts.  A memorable end to a memorable day.


Octember – the thirteenth month?

The word of the day today has been happy. You see the word everywhere in China. On packaging, stationery, books, shoes, breakfast bowls … I even taught a little boy today whose English name is Happy.

Today was a happy day, our first day in the kindergarten school. We received a warm welcome from staff and pupils and some did indeed remember me from my last brief visit back in June. It was very warm again but a little rainy, which is common for the time of year.

The children in school were very excitable and I had to remind myself that some of them in the Baby class are as young as two. Yes, just two. I taught four classes and Diannah and I were also asked to help out with an outdoor play session in the afternoon.

Stand out moments of the day were singing and dancing to Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with one the middle. classes, the hilarity of trying to buy a Chinese mobile phone sim in a language you don’t speak (King saved the day!) and somehow managing to make 2 sweet little girls cry whilst playing What time is it, Miss Suzi?

We enjoyed a tasty lunch in school and took the bus with King to pick up the SIM card.

The bus was fitted with televisions and we enjoyed an episode of the Chinese version of Crime Watch until we reached our destination, the China mobile shop.

We took a rest over lunch and got to see the children in their classroom taking a nap together. The beds looked Suzi sized and comfier than my actual bed back at the flat in Yinchuan. I might ask to take one back with me although I could struggle to get it into my hand luggage!

Classroom management techniques are interesting to say the least. One teacher used the heart house and the poo poo house technique. I can see it catching on. If good, their name goes in the heart emoji on the board, if their behaviour is unacceptable (wandering about and not listening to the teacher), they go in the poo poo emoji! No, I’m not making this up!

We also popped into a local snack store but weren’t tempted by their wares, although I may go back at some point for a Pepsi blue.

After a jam packed day, we took a taxi back to the hotel and had a Skype catch up with the boss back at base in the UK, followed by a well earned glass of red.

At about 8pm we headed out into the busy commercial area near our hotel to get food and have a wander around the local shops. A pair of shoes (Diannah) and some Happy slippers (me) may have fallen into our baskets!

We had another delicious meal – the lamb skewers were a tad spicy for my taste – and a beer, much to the delight of the canteen owner and elderly waitress. When trying to ask for veg to go with the meal, she brought over this whopper – an aubergine of the like you have never seen before! The toilet was grim (which is standard) but otherwise we had a great meal and all for ¥60, about £7, for the two of us.

On the way back to the hotel, we came upon a foot clipping / massage shop and, having had terrible sleep, gig lag and jet lag for the last week, I decided to treat myself (¥35 for half an hour – about £4) to a back and neck massage. Diannah wasn’t convinced so she went off to wander and came back for me later. It was hardcore. The young man who was assigned to me used his arms and legs to work his massage magic and did not pussy foot about. It was pretty painful at the time, but as I write this the morning after, I’m feeling less tense so it has had the desired effect.

It would seem that there is a thirteenth month in the Chinese calendar. Who knew? In a moment of linguistic humour, when asking about future plans for the new Kindergarten school opening, we were informed it would be ready in Octember! Comedy gold.