Birthday shenanigans

The whiteboard outside our office yesterday, advertising what’s on. No one did come and sing to me….

Yesterday was my birthday. I had three classes, two of which involved exams. It was fine, I’ve finished all my exams now so that’s good. In the other class we just watched Mr Bean. I went out for pizza in the evening then watched a film with a few colleagues (my pick, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). I’d have rather not have had classes, but they weren’t too taxing. I now have three days off, due to the gaokao exam (college entrance exam), and the campus is in lock-down.

Last year, my birthday was on a Sunday, and I kept it low key. I didn’t tell anyone here it was my birthday (although they subsequently found out), I just went to the cinema, and bought myself a cake. It was a nice, quiet birthday. Yesterday, a few students wished me happy birthday which was nice. It’s harder spending a birthday here, I think, so far from home. Not because I miss things or people, necessarily, but just because I have to work (I’d have taken a day off work in UK most probably). Still, it was a decent enough day, so I can’t complain too much.

During gaokao last year, I explored some of the hutongs (read about it here), with one of my Chinese colleagues. In one of the areas nearby the hutongs, there is a post office where you can send things to arrive for a specific date in the future. Basically, they have slots for different months where you can post letters etc. I sent myself a postcard, which arrived yesterday, wishing myself a happy birthday.

I have also submitted my documents to my new workplace, so they can apply for my work permit. This should take at least a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll need to take my documents to the Entry/Exit bureau and get my residence permit renewed. The whole process should take perhaps six weeks, if there are no complications. I hope there aren’t, but you never know with these things. The first stage – getting the work permit – will be the hardest, I think.

The foreign experts’ certificate has now been scrapped, and so this will not be renewed. Instead, my work permit will be a new plastic card, I think a little like an ID card, so it will be interesting to see what this looks like, when I eventually get it.

Thursday is the UK general election. This election campaign has been different to others, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s actually been interesting. Often elections are quite boring things, but this one has been full of surprises, full of twists and turns. Labour have gone from over -20 behind in the polls to within a whisker of the Conservatives, mostly because, it seems, they have a very good manifesto, and also the leader Jeremy Corbyn has exceeded expectations. Being in China means that, when the results start coming in late Thursday night/early Friday morning, here it will 8 or 9 am, so I can follow it during the day. There have also been two terrorist attacks in the UK, during the election campaign, and the Conservative Party have make a historic U-turn on their manifesto pledge regarding social care funding for older people (I don’t think a party has made a major U-turn on a manifesto pledge during an election campaign before). Like many progressives, I nervously watch the campaign, and worry what will happen should the Conservatives win a majority (say goodbye to the NHS, for example), but also hope that there will be a massive turnout of young people which could sway things the other way.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit mixed in terms of feelings. I was told my documents would take a while to process, which sucked, and I was somewhat despondent (dare I say angry) at the delay. But now, in light of what’s been happening elsewhere (in London and Manchester, for example), things sort of get put into perspective and, well there’s not a lot I can do about it. So why get angry? Also the weather has been pleasant, the air has been good, and I only have three (full) weeks left at RDFZ as a teacher. It’s exciting, actually. In terms of next year here, there have been meetings regarding which grades will be taught (EDP and Junior 1 take priority, which makes it easier when I tell my Senior 1 students that I’m leaving, and that they won’t have any foreign teacher classes next year), and one teacher has already given backword and said they don’t want to come here after all, so regardless of what the university will be like, it may very well be good I’m getting out now….

This week, with my days off, I have tutoring on Thursday afternoon, but otherwise I have Chinese homework and there are a couple of movies I’d like to watch. Nothing too difficult though. We are now very much on the downward spiral, especially because exams have finished. We will be missing more classes later in June for the huikao and zhongkao (high school final exam, and the high school entrance exam respectively). So not many days left teaching here at all.

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