Teaching in Yanshuo Part 4

Yangshuo Travel Blog

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As we woke up we realised we had signed up to work in an English school for the next week, and nervously made our way to find out exactly what this would entail. How is this for a perfect job? We give two one hour talks on anything we feel like in the whole week and every other night we sit in a bar chatting to all the students (all between 18 and 30) while having drinks brought for us. In return we get free accommodation, three meals a day and get to chat to all the students every other night (called 'English Corner') .

As the weather had turned bad we spent the afternoon in a great place called the buffalo bar drinking green tea, eating spring rolls and watching DVDs with five or six of our new students. If you have never watched 'The Full Monty' with giggling Chinese girls asking what 'Is it hell as like ya bollocks' means, I can highly recommend it.

I was amazed to learn that in Chinese the more you wish to insult someone the longer the insult. The worst any of them could think of translated as 'I hope every family member and friend who you have liked dies in horrible accidents and also your mother has to sell her horse to buy horrible food for you'. You certainly have to make yourself comfortable before starting an argument.

We met up with all our students at eight and had a large number of drinks waiting for us. We had learned previously that when someone says they speak English in China they vary from a terrifyingly intelligent girl who wanted to extend her company to Hong Kong to a chinless and massive toothed young guy in Guanzhuo we immediately christened Mongo who would sit staring at us and occasionally dribbling before leaning forward and shouting "You cun frah Englah!".
Our students were thankfully brilliant. All could talk happily about most things as well as occasionally correcting our English. I am a little worried that I will not want to leave this town or these great people.

18 Jan

For the first time since Rio I feel as though I have been here for months. The town is small enough to be comfortably walked around, and everything makes me think just how cool my life is right now.

Today we moved into the school dorm rooms and were made to feel totally welcome. We were, however, a little surprised to find out that we needed to give our first hour talk at four; especially as we found out at a quarter to four. In a panic we decided to show them the photos of our trip and tell them stories. This turned out to be a big success, and it was also fascinating to find out what they found interesting.
For example, they didn't care about Angel Falls and were unimpressed by our trip to Memphis (they had never heard of Elvis), but they simply could not believe that people kept Llamas in fields or that in the jungle they had no winter. They all decided that Chris had many girlfriends and that because I did a bungy jump I was probably stupid. The hour just slipped away.

When outside again my favourite 4 foot high granny with bow legs, who has been chasing me for the last few days and shouting "Hello banana" finally cornered me. My pent up concern over the fact that she was trying to sell mango and not banana also finally came out. I held one up and said “Mango”. She nodded sagely and said “Banana”. I shook my head theatrically and mimed peeling a banana and said “Banana”. She burst out laughing and then said “Banana?” in a conversational way. “Man-go, Mannn….Gow” I said. “Hello” she said with a bright smile. I bought a mango.

That night we were introduced to the Chinese dice game and Rice wine. You roll five dice in a cup then guess what everyone else has rolled. If you lost you had to drink the 60% proof rice wine. You really, really did not want to lose.

19 Jan

A day of totally failing to learn how to play Maijong and for some reason being constantly accused of having blue skin by Sherry and her friends (I can only assume it is slang for being bad at Maijong) was followed by our next night out with our students. They were far more relaxed with us now and began telling us everything they could say in English. All of them adopt an English name when they start learning properly, and these names represent their dualism; hence IGiari becomes Garry, Shaowri becomes Sherry and Hu wan Ishihua fa ban becomes Hugh. Some of the guys want to be called Rainbow or Lucky smile, though these eventually fade out.

The girl that accused Chris of having many 'many girlfriends' then told me I looked like Ben Affreck. She was corrected shortly afterwards by someone else who said she meant Tom Hanks, but for a few seconds I felt very good about myself.

20 Jan

I realised why they thought I was blue yesterday. In my desperation to find a sarong I had apparently bought myself a big, cool and unfortunately non-colourfast tablecloth. When I had showered and dried for the past three days I had actually been covering myself in blue dye from head to foot. These things happen when you have no mirror and wear all your clothes at the same time.

Chris volunteered me to do another talk today and in desperation I tried to tell them about the history of Britain. For 30 minutes I showed them pictures on the laptop of everything from Stonehenge and ancient Iberian warriors running naked into battle to the modern monarchy and the millennium dome glowing in the London sunset, all the way through demonstrating the unique British culture, singing traditional songs and even attempting to re-enact the battle of Cadiz by myself. At the end I took a deep breath and asked if there were any questions. The first question was how much the laptop cost, the next was where the battery is stored, and the third was if I had any brothers or sisters. In fact the only question I had on British history was an enquiry into why we seemed to have fought the French so much. I couldn’t tell them the truth that it was because they were the closest, that would give them a bad impression, so I said it was because the French were evil and had no souls.

These guys are fantastic. They are intelligent, intensely cultured and fascinated by everything. What makes them so good to talk to is that their culture is so alien from mine. Only one of the 20 or so students had ever left China, and that was to Thailand for a weekend. They believe they won the Korean War and that you can see the Great Wall from the moon because that is what they have always been told. They are generous and kind and respectful and god I want to stay longer.

21 Jan

As this was our last day and night, it was a Friday and it was an English Corner night, something was always going to happen, and what a night it turned out to be. Starting with the normal 'Do you like football?' conversations the two of us and a female teacher from America began slipping everyone into a drinking game that rapidly turned into a truth or dare fiesta the likes of which I haven't seen since I was 15. With most of the students bashfully admitting who they fancied in class the braver ones took dares and where dancing on tables and singing Brittany Spears songs. A little later I was surprised to be dared by who I thought was the shyest guy in school to run down the very busy pedestrianised street outside in just my boxer shorts.

With 40 cheering Chinese hanging out the bar windows and 'You can leave your hat on' blaring at full volume I stripped down and pelted down the road faster than I have ever run before. It was snowing and bloody freezing. As I got back and dressed again I was surrounded by dumbstruck Chinese people and the three nice Norwegian girls who had been kind enough to look after my clothes. They came and joined in the game and were a little surprised when the next dare (which was from the headmaster who was really, really enjoying himself) was for Chris to give one of them a lap-dance. While I was upstairs having a stiff drink to recover from seeing that, and In order to try and top it, the Norwegian girls dared everyone in the bar to take their tops off. When I came down again everyone, including the landlord and some confused and fascinated passers-by had taken their shirts off and started dancing rather uncertainly.

The headmaster bounced happily over to me with a Cheshire cat grin and burst out “This the best Engrish Corner ever”
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photo by: sylviandavid