Well, term started last friday and it's been something of an interesting week. Some has been good and some has been bad. The good is the actual job, and the small amount of teaching I do, is very enjoyable. I also like getting to know the Chinese staff and generally although there are things that are just plain not working there isn't a lot that I can do about that and I have to just keep pushing while letting things happen. The key example here is the attitude towards hiring more teachers. They are reluctant, still, to talk about paying for advertising or increasing teachers salaries to make it happen. But without more teachers we face a problem with existing parents and also with the fact that we simply cannot expand and get more students. Which brings us to the bad. Last night I got phonecalls from two parents who screamed at or threatened me down the phone because their kids had told them that a new pupil would be starting on Monday. That isn't even true - we had a visit from some parents who are keen to get their child in to the school but it isn't going to be on Monday. Even if it was true we would still have less than 10 children in a single classroom. The problem is that there is a wide range of ages in that classroom, from 5 to 10, and they believe that this is unacceptable. Now, I have spoken to the classroom teacher, Ann, and she maintains that teaching that range is well within her capacity. I am also teaching two of the older students for science and SOSE/History so that all the kids have guaranteed teacher time. Of course, the situation is not ideal and we desparately need another teacher but the parents' behaviour in all this is unacceptable.
I've also been out a couple of times this week with work. The first was on Monday for a meal to celebrate the start of term. This involved my boss, the acting principal Mr Cai, ganbei-ing everyone around the table. Ganbei means empty glass and is like "cheers" except that you do have to empty your glass. In this case, red wine. I was required to go around the table as well so I was thoroughly drunk by the time I got home.
Next, Friday night, we went out for a meal again for the Teachers Day Holiday but the drinking was a lot more subdued as everyone was saving themselves for the KTV afterwards. KTV is kareoke, which I have managed to avoid so far but not any more. The KTV club is basically lots of private rooms for groups to sit around on a sofa and enthusiastically applaud each other for singing. Yes, I did sing one song. But the strangest thing was when I went to the toilet. I was standing at the urinal when suddenly the attendant placed a hot towel on my neck and started giving me a head massage! To say I wasn't expecting it is understating the matter although I've been so tense all week that it was probably a good thing. Anyway, after KTV Zak and I headed into Laowaitan to meet some friends at a bar called Le Cargo, and I got very drunk for the second time this week.
On a non-work related theme Zak and I went to a very nice Lebanese restaurant on Tuesday. We had humus and aubergine dip and grilled chicken and meat with spices. It was great. And there's no alcohol served in the place which was even better.