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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Shopping

Wow, I spent a lot of money the last few days; obviously I shouldn't be left on my own with free time and an internet connection?

2 days ago I joined a gym. Yay? It was a good deal, 1980 kwai for a year (just under £200/$320ish) but with loads of freebies. They gave me a free six months on the end so I actually got an 18 month contract. They also gave me a 1500 kwai gift card for the spa close by, a free gym bag, towel, and water bottle. I kind of feel like I'm making money off them at this point? I joined with my manager at work, and a guy at work is also thinking of coming back with his girlfriend and joining up. The man who signed us up must be so happy, he gets commission from 4 people. This is what you get for not being too scared to show around the foreigners. You have to nominate a day to start your membership, my gym buddy has gone away for the National day holiday so we're not starting until the 8th. She basically told me: Go Home. Bake. When I come back, prepare to go hardcore. I'm taking her advice. I wouldn't usually advise the 'Last Supper' approach to losing weight - eat everything you want in large quantities the last few days before you start dieting - because it's just more to lose, and it puts you in the mindset of denial ('I'm never going to get to eat this again!'). On the other hand, I've been watching 'Great British Bake-off' avidly and all I've been wanting to do is mix flour, sugar, butter and put it in my face, so I figured why not.

Last night/this morning I went internet shopping. Oh, how many stories begin with those words? Here's the thing. I need clothes for the autumn/winter, and it costs to ship them here so rather than ordering one or two things as I go, I do one big order a two or three times a year. £190/$300 later, and I bought all the things. Seriously, all of them. And then I accessorised. It probably would have been better for my wallet if I hadn't discovered that Evans, Yours, and Marks & Spencer (all good plus size clothing suppliers in the UK) now all ship world wide. It also probably would have been a good idea to wait a bit and see if this gym thing end up equalling actual body changes before ordering new clothes, but post generally takes about three weeks and by then it's going to be getting cold, so I don't really have time to wait around. Tailors here can be pretty cheap, I'll find a way to get them adjusted if sizes are really off.

Then, to top things off, I went to WalMart to get some groceries, and came back with a new bedding set and a new DVD player, because my player broke a few weeks ago and apparently that's how I roll today. I'm funny with money sometimes. I'm generally quite sensible with it, and enjoy saving and seeing my little savings account fill up, but then a few things I need to get build up and I have a spree. Once the seal is broken as it were, I find it very easy to keep spending. If you're going to do it may as well get everything right? There's a necklace in a posh jewellery shop near WalMart that I've had my eye on basically since I got here (a good 7 months ago now!) and I was so close to just saying 'screw it' and buying it today. I have a nickel allergy so a lot of costume jewellery sends me out in a rash. I've been thinking recently I should get one or two really good pieces and wear them a lot. I don't know exactly how much this necklace costs because I don;t want to go in and ask in case it's super expensive and I have to turn around again. It's a little embarrassing to have them get something out the window and then realise there's no way you could afford it. Or to realise that yes you could afford it, but it's more expensive than you thought so you don't want to get it, but then you've sort of committed your interest? Or maybe it's all in my head, but whatever. From what I can spy from the window I think the pendant might be around 1200 kwai, plus the cost of the necklace. If I re-sign at the end of my contract I get a month's salary bonus, which would get me the money the end of April I think. Given that it's my 30th Birthday in May it might be a good present to me, we'll see if it's still there.

Fortunately I was reasonably financially prepared for this. When I sent £3000 home the other month I put a good percentage of it in my savings account, but left some money in the current account so that when the weather started getting cooler I could shop. Even with what I've spent today I'm OK, and so long as I don't go on any more sprees I should still be able to put aside half of my salary at the end of the month to send home at some point, which is what I aim to do. I've got money in my home account left still (despite my best efforts!) so that should sort me for my Christmas shopping. I can't believe so many places online have their Christmas content up already! It's not even Halloween yet people!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

It was the best of foods, it was the worst of foods

It's great being in the new centre at work, but I can't wait until we get back into actual routine again. With the switch around while we actually moved, and the October holiday coming up, I can't keep track of days at all right now.

I had the best and worse of food experiences today. The highlight was Free Stufz that Disney gave us (again! First an Avengers DVD and now this, it's been a good freebie month). We all got a gift voucher for a box of goodies from Haagen Dazs in honour of the Moon Festival, with today being the last day to redeem it and us not having to be into work until a bit later (owing to the Fire Marshall coming to give the final sign off) I hopped the metro a few stops to the city proper and picked mine up. It was pretty! (Click for larger if you want to see what's in it)


The roundish chocolate thing is an ice-cream version of a moon cake (making it basically a big, delicious choc ice), the traditional version of which I'm not really a fan of. Slight choc ice fail though when I bit into it and realise the dry ice seen on the side of the box hadn't quite done the job, and while the chocolate had the remained solid the inside was liquid. My problem was compounded by the fact that after finishing my treat (over the sink, mamma didn't raise no fools) (well...) I realised the water had been turned off temporarily and had to do some improvising to make myself presentable again. The rest of my box is currently in the freezer at work to prevent me from scoffing the whole lot in one go at home.

I'm meant to be off tomorrow because I'm coming in a day early back from the holiday to do demos, but I didn't get all my lesson planning done (my AT was having boyfriend drama, which I thought I'd avoided owing to her calling in sick, but she rang and I couldn't get her off the phone) so I'll nip in tomorrow for a few hours and get the rest finished off.

On the way home I had to nip into WalMart and get some meat for attempt two in the slow cooker (tomorrow, I want to wake up, poke the contents of that pot with a spoon and have it fall apart - you hear me slow cooker?) and had unfortunate low point in food for the day, on display (or, more precisely, animal parts) section of the shop


What? Suddenly not hungry? There was no meat on it, just pig face hung up by the ears. I particularly like how the black bar behind it makes it look like it's glaring balefully out of one eye.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Back

My friends and I did manage to get out to Hong Kong after all, so we had a great few days! Hong Kong is an awesome city, lots to see and do and so much easier that China! Because of it's British history English is spoken much more widely and much more proficiently, I'd forgotten what it was like to ask a question and get an answer without causing pandemonium. Ah, back when life was simple...

We got a flight to Shenzhen because it was much cheaper then flying to Hong Kong as it's still a domestic flight. From there we grabbed a bus (it only takes 70 minutes, plus time to go through customs). The first plane journey was a bit of a farce, we were loaded on to the plane at 9:30pm for a two hour flight and didn't take off until midnight. The poor stewardesses had a mutiny on their hands. I've always felt that the Chinese language can feel a bit like you're being yelled at even when you're not, but when people are actually angry it's pretty scary.

The first day we went the beach at Repulse Bay and at night we saw the Symphony of Lights show at Victoria Harbour.


Day 2 was all about Disney Hong Kong baby! As I mentioned before we got in for free because of our silver passes. When you go in on your Silver pass you can sign in yourself and three other people, so we went and got all four tickets and then played ticket fairies for people in the queue. We gave some to a nice Austrailian family we met on the subway getting to the park, and then gave out the others. It's surprisingly hard to give away free tickets? People assume you're out to scam them. We were like 'no, really, free tickets, no tricks. We work for Disney, they gave us tickets, we have extras'.

The subway line to Disney is themed! How cute is this?



The third day we hopped on a tram a just rode around the city. At one point we spotted an Outback and nearly died of happiness, hopped off the tram and had lunch. We walked around for a while afterwards and found a supermarket and a pharmacy to stock up on things we can't find in China (in my case that was mostly Cadbury's chocolate, parchment paper for cooking, and good deodorant). I was glad to get it all, thought Hong Kong is expensive. Or rather, I say that, Hong Kong is about on par with any international city, but with China being So. Cheap. in most things, going back to regular-ish prices gave me a bit of shell shock. When I get home to England (where it's expensive to live) I'm not going to be able to make myself  buy pretty much anything for a while. I also got some cough medicine, hoping that actual, real medicine might have more effect on the cough I have now had for two weeks than the crappy snake vemon Chinese stuff. The stuff I bought is green like The Hulk, and tastes like someone has bottled death and left it under a radiator for a week so it better be doing me some good. *Knock wood* I'm feeling a little better. I caught it from my new AT (who still has it!) and have given it to at least one of the girls I travelled with (whoops) so I would really like to see the back of it without needing a doctor visit.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye

The last day at our centre has been survived and it's over! The new place isn't quite ready though so they've give us until next Monday off while things are finished. Given that we get all of 5 vacation days a year, it's an unexpected bonus. I went  and had a look inside the new building yesterday with a few other people, it's looking really nice!

A friend and I are considering getting a last minute flight out to Shenzhen and then a bus over the border to Hong Kong so we can go to Hong Kong Disney. Our silver passes came through a month or so ago as part of our employee benefits, so it will be free to get in. Flights to Shenzhen are much cheaper (about half) of that to Hong Kong because Shenzhen is still a domestic flight, whereas Hong Kong is international. The bus will only take an hour and a half to get us there though, so it's for the best. I looked into it a little and it looks like we'll be able to get flights and hotels for around £250 total, so estimating how much I'll spend aside from that I may be able to pay for the whole trip out of the money I have in my bank now rather than dipping into my savings. We'll have to see how much my bills come up to tomorrow though.

We haven't made plans yet as I wasn't sure if I wanted to go, but I'm meeting her to go pay our rent and bills tomorrow so we can discuss it then. Hopefully we can get something sorted out quickly. If so I need to nip to Walmart on the way back and buy a new little suitcase as I only have the giant one I brought with me.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

It's the final countdown!

Yesterday was kind of awesome, which I wasn't expecting for the week from hell. First of all it was my planning day so I had no lessons, making me predispositioned to like the day. Then we got in to the centre and the LLD was running centre meeting, meaning it was only half an hour long, and we were told that our free DVDs had arrived! Disney sent out a copy of The Avengers free to all cast members because it did so well in China. We also got a voucher from Disney for a purple box filled with different ice-creams from Hagen Daaz in honour of the moon festival, so now we're all going to find the nearest one to collect it from.

Another good thing is that we finally got some actual details on The Big Move, and had a chance to start packing things up. We can't strip our rooms bare just yet because we're still doing parent presentations, but I started packing up my cupboards. We won't be in on Monday like we wanted, but we should all be there by Thursday. The guy who handles center demolition and salvage came to have a look around yesterday. He's also the guy who helps to choose where the centre would be in the first place, so he has been the one getting it in the neck for all the problems. Our landlord has been out to screw us from the beginning, and you can tell he's angry about it. His job for now is to salvage or destroy anything copyrighted so no one can use it illegally, but we're also under orders not to leave anything that could be useful to the malls construction workers because of all the problems. We're taking everything, light bulbs, doors, the works. Given that our classrooms don't have any windows because of the problems it would cause reflecting on the projectors, that should be interesting for anyone trying to work int he space after we're gone, it's going to be a shell.

One presentation down, three to go, two in the next few hours, and I've developed a hacking cough just in time. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

And now for a little light relief

Did I mention that yesterday was Teacher's Day here in China? Caught up in all the stress of this last week it's easy to forget the nicer moments. Disney sent a big basket of shiny red apples down from Shanghai for us so that every teacher in the centre could live the cliché for a moment, and a couple of my kids were absolutely adorable and bought me the little plastic flowers sold for the occasion. I have them at work right now, but will have to take pictures when I go back in on Thursday.

My phone credit ran out last night so I had to go up the street to the mall to top up my phone, so I got some groceries in while I was there. My first day off tends to be shopping/cleaning then the second I can do whatever. Sadly the 'cleaning' portion of today seems to be a fail so far, but given the crazy hours I sleep I suppose the day isn't a write off yet for all it's 7pm.

I've been looking into all the new autumn shows, with me just having Chinese TV I have to research this stuff, but it's all looking great! Some of the things I have on my radar are things I genuinely look forward to, others I think are going to be bad but will watch anyway. The genuine side includes the new season of Revenge (I bought a DVD of the first season here for 20 kwai (£2/$3) and watched it all over about 2 days), The Vampire Diaries (after finally watching season 3 properly), Big Bang Theory, Elementary (though I'm unsure how I'll react given how I enjoyed the other version), and (surprisingly as it's a CW show and they can be terrible) Green Arrow is looking potentially good. Shows that I'm on the fence about are Once Upon a Time (such a good premise that got so cheesy so fast), and Beauty and the Beast (A show I would love to love but looks like it's going to be done so badly!). Has anyone got any info on the new show Nashville? I ready a little synopsis on Television Without Pity and it could be interesting, but I need more info I think. Going back to my homeland I'm also waiting for Merlin, new Downton Abbey, and am loving the return of The Great British Bake-off. What's on your TV radar?

Monday, 10 September 2012

HULK. SMASH.

Well now it's Monday, which means it's my Friday as my days off are Tuesday and Wednesday, and a weekend has never been needed more. Saturday/Sunday are our busiest times in the centre, so bearing in mind some of the scheduling problems I outlined in my last post and all the extra work/stress it has resulted in, I was very much in a HULK. SMASH. mood for the majority of it.

Fortunately now that it's over and I'm breathing a little easier. The sit in demo thing didn't go too badly (Well, all the parents signed up anyway so it couldn't have been that bad), I got through my observation (we having done our feedback session yet so I couldn't tell you how it went), I got permission to do my assessments straight away rather than waiting for the next lesson (which clawed back some time for EOTP practice), and managed to get most of my classes to do some kind of run through of their performance activities, so I'm in better shape than I was in that respect. Today I managed to get all my report cards written and scanned in to the computer so they can go to my team teacher for translation first thing Thursday, backed up some important files ready for the big move, made my Power Point presentation ready for my littlest kids to receive their certificates, and uploaded all my assessment results for parents to check. This puts me somewhat back on schedule as by condensing lesson 11 and 12 into week 11 it also means I lost a week of time to get my reports finished and other stuff done. The End of Term Presentations are still the bane of my existence and despite the creative rearranging to better use the time they remain woefully under-practised, but I just keep trying to remind myself that even if they are all terribly awful, in a week it will all be over.

My LLD mentioned to me the other day that Disney do some kind of educational reimbursement, so I'm going to be looking into it to see if it's possible to get a Masters in Education (or something similar) while I'm out here. It would mean staying in China longer, but would make studying much cheaper than in I were doing it back home. I don't know the details yet so I'm trying not to pin my hopes on anything, but it remains a tantalizing possibility.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Work day blues

Construction addition of the day; we got to work and they've ripped up the floor to tile the entrance way, which meant for a while that you couldn't get to either the lifts or the stairs. Awesome.

With the change over to the new centre, we're having to make a few changes to our schedule, which means we'll have a good week or so with no lessons. Unfortunately, the teaching schedule is given out to every centre so there is zero flexibility, because everyone teaches the same week at the same time. There are advantages to this, if a family goes travelling they can go to another centre and get the same content for that week, or if they are absent for a day they can make up the class with another teacher and continue with their lessons. Given that we can't change the schedule, it means for the first six weeks we are going to have to double teach lessons, that is, condense lessons together and teach what we can to make up for lost time and return tot he national schedule by the end of the first unit. We're also condensing the last two weeks for this term so my kids now have zero End of Term Presentation practice time as I was expecting them to do the test and then have a week free to practice practice practice. The rug has been pulled out from under me a bit as the parents are now coming to watch us next lesson.This should in no way be a disaster of epic proportions.

In addition to all that I have no less than three demo kids sitting in my lesson today so their parents will be joining them in class, which means I can't fiddle with the routine to try and get us some more time (also: AHHH, PARENTS IN CLASS!), and head office have decided my manager still has to do 10 class observations this month despite the fact that we not be teaching for most of it due to the aforementioned centre move, so I get to have her come in to judge my Sunday morning class. My least favourite thing is to have people watching my class, and I get two lots of that this weekend, along with the added extra stress.

8 days 'til centre close. Body, a stress heart attack would slow me down significantly, we hold it together.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I can't decide if I want to get back in to blogging again officially. I feel like sometimes it's me telling myself 'no you have to blog' that makes me so disinclined to do it.

So, what's up Doc? We seem to have finally broken the back of the long hot summer of 2012, temperatures are hovering in the high 20s, but the burning heat and breathless humidity seem to have (literally) cooled it a bit. It's been overcast and downright pleasant here, I had almost forgotten what it was like to go outside and have it actually refresh you rather than making you want to cry.

I've spent the last few days eating fruit/veg intake like a mad woman. Last week I was having an Unpleasant Illness which included throwing up/running to the bathroom. I figured it was food poisoning, but then a couple of days later (when I thought things were fine again) I got this intermittent stomach pain that had me go home from work one day. It wasn't radiating from any one point, it was just present and interfering. My manager mentioned it sounded a lot like when she had gallstones, and that one of the things that can cause that was an unbalanced diet, so to avoid oily food and increase fruit/veg intake. Whichever one it was, it proves that my body belongs to the Florence + the machine school of relationships ('you hit me once, I hit you back...') and that I should probably cut it some slack every now and again. Eating out is so easy and cheap though, cheaper than buying the food yourself for the most part, that when you work the shifts I do (finishing late at night) it's easy to get lazy after a tiring day. I had been dithering about eating a bit healthier anyhow, but it seems my body has taken matters into it's own hands for now.

Our building at work has basically imploded. The mall changed owners and they decided they wanted to rebuild a whole lot of it, so there has been major construction going on all around us. It would be finny if I didn't have to work in it, every day we come in and the crew seem to have found a new way to make things much worse for us, despite us looking around the day before and thinking it was physically impossible for them to do so. In the couple of months we have had storage rooms cave in and flood, ceiling tiles taken out of multiple rooms due to water damage (and rubble falling from said holes), constant banging and drilling while trying to do demos and teach classes, bad smells, dirty water dripping through lights and other electrical items, mould, light fixtures fall out of the ceiling because the internal tile around it got wet, utilities being cut off at random times (bye bye functioning bathrooms), our internet wires accidentally dug up so we had no access to any of our teaching content or printers, an odd smoke/haze through our hallways, one of our room ceilings being supported by a tube wedged between it and the ceiling to stop it falling down, and finally, the crowning glory, one of the workers next door accidentally putting a pickaxe through the back of an interactive white board while demolishing a wall next door that was behind it. Fortunately it wasn't in use at the time.

The good news is a couple of weeks ago, the higher-ups came in and told us 'We have heard your cries! This centre is not safe and we will build you a new one!'. Unfortunately that didn't fix us for the time between then and the new place being built, but whatevs right? Thankfully the new building is nearly finished and we should be leaving the current death-trap on the 16th.

You'll all have to cross your fingers that we survive until then.