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Published: March 12th 2007
I have slowly but steadily warmed to Jinan. Its face changes as the day lengthens. In the early morning it is still and very cool, local people perform Tai Chi in the parks as I pass on my way to work. My favourite bakery takes delivery of soft sponges and sweet breads and crossing the road isn't an operation. By afternoon, the city has hurried itself into a circus, crossing the road is an ambitious task, kites soar high above parks and squares and below everyone is in a hurry. The evenings are lively and atmospheric, the city is lit up by neon signs and fairy lights. Crossing the road is an ambitious task minus the daylight. Merchants' corners and street sellers do bustling trade from toilet rolls and handbags to tortoises and goldfish. There are warm, smokey smells of baked sweet potatoes, hot corn and Chinese dumplings sold from carts on the street.
As much as my affection for Jinan is growing, it is poisonous. All week I've suffered from an angry cough which burned my throat and hoarsened my voice making teaching for 20 hours difficult. Fortunately the children didn't leave with rough, Scots accents. The pollution at times can be suffocating. If I'm in a taxi and the driver has the window down, I splutter all the way to my destination. But pollution from industry, coal and traffic congestion isn't the only poison. Every day I'm abused by the stench of sewage. Yes there are open sewers, but that isn't my first complaint. Problems with the nearby drains has it leaking on to the streets and our bathroom is regularly foul with the smell rising up from the open pipes. Today our toilet started over-flowing so at 10:30 this morning my flatmate and I had to take a trip to KFC to use their 'facilities' and out of guilt ended up staying for French fries and corn which was a poor breakfast but delicious!
My first weekend of teaching at Aston English School was exhausting but very rewarding. I teach for 2 hours on a Friday night and all day on Saturday and Sunday. The remainder of the week I have to myself to lesson plan and enjoy my time. My students range from 4 years to 13 years old. All pupils have both a Chinese name and an English name. Since many of my younger kids didn't, I was allowed to name them. Among those I named were 2 Michaels, 4 Scotts, 1 Hazel, 1 Summer and 1 tiny 4 year old I named Vicky who hugged my knees at the end of our lesson and had to by extracted by her mother.
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