It's really the end...

June 15th 2010
Published: June 15th 2010
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Since returning from Shanghai on the 8th, things have been sort of a blur. We came back to a school that was slightly frightening- everything was roped off with what looked like (but wasn’t) crime tape and there were extra police everywhere, even at the beginning of our road to only allow certain cars and people through (no public buses). The reason for all this? The Gao Kao, China’s national Senior 3 college entrance exam. It lasts for three days, and each school looks sort of like ours did during this time. Parents swarm the school, only allowed in certain areas, anxiously waiting for their beloved child to come out and get a snack from them or just a quick pat on the head. We made sure to tip-toe around the school grounds as much as we could, as the testing was still going on through the 9th.

Shortly after we arrived home from Shanghai, our friends Pete and Elyse flew in from a vacation to Xi’an, China. They had finished teaching early, and needed to be out of their apartment by the 9th, so Pete went back to their place to finish up a few last-minute items and Elyse came to sleep in our extra dorm room. The three of us spent Tuesday evening drinking Tsingtao (bought from our wonderful tiny store underneath our creepy bridge) and just talking about our respective trips. On Wednesday, we took her down to our little village to have Sichuan food at our favorite restaurant. Upon walking up to the restaurant, we saw it was completely gutted. WHAT?! Just as the panic started to set in over our favorite restaurant being gone, two waitresses dressed in that restaurant’s uniforms came running from around the corner frantically pointing and yelling in Chinese to us. Ahh, they had just moved to the third floor of the building. The waitresses clearly know us…do you think we’ve gone there often, or something? 😊 We had some delicious food, high-tailed it back to school and caught a ride down to our Chinese class in downtown Shenzhen.

After Chinese, we met up with our ‘family’, our group of 8. C&J, K&K, P&E and M&S. C unfortunately had to go home in order to have a last-minute banquet with her school leaders, but the 7 of us headed out for beers in the park and then to dinner at a nearby Western restaurant, named ‘The Kitchen’. Elyse and I shared a bottle of wine, and everyone enjoyed some yummy grub. It was a wonderful ending to what has been a great year of friendship. China bonds people in a way that is impossible to explain. I think after you’ve been through China together, you can get through almost anything. I know they’ll be lifelong friends, no matter what part of the world each of us ends up in! P&E will be returning to China to teach, this time in the city of Hangzhou (near Shanghai), K&K will also likely be returning to China, and C&J will be going home to Boston to find jobs.

P&E spent Wednesday night at our place as well, taking off early Thursday morning to go to Vietnam for a few weeks. We’ll meet up with them again in Hong Kong in the beginning of July, before the four of us hop on that same United flight from HK-SF on the 6th!

We taught on Thursday, and then spent Friday just relaxing before Chinese class. At lunch, we learned that we would have to teach on the weekend. Many of our friends had already been told this, but our school was a little behind, or someone had just forgotten. Either way, it wasn’t a huge deal. June 16th is Dragon Boat Festival in China, so many students get the days off to go home and eat a sort of rice dumpling with their families as well as watch the boat races and just have fun. However, China doesn’t like giving students ACTUAL holidays, so having a few days off in the week simply means that those classes must be made up on a Saturday or Sunday.

Knowing this, we knew we wouldn't get another chance to say goodbye to K&K and that we'd have to say goodbye to C&J after Chinese class that day. It was a sad day, as it was also our last day of Chinese! We'd come to really know and love our teacher over the past few months (we had a different one the first semester) and will truly miss her. She's so patient and funny! I hope our paths will cross again someday.

After Chinese, we headed out to return our metro cards that we've used all year in Shenzhen with C&J. Martin attempted to use his Chinese to talk to a woman working there, basically saying the equivalent of "I don't want this. Can you give me my money?" (yes, our rudimentary language skills mean that we sound VERY polite!), to which the woman responded "Speak Chinese". Martin: "Uh, that was Chinese." 😊 After successfully receiving our deposits back, we went out for one last dinner with C&J-- pizza and beer, naturally. The four of us completely avoided the topic that we didn't know when we'd see each other again next and instead just laughed and enjoyed our food.

Our weekend was spent teaching and packing. I taught one class Saturday morning, and roped Martin into coming to it with me, as our kids LOVE seeing us together. We played a sort of basketball game and Martin posed for a lot of pictures, making my kids laugh hysterically. Then we went to Carrefour, our nearest 'big' grocery store for one last time to buy gifts for all the people at our school that have been so kind over the year- our school guards, our drivers, the headmaster & leaders. That night, we had a farewell banquet with a few of the English teachers and 3 of the school leaders. They remembered that I don't eat meat or seafood, and were overly concerned about how many vegetarian dishes they got, so that was really nice. Unfortunately, I did take a big bite out of a fishball. The dish came and I heard them ask the waitress if it had meat. No, she said. "It's radish, and's vegetarian, Staci!" "Thanks!" I smiled and took a big bite. Sure, it was radish, and garlic...and FISH. I powered through two big bites so that I didn't look completely rude and then hid the rest in my bowl. I never liked fish even when I did eat meat, so it wasn't the easiest for me to suppress the gag reflex. Other than the fishball incident, it was a nice evening of toasting and thanking each other for a wonderful year in China. 😊

Now? Our room is in shambles and we've been frantic deciding what will be thrown away and what will come with us. We leave this evening for Kuala Lumpur on a flight out of Hong Kong. We'll come back to our school on the 30th, spend 2 more evenings packing & then say goodbye to China on July 2nd. Can't believe it's really here!


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