Teaching Intern: Happiness In A T-shirt!

happiness

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival all! Today is China’s biggest national celebration (second to New Year, but that’s a given first spot isn’t it!?).  And so to celebrate ‘the lady on the moon’, I have stayed in bed all day. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Han calendar.  Essentially its significance is for families to gather together to celebrate the end of the autumn harvest and, as all festivals have it, there is a wonderful story.  This legend is of a ‘lady who lives on the moon’ and on the night of Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is bright, children try their best to find the shape of Chang’e (the Lady on the moon) whilst nibbling on a moon cake.  Hang on… What’s a Moon Cake?  Hmmm… “It’s a round pastry full of flavour… and calories” I’m told.

Yum… bring it on please.  I’m expecting sweet, maybe chocolate.  Haha!  NOPE!  Its suet pastry.  Salty suet pastry!  Filled with lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms and egg yolks.  I can’t say for certain if I like moon cake, so I’ll just have to keep eating them and I’ll let you know!

Picture of Jessica’s spicy hot pot!

Staying on the theme of food… Sichuan is the province of spice.  THE spiciest chillies on the planet in a boiling pot of which you throw in your ‘duck intestines’, ‘pig stomach’ and ‘animal liver’ – take a guess what animal, I have no idea!  WOWZERS… this meal is gorgeously spicy, temperature hot hot hot and delicious!  Hot Pot!  Across China the food has been amazing.  But in Chengdu,  amazingly delightfully spicy.  I love it!

I also love China.   Yes, I’m confident to say “I love China”.   During a visit to Wang Fu Jing Street market, my friend Dale bought a “I love BJ” t-shirt (I’ll leave it up to you to guess what the abbreviation is of…) and it got me thinking about ‘perception is projection’…
I came to China with a preconceived expectation of over population, chaos, noise, dirt, horrid smells, culture shock, small fish in a very large swimming pool… the list goes on.  China is none of the above, in my opinion.  The people are super friendly, peaceful and really attractive! They dress so well with immaculate presentation.  It’s fascinating people watching.  Beijing is magic, a mix up of old and new.  The pollution is incredible –  it’s like a subtle smoke screen, a light fog in front of your eyes; a blue grey haze just ahead of the clouds, but it’s tolerable.  Smells galore – sweet, almost liquorice smells suffused with dim sum (dumplings!Yummy scrummy dumplings!) and, ummm… yeh ok… horrid drain smells.  But you quickly walk past that.   In the main, though… China is chilled.  ‘You do what you do, no big deal.’

Anyway, so I’m in Beijing.  Dale is wearing his “I love BJ” t-shirt, and I’m thinking “I’m really happy.”  I’ve got an inner glow of contentedness.  I’ve met some absolutely fantastic people who I am humbly privileged to be able to call my friends.   We’ve been on gorgeous explorations seeing incredible historical sites, temples, THE GREAT WALL, eaten animal testicles (Harrison ate brain, blurrr) and not once felt out of my depths.  I haven’t experienced culture shock.  I haven’t missed a proper cup of Yorkshire tea.  Blimey, I’ve not even missed my digestive biscuits!!!! I know there is time, I’ve only been here a month, but still…  Is my perception actually my projection?  Is the outer world as I am living it actually a reflection of what’s going on inside?   Granted, the fact that my shy bowels took almost two weeks to work might be the reason for the drain smells!?   I’m content, I’m surrounded by peaceful living,  I’m having successful mime conversations with the locals, completely oblivious to the fact that I can’t speak Mandarin (yet! Lessons start next week!) – it doesn’t matter, we don’t need voice when we have hands! And I’m not phased… they’re not phased… we are not phased.  We just do it!  Is this the real China?  Can a nation of overwhelming acceptance and welcome really exist… it appears so!

“If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person.  If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house.  If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.  If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”  – Chinese proverb.

Picture of Jessica and her squad

‘The Squad’ have now separated… we’re spread out across China.  We have holidays together booked.  We’re in touch often via WeChat.  (I can actually pay for my food shop with my WeChat app.) I’m now in the Buddhist province of Sichuan.  Chengdu.  It’s brill.  I’ve been teaching for two weeks already.  I’m in love with my students.  We explore ‘creative thinking’ through drama (“in English please”) – I’m a dance and drama teacher in China! Could my dream get any more perfect!? I feel like a proud big sister (although I am old enough to be their mother!) And my flat mate and work mate and exploring Chengdu mate, Craig, is cool.   We’re the only Westerners in the district!  Thank goodness The Leshan Giant Buddha is only a short bus ride from our apartment… the 71 metre tall stone statue must be influencing our calm minds.  Or could that be the pandas!?!   Or the Tea Houses?  Or the lady selling 10p (Y1) dumplings on the street corner?  Or perhaps it’s our daily visit to the HongQi Chain?  Maybe it’s the delicious huge portion of almond jelly we regularly indulge in.  Or perhaps it could be…

Jessica Blackbond, a teaching intern from Teach & Travel China Program Summer 2016 intake, was placed in Sichuan, Chengdu.

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