I have now settled on a weekday routine for myself that usually involves the gym, dumplings, learning chinese and ‘teaching’ english.
This morning the gym instructor handed me a piece of paper stating my routine for the next few weeks: this involved a lot of cardio – about 40 mins! – and 20 mins on a ‘arm spinning machine’. I smiled politely, pretended not to understand (I definitely did because he had gone to the trouble of writing it in english) and proceeded to the weights area. For anyone who is even remotely interested I have devised a regime where I do repetitions off a timer, so I get everything done a lot quicker and build up some endurance at the same time. So every two minutes people hear an alarm, me swearing and a lot of grunting before, usually, a big crash. After I finished I went for a shower – which as I have said before is always dangerous at my gym – only to find that the whole changing rooms stunk of smoke. The gym employees use the changing rooms and toilets as their own smoking room, much to mine, but seemingly no-one else’s, annoyance. It’s a dirty habit at the best of times, but especially in a place where you are supposed to be promoting health. Shame on you.
After the gym I usually work on my Chinese for a couple of hours before I need to be in school at 1. This has been going very slowly, although I’m now starting to make some progress. I can now order the correct amount of Baozi (steamed bun with meat / vegetable in the middle); previously I would get any number between 1-10 depending on the shop owners’ interpretation of how many fingers I was holding up. Not that I complained. In my head I only ordered two, so maybe my body just forgot about the other eight. Maybe, but not likely. I’m using a program called Anki for most of my learning, which uses flashcards to teach you the symbols, the pinyin (alphabet translation) and the english meaning. On the whole it’s really good, but it does like to throw-in the occasional curve ball: the second thing I ever learnt in Chinese was: “This watermelon tastes great”. Excellent.
Then its off to school. Luckily we have now finished the english speaking contest… 82 contestants later. The winner received 1000 RMB, which is about £100. Not bad for 3 minutes work. I was supposed to give a critique in front of the whole school on the performances, but when it came to the end everybody just wanted to leave so it was forgotten about. Which was just as well because I hadn’t prepared anything to say. This means that today it is back to lesson planning and time filling; sometimes I take my laptop in to practice more Chinese but this usually generates quite an audience and I get embarrassed!
I finally borrowed a DVD player from school yesterday. Cue a lot of swearing as I set it up at home with only Chinese characters to guide me. Eventually I got it working and I now have all five seasons of The Wire to get through before July. It’s going to be tough, but I think I can do it.