I arrived in Changsha on 27th June and immediately felt alienated. Not many people speak English making everyday tasks like getting food extremely difficult. The first time I went out in search of food alone, I tried to say that I would like vegetables with noodles, and they took me into the kitchen so I could point at what I wanted. It was incredibly humiliating, but I didn’t go hungry. Most Chinese people I have met have been fairly accommodating. They see me as the ‘beautiful foreigner’ with white skin and ginger hair, so therefore I am treated like a low scale celebrity. I know I will get there in the end with a lot of sign language and actions and the people seem more than willing to help.
I stayed in Changsha for three nights before going to Huai Hua for one month for ‘training’ in another Kindergarten (and by training I mean being given a few classes and being told to teach the kids English). I am essentially learning on the job, but I have good guidance in the form of Mei-Ling, so am learning what to do (and what not to do). She is helping me learn Chinese, and I try to help her with English as much as I can.
The children are really cute. Some can be shy (as to be expected) and some are very forthcoming and like to hold my hand, repeat what I say and always say ‘Good Morning’. I only have a month with these children, but I would like for them to get to know me – the shy ones in particular. So far I have taught them body parts and some weather names. They like songs and actions so I have taught them Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and The Sun Has Got His Hat On. Some are rather disinterested when we sit down to learn, but they always participate in the songs.
I haven’t had much chance to explore this city yet, I have been to the Supermarket after work but that’s it. I work from 7:30-4:30, so don’t get much time to look around. I’m saving that for the weekend, instead. The Supermarkets are always interesting visits, I find. I love the exotic fruit like Dragon Fruit and Mangosteen and enjoy looking at the Chinese food like dried fish, fermented duck eggs and chicken claws. Someone who works at the agency in Changsha bought fermented duck eggs in a chilli sauce for me to try at a restaurant. I tried some but didn’t realise they weren’t cooked – they were like a weird kind of jelly. I didn’t like them!
The street food in Changsha was also interesting. They sell things like pig snouts, frog meat, duck heads and pig ears. They also sell a famous dish in Changsha; Stinky Tofu. It’s basically fried tofu in a very spicy sauce- and yes, it stinks. It smells a little like rotten eggs.
I’m looking forward to being able to explore China, meet new people and make friends with the children. I’ve enjoyed the week that I have been here already and I’m sure I will love the new experiences over the next 12 months.