So its officially over. Last week was my final week of teaching the students and I will be leaving BaGang and the flat in a few days. Before I get to all that I will try and recap the last two months. The further on in the year I get, the faster everything goes so the last few months have been a bit of a blur.
A week or two after the colour run we met up with Laura who was one of the girls living in Urumqi that we first became friends with back in October. She was back from Beijing for a night so us three and Gina (the other girl we met in October) went to a bar. It was a laugh to meet up just the four of us again because we hadn’t done that in a while. We also went to a Maltese restaurant the next day to get some Pizza which was weird to eat while in China. Seeing as we were going to be seeing Laura just before flying out in Beijing I asked her to take some of my stuff so I wouldn’t have to lug it around China while travelling. Packing that first bag was a bit of a jarring experience because it was definitely the beginning of the end of my time in China, I had to think about what I definitely wouldn’t need in my last few months.
In typical annoying fashion I feel like over the last few months has been when I have finally found my rhythm in China and I am just about to leave it all behind. I have became much better friends with my students, organising games of football in and outside of school and even going to the local arcade with a few of them. They still aren’t the most attentive of students but at least the atmosphere in the classroom is a lot more friendly and interactive than before. We have our various routines throughout the week e.g. Game of thrones and kebabs on Mondays and eating out at a local restaurant on Thursdays. And I (Mac not so much) am confident with navigating my way around Bagang and Urumqi.
So the last few weeks have been where it has really hit us that we don’t have much time left. We started to let everyone know when we would be leaving and started the process of saying our goodbyes to everyone.
One of the weeks ended up being a holiday so we invited Joe (another Project Trust volunteer) over from Gansu to stay with us for a few days which was good fun because I hadn’t seen him since October. We just hung out for most of it, watched various movies and played cards in the apartment. We spent one of the nights in Urumqi with Gina and ended up getting a midnight meal of kebabs out under the stars with a Chinese policeman paying for the food and German beer. Another night we got invited out to the Cinema/Arcade with some of my students so we spent a few hours with our competing masculinities seeing which of us could punch the hardest and shoot the most baskets in 5 minutes (Joe can technically punch harder but the machine gave me a coke for being more consistent so who is the real winner?).
Joe left and we only had two weeks left of teaching. This was the last week for the younger years (grades 1-6) and I actually ended up being ill and missing my last lessons with my youngest two years which was a shame. I did end up seeing a fair few of them on the day of their exams though so it wasn’t too bad. I did manage to make it in for my last lesson with my grades 6’s who are aged 10-12 and that was a fun (if slightly tedious) lesson. Most of the students have these personality quiz sheet things that are to help them stay in contact with each other if they go to different schools and a lot of them wanted me to fill out one for them. They were all very similar so I had to copy down my star sign, blood type, dream job, favourite food/drink/movie/book/actor etc. for every student that wanted one so that took up most of the lesson. I then got them all to sign my shirt which I don’t think any of them had done before because of how excited they got. I am fairly sure I got away with no swear words on it but it is all in Chinese so I can never really be sure.
At the weekend we were invited out for our final farewell with the senior staff at the school. We were picked up in a minibus and driven to a nearby city, Changji, and taken up near the top of a very tall building to have a Chinese/Western buffet. It was a lovely send off where we talked with the headmistress and other teachers about what opinions and aspects of ourselves had changed over the year and what our plans for the future were.
And then we were in our final week. Having to say goodbye to all my students has been way way harder than I had expected it to be. At the start of the year when you are faced with ~500 new faces that speak a different language to you and have grown up in a completely different society from your own it seemed like an impossible task to get to know all of them. But I have. Although I still have trouble pronouncing and remember their Chinese names I can recognise almost all of my students and I know the ones with the best english, the ones that are best at football and the ones where I need to check my pockets and hood after I have walked past to make sure they haven’t slipped something in there. Being a foreign teacher comes with its pros and cons but one of the great things about it is that it allows you to develop a much closer relationship with your students as they see you as a mix between a peer and a teacher (the con is trying to balance that mix when you are getting them to shut up). I spent my last lessons with all my students just having a laugh so that they remember me as the fun teacher and to de-stress them a bit in preparation for their end of year exams. We listened to some music, played some games, watched some funny clips they had brought in and then ended it with me giving out my QQ (kinda like Facebook messenger) and taking photos with all of them. I have promised to give them updates on what I end up doing next and they have agreed to fill me in on any gossip that happens over the summer holidays. Some of my lessons got stolen by Chinese teachers to cram in some extra preparation for exams but I spent my final lunch trying to talk to and take photos with all the students who missed their final lesson with me.
And here we are. At the end of my time in 八钢 its been a long year but an incredibly interesting and enlightening one. Gonna say my final goodbyes to my friends in the next two days and then it is off travelling for just over a month and then I am back in Britain. Its crazy how quickly time flies. I hope you have enjoyed reading these blogs, I am probably going to post a travel summary when I am finished with that and then possibly another blog post or two just reflecting on the year as a whole. I am not going to be posting my travel to instagram this time because I have been having trouble with the app but I am going to be trying out videos through Beme so if you have that you can follow me @calmorley.