Weekly

Week 50: The Journey Ends in Beijing

Our final hostel was an irritable trek from the nearest metro stations but well worth it - one of the nicest, and very reasonable room rates. In the dorm of ten beds we had eight of them (throughout the week there was a steady influx of Project Trust volunteers arriving from their travels) but quickly made friends with one of the other travellers, Amy, from Australia. The other room-mate fairly blatantly disliked us, though this was probably justified, given eight people laden with suitcases from a year-long stay quickly spread to fill all floor space. We tried, we really did. We also resorted to shared resources (mainly communal shampoo) since we had so little time left. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 49: ‘Storms’, Day Trips, and a 27-Bed Dorm

We went from a box hostel to a loft, although it was actually much better than it sounds. Despite having 32 beds, the air-con was good and the beds were comfortable, and far from feeling like sardines in a can, the loft was full of beams, nooks and crannies which made it feel much more separated than it was (you weren’t aware of the other 31 beds at the same time). The first night, George, Calum and I ran off to Pizza Hut because we couldn’t resist. It’s actually a relatively high-end restaurant in China - at least compared to the UK - which we found quite surreal. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 48: Shanghai, for the Third Time

We had a relaxing few days in Bagang with shopping visits to Ürümqi and last Pollo (ever?), before the relaxed start heading off to Ürümqi South in a 7-seater van. There were only 6 of us, but don’t get the wrong idea, we between us had at least one suitcase and backpack each, and the back three seats came at the cost of the boot. If we’d crashed, as Calum helpfully pointed out next to me in the back seat (underneath Kieran’s larger suitcase), we’d probably lose various limbs. Despite arriving at the station with an hour to spare, we were somehow running for the train. The ride was surprisingly smooth until we realised that we were going on the high-speed line (pity we couldn’t go at the higher speed as well to cut down the journey time). (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 47: In Which We Visit the Middle-East of China

After a car journey back to Turpan Station we found ourselves on a double-decker train to Kashgar. Instead of a single floor three beds high, the carriage was split into two floors, two beds high. Though less convenient for a group of six (bays of four) it was more comfortable. Leaving a station with the platform at eye-height (standing up) was an odd experience! As evening set in we wound up through the mountains, Kashgar-bound. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 46: I Leave Karamay and the UK Leaves Something Else

This week started on a low and ended on a high of a slightly different variety. So first let’s address the low. The UK voted to leave the EU. Unsurprisingly given my age and the fact that I actually researched the likely outcomes of leaving, I voted for Remain by proxy. It was an entirely unemotional and logical vote, separated from the untrustworthy campaigns by several thousand kilometres. And now that politicians faced with triggering Article 50 have realised they don’t really want to, I can only hope they decide that 1.9% is not a convincing majority and stop consciously screwing everyone over with something that half the country doesn’t want, and a significant amount of the other half didn’t know they didn’t want or didn’t think would actually happen when they voted. Good job, guys. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 45: Last of the Summer Karamay (Becca’s Back Again!)

Found out at the last minute that this was my last week of lessons! I planned to play Musical Chairs and get students to write on my shirt. Only thing I was missing was white shirts to be written on - cue Paris from next door to the rescue! We wandered the markets hunting a price we liked for several hours until we got lucky. My students got into the games and once someone was out I let them choose the playlist. I was given a random assortment of lovely gifts, some even handmade, and asked by several students to sign their uniforms. Hope they don’t get into trouble - I was using permanent marker. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 44: The Fuhai Dragon-Boat Festival

The Dragon-boat festival warranted a national holiday from Thursday to Sunday. Technically our school started on Sunday (the Dragon-boat festival is a single day’s holiday, so schools tend to shift the weekend to make a three-day weekend); Cindy assured me that it was perfectly reasonable to request an extra day off, so I did. Tom and I got the Wednesday night train up to Fuhai to see Kieran. This time we splashed out for a sleeper, which meant we were only a bit tired when we reached his house (even with a bed, 2am to 7am does not make for a particularly refreshing night’s sleep). (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 43: Yurting up Tianshan

Tom and I began an early weekend boarding one of the (perpetually late) Ürümqi trains. Three hours later than planned we reached Fukang for tea with Ben and Calum. Brian, a re-returned volunteer, arrived later with Sean and Tom (three Toms caused way too much confusion). We planned to spend the weekend in a Kazakh Yurt in the nearby Tianshan mountain range. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 42: This Week I Have Mainly Been Sleeping

This week’s lesson was British Slang. I did it as a Multiple Choice team game: split the class into two, write the word on the board with four options for what it means. I had things like sup, alright (neither of which are actually questions), banter, chav and on fleek among others. The only problem with the game is that, since it was essentially luck as to whether they got the correct answer (I did give clues such as using the words in sentences), there wasn’t a particularly high success rate, which meant the classes generally lost interest after about six words. They don’t like it when they don’t get answers correct. I thought the fun was in learning new words. I thought wrong. (more…)

By TJC, ago
Weekly

Week 41: The Karamay Social Club Closes its Doors

For the last time, Karamay played weekend host to Kieran and Calum (at the same time). This week’s classes involved a marathon of Hot Seat: the game where the class knows a word, but one kid (standing up) can’t see it and has to have the word described to him by his classmates. Taboo is the opposite; the one kid knows the word and has to describe it to his class. No new content, but their exams are coming up so this was a chance to practice existing knowledge of English. I let the class choose their own words, too, which led to one kid in 'Hot Seat' trying to guess the word 'god'. Someone in the front row pointed to the guy next to him and said 'him' and instantly, I kid you not, he got the answer correct. I don’t know either. (more…)

By TJC, ago