On the way back to Karamay on Thursday, I was informed by Josh that due to complaints from both the students and teachers, the timetable had been completely overhauled, right down to the number of lessons per day and when they occurred. I prefer the new one, not that it’s up to me, although the one downside is an imbalance in lessons per day. Monday is now an easy, single-lesson affair, but that’s compensated with my five-lesson Fridays (there are seven taught periods per day). The week gets progressively busier, but one complaint I cannot make is early starts – in fact, three days a week I don’t start until midday or later!
After my highly stressful single-day week (ahem), Tom and I decided to pay the Kuitun Trio a visit. They live on a literal building site, complete with welding sparks flying over the dirt track and uncovered manholes. All good fun. We were treated to second dinner (for them) when we arrived. The bus there was an interesting experience – two-and-a-half hours of bumpy swerving around other (slower) drivers.
I was interested to see Becca’s school (a Senior High School as opposed to a Middle School – apparently some students are older than she is!) as we had a brief visit on Saturday, via the nearby bakery. Bakeries here focus much more on sweet pastries than bread; bread itself is sweet – none of that dull Western stuff (this is sarcasm; I miss British non-sweet bread quite a lot).
We also got to see some of Liesbeth’s students – not difficult, as their apartment is right next to (and overlooks) her school – before an evening out ‘on the town’ at the one bar we found which had a door (that is, a door we were able to locate). The owners were delighted to see some Westerners (or possibly just paying customers – it was largely empty) and at one point we were serenaded with guitar playing.
Back in Karamay, we carried on trying to settle into a routine. Not easy, as we’re off to Fukang next week for a Xinjiang meet-up, but I was able to start to get used to the new timetable (not that I had time to get used to the previous one). We also saw some sheep tied to trees appearing here and there in Nanlin (南林 – our residential area). Apparently it’s in preparation for a Uighur festival in which the sheep are slaughtered and split up between friends, charity and family. Seems like a nice enough sentiment to me (not so for the sheep) but Calum, who was able to witness the event in Ürümqi, said it was rather gory in places.
Tom and I also got taken to a ‘Korean Barbecue’ restaurant by a couple of Chinese students we met at an English Corner. I have no idea whether it’s at all Korean, but it’s good fun, in a cook-it-yourself sort of way: the meat slices are served raw and cooked by the customers on a heating rack in the middle of the table. Once cooked, they are wrapped in lettuce leaves and various spices and then eaten. I think we were told something about avoiding lettuce and salads, but it didn’t make us ill so I’m sure it was fine.