Monday, January 12: We had our Year 1 Writing Final Exams today from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Normally the students are given one hour to write two paragraphs, meaning that they don’t have time to ramble on and on. However, this semester, the powers-that-be decided to give the students two hours to write two paragraphs. This meant that I got 73 papers with two very long paragraphs each. As we got the papers late in the day, we started marking very late. I only got 11 exams marked over a several hour period. As Mike’s arrival was scheduled for Monday, January 19, I felt a lot of pressure to get all my papers marked, tally my grades, and get signed off so I could collect my travel allowance before the weekend. It was a lot of pressure to complete everything in a very short time.
Tuesday, January 13: We had to invigilate the Year 1 Reading Exams, even though, as a Writing teacher, I don’t teach reading. After invigilating, I marked 25 more of my Writing exams. It was a grueling day with hardly a break, but I had set a quota for myself and I had to do it. As I couldn’t start marking until after noon, when the Reading Exams were over, it really compressed my marking time into about a 6 hour period.
Wednesday, January 14: Today we had to invigilate for the Year 2 Listening Exams from 8:30-10 a.m. and another set from 10:30-12:00. This meant that I got another set of 37 Listening Exams from my Year 1 students to mark. For the rest of the day, all I did was mark exams: 19 Writing exams and 12 Listening exams. It was a thankless day.
Thursday, January 15: Luckily, I didn’t have to invigilate for any more exams, so I hunkered down and marked the final 18 Writing exams and the final 25 Listening exams. Needless to say, it was a very long day.
Friday, January 16: Today, I had to transfer all the grades from my exams (73 Writing and 37 Listening and 37 Speaking, which we had given last week) to spreadsheets and double-check them, and write a summary as to why the grades are the way they are (SCIC requires that all classes have an 80% average (+ or – 4%)). I did it all, handing my grades in by 4:00 p.m. However, I found out the office handing out the travel allowances was closed until Saturday.
Saturday, January 17 & Sunday, January 18: This morning, first thing, I went to the office with all my signed-off papers and got my travel allowance, which is really just the money reimbursing us for our original flight to China back in September. It really isn’t anything but a back payment for money we’ve already spent. However, I was determined to get it before I left on my holiday.
Meanwhile, during this horrible week of marking, I was also booking hotels and flights for Alex’s and my trip to Yunnan in the first half of February. I also was working on booking my in-country flights and hotels in Myanmar, which I never had time to complete and had to do while I was traveling.
Over the weekend, I was still working on booking things for my holiday, getting my apartment cleaned for Mike’s arrival, taking care of banking matters (I had to get crisp new U.S. Dollars to exchange in Myanmar), and packing. And during my down time, I spent countless hours watching all the episodes of the final season of Breaking Bad, one right after the other. 🙂
Monday, January 19: Mike is due to arrive in Nanning at 10:55 a.m. on Air China, so I take off from my apartment at around 9:45 to walk to the front gate of the university and catch a taxi. Luckily I get there in time and I capture him as he comes in through the gate with the other mostly Chinese passengers. I am very happy to see him after being away from home for four and half months.
We get in line at the taxi stand where I show the driver my trusty Nanning map with Guangxi University on it, since the drivers can never understand me when I say “Guangxi Daxue,” which means Guangxi University. I don’t know how I’m saying it incorrectly, because whenever I listen to a Chinese person say it, it sounds the same as when I say it. However, no one can EVER understand me. As an English teacher who works in foreign countries, it’s really pathetic at how bad I am at learning new languages.
It’s about a 45 minute drive from the airport to the university and Mike is bewildered by the lively chaos that defines the streets of Nanning: motorbikes, e-bikes, bicycles, three-wheeled contraptions, fancy cars and SUVs, plus vendors selling every item known to man. I’m sure a city like Nanning is a shock to someone like Mike who has never been to Asia before.
We take his suitcase to my apartment and head out directly to my favorite dumpling place across the road from the university’s Main Gate. We order dumplings with pork and Chinese chives, dumplings with water chestnuts and my favorite ultra-salty and spicy green beans with red peppers.
After lunch, we change into some walking clothes and take a nearly 4 mile walk outside of the West Gate of the university. I have to pick up a poncho I dropped off at a dry cleaner there, so I choose that route for today. I figure he’d like to move around after sitting on a cramped airplane for endless hours.
I give him a little time to relax in my apartment while I finish packing, as we leave Tuesday at 5:20 p.m. on an overnight train to Jishou.
For dinner, we go to a Japanese restaurant which I used to like but now has a much reduced menu. I actually don’t order anything because I’m stuffed from the afternoon’s dumplings, but what Mike orders has some kind of meat prepared in the typical Chinese style, full of gristle and fat. He doesn’t eat much either as he gets tired of spitting out all the unsavory parts of the meat. We do however toast his visit with a Tsingtao beer. 🙂