a 30-hour marking marathon & mike’s welcome arrival

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.

Mike arrives at Nanning International Airport

Mike arrives at Nanning International Airport

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.

the taxi stand at the airport

the taxi stand at the airport

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.

Mike tries dumplings at my favorite dumpling place

Mike tries dumplings at my favorite dumpling place

I take Mike to my favorite dumpling spot

I take Mike to my favorite dumpling spot

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. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese language, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Language barrier, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

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44 thoughts on “a 30-hour marking marathon & mike’s welcome arrival

  1. I do NOT envy you all that marking! I know I complain about marking, but what I have to do puts yours well and truly into the shade! You must have really felt you deserved your vacation after that. 🙂


    • That marking was really traumatic, Elaine, and it makes me NOT look forward to going back to work next week, knowing I’ll have to do it all over again next semester. I did really feel I deserved a holiday after that!! 🙂


  2. Good to see you back! And I look forward to the journeys you have made over the last two months 🙂


    • Thanks, Jude. It’s good to be back. I’m exhausted. That’s the longest I’ve ever traveled, 6 weeks in all, and I was busy EVERY day! Now I think I’ll stay in my pajamas until I have to go back to work on Monday!! It’s been a grand adventure. 🙂


      • Glad you had fun! Hope work is a bit better this semester – are you there much longer, and any decisions as to where next?


      • I still have the whole spring semester and won’t finish until July 18, when my visa expires. I’m planning to go home at least through the fall and the holidays. I’m still dreaming of Japan for the spring semester of 2016, but we’ll see about that. 🙂


  3. What a grueling task of marking papers that all begin to sound the same, perhaps. Hope you and Mike enjoyed the hikes and sites together, you being the guide, of course. 🙂


    • Oh yes, Lynne, it was really grueling and I felt if I had to read one more endless, undecipherable paragraph about the Chinese Spring Festival, I would shoot myself! Mike and I had a great trip, but we had mostly dreadful weather, which put a damper on things. My son Alex also came for two weeks in Yunnan, where the weather was lovely. Then I spent two weeks on my own in Myanmar. A great trip all around. 🙂


  4. The adventure begins! 🙂 You’re going to keep us entertained for weeks, Cathy 🙂 Are you straight back into work again? I imagine you’ve maximised your hols.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Jo, the adventure has ended, but it begins in my retelling! I’ll keep myself entertained as well as any readers I have; I’ll be sorting through over 8,000 pictures and trying to find time to write about everything that I experienced. I imagine it will take me the rest of my time in China to write about all that! Luckily I don’t start work until Monday, so I have a little time to relax. Right now I’m of a mind to stay in my pajamas the entire time. I really feel I did maximize my holidays, but I was getting a little travel weary toward the end, and though I could have gone for 5 more days, I just didn’t have the energy to do it. 🙂


      • I can just imagine you slumped in the PJ’s. Did your stomache behave itself? 🙂


      • I’ve been nearly nonstop in pajamas since I returned home, Jo. It doesn’t help that it’s so dreary and now raining outside! My stomach didn’t cause me many problems on this trip, surprisingly. However, as you will see when I cover all of my trip with Mike after Fenghuang, we had horrible weather and I got a bad sore throat and cough and general cold. It was misery. 🙂


      • Grey day here too. I’m playing with black and white photos while Mick decorates the kitchen. Don’t suppose you fancy the 5 day b & w challenge? 🙂


      • Thanks for thinking of me, Jo, but I have so many photos to sort through from my trip, I don’t think I’d have time for the b&w challenge. Plus, I have to start work on Monday. 😦 Stay warm, Jo!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Here you are, lovely to see you and I’m looking forward to your adventure 🙂


    • Thanks, Gilly, for keeping an eye out for me. My adventure is over, but it was a great one, and I’m glad now to get to relive it in the retelling. 🙂 xxx


  6. Lovely to see you back Cathy, I’ve been watching for you. You must be so happy to have Mike visiting. What a culture shock for Mike, hope his stomach is up to those beans and chillies they look HOT… Looking forward to the trip with you both.


    • Thanks for watching for me, Pauline. You’re too kind. It was a grand adventure, but it’s great to be back “home” again. I was exhausted!! Mike and I had a great time despite nasty weather during his entire visit. Then my son Alex came for 2 weeks, and we had a great trip with beautiful weather for two weeks in Yunnan. Then I went to Myanmar on my own. It was wonderful all around, but I’m glad to be settled and able to get back to the blogging world. 🙂


      • I can imagine how tiring that sort of travel is when you organise it all yourself and of course a language barrier would make it harder. I will look forward to seeing your adventures I’m sure you will have lots of interesting photos to share with us.


      • Thanks so much, Pauline. It was a lot of work to plan my travels in China, but all my planning paid off as it turned out to go pretty smoothly. I was surprised about that because generally travel in China is difficult. Luckily I have Chinese students and friends to help. My trip in Myanmar went very well, despite the minimal amount of planning. But then, they’re set up for tourism more than China is for foreigners. 🙂 Oh yes, I do have lots of photos. Too many in fact: over 8,000!! It will take a lot of time to go through all of those. 🙂


      • When I went through it was almost impossible to go on your own, so many restrictions back then. I’m very surprised to hear Myanmar was so open to tourism. I’ll look forward to seeing your photos, when you have them sorted…


      • Myanmar is just recently opening more and more to tourism. It was high season when I was there and in Mandalay, every place I went was packed. Bagan is wonderful though, as is Inle Lake, because everything is so spread out. You could have places all to yourself. I loved it!


      • Sounds idyllic


      • It was lovely, Pauline. I can’t wait to write about it and post my pictures. 🙂


      • I’ll look forward to those posts Cathy


      • Thanks, Pauline. I may post those on my southeast Asia blog. I’ll give info when I get there. I still have a lot to cover in China. 🙂


      • ok


  7. Gristle and fat. I have a problem with the lean parts and would feel like throwing up with the awful bits in my mouth


  8. Ah – the marking, seriously? Sounds terrible and very thankless! Did you have success with your 80% mark? Sounds like hard work – what happens if you miss the mark?


    • Hi Marco. Nice to hear from you! The marking was traumatic and it took me the entire 6 weeks of traveling relentlessly to get over it!! I did have success with my 80% mark. On the listening end of the exams, my students were low, so I had to adjust my speaking marks upward in order to meet the 80% average (speaking and listening were a combined mark). Basically, everyone passes, so why do I do all this effort? What do the grades mean anyway?? Hope all is well with you. 🙂


      • Fantastic to know you met your mark – wow it really sounds crazy to do all the marking! Luckily you had that great holiday! Looking forward to reading all about it! PS. All good here thanks, your side?


      • All is well with me too, Marco, thanks! Now it’s sadly back to work. 😦


      • oh no! but you still need a holiday from the holiday? when the next break?


      • Yes, you’re right, Marco! I do need a holiday from my holiday. I guess this week will have to be it, and sadly it’s almost over. I don’t get another break until l leave China in July. 😦


      • Are you leaving China for good then?


      • Yes, Marco, I’l be leaving for good. From the beginning, I intended to stay only a year, and nothing has happened to change my mind. 🙂


      • ah ok

        Liked by 1 person

  9. How wonderful it must have been to meet Mike at the airport. That marking sounds like a real marathon. It must have been such a relief when you eventually finished it all.


  10. Looking out on a really grey and cold day, with winter refusing to loosen the grip it has had on the Eastern side of North America for the past few months, I cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning than to put on a pot of coffee and settle into a leisurely read of all these wonderful blogs! While I would never set foot again in China, I cannot get enough of your observations and experiences there!

    But oh that marking! I seem to remember reading on the fly that you are staying another year?? Make SURE you sign ONLY if you get to teach reading and NO MORE writing!!!!!!


    • I’ve heard it’s been a brutal winter for you all, and very depressing, from what I’ve heard, Mona Lisa. Thanks so much for spending your Sunday morning catching up with me. 🙂 By the way, NO, you did NOT read that I will be staying another year. I’m leaving for sure in mid-July. I’ve already told them I won’t be staying. I’m sick of marking writing for ESL students. I really do need to find another line of work!! But it needs to enable me to travel!!! 🙂


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