Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 1 - Fushun, Liaoning

We reached Beijing Airport at 5.25am. We had to clear customs & collect our luggage to transfer to a domestic flight.

The teachers had to do headcount when we got off the plane. The kids were moving around so much the teachers had to count 3 times before they got it right. The kids didn't want to line up in twos as they were older. I suggested to Ms Poh, she should assign each kid a number. At every stop, they would only have to shout out their numbers consecutively.

Once out in the Arrival Hall, the kids wanted to go to the loos. They just left their luggage & trolleys at the end of the exit way, causing the arriving passengers a lot of inconvenience.

When it came to headcounting again, 4 girls were missing. Mr Yao & a boy went to look for them. The airport is so big, where could they be? The kids were told to inform the teachers whenever they need to go somewhere. These girls obviously didn't bother to listen. We waited for them to appear. They did of course, some time later.

As it was still early, Mr Yao brought us for breakfast. We had to lug our luggage along. Those who were pushing trolleys had to take the lift. As each lift could only take 3 trolleys, it took a long time to have everyone at the restaurant.

Breakfast was on your own. At prices from 28rmb to 36 rmb (about S$5.60 to S$7.20), it was costly for some students.

Jaymes had a Porridge set. It was pickles, tea-leaf egg, two buns & a bowl of watery porridge.

I had the Soy Bean set. The soy bean drink was thick & sugarless. The youtiao that came with it was so-so. There was a meat bun & a vegetable bun. They tasted good. I love the salted vegetables. I finished Jaymes' share while he ate my tea-leaf egg.

After breakfast, we went to the domestic airport. Headcounting sessions seem such a nuisance. The students were unco-operative. They didn't want to open their mouths nor raised their hands when their numbers were called. I felt sorry for the teachers. They had to shout amidst the noise & yet most students didn't even bother to listen.

Mr Yao had to check in the luggage, imagine carrying over 40 heavy luggage with little help. He didn't sleep welll too. He was clearly overworked. But he remained cheerful, getting along well with each & every one.

We boarded the plane at 9.50 am. On the plane, the same messy situation of swapping places happened. Han Long sat with Jaymes & I. He was talking non-stop all the way. In fact, he had been talking non-stop since we were in Singapore Airport. ha ha ha...... what a huge energetic bunny!

The kids talked & played on the plane. I closed my eyes & tried to sleep.

As we were reaching Shenyang, I looked from the window & saw ridges upon ridges of mountain. Then big patches of brown land. There were some green patches which I presumed would be crops.

We reached Fushun at 11.05am. Vice principal Xuan & some teachers from the school were there to greet us. They carried a big red banner. We were like celebrities. A bus took us from the airport to the hotel. It was more than an hour's ride.

As we travelled to the hotel, I could see for myself how China has transformed. We travelled on the highways which were fast. Many new buildings were being constructed. Some major streets were neat & clean, with colourful flowers blooming at the sides.

At the hotel, the principal of the school, Mr Chen Baohua was there to welcome us.

Mr Yao & Ms Poh repeatedly told the students to put their luggage in their rooms & to come out quickly for lunch. The principal has ordered lunch at 1pm & now it is almost 2pm. The restaurant was closing soon.

The principal & his entourage accompanied us & helped us to our rooms. We assembled at the 4th floor lobby & waited for all the students to come. 20 minutes passed. Despite repeated calls from the teachers, some girls didn't bother to appear.

Embarrassed & angered by their callous attitude, I went to get them. The girls (Keng Yan's group) in one room was preening or resting on their bed. One was taking time changing into slippers. I bellowed at them to get out.

In another room, the girls (Vivienne's group) were laying in bed, eating biscuits. Here you have the principal & vice principal & numerous teachers, the hosts, waiting outside for you to go to lunch & there you are eating biscuits. What the hell!

Lunch was served on the second floor of the hotel. There were 12 dishes! They were
Braised Fish
Cucumber & Peanut Salad
Fried Tung Hoon
Braised Tofu
Pork slices covered with a blanket of onions
Fried flat soy bean noodles
Black Fungus Salad
Scrambled egg & green pepper
Sour Cabbage Soup
Pear in Raspberry Sauce

Everyone was to meet at the 4th floor lobby at 5.30pm for a debrief before dinner. Most were present except for the perpetual late-comers - always the girls. When Kai Ying appeared at 5.50pm, Han Long commented loudly on her lateness & she burst out crying. Mr Yao had to pacify her. This was witnessed by VP Xuan. The other boys went to bang on the door of the other girls who were still in their room.

On the way to the restaurant, Han Long turned to me & said, "Auntie, you know why the girl cry, right? Why is she crying? I should be the one crying! Making me always wait for them. I was punctual at 5.30pm you know?"

Most of the students were aghast at the dishes. Han Long told the teachers he couldn't eat these & went to his room to eat cup noodles. Most students walked off, leaving large amounts of food behind. Later, a flood of complaints came. No meat. Food so salty. So oily. So much........

I told the teachers there were too many vegetable dishes, & too many dishes. Could we have more meat & cut down the number of dishes? If this continues, the students would end up eating cup noodles everyday. The teachers decided to talk to the restaurant.

Mr Yao went out after lunch to get phone cards. Then he got the students to come to Ms Poh's & my room to make calls back to Singapore. The students were to tell their parents they have reached Fushun safely. No chit-chatting.

Mdm Koh decided that the students were not allowed to call from their rooms. The phones in their rooms were barred from making overseas calls so that there would not be disputes over the bills later. Good idea.

The kids were told to rest & we would meet for dinner at 6pm.

Ms Poh & I each took our baths & went to the restaurant at 6pm. The dishes were different then. The restaurant changed them. They were

Black Fungus Salad
Tomato Omelette

Leeks fried with Shrimps
Deep Fried Pork Pieces
Braised Cabbage

Savoury Prawns
Tung Hoon Wasabi Salad
Winter Melon Soup

The food was less salty & they were delicious. The students enjoyed their meal.

After dinner it was off to the supermarket. We walked there. Vice-principal, Mr Xuan, brought us there & accompanied us all through the night. Gosh, he had been on his feet since 6am this morning.

I bought two bottles of mineral water, titbits & ....cup noodles. Hey,..... in case Jaymes gets hungry later at night. We have dinner at 6pm you know. I know this is a lame excuse, but those were for emergency.

We walked back to the hotel. There were no street lights in certain places. The kids were told not to go off by themselves at any time. They have to stay in the hotel.

I feedback to the teachers that they have to speak to the kids regarding their rowdiness, disobedience, tidak apa (don't care) attitude ....... It would be an embarrassment to the school if they continue to do as they please in the school the next day.

The teachers did talk to the kids. But would they listen? We'll wait & see. Things don't look positive to me.

I was tired. I need to sleep. When I got back to my room, there were many students there waiting to make calls home. Si Hui was taking more than 20 minutes on the phone. She talked to her Mom & insisted on chatting with her little brother while more than 10 people were in the queue. The teachers told her repeatedly to end her call but she just yak on & on. The other girls proclaimed they would talk as long too when it came to their turns. That was when I blew my top.

@%#$@!!! I need to go to sleep, so do the teachers. If everyone yakked for 15 minutes, that would be at least 2 hours before I could rest.

There was no air-conditioning in all the rooms. I called up the operator & he explained that the air-con would be on only in the hot months. As it is quite cool now, we had to open the windows. Oh great! the ceiling of my bathroom

Ms Poh was hoarse from all the shouting. She bought a huge bottle of honey to make drinks. I prayed hard she won't fall sick. I prayed hard all the teachers would last through.

As I was dozing off, the doorbell rang, one girl wanted to borrow Ms Poh's honey. I gave it to her. As I was dozing off again, someone knocked. The girl came to return the honey. $#*%@

It's going to be a long, long hell these 18 days...........

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