Impressive? Dulwich International High School, Suzhou. It is one of 7 Dulwich schools across Asia and it is where Martin and I now work. The building is new and now houses over 400 students. We also have a boarding facility, capacity for up to a 1000 students and most importantly we are now just across the road from Eleanor’s school, DUCKS. The clock tower in the distance is reminiscent of Dulwich College London, and is part of the International School, Dulwich College.
So how I am getting on? I am really enjoying it, but I am shattered. Since starting I see Year 13’s almost every day, and on some days I am seeing parents too. A bit different from the old job where I was advising on the removal of children because the parenting wasn’t good enough. Now I am advising students and parents on the “best fit” university, writing UCAS references and reviewing Personal Statements. I tell you, if I had the benefit of what I do at Larne Grammar School back in the 1990’s, I wonder where I would have ended up and what I would have done in the last ten years!
August has come and gone, pretty much in a flash. It doesn’t seem that we are in week 5 of the term already and heading towards our first “half term”. We have already had a long weekend when China was given a national holiday to commemorate 70 years of the end of the Anti-Fascist War. (2nd World War to the West!) But what was given as a 4 day weekend was actually only 3 days for most people. In China you have to work on the Sunday to make up for the time lost. I am not sure it is a concept that will be readily accepted in the UK, but here it is accepted without complaint.
But the upside is that on the Sunday Martin opened up another bank account, and sorted out his existing one, and then we went to the Customs Office and reclaimed our 18 bottles of wine from Australia. 6 bottles of Red had managed to be delivered to school about a week after we ordered it, but the rest got held up in customs. Having collected it, we didn’t pay as much tax on it as we thought they were going to ask, but the parting shot from the customs officer was that we should have only brought back 2 bottles of wine for private consumption… Usually the offices of the bank and customs house are open Monday-Friday 8-4.30 – when we are in school.
Whilst a few people from school went away, we couldn’t as up until last week I didn’t have a passport as I had surrendered it for purposes of being registered at the Police Station with my work permit. No passport means no travel on the trains or checking in at hotels, and definitely no flying! HOWEVER, the passport has now been returned and we are going to Hangzhou tomorrow for the weekend, and then onto Thailand for the National Holiday at the end of September/beginning of October.
Thailand is somewhere where I have wanted to go to, and we are staying in a resort near Hua Hin (currently have no idea where this is!) Martin and Eleanor are looking forward to it as they get a longer holiday than I do as I am going to Bangkok at the end of the holiday for a conference. But as with Australia where we caught up with a Guiding friend, I am hoping to catch up with another friend that I met on GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development). She is now a teacher in Bangkok so am looking forward to that!
So yes, after more than a year of not having a paid job, I have finally got my own Standard Chartered Bank Account where my salary goes in every month. I have splashed out on a new pair of sunglasses and a new handbag at Suzhou Village which is owned by the same company as Bicester Village. I could have made a bigger dent in my salary quite easily, but I have been restrained…
Martin and I eat school food at lunchtimes (very different from my boozy lunches with my friend, Sian last year). I have eaten thus far…”Cabbage with Gluten” and “Mount the Sauce Stewed Chicken”. The translation probably needs to be refined, the cabbage was fine, but the “mount the sauce chicken” was chicken in an orangey kind of sauce. The chefs are quite fond of orange sauce as we had chicken nuggets, spaghetti and orange sauce one Friday lunchtime. But overall there is a good choice of Chinese and Western Food.
When the queuing becomes too much then Subway and Starbucks are just across the road. But the need has been rare.
I have done my first study hall, and am running an Extra Curricular Activity – Book Club. And I have covered a hockey session in my second week. Oh how I laughed and thought of what my PE teachers would say! I never made it to the hockey team.
Eleanor has settled in well to her Year 2 class. She has an Irish teacher who is lovely and has got the measure of Eleanor. In DUCKS they have a beautiful new playground which is very green (fake green grass), a bit like tellytubby land. Lots of trees and tunnels within “rolling hills”. Very different from the slides and climbing apparatus they have had previously and still far removed from the green countryside and fresh air of Leweston.
And this week has seen a more stressful school run. My ebike, (with very thick chunky tyres) has had a puncture. The back wheel has been punctured with a large shard of glass. Now, in the UK, the car had roadside assistance, call the AA or the RAC and they are there. Here – what do you do.?…well the bike has been at school since Tuesday night, Eleanor and I are travelling by Metro and Taxi to school, a faff. Tomorrow I am plucking up the courage to see what can be done. Whatever is to happen it will have to be done through a Chinese speaker. Just another China Challenge.