Christmas in China

Another Christmas in China then – my 4th, it seems. Can it really be that many? Yes, looks like it. The first one was in Zhuhai, all the teachers had a party together. Then the second was in Beijing – it was just me and Aaron in the flat, eating Italian take-out and watching “If…” – then the DVD player broke and we had to take a trip to BuyNowHui to buy a new one. Last year it was just me and V in our room in a shared flat. I fried some Chicken, potato and carrots in the wok, covered it with gravy and we had it with mulled wine. It was sort of Christmas, but not really.
This year we’re living with V’s parents and sister, so I made a bit more effort to do something. We found a tree, tinsel and lights, bought and wrapped presents, and on Christmas Eve I bought a little oven so that I would be able to make a roast dinner. I even downloaded a few of the more acceptable Christmas films. Everything worked out well enough, though I’m not sure why I felt the desire to replicate an English Christmas this year when I didn’t previously. It could be partially preparation for life as a family, possibly an attempt to make an impression on the in-laws, maybe some slight homesickness on this now two-and-a-half-year trip, but quite likely just to do with setting myself a challenge, that seems to be what I’m about these days.
I got the weekend off work because I’m changing jobs. It finally looks like I’ve taught my last kids class. With a bit of preparation (two months’) it was easy to arrange the weekend off, but that didn’t stop my cheeky director asking me to come in on the 25th without so much as the offer of bonus pay. There are some good people at that school, but some combination of forces has turned it into a disaster area.
Aside from the fairly successful job-hunt (which I shouldn’t really write about, yet) December was also the month I spent wondering whether I was going to have to spend Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong. The trouble all started last March when the final free page in my passport was covered by yet another work permit. I called the British consulate who told me to wait until December to get a new one – new passport means new visa, new visa equals lots of hassle. So on the first of December I called the consulate again. The visa office was closed, moved to Hong Kong. New passports were only being issued from the UK, “expect four weeks for delivery.” Shit. So much of the following three weeks was spent trying to chase it up. Did you know all enquiries about passports are handled by a private “careline” in the UK at 69p per minute? And that you have to give them your credit card details at the start of the call so they can bill you directly in addition to the regular call rate? I avoided calling them until they were absolutely the last option, thankfully the poor sod working there was very helpful indeed, especially when I mentioned “bad advice from consulate” “baby’s due in two months” and “going to be deported if it doesn’t arrive next week”. It turned up five days later, a minor miracle of the modern age. This week I took it to the public security bureau. The panic appears to be over.
Another week at work, but without any students, and it’s a three-day weekend for the new year. We’re just going to hang around the house. Social lives may return at some point next summer. Happy new one, everyone.

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