This summer, David Maytham and Adam Reed, two of TT Education's top chaps, went out to China to consult with an international school and provide some staff training. Here is an account of their travels:
Landing in Hong Kong was an interesting experience. It seemed very similar in style to many British cities, with cars driving on the left, all signs translated into English and well-known British brands everywhere we could see. The huge mountains towered above us and the airport had wonderful views of the sea. The major difference we noted in the landscape was the height of the buildings. Our guide, Christine (who works at the Futian International School) informed us that most people live in these huge skyscrapers – it is very unusual in Hong Kong or Mainland China to live in a house.
Once we passed the security checks in Hong Kong airport’s immigration, we took a minibus taxi across to Mainland China. Although this is not a long journey, it took a while because we had to go through more security checks both on the Hong Kong side and then on the Chinese side too. This would have been less of an issue if Adam hadn’t been carrying a suitcase with all the paper training manuals in. These were flagged up by Chinese security and he was swiftly taken to one side and questioned – what was he bringing with him? Was he smuggling forbidden books? What exactly was the content of the training packs? With Christine’s help, he managed to persuade them that he was not an international man of mystery, but an international teacher of literacy. We were able to proceed.
Upon reaching Mainland China, we were in for more of a shock. While Hong Kong still retains much more than traces of its Britishness, this was an undeniably different culture altogether. We were now, most definitely, in the Orient. The architecture was wonderful, the traffic terrible, the people all in a hurry – just as people always are, regardless of country.
The taxi driver looked on in bewilderment as we struggled to load our four cases and two briefcases into his boot and the back seat, leaving us with even less space than we had enjoyed on the twelve-hour plane journey! Unfortunately, this led to yet another journey mishap for poor Adam, who hadn’t tucked his head in quite as far as he thought he had before the driver closed the door….on his head. Ouch!
The car journey was an interesting one. To say that driving (or being driven) in China is ‘rather daunting’ is like describing Stephen Hawking as ‘rather clever’. Seatbelts are not compulsory (and usually not even present) in the back of the car. Drivers pull out on one another with no warning and hugely overloaded vehicles shed excess cargo like dandruff in the road. It is mesmerizing, exhilarating and, frankly, terrifying! Researching later, we discovered that China’s record for road traffic fatalities is approximately 20.5 per year for every 100,000 inhabitants. This is in comparison to 3.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in the UK. This statistic did not help our nerves! However, we made it to the hotel safe and sound. After a quick pit stop to drop off our luggage and refresh our clothes, we were out to dinner with Christine.
Now, most Brits think they know what Chinese food is like. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Chinese restaurants and takeaways in every town and city in the UK these days. However, true, traditional Chinese cuisine is as different to the Chinese food we are used to as fish and chips are to everyday British food. We had some wonderful dishes during our time in China, although a lot was lost in translation, so we often weren’t entirely sure what we were eating! However, picture this scene:
Adam and David arrive at local Chinese restaurant, accompanied by Futian School colleague Christine and her assistant Kim. To his dismay, David discovers that, while in a UK Chinese restaurant he would be able to request British cutlery, here, there are only chopsticks available. He has never used chopsticks. He is jetlagged. He is very hungry. He is very aware of being in company of three confident chopstick users. Manfully, he struggles with the alien implements, while still attempting to conduct a courteous and professional conversation.
It was a fascinating learning experience!
More about this to come…
Published on 25 September 2015