1. Simon’s first day at school.

9am Saturday morning is not a time that has seen the likes of me in recent months, yet in school is exactly where I found myself for orientation into the school, as well as the first few lessons I observed. First impressions of the school are striking. Spread along 4 floors on one of the main Chanchunian streets, the business-like approach and efficient fish-bowl styled classrooms suggest an office and not a language school. Each classroom has an interactive whiteboard, a key selling point for- as the Director of Study is keen to point out- this IS a business and not solely a place of education. A concept that we are perhaps less familiar with in the UK is that these schools are not free, and therefore attract all sorts of outside competition. The glass paneling is there to provide transparency to the students parents, for example, and they are even permitted to sit in on some lessons to check progress. This is about as appealing to me as brushing my teeth with cement, but there we go.

Surrounded by classrooms, the top floor has a state-of-the-art open-plan suite of Macs which supplement adult learning, so there is some money in the place.
The regular routine of the school is somewhat interrupted during summer and winter ‘intensives’, extra-curricular schemes which run through the holidays for the children to get their fill. I will try to give you a more realistic feel of this when things clam back down. As you may have noticed, I mentioned that Simon’s first day was a Saturday, which is because the children usually have to find time outside of their school schedule to attend English class. This of course can be modified during term time. The teachers don’t have conventional weekends as we see it, as Saturdays and Sundays are the busy days, meaning we have time off during the week. Those using their noodle at this point may have realised what my not sweet but slightly sour food for thought is. On Sunday, I observed a class that was in its third hour of English for the day. The time was 5pm. There will be undoubtedly more to follow on this…
Crashing a bike’s ‘You will only get answers’ section.
“Puzzling sights, inconvenient blogging.”
1. In Beijing airport, there is a relatively large shop which sells solely cold, but cooked, whole ducks in plastic bags. (Nb. Key words are airport, solely and whole.)
2. Before eating a meal outside, some people choose to wash their plates with beer. (Nb, the plates come in sealed plastic bags.)
3. When a group of runners go out, in the park for example, they take a flag. (Nb. This is just a raw fact, go figure.)
Bonus: (Although not China.) Moscow airport has 3 TGI Fridays in a single terminal.
Answers on a postcard, show your working.

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