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Merry Christmas from Shandan Bailie School!

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Merry Christmas from Shandan Bailie School! We don’t get Santa, but we do get snow!

Shandan in December:  Classes continue uninterrupted throughout December, no Chinese public holidays this month.  Christmas is notable here only by its absence – no advertisements, no carols, no decorations, no shop-sales. Even the legend of Santa is not widely known – I sometimes use NZ School Journals as reading material, there is a big selection in the library that have been donated over the years. One, circa 1998, contained a play involving Santa and Rudolph and other reindeer – all novel concepts to my classes.

Christmas Day weather at Zhangye (close to Shandan)
Christmas Day weather at Zhangye (60km from Shandan)

The weather in Shandan is very stable – sunny every day, no wind, the only precipitation being a couple of foot-deep snowfalls.  The snow doesn’t melt – the air temperature hasn’t been above zero, and has reached -22C. -21C on Xmas day! 

The students shovel the snow off the basketball courts, a chore which always seems to result in snowball fights!  Students continue to do the early morning runs and outside exercises, in the pitch darkness – dawn is after 8am: classes are well underway by the time the sun rises.

I taught classes all through Christmas week, getting ready for end-of-semester exams. I had a lovely surprise on Christmas Eve, when students presented me with Christmas-present boxes, containing apples. This is a Chinese Christmas tradition – [see photo-explanation, and photo].

Xmas apples from my students, Dec 2014
Christmas Apples from my students
Christmas Apple tradition explained
Christmas Apple tradition explained

Comment on Christmas Day: Classes are moving in the unpredictable Chinese way they do – I’ll be spending Xmas evening giving one of my classes their exam during their homework study periods, as their classes got cancelled today, next week they’ve been moved, and they leave school early for work experience.  All of which we only figured out today when I went to teach, and the students told me class was cancelled, and even the timetable-setting man didn’t know that….. ah, China.

Term continues until 9 January, when classes end for Spring Break. I’ll be travelling in the south of China, where temperatures should at least be above zero! My plans will take shape depending on transport – all trains are fully booked already, so real planning won’t be happening!

I’ll be back ready to teach the second semester at the beginning of March 2015.

Jane Furkert, December 2014