Natalie ended her stint at Shandan on 5th July, 2014, leaving to join friends for a short China holiday, then she flies back to NZ for a five -week break before returning to Shanghai in September to become a student once more. She will be doing a one year course of intensive Chinese language (both written and spoken) at Shanghai International Studies University. ‘Intensive’ means 36 hours of formal classes per week! Natalie was one of 14 to win an NZ government-funded Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia (PMSA) to enable her to do this.
On her blog, Natalie reflects on her time at Shandan and contemplates her ‘virtues’ which are in complete contrast to the culture she has found in China. Her organisation, planning, strict time-keeping and perfectionist nature are in stark contrast to China’s laissez-faire attitude!
However, it has taught her a new virtue – patience, in particular when plans are made five minutes before the event in question, seems to be the order of the day at Shandan, and she is only coming to terms with it now that she is leaving.
She comments on the paradox of the Chinese who are at once really friendly and helpful but who queue in an extremely aggressive manner.
She talks about some other negative aspects of China, the spitting, defecating in public, smoking etc. and says she will be looking forward to going back to NZ for a rest before embarking on her Shanghai scholarship.
Then we hear of the things she will miss such as the security of the environment, the old men she chats to and her apartment and the freedom to teach what she wants.
She amusingly describes her trip up Yangzhishan in the local mountain range and her companions, who ranged from age 4 to 66 (although the latter looked 80 because of her hard life). She then throws light on schoolboy naughtiness which she found very amusing.
The previous weekend saw her complete her ‘must-do’ visit before leaving. She visited the famous Shandan Horse Farm. It has a 3000 year old history has been the home of horse breeding for the various Emperors and Dynasties throughout the centuries. Originally of Mongol stock, Turkestan horses were then introduced producing a tough small horse with endurance qualities suited to the mountainous terrain. And she was very excited to receive two of the American Peace Corps volunteers from Zhangye on the previous Sunday.
Finally there are some fascinating statistics such as that China goes through 80 billion pairs of chopsticks per year using 20 million trees to keep up with the demand. Another is that China’s richest people have a combined net worth of more than Hungary’s GDP, and many more….
We recommend that our readers go to her blog and read in detail her exploits and we are sure that the community in Shandan will miss Natalie’s outspoken, witty and sometimes vitriolic nature as much as she too will miss them.
For Natalie’s blog, click HERE. See below for a selection of Natalie’s photos
Teri France, July 2014