Dividing the Spoils.


Hangzhou is bleeding, haemorrhaging profusely to be exact.  Running dry of teachers..  Some are leaving for good, others take a break during the summer, going home or  travelling to the beaches of neighbouring countries where living is cheaper and the sunshine more abundant.

This is not a new occurrence, it happens about every six months at the end of yet another semester.  Teachers whose contracts have finished leave in droves, driven to the end of their tether by the trials and tribulations of teaching in China…  Often this has more to do with how the agencies treat us, rather than the schools..  But it isn’t Western teaching and after a while, most want to get back to the familiar or move on to another yet unexplored territory and a new exciting adventure.  The world is big, English is a powerful language and native English teachers are in great demand.  The world is our oyster, so why stick to China..

So remember the flat I moved into… about a lifetime ago.  Empty, devoid of everything bar a bed, a huge sofa and a coffee table.  No utensils, no plates, nothing to cook with, not even a chopstick in sight.  Slowly over the last four months my cupboards have become less bare as I bought a second plate to eat from  (you never know when a visitor may call) and a bigger bowl for noodle soup.  I now have two sets of sheets and duvet covers and even an oven next to the one-ring electric stove.  I have savoured Stephanie’s (local bakery and coffee shop) homemade yoghurt and indulged in the luxury of Nescafe Gold as the containers make perfect little vessels for spices, tea, coffee and a multitude of pulses and nuts.  I have bought a Chinese tea set – not only useful but also decorative – to spruce up the joint and to have delicate jasmine tea sipping from dainty Chinese cups.  But I have stuck to essentials, and believe you me, you don’t need all that much to get by.

But with the great exodus have come great opportunities, depending upon the ties and friendships forged in the short period teachers have been around.  As hard-earned money is spent to accumulate a few meagre possessions, can you blame anyone for ensuring that those find a worthwhile and deserving home??  The luggage allowance on the aeroplane does not increase an iota on the home leg, so all those chattels that caught our interest  will not find space in our suitcases.  And I know that the sensible thing would be to leave the cupboards stocked for the next incumbent, but what about all those fellow teacher charity cases?  Irons and ironing boards change hands, electric mixers and small ovens move across the city, blenders, toasters, pots and pans are in great demand.  Cushions anyone?  Or what about a double duvet with cover??  You sell what you can, and the rest goes to charity, the teaching community charity who are grateful for all the little bits that come their way.

So in the grand disposal of possessions I bought an electric blender at a snippet of its real price to concoct  velvety smooth soups and pasta sauces; the whisk attachment a bonus to create lump-free pancake batter.  I gained some mixing bowls and storage jars, rice and spaghetti included.  I am the proud owner of exotic herbs such as dried rosemary and oregano and I inherited some ‘imitation vanilla essence’.  My pot and pan drawer overflowing meant I could discard warped and burnt pans to make room for the better specimens.   I now have a double duvet, with duvet cover,  big enough to hug two (you never know…) and to huddle myself in during the winter months or just when the AC cools the flat down too much…  And the one and only wine glass I now possess serves as a beer glass too, so no longer alcohol from a cup or can in my home!!


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I know there is still room for more, and lots of space to be filled…and if I decide not to move on in January 2017, but to remain in China a little longer, I will take part in another round of accepting discards and things unwanted…  And I will have more time to make more friends who will benefit when I eventually leave and need to find a home for all these cherished possessions…

It goes a long way to explain the empty flat I found on my arrival…  I wondered about this when I first arrived, but it is clear to me now, crystal…


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