A couple of days in the Country

It has been working out that I have been going to the farm for a few days each month. I can't leave it any longer as I miss the school kids too much. It is also good to see Leo and put the apartment back in to some order.

It was -8 degrees when I left Beijing on the fast train to Jinan but even though it felt freezing when I arrived it is usually 5 degrees warmer as the farm is 470 kilometres south of Beijing.

I went to school for the afternoon and the students and I practised our english speaking. Their little lips are all cracked from the cold weather and when you shake their hands they are rough as sandpaper but they are the most beautiful, polite, happy children I have ever met. At the end of each class they like to take a group photo and in one class there was a little boy who was ever so shy but when it was photo time he wriggled his way in to be next to me in the photo. He took his glasses off for the photo and I noticed they fell in to the hood of the boy's jumper in front of him. After the photo was taken everyone raced back to their seats and the little boy beside me was left feeling around for his glasses.

The teacher said to me, "that is class over, you must go and rest now."

I said, "No, the little boy has lost his glasses."

The teacher said, "Do not worry" and started leading me out of the room by the arm.

I quickly looked around the class, there were about 45 kids and most were wearing hoodies.

What was I to do?

The little boy was still quietly feeling around and looking very lost but had found his way back to his desk.

I broke free of the teacher's grasp.

Quickly I started looking in kid's hoodies, while the teacher and class looked on as if I had gone mad. Eventually I found the glasses in a little boy's hood and held them up as the look of realisation crossed everyone's faces and the class erupted in cheers.

The teacher said, "the students love you very much, now you must rest", and took me by the arm and led me to the staff room.

In between class I have a 10 minute break in the staff room where the teachers give me hot water to drink and tell me to rest. I spend that time, believe it or not, signing autographs as the children line up and all bring something for me to write my name on. Who would have ever thought I would be famous!

That night when we got in to bed, like any good farmer, Leo checked the weather forecast on his phone.

"It says it is going to snow tomorrow, I wonder if the weather bureau know what it is talking about", he said and off to sleep we went.

I awoke to Leo singing in a big booming voice, "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow" by Bing Crosby and couldn't believe my eyes when I looked out the window.

It was absolutely magical and Shanshan and I got straight to making hearts and playing in the snow while Leo went out to check on his wheat.

The teachers wanted to thank me for volunteering at the school so one of the teachers invited Leo and I to their home last night to make dumplings. My cooking classes in Beijing must have paid off as they said, "You can make dumplings better than a Chinese person".

We thought we were just having dumplings for dinner but as it is with Chinese tradition, first you have a banquet and then you finish with dumplings, noodles or rice to make sure everyone has had enough to eat. We were treated to Peking Duck, Dezhou Chicken, Corn, Mushrooms, Lotus Flower, Fish and Donkey.

We were eating away and Leo said to me, "That is bloody good donkey".

I said, "I know, isn't it", then we both looked at each other after realising what we had said. We weren't kidding.

I am wondering if I should start worrying about ourselves......

Who eats a donkey?

"Very good donkey, very good donkey", all the teachers said.

"Delicious", we said.

It always amazes me that not one child in the class knows what Christmas is and that Christmas day will just be an ordinary day for them. Even though you see signs of Christmas in Beijing, news of Christmas doesn't seem to have hit the country yet.

On the way home from dinner we came across this beautiful street of lights and I said it is starting to look a lot like Christmas but our driver told us these lights are just to brighten the place up in the winter months.

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