July 5, 2008

My Kiddy Cooking Weekends

Filed under: baby,China,food,teaching — Kim @ 5:08 pm

“I love babies, but I couldn’t eat a whole one”, said someone once. Some grumpy old man I guess, but I couldn’t find out who, even on Godgle. In any case, it used to be my attitude more or less, and until very very recently I found it very hard to imagine myself as a Daddy or much less as a (shock horror!) kindergarten teacher.

Having been an English teacher for donkey’s years, I used to get asked from time to time to teach children and my answer always used to be, “I don’t do kids”. But about 5 months ago when I went with my wife and 1 year-old baby to a nearby swanky kindergarten to inquire about prices and lessons etc, I was again offered a job and on very good terms. I only had to teach weekend mornings for a couple of hours and my baby daughter could go to the kindergarten for free anytime she wanted, and on top of this they’d pay me a hundred an hour. I told them I had never taught kids before (and only just resisted saying that I never want to) but they shrugged this off and said I should just try it out…so I did. This kindergarten is a franchise of a well known Australian brand, “Kindyroo!”, and they teach all their “lessons” in English, with a Chinese translator. All the foreign instructors apart from me are Filipinos, and the Chinese management was keen to have “a white face” at their school, to appeal to the daft and rather racist idea that a proper “外教 waijiao/ foreign teacher” shouldn’t be asian looking. Ho hum, good for me I guess.

The lessons turned out to be surprisingly easy and enjoyable. I have only ever had to teach the “cooking class” and so on weekend mornings I help the little darlings to make tacos or cookies or cupcakes or burgers or whatever. It’s a “language and culture” cooking class, so we introduce them to western food and teach them some polite phrases “Yes please, thank you very much, it’s yummy etc” and run through the list of ingredients in English and get them to repeat. And I usually get to sample the fares, so what a great job! And the kids are lucky because I don’t actually do any of the cooking, we have a proper chef who does it. Lessons would be deserted and the school would be forced to close were I the chef.

The age range is 2-6, and they pay 190RMB ($26) each for this particular class, which makes it rather pricey. As I said before, the school is very nicely designed and decorated, and the staff are well trained and good at their job. Apart from me that is, I’m just some big-nosed joker who turns up and tries not to scare anyone… and as I have to do a bit of singing and dancing every lesson, that’s not an easy task.

And I have found that teaching kids in short spells is not too bad, but it’s tiring and I wouldn’t want to do much more of it than I do now. It takes a sunnier temperament than mine to “keep up with the kids” and although they are mostly deeply cute and well behaved I just couldn’t hack it as a full time job. Most of the staff at Kindyroo are there because they love kids and while most of them are also well-adjusted adults, there are a few who have “the look”. This “look” is a kind of glaze to their features that radiates the unfazeable radiant cheerfulness of the terminally baby-besotted. (And, sorry, but it is an exclusively female trait.) Maybe these types start to revert to normal if you take them far away enough from kids but as I’ve never met them outside of work, I wouldn’t really know.”The look” is not so obviously a bad thing of course, but it reminds me of the “Stepford Wives” or “Brave New World” a little too much for my comfort.

Maybe the most positive thing to come out of all this is that I am able to be unabashedly warm and fuzzy in my feelings and reports about Chinese kiddies. We have all read in some papers, I think, that because of the one-child policy China is bringing up a nation of rottenly spoilt “little Emperors”…but my findings are quite to the contrary. This is an expensive school we are talking about and the well-heeled mummies are clad in designer clothes and accompanied by nannies and so there is a fair bit of potential for pampered little brats. But they are not; they are charming and well behaved and lovable and…ayah, I am becoming a big soppy baby softy.

Oh yes, and the best way is to boil gently for half a day or so, depending on weight. I found that roasting and frying leaves the meat a bit too tough. Add salt according to taste. Yummy!

March 13, 2008

Holiday Over

Filed under: baby,blogs — Kim @ 2:59 pm

Yikes! More than a month since I posted.

I must say I am slightly in awe of such regular and righteous bloggers as Humanaught, Granite Studio, Panda Passport etc etc. Quite a feat to keep up such a steady stream of posts without the incentive of a steady cash flow back. And I must also say that I wonder to myself how really regular bloggers manage to keep it up, so to speak. I mean, they surely must want the week off from time to time? And once you’ve had a week off, why not take two? And a really truly proper holiday should surely be at least a month, right?

My last month off was a very welcome slobbishness. Catching up with family and friends back in England for a couple of weeks, reading lots of books (small paper things with no links to click on, remember?) and playing with my 11 month old baby. Actually, maybe baby is the main reason I’ve not been blogging or doing anything else much. Bringing up a baby eats up almost all your time – or should do if you’re doing it right. Or, more precisely, if you’re doing it all yourself…about 6 weeks ago we let go of our live-in maid (an unimaginable luxury in England!) because we were due to be moving house to live with my Chinese parents. The move hasn’t happened yet, due to absurd circumstances involving a botched balcony door and lack of guanxi, but it will in a couple of weeks and I will have more time to myself in the evenings again. (While on the topic I notice that Josh and and Emily’s post count over at peer-see has slowed down a fair bit since baby came on the scene. You understand, dont’cha?)

And one day I will have to write a post called “Maid in China” (geddit?) as a thank you note to our wonderful ex-maid…but not till I’ve moved house.

So anyways, for me, blogging is an enjoyable new hobby and a chance to think aloud about this that and the other, and especially life in Asia. It’s been almost a year now since I started, and I’m guessing it’s going to be a lifelong habit. Hobby + Habit = Hobbit, I would posit, so blogging is my new Hobbit.

And I’ll try to look after my hobbit as well as my baby this coming year.

Goodnight, and good luck.

Me and Celia

April 19, 2007

Waaaa! Waaaaaaa!

Filed under: baby,China — Kim @ 5:15 pm

I guess I’m going to get a lot of curiosity from Chinese over the next few years about my new baby. Babies are always made a fuss of, of course, but a mixed baby…now that’s something! I am thinking of charging for peeks into the pram.

My wife spent 5 days in the maternity ward after her caesarean and I was impressed. She shared a room with 3 other new mums and that cost 20 RMB (just over 1 pound) per night. The baby was bathed every day, my wife had a drip, they washed and cleaned her twice a day, and the hospital food was fine. The service was sometimes with a smile (but those doctors and nurses are very busy and they look tired) and there was a general atmosphere of goodwill and glee throughout the ward. It is not an exclusive hospital at all, it’s a lao bai xing (old hundred names) kind of place and so sometimes huge families would swarm into rooms buzzing with excitement and satisfaction. I received several warm smiles and congratulations and despite being the only foreigner in the ward – I think – I didn’t feel out of place.

Only one sour note. In our room 3 out of 4 babies were quiet and contented and the only one that wasn’t had a micturation problem – she couldn’t pee easily – and let everyone know it. Of itself that is understandable, but the grandma who had been roped in to look after baby kept on berating it with “I want to beat you! I’ll beat you if you don’t shut up! I’ll beat you and beat you, you little monster!” and the mother said nothing. Granny didn’t beat baby of course, in fact she would often be cradling it while saying how much she wanted to beat it, but you have to wonder when they’ll start.

But basically it was a good experience and it strengthened my conviction that China, despite all its knockers and for all its failings, is fast becoming a civilized modern society. You need a little bit of money, sure, but you don’t need that much and there are a lot of people starting to make middle-class-level money in China.

Baby Celia was two weeks early and so perhaps because of that her cries of distress/pleas for food were very muted at first. She mewed plaintively “laaay laaay” which sounds like ‘come, come” in Chinese. But one week later you can really tell the difference. She’s upstairs now, testing out her lung power, WAAAAA! WAAAAAAA! Ah, well, shows she’s healthy. Goodnight.