A day at the Haining Number 1 High School today.

First things first the student hosts turn up again and our kids disappear again. Wonderful system that. The teachers get together with the Haining official greeting party and sit down for a series of short welcoming speeches, technical problems with the microphones not withstanding this was a pleasant and friendly experience in keeping with the official purpose of our visit. Short, sharp and sweet (yep – Andrew promised a maximum 3 minute speech, and kept to his word).

The students meantime got to spend time in a variety of classes and see what happens when you try to deliver to 48 students at a time, certainly a different feel to our classrooms.

Liam and I were called on to deliver a lesson as well which provided a bit if interest to our day to say the least. I had carried a large map of Australia through several sets of customs, flights and bus changes specifically for the lesson on Australia I had planned, imagine how upset I was to find it missing from my room this morning. I suspect a cleaner had thought this plastic wrapped ‘stick’ was a piece of rubbish and had nicely thrown it out for me, very disappointing. But nothing I couldn’t overcome with a piece of chalk. I showed the students various Australian animals and had them guess where in Australia they came from, lots of fun. I also decided to introduce them to the great Australian delicacy – a thank you for all the Chinese delicacies we have enjoyed. Vegemite – a caterers slab each, eaten straight. Not entirely convinced they all appreciated the national significance of this great dish, but some of them were game to try it anyway. (Not many took me up on the offer of a second slab though – might be a bit of an acquired taste I guess). Still, they all seemed to have enjoyed the lesson and may know a bit more about our wildlife now. Liam took a more serious approach and taught a lesson about wave science and was happy to report that the Chinese students appear to have learned as much from his lesson as most of his Australian students generally do – then he laughed hysterically. (getting a bit worried about Mr Smith).

Continuing our tradition of not giving anyone a chance to breath too much, from the school it was straight to the train station (a major chance to experience crowds) and on to the overnight train to Beijing. This was always going to be a major tester of stress levels. The train station is a challenge in itself between crowds and distance, most importantly when the train pulls in you have a three minute window to get on, then doors close and it leaves, no if – buts – or whats. OK if you are on your own, but getting a group of 37 students, with luggage on, that’s a tester. But with the wonderful cooperation of our great students, we made, relatively intact.

Next challenge – Chinese ticketing procedures are challenging at best, adjoining carriages, turned out to be several carriages apart, virtually none of the ticket numbers matched what we had been originally told, and so on. It took Angela an our guide Rebecca about an hour to sort it all out but the train staff were very understanding and helpful so all was well in the end. Some had a great night’s sleep, some not so good, but all came away with a great experience in their memories.

Tomorrow, the nations capital city. Beijing awaits.