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A Typical Day in China

For those that want to know what I get up to on my recruitment trips to China, this is what happened last Monday.

Having arrived the previous day flying out from Heathrow on Saturday and landing in Shanghai on Sunday we are now in Hangzhou having taking a 1 hour plus bus ride from Pudong airport to Hongqiao transport hub to pick up the express train to Hangzhou.

I woke at 2:30am (6:30pm UK time), couldn’t get back to sleep so started going through my emails. One of which was highlighted a problem with our online data input system for the mock exam results so I managed to effect a hack which, although not pretty, at least allows the new range of data to be input.

Now 5am so I think I’ll check if the hotel gym is open, it wasn’t. I tried again at 6am, still the same dark corridor on leaving the lift. Back up to the lobby and I managed to find someone who was able to tell me that the gym would open at 6:30. So back down at the suggested time and 10 minutes later the gym was finally unlocked! General Slim once said of the Chinese in WW2, they were great soldiers to fight with, as long as the plan did not call for accurate timing. Because of the late start I only managed half a session in the gym before a quick breakfast and taxi ride to the first agency. While waiting for our taxi in the hotel lobby we overheard a guy with a German accent say to his Chinese colleague “You are 8 minutes 27 seconds late!” Hmmm, maybe his first visit to China?

At the first agency I did a presentation to staff about Pitsford School and also had a prospective new pupil to interview. The second agency we were visiting this morning was just across the road, on the way we espied a Starbucks so popped in to pick up a takeaway coffee. Getting a decaf however was not so easy, it transpired that, yes they could do a decaf, but “it would just be warm milk”!

It's always nice when they get the Union Flag the right way up.

It’s always nice when they get the Union Flag the right way up.

The second presentation in the offices of JJL was to 6 young ladies who were their UK advice team. Quite often on business card exchange Chinese staff will introduce themselves with their Chinese name and then add “but you can call me Charlton”, or whatever they have chosen as their “English” name. Charlton hadn’t named himself after Bobby Charlton as I had surmised but after the place he stayed while studying in London. The two most memorable names though were found in this office, Drizzle, and Eating, I didn’t like to ask why those chose those names…

Then it was back outside to find a taxi to take us to lunch and a meeting with Josh and Jessica from the Shinyway Education. Josh and Jessica were late to arrive so we ordered without them. As this restaurant didn’t have any menus, ordering meant walking to a central area and choosing from either fish tanks or an artfully arranged display of laminated picture cards, each one showing a different dish. Whereas I am quite conservative in my tastes, Helen is more adventurous. Quite often when faced with an unusual titbit I will get Helen to eat one first and then she’ll tell me whether I’ll like it or not. Today there was a plate of what looked suspiciously like dogs testicles. I didn’t even bother to ask Helen what they tasted like. She actually had three, after the meal I asked her what she thought they were. She couldn’t tell but she did say that they weren’t particularly nice. “Why did you eat three then?”, I asked. “Well, I had the second just in case it was better than the first, then I had to have another just to be sure…”

Apart from lacking suspension, taxi rides this trip where not too frightening.

Apart from lacking suspension, taxi rides this trip where not too frightening.

Then it was back to Hangzhou station for the fast train to Ningbo. Trains have come a long way since the first time we tried them in 2006. The locals don’t now spit on the floor of the carriages for one thing. Actually, spitting seems to be much less common across the board, probably due to the anti-spitting initiative implemented just before the Beijing Olympics. In the past I have witnessed a guy in a hotel lift just casually spit into the corner of the lift, and while eating breakfast in an open plan lobby restaurant, a passer-by spat into one of the plant pots.

On arrival at Ningbo station we had to queue for a taxi, the queue must have been at least 100m long. To pass the time we guessed how long it would be before we got a taxi, I suggested a 30’ wait, Helen thought one hour, and Andrew (our “guide”) split the difference with 45’. After 31 minutes we had our taxi, not that Helen is competitive at all, but I had the feeling that she would have preferred to wait the extra half hour in order to get the win!

After checking in at the hotel, Andrew informed us of the next appointment and then said “now you can rest”. They always say that in a way as if they are doing you a favour! Our next appointment was meeting two sets of current parents, at 7pm and 8pm. Those two consultations lasted until 9:30 and afterwards we decided that a visit to the hotel bar was in order for a nightcap. As we left the lift on the fifth floor we could hear loud music and a sign pointing the way to the “Vikings Bar”, sounds promising we thought, hope it’s not too busy though. As it was there was no-one else in the bar at all, just a karaoke machine, there were no helmets or drinking horns on the walls either. In fact I was surprised there was even a barman present because we didn’t get the impression the bar was well used, and when we came to pay he even had to call up someone from customer services before we could settle up.

Back in the room I noticed that there was a packet of Love Letters on the minibar display. No, they were not what you think, but a box of biscuits. The minibar price list had them down as “leisure biscuits” though, so …

A box of interestingly named leisure biscuits...

A box of interestingly named leisure biscuits…

Unfortunately I didn't have time to take advantage of the available bike hire. I suspect however that the actual available bikes may not have been at the same spec as implied by the photo used here.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to take advantage of the available bike hire. I suspect however that the actual available bikes may not have been at the same spec as implied by the photo used here.