(This blog post was written months ago- my bad for not posting sooner – sorry!)
We made the decision to become resident tutors and live at school a short while back, and moved into boarding at the beginning of December. Even after such a short time of being in China, it was still a task and a half getting all of our stuff to the new place!
In the months leading up to the initial move, we managed to downsize our possessions from a four bedroom house into 16 boxes. In the 4 months of being in China we had more than doubled this, and I really felt for the removal men when they rocked up at school with our belongings, only to be told that there was no lift. Watching them go about strapping two or three massive boxes on their backs and repeatedly traverse the 6 flights of stairs, carrying these, was impressive to say the least.
Fortunately, it was mostly boxes, we had little furniture to move as the accommodation we were leaving was fully furnished, as was the place that we were going to. The two places could not be more different though! Bennelong in Hong Shan is a pretty swanky place with modern decor and on the doorstep of city living. School, on the other hand, is in a more rural, semi industrial location. It’s not quite city living, and the local shopping centres are a lot more authentic Chinese. The plus points however, are huge, including the greenery and great walks surrounding it.
Looking out of our new living room window we get views of more mountainous regions, as well as some development and landscaping of the immediate area, and directly below – allotments and chickens! There’s also an informal social area at the top of one of the boarding houses, and the views from there are pretty spectacular.
From the front of the apartment we overlook the Football pitch, running track and the school. In addition to this, a fantastic ‘Greenway,’ skirting a huge reservoir, is just down the road. Great for running (for my husband – not me!) walking, and cycling.
The area is ‘up and coming’ and construction is happening all around. The bus ride home when we’ve been out and about takes us past ‘Metro City’ and we are keeping our fingers crossed that this does refer to a real metro! We look forward to having the luxury of a metro close by once again (and being reconnected to the matrix).
The school itself is in stark contrast to the surroundings. A modern angular glass structure of quite epic proportions. I remember back to April last year when we made our first visit to China to see the place, the sheer size took our breath away then – and that was in its skeletal unfinished state. Now it really is amazing, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to check that the life I’m living is real.
Our reality now is so far removed from life back in the UK that our lives seem to have slowed down. Because we have already packed so much into our time here, it feels like we have been here for much much longer. If you want to extend your life – put more stuff into it! OK it might not extend it per se, but it gives the illusion of stretching out the time and makes it seem like much longer. When we think back to things that we did only a month ago it seems like they happened years ago. Perhaps also step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do different things. For us – our new challenge – living at school!
The school has three boarding houses. One house is for primary students, another for ages 11-14 and a further one for GCSE and A-Level students. It is a massively diverse community with kids as young as 7 through to young adults of 18 years old. We live on the top floor of the house dedicated to key stage three students, and have taken on additional pastoral roles in becoming a part of the boarding team.
In joining this team we have become part of a very close knit community. Living at school isn’t for everybody, but for us it’s great. Especially as my commute now takes about 5 minutes! And having no lift is a bonus- it means the 127 steps that I have to do repeatedly will soon get me fit! As will the gym in school, and swimming pool that’s attached to the boarding house.
Before we moved on site, when we arrived home we would be greeted with smiling receptionists at our apartment. Now, when we arrive home, we cross the AstroTurf and sometimes watch a kick about, we pass a bustling common room where there is usually a child prodigy on the piano, along with other kids sitting about chatting and doing what most teenagers do – playing on their phones, tablets, or laptops. As we go up the stairs we pass further common areas, and might stop off for a game of pool, table tennis or air hockey, or just a chat with the kids that live here! It’s like being on a permanent school trip, though perhaps not as stressful.
The school day no longer stops at the end of lesson time (not that it ever did back in the UK!) as extra curricular activities go on until 6pm and the evenings when we’re on duty allow us to see the kids in a completely different light. Actually, even the evenings when we’re not on duty let us see the more relaxed side of the kids, as we now share a huge space with them!
My childhood dream, after reading countless Enid Blyton books about living at a boarding school has finally come true!