Originally written Friday 15th November:
Today was the first of my classes, so also the first time to meet my new students. The studio is a 5 minute walk from the hotel, which is perfect, so no stress about getting there and back. The dance studio has 2 medium sized studios and one larger one. We were in the larger one today, but not sure if we will be there everyday or not. It's a lovely place with areas outside the studios with cushions on the floor etc to relax between class.
The only thing that is weird, or weird for me anyway, is the toilet. It's the 'put your feet here and squat over this hole' type of thing... I chose to teach an hour of camels with a full bladder rather than use it today! Those of you reading this who dance will know just how uncomfortable that is, not to mention unbecoming.... It is bad enough that everyone in the class, and I mean everyone, has a super flat tummy so I look obese standing next to them, but with a full bladder too?!!!! One girl was asking advice on her belly roll, and kindly said,or at least I think she meant it kindly, "but you have big belly, so it looks very good, my belly is too flat, no?!". What can you say to that exactly?! Ah the honesty of the Chinese!
That however is my only complaint so far. Which is pretty good I think!
It is interesting working with a translator. Everything takes not twice as long, but nearly that. As my goal is to get the dancers to think for themselves about how to make up their own combinations etc a lot of my class is talking to explain what to do and how to, rather than demonstrating. I am sure as the weeks progress we will speed up in understanding of each other... And I am sure they are going to learn more Arabic than I will learn Chinese! It's is hard also remembering names, and I am not even at the point of asking names yet since I know my brain won't retain them!
So far my Chinese has progressed from hello, to hello and thank you. A word a day, not even that actually is this is day3. Not exactly the top linguist! In my defense, I do now recognize a lot of typical food dishes that I didn't know before. A more important survival skill I think!
The dancers are very quick to learn though and patient too. I was worried that advanced dancers would feel bored, or worried they were wasting their money since we started with 4 hours of the basics today, figures of 8's and circles etc... But they were all ok. They all really took on board what I was teaching about the different ways to do these basics, and the silence from all that concentration in one room was deafening!
I have been sampling lots of the local foods. Too much in fact. It is strange having a full meal for breakfast... Then being taken out for both lunch and dinner! I am a one meal a day type of girl usually! The food is gorgeous, and Leon and Mai have been trying to get me to try all the local meals... So, try as I might, a 'light' meal ends up being meat, rice, veg, and lots of fried stuff. This is not a complaint, I am loving the food, but a little too much!
Now for the sweets! Even the sweets are made with tofu and rice (with lots of fruit and sugar and jelly added) I have been amazed to learn that Chinese never seem to use chocolate in their desserts! We went to a restaurant that was 100% desserts! and not a single mention of chocolate on the huge menu at all! They pulverize rice grains and make dumpling type things with the flour, it is everywhere, for every meal. Sweet and savoury. Today I got to try the weird looking fruit that looks like a prickly coconut, a dorian ( or dorain maybe!?). Seemingly these fruit have such a strong smell that in Malaysia, it is actually illegal to take them onto public transport and planes according to Mai! She said they confiscate your luggage if they discover it! It was wrapped in a green sticky rice blanket and stuffed with fresh cream. Wow.
The Chinese also use beans in places I would never think to, as a dessert. Mai today has a pudding which looked like chocolate, but that disappointed was a brown bean curd, with a black sesame paste and a tofu paste on top. All with some sugar, but not a lot. It was as strange tasting as you can imagine. Foul (ful) as a dessert essentially!
I am going to be huge by the time I get back! I already warned them that tomorrow I will not have lunch at all, maybe only a banana! I cannot dance straight after all of this! Tonight I am skipping dinner too, just having fruit and lots of herbal tea and just a couple of the peanut butter filled sticky rice dumplings in ginger sauce that Leon gave me to take to hotel because he was worried I would starve without dinner! Which of course I have to try, to be polite. But mainly I am trying to help repair a little damage my diet has already done to me!!! I bought some unsweetened chilled jasmine tea, thinking that would be good for me too... But it's like taking medicine! Yuck! Think I will buy myself some flowers tomorrow... The sell all the teas in their whole form so you can buy little rose buds, or chamomile flowers that you just steep as is. They are very pretty , although I don't know yet what they will taste like! I bought the licorice root to do that with, but the taste is very bitter... Need to buy some sugar (or lift some at breakfast!) which kinda defeats the health incentive!
Oh... At breakfast, they play all the karaoke favourites ... And on my first morning I couldn't believe it when I heard, and I kid you not, " ye banks and braes" .... Really! I felt like it was fate, welcoming the Scots lass to her new home for the month! I came over all emotional! That will be the jet lag!
Tonight I was in bed by 5.30pm. Woke at 9.30pm and now awake until I don't know...it's is not linked, but at least though I am finally online! I now have a device you plug into the wall which gives me unlimited wifi! Yippee!!! So I am writing all these blog posts and emailing them to Ellie (of London, in Cairo!) to post on my blog for me since I have hotmail, but that is about it. Facebook, twitter and blogger are all unavailable, and I know you can get round this with a VPN, but I have only just managed in 3 days to get online at all... So this will have to do. The frustrating thing is that my notifications from both twitter and Facebook flash up on my iPad... So I can see I have 104 notifications, but I cannot access them! That is worse than nothing at all! I have to say though. I suspect a month off Facebook isn't such a bad thing for my mental health ! Although I do miss being able to contact my friends regularly!
Talking of friends, tomorrow I am hopefully seeing one of 'my' Chinese girls, the ones who came to stay with me in Cairo in the 1st revolution. The girls who all call me 'mummy Lorna!' because I looked after them while they were in Egypt. Now it is her turn, 'Dou Dou' ( dance name Corrine) can play at mummy instead! She is dancing at a restaurant called 1001... I am hoping we can go see her show. That would be mad. Going to an Arabic restaurant in Shanghai to see a professional bellydancer that I have trained, perform! Hope the jet lag allows me!!!
I think it's interesting how most of the Chinese people I have met all have nicknames, like dou dou, which is not their given name, as well as their 'non Chinese' name, Todd, Leon, Corrine, Sophie to name but a few so far! One of my students' name is 'Sisi'. I told her I would never forget her name because it was the name of the most important man in Egypt just now! She was very pleased at this idea (the being linked to a top man in Egypt, although perhaps at me remembering her name too!)
Enough. I hope my waffling on about all this is of interest to you! Please do feel free to make comments. Although I can't see the actual blog, I get an email for every comment notification, so at least I can read those there!