Monday 17 September 2001, Language School Year, Warminster, England

After a weekend of settling in, my English education formally began today. And the beginning was very formal indeed. “Where is your uniform?”, I was prompted stopped at the door by the teacher. I poked my head into the classroom and took a look at the rest of the class. Everyone was in their suits and looked so smart. I guessed that must be the uniform the teacher was talking about. My luggage was lost by the airline on the way and I came to the school empty-handedly. Coming to the rescue, our schoolmaster, Mr. McKeown very kindly took me to the shops to get some clothes and other essentials. No wonder he insisted that I got a suit as well. It was not just because everything was free as the airline would be paying for them after all, I actually did need them! “Come back after you put on your uniform, otherwise I can not let you into the classroom.” And off I went back to the boarding house.

A second try didn’t work any better as this time even though I had managed to put on my new suit, I didn’t wear a tie. In China, if one didn’t wear the red scarf, penalty points would be given but one still could go into school, but not here in England. “Put on your uniform properly!”, I was sent back to the boarding house again. It was only the third time, after I not only found the tie but also found our housemistress to show me how to wear the tie, I finally managed to attend my first class. Being able to sit down in a classroom never felt so nice before, especially running around in a suit and formal shoes was so just so uncomfortable. How did 007 did all those stuff dressing like this?

Lunch time was equally educational. In my mind, the western food was so tasty and there were always long queues outside KFC and McDonald’s ever since they opened in my home town. I was a big fan to both, so should I pick fried chicken or burgers for lunch? It turned out there were none. There were some English dishes that on offer, but I had no idea what they were. There were plenty of potatoes but they were neither stir fired nor deep fried. As a result, they didn’t taste anywhere near as good. The only thing that looked familiar was the boiled egg, but sadly each person could take only one. I also found out that there were people who ate vegetables only. They would go straight to the salad bar, pick various kinds of leaves and just eat that. The word salad just didn’t exist in Chinese and I had always thought eating raw leaves were barbarian. But I guess it was probably just as barbarian for one to show up to a class without wearing a suit or a tie.

And of course, chopsticks were nowhere to be seen. Just after I finally watched long enough to learn how folk and knife should be used and went to congratulate myself by having a sip of the soup in front of me, a senior staff member went past me and saw I had lifted the plate up. “That is so rude and unacceptable, put down the plate and leave the dining hall RIGHT NOW!”

Was this the reason there were so both morning and afternoon tea time in the UK—just in case people get thrown out at meal time and became hungry?


Score: Me: 1, English: 23 (English started to pull away once we fully entered her home court. But I am probably too conservative when awarding her points, she could arguably have got a lot more.)