Monday 22 October 2001, Language School Year, Warminster, England

I loved school holidays and could never have enough of them. Schools in China had two terms a year and two holidays between them, one during Chinese New Year in the winter and the other in the summer. Together, they were a respectable three months in length, but the problem was that they were often scarified under the pressure of the various graduation exams. The month-long winter holiday could end up being just the one week surrounding the Chinese New Year while the summer holiday often became an additional term. It was not really fair for us to complain when the teachers had to forgo their holidays to be there with us but we did anyway. Why could we not just be left alone?

I was so happy to see English schools were not only more generous with their school policies but also stick with it: there were three long holidays during the year between the three school terms; then instead of half term exams we got in China, we now had one or two weeks long half-term holiday; lastly, as we were in a boarding school, we also got the chances to leave the school for two additional weekends each week. . In total, we had about five months of holidays in total and during the remaining time, there was a break about every three weeks. How nice!

But not all holidays were equal. Once in England, home was not nearby and there were no parents to pick me up anymore. Instead, for each holiday I had to travel to mid-England where my guardian lived. The journey involved two train rides connected by an underground journey in London sandwiched between two bus rides at the very end. When I left Warminster the previous Friday, I did pretty well initially as I successfully reached London Waterloo station by train, navigated to Euston via the underground and even the correct platform there. Shall I not to be that lazy and walk all the way down the platform to board the front eight coaches, I would have been able to go to the correct city and reach my guardian’s home earlier than mid night. The way back to school yesterday was a lot tougher as I had somehow lost the return ticket during the break. And it didn’t help that I only discovered it under the suspicious eyes of the ticket inspector long after the train had left my guardian’s city.

School holiday in China also meant I could bring all my laundry back home. (I was boarding briefly in my high school as well) Irrespective of how much laundry I had accumulated, as long as I brought them home, they would appear back in my wardrobe, spotlessly washed and nicely folded the next morning. And yes, in case you are wondering, I was one of those “little emperor” raised in China, never had to even lift my finger at home. School holiday in the UK, however, meant a full week of careful planning, hectic packing, unpacking and endless laundering both beforehand and afterwards.

I still loved holidays, but only those where everything got arranged and all the daily chores taken care of. All I had to do was to disappear in a sofa and occasionally complain about the homework. So why did we have so many holidays of the wrong kind in England?