We are having a Chinese primary school teacher to stay. She and a bunch of other Chinese teachers are supervising 40 Shanghainese kids on an English language immersion trip to Cambridge. Since our teacher (the senior one) doesn’t speak much English, I figured it would be good for our kids to have a week practising their Chinese.
It turns out that our kids also get a cultural lesson thrown in for free.
The Chinese teachers and schoolchildren have been billeted with Cambridge families around town. So far so good. But in order to consolidate them in the morning so as to get everyone to school, they are not using one of the regular Cambridge taxi firms. Instead they are using a Chinese taxi firm I have never seen before. It’s a guanxi thing, you see.
Sure enough the driver gets to our house already half an hour late having gotten lost. Being Chinese, he doubtless also left half an hour spare in case of mistakes, so the group has likely already wasted an hour this morning going to wrong places. Plus, of course, the actual origin to destination driving time.
Finally the car pulls up outside our house and disgorges two panic-stricken occupants, both teachers. Spotting Senior Teacher Zhang, who is staying with us, they head for our front door. ‘We need the toilet!’ they exclaim, pushing into the house and straight past me in the corridor. ‘Hello!’ says one, as he locates the downstairs toilet under the stairs and heads in. A female teacher, beaten to the downstairs toilet, scoots straight off upstairs in search of another one, quickly locating it.
I wander into the street with my espresso to take in the scene.
After a couple of minutes the toilet-seeking teachers reappear becalmed and join Senior Teacher Zhang and the others in the taxi.
‘Sank you!’ says one.
And with that the people who are taking over the world are off.