Foreign teachers usually have a hard time with the Chinese yearly school calendar, and not without good reason. The schedule here is crazy, complex and changes every year so that even the students and Chinese teachers have different stories.
Take, for example, today. It is Sunday, normally a day off. But today we are pretending is Thursday, and all 20,000 students and teachers are going about their Thursday routine. Why you might ask? Because there is a holiday next week and unlike most places, in China you don’t actually get the holiday off.
Oh sure, we have a few days off but we are transferring the work to the weekends both before and after the holiday. We have no class Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So instead we have Thursday class this Sunday, Friday class next Saturday and Wednesday class next Sunday.
Of course the lunacy doesn’t stop there. Try to keep up. We have 6 days of classes (Saturday -Thursday) followed by 7 days off again (for the national holiday) which is Friday-Thursday. Then we have regular Friday classes followed by, get this, Friday classes again on Saturday.
Confused yet? Me too, and unfortunately for me I have to figure it out so I don’t leave 30 students stranded in a classroom waiting for me.
I should mention by the way, that this is the government mandated schedule not just for school, but for the entire working world. Investment bankers, library employees and bus drivers all have to act like today is Thursday.
Admittedly, it is not like this every year. The problem lies in the fact that two holidays (Mid-Autumn Day and National Day) are around the same time. National Day is always October 1st (as that is the day Mao proclaimed a communist China in 1949), but Mid-Autumn Festival is a lunar calendar festival and falls on different dates every year. Usually, like last year, the two holidays fall during the same week and it is no problem. But not this year.
And foreigners are not the only ones confused. I found this gem in a Chinese newspaper.
“I’m bewildered when I see the holiday arrangement. It’s hard to follow, Sun Jing, an editor at the Beijing-based Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, was quoted as saying.
The arrangement, billed as the most complicated of holiday plans by the Beijing Times, has not occurred in the past several years as the two holidays usually overlapped.”
I mean really, if the editor of an encyclopedia company find it complex, what hope do I, a dumb laowei, have in figuring it out. I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope I get to the right class at the right time.