"It's gettin' cold out," a member of my mostly American crew said as she puffed her way into the office. She'd arrived in July - the middle of the long summer, and now was getting a taste of the cooler end of the year. The coolness really does become obvious in December with just a couple of burps of warmth. January and February get the brunt of the damp coldness but late February and early March often have quite summery weather. Two of the five Chinese New Year periods have been t-shirt weather.
Things have changed a lot in the twelve months since last Christmas. Back then I was just managing the one centre with seven mostly happy staff (including three Brits and one American). I was quite content with what I was doing - but with a slight malaise from work. I'd started to become very comfortable and my trusted regional manager had resigned, and someone I didn't particularly think was up to the job had taken over. My health wasn't anything to write home about - I had this habit of only getting weighed in Qingyuan on a very standard set of scales and it only showed a steady increase even when I thought I'd been more active. My Chinese ability was ever increasing, not as quickly as I'd have wanted but with enough progress never to be too disappointed. I was reading novels without difficulty and slowly getting better at handling functional Cantonese.
Now I manage (at least temporarily) two centres with a total of seventeen teachers. Once one centre closes in the first part of the year, I'll be down to about eleven or twelve. My regional manager has resigned suddenly yesterday and with immediate effect, leaving a vacuum. After the initial setback of breaking my knee, rehabilitation has got me to a state of health even better than what preceded the break: I'm the leanest I've been in about four years (which doesn't say much) and can run fifteen kilometres, pending the happiness of my joints and ligaments. As for Chinese, my Cantonese is now more than just functional but is conversational, too. I can sit down and talk about all sorts of things for a badly accented hour, at will. If it weren't for the craziness of a immigration case manager, this year has been rather successful.
Next year will be an interesting one. Depending how our last ditch attempt to get a residence visa goes, it'll either be a rush to New Zealand or an increasingly appealing Plan B. That plan B might revolve around settling in for another year, buying an investment house and travelling more. I'm feeling confident in my management ability and depending how the whole management situation goes, I might be ready for another step up the chain of command. It could be a good year to aggregate a little capital. Travelling will finally become easier with a big change in the leave policy: I'll have another 5 days of leave to bring me to a total of 20 days. It'll be possible to go back to New Zealand AND travel for leisure in the same year, while also having some domestic family time (Chinese New Year). Either way, it should be fun regardless of what that heartless case manager decides.
In Chinese terms next year is the year of the goat, my benmingnian （本命年), the same animal year as that which I was born. It is sometimes said that there is a higher chance of bad luck. We'll see.