Back in 2010 when I met the students Rita and Mandy, I had no idea what the future held. I was on staff of the Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages in Shaoxing, China, and with help from some friends in Australia, came up with an idea to introduce some Chinese students to Australia. As it turns out, only two came. Rita and Mandy. They stayed with other TESOL students, preparing to teach English. It was my duty to take them around during the day as many of these folk also had other jobs.
Rita came out a few years later, and also with her brother, who was quite a challenge to live with. I visited Rita and her family in 2014, and in fact stayed at their home for a few nights. I also met her boyfriend, and we had a few fun events together – all three of us!! Funny, because I am more than double Rita’s age, an unlikely pair you’d think, but we get on well.
Then in 2015, two Chinese friends invited me to their respective weddings. Despite my often precarious financial status, I decided to go to the one in December – at Hangzhou, and then, feeling that I could not miss Rita’s wedding I set out to go to that one too, in February 2016. Crazy, I know, but I did it!
Before I report on the latest wedding, I wish to tell the tale of the coats and the coat factory. It was Rita’s family business in a “small” city called Cixi. When Rita came out the first time she brought a coat for me. It was a big brown coat – somewhat too big for me, but not that much that I couldn’t wear it. Our climate is rather unsuitable for wearing such a thick coat, but I have done. Going to Adelaide, maybe.
I also have a beloved leather coat that I find adequate and it doesn’t take up much space in the luggage. One of the funny things about the coat, was the animal fur around the hood. She seemed to get it into the country (Australia) without any trouble, but as much as I love looking at the beautiful fur, I don’t like to wear it.
Fast forward to 2015/16. This time I was going to China during the cold season. I was only in China for a week for the first wedding, but the second wedding I was going to be there for more than two weeks, so Rita decided to make me a new coat. I had requested a longish one, so that it would reach my knees and keep my bottom warm, as my other coats were short.
I remember sitting on metal seats around the West Lake in Hangzhou and finding it very cold on my bottom, so chose to avoid that. One day Rita contacted me via WeChat and I measured (as best I could) my arms, lengths etc and relayed them to her.
When I arrived in Cixi, in February 2016, I was given a bag and inside was the new coat. It is warm and it certainly served me well. Another animal fur around the hood!!! Mmmm. There was a small alteration that was required when I arrived – the sleeve inset was too tight, and the girls in the factory set about to remedy it, which they did in very short time.
It is a big and heavy coat – but it really does fold up to a small item really. I don’t know when I will wear it again, but certainly if I go to China in winter I will.
I spent a lot of time in the coat factory. Waiting for Rita, or just waiting for lunch or dinner, as we ate with her grandparents most days. They lived in the bottom part of the factory and cooked for much of the staff too.
I did do a few things in the factory too. I swept the floor of one of the offices – there were papers, and rubbish all over the place and I cleaned it up. I also did some unpicking for one of the girls and helped with some packing of purchases to be posted on too. Really, not a lot of work, but at least I can say, honestly, that I have done some work in a coat factory in China!!