A Travellerspoint blog

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t-minus 13 Days

The count-down begins.....

sunny 19 °C

Hmmm,

So 13days out from leaving Aus. I thought it would be a good idea to write down a few things.
Currently not too nervous but more excited, a sense which was absolutely AMPLIFIED by the fact that I got my travel bag yesterday and a stack of clothes, may I add that the prospect of getting the bag was interesting, but seriously, who the hell did not tell me that a human sized back pack (I'm not kidding in case you were wondering) was a good idea to cart around the city as everyone was leaving for the day?
To the granny I half took out when turning, sorry- be glad it was empty. To the gentleman that half fell asleep on my shoulder, appologies for scarring you when I got up to get off the train- you should try to stay awake- and to anyone else; yeh I know you're totally jealous of the chick with the epic blue back pack ;) she is off on an adventure better than any of you. :D

ok well, off to pack and write lists (as you do).

Be good (like you need to be told!!)

Zoe xx

Posted by Messus 23:26 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kunming

Evening's Musings.

sunny 24 °C

Kunming; 25th February 2011.

I can hear all the traffic on the road in the city that sprawls before me and may I say that it is rather beautiful. Despite Kunming's old and well lived in appearance, the Spring city is one that never appears to sleep, mearly slow down to a gentle jog in order to catch its breath for the unbelievably magical chaos that is to ensue in the day ahead.

My time in the Spring City so far has been a surreal one. It does not feel like I am in a foreign country, nor does the fact that, apart from my fellow volunteers, I am yet to lay eyes on someone of non-asian decent worry me in the slightest. Kunming, the city of spring feels very much like home and its people equally like fellow siblings in the people's republic.

So far my adventures have taken me through a rather turbulent, 7hr flight from Melbourne to Singapore (which saw me tossed fromthe row of chairs I had fallen asleep on to the floor o.O). From which a further 7hrs was spent in Changi airport with fellow Australian volunteers, followed up by a 3.5hr flight to Kunming Airport. Koolah Koolay! Destination one reached!! (only to be held up by no one other than our English counterparts on a delayed flight, trust a Pom lol). And so ends the day of the 22nd Feb. well, there was the whole bus trip to the hotel and the small scale banquet but I shant bore with more monotonus dribble. :)

Day two saw the commencement of our attendence at Robert's School of Languages in the outskirts of Kunming. Advanced Manderin lessons to kick off the day followed by several lessons on teaching non-english speaking students and how to make your point known via body language and the like (absolutely hilarious!!) and an assortment of other amusing oddities (such as the realisation that the hotel gives you loo paper in rolls of approx. 20 sheets..... and there is a "poo basket", I think I shall let the name speak for itself *shudder* ). Oh it was also Odette's 18th Birthday today (23rd Feb) so after class we all walked down to the Green Lake Park and wondered around before ordering dinner (in mando) to the delight and dismay of several of the waitresses. Much pointing and speaking like morons was involved despite the efforts of the three of us who spoke mando.

The following evening dinner was had followed by a little thing called English Corner held in the Green Lake Park, Kunming's main public gardens (very beautiful with many lakes). I suppose I should explain the concept of English corner before continuing.

[quoteChinese students and city residents passionately practice their English skills at this small square. It is often visited by hundreds of people every Friday night. Some people can be seen giving speeches in English or leading open discussions. English-speaking students who visit the English corner are often quickly surrounded by eager students wanting to practice their English or find a language partner.

][/quote]

So here we were, 13 naitive English speaking people in the middle of English corner with approx. 200 people crowded around us, listening and talking to us about various topics. One man, so boldly informing me of the fact that in Australia we use the pouches of Kangaroos as a place to keep "human babies" whilst their parents are at work (I promise it was so difficult to supress the laughter welling up inside me I actuallly commenced to cry which seemed to distress him some what, not my aim).

Kunming by night, expecially on such gloriously balmy ones such as tonight, is simply amazing. Wandering through the streets as the sun set on the back of my neck and watching all the kiddies in their sailor moon type uniporms crowd the streets eating many tantalising (and utterley gag worthy) morsels was quite a nice way to watch the world go by from the comfort of the park.

Well I must go now, my time in the internet cafe is almost up and a couple of the older women have asked me to join them in their evening tai-chi session (techno style).

So until next time,
zaijian!

Posted by Messus 06:33 Archived in China Comments (0)

Monday Musings

sunny

And so closes another evening in the Spring City....

Well, it can be said that the last few days has been little more than absolutely hilarious. Saturday afternoon spent with Odette, Lewis and Becca was definatly one well spent, (refer to photos). Initially a group of us were going to go for a hike up the mountain (don't ask which because I did not retrieve that much information :P) but the four of us couldnt be arsed so explored Kunming a little more.

Setting off from a resturant-style food court with full and slightly dissapointed bellies (the quest for Duck was woefully met by Duck brest bone with a small amount of duck and a absolutely dismal, slightly cold, spinach, bok-choy and pumpin broth) the four of us meandered through the sights, smells (trust me there is several of those, both mesmerising and bad enough to raise the dead) and traffic of yet another gloriously sunny Kunming day. Wondering our way through the city and up the large main roads we came across street hawkers selling a range of things from iPhone covers (spelt iFone) through to multi-coloured chicks and ducklings (refer to images) before realising that we were in a part of the city that took us almost an hour to reach in the steady traffic (only 15mins walking distance from our hotel). If that does not say something about the state of the Russian-Roulette style traffic here then I do not know what will!! Asking the old lady knitting a jumper for directions to a market where we could brush up on our haggling skills, took us down little back streets where the old court yard houses lined the streets and family dogs (that look itchy as all hell) ran about our feet as kids chased them up the narrow street. Stumbling upon a little rundown looking store we wondered in, looking at its various items and the collection of antique hair pins, bracelets and other miscelaneous items of jewelry beneath the grubby, glass display cabinet the toothless shopkeeper greeted us in manderin. Her croaky "Nihao" was scaresly heared by the four of us I jumped when she suddenly appeared at my side and further jibbering about her wares in manderin to us. Being the only Mando speaking person of our cohort it was amusing to hear her talk in that voice as it took longer to process what she was saying.

Proceeding on from the old woman's store we realised we were back near the Green Lake Park and could hear traditional Chinese Opera floating to us on the breeze (alien is not enough to describe the sound I am afraid!) Walking along peering into various stores and occassionally stopping to look at things a particular store took our fancy, trooping in in our line of four the shop keeper mearly looked up, saw "baise haizi" (white kids) and went back to her newspaper. She had Tibeten rugs, shoes, various styles of ethnic minority and traditional jewelery and clothes when out of the corner of our eyes a golden glitter caught our eye.

In the corner behind us, hanging knowingly on a hanger was a hand beaded, red and gold velvet vest with aged mirrors sewen into it. Gharish is not the correct term for it (although I will admit its an aquired taste). The woman was asking 180yuan for it, however through careful translation Odette and I managed to get it down to about 80yuan (or there abouts, I do not remember). Content with ourselves we went to get some drinks and look out over the lakes.

(May I say, that when travelling; do as the locals do. But when in China; observe the locals then decide wheather or not it really is worthwhile doing as the locals do. Mums holding kiddies by the waist whilst they use the nearby flower bed as a loo is NOT cool guys!)

Milkshakes on the back decking of a resturant over looking the hubub of the park was relaxing, laughing and taking lots of photos whilst the waiters (fu wu yuan) looked at us like we were psycho was quite possibly a great pit-stop of the afternoon, however the warm tapioca and coconut shakes were definatly interesting..... *gag*

Concluding the afternoon with a paddle boat ride on the lake for an hour was great, the sun, music and people yelling out "Nihao!" and "Hello!" (in hiarious english) was great, great that is until I was graced with the luck of a seagull down the leg of my pants. :(

Well as you can probably tell from the amazing way my writing has gone from descriptive to blah, I'm absolutely knackered so I'm off to bed now.

Be good and catch y'all laters!

Zaijian
美仙
(Mei Xian, my chinese name given to me by my teacher however do not recall what it means, oops)

Posted by Messus 04:40 Archived in China Comments (0)

Eshan Chronicals

The journey truely begins!!

sunny 23 °C

Hey hey guys and gals!!

So, currently in Eshan, Yuxi, Yunnan, China and oober excited!! (and coming off the perculia high teaching gives you, weird but a later matter).
I'm not sure about Nat, but when they said small rural town I was expecting something a lot like Yarra Glen, in the sense that it is one main street and little else, but oh em gee.....!!! This joint is MASSIVE! The school alone rivals the size of Yarra Grammer with over 2,000 students, that's without the teaching staff, grounds staff, family members of teachers and anyone else I may have forgotten!

The first day we were here our link teacher, Lucy (who is our Chinese mother and sooooo nice) asked us to cover her lessons for the day. (but I think I may have already mentioned this so appologies if I have, I did not read through my previous post before typing this :P) Woken up by "MEI XIAN!! GET UP" and a rapping on the window pane at some ungodly hour (something like 8am, after going to bed at an equally ungodly hour due to a banquet where it is possible to say that there were a few too many toasts resulting in slight intoxication on all's behalf except the drivers, thank god!)

We spent the weekend celebrating "international women's day" (but I get the feeling its a Chinese thing as neither of us had heared of it before). Bundled into the awaiting car at 8am (yet again) we drove 4.5hrs through absolutely exquisite scenery. Soaring mountains and sheer rock face. Red dirt and belive it or not; gum trees (looked just like home but in China, weird or what??) Arriving at Mi-le we checked into the hotel and were extatic to discover that the beds were soft and wait for it....... it was a massive shower head with ELECTRIC hot water, not this tempremental solar stuff that freezes your ass off at 6am with actual chuncks of icy slush (go the kettle and water tubs!!) Lunch followed (organs anybody?? yum.... *gag*) then off to the "Yunnan Red Chatteau" a vineyard in the middle of Yunnan that can be described as little more than the Palace of Kitsch (so aptly named, see pics if you do not believe me), and the red wine, ah the wine. Ever picked up a bottle of red wine vinegar that you stupidly left next to the similar in appearance bottle of red wine?? gross!!! oops. o.O

The tour of the vineyard was followed up by dinner then a trip to.. wait for it..... HOT SPRINGS!! Spa night anybody?? Soooooo nice!! So was required to get into the water (duh) but there was a sever lacking of bathers on my behalf so had to buy some and they are actually much nicer than my pair at home, take that $90 bathers! $17 kicks ass!! lol. The change rooms.... well ima skip that bit, I don't want to recall the memories I would rather supress than remember..... saw way too much of my fellow femal staff.... majorly cringe worthy!! But the springs were AMAZING!! 32 degrees in the outer pool and about 38-42 degrees in the inner one. (took a little while to get used to but mmmmmm..... hot springs.....) Feeling renewed and pruney, seriously I've never seen my hands and feet so wrinkled!!!! We chuffed off back to our hotel and our soft, comfy, warm beds (you wouldn't know how blissful they are until you have spent a week sleeping in a Chinese bed, plank of wood anyone?)

Following morning, waiting in the lobby of the hotel some of the teachers (finally) came up to us and started talking and what not (it had just been Natalie, Lucy and I beforehand) so it was absolutely fantastic! Bananas anyone? (yummmm) well bundled into the car (yet again) and shipped off to the mountains, dozing off as we wound our way through only to awaken to the sight of our destination; Da Fo (Big Buddha) a large statue and sprawling temple dedicated to the Buddhist faith, a whole mountain (I'm being serious FYI) the WHOLE mountain (in case you didn’t get it the first time) :P

May I say that it was at this stage we realised "omg tai pang le!!" (omg too fat/ unfit!!) but any whoooo.... it was fun. Finally reaching the top we found one temple with one large golden statue of Buddha and the four traditional Chinese Gods. Upon reaching the main temple we met a monk to whom we spoke with the aid of our fellow English teachers. After explaining to him that we were volunteers he said a little prayer for us after which turning to our fellow teacher and saying “I admire her for her bravery, coming to a faraway country with no one and looking so different.” Quite chuffed at that, (and the funny thing is he is not the only one that has said that, I’ve had people in the street say similar things when I have been talking to them, in mando of course!) Carrying on to the main monument, Da Fo, the smell of incense grew heavier and the sound of firecrackers rang out garishly through the mountains, the sight of Da Fo emerged from beyond the stairs evoking little more than a feeling of insignificance in the presence of His sheer size and majesty.

I will continue this tale at a later date.
Must dash :P
xx

Posted by Messus 17:36 Archived in China Tagged china yunnan eshan yuxi Comments (0)

"G'day Mate!!"

the hilarities of the class room

overcast 17 °C

So closes another day in sunny 峨山, the pink sun set is settling heavily on the egg shell blue and yellow buildings outside my lounge room window. I must tell you all about the unfolding of the previous night as much fun was had. Jewel, Jason, Chris, Cassie and Hawking came knocking on our door at about the same time as now, 7pm, bearing strange Vietnamese cakes and laughter. We sat around until about 11:30pm talking and laughing, taking many photos. We were supposed to be learning Mandarin but it was more fun to laugh in English rather than study, and laugh we did.

Today however it was up early and scoff down hot porridge as I ran to class at 8:30am (see I’m still hopeless at keeping to times!) Class 6, grade 2 an amusing bunch of kids who seemed to know what I was on about (thank goodness!!) Class 6 actually produced the first student to tell me what Halloween was,(we have been looking at international festivals in case you were wondering) standing up straight away and reciting the definition of Halloween, “a festival traditionally celebrating the spirits of the dead but now an opportunity for kids to eat candy, formally known as All Hallows Eve”. Well you can imagine my face after that one!! Out of the 6 odd classes I had previously taught the lesson to she was the first out of 360 students to be able to tell me what it was before I told them in Chinese! Amazing! There is intelligence in the system yet!! Lol well that was a shocker!

Shock two followed later in the day in grade 8 (I think I have found my favourite class FYI) the children’s costumes seemed hilarious, many had massive feathered plumes coming from their imaginary masks and the boys seemed to all want to be super heroes. The class, like all things in life, had its little hiccups, such as at the start. I should explain that I begin the class with a game, so I can learn their names, gauge how shy they are etc. To do this, I have been throwing a footy around the class, generally at people who seem to not be paying attention aiming just higher than their heads or tower of books, enough to wake them up. Well…. This one student happened to look up as it began whistling past her head, collecting her square in the cheek. Luckily it wasn’t pumped up all the way so shouldn’t have hurt that much but omg felt like the biggest bully ever!! But all was good and we carried on with the lesson. At the end of the class one of the students came up to me all coy like and dropped a slip of paper on my desk saying the following: “can you take photos with me?” awwww so cute!!! Well we took a few photos outside, and then the rest of the class came out and lined up on the stairs, tugging me into the middle and passing my camera to a passing teacher. Photos photos photos!!! Lol so ima make it my goal to get a class photo of each class I teach. This is going to be fun!

Today (11th March 2011) I was woken at 5am by mother dearest and her frantic texting. Yes mum I’m alive, no mum I did not even feel it, it was about 800km west of me and not strong enough (but would have slept through it anyways :P ) its ok ma, love ya xx
So with my early start I checked out the news here, not a word until I switched to cctv9 (English news) and even then it was only 10 seconds long. “Earthquake in Yingjian County, Yunnan and Burma. China to send aid to Burma” or something along those lines and that was that.

Class 9 this morning. Well what to say? They seemed half asleep to tell the truth, Nat sat in on the lesson, shame cause the one after was hilarious, so I skip forward to class 4. I walked in and one of the kids stood up and shouted (with very strong Chinese accent) “G’DAY MATE!” couldn’t help but laugh, as did the rest of the class. So with the hilarities aside I picked up the chalk and began to teach about international festivals. (so amazing, someone yelled out “Halloween!” and when asked to spell it for me he wrote the following on the black board: “hawlloween” cute.) But I have found one of my other favourite classes, I know, I know, not supposed to have favourites, but trust me, it’s hard not to. Class 4 also had the most people with English names which was nice; Xavier, Rainbow, Jenny and “Rose, as in Jack and Rose from Titanic” (I think we’ve a Titanic nutt on our hands!)

I am thinking of starting an AFL club on the weekends, some of the students I have shown seem quite keen and it is too difficult to organise during the week. So Sunday mornings on the oval I will (hopefully) be running AFL sessions so will need to write a notice for the bulletin (which is a 15ft blackboard outside!) in perfect Chinese, don’t fail me now!! Woooo!!! Lol

As to this weekend, Lewis is coming over (yay) so we shall do a few things. KTV Saturday night with some of the grade three students (高三) Jewel, Cassie, Jason, Chris, and Hawking which will be hilarious I hope. Then Sunday morning some of Nat’s grade one (高一) students will be coming to take us shopping in Eshan (峨山) to buy the ingredients to make jiaozi (dumplings) and then a lunch party with most of our English corner group. Also, for the long weekend we have been invited to Tonghai (通海) by Gin (or Gaga as we like to call him) to meet his family and see the sights (hopefully, he needs to check first).

So until next time,
Zaijian! 再见!

Your chineseified traveller,
Zoë
美仙

PS: I forgot what I was going to say, should come to me later. :P be good! xx
PPS: I remember now. fixed the shower (good bye kettle bird bath!!) stupid me didn't open the hot tap's lever thingie. oops. :P

Posted by Messus 20:19 Archived in China Tagged china yunnan eshan yuxi Comments (0)

Boil, boil, bubble and trouble

foodies delight....

snow 4 °C

So after an amusing weekend of KTV, jiaozi and Italian dinner I suppose I should let you know what has been happening right??
Well…. Where to start?? Lewis came over for the weekend. So that was cool. Saturday night we all went to KTV with some of the grade three students. It was absolutely hilarious!! First we went out to dinner. Fried rice anybody?? Oh don’t forget the chilli!! It wouldn’t be a Yunnan dish without it! (I’m serious, chilli overload. I have actually reached the stage where my tastebuds actually CRAVE chilli! There is deffers something wrong here; western food is going to be so boring!) but chilli aside, dinner was yummmmmm! Green veggies, chilli, RICE and some miscellaneous meat. (I did not wish to question its origin….)

Then off to KTV!! Woot! Lol we all piled into the taxi and off we sped (oh I think I should mention that the taxies here are not conventional taxis with four wheels. They are motorcycle taxis, so 3 wheels and a carriage) to KTV tallyho! May I spare you the disturbing hilarities of KTV and its resulting revelations; the realisation of the meanings of Maroon 5’s songs (aided by VERY graphic videos).
Hmmm……. Well that was Saturday night. Space jump to Sunday morning. All three of us woke up, looked at the time and went “oh you are frigging kidding” so as you may assume, really couldn’t be bothered at this stage. Come 9:30am two students knocked on the door to see if we were ready, and ready we were indeed not. So they came back at 10:30am and all 9 of us wandered down to the Sunday markets. All I have to say is WOW! Bugger the Yearing Station farmers market; bugger the Yarra Glen/ Healesville markets. This brought a whole new meaning to the word “produce market”. The sounds and smells were both amazing and un-nerving. Decapitated pig anyone? Cattle skull with its brains dripping out the back of it? Oh wait, what’s that at your feet? Look down and hold your nose because it is indeed all the juices of these awaiting morsels. Tread carefully!! :P Wandering to the back of the meat markets (aka open air butcher and OH&S nightmare!) we purchased 200 dumpling skins that were round and square. Hilarious, 200 who would have guessed??

Followed up by wandering back through the butchers to buy 3kg of pork belly (minced before us) and much haggling was had here I will have you know. To the stall on the other side to buy salt, soy sauce, red vinegar and god only knows what else, then garlic, spring onions, and a little ginger added to our bags as we strolled through the fruit and veg market, munching on sweet potato pancakes (or that’s what they looked/ tasted like anyway) and piling back into the infamous motorcycle taxies! Coolah! Colay!! To the flat to make jiaozi we go!!!
Well clean hands and massive bowls and knives crowded around our tiny coffee table to mix up the shredded veges into the mince, whilst a massive pot simmered away in the kitchen awaiting our culinary master pieces. Well stuffing jiaozi skins with our fingers was one thing, but seriously, stuffing them using chopsticks added a whole new level of amusement to the task. Fold once, water, fold this corner, water and fold that corner. Voulla!! You have a dumpling! And into the pot she flies! (just kidding, we didn’t throw them, just dumped them 30 at a time into the boiling water) well all I can say is YUMO!! You don’t know how good they really are until you make them yourself I must say indeed. So go make some guys, its toats yum, and have them in soup too. 很好

Well I suppose I should update you on this week whilst I’m here hey? *sips pu’er tea thoughtfully* This week. What to say….. Oh yeah here we go, my lesson for this week is adjectives (or describing words for my fellow English grammar retards) so what I am doing is playing vocabomb with 8 words (Kangaroo, Emu, Platypus, Echidna, Koala (they love this one), gum tree, mammal and marsupial). Now some words have a bomb next to them, if they say this word they lose a point, the class is in two teams and the first to 15 wins. It is rather hilarious. “Ech-nida” and “Platy-psssss” you really need to hear it, you would be in hysterics too!! I’ve got flashcards with the animal on them and get the kids to describe them to me to answer the question: A …………. is an animal that….. apparently they all look like some form of mutilated pig/ dinosaur to them but hey, they are describing so I don’t mind too much plus it is quite amusing. Ending the class with a “create-your-own-critter” session. A peanut shaped body is drawn on the board and the kids do the rest. (go the chalk board!) red, green, purple, blue, green, yellow and white chalk are a go! I will upload the pictures later when I have all 12 (as there is 12 classes) they are defiantly too good to ruin with my descriptions, you will just have to wait and see. 

Oh also. It has been so frigging freezing!! I thought I left the crappy weather back in Melbourne. It was 25˚C on Monday and it suddenly dropped to bloody 4˚C over night. Bye bye hot shower, hello bird bath yet again. Fml to the maxxx!! Lol. Well the weather is still ridiculous, it has been snowing in Kunming (spring city my ass) and also in Tonghai which is 45km up the road. The kids say that Eshan is too deep in the valley for it to fall as snow here (but it has been falling in interchangeable intervals of sleet and drizzle) So I’ve been wearing so many clothes it is mental (none of the classrooms/apartments have heaters) so tights, jeans, socks, hiking boots, 2 singlets, long sleeve top, Sion sports jumper, big over coat and beanie it is!!! Woot! Lol. Going to go buy some gloves tomorrow morning just haven’t got around to it yet. Tonghai for the weekend with a couple of students (which will be fun) hiking up the mountains there, looking at the temples and lakes, we have been told that Tonghai is “beautiful” by so many of the students so we thought we would check it out. :P

Until next time peeps!
xx

Posted by Messus 08:17 Archived in China Tagged city china yunnan eshan yuxi Comments (0)

Jianshui weekend

overcast 5 °C

And now I shall lay forth the events of the past weekend I suppose.

This past weekend we got on a bus and kept changing until we eventually made it to our destination of Jianshui (建水) well may I say it was pretty damn cool. Arriving there we looked at the crowded, dusty and bustling tarmac street with dismay. Lonely Planet! How could you disappoint us so? After all you had promised; the mystery, the awe, and the picturesque streets! Lonely Planet, you make us inwardly weep so…. Or so we thought. Meander down the road for a kilometre or so and you reach this massive round-about with nothing less than a Ming dynasty tower in the centre! Hurrah! Our guide had finally delivered something of substance! (Even if it was covered in scaffolding and shade-cloth for restorations).

Following the rather terrible map in our book of books we wandered up the main street “Hallo” followed us up the road with every second and third person we passed, promise two fulfilled as prophesised by the Lonely Planet. We could not find a single hotel/hostel recommended in the book, settling for one where the staff seemed friendly and the lobby clean and welcoming, what more could you want? It was quite hilarious attempting to book a room for the night, initially they thought we meant we wanted a room with a double bed, not a double room. O.o but after all that was all cleared up it was sweet as bro! $3.33 room anyone? (Bloody brilliant).

Well exploring Jianshui on the evening when the moon was closest to the Earth was absolutely AMAZING! (as Jianshui has little to no street lamps and it was a clear night with a full moon) We went and got some dinner, yummmmmo may I say, the mushies here are SICK! Go Yunnan and it's famous mushrooms. mmmmm...... 'shrooms...... ;P followed up by "apple pie" more like apple pancake (should have known better, it being a tapenaki resturant and all oops.

Wanted to go see the Zhu Mansion, (the gardens are classical Ming (?) Dynasty and supposed to be exquisite) but alas, when we got there we were greeted by strange looks (white girl speaking mando and girl of Chinese appearence saying not a word) and "meiyou piao" or for you who speak no Chinese, no tickets left. Well that sucked balls may I say. But oh well, we took our pancakes and sat on the steps of the scaffolded tower and watched Jianshui pass us by as the sky turned from late twilight to pitch black and brilliant, inky blue.

Well the next day..... omg frigging amazing. It is all I can say I'm afraid.

Checked out of the hotel at about 8:30am and made our way to the bus station, buying some absolutely fab baozi (stuffed bread dumplings) on the way. Got on the bus to some unknown place, heading for the Swallow's Caves about 22km out of Jianshui.

The bus was slightly hilarious, got on and said to the conductor, can you tell us where to get off for the caves (as there are no bus stops in China apart from the stations), so got on and 30mins later the bus pulled over on the side of the highway and the conductor gestured broadly to the other side of the 6 lane highway and closed the door, dumping us on the side of the highway with little clue of where to go.

Well may I say; Thank God for the kindly kids that seemed to be on a double date. Sorry guys from killing the date but THANK YOU for being so kind!!! We never would have got there with out you. So trampsing through the vegetable feilds along a dirt road, with absolutely exquisite scenery (see the photos, I kid you not!) any how, through the fields and down to the toll gate and into a mini bus to the caves. Tally Ho!! Standing in the reception area of the caves, awkward as all hell I will have you know, they with bare minimal English and my shoddy Chinese, quite an amusing set I may say..... they got us tickets and let us tag along on their guided tour (so nice of them, feel really bad for intruding on their potentially romantic get away, sorry guys!) Didn't even get their names. :S Felt so rude.

Down into the caves; I can only quote my students when I told them what we got up to on the weekend "Waaaaa......." The mouth of the cave was the height of a small block of flats. So amazing just stood there in awe. 83million years of what was so unexplainable, (can I use the phrase "visual rape"? it was that much of a shock/amazement I swear, that is the best I can describe it). 2.5hrs through the caves, sooooo many stairs..... legs didn't know what had hit them. But omg.... amazing....... please see the pics, actually even the pics don't do the caves justice.

Dragon boats back anyone?? Soooo good......

The bus home was not much, fell asleep on a random's shoulder. Got home to Eshan at about 5:30pm with a bunch of students on the bus from Yuxi which also dropped us on the side of the highway (loving the highway drops).

See you after this weekend people, I'm off to a wedding. XD

P.S:
can I just mention, the weather went back up to 25-29 degC for the week, then this morning it dropped BACK to bloody 4 degC. :S

Posted by Messus 23:58 Archived in China Tagged china yunnan jianshui Comments (0)

The massacre of an Aussie icon

Hilariousness of a Sunday evening

overcast 6 °C

Well. Just a quick note this weekend.

Stayed at home. Discovered that the blender is functional so STRAWBERRY and BANANA smoothies FTW!

But that is beside the point. What I really want to mention is the absolute massacre of a classic Aussie past time. Yes ladies and gents, I speak of good old AFL. Now, I am not one that usually plays AFL, however, I thought get all patriotic and its sweet as bro.

So this evening when Nat and I were invited to go down to the basket ball courts to muck around with some of the grade 3 kids (our age and older) it would be the perfect opportunity to break out the footy right?

Well all I have to say is OH LORDIE it was frigging HILARIOUS!!! 15+ girls and 1 boy (go Paul!!) all running around the soccer pitch chasing a footy. Started off ok but anarchy soon ensued. All I can say is what a pisser!

AFL

AFL

Oh yeh highlights; apart from being generally amazing, the screeching, the kicking of the ball OVER their heads and behind them, the running/carrying of the ball and the absolutely EPIC slide for the first goal was soooo funny I can not even put it into words.

All I have to say is this; Oh how I look forward to my last week of grade 2 in less than a fortnight's time. AFL lessons here we come!!!

ANARCHY ANARCHY ANARCHY!!! :P

Posted by Messus 05:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Happenings of the last few weeks (revised with photos)

the tales of 华宁,景洪, 普文 and 普洱

sunny 28 °C

Well well well (3 holes in the ground lol no seriously). It has been a while so I thought I should fill yall in on a few things that I have been doing. So since the anarchy that was AFL there has been a few things, the end of my teaching grade 2 :(, a trip to Huaning (华宁) with a couple of students to meet their families and see their home towns, Wednesday night hilarities a water festival and seeing white people!! :P

The end of grade 2 teaching.... for now

Well I had to swap my classes this week, so no more grade 2 students for the next month, grade one it is. It was soooo sad when I told them that it was our last lesson for the next month. Some of them looked like I had told them that the tree outside had fallen over onto their house, others looked like I had just told them that their mother had died, a few times we almost cried!! Don't really want to swap the classes, love the grade 2 kids, they were soooo much fun and so funny it is virtually impossible to put it into words.

Wednesday Nights

Well Wednesday nights are now officially my favorite night of the week! I hope it continues to tell the truth. What happens Wednesday night is that students study from 7.30pm-11pm by themselves in their class rooms, and this Wednesday night a student from my favorite class (Class 4, G2) came to the flat and invited me to come up and help them with some of their English homework, help read the texts etc. Well all I can say is that did not happen. Got there, everyone was screaming "yay" Zoe's back!!" hahaha so funny, love it when they get all excited. So 10 mins in and the "homework" had been done (health anyone?? *yawn*) so we started off with a song; "teach us a song that you learn as a kid" so kookaburra on the electric wire it was, actions included. soooo friggin hilarious!!! Followed by some happy snaps from my laptop, so some (relatively) flattering ones from schoolies, 18ths, Dandiya, "celebration day" and any other random ones that were on my computer, including ones of Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. They seemed to like it, thought Lily and April were so cute and that Sarah was my OLDER sister cause she is tall, twice as funny to see the looks on their faces when I told them she was their age. :P

The evening went until 11pm (been there since 7.30pm) fun as hell, love it, had a talent competition, talked about school life, their future dreams and how much they had changed since they were kids and got taught the national anthem etc. smart bunch of kids, sad that I'm not officially teaching them again for a month. :(

Huaning 华宁

Huaning was absolutely AMAZING! Got the bus there, 2.5hrs through some pretty awesome scenery. Got there, it was really hot!! Huaning is like a small scale Ringwood, except much more dusty and friendly, less scummy by far!! lol. But seriously, went there and met some of our grade one students, Sarah and Flora. Nice pair of girls. Sarah invited us down to spend Qingmin jie (Tomb sweeping Festival) with her family (3day weekend) and Flora tagged along for the fun. Sarah's father took us down to Fuxian lake, this is what the kids call the beach at Minzhong, was thinking, there is no bloody way there can be a lake big enough to have a full blown beach on it in Yunnan, but oh God, I could not have been any more wrong I am afraid.

Fuxian Lake

Fuxian Lake

Fuxian lake, well what can I say apart from the fact that it is frigging HUGE!! The lake (more like an inland sea) was so awe inspiring, none of my photos really portray it in truth, which was rather sad, but it was a massive white sand beach with lots of holidaying families there (and old men in budgie smugglers.... ewwwww!!) and kiddies playing chicken with the waves, yes I did just say waves. I'm not kidding. The four of us trapped across the blinding sand in our chucks to the long boats that were lined up along the shore. Got in and omg, sooooo scary!!! There was about 3inches of boat between us and the 1m swell (I know sounds like nothing but when it is a minimum 20m deep lake and its got rocky islands, fish the size of you and its bloody freezing you would be bloody petrified too!!) Oh should mention, this lake has the purest water in all of China, you can quite literally cup your hands in the lake and drink it straight, it tasted good in case you were wondering. Pretty cool eh??

Well we were paddled around in this massive, wet and cold swell by a couple of guys and their oars, looked lilke pretty hard work if you as me they took us once around the island that was in the middle then back to the shore. Stood up and all were laughing, I knew that water had gone down the back of my shirt, but I didn't realize that it had made me look like I had pissed my jeans, awkward...... lol. This followed by a quick trip in the car to have some dinner, and truely epic dinner it was. 铜锅鱼 (tongguo yu) or Copper pot fish and a few bits and pieces were yumm as! (see www.yummies.travellerspoint.com for how to make it). Returned to Huaning for the night and spent it with the students, went to the square, learn some traditional Dai minority dances, took photos in those photobooths that the kids seem obsessed with (so funny) then quite literally collapsed into the bed at the hotel (after freaking out over a few 'roaches in the bathroom.... *shudder*)

Following day, Flora and her mother showed us around (as Sarah and her family went up to the tombs for the festival). We went to the hot springs (but it was way too hot to go into them) so instead we went and climbed the mountains that surrounded them. Soooo beautiful. If I could get the uploader to work I would show you, but for now, you are going to have to take my word for it. :P Back to Huaning for lovely halal lunch (so good) and to chill with her family in their flat whilst watching utterly insane Chinese T.V. We were later collected for the main part of the weekend, dinner with Sarah's family.

Home cooked meal in her home, cooked by her lovely mother (I now see where Sarah gets her lovely nature from) around the kitchen table with her uncle and mother. Grandma walked in halfway through and was greeted by "chile ma??" (have you eaten?) which was respond to with "chile" (eaten thanks) and a double stare in my general direction which was kind of funny. Dinner was washed down with some rather interesting red wine from Xingjiang Provence and some music and more crazy T.V. Her mother pulled out the tea set and treated us to a home tea ceremony with various kinds of tea and some funny conversation (translated by Sarah, her English is amazing just so you know). The Pu'er tea was soo good, yum yum yum damn that's some good tea I will say. :) Sarah pulled out the guzhen (or zither as it is known in the west) and taught us a simple song on it, sooo much harder than it looks!!

Zither playing

Zither playing

Home the next day and back to school. Go the car ride home!! :

景洪 water festival

OMG THE WATER FESTIVAL!!! HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP SO FAR! WOOT WOOT WOOT!!!!! :P (in case you cant tell, it was pretty freaking sick man).

Well, Friday night, bolt from class, bolt to flat, pick up clothes then bolt to the bus station to Yuxi to meet Lewis and Maddie to make our way to Jinghong on a sleeper bus. Got on, super excited, a new white face in the last 2 mths which was nice, and all excited on the sleeper bus on the top 4 bunks. Come 9.30pm we were being "shhhh'ed" cause we were to loud apparently. So on and off sleep as we wound through the mountains for like 9hrs in the pitch black on a very narrow road and lacking seat belts (apparently sleeper buses have the highest incidents of road accidents in China with something like a quarter having or just avoiding an accident nightly) but we arrived in Jinghong at 3am and slept on the bus til 6am when we were turfed out into the humidity.

Sleeper Bus!!

Sleeper Bus!!

I should tell you now, 景洪 or 西双把那 as it was formerly called (Xishuangbana) was just like a tropical get away, and the second we got off that bus it was holiday mode from the get go, I don't know what it was, the 70% humidity and 27degrees at 6am or the palm trees everywhere but was such a good feeling. Walking up the road to find this notorious Swiss bakery we stumbled into KFC for coffee (only decent place in China for the stuff) we spent something like 1.5hrs in there just recuperating from the lack of sleep and looking out the window in our air conditioned comfort.

I should mention now that 景洪 looks a lot like Thailand (but in China) it was kinda weird at first, then we realized we were right near the Thai border thus the strong Thai/Burmese influence.

We met up with Cathy, our Chinese teacher/sister from our Kunming orientation and she took us back to her flat. We were expecting that we would be staying in a hostel, but she put us up in her house!!! So kind of her, thanks for it all Cathy!! and thanks for putting up with us too! :P So a shower (never thought I would be so thankful for one) then off for breakfast at the Swiss cafe. May I say, real bread, butter and jam. Real orange juice (none of this concentrated cordial crap) and crusty salad and REAL cheese roll. mmm..... (don't diss it till you miss it guys) AND a knife and fork, which was kinda awkward seemings I hadn't used one in 2 months. :P then waited for Adam and Odette to show up from Simao and we were all good! :P They got there and all I have to say is thank God for Odette and her familiar accent!!! Never thought I would miss an Aussie accent so much in my life!! lol. kinda sad right? Well now that all 6 of us were together (Natalie, Lewis, Odette, Adam, Maddie and I) Kathy took us to see the sight of Jinghong, showed us the botanical gardens (which were amazing, 120 hectares of gardens) where there were stacks of fruit and nut trees, flowers etc. very nice, and VERY humid! (85%) then made our way slowly back to the flat to chill in the coolness. Took showers, played monopoly cards and watched Step Up, who doesn't love a good dance film?? Dinner at a western restaurant and I dont mean one of these ones that are run by wannna bes. Despite the fact that it was run by a Chinese lady (with great english) the chefs were a mix of Caucasian and Chinese. So there was great pizza (with out a sweet base! yes!) and a variety of other yummy stuff followed by some absolutely wicked and indulgent desserts (well as far as normal standards go they weren't fantastic, but dude, better than a swift kick in the pants). Yumm.... And there were so many WHITE PEOPLE!!! which was so weird to see. Oh and more knives and forks. lol weird to say the least.

Walking back through the night market we all checked out different things. By this stage I was almost asleep whilst walking, about 3hrs max sleep on the sleeper bus, high humidity and lots of excitement and talking had absolutely slaughtered me. So went back to Cathy's house and quite literally passed out on the tiles (on top of a dooner) so nice and cold on the floor. nice...

Following day we got up early, got onto a bus bound to 普文 (pu wen), a small village about an hours bus ride north east into the jungle and valley. So pretty, lots of rubber trees. Got there and omg, it was so much like what I had imagined!! It was perfect!! The little Dai village in the sticks. Dumped our bags at Cathy's brother's house then walked through the village (with a million eyes following the cluster of waiguo, foreigners) as we made our way to the water festival. Goldfish, monks, rabbits, parrots, peacocks and god only knows what else lined the narrow dirt track to the festival grounds. The smell of mud, gun powder and BBQ filled the air, the sounds of chatter in Dai, Thai and Mando filled the air inter mingled with the rhythmic thud of the drums and gongs, children's laughter as we passed. As we walked deeper into the festival we thought it wise to seal our passports and cameras in plastic. and no sooner had we done it we were bombarded by kids with buckets, water bombs and water pistols of freezing river water!!! Sooo much fun!!

soaked foreigners! Human targets

soaked foreigners! Human targets

Kids were coming at us left right and center absolutely drowning us (which was nice cause it was about 35degrees and 85% humidity)dumping buckets over our heads, bursting water balloons against us, a few of us chasing them back and puncturing their bombs when they held them over their heads whilst taking aim at the rest of us. All I have to say is omg soooooo much fun!! If you EVER get the chance to go to the water festival GO!! DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT JUST GO!! :P

Hung around the festival all day, had lunch with some of Cathy's school friends who later invited us back to their traditional Dai style house (more or less a wooden house on stilts with no walls and a barn under it) to have some traditional Dai food and home made baijiu (so good, it was really smooth). We talked, (well I did in Chinese which was cool) sang traditional Dai, Aussie, English and Scottish songs and before we knew it we had to go and collect our things and attempt to catch a bus to Simao to meet up with the guys that didnt come down.

Had it not been for Adam and his St. Christopher medallion I swear we would not have got a bus to Simao (Pu'er). We got there and they were all sold out, not cool. But then they agreed to run one extra bus so it was all good!!! Bus to Simao, dump our stuff in Adam and Laurence's flat, checked out the school, so HUGE!! then all 8 of us off to dinner up the road where Becca joined us. Later tramping down to "the locker" as they had so aptly dubbed it (its a bar) and just chilled, talked and listened to music whilst drinking Dali beer (about as strong as water). Before having to leave to catch our sleeper bus back to Yuxi and Kunming.

The bus home was not particularly awesome, twice as windy and bumpy, didn't find the seat belt till about 2am which by that stage i was terrified I was going to be launched out of the streamlined bed if I didn't find some way of anchoring myself. Got to Yuxi at 5am, crashed for a few at Lewis' flat then bailed to home to Minzhong as I had a class to teach at 11.20am (no lesson plan and about 5hrs sleep all weekend) but is was good.

Having a ball here, I will try to upload some photos soon, the internet is being an ass atm.

Talk to you soon guys,

2 months down, 5 to go!!!! :P

美仙

P.S
Congrats Jezz and Alex, the wedding pics were amazing!

Posted by Messus 21:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

丽江 Lijiang; "the Flirtatious City" Part I

Typos fixed and photos added. :)

sunny 16 °C

Lijiang; "the Flirtatious City" as so aptly dubbed by Lewis' link teacher. To be honest it is really touristy, and seriously I can not stress how touristy this joint is m'dears. Touristy feels like just an ever so slight understatement. (Do you understand what I am saying here? TOURIST-Y!) well I may as well say it was nice to see White people, even if they were (arrogant) French people who insisted on speaking nothing but French to the locals. Seriously, how stupid are some people? The locals find it hard enough with their broken English and my "heavy Australian" accent when I speak Chinese, so how the hell do these people expect them to understand quite possibly one of the most difficult languages to listen to??

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Well French bashing aside, loving the May-day holiday here in the not-so-old "Old Town" (古城) of Lijiang. A bargainer's delight and a retailers paradise for RIPPING OFF gullible "laowais" (老外, a semi-rude way of saying foreigner) so when I showed up, I was like 'oh hell no this place is hella expensive' but then when we checked into our hostel (which is amazing by the way, very nice atmosphere here everyone is really friendly) and met a fellow teacher, whose English name was Joe (Argentinian by birth, schooled in the UK and now teaching in SW China) he told us to play the "I'm a teacher card therefor I am poor" card (Which worked by the way) and everything suddenly became much more affordable. :)

I suppose I should tell you about the last couple of days before I get too far ahead of myself hey?

WELL... the 8hr train journey, sandwiched between 4 other people, 8 to a cabin was nothing short of hilarious, hit and somewhat stinky was mostly uninteresting except for the hour or so where Lewis pulled out the Lonely Planet's Mandarin Phrase book and started to say cheesy pick up lines in terrible Chinese. The rest of the people in the carriage ignored him to begin with, then as they progressed to get more and more cheesy (hit, "I will only have safe sex with a condom") they just started to piss themselves laughing! Seriously I have never seen a group of people go from utterly dead pan to creased up in hysterics so fast! Anyhow; got to Lijiang and what should happen but a MASSIVE tropical thunderstorm. We are talking thunder, lightening bolts that made the ground shake and rain that made you look for Noah and his kick ass ark. The only thing that remained dry was my feet. Which were quite possibly the most vulnerable thing to wet, all I have to say is hiking boots+ankle deep water= nice dry feet. Shame the same couldn't be said for everything else. Looking like a pack of drowned rats we hammered on the bus door (tosser wasn't going to let us on) and rode it until we assumed we had arrived at our destination; the Garden Hostel. Got there, my backpack was actually forming puddles on the inside, my jumper, jeans, t shirt, hair AND underwear were ring-able. But it was all cool. Went straight up to the room, stemless to dry off and didn't properly sign in until the following day (which was nice).

Which leads me to my Sunday in the Flirtatious City.
Started off really early, 7:30am everyone else in the dorm was asleep and I was wide awake. So decided to get up and go for a walk. The Streets of the old town were deserted and slightly misty as I walked through them. Quite haunting and magical actually. I wandered through the labyrinth of cobbled streets and Naxi style buildings to the top of the hill where I could command a view of the old town in it's entirety. Then I saw it. Quite possibly one of the most magical sights I have seen in china thus far. In the not so far distance the giant, black fairy-tale like form of the mountain rose high into the morning sky. So high in fact that at about the 3/4 point of it's height there floated a mystical ring of wispy, undulating mist which above proudly stood the jaggered crest of the mountains with thick, White snow on top. All I could thing of was the quote from the emperor in Mulan at that point; "no matter how loud the wind howls, the mountain will never bow". It reminded me of a proud old man I suppose. But seriously cool not a bad thing to see at 8am now is it?

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Later in the day, we were fancying some chow so went to this western cafe called "Through the Window Cafe" where you quite literally climb through a window to get into it. It was at this point where I said 'this joint is must run by a crazy Aussie, through the window lol' well it was that moment when someone said "well actually it's run by the next best thing, a kiwi" (in subtle kiwi accent). I don't think you understand how awesome it was to hear an accent that if you ask me sounded very much like an Aussie accent (except when he said 6 and chips). Sooo good, and so was the pasta, chicken carbonara, mmmmmmm..... Parmesan goodness.... Said we were thinking of going to the Black Dragon Pool park and if it was worth the 80yuan admission fee. Well may I say, best value lunch. Not only was it yum and cheap but it also came with some advice; walk up the road ten minutes and the gates are open and unmanned. So no admission fee, 80yuan for other things. :) lol trust a kiwi to know that :) so for 4hrs we just chilled in the park soaking up the absolutely stunning sun and views, wrote a few
Post cards and did practically bugger all. Very relaxing if I must say.

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Well it is 12:18am now and I've got an early start tomorrow, cycling through the surrounding villages before a sleeper train to Kunming at night. Will update you with pics etc on Wednesday at some point I suppose. Be good!

Posted by Messus 08:47 Archived in China Comments (1)

The week that was (2 weeks ago, forgot to post) :P

quite possibly the most uninspiring thus far. :)

sunny 25 °C

Currently sitting in the sun, with my laptop on the cold stone table and little more than the sounds of birds twittering, MGMT and clanging metal poles from the builders. Yet another tranquil Monday afternoon in Minzhong.

Well the weather is amazing! It has been something around the region of 25-28 degrees for the last few weeks and it is lovely and yes, believe it or not there is actual birds singing! None of the caged birds you hear in the park but free birds (mainly finches me thinks). So the last week has been relatively unexciting, so not much to report I am saddened to say. But a week in silence is often followed by a week of madness around here so here goes nothing!!

Helen the magnificent visited this week. I know I know, I can hear you saying “who the hell is Helen the magnificent”?? Well my puzzled and remotely envious readership let me fill you in on a thing or two! Helen is quite possibly one of the best people you could meet, English and Chinese and all round nice guy. She is one of the Lattitude leaders and chief problem solver for us volunteers (should any arise). So it was very nice to put a face to the name.  So she came Wednesday (I think) and brought Lewis up with her. So the four of us and the heads of Minzhong had dinner and lunch together the following day. Helen, Lucy, Mr Ding (headmaster Ding, not Chinese teacher Ding)Nat and I had a meeting where we just discuss things in general, see how things are going and what not. But no problems or major requests to be made so it was all good . She came bearing Easter eggs too which was like OMG NORMAL CHOCOLATE!!! (Seriously guys you do not know how bad I’ve been hanging for some decent, non-Chinese Dove chocolate!) Cadbury’s FTW! Well what can I say? Once a chocoholic always a chocoholic. :P

It has been basketball night for the last two weeks for the grade one students which is pretty cool. They get really into it here. No, no I don’t think you understand what I'm saying here they are REALLY into it. Forget the kiddies back home being really into Auskick, it is more like the over-enthusiastic parents on the sidelines shaking and screaming in support of their child and when the ref picks on that kid well then all I have to say is WATCH OUT REF!! as they duck from a flying water bottle full of stones. I'm not kidding they are really into it people. But it has been cool, playing basketball with the kiddies after the matches, shouting and screaming (in Chinese) with them JIA YOU! JIA YOU! (Come on! Come on!) pretty cool guys.

Oh and skipping back to last Monday evening. (jeez I'm just all over the place at the moment aren’t I?) well, last week we met up with another foreign English teacher, from England of all places (I'm surrounded and severally outnumbered! Calling for back up!) well Ellen (who we initially thought was Allen as the students that told us about her kept referring to her as Allen and he, so may I say slightly shocked at the revelation that Allen was Ellen, most disappointing…. Nahhhhh just kidding, she was awesome and amusing). Well we discovered that there were 8 other foreigners there (apart from Ellen and Alex (from Norway)). So you can imagine the slight excitement that evening.  So sent mum a text at a time I later worked out to be about midnight her time (sorry ma) saying something along the following lines;

Hey ma, currently in a bar with Nat and Lewis. Met 2 other English teachers. I’ll have a English/Norwegian cocktail with a dash of Aussie please.

Received a phone call from Mandi which was nice and unexpected. Took me literally 3mins to click who I was talking to, epic fail on my behalf. But it was good to chat with favourite Aunt (had to put that in otherwise I may have my neck wrung when I get home, just kidding, she is my fav.) :P ummm….. what else to report????

OH YEAH!!! Almost forgot. Today’s class. Soooooo funny!! Got there, they looked less than lack-luster at the thought of “omg the loopy Aussie teacher who is way too energetic for her own good is here, FML to the max” well they had to think of their “ideal world” which was amusing in itself, cubes and pyramids anyone?? Well one of the requirements was what language do you speak on your world and how do you say hello? Well the last group to get up said the following;

“…Our planet would be a pyramid. People would have one eye and massive mouths. To get there you fly on a cloud and to say “hello” you give each other a little kiss and hug….”

Next thing I knew, the whole class was yelling HOW DO YOU SAY HELLO? (In Chinese) and before I knew what was going on the two boys in the group kissed each other (not full on but just to the side of the mouth) and hugged. EVERYONE was pissing themselves laughing it was so unexpected. Well that is the highlight of my week thus far. Going to be hard to top but you never know what may come up in these schools, very amusing to say the least.
Figured out where I'm going after I’ve finished my placement (finally) so yay and have been told that I will not have to leave china to get a new visa (thank you Helen!!)
I think I may chuff now, the sun has buggered off behind some clouds so I'm going to go find it again. Be good and catch ya later people.
xx

Posted by Messus 03:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

丽江; Lijiang, the "Flirtatious City" Part II

This time typed on a computer; spelling not guaranteed. :P

Lijiang partII m'dears!! I bet you totally missed my long winded, atrociously spelled rants about my absolutely fantas-ma-gorical adventures in the mystery that is the Chinese Nation. :P

So day two, well actually three from what I have told you, was interesting to say the least. Got out of bed at some hour like 10pm, meandered down the road with Nat and Lew, got some breakfast from a Naxi street vendor (mmmm..... baba, think thick roti bread crossed with eggy bread and spring onions. yum!)
Naxi baba, yumm!

Naxi baba, yumm!


then proceed to amble through the ridiculously crowded streets, packed to bursting point with foreigners, to the famous N's Kitchen. A nice, relaxed little restaurant on top of another building and ate nothing but extremely yummy, fluffy pancakes with bananas, honey and cinnamon on top. Yes m'dears, there is pancakes here in China, quite interesting if you ask me. :)

Well fast forwarding to later that evening; had dinner somewhere, uninteresting then went shopping with Joe which was nice. Apparently he had his eye on these wall hangings (which mind you were freaking amazing!) but alas couldn't find the store. We walked up and down this one road for something like 30mins trying to find it when finally (exclaimed with great relief and excitement) "yes! that's fucking it!" was yelled at the top of his lungs (much to the amusement of some Hong Kong tourists who understood every word uttered) lol. Colour, colour, colour colour! That is all I am going to say :) Joe then left that evening destined back to his school. Nice guy.

Any who....
Tuesday and our final day in Lijiang, aka the "Flirtatious City" Nat and I, after rolling out o' bed at about 10am (again) and speaking to the new 'packers (2 from Sweden and one from Singapore) went and hired mountain bikes for the day. And glad we were that they were proper 6 gear, 12 speed mountain bikes otherwise we would have been SCREWED!

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So setting off on the route as previously mentioned by the Kiwi in the "Through the Window" Cafe (literally walk through a window to get in FYI) and set off to Bai sha (白沙) village, about a 45min ride out of Lijiang along many back streets where there is nothing but large, mystical snow capped mountains safe guarding our passage to the village.

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Got to the village and decided to go up one of the small mountains/hills to see a Taoist temple that was marked on the map. By this stage our legs were beginning to groan in mortal protest. 2.5hrs later I realised we were actually beginning to cycle up the mountain. :S So we dismounted (with our legs protesting with each movement) and sat down to have some fruit and water. It was funny walking after 3.5hrs on the bike, felt like we were hardly moving, awkward..... Chilling by the side of the road, we hear absolutely nothing but the wind through the willow-like trees and the sound of the FREE birds (not the usual caged ones we hear in the cities and around school) and a small "wild" yet domesticate puppy sitting at our feet looking for scraps of food looking absolutely ADORABLE I must say。Then seeing someone working in the field I asked them how much further the ride to the temple was. Apparently it was at the top which was only another 10 mins up the road, so we perceived and walked/cycled to the top of the mountain (much to the amusement of the road workers.

We got to the top and what do ya know, no freaking temple!!
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Seriously you can not fathom the level of agitation we were both feeling at this stage. We took a few photos, laughed our heads off at the inaccuracy and our stupidity (as we realised that when I asked the field worker how much further they initially burst into laughter before giving us directions). Then we thought, well bugger this, time for tea and beer (the latter being my thoughts) so we turned the bikes around and absolutely soared down the mountain's windy roads at what felt like 65kmph (think roads like the ones that snake around the Dandenongs guys), the air in my eyes made them stream. LOL! Soooo much fun hair was everywhere and some stupid, mop like mutt decided it would be hilarious to attempt to attack the wheels of our bikes. Stupid mutt almost lost its nose. Moron-mutt alert.

So got to the bottom and went to the little Cafe as recommended by Stephen at "Through the Window". It was nice. Chilling in the sun with a bottle of Dali beer and some Naxi butter milk tea, Nat and I played an absolutely bastardized version of sino-Chinese checkers, more like make up the rules as you go. Vegging in front of the cafe in the sun lit street we were just talking, relaxing and listening to the sounds of life go on around us. Then some people (obviously) from America came along. Nice bunch of people from Texas and surrounds, wicked as accents I must say lol. Love a good accent I must say. Chatted to them for a little while. Talked about what we were alll doing here in China, explained a little about Lattitude and Minzhong (the school where we teach), about Eshan and so on. Which was met by looks of slight awe and (in a deep Texan drawl as they looked at their daughter of about 14/15years old) "I be' yall's folks are real proud o' yall. Yall a inspiration to younger generations". Mighty touched I must say.....

mmmmm.... beer <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

mmmmm.... beer :)

So the ride back was nothing interesting, mountains, cars and lots of me stopping and asking "Lijiang zai nar??" (where is Lijiang?) rather amusing but we got back to the "Flirtatious City" as the heavens opened, returned the bikes and went to have dinner with Lewis and his new BMAs from Sweden and Singapore. Yumm... lol. Then back to the hostel, picked up our bags to catch the last bus to the train station. Piled onto the train, climbed to the top bunk, I swear I have NEVER been so tired and sore in my whole life, everything down to my shoulder blades and eyelashes absolutely cained!! Never slept so soundly on a train either, mmmm.... sleeper train's top bunk, nice and toasty.... :)

Kunming arrival at 7am, t-minus 4hrs 25mins till our first class. :S Rush to the other side of town to the Southen Bus Station, bought tickets to Eshan, got on the bus and the driver yelled at us, you have tickets for 10am, get off!! By this stage Nat and I were absolutely knackered and verging on our last nerve. I kinda snapped; explained heatedly in Chinese that we were teachers at Minzhong and if we got the 10am bus we would miss our class. Essentially his response was "tough shit, it's not my problem foreigners". Well you can imagine how pissed off I was and the things that were muttered under my breath. I took the tickets to the ticket booth, explained the situation and the lovely woman refunded our tickets and gave us ones to Yuxi where we would then get the bus to Eshan. We arrived at the bottom of the drive that leads to the school at 10:45am (it takes 10mins to walk up the drive), dumped our bags in the flat and washed our faces before sprinting off to class.

But omg the reaction when I stepped back into the Grade Two class room made it all worth it.

Picture this;
Class 6 (my favourite class), 62 kids, stand up and scream at the top of their lungs the following: "MEIXIAN IS BACK YAY!!!!!!" Gotta love them kids. :)

So concludes my May Day holiday weekend. The lessons learnt this weekend:
-Lijiang definately is NOT "Flirtatious" it should be renamed "Westerner Central".
-Bus drivers from Kunming to Eshan are absolute twats.
-Sweds, Singaporeians and Argentianians/English people are quite possibly the friendliest people on the planet (next to the majority of the Chinese), Pick up your game Frenchies!
-The world is now right because I'm back in Grade Two. Wooot!!!

Have a good one folks and stay tuned!
xx

Posted by Messus 21:58 Comments (0)

通海 Tonghai and the Post office.

two separate events, one rather amusing the other nerve racking. Can you tell the difference??

sunny 26 °C

Hello hello!

Well, received a text Saturday morning from Roxanne asking if we would like to go to Tonghai (通海) this weekend. So, home not too long from Lijiang, still re cooperating from it and we were off again. I suppose I should tell you why I say "finally" eh?

Well. The first week we arrived in Minzhong Roxanne, grade one student and one of first friends here, asked us to come to her home town of Tonghai with her. She had written out a rough itinery of places we would go, what we would see and what we would do etc. Then come that weekend she came to our door at 11pm the Friday night in tears. Her grandmother had died so she was to go home to her family. Understandably we couldn't come. But what was slightly odd was that she seemed more disappointed that she couldn't bring us with her.

Anyhow, about three weeks passed and we had arranged to go to Tonghai again with Roxanne and again the night before the poor thing turns up on our door step at 11pm, leaning heavily on her friends. Poor Roxanne had sprained her ankle!

Then, after two weeks of Nat and I thinking we had jinxed this poor girl we received a text message inviting us to Tonghai. Of course we said OK, hoping, wishing and crossing our fingers that nothing else would go wrong. And finally nothing went wrong. Met Roxanne at the gates and drove home with her and her father to Tonghai. Stopping off at a few places, her father's village to pick up vegetables for her uncle, small store that sold Tonghai specialties. May I suggest that although it was nice, sticky rice that seems to have been soaking for weeks in baijiu (rice wine)and sugar for the better part of a month is not that fantastic. Especially on an empty stomach and at 4pm :S it leaves you feeling slightly ill.

Any whooo..... arrived at Tonghai and her Uncle's absolutely MASSIVE restaurant and had some yummy food for dinner, "chibao le!" (吃报了) or eaten more than enough (I'm stuffed, please no more!!) for all you non-Chinese people. :P very nice. We dropped our things off at the hotel (which was pretty freaking awesome FYI) then went to meet up with some of Roxanne's friends from junior middle school and wandered the streets of Tonghai for the evening. The following day, Roxanne came to us at 10am and took us to Xiushan mountain where she waved goodbye and walked off (apparently she had exams to study for, fairo). I left Nat at the bottom (as she was moving too slow) and scaled the mini mountain (by Chinese standards) it took me two or so hours to get to the very blustery top of the mountain and may I say the view was absolutely spectacular (you will have to take my word for this as the camera died half way up because I had forgotten to charge it after the Lijiang affair). Could see the whole of Tonghai sprawled out below me. Spent 6hrs on the mountain (met up with Nat after 3hrs), talking painting and just strolling around until we received a phone call from Roxanne saying that she was going back to school and that her cousin (whom she refers to as her sister, most confusing!)

So dinner and bed early (this time in a dorm over a bank, weird and stuffy) and up early the next day to meet her cousin Jessica, who we later discovered was a Chinese teacher in Thailand for a year, spoke English well enough to be a translator and was only 24yrs old. Pretty cool eh? Well long story short; we meandered around, talked had some food, took an insanely expensive taxi out to the surrounding village to see a 100yr old wooden carving (screen door) where the old people there found it absolutely hilarious that the girl of Chinese appearence spoke next to no Chinese and the White girl spoke and read more than her. (teeheee how I love it when that happens, sorry Nat but it never ceases to amuse me). Door was cool, each carving told a different story. Pretty cool stuff.

Oh and just a footnote on Tonghai.
It would seem that the people of Tonghai have NEVER laid eye on a white person, let alone one that spoke Chinese. Usually their stares and mutterings don't bother me, but Tonghai was the last straw (well for that weekend anyway) drove me bonkers just wanted to turn around and yell "HAS MY LABEL DROPPED OFF??" "HAVE I GOT TWO HEADS??" "WHAT'S YOUR FREAKING PROBLEM?!" as you can probably assume, was not feeling any tollerance towards to this attitude/natural curiosity at all. Oh well. It happens I suppose. Oh and the other thing. Buses from Tonghai to Eshan take insanely long! 1hr45min to travel 45km up the road. No I'm not kidding.

Oh and I think I should tell you a little about today. Nat nicked off to Yuxi last night (yes, house to myself) so did some serious chilling. This morning got up, did a few things then strolled into town to do a few things. Feeling in a much better mood I did not mind the stares at all. I set off to the shop to buy some envelopes (10 to be exact) 10 for 1yuan pretty chuffed at that, then off to the post office to send them. Sitting at the desk, writing out the addresses in English and the country in Chinese the woman looked over at me and my brown envelopes, raised her eyebrows and continued what she was doing. Heeding no attention to this I continued to write and seal up the post cards (everything here needs a "chock" to those of you receiving letters, its the red thing on the BROWN envelope) a chock is a government seal saying "yes, I approve" essentially. Anyhow, I walked up to the desk, told the woman I wanted to send them to Australia. All she did was look from me to the envelopes and back, followed by a chuckle and "fengle waiguo" (crazy foreigner) before she told me that I had used the wrong envelopes. She dissapeared out the back and came back with a handful of white envelopes that said “airmail" on them. Ooops. Fail lol. So, took me another 20mins to write it all out again, with my Chinese address in the top left in Chinese (thank God I am the only white in the village (resisting urge to put on Little Britain accent) I don't know my address off the top of my head but practically everyone knows where I live so it's all sweet as!) and the recieving address in the bottom left in English and Chinese then seal it all up with a glue stick, nothing here self seals! I hope all you who recieve these appreciate the amount of time spent on this, most people would have walked out and said sodd this for a joke. :P jokes. its all good, but international mail is EXPENSIVE! If I were being paid in AUD$ I wouldn't complain, but as it is I'm not, so I biatch a little ;)

Thankful the nice woman was on duty in the post today and not the woman I had last time who was just out right rude.

I've run out of things to say now, I'm going to take my beer out of the freezer and relax. See yall later!
xx

Posted by Messus 00:19 Archived in China Tagged eshan tonghai Comments (0)

oh sh.........!

sunny

So, this week has been interesting to say the least. Got back from Tonghai and just veged in the flat for a few days as the students had exams. (I may have already mentioned some of this so sorry guys).

Been thinking heaps, Nat buggered off to Yuxi with Lewis so had some peace and quiet. blah blah blah. boring.....
Then on Tuesday when I was brushing my teeth I felt some of the water sneak down the back of my throat and it was at that moment my brain went "ohhhh oh oh oh!! you've done it now. Suffer foreigner!!"

I'll straighten a few things out here. We double boil and strain our drinking water here. Sometimes the shower splutters and the water turns muddy brown. Every tap does this, usually there is a conciderable amount of dirt in the water. However despite all this we brush our teeth with water straight from the tap. Too much of a hassle to boil it and have it in a bowl. You would think that despite all the gunge-ness of the water we woul dhave the sense not to put it in our mouth right? Wrong.

So brushing my teeth and i feel less than a teaspoon dribble down the back of my throat. I knew from that moment that the rest of the week was going to be absolutely terrible! Carried on with my day, attempted to make a banana cake using a recipie I had found on the internet using a rice cooker. Not a good idea. turned out stodgey as all hell, crunchy on the outside and more like pudding than cake. Tastes ok but not what I was hoping for. Dissapointment one.

Dissapointment two: woke up at about 1am and knew that I was in for the ride of my life. Was awake the rest of the night attempting not to hurl. Nat came home on Wendsday and told of her (slightly) amusing battle with the mosquitoes in Lew's flat.

Wendsday was yeh whatever, wrote a lesson plan; Debating whether or not it was benificial to learn English and why they think it can be detrimental. Very funny, students were screaming at eachother and ceased the opportunity to air their frustrations and hate for the English language, as did I whilst standing at the back of the class trying not to chunder everwhere.

Dissapointment three: So, 2 months, 2 weeks into China and I had not been sick yet. Well my number was called. Absolute doozey. Spent the whole night with my new best friend Loo. We are rather aquainted now, perhaps you have also met? So running on a third day of no sleep (woo.....) utterley exhausted and litterally green, but on to class and an adrenalilne rush! (I should point out at this point I could have called in sick, but I didn't want to). That evening Nat and I were asked to go to Huaning Number One Middle School (华宁一中)to judge a English speaking competition. Food. Baijiu. Anti-nausea medication from Nat's stash (which made me sooooo drowsey). 16 speaches. Was on the verge of sleep. But all good. Made it back to Minzhong and passed out on the bed for about 2hrs..... spent the rest of the night with my new "BMA".

Nat taught my classes in the morning and I finally managed to sleep. Got up at lunch time. woo.... still felt like crap. Lucy calls. Students from Tonghai Number 8 middle school are coming tonight, can you guys talk to them? Sure...... 202 students. Hardly a word of English it would seem. Lucy translated virtually everything. I went to get some papers from the flat half way through, on my way back walked pass some teachers from the visiting school. The said "waiguo!! (foreigner)" at this my neck was like rubber, at this point one of the other teachers said "ta tingbudo yingwei tashi waiguo (don't worry, she can't understand cause she is a foreigner)" well you can imagin how much fun I wanted to have with that one eh?? I stopped. Looked him square in the eye and said the following "tingde. wo xuele hanyu qinian (actually I do understand, I studied Chinese for 7 years)" and continued on my path. The guy was scarlett and looked like I had slapped him. All the other teachers were in awe, jaws on the floor. Our Headmaster laughing his head off. Absolute classic.

Mum rang near the end, I excused myself, grateful to get out of there. Chatting away to ma, I walked to the stairs and sat down, commanding a view of the basketball courts, some of the students playing on them, other students standing on the balconies of their class rooms between classes. Talking to mum just soaking in the atmosphere, feeling slightly ill but not as bad as in the past. Thought she said something along the lines of we had to throw out a few of your things (had slightly tuned out) and I said, yeh all cool, whatever. Then she repeted herself and it was like a stone had dropped square on my head. "We surrendered Charlie last week". Well as you can imagine. Slightly distraught at this stage. But I knew it was bound to happen whilst I was away, was half expecting it to tell the truth, but it still felt like I'd been bashed over the head with a fry-pan. Not much sleep again, stared at the spots on the ceiling and listened to mossies until 10am.

Bummed on the internet this morning. Talked to a few people. Talked to maggot a bit then she called and told me that she rang the pound this morning to see how he was going. Turns out that Charlie failed his tests "miserably", tried to bite the vet (told them it would happen) and had been put down that morning. Well. Quite dumbfounded at that, it sunk in that I wouldn't see him again, wouldnt get to say good bye. Nothing. Dearest friend gone just like that and there was essentially bugger all I could do from about 10,000km away. :(

So, moral of the story. Don't drink the water in China, not only does it make you sick as all hell, but it pulls out the cork on an absolutely SHIT week ending in nothing more than utter disbelief.

Have a good one guys, and Em. go do those papers or whatever it is that you are supposed to be doing.

Posted by Messus 04:52 Archived in China Comments (1)

The English "Speeching" Contest

semi-overcast 16 °C

Well ladies and gents.
Last night was the 10th Annual "Ying Ying" (English champion) Competition here in Minzhong. Started off like any other competition when we foreigners have been asked to "judge" (ie. not play favorites with the contestants), dinner with the heads of school. Which was yum for your information, stomach and maggots anyone? (*gag*) Stack to veges, they are always yummy here in Yunnan.

Drove back to school, chilled in the flat for a bit with Nat, Lew and Poochie (Lewis got a dog, I'm not kidding, English name is Poochie, Chinese name is ZaiZai. Cute ball of fluff!) Anywho... off to the competition, Poochie in a shower tub with a towel, he was immediately taken away by one of the teachers (Mike) who refused to give him back until half way through the competition cause he wanted to keep him.

24 speeches .2 hosts. 6 acts. 4 hours. It was pretty cool and of course quite monotonous at times. Well; some of them had OBVIOUSLY been copied off the internet. Some of them had obviously told to do the topic by their teacher. And some of them were just so downright nervous they were ready to pull out. It is this last that brings me to one of my Grade 2 students, Eli. Absolute doll. Now I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, but when I found out it was him that was doing the speech I inwardly squealed in delight. Such a character Eli is. He is like a Chinese Martin Luther King Jr. I swear! Eli is a somewhat cool but nerdy looking kid, on who i do not even reach his shoulder (may be a slight exaggeration but he is realllllllly tall) and has a wicked sense of humor and is sweet as. Very nice kid. Anyhow. His topic was "take me to your heart" and the poor thing was on the verge of pulling out he was sooooo nervous. I'm so glad he went ahead and did it. Was absolutely amazing! His hands were moving, his eyes roaming, his voice all over the place. Heck he OWNED that stage man!!! Was so proud of him, just wanted to hug him. (yes, it would seem that I've grown a heart here). This kid's English is amazing, he debates with me in English sometimes about whether or not people should learn it (I play devils advocate) and they are really interesting! Eli was not the only student that made me feel really proud last night.

Have I told you about Gin? (I may have referred to him as Lady Gaga on occasion due to his absolute obsession with Lady Gaga). Well, Gin's speech was about English and the benefits of learning it. He was so natural! I swear he seems more comfortable speaking English than Chinese. Amazing kid. He also OWNED the stage! Walked out and in perfect English "Hello guys! My name is Gin and I'm here to tell you about English..." He then proceeded to walk around the stage, using his hands, his voice, his eyes he then proceeded to jump off the stage and get the audience to do things that he told them to. Freaking amazing. Wanted to hug him, was so proud..

I can't really describe the feeling, but I suppose it would have to be something similar to seeing your brother, sister, son or daughter do something absolutely monumental (like graduating the top of their class, getting married, going to school for the first time). Wanted to cry, laugh, scream with delight and hug them all at the same time. It was this moment that it absolutely hit me square in the chest. I was going to have to leave these people in little over a months time. These people that I have spent almost every day with for the last 3.5mths. I may not see them again, I may only ever see them once again in our entire lives. Pretty gut wrenching actually.

But hey, enjoy it whilst it lasts I say. Life is the here and now, it is impossible to live in fear of what is yet to happen.

Posted by Messus 02:03 Archived in China Comments (1)

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