May 27, 2007

Random (Laowaiing) Conversation...
This one happened during the May holiday at the Summer Palace in Beijing. Walking along a little boy points his grubby finger into my face (no more than 5cm away) and shouts at the top of his lungs:
Grubby: LAOOOOOWAIIIIII! (Foreigner)
LaoWai: (Pointing back in his face) ZhongGuo Reeen! (Chinese person)
Family: hahahahaha
Yup, I had a Chinese moment by pointing my finger and shouting in a little kids face. At least I didn't make that hoarking noise followed by a big spit wad.
But his family really seemed to enjoy the speaking foreigner. Haha. Ain't that funny?

May 14, 2007

There are a lot of notebooks in China that have random English phrases on them, because English is cool. Here's a brief selection:
-"Good good study day day up"
-"In this season full of yearning, I pray for you in all sincerity.
Be condensed into this words"
-"Record your brilliant in new century"
-"You provide my besr friend You provide with joy and love... showing and beling together"

May 13, 2007

Random (Body) Conversations...
Here are two short conversations (for obvious reasons) which might start to show where and why stereotypes come from.
The first is an honest-to-truth conversation with one of the English teachers (ET) at my school.
ET: Hello. You have a fold in your eyelid!
Me: Yes, I do.
ET: Some people in China now have surgery to make a fold in their eyelid.
Me: OK.

The second happened in BeiJing, on my way to a youth hostel. After the normal "Where are you from? What do you do?", this comment was made.
Man: 你的鼻子很大。 (Your nose is big.)
Me: Uh, 谢谢你。 (Thank you.)

May 11, 2007

Banned, again...
It seems that blogs are blocked again in China (or maybe it's just my school?). I'm curious to see how long it lasts this time.
Long live the Great Firewall of China!

May 10, 2007

Ups and Downs...
Everything has it's ups and downs. I was rather down in the dumps when I got back from my holiday, but things are looking up now. I've only got 7 weeks left before I can travel around China a bit more. This weekend we're hoping to make it out to some local old emperor's tombs, and have a picnic in the park. My class today went really well and the students were surprisingly enthusiastic about it, though that might have been in part that I had a foreign friend sitting in the back watching. I had a great dinner with some friends at a little place outside on the sidewalk, and the flowers are blooming!
I know I tend to go up and down, but the light is at the end of the tunnel and I'm looking forward to making the most of my dwindling time here in China.

May 09, 2007

May Day Holiday, Part I...
I arrived in Beijing last Tuesday for May Day, also known as International Labourer Day (or something like that). I stayed at the Lotus Hostel near the XiDan district, which is one of my favourite hostels in China. Hopefully I can visit them a few more times before I leave! I spent most mornings out in the courtyard, laying on a couch in the sun reading.
The first day in Beijing I didn't wander too far and only went to the White Dagoba Temple near the hostel. It was originally built way back in the Yuan Dynasty, which was founded by Genghis Khan. The temple was nice but the best part is that it was quiet. There were actually two Tibetan monks circling the dagoba, clockwise, as you do to gain merit. It was interesting to see one of them talking on his mobile in Tibetan while going around and around.
The next morning Alex arrived from Qingdao as planned and after breakfast at the hostel we headed out to Houhai. I haven't seen Alex since I was working in France way back when, so it was nice to catch up and swap travel stories for the week (and look at things "with Chinese characteristics"!). We wandered around Houhai lake for a bit, through some hutongs, then sat down at my favourite cafe in Beijing for a drink.
One thing that I love about staying at hostels is the people you meet along the way. Of course there are always some crazies, but usually everyone is nice and has at least one interesting story to tell.
Late on Thursday morning we headed off to the Military Museum, which was interesting for a great number of reasons. I'll leave some of it up to your imaginations, but they had a lot of interesting items on display.
In the afternoon we tried to make it to the Midi Rock Music Festival in Haidian Park. I was excited about seeing Soundtrack of Our Lives in the evening, but fate had other time-consuming and expensive plans. I had made it by bus to withing one Beijing block of the park, up in the north-west of Beijing. But of course, when you're that close to something nobody knows where it is. Nobody. The cops hadn't heard of the park, people shopping in the area hadn't either, and even people working in stores nearby didn't know. We asked 5 cab drivers, who said they didn't know and sped off. Finally one said she knew where the park was, and drove us to the south of the city and dropped us off. Of course it wasn't the park. We got in another cab who had heard of the festival, knew the type of music, and where it was. Excellent we thought. 25km later, we were at the gate of the Pop Festival, with streams of primary school students walking in and out of the gates.
So now we were in the middle of nowhere-park, and none of the stops on the bus stop-sign looked familiar to me. Luckily there were some girls there who knew the area, and took us to their stop from where we could catch another bus to the metro, to catch two different metro lines, before getting another bus back to the hostel. Yes, it took a long time to get back, but the girls wanted to know if I was single (surprise, they were too!), and were quite fascinated with my arm hair.
May Day Holiday, Part II...
Friday was a lazy day with an excursion that started and ended with a lunchtime all you can eat/drink sushi buffet with Vanessa (a German girl from the hostel) and Alex.
Saturday we headed to the Summer Palace, where the 18th century Emperor's once frolicked through the summer heat. It's an immense complex, with a huge lake in the middle. I imagine that at one time it was quite relaxing, but the place is swarming with tourists now. For dinner that night we went to a Western restaurant called "Steak & Eggs" that had poutine made by a real Montrealer! Of course it isn't as good as the real thing in Canada, but for China it's not bad.
On Sunday we headed out to the Factory 798 Art District in the Northeast of Beijing. It used to be home to a slew of factories, but a lot of them have been converted to modern and post-modern art galleries. Despite this, there are still a few working factories around. I was quite impressed by most of the art, which was very innovative and new. We chatted briefly with one of the gallery owners who said that 5 years ago the only people who bought the art were foreigners -now it's 99% foreigners who buy the art. But he also said that the younger generation are much more interested in it as they're tired of the traditional propaganda art that they learn about in school.
After a wonderful Western breakfast at Lush on Monday, I did some clothes shopping. Despite most of our clothes being made here in China, it's surprisingly hard to find something that I like here. In fact, the area around XiDan was the first time that I saw Chinese brand clothes that I would actually wear. The whole shopping experience was definitely another China moment. I really think that number of sales staff in each of the stores were greater than the actual number of shoppers. "Try this, try that, pants? different colour?" Every time you decide to make a purchase the person who helped you will shout something in Chinese and every other salesperson in the store will shout hurrah! Yay for buying wearable clothes.

May 07, 2007

Breaking Up is Hard to Do...
I'm back in town now after a full and relaxing week in Beijing. I'll post more on Beijing, with lots of photos, this week. The food was great, I met an old friend and made some new ones, the weather warm, the sites interesting, and the hostel courtyard the perfect place to relax.
Talking with the various backpackers, most of them suggested that I take off and go to South-East Asia or to Europe now. Hearing their stories of travel of course didn't help either! I know that I'd love it, and I can't really figure out what's holding me back. It's like some sort of bad dating relationship, where breaking up is hard to do even though you know it's the best choice. I'll have to do a bit of research into the possibilities.
Anyway, it's off to bed as I've got a 7:30AM class tomorrow to start the week. I'll get to sleep just as soon as the boys above my room stop shouting, pounding on the pipes, screaming like girls, throwing chairs, and stinking up the bathroom.

May 04, 2007

In Beijing...
I'm still in Beijing, and I won't make it out until I have to leave. The hostel where I'm staying is just too nice, and I can't be bothered to fight the Chinese hordes to try to find a bus/train to another city (i.e. ChengDe). The weather has been great, and every morning I sit in the courtyard outside in the sun.
Seen some interesting things, eaten some great sushi, and met some cool people. I'll have to write more when I get back to my computer and can upload some photos.

May 01, 2007

Going to ???
I'm off for the International Labour Day which celebrates, well, labourers. The funny thing is that I had to labour this past weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, to make up days that would be lost due to the government mandated holiday. Ironic? The most senior students will actually have to do extra work due to the holiday (they get two days off, but have 4 days study!). Of course it doesn't help that my school told me as late, not early, as possible when I would be on vacation. By then time it was of course too late to book a place to stay in Qingdao, where I had wanted to go.
It's also a huge travelling holiday in China, so literally everything is jam packed -trains, buses, bicycles, hostels, historic sites, and grocery stores. Everything. It's been a hassle even finding a place to stay in Beijing, especially after the hostel where I normally stayed tried to rip me off while I was making the reservation which I promptly cancelled. So now all I know is that I've got a booking at a hostel for two nights in Beijing, that I'll be meeting up with a friend on Wednesday, that I want to go to an outdoor rock music festival (Midi Festival) on the 3rd, then leave Beijing. Everything else will depend on buying train/bus tickets, a big hassle in China, and trying to find a place to stay. Hopefully I'll be able to get a ticket back to town after the vacation is over?