This post is a little overdue but it is also very important as it is likely to be my last post on this blog. As you may have gathered from the title my time in China has come to an end. I had every intention of writing this post from the airport as I waited for my flight out of China but there were a few other posts I hadn’t written yet and so many photos I still wanted to share from the holiday to Guilin and Yangshuo that it just didn’t happen. This post does come on a rather auspicious day however as it was on this very day, two years ago, back in 2009 that I left Cape Town International Airport with a one-way ticket to China.
I think you’ll agree that something’s just not quite right about this photo…
It is hard to sum up the last two years in a single post but with any luck you will have been following my adventure via this blog so all that is left is for me to do is to give you my impression of China. Writing this several weeks after leaving China I am able to look back on my time there with some perspective. There are several people I’ve met that have asked me, “how was China?” and my response has been this, (more…)
Today I collected my passport from the Hangzhou Police Bureau after my application for a tourist visa as my Residency Permit has expired. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days from the date of application but they take a week to process so despite applying for it on the 24th June, it was only issued today, the 1st July and expires on the 23rd July. Add to that the fact that whenever you stay in a hotel in China you must have your passport it makes life a little difficult.
My 30 day tourist visa only really usable for 22 days.
With that out of the way it is time to be a tourist and see some of the sites of China. The only place in China that I really want to see and still haven’t is Guilin and especially Yangshuo just to the south of it. For those of you who don’t know anything about it here’s a little teaser. It is said to be one of the most beautiful areas of China because of its characteristic karst peaks that rise up on either side of the Li River. You may well have seen some of these images in picture books about China and it is so beautiful it is also the illustration found on the back of the 20 Yuan bank-note.
So tomorrow, Margaurita and I catch an overnight train for the 20+ hour journey to Guilin where we will spend 3 days and hopefully get to view some of the must see sites including the Elephant Trunk Hill.
Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin (Wikimedia Commons)
After that we will head a little further south, probably on a river cruise, to Yangshuo for 4-5 days which is a smaller village and backpacker haven with lots of activities like biking, bamboo rafting, fishing with cormorants, rice terrace tours and more amazing views of the karst peaks rising up all around.
Karst peaks along the river (Wikimedia Commons)
Bamboo rafting on river (Wikimedia Commons)
Hopefully it lives up to these pictures and expectations. I probably won’t be posting much while travelling, I’ll be too busy trying to take as many pictures as possible of the landscape but rest assured there will be full reports on the trip with lots of pictures when I get back. Maybe even some more HDR images so stay logged on.
The time has come, the day has arrived, I’ve taught my last class and now it’s time to say goodbye. I’ve finished my second teaching contract here in China and I thought it would be nice to look back over the last 9 months and my experience teaching in a primary school. You may have seen some of my exploits in these previous posts classroom antics, bittersweet ride to work, staff tour to see the flowers and the day we got beer at lunch. Today however I’ve gathered some never before seen photos like this one.
Student Feedback - don't take it personally
I also took some pictures of the school grounds to give you a better idea of where all this took place and put them together in a video slideshow. Even better, I’ve used the song that gets played everyday at the end of school over a loud-speaker system in every room so you can have the full experience.
Beigan Shan(Mountain) is more of a hill that divides Xiaoshan into North and South. I used to drive through it via tunnel to go shopping and now I can see it and the monument on top of it from my apartment but in all the time that I have lived in Xiaoshan I haven’t gotten round to climbing it.
Google Map of my area of Xiaoshan and Beigan Mountain
I could say that I was waiting for a clear day and there is some truth in that but you can count the number of days with high visibility in China on one hand so this last weekend the weather forecast looked descent and so we woke up early and set out to climb the mountain and see pagodas and monument up close.
Panorama at the bottom of the stairs of Beigan Mountain
With a backpack carrying water and snacks, and cameras in hand climbed the first set of stairs to this plaque of Chinese characters with the view slightly spoiled by the workers hut to the left and especially his underwear hanging out to dry. So we didn’t linger and headed straight up the stairs to the (more…)
We were told only a week before that the school was having its sports day (or days) last week Thursday and Friday. Not only that but we were on the teachers team number 5 and were to report to the canteen after classes that day to practice jump rope. Needless to say I was hopeless with my timing as was always the one ruining the rhythm with the group jump rope so it was decided I would be running. How far was still unknown.
We all know stretching is important
It wasn’t until our 2nd and last practice the day before that we found out the running option was in fact a 6 x 150m relay. Each runner having to run half way around the slightly smaller than regulation track. It isn’t too far but the nerves then started to kick in. I can handle losing in a 100m dash, but dropping the baton and disappointing 5 other team mates wouldn’t go down well. So we did a few practice hand off runs at jogging speed and that was it. See you tomorrow. Friday came and it was 41 degrees in the shade; the hottest day we’ve had this year. (more…)
With only a few days left we had done most of the must see items on our list so it was time to just kick back and relax. That being said I had some doctor’s appointments, just checkups, not being daring enough to trust the Chinese medicine practitioners or their propensity to prescribe dried plant roots over FDA approved antibiotics. I got the all clear from the dentist but the dermatologist was a different story and I was scheduled for minor surgery the following day. I won’t bore you with the details but all went well.
my mom and Di catching up on the deck
By chance our trip happened to coincide with one of my mother’s best friends 60th birthday celebration. Her family and ours have been friends as long as I can remember as well as having gone on several holidays together over the decades so it was great to be there for that and catch up with some old (no pun intended) friends. The weather was just perfect for our last couple of days as you can see from the photo above. As is customary with the bigger birthdays, Di made a speech which was very funny as she ran through how each of the people there that night fitted into her life with the backup of a slideshow with a few surprises but it was after dinner that the party really started… (more…)
In the distance you could hear a low rumble. We sat outside on the verandah at Ilala Lodge as we ate our include breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereals as well as an a la carte menu looking across to the mist rising up from the Falls less than a kilometre away.
Welcome to the Victoria Falls, "The smoke that thunders"
According to the Victoria Falls guide, “They are not the widest waterfall or the highest waterfall but with all dimensions taken into account, including almost the largest flow rate, they are considered to be the biggest curtain of falling water in the world,” and we were just about to see them but first (more…)
I say getting to because our route wasn’t very direct; and that was before the travel issues started. We arrived at Cape Town airport at the domestic terminal and searched the departures board to determine which counter 1time was operating at for us to check our luggage in. After locating our flight on the board I scanned across to reveal that the flight status was “delayed to 12:00″. A five-hour delay that meant that we would only be taking off 30 minutes after the scheduled takeoff of our connecting flight in Johannesburg. Could this really be happening?
We made our way to the counter with desperate looks on our faces and told the check-in staff that we had a connecting flight in Johannesburg at 11:30am. She said they were trying to accommodate those passengers on other airliners and that we must follow her to the Kulula counter where we would be on standby. (more…)
As we were waiting for our luggage at the carousel in O.R. Tambo International Arrivals terminal a security official is walking around with this cute beagle on a leash. Obviously a sniffer dogs of sorts, I wasn’t concerned being the upstanding citizen I am, but everyone has, at the back of their minds, that element of doubt. You frantically think back over the last 48 hours. Was you bag always in your possession, could someone have slipped something in along the way? What if?
The beagle that is cute unless it finds something in your luggage
The beagle was being led around the carousel, sniffing everyone’s hand luggage while they waited for their checked bags. I watched as it came around sniffed at Margaurita’s bag but he didn’t move on. He sniffed a bit more and then sat down, a prime example that could have been used in a beagle training video for future generations. The unlikely and dreaded moment arrived, could this be, ” Excuse me sir, is this your bag?” (more…)
Everyone does it, from Mtv to Skynews, The Sunday Times to The Tatler and I figure there must be something to it. If you’ve read all my lengthy blogs over the past year or you missed them, you’re in for a treat as I give you a snapshot review consisting entirely of pictures and captions. Enjoy!
January - I saw the Year in with friends watching fireworks on The Bund in Shanghai
This is a post I have been meaning to write for the last 12 months but haven’t gotten round to it for no other reason than laziness. However with yesterday being my last day of work at EF and thus I am moving to a different apartment today before beginning my new job tomorrow I decided I really must do it to give you more insight into my life in China.
Pan Shui (pronounced Pan Shway) - the road I've been living on for the last year
Before I left South Africa on this journey one of the most common things people asked me was:
“Does the company provide accommodation?” Yes.
“Have you seen pictures of it?” No.
Knowing China it will be a shoebox sized apartment that you couldn’t even swing a cat in! (more…)
There are only 2 days of voting left so do your part, be a part of it and make my world a better place by helping me win the 2010 SA Blog Awards. All you have to do is click on the banner on the right of this page.
In the meantime the suspense is killing me and the results won’t be made public until the awards ceremony on the 25th September. So I’ve decided to conduct an opinion poll to see what you think my chances are. I know you’re probably thinking ‘not another voting process’ but this one is simple just choose the answer you most agree with and click vote – no security code & no confirmation email.
Now I realise I’ve been a bit self-absorbed with these Blog Awards but there is a lot more to them than just the Overseas category so here are some of the finalists in the other categories that I think are worth checking out and voting for. Better late than never. (more…)
I woke on Saturday morning, long before my alarm, to the rolling sound of thunder and heavy rain drops falling on the tin roof of my balcony. Without peeking through my curtains I knew it wasn’t pleasant outside. After a while of trying to get back to sleep I got up to make some tea and climbed back into bed with a book putting off going to work for as long as I could in the hope that the rain would subside. It was 8:30am, and with class at 9:15am, I could wait no longer. So I put on my rain coat, grabbed my umbrella and headed downstairs to get my scooter out of the garage. As I stepped out of the building there was 2-3 inches of standing water between me and the garage in the opposite building, just as well I was wearing slops and kept my work shoes at school. While annoying, this was to prove to be nothing. Once I was on my scooter heading to school, in the still pouring rain with lightning and thunder, on the main road I encountered what you see below.
I was riding on the pavement as I usually do (in the absence of any discernible traffic laws) thinking I would be safe from all the flooding. Then peering through the water droplets on my helmet visor I couldn’t quite believe what I saw. (more…)
In my experience thus far the standard notice period when leaving a job is 4 weeks, some say 2 weeks while others argue that you don’t have to give any notice at all but I’ve always known 4 weeks to be the norm. Is it different with contractual work though? I mean, you have a start date and an end date so unless you are planning to break contract and leave early then is it necessary to actually give notice. The fact of the matter is I have reached a crossroad, in fact I reached it a couple of months ago, and my life in the near future is to be determined by my choice between home and work?
Life is all about choices
As you know I left South Africa in September last year and my one year teaching contract with EF Xiaoshan will end 4 weeks today on the 28th of September. So you are probably asking yourself what am I going to do ? Well, here’s the thing. (more…)
The karaoke was a great success, with everyone singing at least one song, including Jess from America who wowed everyone with a great rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” little did we all know she had a superb voice and was just very shy. The local staff dominated evening perhaps because the computer selector was all in chinese. We soon got the hang of it though and after sufficient alcohol with my dutch courage peaking I did what i thought was a good rendition of “I’m a believer.” Next myself and Chris did a duet of Ricky Martin’s “livin la vida loca” taking turns to sing lines of the chorus. I think i.ve figured out the trick with karaoke which is to pick popular songs that aren’t too intricate and just have fun with it. So for my last song i did “Witchdoctor” which i had last heard at my sister’s lip sync party for her 12th birthday. It was a hit and had everyone singing along by the second chorus.
We’d finished the beers, eaten all the snacks including duck tongue (another first) which is more bone than tongue and decided to move the party elsewhere. Taxi’s were hailed and “ba ba joba” which translated is 88 Bar, a popular chain in China. We were greeted by a hostess, ushered through a metal detector and into the club. They were blasting some good disco/dance music and it had a great party atmosphere. Our hostess escorted us to our table in the middle of the club. Felt like a Vip but this is standard practice here. And you can’t order from the bar, you have a waiter assigned to you and a tab that is kept on your table. First things first was a round of Long Island Ice Tea cocktails @ 35 yuan each but hey we were celebrating. Then it was straight up onto the stage in front of the Dj box and we started laying down the moves. It wasn’t long before everyone knew we were there and people were staring but it was all friendly and just about dancing. Next thing i knew I had a girl dancing with me and her male friend giving me the thumbs up. I don’t speak chinese, she didn’t speak english but it didn’t matter it was all about the dancing, even on top of the speaker at one stage with whistles from the rest of my group. Then she dragged me off stage and i started getting a little nervous as to what she expected next, only to be taken to her table and given a beer to cheers with. Then more dancing. She then had to go and said goodbye.
I needed a break from the dancing and headed off to the bathroom. As i was standing at the urinal the keeper sticks his hand round shouting something in chinese. A little taken back at this invasion of my privacy I look down to see him offering me a piece of Wrigleys chewing gum. I accepted thinking it only polite and then the next thing i know he’s massaging my shoulders and back. A little freaked out I try think of my options but it seemed fairly innocent and actually felt pretty good so i went with it. Eager to establish what the deal is I headed back to the group and apparently that’s what they do. You can tip them but its by no means compulsory. Still a little strange to have a man massage you at the urinal which is why i didn’t go back, once was enough i thought.
Another thing was a guy wandering around with warm refresher towels for you to wipe the sweat off your face, this I could get used to in a club. All in all a very enjoyable evening and will definitely be going back there in the year to come. The music was good with a mixture of local and english dance tracks, beautiful women and just a good stress relief to let your hair down.
It started to empty out later on and we all left at around 3 am, a good innings. As we were in the taxi on the way home I realised that at midnight it was my 1 month anniversary of landing in China, a fitting way to mark the occasion.