Xin nian yu kuai or Happy New Year (again)

March 17, 2010

It’s hard to believe another New Year has come and gone since the last time I wrote anything up here.
Not that 365 days have passed, just that one New Year a year is obviously not enough.
We celebrated the Chinese one with a certain sort of style, and lots of very loud noise. The bangers, (at one English pound per thousand) were in fashion for a full 15 days, as that’s how long it takes to celebrate the start of a year, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing them.
I spent New Year’s Eve itself at a friend’s house in Jinzhou, took part in her family’s big dinner, and spent the evening half studying, as the traditional thing to do on NYE is watch the telly for 8 hours, and you can imagine what I thought about that.
The day after that I went to a friend’s house a couple of big cities up, in a place called Fushun, which is a hole, but full of fairly good people and went to a couple of really interesting nightclubs.  In China if there are no events on stage then a night club is no good and so it was really very different. 
I didn’t get as much studying done as I wanted, because of these escapades with friends, but what I did learn is a serious amount about Chinese “mutually beneficial” relationships.  It turns out that the Chinese definition of a good person is he who repays a favour.  There are no other conditions, and anything goes, although honesty will be praised in name (not in practice) and being hardworking and money-orientated is also seen as a good character trait.
Since coming back to Uni two weeks ago, I’ve started teaching English as a professional teacher, which is good really, sometimes fun, sometimes hard, but all in all interesting.   I really need to find ways to make the lessons as interesting as possible.
I’m working far too much to keep studying well, (24 teaching hours a week) but I’m still having a go at it, which is making me somewhat antisocial. I’m not sure of the best way to deal with it, but I really don’t want to come back with only a basic level of Chinese.
Well, that’s about a round up of the last two months in two paragraphs, I’m sorry for being stuck away, but there’s not much I can do about it.  There are people who spend the whole time on the computer here, one of them, predictably is sat behind me, and she is somewhat of a laughing stock.  It’s tough, so I’m sticking with it for a while.
Miss you all



January 1, 2010

Wish you all happiness and good fortune, and that lots of real friendships are born.
The Chinese do in fact celebrate the western new year (as well as their own).
It was quite a night, I gave my very last university class of the year: that is, of the term, and the students told me that there was a party at 6, would I come.
I went, bumped into a teacher I knew, and got stuck (against my wishes) on the teachers’  table in front of the pupils.
There’s something you should know about Chinese parties;  they are not what we would call a party.
They a) are organised, b) involve the main part of everyone sitting in the audience.
It was however impressive.  I could only stay for an hour or so, but the performances were amazing:  songs and dances, everything bar a comedy sketch, old and new, traditional and modern, all there, costume and all.
I had however promised to go with my best mate for dinner with his classmates when he got out of class, so I skipped out, and went.
We turned up there, and his head of class teacher grabbed us and stuck us on the teachers’  table again.
Turned out she suggested that I could go, and it was a bit of a ruse to introduce me to her friend;  an English teacher who asked me the favour of working 8 hours a month in his language school for free, which I think I politely declined, although in retrospect I don’t know if I should have done. “Friends” are important.
We got away by about 9.30 and headed off to a more western party, although in China nothing is quite the same.
Had a couple of beers and headed to the club, danced for a bit, the “black society” (have a guess) man sang kareoke on the podium, and everybody was happy.
We left by about half one, headed back to the dormitory, and lit fireworks, which was fun, although probably annoying to everyone else.
Then we one by one crashed out until the later hours.  All in all it was rather spectacular.
I do however want to stop having fun, Christmas here was suprisingly good,  but it’s cutting into my oh so valuable study time,  and that just won’t do.
I’ve got to go now, cos otherwise the washing machine will turn off and we won’t be able able to jig it and fit in another two washes for the same money.
Lots of love to all,
keep well, live long and prosper.

I live here

December 2, 2009

I’ve just been lucky enough to finally find a computer with Hanzi (汉字) software,
A miracle in China.
I’m afraid I get no privileged access to the net at all, and most of the time there are at least two Russians playing computer games in here.  I honestly don’t know why some of them came to China.
Anyway I was talking about hanzi because it means I can finally write down my address for you
I’m afraid that if you write the address without the Chinese characters (汉字) it might be useless to send anything,
the best bet if you can is to copy, paste and print out the address if poss., because no one will understand it if you go a little too far on one line.  Talk about perfectionists.

Peoples Republic of China 中国,

LiaoNing Province 辽宁,

JinZhou City 锦州,

BoHai University渤海大学

West Campus 西区

Internation Exchange Building 国际交流楼

Jonathan Rackham 马礼


Unfortunately it’s probably too late for Christmas.
On another bright side it looks like I might be selling my soul doing some marketing for the local massive oil related company wanting to open its European market.
Well I’m learning lots, although my classes are still not perfect,
and my Chinese is far from it.

Work, work and more work

November 30, 2009

Well,   Life in China is crazy, and my honest advice to you is that if you’re not serious about it,  don’t come. 

The Chinese are honestly the most hardworking nation I could imagine.  If you “love to play” then you will not fit in, it’s hard enough being a (big nosed) foreigner as it is.
Though saying that we get all sorts of special treatment.
I get taken out to dinner by University lecturers just because I’m English,  and then invited to their house,  and it’s all my bosses group of friends.
Apart from that, I’m working around 12hours a day between homework,  class  and teaching.
The teaching’s still a bit of a mess to be honest but I’m finding my feet. I’m currently on the net again trying to organise a lesson that I’ve decided’s  gonna  be on advertising.
Tried to find a poem on it, and the net threw up Philip Larkin: (dad this is especially for you!)
I’d like to point out he’s definitely a part of the English culture that should belong to all of us,  and he’s been dead for almost 25 years.
Fortunately I found it here,
unfortunately it’s just a little above most English people’s easy reading level,  so would not do for foreign language.
I’m very tired.
And I don’t know what I can do to make this lesson good for both of my classes tomorrow,  which are very different.
I’d love to give you my address, but this sodding computer’s in Russian as well,  with no Chinese,  and there’s no point giving it in English.
I do have a phone now,
(+eighty six) 136 149 62361
but it’s a mobile.
I want to sleep.

Snow and Rain

November 22, 2009

My room-mate told me the other day that there was “big rain in Britain”,
you’ve made the international news.
The snow’s just about melting here,
it snowed Thursday and Friday before last,
but the weather warmed up again to around 6/7 degrees at midday over the last week.
The ice on the lake is about an inch though.

I think it’s going to get cold.
I don’t have a phone at the moment, because it disappeared one day,
(I was extremely tired and went all over town, so it could be my fault or not)
and buying one in China has it’s complications.
I should get one tomorrow.

I would be writing a snail-mail address for you, but I’ve been thwarted by the lack of Chinese characters (inexplicably) on this (Russian language) computer.
Hopefully I’ll get some contact details to you tomorrow.

Currently I’m trying to download a film for a class,
and organise a (fake) dinner party for another,
and having no luck with either.


October 16, 2009

             pa’ mis queridos Espanoles,
Os escribi una media pagina de blog, antes de realizar al hablar Castellano, habia empezado a hablar en completa sinceridad y iba pintando lo todo un poco negro.
Es que ahora, me siento como, no dicen la verdad, que todo de aqui es muy orgulloso, etcetera etcetera, pero quizas solo son problemas de adaptacion.
Aparte de la cultura aqui, que aun no entiendo, ni siquiera un poco, todo va bien.
Me he apuntado a clases de chines, y pienso que puedo aprender a hablar a un nivel aceptable a los finales del anyo que viene, cuando mi contrato termina, y saldre pitando pa’ paises un poco menos civilizados.
Entre ahora y entonces, trabajare muchisimo, y estudiare como un loco, y hare una multitud de amiguitos con algo de poder: pa’ poder tratar con gente en China, auque sea gente haciendo algo no importante, debes conocer a alguien importante quien puede “ayudar”.
Es un poco asi, la cultura, y quiero entender, poder tratar con ella, y escapar.
La vida en China, puede ser por todo eso, es nunca sencillo.  Ahora estoy oficialmente estudiante, en realidad, mitad estudiante de Chines, mitad profesor de Ingles, esperando a que mi contrato oficial empiece.  Vivo en una ciudad fea por el norte-este donde, por lo dicho, toca el veinte bajo cero en invierno.
Pienso que todo de aqui sera acostumbrarme a lo que no es mi preferido.
Incluso las chicas son si inocentes (simples) que no se puede tocar ese tema por miedo de o rotar a alguien por completo, o casarse.
Me quedo en casa estudiando.
(NB, Lucia, tu madre no me forzo escribir eso – pero me dio la impresion que le gustaria 😛 )
Tendre que trabajar muchisimo (como un Chino?) pa’ poder tener posibilidades de comprender algo de Chines antes de salir del pais, es muy muy chulo.
Lo he hecho de nuevo,
es que, cuando hablo Castellano, digo exactamente lo que siento.  Me parece es un idioma asi, que no se puede hacer de otra manera.
Echo de menos a vosotros y el vuestro.
Os mandare una direccion en cuanto lo tengo.
Escribire algo en Castellano cuando me pase, lo siento que mis historias han sido en Ingles, lo mas increible es que me quedaba, la semana pasada, casi prisionero de una chica a la que yo no gustaba nada, obligado a fingir a su familia ser suyo primero novio.
Como he dicho no entiendo nada de aqui.
ahora me callo antes de dar os mala espina,
pasados lo bien,
besos, os quiero.

Student again!

October 13, 2009

All is very well here, I’m sorting my life out bit by bit.  They’ve promised me a dorm by the end of next week, with Chinese students, and I’ve just been to my very first day of classes. 
Unfortunately class A is too easy, and class B is too hard.
I seem to have the option of redoing the basics, some of the way, and not getting very far at all this term, or working through them all by myself, risking having bad foundations, and risking never catching up.
They tell me patience, and building good foundations are important,
I’m just having trouble believing it. :S
Advice would be welcome.

Man in Manzhouli

October 11, 2009

So, what happened in Manzhouli is this:
 Just as we were arriving the beautiful girl (who had never had a boyfriend) turned round and said “Oh, and my grandma thinks you’re my boyfriend”
Oooh right,
(you might think)
that’ll be really uncomfortable being the fake boyfriend to a beautiful girl, and it was more or less my first reaction, (along with uncontrollable hysterics).
Over the following hours though it came dawning on me that it was more being the fake prospect to the whole family; quite a responsibility.
They weren’t very impressed (which isn’t suprising given my level of Chinese), and made me eat meat and dance,
but the worst bit about it really was the fact that this girl hasn’t really bothered to speak with me since we left the hostel, and it turns out doesn’t really like me very much, which is one of those things that becomes rather evident when you’re trying to pretend to be someone’s boyfriend.
NOTA BUENA (it’s Latin language for take good note,):- when you are learning a foreign language immersed in that country, you start with body language, pick up common words, bits of grammar and vocabulary, and piece them together, and it’s only fairly late in the game that you can actually speak.   (Unless you’re learning from books and tapes at home,)
——>  Whilst everyone assumes you don’t have a clue what’s going on and you can’t understand a thing, you get a pretty good idea of everything about the situation, although you won’t be able to express it very well
——>NEVER EVER assume that someone with “poor” English can’t understand you.
 If only the people here had known it would have been quite a bit less uncomfortable.
So I ran away as soon as the obligatory time was up, and left the poor American woman with what was in reality quite an outsider-unfriendly Chinese speaking group.
Went down to Shenyang, stayed in a wonderful hostel,
If anyone’s ever looking for a hostel or hotel in Shenyang, Shenyang Sanpi Youth Hostel (0086) 138 4023 3283 is the place to be.  Super cool, and enthusiastic. (if a little out of the way). Made dumplings, drank white alcohol and played chess with the people there.
And on Saturday I went to introduce myself to an international trade firm, who introduced me to a friend, who said come back and see my dad on Monday or Tuesday I think we can work together.
Came back to Jinzhou, where my saint of a friend had fixed me up with an overpriced, run-down room at a moment’s notice, and saved me from homelessness.
It is sharing with Chinese, near to the Uni, and I said that the quality was absolutely irrelevant, so 2/3  is really not bad.
The only other event is that today (mine and my sister’s birthday) my bank card’s stopped working.
So I can’t get back to Shenyang for the interview,
I can’t take my friend out to say thanks,
I’m a bit stuck.
China’s never simple.

Getting colder

October 5, 2009

It must be about 5-8 degrees outside.  We’ve only been here (Manzhouli – about 10 minutes outside of Russia) during the (sunny) day  and so far we haven’t seen snow – so not that cold yet.

With respect to the National Day celebrations, the locals were in fact not allowed out, and foreigners weren’t allowed within a 1.5km radius or so.

Interestingly, I’ve managed to get myself in a strange social situation here (I had nothing to do with it) – suffice to say I’m getting rather more of an insight into Chinese culture than I bargained for.  I will post more later.

Off to the Hills

October 3, 2009

So, it’s been a few days, and I’ve run off with a pretty Chinese girl, a Singaporean man who fancies the pants of her, and an old(er) American woman, to the sticks.
We bought our thermals at the market the day before we left Harbin, apart from the American who couldn’t find anything she liked, (plans on borrowing the Chinese girl’s).  Off to the Chinese girl’s hometown to muck about for a few days before going to Manzhouli.
It’s cold, but I’m only wearing thinner thermal pants so far; I’ve got a right snow suit for the north.
We left on Chinese National Day, Oct 1st, and got stuck on the “express” way for about 3 hours in a stationary (literally) traffic jam, to let traffic flow the other way past the roadworks.
We got here, and walked about town, checked into a 1pound hotel, which is quite nice, and went the public baths and for dinner.  The public baths were an experience, I’ve never had so many naked men talking to me.  Unfortunately the bath water only gets changed once a day, and the sauna was broken so I only had a shower, but I had heated glasses put on my back to give me black marks and do something acupunctury.
Yesterday we went to a local tourist forest, with a mountain (hill) in it, and climbed to the peak.  It was nice, got some good views, cos I went round the barriers to stop you going up to the top of the rocks.
We had Korean food, and the water was broken at our (different town) 2 pound 50 hotel, so we went to the public baths.  The water in the bath at least looked clean there, and although it was an establishment that offers “American massage” (we asked the local girl and she got embarrassed) we ended up sleeping in the lounge room all night for 50p.
Today we went to the real sticks; a town of maybe a few thousand, where everybody grows their own and squats in a wooden hut out the back onto the ground under the slats, and had lunch for the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, Christmas if you like.
We then went up another mountain (hill).

Got to go times running out
Try Googling
Where I was in Harbin
Harbin 天伦时尚酒店
Where we were yesterday
Where we’re staying tonight
Where we went for lunch
黑龙江省哈尔滨市市区 保林河林场