Sunday, February 27, 2005

bikes and beds

Our bikes had a few teething problems, my front tyre kept going flat and both the the left peddles were a bit loose. We rode them back to the shop and just had to show them the problems and they were fixed quick smart with a smile. China is great, and even though we hardly speak any Chinese at all, it’s easy to get things. Most of the time.

When we got to the apartment Will said that he was a bit worried that the bed was a little too small for us, and we told him a few days ago that yes, it really was. Well we went shopping today and will got us a great one.. soft, bouncy and queen size! Fantastic. It’s so great and Brad and I no longer have to fight each other for some space.

We have most defiantly landed the BEST position anywhere in China. We are very happy.

Long time no blog

I love motorbike taxies

It’s been since Guangzhou since we have had the internet and BOY have I missed it.

Logging back on to 150 emails was fun! Someone said that China had a lot of internet cafés. Don’t believe it! It’s not the truth.

Will came and picked us up from our quite shitty hotel and took us up to Li Yang Crazy English Camp. We spent 5 days up there yelling motivational English phases and getting to know a bit about one of the most famous English teachers in China. Li Yang has preached his motivational message to over 300,000 Chinese people so far, and his English camp is more focussed on motivation than the English itself I think. It was in interesting thing to experience as we got to know some super motivated English learners. And super motivated they would have to be to pay the huge camp fees.

We got our first taste of super friendly Chinese people there, and AhumbleKnight and I were welcomed warmly by each and every student and teacher. In fact we had such a fun time and I think we made a good impression on the organisers. Hopefully we will be invited to the next camp.

We didn’t really want to think it but Guangzhou was a big ugly dirty city. We didn’t much like the air pollution, the noise, the hotel etc.. and I was starting to wrooy that our town would be like it.

When we arrived in Gaozhou it was the evening, but right away we knew we were okay. The palm trees lining the main road was the first indication that this city was for us.

We arrived at our apartment and were amazed at how huge it was. We have a humungous bed room, 2 other empty bed rooms a large living area and the rest like kitchen, toilet + shower (In China this is the same room) and laundry. It’s brand new, clean and has a view for farms to the right an mountains to the left. The part of the city where we live is interesting. The city is taking over the village. Right next to new apartments are old mud-brick houses that look like a strong wind would take them down. Our back yard (which is just dirt piles) is complete with chickens and you could spit on the nearest farm if you gave it a good go.

Some of the things people do to make a living here are really amazing. Many people in China are not rich, and in a country with no social security, if you don’t have a job you need to find some other way to make money. The Chinese are brilliant at this!

Veggie Patches are everywhere. Someone told me that there is only 6% arable land in China, but almost no food is imported to feed this huge population. And you can see how they do it. Every possible bit of flattish dirt anywhere is turned into a veggie patch. And it’s amazing! Very green, healthy and delicious, a huge range of dinner delights is farmed within 50 cm of the road.
There is a part of the river that once branched off from the main flow when it was wetter, but is now dry… there are many farms there too.

Shoe polishers
I had my shoes cleaned yesterday by a woman while I had dinner… it cost me 2yuan (30cents). She did a great job, and gave me slippers to ware while she worked.

Our street
Our street is on the very outskirts of town. The new Senior Middle School Campus is on the same road, but there is not much else around. But even now, the bottom floor of every apartment seems to be a shop or restaurant of some sort. 2 or 3 are selling books to the students, some make a good meal, others… well I haven’t looked really, but there are only about 3 buildings that are no shops. Ours is one of them thankfully.

Baggage carriers
In Shenzhen (I know this is a while ago, but it fits with the theme) when the taxi dropped us off at the train station, there were men with carts offering to carry our luggage for a fee.

Motorbike Taxis
I like the motorbike taxi men very much. Even though we bought push-bikes today and won’t have much use for them any more, they are great to have around. Waiting there for you wherever you want to go somewhere… I have never had to walk far when I didn’t want to. The average price for a motorbike taxi around town is 3yuan (50c) but only 2 if you don’t go very far.

Interesting things about prices in China
Keep in mind the exchange rate is 6.4yuan to 1aud
If it’s made here and it’s a Chinese brad it’s cheep. SO CHEEP. If it’s not made here or it’s an international brand that is made here then it’s VERY expensive. E.g. Beer is about 4yuan for a tall bottle or a bunch and veggies for 6jou (.6yuan) and local coffee for 10Y. But Nescafe 43 (made in China) for 34Y and imported Nescafe Gold for 60Y for a small bottle. Food from a local Chinese restaurant, meal for 3 cost 12Y. Meal for one at McDonalds or similar cost 17.5Y. Anything that is a luxury is expensive, but everything else is dirt cheep.

We go some bikes today. YAY, now we are mobile and we can get fit. We no longer have to point out our directions to a motorbike taxi who probably knows a shorter way… and we can just go for a ride to explore the city.
We looked around for a while at bikes, and we were looking at the more expensive ones. But we decided to just go for the simple ones as we don’t need fancy, just forwards. We have baskets on the front too, which (while they are a bit girly) are VERY practical and we already used them to carry our groceries home this afternoon. I’m trying not to worry that my bike is aqua. No one around here cares what colour your bike is.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

China... the first few days

Our last day in Hong Kong made us love the place even more. Wednesday night we left me red bag on the train. Distraught that our day’s purchases (a wide angle lenes and fir wire port) were lost, we were very sad that a perfect day had been ruined by the lost, but a call to our hotel early the next morning confirmed our love of Hong Kong. We left thinking it’s the greatest huge city on earth.
We caught the KCR to Lo Hw without checking our email one last time and were very excited to get to China but as soon as we passed over the border, it felt quite different. To say it’s messy over here would be a simple comment. It is going to be beautiful one day. After all of the construction is finished.

They use good quality materials, and construct beautiful garden areas, but they take too long to finish it, so the first half looks grotty because people have trampled dirt everywhere. And even when it looks finished, piles of dirt and sand are left all over the place.
<><>NO ONE speaks English in China…. well, hardly anyone at all. And mostly just the words they need to say to sell you something! When we go into shop an attendant runs up in about 2 seconds. Some of them are really nice, some are pushy. I had one guy in a really crappy little store try to sell me a shirt (the only shirt that I have found to fit me in China yet) for $180 RMB ($30 AUD). That is VERY expensive over here. I offered him $20 RMB. It's the kind of shirt that you would see in Cheep shops in Australia. I wouldn’t pay more than $15 in Aus for it! But he kept trying to say Very Good, Chinese. I think he was trying to convince me that it was Chinese silk of something. Anyway - we bartered away and eventually I decided that I didn't want it anyway. As I walked away he yelled after me in an angry voice.

<>Other than that - there are 1000s of jumpers, and no shirts. And none of them would fit me anyway. And when I said before that the attendant comes up in 2 seconds, I meant everywhere but in women’s clothing shops. *sigh*

Travelling around China is a little bit hard sometimes. They are fixing up the train station in Shenzhen at the moment and the new signs were in Chinese and English, but the signs that they put up in the mean time where just in Chinese. So we walked all over the station with packs on our back, backwards and forwards looking for where to get a ticket to Guangzhou, and eventually found that it was just around the corner. The whole process took about 45 minutes.

After we got the tickets though, it was good and we got some really interesting video out of the train. The "Haves" and the "Have-nots" in the country are very separated... and it's easy to wonder why they are spending so much on the Olympics and not on their people. But then again, with over a Billion people, they couldn’t afford it. Sometimes I think the farmer’s life might be happier than an office worker anyway.
<>Anyway – I can’t think of a lot to say about what we are doing. Walking around and looking at things mostly. I called my Mum this morning and AHumbleKnight called his parents too. When she answered the phone I had to stop myself from crying. I am not sad, so I don’t know why. I guess it have never been this far from Her before. It’s okay though. Email is good, and so is MSN.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hong Kong is easy

We made it to Hong Kong last night, and though the flight was less-than-fresh (I really don't like flying I have decided, it sucks a lot) we arrived and got to our Hotel easily!

We wandered around the whole day today, go everything we needed ate well and found much of what we saw amazing, great, interesting, fun and weird. Everything good.

The trains here are great, and most everyone is helpful. (Well, almost everyone. Some people are just happy to shoo us away with an easy answer, but those people look like tired government employees.)

This internet cafe is fantastic, but hidden in the upper floor behind a buzzer that you have to press. At first we thought it wasn't open, but upon further inspection we found it was. Thank the earth because it's the only one we can find!!! I thought they were meant to be everywhere.

We haven't bought much, we are leaving that until China although about 15 people have asked me if I want a tailor, about 10 people have shoved watches in my face and another 5 or so pushing bags and other wares in my face.

that aside... YAY... It's so cool here.

Hong Kong

I wrote a huge entry and then accidentally deleted it. After the end of the day I just had I cant be stuffed redoing it.