Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leaving Nan Vegas

Hey here I am for the rare double dose to supply you with all of your blogging needs!!!!

As I mentioned in my first post of the day, I am now done teaching in China. This means that I must say goodbye to my wonderful home away from home away from home away from home away from home away from home (those homes represent: Trenton, Middle Stewiacke, Wolfville, Dumfries and North Bay respectively). Since I spent 5 years in Wolfville, which has been dubbed Wolf Vegas, and a considerable amount of time near Belleville, which has copied the copier to say Belle Vegas, have decided to call Nanning, Nan Vegas (I know that I called North Bay, North Vegas a couple of times, although I never used the term Dum Vegas...).

So I must say goodbye like a Sherryl Crow song. I'm a wee bit sad about that since Nanning is such an amazing city with so many wonderful people here. I wish that I could have spent more time with my students and seen more of the town, but alas I must move on.

Tomorrow we are going to be leaving very early in the morning for Vietnam, where we will spend time in Halong Bay and Hanoi. To say that I'm pumped will be an understatement. I hope that you are all ready for me to talk about Charlie and say "Back in 'Nam..." for the rest of my natural life.

On Tuesday, we return to Nanning for one night, and then my adventure really begins. My friend Steve and I are going to be aimlessly traveling the country. Our plan is to make our way to Hong Kong where we will be hopefully meeting Carrie (sidenote: Carrie, E-mail me back, ahhhhh!!!!) and rocking out accordingly before flying back with her to Shanghai to spend a couple of days there. After that, we're really not sure. I want to go to Xi'an, and I was told that a Yangzi River Cruise is the trip of a lifetime (and with the Three Gorges Dam due to be completed in 2 years I may never get a chance to see it the way it is now) so that may happen for sure.

After that, our flight leaves Beijing on May 25, and then a three day lay over in Vancouver to see a variety of old friends and then I shall be home on May 28th.

I won't really have a ton of time unfortunately to post on here but I will do my best. If you want a status report then check me out on Facebook where I will be posting pictures as frequently I can. Judge that I am having a good time by how obnoxious my smile is and how many peace signs I'm busting out in each album.

But until then, I must be off on yet another adventure. I look forward to getting the opportunity to tell many of you about it in person.

Until next time, (whenever the heck that may be!!!)


Monday, April 23, 2007

Fall Behind, Left Behind

For the entire length of my time in China I have been uttering one phrase over and over again. Whenever we are traveling in a group and someone stops to shop/take pictures and holds up the group I have been saying "Fall behind, left behind". Well on Saturday, I understood the meaning of that phrase.

Saturday night in Yangzhou we went out to this spectacular show. I don't really know how to describe it other than by saying that it was on a water stage and it included some of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. There was a call and answer love song between people waving massive torches, a row of 15 or so plastic tarps that people did an elaborate boat dance, a stage built on the water for people to walk on while wearing glowing suits (it seriously looked like a deranged techno video), a woman dancing on what looked like the moon, and a stripping scene. Ohhh and it was directed by the same guy who will direct the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics.

After the show I was still trying to process all of the stimulus and I ended up losing out on my group. I did the logical thing and went back the way that we came to look for the bus and the rest of my group. Silly me, thinking that logic will apply in this country.

I get to the front gates and see nobody. I wonder around for a bit and still see nobody that I know. I realize that they probably went out the side gate so I attempt to run back through the park but somebody tells me that all of the buses have left. I shrug and go back to the front gate and plan on walking back to the hotel, remembering that it wasn't that far of a trip.

After a day of walking I realize that maybe I should seek alternative transportation. Lucky for me I notice a motorized rickshaw and decide that maybe that would be a better bet. I ask the driver how much and he tells me 10 Yuan. I look and say that I would sooner walk (a wonderful bargaining technique in this country is to appear completely disinterested) and then he yells out six. I decide to take him up on the offer and get in the back. He says something in Chinese to his friends and they all have a good laugh.

After driving off for a bit he pulls over, looks back at me and says "Massag-ie, Massag-ie" and my heart drops a bit. I look at him confused and just say "West Street", which is close enough to the hotel I was staying at. He takes his left hand and puts his index finger to his thumb making a circle, and then takes his two fingers on his right hand and begins ramming them through the circle and makes some grunting noise and then says "10 Yuan". I realize two important things at this point. First off, some expressions are universal, and secondly he didn't say six, oh no, he said sex. No wonder he was laughing with his friends.

Lucky for me, I happen to know how to say no in Chinese which I say repeatedly and keep saying West Street. He starts to drive again but slows down as we pass a few run down buildings, which I assume to be brothels, where he makes the gesture again and says "Massag-ie, Massag-ie" some more.

After what seemed like forever we get to our hotel, I tell him to stop right here. I give him a 10 Yuan note and run hearing him yell "Massag-ie, Massag-ie" in the background.

I thankfully arrive back at my hotel to find our group leader and my profs who had just gone back to look for me. They say that they were not too worried about me, and said that if there was anyone who it would be ok to loose it would be me. I'm not sure if that was a compliment or not.

Olive, the professor with us, looks at me and says "Fall behind, left behind".

Until next time,


Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Absolute Dream Land

Hey all!!!
I just got back from an unreal weekend here in the PRC. We took a bus up to Guilin and then a river cruise to Yangzhou. If you didn't know, those are postcard China. In fact, it looks something like this...

Pretty unreal eh?

I spent so much time asking myself if what I was seeing was real. The limestone karsts (those weird looking hills) looked so fantastic that I felt that there should be faeries and dragons running around.

The highlight came on Saturday when we took a very relaxing bamboo raft ride down the river. On the way down the river there were people set up with booths or rafts of their own trying to sell tourists a variety of food and drinks. So I got to spent 5 Yuan (about 85 cents in Canada) for a 600mL bottle of beer. I fucking love China.

Don't get me wrong, there were some ugly sides as well. Yangzhou in particular is an absolute tourist trap. It always bums me out to see beautiful places get ruined by mass tourism. It reminded me so much of Niagara Falls, so much beauty amid so much cheese.

Worst of all though was the bike ride to the bamboo raft. While it was absolutely amazing to get out into the country and ride by some rice fields, it made me really sad. I saw an incredible amount of poverty along the way. It made me so very sad to see people covered in dirt with no shoes on begging for money. The houses were so run down I wondered what purpose they even served. It always makes me sad when people are so poor around such beautiful areas, like Cape Breton or the Scottish Highlands but magnified immensely.

What made me even sadder was to think about how much worse other people have things. As far as developing countries, China is probably the richest one there is. I could only imagine how much my heart would be breaking in a less fortunate country.

Anyway, I don't want to end on a downer so here are a couple more pictures of the unreal Li River Scenery. If any of you are planning on going to Asia, you need to make this a priority, you will not be disappointed!!!

Until next time,


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Juvenile Joys

Yesterday something strange happened over here in Nanning. It was a beautiful sunny day (as usual) when suddenly, and without warning, wind started to pick up, the sky turned black, and then the heavens opened up a torrential downpour upon us.

The locals were all running for cover, but as usual, I got a perverse enjoyment out of this nice warm rain. Funny thing though, we had to walk some 20 minutes across campus to get to a ceremony at this time. So I put my rain coat on, refuse to hover under an umbrella and walk over to the building.

When we arrive for the ceremony (where we Canadians are going to give them some money that we raised before we left) we find out that due to the sudden storm, it is going to be postponed. All of the Chinese students, and some of the Canadian ones were huddling in the shelter and waiting for cabs to take a cab back to the residence.

I thought that this was a terrible idea, I was already wearing my flip-flops, and decided, along with my friends Karen and Sarah to walk back to residence in the rain. Best part, no hoods or umbrellas allowed. Just us and the rain.

Let me tell you, this was an amazing experience. I jumped in just about every puddle that I could see, and routinely kicked water at my friends. The locals were completely amazed at this, as I'm sure many Canadians would have been to.

None the less we continued, with every puddle I jumped into, I felt a year of maturity splash away from me. I absolutely loved it.

There is something amazing and wonderful about acting so immature sometimes. I figure that I have my whole life to be a grown up, why should I start now? Sure I'm not getting any younger, but why should I be forced to get older?

My father always says that he will die of Terminal Peter Pan Syndrome, he says "I may get old, but I will never grow up". Sometimes, the apple falls directly below the tree.

I felt so refreshed yesterday. It was so wonderful to feel the rain on my skin and innocence in my heart. I have spent most of this year thinking and worrying about growing up, it was wonderful to put all of those thoughts away for one childish walk.

So this is a special shout out to my NipFriends who are no doubt as worried about applying for jobs, interviews, OCT, and pensions as I am. Take a moment and let yourself be a kid, it will give you some much needed clarity.

Until next time,


P.S. Just in case some of you may be worried that I have caught a cold or something, afterwards the three of us (plus plenty more) gathered to have a tea party to warm us all up. We even had biscuits, and I made sure to drink with my pinky finger extended. Unfortunetly our stuffies were unable to attend the event.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Beating Axl Rose to the Punch

The initials for the band Guns n' Roses are often labeled as "G F'n R". I'm sure that you can figure out with that F stands for. My initials are GFR, I sometimes say "G F'n R" as an homage to the band. And because I think that it's funny. For more than a decade the band has been working on an album called "Chinese Democracy", which will probably never be produced. Well today, I beat them to the punch.

While I have planned and delivered many lessons before, this one was different. Not only was it going to be my first time in front of an entire group of Chinese ESL students, but I had a difficult topic, Parliamentary Democracy. To make it even more challenging, my AT suggested that I include some sort of activity in my lesson. I knew of only one way to do this. Stage a mock parliament.

That's right, the foreigner planned on staging an election in an oppressive communist country on my first teaching day.

I spent the first 40 minutes of the lesson discussing the different groups of Parliament and how they interact (i.e. the Monarchy and House of Lords/Senate do pretty much nothing). And
I described how a bill becomes a law. Then the fun started.

I had them all take a small political survey that I made up to figure out which party they would be in and then I had them divide into three groups to stage the debate. Interestingly enough, both classes had a fairly even split between the Centrist and the Leftist (Liberals and NDP for those of you who don't know that that means) with very few Right Wing members of the class. I even had the parties select a leader to represent them, and giving our class a Prime Minister.

The first Bill we discussed (I came up with it) was that we should ban Cell Phones for anyone under the Age of 21, which was met with genuine disgust. However some students proposed amendments to the Bill with the first group lowering the age to 18 and the second lowering it to 16. Also the first group suggested that we make it illegal to talk on the phone and drive at the same time (a motion which failed).

The second Bill I proposed was switching all of the food at the cafeteria to Western Style Food, saying that it was more cost effective. This was turned down as well but some students suggested that they change some of the cafeterias to Western Food, and many saying that it was less healthy. One bright students said that we weren't asking the students what they wanted so if the students did not like the food than nobody would eat at the cafeterias and they would loose money. It was absolutely brilliant.

All in all it was a really good day of teaching for me thus far. I have the mixed pro and con of teaching the same thing nine times throughout the week, so I'm looking forward to refining this activity and finding some more stories.

I was impressed at how well they responded to Democracy, they got the concept fairly quickly. Hopefully I won't get a stern talking to for this one. If you don't hear from me in the next little while then please just call the Embassy.

Until next time,


The Universality of Kindness

I was going to write about my recent international basketball game against Chinese students, or perhaps my first experiences in the classroom, or maybe even my first experiences with Chinese nightlife, but all of those things can wait. Something more important happened to me yesterday. A few months ago I talked about how I performed a random act of kindness and deposited into the bank of Buddha. Well yesterday I made my withdraw with plenty of interest.

Myself and two friends, Steve and Jarrod, went to a near by park called Blue Mountain Scenic Area and did we ever have ourselves an adventure. First off it took us a really long time to get there, since the bus we were taking just sort of stopped and we had no idea where we were going, so we kept asking for directions (lucky for us my guide book has things written in Chinese or we would still be wandering!!!!). Once we got there though we were rewarded with some amazing views of Nanning and the surrounding area.

There were these amazing pagodas in the middle of the forest, the worlds longest bamboo corridor (it was 512m!!!!), a beautiful Buddhist temple that you could smell the incense from a mile away and this unreal lookout tower on the top of a mountain. Of course there were mini-buses going everywhere which we refused on many occasions. We were trying to get to a separate tower that we could see off in the distance and were wandering over towards it.

At this point I should point out to people that I haven't mentioned it to already. Foreigners are treated like rock stars around here. We get constantly gazed at and many, many people randomly say hello to us and giggle whenever we talk back. Life is good.

Anyway, back to reality. We were wandering around to find this tower and started walking through this field and this family (a mother, father and son that was maybe 4 years old) stopped to say hi to us. They then wanted to take our picture with their son, which we gladly obliged.

After we got to the end of the field we stopped to have a seat, as the sun started to quickly set. I was wondering just how nice our view would be in the dark and how long these mini-buses were running until, when the family came by again. Through a series of elaborate hand gestures the mother ended up offering us a drive. We were amazed and of course accepted.

They began to drive us out of the park and we really had no idea what to say (not that they would have understood anyway). They pulled over and the mother got out and started bargaining with this old lady on the side of the road. After a few minutes the father got out too, leaving the three of us foreigners alone in their new car, with their child and the keys in the ignition. Now where would you see that level of trust in North America?

They get back in with a back of star fruit and the mother turns around and gives us each one. I was spell bound I mustered out the best xiexie that I could and felt myself tearing up a bit. We communicate to the family to drop us off at the bus station (a couple of minutes from where we are) and I end up taking their picture as a memento of something that I don't think that I could ever forget.

Sorry the picture is low quality, my camera is a wee bit old.

I was so touched by this random act of kindness. Here we were as far away from home as we could ever be, in bot the literal and figurative sense, and we were treated to an act of true generosity. It made no difference in their lives I imagine to offer us a ride but it made all the difference in ours. It really goes to show me more that this world we live in is not so bad after all. One of my old high school teachers once said that "there are millions of good people out there just dying for you to ask them a favour" and I would like to add if I may "but there are few great ones who don't need to be asked". Well thousands of miles from home I met some pretty darn great ones.

I guess I need to find someway to make another deposit or two before I go into overdraft.

Until next time,


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Quick Ni Hao From Afar...

Hey everyone, I am blogging away from beautiful Nanning, China. All has been going super dee duper well for me thus far. After a long flight on Saturday I arrived (after very little sleep plus going ahead 12 hours which is beyond confusing...) in Beijing. Now I'm not sure how many of you have been to this side of the world, so pardon me if you already know this. But Beijing is a fast past, thriving modern capital which is benefiting greatly from China's economic emergence and their coming Olympic Event. However, there is one downside of this is that the streets are very crowded and there is construction going on everywhere. Beijing was wonderful for random for having random people sell you random things. After fighting off vendors for an extended period of time, I finally caved and bought a Mao Zedong pocket watch which I love dearly. Whenever anyone asks me the time I always say "I'll ask Mao" or "Let me check with the Chairman" which I find too funny for words.

After being in Beijing for just a day, we flew to Nanning. After a four hour flight we were greeted with a hero's welcome by a group of students who were very keen to talk to us. I made many new friends with the Chinese students who were so very curious about my life and eager to practice their English.

One student, William (I can't remember or pronounce, let alone type is Chinese name) was extra friendly to me. He asked me and a few other guys what we thought of the Chinese girls and kept telling us tips on how to impress them. He also told me that he thought most American women were too fat for his liking. Also, we all went to a Supermarket to buy some things and I was looking for toilet paper (I'll talk about my toilet related experiences later I'm sure...) and he sent me down the tampoon aisle, laughing the entire time. I've cleraly made great friends already...

They call Nanning "The Green City", and let me tell you, it lives up to its name! The streets are lined with trees and there are parks everywhere. I honestly think that the town planners for every city in the world should come and take notes here. It is absoutely unreal just how much plantlife there is here. I will have some pictures to follow I'm sure.

I have had numerous interesting cultural experiences here already. Ordering food is quite the challenge, thankfully at one of the 10 cafeterias here there is an English menu which is great for pointing at. And mom, don't worry, there is plenty of vegan food here so your little boy is not going hungry. Also, there is a collection of about 20 basketball courts that all had games going on at once and full crowds, quite the site to see. When I was walking around I also saw a man get thrown to the ground by the cops and someone else (a civilian) kicked him a few times before strolling off. I'm not sure that would happen in Canada. Also, I have a new favourite extreme sport: Crossing the street.

Anywho, I meet my AT tomorrow and start this whole teaching thing soon after that. I'll let you all know how that goes, plus post some pictures and more stories in the days to come.

Until next time,


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"So Kiss Me and Smile For Me..."

Hey there, I just wanted to make what is likely to be my last blog post before I depart for the Orient.

My flight leaves Saturday morning from Toronto and arrives Sunday afternoon in Beijing (by the way trying to figure out times when crossing the International Dateline is beyond confusing!!!) and I start teaching at Guangxi University in Nanning sometime next week. I will be teaching Western Civilizations to 2nd Year University Students until April 27th. After that, Team China (20 odd of us) are going to be going on a 4 day Bus Trip to Vietnam (prepare for me to begin every sentence with "Back in Nam..." for the next year or so after that) and then the real adventure starts. Me and my friend Steve (and possibly Lindsay if I can convince her over the next couple of weeks...) are going to be wandering rather aimlessly around the country. We have no real plans per say until May 25th when our flight leaves Beijing. I want to get to Macau/Hong Kong rather badly, and an old pal from Acadia, Carrie, has offered a couch in Shanghai which I would be rude not to accept. Also the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an are on my Top 5 Things to See Before I Die list, so I would be a fool not to make it there someway.

I will do my best to post some pictures/stories/confirmation that I have not been placed in a forced labour camp as often as possible, but I doubt I can make many promises.

Just to give people some perspective before I go, here is a map of China with Nanning highlighted.

So anyway, I hope that you all have an awesome couple of months and don't be shy about dropping me a line/comment, I would love to hear from you!!!!

Until next time, (whenever the heck that will be...)