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China Adventure

a travel blog by arterra



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Arrival

Dongguan, China


Here we are in Dongguan...We had our 2 nights in Hong Kong - didn't do any shopping there as our bags were already too full!! On arrival in Dongguan the first 2 things to hit us were the smog and the heat...it was a bit of a shock really, after coming from coolish days in Canberra. ...it's hot again today...so we have set up 'the fridge' - that's our name for the one room that we put the air conditioning on in, and then we can go and sit in there every so often!!!

We went for a walk earlier today and found a nice bit of park - beautiful green trees and even green grass - so I did a bit of Tai Chi which caused much interest...I will have to get used to people stopping and staring!! I might try and get up and go down there early a few mornings a week - it might be a touch cooler then.

I don't think China is in drought, judging by the lovely greenery that is around, but I think it may be heading for one, given the amount of water that Andrew and I are consuming at the moment!!

Yesterday we had a little trip to the local big grocery store where they have imported goods as well - so we have stocked up on Cadbury chocolate, magnums, biscuits, corn flakes, and even butter - it's actually Irish butter called 'Kerry Gold' and it's great. Actually the store is huge - it has everything - including half a pig if we ever care for one!!. To shop at the store we have to set up an account - so we'll have to do that next time (yesterday we used Tamzin's card). (Tamzin is the Aussie girl who hired us - she has been in China for 3 years or so). We bought some veggies and chicken fillets too, so our first home cooked meal will be happening very soon.

So far the people that we've met around - the Chinese people- have been quite friendly - there is a nice guy called 'Sam' who works in the little corner shop just downstairs from our apartment. He doesn't speak a lot of English but enough to help us out a bit.

Our apartment is in a complex that has a security gate and guards at the front - all cars coming in are checked (including the boot). The security guards aren't too scary though - there are some stationed around the complex too and they say hello to us when we go past. There is an outdoor pool in our complex too - so that's nice - except I didn't bring my swimmers - I'll have to find some over here - shouldn't be too hard. There is a small gym down the road and another bigger swimming pool that we can go to. Today we walked past the gym and there was a game of basketball going on - uniforms and all. Andrew could join the local team - I suggested it but he wasn't too keen!!

We start 'training' next Saturday and then start real teaching the following Tuesday. We saw Andrew's computer lab yesterday and it is very impressive - and air conditioned, so he will be teaching in comfort! The school is really nice and has sayings painted up on the walls in English (the one that stood out for me was 'Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise...hmmm....i wonder if I'll be able to get up early over here!!!)

The only real drawback of our accommodation is that the beds are SO hard - may as well sleep on the floor. Tamzin gave us a couple of little mattress things to put on top of the mattress, but we might have to find a couple more. Apart from that the apartment is great - it has a washing machine, microwave, little gas stove, kettle, toaster, TV, dvd player, iron, etc. The shower is funny - it's not enclosed - you just go into the bathroom and it's the shower room as well - the water goes everywhere so you have to mop up afterwards and mop the water towards the drain.
Anyway, hope everyone is well and thought I'd let you know that we arrived safe and sound!


permalink written by  arterra on August 26, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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1 week on...

Dongguan, China


Hi there,

Here we are one week on, still in Dongguan! Yay! We've been finding our way around by taxi and generally trying to make ourselves understood (we will be able to challenge you all at charades when we get back!! The best one so far was when I was looking for some swimmers - the girls in the shop understood straight away what I was after, just by a few freestyle actions!!!). Today we went to Huying park - about a 20 minute taxi ride away. It's a huge beautiful park with a big lake in the middle. It rains a lot here so wherever there is greenery it is very green. In the park people were playing soccer and games, and there were a couple of ping pong tables too. I think the Chinese really know how to enjoy themselves. There was a large gathering of adults who were playing a game and they were all killing themselves laughing. After that we went for our weekly treat to Starbucks (well, we have been there twice this week, but that's ok!!). It costs 25 yuan - or Kwai as they say here, for a cappucino.

The other night we walked down to Walking Street - about 10 minutes away and I got a new mobile that I can use over here. Then we had dinner and we were all walking back and we went past a big gathering of young people - some of them ran over and asked us to come over - they wanted us to dance. So we all had to take turns being in the middle of the circle while everyone clapped and sang the can can. It was very funny!!

Our training was put back a day so we start tomorrow and then start teaching on Wednesday. Apparently the kids over here can be a little bit naughty, so I'll be looking forward to the classroom management ideas!! If all else fails, I do know a little bit of Kung Fu that could be useful (just kidding!!)

Our Chinese vocabulary is increasing little by little - I can now say 'take away' so at the end of the meal we can take what we couldn't eat with us. I am missing those fresh farm eggs - the eggs over here are very pale and small...and they don't come in cartons - they are loose and they are just placed in a small bag!

Anyway, better go and get my beauty sleep for our big day tomorrow. Andrew will be having an exciting experience tomorrow - his back is playing up and he has been in a lot of pain, so he is going to the local hospital, and hopefully will be able to see a physio there.

Bye for now
Ruth


permalink written by  arterra on September 1, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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First day of training

Dongguan, China


Today was our first day of training - we had a tour of the school, and I was amazed by the facilities here. They have about 10 small music rooms with a piano in each room - proper acoustic rooms. There is also a dance studio and a few computer rooms. Every classroom has a huge flatscreen monitor/TV so you can save things onto a flash drive and then project them in the class - like games, powerpoint presentations etc. When you put the flash drive in though all the instructions on the screen are in Chinese - so we'll just have to get used to that and learn which buttons to press!

Andrew went off this morning to the hospital and had a bit of an adventure there - he saw 3 different Doctors and was finally taken to the 'human manipulation room' (I think if I'd been there I would've left when I saw that sign!!!). None of the Drs spoke English but Andrew had a Chinese English teacher from the school with him. In the 'manipulation room' he was pummelled back into shape and then had some kind of electric magnetic treatment (ie lots of electrodes on his back!). When he came out his back actually did feel better. They advised him to go again tomorrow but he hasn't decided about that yet.

In the afternoon - back at the school - Andrew and I met one of the computer teachers - 'Jack' - he was lovely and has invited us to his home for dinner sometime. He asked us if we like Chinese food and when we said yes he 'Do you? Are you sure you're not cheating me?'. He was very cute!!

That's all for today - bye for now! Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 2, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Saturday in Dongguan

Dongguan, China


Hi there,

Well, it's Saturday at last. We've had an interesting week, with the training and then starting our own classes. The students are definitely not the sterotypical quiet, disciplined type (at least not for the foreign teachers anyway - they see a foreign teacher walk into the room and they rub their hands together - hmmm, what fun can we get up to!!) They are lovely on the whole though - I had a great Grade 2 singing lesson yesterday - they were so cute. We practised weather terms and then we sang a couple of songs abot the weather, and 'You are my sunshine'. The best thing is to keep them busy !After the class one of the kids always comes up to help me pack up. Andrew had a good PE class with Year 6 - after wondering what to do with them he decided to teach them how to play hand tennis - the kids loved it. They are exteremly competitive and don't like to lose. Andrew has had to spend quite a bit of time getting his computer room set up - it turns out it isn't the fabulous computer room, but a different one and all the computers had been taken apart, so he had to help put them back together.

Every day in the afternoon the kids do 'eye exercises' to music - they massage their eyes for about 5 minutes. I love it because I get to sit down for 5 minutes!!

Yesterday was teacher's day - a big day to celebrate in China apparently. All the teachers are given some lucky money in red envelopes. After school we went out to dinner with all the teachers from the school. They love their alcohol - especially that really strong 'firewater' - they call it wine but it's 47% alcohol. It's a compliment if you get really drunk with them!! They were joking with us and saying 'bottoms up', meaning we had to finish what was in our glass - they wouldn't let us get away with just a sip. The food was interesting - I was a bit worried when the first dish came out and they politely put it in front of me so that I could take the first one - a chicken foot on a skewer. I just couldn't do it, so I went for the only other dish that was on the table - little seafood things (pipi's?), which were fine. One of the Chinese teachers saw me looking at the chicken feet and said "Are you afraid" - I said "yes" - he thought that was funny!! It was a very raucous occasion - lots of toasts and laughing, and we had fun even though half the time we didn't know what was going on. We had a lovely Chinese guy on our table who is a prac teacher and his major at uni is English, so he told us what the dishes were - so that helped a lot, it meant we could steer clear of the intestines!!

On Friday afternoons I will be looking after 4 girls in Grade 5 - it's just a chance for them to practise their English and is sort of like babysitting. Yesterday we played scattergories and then walked down to the corner store outside the school and got an icecream. I showed them photos from home and they were interested in my nieces and nephews!

This morning we went down to the school (it's about 5 minutes walk away) and Andrew did a track session - they have a very nice running track. People were waving to him as he went around and some even took photos!!! There were quite a few people around as I think the students have classes on Saturday mornings too. They have a very long school day during the week. On Friday afternoon at around 4.30-5pm there were still little primary kids having lessons.

Anyway, we're off to do some shopping soon so I'd better get ready. Hope everyone is well. Eloise, I hope you're feeling better again soon!
Ruth



permalink written by  arterra on September 7, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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A week night

Dongguan, China


Hi there!

It's Wednesday night...thought I'd share with you what I got up to tonight....after school we went out for dinner to our favourite restaurant around here - it's called Neighbourhood's Favourite, and if we last here 12 months they will be seeing a lot of us!! We had a yummy dinner - 3 dishes plus rice and unlimited Chinese tea and watermelon....Luckily the menu is in English as well as Chinese. The total cost was 60 Yuan ...i guess about $10!!! It was enough to get take away as well.....then after that a group of us went for a massage. THe massage parlour is in the hairdresser's....1 hour massage cost 20 Yuan ($4 or so). Wow. I think I'll be there every night!!!

We get a long lunchtime at school because of the heat, so lunch is from 11.40 to 2.20pm. It's enough time to come home, have lunch and then have a little nap (just like the students - they all have a sleep at lunch!). Quite a lot of the students are boarders, and we saw their dorms - about 10 beds in a small room, and a very small bathroom. The mattresses are so thin you can hardly call them a mattress....Poor little kids!! I haven't quite worked out how long the school day is - it just seems to go on and on for the CHinese teachers and the kids....even at 9pm at night there are classes going on. The teachers are at school until about 10pm and they seem to start at 7 ish in the morning(not that I would know!!!)

Anyway, better go, hope everyone is well. Love, Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 12, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Sunday night

Dongguan, China


Hi there!

It's Sunday night here after a nice restful weekend. Friday night we went for a swim at the pool down the road - we went with Jack, the Chinese computer teacher, so he organised a card for us so that we can go all the time (a frequent swimmers card!!). It was so nice to go to the pool and get out of the heat. The pool is beautiful. It's really surprising that it is always so quiet - not many adults go swimming. Then yesterday a teacher who has been here for a few years took us to computer city - a very dingy looking building absolutely packed with computer stores - Dad you would have loved it . Andrew bought a wireless router for about $35. To get to computer city we (andrew and I) climbed on to Geno's motorbike - a little thing - about a 90cc. We hooned off along the streets - lots of fun!! And Geno of course was on the bike too, so we must have looked a sight!! Chinese drivers are hilarious - the never seem to look around too much, but always seem to avoid things on the road - pedestrians, other cars, 3 wheeled things piled high with all sorts of things, slow cars, fast cars, etc. There are lane markings, but they are just a general guide really - not to be taken seriously at all!! A car horn is used to tell people you are coming, so if horns are going off, it doesn't mean that people are cranky, it just means "I'm coming through", or "I'm next to you, look out". People generally drive quite sedately, even though they may be driving on the wrong side of the road or even the wrong way. We haven't seen a hint of road rage. The taxis generally do not have seat belts.

Last night we went to 'One for the Road' (the English pub) and watched the Wallabies play Wales. Yum, they have delicious food there and no rice in sight. (Not that we don't like rice, but after a while it is nice to have a change!!) Mmmm, chips!! And bangers and mash are on the menu too - I'm sure I'll get around to trying them at some stage! My lungs are taking an absolute hammering at the moment - every second person here smokes, and they smoke everywhere - Andrew saw a man in a change room trying on a new shirt and he was smoking!!) The pollution is really bad at the moment too - it's very hazy out there. When I get home I am really going to appreciate those blue skies!!

Today, Sunday, we had another trip to Huying Park and we hired a tandem bike and went for a spin around the park. Tonight we'll have to do some lesson planning for those lovely little cherubs - Monday is our biggest day.

Better go, hope everyone is keeping well. Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 16, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Hong Kong day trip

Dongguan, China


Hello!

The students had a day excursion yesterday to Shenzhen, so the English teachers had a day off - we had a trip to HK yesterday which was great - it was good to have a look around with someone who knows the place and do some shopping! We left straight after school on Tuesday and arrived about 3.5 hours later ...we went by bus, and had to get off and back on again to go through customs at the border, so there was a little bit of waiting around there. Tuesday night we took a stroll down to the harbour and admired the pretty lights - it was nice and cool too, so that made a nice change. We went to an Irish pub for dinner and we had an absolutely heavenly burger - real mince meat...mmm...it was soooo good.On Wednesday we toured around the city by the metro, which is very fast and very clean. Katharina remarked that it was just like the Tube in London - and it was (but much cleaner!)...they even said "mind the gap". I think we'll be doing lots more trips to HK - for the shops (they even have Marks and Spencer there) , and the restaurants, and the English bookshop.

We took some more photos, so will put them up soon.

Well, lunchtime is almost over - i have 3 classes this afternoon of Grade 5...we are going to do a song )'I can see clearly now'...so i hope it goes ok!!!

Thanks for your comments on the blog...I know some people are reading it! yay! But in the end, I guess it'll be like a travel diary for us anyway....

Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 19, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Funny things we've noticed

Dongguan, China


Hi there,

Yay, it's Saturday at last. One thing about here is that the weeks really fly past! It seems like we've been here for ages, but it's only 4 weeks or so.

I thought I'd write about some of the funny and different things that we've noticed so far about living here.

I wrote a little bit about the traffic before and how everyone just seems to get along on the road. They do have traffic lights here and people obey them, but when it comes to 'Give Way' signs or just giving way when pulling out into the main road, well that just doesn't exist. If a car is heading towards the main road, they don't even look, they just pull out, and it's up to the traffic on the main road to avoid them! It's actually really fun being in a taxi - it feels a lot like dodgem cars (with out the actual crashes - but it does come pretty close sometimes!).

Mmm, food...one thing we've noticed around here is that Rooster is very popular. You can hear the roosters in people's apartments, and you can tell what's on the menu for that night! Poor roosters. In the grocery stores, fish are in big tanks and so people just select the fish they want. In the shops there is a lot of chicken as well - raw chicken, all plucked, but with the head still on....and it's not in a fridge! it's just sitting out on a table in the middle of the shop! I haven't seen any steak, or mince so we haven't really being eating any red meat apart from when we go out. Ice cream...mmm...we can get Nestle ice cream in tubs...yum. The fruit is nice - the oranges are delicious at the moment and we can also get pineapple, apples, bananas, watermelon and things that look like Nashi pears. There are some other sorts of fruit that I've never seen before. We've been advised to wash all veggies and fuit without peelable skin in the sink in detergent!

Bread is like gold. There is one type of bread that tastes like real bread - it's wholemeal and only comes in a packet of 8 slices. Westerners are always on the look out for it, so if we ever see it we snatch it up!! Today we discovered a shop called 'Park n Shop" and they had the best stock of it that I've seen so far, so we got 3 loaves and felt very happy with ourselves. The other bread tastes really sugary and isn't very nice.

Hot water. Apparently most Chinese people don't have hot water in the kitchen (or so we've been told)...we don' t, anyway, so i have to boil the kettle to do the dishes. We do have hot water in the shower though, so that's nice - but sometimes it doesn't work, for some reason or other. Things in the apartments are always breaking or just decide not to work. The Brisbane boys haven't had water in their apartment at all for quite a few days now (lucky they are 18 and don't really mind!!)...we went out to dinner with them and the German girls last night and Matt had to wear a bright fluoro pink T Shirt because that was all he had left...oh, and shorts - but they weren't pink!! We've had the workmen to our apartment quite a lot. One of our air conditioners stopped working, and to fix it a small Chinese guy had to actually climb out the window (we are on the 12th floor) and work on it, all while holding on with one hand and his feet were only just able to be on the ledge. It was amazing. Some of the pipes under our kitchen sink are held together with sticky tape. Apparently 'that's China for you'!!!

That's all I can think of for now...stay tuned for the next exciting episode in the China adventure!!! Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 22, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Happy Birthday to me!

Dongguan, China


Hello and Happy Birthday to me!

It's Friday here and we've spent the morning helping to supervise the end of term exams (yes, it's the end of term already - it was a short one!). Supervising exams just involved us being in the room with a Chinese teacher while the kids did their maths and English exams. It was soooo hot in my room, I don't know how the kids could think - I had to keep going out to the corridor to get a breath of cooler air.

Some of the kids call me 'teacher' but some of them call me 'Ruth' and it sounds very cute when they say it! There are some really gorgeous kids here. A couple of them didn't have English names at the beginning of term, so I asked them if they wanted an English name and if they did, I suggested one. I named them after my brothers (a John and a Paul - I already had a Frank in one of my classes). And I named one of the girls Sandy - I drew a little picture of the beach and told her about the ocean, the sun and the sand - so she liked her new name. There are some funny names that the kids have too - I have a Harry Potter , a Lion, a Panda, a Monkey and some other strange names like Arek (which I think is meant to be Eric), and an Eadd - I asked this boy what his name is and he said Eddie.

Man these Chinese kids work hard.....all Aussie kids should absolutely count their blessings about school hours!!! Chinese kids go to school every day until about 5.30pm, and on top of that they have homework. (And this is primary school!!!) Some parents pay for extra classes for their kids, so some kids do evening classes as well. Sometimes we go past the school in the evening and there are kids out doing marching practise on the oval. They don't seem to have much free time at all. The teachers put in phenomenal hours at school.....we had been out to dinner one night and were walking back past the school at 9pm. Martin, one of the English teachers was just leaving and just about to go and have dinner!

Next week we all have a week off for China National Day on Monday...but to make up for the holiday, the kids (and teachers) have to work this weekend. That includes us, so I am really looking forward to Sunday night when it's all over!!

Our plan is to head back to HK for a couple of nights and we hope to see Sonja, Neil and Abi on Monday on their way back to Australia! Yay!

I'm not sure what I'll be doing for my birthday tonight as I have 2 lessons to get ready for tomorrow....so I'll just wait till next week and have a nice time in HK I think.

Bye for now, hope you are all well!!! Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on September 27, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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A week off

Dongguan, China


Hello!

We've just got back from 2 lovely days in Hong Kong....it was China National Day on Monday so there are 2 public holidays for that, and lots of people, including us, have the week off. To make up for the holiday we had to work a 7 day week last week - hmmm, yes, well, that was fantastic. Who ever heard of working extra days to make up for having a holiday!! Crazy talk!!

It was nice to get away on Monday and even better because Sonja, Neil and Abi were in HK for a night and we were able to catch up with them for dinner and even have some Aussie wine. Abi is gorgeous - almost 2, and saying lots of words. I hope the trip home went OK Sonja! There were fireworks on the harbour for National Day so we were able to watch them from Sonja and Neil's hotel....and Abi didn't let us forget what was going on, every now and then she'd say 'fireworks'!

We had a nice time in HK wandering the streets, checking out the shops (well, I enjoyed that, Andrew didn't!!), having a look around the night market and also a trip up to the Peak (by tram) to see the view of the harbour and the city - wow. Mmmm and the hotel room was luxury - even had a bath!! Walking along Nathan Road was quite an experience - every time you turned around there was another salesman saying "suit for you, copy watches, handbags"... We had another trip (2 actually!!) to our favourite Irish pub...yum. And we took a ferry trip across the harbour. I love HK - it's so easy to get around - the Metro is really clean and orderly, heaps of people speak English and there are English signs everywhere so it's easy to walk around the streets and find your way. In Dongguan we are still trying to get our bearings as everything looks the same - there are a few landmarks but apart from that there aren't many English signs and the streets just all blend into each other. We have had one Chinese lesson so we have started learning a few words. The lessons will start again next week, so it'll be good to start learning a few phrases.

We arrived 'home' last night to discover there was no water - not just in our apartment but the whole block - no running water at all. Not unusual apparently, so we stocked up on bottled water and hoped it wouldn't be too long....and the water is back today so that's good! For our last few days of freedom we'll probably explore the city a bit more and try to work out where a few more things are. Oh and I have to get a hair cut! Very scary - lucky I brought a hat with me so if it goes wrong I'll just have to wear my hat for a while! I'll let you know how that goes!!
Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 3, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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