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arterra


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China Adventure

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Home of the Giant Pandas

Chengdu, China


Hi there!

Chengdu - home of the Giant Pandas! What a great place....this city has everything...and yes we were happy to see Starbucks again, isn't that sad!!

Today we visited the Panda base, about 10 km's out of town...we had organised to be taken out there by Mr Wang, through a local guesthouse....it turned out that we were the only 2 going...and our pick up was at 7.10am...nice and early because it's best to see the Pandas munching on their bamboo for breakfast. Mr Wang had trouble finding our hotel though so there were lots of phone calls back and forth - we rang Mr Wang (he said "wait, wait"), then he rang us about 20minutes later, speaking Chinese (hmmm, a few swear words perhaps?!), then we rang the guesthouse, then Mr Wang rang the guesthouse, then the guesthouse rang us. Then the guesthouse rang our hotel (to get someone who could explain the location in Chinese). Then someone from our hotel came down and signalled for us to follow him. We followed him around the block, he stopped to ask directions from someone, and then we kept going. Then we saw a guy waving at us impatiently. He said something about '3' and waved his arms (like he had driven around 3 times or something). Then we hopped in the van and he took off - really took off!! We got to the Panda Base and he hurried us along - it was almost a sprint to the Pandas!!! I guess he didn't want us to miss out, seeing as though we were about an hour behind schedule!

The pandas did not disappoint - they were gorgeous (see pictures).

Off to bed now after our early start....



permalink written by  arterra on November 29, 2007 from Chengdu, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Hooroo from Hefei!

Hefei, China


Hello there!

Well we're on the road. After a few months of teaching we decided to go and see more of China....so we've had a week in a city, up sort of near Shanghai. So we're backpacking 'Terracini style'.

We had accumulated a few odds and ends that I felt we really couldn't do without (DVDs, clothes, pegs, you know just those sort of essential things really!), so we posted a 20 kg box to Hefei before we left Dongguan. Our plan was to work in Hefei and settle down for a while....but after being here a few days the air pollution really got to us - we were waking up with sore throats, and I started to get the old allergy feeling in my nose and the very attractive 'puffy eye'!!!

After having a look around Hefei for the week we were wondering what to do...and now we are off to a city that we were planning to visit at some stage anyway, and one we haven't been to before.....I'll let you know when we get there!

Can you imagine us leaving the hotel this morning...luckily we had help from an Aussie guy who has been very kind to us this week in showing us around the city. He heaved the 20kg box up onto his shoulder, Andrew followed carrying his backpack and notebook computer, then there was me - carrying my backpack (weighing at least 10kg) and my handbag, and then in the line came 2 porters from the hotel, dragging our suitcases, which are absolutely packed to the hilt (Andrew had to sit on his to get it closed!!). Yes, we are really good at backpacking. The porters followed us down the road and across the main street of Hefei, dodging and weaving in between bikes, cars, people etc.

We got across the road and the porters waved goodbye to us and then we made it into the travel agent where we sorted out some tickets to our new destination.

We are having a fabulous time and enjoying this new found life of spontaneity!!! Our plane doesn't go until tonight, so we are in a cafe at the moment.

If we stay in China much longer we will have to say goodbye to some of the possessions we have accumulated...(you would laugh if you could see some of the things in the 20kg box...one of them is a box of Lipton tea bags because I really can't trust all cities in China to stock good old normal tea, and I can't do without it!!)...We may not be laughing so much though when we get to the airport and find out how much excess baggage costs!! Oh well.

Bye for now,
Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on November 23, 2007 from Hefei, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Macau adventures

Dongguan, China


Hello!

Hope you are all well and enjoying Spring in Australia. Well, it's Monday again here and we are back at school once again.

We had a great weekend - we got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and hopped on the bus to HK. It takes about 3 hours, so it's not too bad, and it's broken up by lots of hopping on and off the bus for the border crossing. We arrived in HK and headed for our hotel - I searched the Internet for ages and found a great deal at a hotel on HK Island...so we were very excited when we arrived and saw the fantastic view we had of the harbour and all the ships and ferries going by.

Our plan was then to go straight to the Macau ferry terminal and get on a boat for Macau -we hadn't booked - just goes to show we are still not used to just how many people there are here....we naively turned up at the ferry terminal, and thought we'd be able to get on the next ferry (just like we do in Sydney!!)....so it wasn't to be...we had to book for Sunday instead.

So, what to do? Well, shopping, of course!! Poor Andrew - I did suggest he could go and sit in the Irish pub while I made my way happily around the shops, but he decided it would be safer to accompany me (mainly for our bank balance I think).

So, we had to get up early again on Sunday and be down to the ferry terminal, ready to go through customs etc. We went on a hydrofoil thing, so it was fast (took an hour) and smooth (no need for those ginger tablets)!

We hired a pedicab in Macau - I don't think we got too ripped off, as we managed to get them down to less than half the price that the guy originally wanted to charge us!! So we had an hour trip around seeing the sights - lots of casinos, but then we reached the centre of town and started to see the prettier Portugese architecture and cobblestones, and Churches. People zoom around on little motorbikes, so there is always a hum of them to be heard. We walked around the streets for a while and took in the sights....took lots of photos, so we'll put those up.

We thought we had plenty of time to get back to the ferry - we weren't entirely sure how to get there but we decided, over our yummy lunch of foccacias and chips (mmm, haven't had a foccacia for ages!!), that 45 minutes should be ample time to get back. We headed off....our pace increasing as we watched the minutes ticking away and we didn't seem to be seeing anything familiar from the pedicab ride....hmmm...little bit of panic sets in...we run a bit....we realise we don't really know where the hell the ferry terminal is...there are no taxis to be seen....it's hot....my feet hurt....we are going to miss the ferry....we are going to be stuck here!!! Andrew says 'let's just cut through on this street" for about the 5th time...we go past a Casino and I have a brilliant idea - let's ask someone where to go...gee, that's a good idea. So we talk to the bellboy of a hotel...he says the ferry terminal is 2-3 kilometres away. Andrew says in horror "23 kilometres"!!! I interpret for him. I can see Andrew working out in his mind exactly how fast we have to run to cover that distance, and I say "can we get a taxi". Bellboy says there are no taxis but we can get a limousine for 30 HK dollars. Now you're talking. I picture a stretch limo, but it turned out to be just a normal car (a nice one though, and I was so happy to get into it!!!)....Our panic was not quite over as we had to be at the terminal 15 minutes before departure and it was already 2.15pm...our boat was leaving at 2.30pm....

But, in the end we made it (after running through the ferry terminal). Not quite the relaxing end to a nice relaxing day, but I was so glad to get on the ferry!!

We didn't have time to go over to the island at Macau (we just stayed on the peninsula), so that is on my list of things to do still.

Anyway, that's all the excitement for now. I'll be in touch again soon. Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on November 11, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Back to school tomorrow

Dongguan, China


Hello there!

I've been slack with the blog this week...sorry about that! My flu got a bit worse last weekend and I ended up with a chest infection as well - must be all that lovely air around us! So on Monday morning we headed off to the Global Doctor - actually an Australian company...and I saw a Dr from Venezuela, called Dr Jesus! So I knew I was in good hands. He hooked me up to oxygen and ventolin through a mask and then gave me an IV drip of penicillin. I was treated really well and the place was nice and clean....much better treatment than I probably would've got at home!! Yes, Jesus saved me. So I've just been recuperating all week and taking medicine... I'm on the road to recovery now - I went back to school on Friday for my one class of Grade 2 and my 5 Grade 5 girls who came back to our place and watched a DVD.

One thing I haven't mentioned about Dongguan is that it is shoe lovers heaven. A lot of the factories around here make shoes....and so there are heaps of shoe shops and the shoes are gorgeous!! Lots of heels though, so most of them I just admire and don't buy(I'm not too good on heels!!). They have lots of groovy shoes, different colours, and with very interesting decorations on them. Most women around here wear heels all the time - even with jeans. And if you are looking for a plain pair of jeans, forget it - all the jeans I've seen are heavily laden with decorations like pearls, sequins, embroidery, etc. The fashions over here in the shops are very strange - even hard to describe! I didn't bring any winter clothes with me so now that its starting to get cooler (we can finally sleep without the air conditioner on!), I've been keeping an eye out for some warmer clothes - but so far I haven't found anything that I wouldn't look competely ridiculous in!!

We are planning another little trip to Hong Kong next weekend - and hopefully a trip to Macau on Saturday for the day, so we are looking forward to that.

Anyway, that's about it for now - I hope you are all well....Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on November 3, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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Prisoner on the 12th floor

Dongguan, China


Hello!

Here I am, it's 4.25am and I can't sleep....I've been overloaded with sleep over the last few days and now I'm wide awake.

Hmmm...let's go back a few days....on Monday I actually had a good class! Yay!! There were lots of disruptions to classes this week because there were health checks going on at the school - all the kids had to have blood tests, eye tests, and the general medical check up, so some classes were cancelled all together. So, on Monday some of Andrew's classes weren't on and he came to one of mine. He sat up the back and it was great because the kids liked having him there...and then I started involving him in the lesson like he was a student, getting him to pronounce a word etc. Then I'd say "Oh wow, what a good student" and write his name on the board...the kids thought it was so funny - they were yelling out "nooooo, he's not a student, he's a teacher" but I'd just pretend not to know what they were saying, and carry on.

Tuesday was a fairly average day really. Tuesday night at about 8pm we went to the school - I thought I might be able to get some Tai Chi in, and Andrew was set to do some laps of the oval. We weren't there very long though when we bumped into some of our Grade 5 girls....well, weren't they happy to see us. We were quickly organised into playing games with them, and the numbers grew, until we had enough to do relays on the track, play "teacher says" and then do some more running games!!! Some mothers had turned up to collect their kids, and they had trouble getting them to leave. Wow, I've never felt so popular!! The kids made us promise that we'd come back at the same time the next night!!!

Andrew has started helping out with the music at the school too....he has made friends with the music teacher (who doesn't speak English), and somehow arranged to help out on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, teaching a small group of students who play trombone and trumpet.

On Wednesday, sickness descended. I went to school in the morning, but by lunch time my throat was really sore and I went home and collapsed on the couch. I've barely been off the couch or out of bed since then, and it's now Saturday morning!! I think it's the flu...aches, pains, coughs, and only enough energy to go from the couch to bed and vice versa!!! Andrew is now coming down with it too...I haven't been out of the apartment since Wednesday which is starting to drive me a little mad...Thank goodness for the DVD player, I've been watching lots of 'Thank God You're Here' and ER! Dalene sent me over a nice loaf of bread and Anne has been ringing to make sure I'm still alive, so that's nice...

Oh, and to top it all off, we didn't have hot water for 2 or 3 days...in the end, after we got tired of waiting for the workmen to come and look at the gas thing, Andrew went and bought some new batteries and put them in, and also cleaned the inside of the gas thing (I forget it's technical name!!)...and bingo, it's working again...it's very unreliable though, so we will enjoy hot showers while we can.

So, that's the latest....I'm not sure what the weekend will hold, probably more lying around I'd say!!!

Hope you are all well....breathe in some of that fresh air for me....Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 26, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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The lift

Dongguan, China


A funny story..well, it cracked me up anyway....

One night, a while ago, we arrived home to find that the lift wouldn't budge from the 12th floor - we kept hitting the button, but the lift was not going anywhere.

So we had to climb the 12 flights of stairs (we paused at floor number 6, tempted to break our journey at Matt and James' apartment, but then we soldiered on and made it to the top)....

When we got to the top, Andrew inspected the lift....

Being the dutiful citizen that he is, and not wanting anyone else to have to walk up 12 flights (like our elderly neighbour who incidentally has a very cute little dog), he approached the lift to use his impressive handy man skills on it :)

By this time though, someone had got in on the floor above, and so because Andrew had pressed the button, the doors opened at our floor. The guy in the lift was quite surprised when Andrew didn't get in, and because of the language barrier, Andrew couldn't explain why he was loitering outside the lift - I heard him say "doors broken", but clearly the guy in the lift was a bit mystified - he kept signalling for Andrew to get in and Andrew would just stand there and say "no thanks"!!!

So, after the guy accepted that Andrew was just standing there for no good reason, the doors started to close - but then they sprang open again, because they weren't aligned correctly (although lift man probably thought Andrew had pressed the button again!!!)

After once again ascertaining that no, Andrew did not want to get in, the doors started closing again - this time Andrew lunged forward and punched the doors back into place...this must have been quite a frightening experience for the guy in the lift, who would've seen Andrew approaching as the doors were closing, and then heard him punch the doors violently!!!

Poor guy....he probably got home that night and warned his family to be careful of the crazy Westerner on the 12th floor!!!

Oh well, it gave me a laugh anyway. And we haven't had a problem with the lift since.



permalink written by  arterra on October 26, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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(In the words of Kath and Kim) - 'That was eyebrow'!

Dongguan, China


Hello!
Another little blog entry....we had an interesting night last night - Dalene was given some tickets to a concert, but she had other plans (she's from South Africa, so she was preparing to watch the rugby final!)...so she kindly gave them to us. So I got dressed up for the first time since we've been here, and we had a night of culture at the 'Dongguan culture plaza'!

We had no idea what the concert was going to be, or where it was, so we gave ourselves plenty of time, had a quick dinner at Neighbourhood's Favourites and then hopped in a taxi. The place wasn't too far away but we had to walk around a bit to find exactly where we had to go...we arrived at the theatre with 5 minutes to spare, showed our tickets at the door and walked through, expecting to be shown to a seat, but the ushers just looked at us in amazement and kind of pretended they didn't know we were there!! So we kept looking around, as if to say 'where do we sit' and eventually one of them showed us to a seat down the front - perfect seats in the middle that were roped off (we wondered if these were the foreigner seats!)

Out came the compere - a young guy who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing...then out came a very elegant looking Chinese lady with short hair, dressed in a beautiful full length navy blue velvet dress - she looked stunning. She was carrying a stringed instrument. On the stage there was a piano, and also a sofa. The compere and the lady sat down on the couch and he interviewed her...then after a while he left and she talked more about something, and then started to play - wow, it was fantastic. In between each piece she played she talked for quite a while - i guess about the piece.....in total she was on stage for over an hour!!

Then out came the Chinese man and the compere and they all went to the couch again for another little chat. There was also question time - so people in the audience could ask the performers questions.

By this stage we were starting to get the giggles - just because we were sitting there, without a clue about what was going on in the conversation, but we would clap when everyone else clapped etc....I started to think of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine had to run out of a concert because she couldn't stop laughing.

We were wondering if there was going to be an intermission...but no, it just kept going!!

Then the Chinese man started his part of the performance...he was playing a different kind of stringed instrument, and had piano accompaniment. He was great too. Both performers really got into their music - they were loving it and it showed.

Finally it was over - after about 2.5 hours!!!

I looked up on the net to see if I could find out what the instruments were - I found a website with info...the instruments were the Pipa and the Erhu.
http://www.philmultic.com/home/instruments/

Anyway, it was a great experience, and if we get to go again we will be prepared for a long evening!


permalink written by  arterra on October 20, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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He marched them up to the top of the hill...and he marched them down again

Dongguan, China


Hi there,

We just got back from our little excursion this morning - it was a very early start for a Saturday morning...the alarm went off at 5.45am...and then to our dismay we discovered that the water was off...the water supply has been intermittent this week! So we had to just douse ourselves with bottled water, apply liberal amounts of deodorant, and head off to school.

We discovered when we got to school that it wasn't a trip for the students at all, it was a trip for the teachers! So it was very civilized - one school bus took us all to a nice green place about 30 minutes away, and we all walked up the hill together. It was fun...and then on the way home we stopped at Winnerway hotel and had breakfast....I was hoping for bacon and eggs, but I was pretty happy with what I got anyway! There were some Spring roll type things, but in rice paper, filled with vegetables, and lots of other small bread type things that were very sweet. And Oolong tea. Andrew and I sat at the Principal's table (Mr Ding), along with the other foreign teachers that went this morning - Katharina and Sarah, and Dalene (from South Africa). We had Andrew, a Chinese English teacher, with us too so he could help us out with interpreting!

We've put some more photos up....

Anyway, it's time for a little nap now after the shock of being up so early. Then I'm going to go out with Katharina later and get a massage - we need it after our big walk up the hill!!

Bye! Ruth

permalink written by  arterra on October 19, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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You are very beautiful today

Dongguan, China


Hello! Hooray Hooray Hooray, it's Friday! Friday is the best. I have just one class - a Grade 2 singing lesson, and Andrew has one PE class. Then in the afternoon I have the five Grade 5 girls for a couple of hours- today I promised them that they could come over to our place, so that will be interesting!

We've had a mixed bag this week - some classes just make you want to tear your hair out (or the kids hair actually!!), and some have been great. I had a couple of lovely Grade 2 singing lessons yesterday - I got them more involved - getting kids out the front to do the actions etc, and it was fun. And it always helps when the Grade 2 Chinese teacher settles down the class at the beginning and gives them a talking to (probably telling them that if they don't behave something terrible will happen to them - I can only imagine what the teacher is saying, but it works like a treat - all the kids sit up straight and are quiet...so that is a good start anyway!)

One little girl stopped me in the corridor between classes to say "Teacher, you are very beautiful today"!!!

Apart from school we've been having a good time...we've been making friends around the place - everyone seems to like talking to Andrew and he isn't one to say no to a good chat, even if it is mostly trying to work out what the other person is saying! One of the security guards at school has been trying to communicate with us every day...she is lovely...one day she caught a student as they went past made the student be the interpreter, so she could say "I will teach you Chinese and you can teach me English"...so now every time we arrive or leave school she teaches us a word! Also Sam at the corner shop has started teaching us a few words...they think it's great when we try and learn some words...

Andrew has spent this morning at school - he went in early to test all the computers and write down what is not working ( he still isn't back, so it must be a long list!). He is going to give the list to the Chinese teacher in charge of computing, and then hope for some action!!

We asked Cookie (a Grade 5 English teacher) if we could sit in on her class last night - the class was for 30 minutes from 7.20pm...so we turned up to school and the kids thought it was great that we were there. They were just doing homework, so Cookie told the kids that they could ask us to help...we walked around and talked to the kids and they were so lovely...I had a nice chat about earrings with a group of the girls...and at the end of the lesson 2 girls came up to me and said "Ruth, welcome back to our class next Thursday"! I also helped Harry with his homework - he was doing an English comprehension thing. When I was standing next to him, another boy from the class (John) went and got me a chair. John and Harry are sooo cute - they are boarders at the school and share a room. I find it sad that such little boys could be living away from home!

Apparently there is a mountain climbing trip tomorrow with students from the school, so we've said that we'll go along - it is an early start, but it sounds like an opportunity not to be missed...I'll let you know how that goes.

Well, Andrew is back now so I'll sign off...I hope you are all well and that you have a great weekend! I am thinking of Canberra in Spring with all those lovely flower smells. (I don't know what I'm smelling here, but it ain't flowers).

permalink written by  arterra on October 18, 2007 from Dongguan, China
from the travel blog: China Adventure
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My name is dumplings

Dongguan, China


Hello!

Friday night is here at last...best night of the week. After school Jack, the computer teacher, came over to our place - I think he was curious to see it. From there we caught a taxi to Yin Feng Liu (Yin Feng Road) - I even asked the taxi driver myself - wow, my Chinese is just taking leaps and bounds. Well, actually, just before we left school, as we were walking out the gate with Jack, we saw one of our students with his mother and we were just standing around saying hello etc - the student asked if we could speak any Chinese and I said 'My name is Ruth'....well so I thought, but Jack told me I said Dumplings Ruth...and not just any dumplings, but fried ones, not boiled!!

We went out to dinner on Yin Feng Road to a restaurant we've been to before - it was good having a Chinese person with us...but we still got a chicken complete with head! Then Jack invited us back to his apartment which was nearby - he lives there with his Dad. It was great to go into a real apartment and also to meet his father, who doesn't speak English. The Chinese people we have met so far are just so lovely. Jack and Andrew played computer games and Jack's father watched for a while and then curled up in bed (which was in the same room)...and I should say 'on' bed because it looked pretty much like a piece of wood on legs!

Also, another thing that I keep meaning to mention (For all the animal lovers reading the blog!)....just near Sam's corner store is an aquarium shop - it's really tiny but it has some amazing fish and aquariums in there. The shop owners also have 2 dogs - a big one and a little one - a lovely golden retriever and a little white dog. Often we walk past on the way to and from school and the dogs are playing with each other having a lovely time. It is a pity though that they don't have any grass or a backyard to play in - it's all just concrete, but they seem very happy and are definitely loved! I think there is also a cat in there somewhere, but we don't see that as much. I'll have to get a picture of them and put it up on the blog.

That's it for now...I hope everyone at home is well.... Ruth

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