A Travellerspoint blog

The Amazing South

Guangzhou and Zhongshan

sunny 27 °C

The clock is ticking, it never stands still. The time is running, it has got legs, and I? ... I’m just watching it, forgetting that I have got legs too, and have to run along with it. We are almost half through with our internship...!

Just in time we arrived at the train station in Changsha on Friday afternoon. Our train was leaving in 48 minutes to be precise. With our bags in one hand and the ticket in the other, we were figuring out the clue behind bunny woops. For those who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry, you will not get to know it anyways. And for those who know, you might as well know how annoying it is. However, we were not able to solve the clue, and an obvious show off made us realize how little people are observing or listening. Bunny woops has a great psychological aspect; we tend to focus more on our selves than on others. Our basic thinking is: the world and its people surrounds us, but we are the centre.

The train wasn’t a second too late, we weren’t either. Slowly it rolled out of the station and into the city. Within a couple of seconds it reached a speed of 300 km/h, and the city was left behind. We came through fields and green land. The soil was fertile, the trees green, and the air humid. I close my eyes, am back in the moment. My fingers touch the keyboard, different letters are formed on the screen.
We are going from temperate climate to subtropical climate. We are going from one city to the other, from one province to the other. We are going from Changsha to Guangzhou. The speed of the fast train keeps on rising, 312 km/h at the most. I plug in my earphones. Reggae beat, Bob Marley. A pre taste of the summer.

The pointer of the clock shows 9 pm. We are driving in a taxi, hands, arms and head out of the window, breathing in the sweet smell of warmth and humidity. Our cloths get sticky, our body too. Everything is covered in a mist, magical. After nearly half an hour the taxi stops at a tall building. A locked gate blocks the way. The side street is silent, the main street not. We call the hostel, they guide us to their place. We enter the apartment complex, take the lift to the 7th floor and go out in the hall way. One of the apartments is the family hostel Sun Flower. It’s a nice place, with an amazing few. Cozy and basic, and the staff speaks English! Such a place you would never be able to find without the internet. Bless the internet.

A couple of minutes after we leave the apartment, take the lift downstairs and enter the street. The street life reach its top. We take the taxi to a fancy club, it’s called true colour. The true colour is however white and black. Everybody is dressed in white and black. Even though our cloths are in true colours, we feel a bit unseemly dressed. A mix of backpacking style and casuals can’t be spot in the bar. At a small table other foreigners are standing; wait, I know those foreigners! Our friends from Beijing! Hugs and stories are shared, wine is spilled, cognac fills the glasses till the edge. Cognac and ice tea are mixed, dice games played, and on the stage we go. We dance and sing, we drink and have fun.

The crowd is big, the crowd is growing, the crowd is huge. No air, sweat trickle down my face, I can’t breathe. Fresh air! I’m longing for fresh air. We go outside, stand there for a while, and decide to get some food. We end up in a place across the street after wandering the streets for half an hour. The food is good, the bar is good, the people are good, and the night is good. But sleep calls, and another day is waiting. We take a cab back home, stumble into the beds, and fall in a deep sleep. The next morning we have another visitor. One of the peoples didn’t book a hotel, and stayed over in our hostel. Later on we got to know that a couple of others had spend their night on the street, trying to sleep at the bus station. Maybe it’s a good idea for next time, to book a hotel in advance? Just a suggestion

And again we can be found on the train station. There are people everywhere. It is crowded and the crowd grows. My blood sugar level is low, it is hot and the crowd make me grasp for air. “Stay calm, stay calm, soon you’ll be on the train.” I keep on telling myself. And after thinking it long enough the thought becomes reality. We are sitting on the train, with a McDonalds takeaway in front of us, the smell of chips in our nose and the beautiful fields once again passing by outside the window. A kid is curiously looking at me, at my golden locks and my purple eye shadow. I look back at his black, soft hair and his dark brown eyes.

We arrive in Zhongshan, we arrive at the hotel and we arrive at Jerry’s. And woops ... another 15 people join! Around a 30 people all together met this weekend, and it was incredible to see everybody again! We went out for a hot pot, and soon after left to a German bar. It was not only a German bar, but the people who owned it were German as well! I couldn’t resist, I had to speak a few words of the most amazing language I know about. It’s strange, but I miss Germany more than I miss my own country. Well, I can’t really say I have a home country after moving around quite a bit.

The talk goes easily with a shisha, bottle of wine and some tequila shots. Mc fries and bottles of beer is pretty much our night filling. At midnight we go off to a club, and dance, dance, dance.

We dance, we drink, we chat. That is what we do.

And on it goes, it reached the top, and off it goes. The moon is smiling, its telling us good night.

The sun is tenderly touching my face. It wakes me up. “Early in the morning, up with the rising sun, three little birds, pitch by my doorstep, singing sweet songs ... “
The sky is blue, and it’s a beautiful day. No jumpers, no trousers, only skirts and shorts. We decide to go to the park, after an amazing brunch in a Greek restaurant. Imagine; real bread, real feta, real olives, and the real taste of south European food! There is nothing in the world that tastes better than a fresh Greek salad, trust me!

At one point we reach stairs, and soon we enter a tropical park with palm trees and banana plants. The sun is burning our skin. It’s amazing! We sit down, listen to Bob Marley once again, pumping up the base, taking pictures and chatting once again. Soon it’s time to leave. Again hugs and stories are shared, this time the hugs and the stories that comes with good bye.

The train is on time, we aren’t. We have to run, and just on the second we manage to catch the train back home. 3 hours later the wind makes us shiver, the rain pours down, and the grey buildings surrounds us. No palm trees, no sunshine, no rickshaws... welcome to Changsha.

The weekend was amazing!

Here is a short summary of previous week, after a long update about the weekend:

Another birthday was approaching, and on Thursday morning gifts and a homemade poster of our Changsha family was given, and a birthday breakfast was eaten. After drama class we went out to get a massage, and thereafter dinner was waiting at the Japanese. Earlier that day I had my demo lesson, and all the staff in our office, plus the leaders of the school were observing my lesson. I was about to faint when I started, but after I opened my mouth, the nerves calmed down, and it went all well. I didn’t even notice the audience at the back. Positive criticism and a birthday to celebrate made the day!

Posted by EmmaMM 08:01 Archived in China Comments (0)

Up to date

overcast 13 °C

As life is becoming more of a routin, and even the smell of stinky tofoe becomes normal, I decided to share some culture snack with you.

1. I should have told you this long before, but anyways: Chinese spit. They spit everywhere! You have to walk carefully, and watch out for big lumps on the streets. Before you know it, your legs will dangle above your head, and your back will be covered with slimy phlegm. If you hear a loud hark somewhere, you can be sure that a spit is following, so watch out!

2. Chinese like to listen to sad songs, and the songs they perform in KTV are all heartbreaking, sad Chinese songs. My theory on this is that, despite their liberal culture it is still not fully accepted to show love and affection in public. Girls are not allowed to marry before the age of 22 and boys have to wait another two years. In addition there is a lack of women in this country, and in a few years from now, there will be a couple more million boys than girls, because of the still widly practiced female foeticide. This means that some will be forever alone. The sad Chinese songs may help to let go of their emotions.

4. Chinese students have eye excersize everyday. They believe that by massaging the acupuncture points in your face, it helps to improve your eyesight. My 6th graders were totally amazed when I told them that we never even have heard about eye excersize in Norway!!

5. Chinese love drilling. The country is in general mitalirazed. The dicilpine maintainance starts already is school. Every Monday we have flagg rising ceremony. Some kids are chosen to march with the flag in their hand, and show solute to the Chinese Government. Already in early age some kids are picked out to be young pioneers, and are basically born to be a politician. The dicipline and drilling is not only outside of the classrooms, but also inside. You can easily drill different words and sentences for one entire lesson. The kids love it!
Today we had drama class, and we sat up a play with two groups (which by the way was amazing!). The kids can cram every single word you tell them within seconds, and they actually listen to you. They knew the manuscript better than me, even though I was the one who had written it.

6. No time for more culture snacks, because now I have to rush to Kindergarten. We have two lessons there, before we've to catch the train to Guangzhou (in the south). I'm immensly looking forward to see people again, and I can't wait for the warmth!

See you around!

Posted by EmmaMM 07:46 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai !!

rain 7 °C

Late at night we took the taxi to the airport and headed off to China's Paris, Shanghai. Shanghai is however more shiny and modern than Paris. You can easily see that most of Shanghai is build in the last couple of years. Shanghai is build with cranes whereas Paris is build and modelled with the hands. Fancy glass buildings popped up everywhere, and it's beautiful! I bet you can see your own reflection in every single building in Shanghai! We knew that there would be many foreigners in the city, but THAT many?? In some areas there were more foreigners than Chinese, and we even saw a person wearing a Marius sweater. That is most likely the closest we are able to come to Norway during these months in China.

When we arrived, a pirate taxi offered to take us to the hostel, and after negotiation about the price we went along with the offer. The bad thing with pirate taxi's is that they not necessarily know where to go, so we drove around the hostel area in at least half an hour, with many attempts of the driver to drop us of at random spots. After a couple of calls and many rounds in the car we were dropped of at a deserted police station with white dirty walls, and thought "What the hell?? He must be kidding with us, this can't be the hostel." Luckily we were right. The hostel was hidden 20 metres away. It was a cozy place in the middle of the city centre. Just half an hour upon arrival our friends from Beijing and Chengdu popped in, slightly tipsy from a outing to Helen's. It was great to see them again, and we chatted until late at night. The next morning another known face appeared. He had taken the night train from Henan, and had spend the night sleeping on a hard bench with camera's in his face. And all this attention only because he’s a foreigner. Just imagine how isolated his place must be. In addition to be isolated, it is the poorest province in China, and half of the population had HIV a couple of years ago... China, China. Even the lonely planet has forgotten about this province.
We spend the day going to café's, shopping and looking at the amazing skyline.

Shanghai is not only the biggest city in China, but also the biggest city in the entire world, if you only consider the population in the actual city centre, and not the suburbs!! The city has around 23 million inhabitants, which is about 6 times as many as the entire population of Norway!
At once it starts to get dark, the lights turn on everywhere. Bright red, neon yellow, fresh green and crack orange light up the city. The centre looks like a big casino. Roads crass - cross everywhere, cars, people and bicycles mix and become a big hotspot. Even the seashore was filled with life. Boats who docked, people taking pictures of the skyline and shouting, talking and laughing. Busses of tourists with their yellow hats and matching t-shirts, overexcited about the TV -tower, and somewhere in the crowd you could find the 10 of us, acting like typical tourists. Click, click, and the Shanghai - moments were documented.

Next stop was the liqueur store. After saying yes in a thousand languages before saying the right one, and with a bag filled with vodka, rum and some strange Chinese liqueur, we went home to get ready for the night. A couple of drinks made us all in a good mood, surprise surpsrise. With a slight hangover and a couple of black holes in my memory I woke up the next morning. After brunch and a outing to a café, it was time to leave again. It is crazy how time flies. There is a Dutch proverb saying "It’s not the time that passes by, but the people,", well, to be honest I think both passes by. Shanghai is pretty much like Las Vegas: "What happens in Shanghai, stays in Shanghai"...

We are already more than half through the week. Today I really enjoyed teaching! My 3rd graders are defiantly my favourites, even though you most of the times either have a fight in the middle of the class, or some naughty kids running around during the entire lesson. Still they are so eager to learn. Their enthusiasm becomes a part of me too, and suddenly my energy level jumps from below zero to a hundred! Some of these kids put their entire soul in learning English. They ask for my teaching material and want to have all the songs and videos I show them, they circle around me, and lead me to the office, just to be able to talk a little more English. And of course they make me feel like a celebrity, which is, to be honest, a kind of cool.

On Tuesday we went out for a double date in the afternoon. First we stopped by at Starbucks for a delicious coffee, and headed thereafter off the Pizza hut. We spend one hour to search for a cab. Rush hour in Changsha is really rushy.
When finally arriving at Pizza hut, an incredibly cute girl came to our table while we were enjoying our salmon salad and pizza with cheesy crust. She was 4 years old, very good in English and her name was Christina. We drew her a picture of the Big Ben (or it was supposed to be the Big Ben, but looked rather like a red church). She was immensely happy with the picture and asked us to sign it with our signature and the date. Maybe, in a couple of years she will look back at the picture and think of us. So if by chance, I have hick ups in a couple of years, I will defiantly call the rest of the group to ask if they have hick ups too. If that is the case, it is most likely that Christina is thinking of us. (ok, in case you are not familiar with this expression, let me explain. If you have hick ups we use to say that somebody is thinking of you. The conversation could be pretty much like this: person A: "hick up!" Person B: "somebody is thinking of you".)

Posted by EmmaMM 06:19 Archived in China Comments (0)

big bear and black sheep

silver stars, lessons, balloons.

semi-overcast 8 °C

A knock on the door at 7 am, was a sign that I had to get up, and so I did. We went tip- toeing to the boys apartment, with our decorated poster, big teddy bear and beer, hoping that the birthday - child still was asleep. Unfortunately the lights were on everywhere, and he was there as well, all dressed and ready, on the phone. Damn it ... Plan B. The five of us jumped into the room, singing "Happy Birthday" in the early morning. Some pictures were taken of sleepy faces (not the most attractive), some hugs were given and some stories told.

"Among the 5 yellow stars there is a white star. The yellow stars are the Chinese people, and the white star is you (absolutely not meant to discriminate, just to make things clear). Here in China you may sometimes feel just like a white star among yellow, or a black sheep among white. But then turn around, and you'll see five more white stars shining. You're not alone. There is always someone who will understand you. Don't worry, be happy! "

Time was up, we had to get ready for school. Get ready for school? It still sounds so strange. Wasn't I just finished with school? Graduated and all? Apparently school never ends for me. This time my role is entirely different though.
This afternoon we are invited home to one of our colleagues to taste homemade wine, play games and watch a movie. That’s gonna be fun! .. Afternoon I said? It's already afternoon ... time to g(o) RUN!

But before I say Good Bye, let’s talk SHANGHAI!
Tomorrow we'll be out of town for a couple of days to visit the world - famous business centre, the most western city of all cities with the Big Ben and New York taxi's and all, the city with both old and new ... We're gonna go to SHANGHAI !! And not only the six of us, but a couple of other Beijingers to ! It sounds promising! And for those who never have or want or will or wish to see the city, I can promise you a full Shanghai - report when coming back to Changsha!

As you are never done learning I just decided to add some new discovered things every time I write my blog. It can be words, culture differences or .... hmm, basically anything. It might be fun for you to read, and will just be a reminder for me to avoid forgetting, because "The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know ... so why learn?". I'm unfortunately really good in the forgetting part ....

Today I just got to know that scissors is both singular and plural. Until now I always thought that it was one scissor, two scissors. But apparently you say one pair of scissors instead. Hilarious! (well, you Englishmen must think "What's so funny about it?” And you are right.)

Posted by EmmaMM 21:31 Archived in China Comments (0)

Chinese worries

You have to be there a 100% all the time!

overcast 8 °C

Teacher: Good morning! Students: Good morning!!
Teacher: Good morning! Students: Good morning!!!!

That's how a usual lesson of mine starts, except of in the afternoon. Than the good morning will be changed into "Good afternoon!".
Having a lesson while having a cold is tiring though, especially if you've got 50 3rd graders circulating around in the classroom, drawing, giggling and talking together. Even the Beat - the - Teacher - game hardly worked out for these kids. They had too much of overloaded energy, but however, I manage through my lesson, having to be strict (which I'm not really good at), and moving apart desks, taking away their books, and pens and papers, and other things that distracted them. But enough about my early morning lesson today. It was however not the worst lesson I've had. I guess it must have been kindergarten. We all expected kindergarten to be hard to teach, and our expectations were fulfilled. They are indeed hard to teach. What to do with a class of 45 4 years - old? I have no clue. My lesson plan didn't work out, so I had to improvise my activities with them. Well, I was glad when that lesson was over. Next week we luckily got the opportunity to watch a kindergarten lesson given by one of the Chinese - English teachers. I'm really looking forward to it!

Even though some of the classes are difficult to teach and to control, I've got many amazing classes as well! I'm rather happy that we have 24 different classes to teach. Each person, as well as each class have such a different character, a different atmosphere. With some, certain things are working out perfectly well, and with others the whole prepared lesson crashes for some reason.

After our kindergarten lesson on Friday, we were taken to a German buffet for dinner, which, by the way, was delicious. We ate until we had to open the buttons of the shirts. After that we were taken to a hairdresser to get a hair cut. Back home, going to the hairdresser is fun. Here it is even better, and all this for 29 Yuan (29 NOK!!!)! First we had to lie down on a bed, and got out head and neck masaged. We also got it washed with thousand different things. It was amazing! And then the scissors was rushed through our hair, a little hairdryer, some hairspray, and woooop, we all got a different, fancy hairdo.

The day after we went for shopping in a western mall, with H&M, Zara, Starbucks, and other famous western brands. Sometimes you really have a feeling of being in the west here in China. Except of the noodles and tea houses, the shopping malls are basically the same as back in Norway, and even better!

My temperature was rising during the night, and the next day I ended up in a clinic (with a fever of 39 degrees, not that bad, is it?), having to take at least five different drips, a couple of injections with "god knows what it was"... And all that for a little cold? I've grown up without even taking BSG or Polio, and now I had to take an overdoses for a cold? To put it into perspective it has to be said that in Norway you get a drip if you are about to die, and here you get a drip for a little cold. Well, my fever has gone down at least, so some effect it must have had.
What happened was basically : Rushing to the hospital, getting many drips and injections, staying there for some time, going back home and expected to function a 100% straight away. To give you a day off or to take some rest is not even considered. No, on the contrary, the schedule just continues the same way, and you are expected to follow it. After fulfilling your duty, you are considered to be ill again, and you have to take some more drips and medicines. Somehow it seems a bit of a contradiction to me... It pictures however the Chinese way of thinking better than anything else. Their motto is "you have to function 100% ALWAYS!". Therefore a cold is considered as a serious illness, because you function maybe 50 % (?).

I rather follow their other advice: drinking hot water. Hot water is said to be good for everything. Or my mother’s advice: eating honey with cinnamon.

For now I just let Bob Dylan fill the air with his dark voice and mouth organ. His music, his lyrics and his voice are just amazing!

Posted by EmmaMM 18:31 Archived in China Comments (0)

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