A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: EmmaMM

calling home ?

sunny 34 °C

I have to appologize for letting you down, and not writing my blog for such a long time. I can come up with excuses such as «I had no time» or «I was busy.» But the fact is, I didn't feel like writing. Can you imagine? I didn't feel like writing?
Anyways, as only a few more days are left, I would like to share some personal experiences with you.

There have been many door sills to step over, many trembeling knees and rapid hearbeats. First of all in the class room, and secondly with my health (which I found out after three months and which really, sorry for my words, sucks).
Two days ago I went to walking street to go to starbucks and read my book at the river side. In the bus, a Chinese guy came over for a chat. He was about to enter his interview to become a teacher assistent in a primary school. And along the way, he asked me if I had some good teaching tips, and how to become a good teacher. And without realizing it, a whole waterfall of words and sentences where coming from my mouth. At that point I realized how much I've learned about teaching, about the classroom situation, about the children in general. The different types of human walking around on this strange planet earth. And also about myself.

In China I've asked myself many times «What on earth am I doing here?» It was not the longing to go home, it was just the feeling of not being home. I realized in China, that the feeling of home is immensly important to human beings. Wherever we are and whatever we do, we try to build a home, we try to feel ourself comfortable, and make the best of it. It is in our nature. As I have problems putting it into words I will give you a visual picture of it. We try to build a house of branches and mud. Carefully we place each branch on top of the other. Suddenly the tower of brances collapse of the weight of a big branch, and falls apart. At this point, our trying has failed, or we haven't tried hard enough. As a result we wish ourselves as far away as to Mars, to start over again with building our house of branches and mud, which we can call home.

Soon Changsha will be written in my personal history. The city where they plan on building the tallest building in the world. The city which is growing rapidly. The city with more inhabitants than the whole of Norway. The city with cheap taxi's and even cheaper busses. The city with a McDonald on every streetcorner, coffeeshops, cozy streets, busy streets, beautiful streets, ugly streets, cheap street and expenisve ones. The city with the fancy malls and stincky tofu. Am I going to miss this city? If you would ask me this question now, I would give you a steady»no.» But I also know this answer might change over time.

Here in China we've got the oppertunity to travel quite a bit. And I have to say that China is a diverse country. If somebody would aks me «What is China like?» I have no idea what I would reply. because China is not like one thing, or the other.
China is huge, that much is for sure. Every province have their own culture, dialect and sometimes language. Every province has its own speciality and atmosphere. Even in half a year time, I haven't seen nor experienced enough of China, that I can say what China is like for sure. But still Chinese have something in common (obviously). They are hard working people. They get things done. They don't complain much. They are quite, quick and efficient. Very efficient. I bet no other country can build a building with 30 stories in 6 days! Their efficiency is shown in every part of life, in the shop, in the hospital, in the schools and in the banks. The good thing with one party regime is exactly this: things get done. Maybe some disagree, maybe the majority of people don't want it in that way, maybe human rights are violated, maybe it is chynical, but at least it is done. And don't get me wrong, I absolutly think it is a violation of human rights to not give the people free speech or the right to vote. To push them into things they don't want to do. To shut down every single mouth, and ban asking question. The militarization of this nation is scary. But there is also a good side of a one party regime, and that side I discovered in China: the efficiency.

Chinese people don't brag much, they are really direct and sometimes things they say can make us frown our eyebrows. A random person on the street, who starts talking to you, might suddenly say «I would like to marry you.», without any hesitation. A comment like that makes me at least frown my eyebrows and laugh, and think silently «ok, he's a freak.» Their direct comments is often really funny. You will also experience that the sense of humour varies a lot. If you try to tell a joke, you might be the only one ending up laughing. Either they don't understand the English good enough or they just don't find it funny. And that brings us over to another topic: lauging. Do Chinese people laugh a lot? I would say «no», not too much. But on the other hand, 30 year old woman can giggle like teenagers the whole day long. A very good example of this are our English teachers in the school. They giggle, they are jolly and they have fun for sure.

When I started writing this entry, I had no idea what I would end up writing. I just let my thoughts run through my fingers, and words are formed on the screen. Magic, isn't it?

As this entry is already quit long, and you've got some paragraphs to read, I would like to add a final thought.

Even though I would not call China HOME, it has given me a lot. And for that I'm thankful. As my friend wrote so beautifully «Having someone in thoughts, when your bags are packed, is when you know, you've got a place to return that you can call home.» This someone is China, and maybe one day I will end up calling China, HOME, and return. Who knows after all what the future will bring? Muslim's believe our life is written with a universal pen in the univers, which only Allah has access to. So I might have to ask Allah, or just wait and see...

Posted by EmmaMM 22:00 Archived in China Comments (0)


Aladdin and the last month

overcast 21 °C

Thursday was the 31st of May, the last day of the month, and the celebration of Children's Day, which is an official holiday in China.
For a couple of weeks we'd been working on a play together with 15 students, and on the day of celebration they were finally going to show their hard work to their parents, teachers and fellow students.
It was a day of joy for most of the kids. The classrooms were nicely decorated with balloons, tables full of food, and music in the background. Every class had a number of performances in their respective classrooms, and were busy for a couple of hours before returning home for a further celebration.
We performed the play Aladdin, twice. I can't even tell how proud we were of our hardworking, going -to - be stars! It was a good time working with them. We had fun, worked hard and made many nice memories. We caught ourselves many times in calling them their "acting name" instead of real name, and to us they are just Abu, Aladdin, Jasmin etc.

Three of us were in charge of the play, while the other three had their own performances. The singing team became a part of our play, and the debate team performed very well in the auditorium.

In the afternoon we were invited out to dinner with our boss and teamleader, and almost in time we arrived at the buffét restaurant. It was crowded because of Children's day, and many of our students at the Primary School went over the top when meeting us. They chatted for a while or greeted us with a big smile. It made me think about how few of my students I know or even recognize, but all those 1500 beings they know me. Strange world.

And with the end of the celebration, we entered a new month; June. The last month of our time here in China. In a couple of weeks we'll be busy packing our bags and suitcases, which will be double the size of when we arrived, and we'll be heading off to wherever the wind blows. We have to say goodbye to everything which has become known to us here in Changsha... and these thoughts made me think. Think about our memories here, think about whether I'm going to miss my life in China or not, think about what I'm going to do when I come home, about studies next year, about my friends and family back home, and friends and family here, about holiday and planning trips. Yes, the fact that we entered the last month here made me think about all this.
And I've to be honest with you, and frankly tell you that I'm looking forward to the closure, to go home with the certificate safe in my pocket, and loads of memories written down on the pages of my diary. When I look back, the time in China has gone incredibly quick, and yet it has lasted for a long, long time. And that is the strange thing with time. Time is so abstract.

This weekend we had three days off, because of Children's Day, and decided to stay in Changsha only. The days were spend lazy hanging around in the apartment, go for a swim, teach ourselves the backflip (which by the way was immensly fun), painting, reading books and going to starbucks. Also an argument, man in black (the movie), sweet popcorns and surprising early mornings were included in our weekend. Lesson planning was porsponed until Sunday afternoon, and now the week has began again. The last lesson plan for grade six has been made, and the second last for grade 1, 2 and 3.

And all this is a superficial part of life here in China.

Posted by EmmaMM 20:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

We and Wonderworld

Hong Kong

semi-overcast 28 °C

Yes, you heard me right ” We and Wonderland.” Some Government visitors came to Changsha on Friday the 18th of May, and because of this special event, we got three days holidays from work. As time is limited and holidays few, we decided to go to wonder world for a while. The reality world was not glorious at the moment, and we were in desperate need for a break. This need was fulfilled when we crossed the border from China to Hong Kong. Many people are amazed by the fact that Honk Kong is not a part of China, and yet it is. Hong Kong is an autonomous state within China. That means it deals with inner affairs itself, while the Republic of China is in charge of foreign affairs. This distinction is quite crucial for people visiting Hong Kong, because you need second entry to come back to China again after having visited the island.

However, we decided that it was time to use our first and last entry, and see if Hong Kong was indeed as great as people say it is. From the minute we came out of the subway, there were English signs everywhere, and in the crowd we spotted only a few Chinese people. The majority were foreigners – people from India, Europe, Africa, USA, the middle East, Oceania etc. My heart made a leap by seeing how hundreds of cultures melted in a huge hot pot called Hong Kong. Languages and accents from all over the world surrounded us, and English was spoken by most people. Great Britain, who hold Hong Kong as a colony a couple of years ago, had left its marks, and the electricity plugs were British, the cars drove on the left side, and in the streets, double-decker busses were driving around. Also international bookstores (with English books) and Marks and Spencer’s could be found in the streets. They had a fish and chips shop, for the delightment of our English friends, and British bread.

But for me it was not about the English part of Hong Kong. The soon we entered the building were our hostel was located, I fell in love with the place, simply because it reminded me of India. Along the road side Indians were gathered, and tried desperately to sell there watches and bags to us, recommended Indian food or wanted to show us their hostel. In India I cursed these people – “How annoying can a person become?,” I can still hear myself thinking these thoughts. The same people I used to curse, I blessed now. Regardless what they were saying, they made me smile, and their announcement of pretty bags and cheap clocks, made me feel at home. With every step I took further into the corridor, I fell more and more in love with the place. I felt the urge to hug every single person in the building, greeting them in Hindi and ask where in India they where from, just to hear them talk with their funny accents, and just to hear something from my longing motherland. After an argument with the (Indian) owners of our first hostel, because of a mistake hostel world had made, we went out for Indian food, to celebrate Norwegian national day in Hong Kong, together with Brits. Such a cultural mixture this whole world becomes, and I’m loving it! We cheered for Norway and told our British roommates about the traditions of ice cream, hot dog and parades in national clothes. They, on the other hand, told us about their beloved queen, and soon an argument about whether to have or not have a monarchy started, and ended with everybody having the exact same opinions as it started with.

But queen or no queen, I didn’t really care, as little India surrounded me, and I filled my lungs with the smell of detol and curry. From a couple of metres distance you could tell if there where any Indians in the near surroundings, only because of there typical smell, and I just love it. If I would have been an Indian myself, you would surely have called me patriotic, but as I’m not Indian from origin, I’m just an India – lover.
On Friday we spend our day visiting café’s, entering the fantasy world of books, walking up and down the star avenue in the pouring rain and heavy storm. We also visited the museum of art and the museum of space. I loved the art galleries, with beautiful ancient calligraphy, oil paintings, water colour and ceramics. I caught myself staring at a painting for a long time. It depicted a harbour in China, with wooden boats, houses and people working at the shore. The storm was raging and clearly caused trouble for the workers. I could almost feel their presence, the way they worked themselves through the storms, and the energy it must have taken for them to get everything in safely. It was one beautiful painting, among many beautiful paintings.

The very same night two of our friends came over from Donguang, and after dinner and a chat at an Irish bar, we went of to sleep. After a pillow fight and some pages in my newest (but already finished) book The Last Templar, I drifted away to fantasy land. I floated between snow white and sleeping beauty, visited Ariel under the sea and Simba at the top of the mountains. I saw unicorns and vampires, witches and magicians. I observed a Legolas from Lord of the rings and the hobbit house in hobbit town. Yes, I was in fantasy land all the time until I woke up in a small, hot room with white walls and sparkling curtains.

Not long after we again entered fantasy land, this time with eyes open, and the sun burning our skin. We went to Hong Kong Disney Land, became children again and had a great time. We took pictures in front of the castle, took the rollercoaster twice, ate sweet pop corns, and visited the pirates on Tarzan Island. Disney Land is indeed great for kids, but also for adults. I was the entire time thinking “How beautiful they have made this.” It must be wonderful to go to Disney Land as a child. The world turns into magic, that much I’m sure of. It must be a dream coming true for the youngest. In the afternoon there was held a show of the Lion King. The entire time I held my breath and couldn’t get my eyes of the scene, and afterwards there was only one word to say about the show – AMAZING. There where acrobats, and singers, dancers and fireman. They sang all the important songs in the lion king while the whole floor underneath them was moving and dancing along. We witnessed a flying elf and hungry hyenas while the lightening changed from white to red and black.
We also got told the story of Winnie the Pooh and the golden Mickey. It was a very nice day with loads of magic moments.

And soon day turned into night, our last night in Hong Kong. The next morning we met up, split up in two groups and did some shopping (which is a necessity being in Hong Kong), and went to Starbucks. Before we even knew it, it was time to leave this amazing fantasy land, and the train soon took us back to Shenzhen, and from there to Changsha. My visa in Hong Kong would have lasted for 90 days, and I had no doubts spending as much time there if there was no duty bringing me back to the place I am at the moment. One more month to go, three more lesson plans to make and a couple of events to watch, and then ... then it is time to leave.

Posted by EmmaMM 23:43 Archived in China Comments (0)


Teaching in China, and crisis in Europe

overcast 22 °C

You might wonder what is happening on the other side(or same side) of the globe, right? So here it comes, once again a summary from China.
Lately we've been busy with a number of activities, such as parent/children/teacher's day, Aladdin (our play) and of course teaching, and I had less time to write.
I found myself poundering over what I should write about in the next entry, and a thought just hit me: "there is nothing new happening here, so what can I write ??"
The "nothing new" part, is a sign of a routine life, but despite routine, new things are happening every single day, we just have hard time in noticing them. And that is the secret of living in the moment; to notice all the new miracles of every day life.

So I decided to tell you about the joys and miracles of my daily life.
Last Saturday we had an activity day with the kids and parents, and after two hours of making play dough and performing different songs, we went to the most amazing five star hotel for lunch. The food was outrages! The salat was fresh, the seafood couldn't be better, and the coffee was amazing. I learned how to eat crab and oysters, which suprisingly were both really tasty. I was chatting with a Chinese woman over a cup of coffee, and she told me about her studies in Changsha, about western time at a coffeeshop on Tuesdays, and about different customs and traditions in China. And I contributed with telling her about Norway, and Holland, where I grew up, and different aspects of western culture. After coming home that afternoon, we went off to sleep/read/watch series for a couple of hours, got ready and went out to celebrate one of our roomates' birthday. That week he turned 22, and of course we had to throw a party (or let the party be thrown). It was a fun night out, and ended with a tight sleep and a room turning around in several hours, until the next morning. Also that night we met people from Saudi Arabia, South Africa, England and other foreign countries. And we thought that we were the only westernes in Changhsa? And all this talk with and about westernes made me realize that I look forward to head off to Norway again.
The saying "East, West, home best", exist for a reason.

But enough about the western chat. At the moment my home is located in China, surrounded by Chinese and Chinese culture, so let's talk Chinese:
A week ago my 6graders performed "The Show" by Lenka for me, which made me totally sentimental. I had shown them that song a week earlier, in my previous lesson, and apperently they liked the song so much that they spend one entire lesson to learn it by heart. They are going to perform it on childrens day on the 1st of June. It is amazing how you sometimes get feedback from your students, and that they enjoy your lessons, and actually gain some information from them.

And more and more I get respect for all my previous teachers. If you think teaching a an easy job, you are mistaken. Teaching is challenging, especially for the noisy and difficult classes. You have to develop methods on how to deal with the students, and the different classes. You have to adapt your same lessons according the classes. Even though each single person is different, they make one atmosphere in the class. And this atmosphere varies much from each other.

Even though I'm in China at the moment, the world news doesn't pass unoticed by, and lately I read in the news paper about the new developments in especially Europe (but also elsewhere in the world). A new nazi - party as got a remarkable amount of votes in Greece, which is the first time since the second world war. Also in Hungary the city hall of Budapest is occupied by the new nazi party, and Hungary is one of the countries where patriotism stands the strongest at the moment. Similar developments can be seen in most countries of Europe. Especially in Holland a negative view on Jews and imigrants has increased over the last couple of years. And today I read an article about Dutch people wanting to immigrate to Norway, because of their disbelieve in the EU and the Dutch economy. Their ministry has gone off, and at the moment the common citizens talk about Holland becoming a third world country in the future. Well, this a a prediction, which can't be said is true, but it tells clearly something about the peoples dissatisfaction and broken trust in the government. Also Spain is broke. In the city of La Línea de la Concepción in Southern Spain few people have enough money for living expences, and at least 40% of the younger population is unemployed. EU is in trouble at the moment, and many people claim the EU is more of a burden than a solution.

The point with the short summary of the news is to show that we are in a time of crisis. Maybe even a deeper crisis than in the 1930, at the time of the crack of Wall street. And people seem to tend to the same solutions and beliefs at times of crisis. The huge support of nationalistic parties, and rasist parties all over Europe, is frightening. People always have to blame others than themselves for their discomfort and problems (even though this is totally unrealistic to do). It is an easy, but very dangerous way to go. We went that way during the first and second world war, and even though people say "such horrible things will never happen again, because of rouse of awareness among us", we can't deny that the development around the globe is scary similar to the development roughly 70 years ago. Do we never learn from our mistakes? Are we really that stupid to blindly hit the same wall again? People, this is a call; WAKE UP !!

Posted by EmmaMM 22:20 Archived in China Comments (0)

Blue Men and Flying Mountains.

sunny 30 °C

Today is the 4th of May. It is overcastted, but warm. The air is humid, the birds are whisteling, and life is actually quite good.

A week ago we had four days off, because of labour day on the 1st of May. A friend of ours was coming over from Beijing, and together we headed off to Funghuang that very same day. We slept on a hard sleeper in the train, which surprisingly was very comfortable. Early in the morning we woke up surrounded by mountains. The train was winding down the hill, and there, at the horizon, a city was appearing. We arrived just after sunrise in a wet landscape, with a light rain falling down on our shoulders. We had to take the bus for another hour, and finally, there it was - the romantic, ancient place of Hunan. Funghuang is said to be one of the most beautiful places in China, and is therefore very touristic. To our surprise there were mostly Chinese tourists. The result was that we once again became celebrities, and at least a hundred pictures with strangers where taken during those three days.
We got a hostel for a night near the river, and had a great view over the old wooden houses with typical Chinese roofs. At 1 pm we went to get some food, with a rumbling stomach. Suddenly an enormous shower turned our clothes from dry to wet. We ran into the nearest restaurant, had some typical Chinese food (not my favourite, but it was ok), and waited until the dark clouds had drifted away again.
We took a walk along the river side, followed by a visit at an Café, two rounds of cappuccino and card games. Later in the afternoon we decided to go for a boat ride on the river. We got a quite good bargain. Two locals came with us to stir the boat when it strayed off from its path. One of our locals was a jolly man, and sang more than once a happy Chinese song. The other Chinese sang along with him, joking and laughing. Even we got in the mood of singing, and I happen to learn "row your boat".

When coming back from the river, we decided to go for some shopping. “Some” i said? No, loads of shopping. The shops in Funghuang have just the clothing I love! India - inspired dresses, Curtis and kashmir scarf’s could be found everywhere. Beautiful paintings, Chinese art and sculptures made of wood and clay could be found in most of the shops. Funghuang is apparently known for its silver, and the rings, bracelets and earrings where amazing. I filled my bags with all these beautiful accessories and emptied my purse within a few hours.

After a successful day, we went down to the shop next door for a bottle of wine and some snacks. That night, we chatted about everything and nothing over a glass of wine and crisps. You heard me right, crisps. That is the English way of saying chips. If you say chips in England, it means French fries. And if you say French fries, it means another kind of French fries. Confusing?
Whatsoever, I suddenly got this rush of sadness over me ... again. If you think that you can control life, you are simply mistaken. Life controls you. You are just like a puppet in a puppet show. I believe however, that you can create your own destiny, and that life always give you choices. But some things are just not up to you; My grandpa passed away two weeks ago ... Even though it is very sad, I am happy that he doesn't have to suffer anymore... Rest in Peace.

The following day we headed off to Zhangjiajie with double as much luggage as we came with. We arrived in the evening, after a bumpy road of 4 hours, got a hostel, went to sleep, and woke up quite early the day after. The rain continued pouring down, and the whole place was covered in clouds. The Avatar mountains where unfortunately hidden in the thick mist. However, we decided to go and see the mountains despite of the bad weather. After all the mountains was the reason why we came to Zhangjiajie in the first place. After using our credit card or driving license as a proof that we were students, just to get the ticket cheaper, we got the cable card all the way to the top. While moving upwards the cable card was at one point totally surrounded by a thick fog, and we were not able to see anything else than white, white, white. "Are we in heaven or something?"

We reached the top, and went for a walk along the slope to see if we could find some blue people, but both the blue people and the mountains were hidden. Still the nature was beautiful, and the place had absolutely an atmosphere.
The very same day we took the bus back to Changsha, and arrived the city late that night.

Before our trip, we had a hard working week, with among others a demo lesson of ten minutes. I was very nervous before I got up there, but when I started my lesson everything was just fine, and all of us got positive feedback from the teachers and head masters. Maybe we really become good teachers?

Posted by EmmaMM 21:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

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