China Trip 2 (11852 words)

3/11/04 – 5/11/04

Let me recap the conversation I had with Tiff on the 5th over the phone. “Hello?” “Tiff Sorry about waking you. Have a look out the window” “Ok if I have to… OH MY GOD!!! SNOW!!!! I NEED TO CALL MY MUM!”

Yes that’s correct. On the 5th I awoke to a winter wonderland outside. Not much snow apparently but it was enough to get Tiff and I excited. We had a snowball fight in the trees outside her and Susan’s room before class which was good fun. I can’t believe how quickly the landscape changed either. Yesterday it was cold, but no snow or ice even, and today well, it’s everywhere!!!!!!! So much fun to run around in and stuff. Class was pretty boring, with characters being the relaxing deal it usually is. We did have an exam, my answer was “kan bu dong” = “read don’t understand”. I could do some of it, but I don’t know enough characters to be able to do it at all. Oh well doesn’t matter. Also I couldn’t take it anymore and I am going to get a room by myself. Should have it on Monday. I like Kirill, but I don’t like living with him. The rest of today should be good since we are all going to Shannon’s birthday dinner. Will report on that when I next update this site… The other days were good, Yesterday Daisy took Kirill Tiff and I to dinner. It was pretty good, and the waiters all asked to have their photos taken with us and so on. It was good fun. The day before that I decided that I really needed a room on my own. As I said I should get it on Monday, which is quite good. Although I would prefer it a little sooner. Doesn’t matter, it’s only a matter of a few days before I get decent nights sleep. Hurray!!!!! The reasons for why I wanted one are numerous, but basically I am not sleeping well with Kirill using my pc all night. The noise and the light get to me, and well I couldn’t take it anymore. I certainly tried having a roommate, but I don’t think that I am cut out for having someone that close to me…. Well not another guy anyway. BTW Mum if your reading this could you ring me at some point, or Email me or something because I would like to talk to you, I haven’t heard from you in a while.

30/10/04 – 2/11/04

WOW! Would you look at that date, I never realized how quickly time goes. Well firstly I finally went to the swimming pool. Its really quite good. I think I have decided to become slightly fit in my free time here. While being lazy is quite good it does get boring after a while. It was rather an odd experience in the place. Firstly because they don’t get too many westerners in the pool, and secondly the shower/change room. Quite an experience. Firstly the pool, it’s a standard heated indoor Olympic size pool. No surprises there. It’s pretty clean and looks reasonably new. You pay for an entry ticket and a locker hire which lasts for 3 hours. The then go and get changed in this huge locker room. The first thing that hits you in this room is the piles of shoes. Heaps and heaps of them all over the place, since you’re not allowed to wear other shoes inside. Makes sense considering many Chinese spit on the ground. So get changed and into the pool. Swim around for a bit till you get too tired or bored and leave. This is where it gets interesting. I don’t believe I have ever seen so many blokes ‘packages’ before. The last thing you expect to see is 50 or so blokes standing around soaping up the old fella when you walk into the shower. Not a great site but hey I am cool with that, when in Rome… So that concluded my pool trip. Rather interesting but hey you get that. The rest of that day was uneventful. Oh Kirill and I went to this German pub place for lunch. We also grabbed Daisy just as we went. It was a pretty good meal. The beer there is quite good, and abundant. It was nice talking to her too since I haven’t seen her in well ages. Monday was rather uneventful. As was Tuesday except I went to the pool again and also went to the English Salon. Wasn’t too bad. It was nice talking to the people in it. One of the girls wanted to know exactly where I lived because she wants to practice her English but couldn’t find where I live. I gave her some better directions. She asked me why I didn’t have a mobile phone. My response being I am not going to buy one here if I am only going to be able to use it for a few months. BTW another thing I have noticed is that Chinese assume that the only way to learn is by reading out of a book. I asked one how they could study harder and they said by reading more. They become really shocked when you suggest that perhaps they should go out and do things rather then just study. Life is serious, but it’s also meant to be fun dammit. Doesn’t matter I suppose it’s not like I am doing all that work, but some of them admitted that they have few friends because they study so much. On an unrelated note I wish Kirill would get over the Simpson’s. As much as I like the show I don’t like it 247 when I have seen them all before. I think I have come to the conclusion that I will NEVER again have a roommate. Unless I really know the person well and am sure I can survive being that close to them. I would prefer not to. I think I am the sort of person that really needs a place to call their own and not have to put up with other peoples crap. I don’t mind housemates but I am over roommates.

27/10/04 – 30/10/04

Well this is an interesting batch of days. Right Susan’s birthday. Since Tiffany and I had already bought her a Microwave she didn’t expect anything else from us. Unbeknownst to her we also had a DVD player stowed away. Not half bad considering she didn’t expect it. I hope she really gets some good usage out of it. We also took her out to the local Korean restaurant for dinner which wasn’t too bad at all. I get the feeling she isn’t that big on birthdays, but hopefully she didn’t mind it being rammed down her thought. The next day was interesting, that being Tiffany’s birthday. I went with Shannon and Taylor to go and pick up the cake for Susan and Tiffany. I also picked up the present I had planned for Tiff. That being that in the absence of knowing what else to get I bought her a bunch of flowers which were quite nice I think. The trip down to get the cake was quite fun with many cries of “be careful” from both Shannon and Taylor, as well as a huge BE CAREFUL when I picked up both halves of the cake and wandered back to class with it. Arriving at class we discovered that the class had also bought a cake so we had cake coming out of our ears. It was a nice party and certainly better then the class itself. Anyway that broke up so we went off and had lunch in a noodle café thing (which is good for Tiffany because eating noodles on your birthday is good luck). We were with 2 Koreans and Sebastian (German). It was quite good actually I will be happy to go back there at any point. Now onto Friday. This was pretty good actually. I went to characters class which was nice because the teacher keeps telling me my characters are beautiful etc… I also went down to the shopping center with Kirill and met the cutest little Chinese girl, named Julia. She was from a southern province studying accounting in Heilongjiang University. Her English was excellent. She was also about 4 foot tall at most. She looked a bit like a china doll, something you would just pick up and walk around with she was that tiny. I talked to her for a bit and she helped Kirill and I find sugar and things. We also bought something that supposedly gave us a free present. So when we went to pay she raced out and made sure we got it. She was lovely. Oh they also had some live turtles in the seafood section of the store…. I am not sure if they were for eating or pets and I don’t think I want to know. After this, we went back and got ready to go out. Because it was Tiffany and Susan’s birthdays I offered to take them both out for dinner. We ended up going to this fancy Beijing duck restaurant in Harbin. No idea what it’s called but it was quite good. The guest list was, Tiffany, Susan, Kirill, Shannon, Taylor, Cookie, Angel, Craig, Christina and I. All in all it was a pretty good night. Although I wish they (you know who you are =P ) had ordered more duck. Oh well doesn’t matter. Everyone seemed to have a good time, I am quite sure that Susan did. Unfortunately Cookie was sick, and I must thank her for getting us there, a big thank you to you and your husband. Several hours later after paying for it we headed off into the night, to get some sleep. All in all a good night, even if we did have to sneak back into our rooms because the doors were locked. Oh and as a change of pace, Kirill, Tiffany and I walked Shannon and Taylor back to their rooms. Bah! They never expected that.

23/10/04 – 26/10/04

No I am not dead. Just there hasn’t been anything really exciting to talk about. I have been to several English meet things which aren’t too bad, on the whole I think I prefer that to sitting in a room with just one person explaining things. More people to talk about I suppose is the thing that does it, gives me a greater sense of accomplishment I suppose. Lucy finished her test thing and did pretty well she thinks. She won’t get the results for another week and a bit but so long as she is feeling good about it. I am sure she did well however. Tomorrow is Susan’s Birthday, the day after is Tiffany’s. The plan is to go out on Friday for some duck and so on. It should be pretty good. What else to say… Susan’s tutor Shannon (and her friend Tailor? Sorry I am terrible with names) are complete riots. As an example we were in a Tea house and she was holding this cup up that has a dragon on it that changes colour when hot water is in the cup. When it was filled up and changed colour Susan asked her “Isn’t that hot?” and she replied after a few moments with this very non emotional “Yes”, the look on her face was priceless. Oh it was funny, I ended up collapsing onto a nearby chair and crying for about 5 mins over it. Very amusing. She does all sorts of things like that as well which is always funny. On that day I also bought the first 4 series of the Simpson’s for a whopping $15. It’s rather interesting to watch since I haven’t seen it since I left. Now I might as well write this next bit in here since a lot of people already know, I am missing home (which includes Bathurst by Uni time foster home). I’m still happy to be here but I think that I could go home right now and I wouldn’t be too upset over it. That being said I am looking forward to doing other things around here, like seeing snow and ice. Speaking oh which it’s starting to get bloody cold. You know that it’s not great when its 2 in the afternoon and there are ice puddles on the ground, which is what I saw today. Also went to another English salon. I didn’t really do much this time and Tiffany went as well. Something annoying happened not too long ago as well, the dammed local Korean place changed its menu. Just when we had figured out what certain things on it were. So now we are back to square one not knowing anything that’s on the menu. Dammit! Susan and I have started our next IT course and some of it looks like it could be a fair bit of hard work. Oh well doesn’t matter too much, I mean when it gets cold I am not going to want to leave the room (at least once they turn on the blimmin heater crikey its cold in here). Nothing else much to say….. Oh yeah can you believe that Kirill went to sleep at 9:30 pm yesterday????? What’s going on, perhaps soon I shall learn how to spell-check and possibly even proofread. Bah like that’s going to happen. You have more chance of Kirill waking up before noon on a Sunday.

19/10/04 – 22/10/04

Once again a long time without an update. What to say, well I went to the English salon again, and well it wasn’t too bad at least. I probably should have mentioned that last time they asked me to talk about Love….. What the hell am do I know about that????? So this time I decided that if they asked me to talk about sex or something I was totally out of there. Thankfully they didn’t. It wasn’t too bad at least, and it does fill in the time which is pretty good. I kind of hit a period where I didn’t really feel like studying or anything, wasn’t attending class or anything. Not culture shock or anything I just didn’t want to study anymore. As a result I ended up sitting in the bath with a large bottle of scotch. Thankfully that seemed to fix me. And now I have my mojo back and back on track. My characters have really improved which was somewhat surprising. But hey I am feeling better and that’s the main thing. I also visited this huge computer store. (Hey I am a nerd as if I wasn’t going to go eventually). The place was huge!!!!! 5 stories filled with every piece of techno crap you can imagine. Some of it was cheap some of it was regular price. I managed to walk out without spending too much money. I needed a new mouse for my laptop, and I also bought one of those USB lights that are pretty fancy. Oh I also bought a CD wallet which was pretty good, and cheap. Hmmm what else to say….. Lucy has her IELTS test tomorrow BEST OF LUCK TO HER, seriously though I don’t think she will need it because her English is fine. I am sure she will be fine. Oh the accommodation offer for back in Bathurst was released and I’m back on campus which is a nice relief. Running out of stuff to say…. Oh I will be heading out tomorrow to go shopping for pointless things which I don’t need, which should be ok. I have realized that I haven’t really bought anything for me here, so perhaps I can find something that I want. Hey you never know what I might find around here. If nothing else it should be ok to have a day out. Anyways I will get back to you all when I have more to write about.

15/10/04 – 18/10/04

Now what is there to say today…. Hmmmm…. Well perhaps that I bought a leather jacket (pics to come soon as I get more space which is no longer a problem I just need to get the most convenient space now) and feather goose down jacket. The leather one because well I liked it and it was universally agreed it looked good on me, and the goose down one because its going to get bloody cold soon so I will probably need it. This was on the big day out Tiff Susan and I had with Wang… Shannon I think her chosen English name is. She happens to be one of Susan’s tutors. It was quite a good day for all, with Tiffany buying a nice jacket thing, Susan getting some pants and also a goose down jacket. Crikey I wish they would turn the heating on here. It’s starting to get cold enough outside to wear a jacket, and it’s just as cold inside nearly. Hence I am sitting around in a jacket as I type this. Oh well it could be worse…. Rather it will get worse, which I am looking forward too, oh baby I want to see snow. Then most likely I will want it to go away. Only 2 days till I discover if I am back on campus next year (here’s hoping that I am). Although if I am not it’s not the end of the world and I am sure I will get over it soon enough. As you can probably tell if your still reading this I don’t really have much to say and I am just rambling. Hmmm news, well…. Shannon (who is lovely btw) and her friend whose name has escaped me brought these weird toffee apple things for us. Now I am usually very good at eating things I don’t like, but this thing was close to inedible for me. I felt so bad about it too because they obviously went out of their way for it. I did eat a bit but it made me want to gag. I tried my best however, but I still felt really awful about it. Anyway that will be enough for now.

10/10/04 – 14/10/04

Long time without an update. But nothing interesting has happened recently. Or rather nothing that you don’t already know about has happened. Class as per usual (except for 2 days where I wasn’t feeling crash hot) and so on. I recently did a tally of all the things that I have to give away and some people are going to be pretty happy methinks. Well I hope anyway. On Tuesday I went to this English Salon thing. Basically it’s a free English lesson for the people that attend. Yes I know I am being exploited, no I don’t mind too much. It’s not like I need to get paid or anything while I am here and it’s a bit of fun. I do with they wouldn’t take pictures of me when they think I am not looking however. And I am VERY sick of the following questions, which appear in this order,

Do you like China?

Do you like Chinese food?

Do you have a girlfriend?

Why not?

Do you want a Chinese girlfriend?

Grrrrrr perhaps I should print up cards with my name a picture and the answer to each of those questions on it. Could save me a lot of time, and save a lot of peoples space on their phones/cameras/other image device. The worst part is the photos where they try to do it when you’re not looking. One girl took my photo on a phone and I turned to her and said “you could have asked and I would have at least posed for it” however her friend then informed me that she didn’t speak a word of English. Even so….. Oh on the subject of annoying things, I AM NOT MADE OF GLASS!!!!!!! I know to avoid getting run over, I know that steps can be steep, I know how to work escalators, and I don’t need guides to get from one room to another!!!!!!!!! Ahem. Seriously though I know they are just being nice but I am not an invalid. The other interesting thing at this “salon” was they asked me my age. When they discovered it they said “Oh we should call you Mr. Boyter then” My response naturally was “My father is Mr. Boyter, you can and will call me Ben”. Before being escorted back to my room. Never mind. I also got my boots which my mother sent to me!!!!!!!!!! Hurrah!!!!!! Now I don’t need to worry about having frostbite in my toes anymore. On that note the heating is going to be turned on tomorrow and it’s starting to get pretty cold outside when it’s dark. Not much else to say so I will leave it at that.

A Beijing Odyssey

9/10/04

You know even on our last day we still manage to do some pretty amazing things. Firstly checking out of the hotel was no problem. However we still had many an hour to kill before our flight at 7:10pm. With nothing to we headed into the main district and had some coffee in a Starbucks with all these people working on laptops. Hence I pulled mine out just to make sure that I didn’t feel left out. Problem was the wireless internet there required that you paid, so I put it away pretty quickly. After this we asked directions about 6 times for a main bank of china. We eventually located it on the fourth floor of a shopping center. Good thing we asked for directions as the chances of just finding this place were pretty slim. I stopped into a supermarket for some cheeses and some red wine. Kind of a present for Susan since she is missing them, and frankly so am I. Again just wandering around we found a Tea House. Tiff suggested we go in for some tea. The shop was pretty class and the sales assistant asked that we wait just a little while. When she started talking to us she asked if we would like to sample some tea and they had some special rooms set up for it. Nothing to do for several hours and we agreed. Damm, we had just wandered into and 1800’s English teahouse. High back chairs, marble tables, fresh red roses, original artworks everywhere, candles, classical music. Tell you what we felt pretty posh sitting in this place sipping some teas that were frankly excellent. We also had an English morning tea with it. Scones, biscuits etc…. It was a good way to kill a few hours. Next stop the airport. This place is pretty confusing. This crazy guy told me that I couldn’t take the bottle of wine and that he would be happy to take it. Ill bet he bloody well was and pigs arse was he going to get it. He also pointed us in the direction of the terminal where we were going and then had the gall to ask for 50 Yuan. In order to make him bugger off Tiff gave him 7. Simply because he did point us in the right direction. Anyways through the checks (I could take the wine I simply had to chuck it in the checked baggage) and then waiting at the gates. No real dramas, get on the plane, sit down, take off, eat the swill, and get off. Trip back to the Uni and the Beijing Odyssey is over. I must say it is nice to be back in Harbin.

6/10/04 – 8/10/04

Once again sorry about the missing update. Oh yes, we went to the Forbidden City as well as The Great Hall of the People. We kind of didn’t know what we were buying tickets for until we got them. Didn’t matter though. WOW! The great hall is bloody huge. Houses can fit inside most of the rooms…. and the Auditorium, so dammed huge. However as large and impressive it is, it wasn’t really the loveliest building. It’s as if the architect was more interested in dazzling people with the shear size and scope of the building rather then making it look nice. Certainly impressive, but not really to my taste. Afterwards we wandered across to the Tiananmen Square memorial but it was shut for some reason. Kind of a pity since we both wanted to look inside. Alas I will have to look in it next time I am here. At this point we wandered down the square to the Tiananmen gate. We also bought tickets for it and went on it. I wouldn’t advise that you do it unless your, Chinese, or worship Mao. Because frankly as good as the view is, it wasn’t worth going up to it. It was kind of nice to stand in the same spot as where Mao gave some of his speeches however. I also tried some Lime Flavored Fanta which wasn’t too bad actually. So leaving that and heading north we attempted to get into the Forbidden City. Apparently it’s so forbidden that nobody can enter it. It took a 20 minute walk around half of the thing to find a way inside. Interestingly I stopped and touched the walls of the city with my palm, and then a local did the same thing in nearly the same place I had touched it…. kind of weird but hey. The Forbidden City is well… WOW! Equally impressive, simple and sophisticated all at the same time. Also the audio commentary by Roger Moore is fantastic. Defiantly worth getting if you ever come here. The nicest part easily was the garden in the back. But the entire thing was fantastic. I would come and visit it again anytime. So afterwards we hotfooted back to the hotel (Tiff was feeling a bit ill) and all was well.

Today (that being the 8th) was pretty cool. It started with a quick trip to the pearl markets again. Oh damm I love haggling at these places. In addition to the orders I was meant to get I also went and bought a few ‘other’ presents from the place. I imagine that people are going to read this and want to know what they are but lets just say they are pretty good gifts and you all will be happy. I still can’t get over how cheap the pearls are here. It’s incredible how they can still make a profit on some of these things. I must admit I enjoy the haggling more then anything else here. Its really good fun, particularly when you can do it in their language. Although I am getting sick of them all leaping over my like I am a millionaire. Hell I am still a poor student when it comes down to it. Coming back from the place (much poorer let me tell you) we snaked it back to the hotel dumped our considerable pile of things and headed off to this really famous duck restaurant. What was really cool was that the taxi driver spoke a little English. It was pretty cool because it makes life much easier let me tell you. Anyway was a champion. So back to the duck in the pancakes and so on, oh damm it’s tasty. Pretty bloody fatty, but ever so tasty. I would love to go back….. Once a week but I would end up weighing 400kg in no time. It was worth it however. Heading out Tiff went and bought some things from a little shop; since I wasn’t really interested I went and talked to a girl selling chestnuts. Oh I also did it in Chinese which was pretty cool. 30 Seconds after walking away from the stall we were attacked by this guy who called himself old john. He was pretty nice and just wanted to improve his English methinks. So we went with him to a Tea House and had several pots of tea which was pretty good. The people in there also asked us what we thought of Chinese grammar and what could we say. We both said it was pretty hard. John asked me to make a sentence, my response was “I want a pretty Chinese girlfriend” (hey it’s bloody easy to say, gets some laughs. Not really true however.), which he and the girl serving the tea thought was pretty amusing. My personal favorite teas were the Lychee and Oolong Teas. The best part was that it didn’t cost a thing (cept tiff had to buy some tea afterwards, but I bailed us out of the art exhibit). So after this we caught a Taxi (who we had a reasonable conversation with) and came back to home base. We also now have out plane tickets back to Harbin and will head off tomorrow. As much as I like Beijing I will be happy to be back in lil’ Harbin.

2/10/04 – 5/10/04

Sorry about the lack of updates. We have been playing musical hotels so it has been hard to do anything on this. Firstly we finally got around to getting a place to stay at for the rest of the time we are here. Visiting a pearl market was really incredible. There is this entire floor devoted to pearls, they are everywhere. You can get both fresh water and saltwater pearls here. There were hundreds of stalls each selling heaps of pearls. Naturally we didn’t buy any from the first place we visited. I did the whole pretend you know what your doing deal, which worked extremely well. Secondly I could speak a little Chinese so that works even better. Then a little bargaining and BANG! Suddenly the price that once was 2000 Yuan becomes 400 Yuan. Worked perfectly and I walked out of there with a very nice present for Mum, and some other ones for 10 lucky ladies. The day afterwards we saw and walked the great wall. We elected to simply join a tour group which has several advantages. Firstly the other people have no idea about china and look to you for advice, the sop assistants at all the tourist places don’t bother you because you talk to them in their language, and the guide cuts in all the lines for you. Now back to the wall. It’s huge! Tiff and I walked to the top and bloody hell it was hard. I stopped counting after 530 something steps. Anyways it’s something you really can’t describe in any way. Getting to the top was fun because we started chatting to all these people and suddenly all these people wanted to take their photos with us and with just one of us and so on, twas good fun. They seemed particularly impressed when we mentioned we were Australian. Aussie Aussie Aussie! The day afterwards we took the same organized tour to see Pandas, The Llama temple and the Summer Palace. The temple was pretty much the same as any other temple except for a few things. I got to spin a prayer wheel, the bell made the nice deep reverberating gong sound, and it has the largest wooden statue in the world. It’s bloody huge; words cannot describe how big it is. Well I would say they can, but someone who has a better command of the language should describe it and not me. Anyways it was rather nice. The pandas were nice to see although their exhibit wasn’t very flash, and we didn’t stay long enough. The summer palace is lovely. Anyway see the pics because that’s easier then me explaining everything.

1/10/04

Well today was pretty cool. Starting at noon we headed off firstly to a Starbucks for some simple food and coffee. We meet this Italian guy there who was pretty nice and was staying in Beijing for 3 days. The plan was then the head to every bookstore that we knew had foreign books in order to find the lonely planet mandarin phrase book. First book store…. no luck, but I did buy some books to read since I have finished all of mine that I brought over with me. Second bookstore, again no luck, but we saw a cool looking chinglish sign (look for the new section on the website to be uploaded at some point). Anyways so it not being in there we headed to another bookstore, again no luck. Arghhh eventually we found a bookstore that had it HURRAH!!!!!! We also met two Canadians there and had a bit of a chat with them which was nice. At this point we headed out and got tiff some new phone credit. Cept she had to get a new sim card as well since the old one apparently doesn’t work outside of Harbin. Bit of a basted but hey, means she can ditch all the old numbers of people she doesn’t want to talk to. Wandering around a bit more we looked in various places (I bought some boots cos I stupidly left my other pair at home in oz). Wandering around a bit more we went into this really fancy jewelry store. It had a salt water tropical aquarium out the front, and an extremely pretty girl playing piano inside. Wandering around inside made me feel like I was spending a fortune. This nice guy came up and said that Tiff should have her jewelry cleaned for free so she agreed. Sitting down and getting them cleaned, this other lady brought us some tea. It was excellent, and the whole feeling like a million dollars was pretty good too. A bit more wandering around into the fanciest bloody place I have ever seen and we figured we were in a pretty good place. Oh damm, I seriously felt underdressed, and WAY out of my element in this place. The people opened doors for you and were fully dressed in suits etc…. oh damm. Needless to say we made a hasty exit. Standing outside this random guy comes up and starts talking to us. He then took us around for a bit before taking us to his friend that’s selling art work (ahhhh now I know what he was looking for). I bought some simply because I liked some of it, and I wanted to get out of there. Yes I did haggle over it. This guy was starting to freak us out a little so we beat a hasty exit and headed to a restaurant for some roast duck. Ohhhhhh damm that stuff is tasty. It was also quite good washed down with some beer. Afterward we took a pelicab thing to Tiananmen Square. Man the place was packed. Millions of people everywhere. Heaps of them trying to sell you things as well. However if you know any Chinese and tell them you don’t want it they leave you alone instantly since you obviously aren’t a stupid foreigner. Ohhhhhh!!!!!!! Tiff and I flew a kite on the Square!!!!! Muhahahahahahaha!!!!!!!! Ahem. It was pretty cool, and just after some random people asked us to have to have our photo taken with them. We also met a nice French guy who is staying in the place for a few days. It’s nice that there are quite a few non Chinese people around to take some of the heat off us. Neways we walked back a fair way to the hotel before this guy in a pelicab hailed us down and we agreed to let us be driven back to the hotel. Once again another great day. I am sure as hell looking forward to the great wall though and the other attractions as well.

30/9/04

A Beijing Odyssey Begins!

Well firstly let me say I don’t like getting up at 6:00am. Secondly I don’t like train journeys. Lucy met us at the front of Tiffs dorm at 6:30 and we headed off in a Taxi to the train station. Oh damm, there was literally 40 million people at it. The idea being you plough through to get where you’re going. There was a fleet of taxis waiting to pick people up too. They were forming queue 3 cars wide and 40 deep or so. Anyway when we finally got onto the train and it wasn’t anything that I expected. Its best described as a series of bunks 3 high with a pillow and a blanket, on one wall. They are partitioned off so that each section has 6 bunks facing each other, with about 10 sections per carriage. Finally it heads off, and we pull off into the countryside. Now I would love to say that the trip was fulfilling with fascinating countryside, but alas it wasn’t. It was 12 hours of boredom. The countryside was pretty much all the same (hence I stopped taking photos of it). The entertainment was…. nothing. We were traveling in a class known as hard sleeper, and well frankly that’s what you do. I spent a large amount of time sleeping on that trip. We also watched the movie Amelie, which helped relive the boredom for a bit. So yeah if you’re planning on traveling to Beijing from Harbin. I would advise taking a plane. It’s not too much more expensive and it’s a lot faster. Taking the train is worth doing once, but oh damm you wouldn’t want to do it all the time, unless you really love it the first time. I personally didn’t think it was that great.

Arriving in Beijing we hit a slight snag. Tiff in her infinite wisdom seems to have forgotten to bring her passport. Hence we cannot book into hotels because they aren’t sure if she is an illegal immigrant. Luckily we encountered 2 lovely Chinese people (whose English was excellent) on the streets who showed us to a place and managed to convince them to let us stay for 1 night. Several phone calls later once we were in the room and the passport is going to be sent by express courier down to the hotel. Lucy (bless her!) also managed to let us stay for another night while waiting for it by quoting the passport number and the visa number. So thankfully it’s all good. I think tomorrow we will head off and find some things to do. Ahhhh life is good.

27/9/04 – 29/9/04

This is more just a reminder then anything else. This website will have NO updates till about the 11th of October. This is because I will be in Beijing during that time.

Now what else has been happening, Tiff and I had dinner at this bloody fancy restaurant on Monday. Seriously it’s the kind of place that would cost…. $200 per person in Australia, and where you would wear full fancy dress and so on. It was buffet style western food (ahhhh a pleasant change of pace). The food was pretty good actually. What was bad about it is that some of Craig’s mates left without paying (accidentally of course). The fuwuyuan (waitress) looked so dammed upset, (she looked like she was going to cry) since it comes out of her pay. And since 3 people didn’t pay that was nearly half of her monthly pay. If I had had the money on me at the time I would have paid for it so that she was ok. In any case it should be ok since apparently they go there every week. I hope its ok. If not I will go back and pay for the rest of the meal, since it would only cost me about $10 Australian, and would make me feel a lot better.

Oh an interesting thing happened during lunch the other day. The people next to us were eating something that looked like dog meat. Asking about it was. They offered us some so I went over and tried it. It wasn’t that great but ok. Anyway next thing we know they had ordered us a plate of it! It was amusing watching Tiff eat it, but none of us wanted to offend the people that bought it so we ate a fair big and got a doggy bag for it. Now it tastes…. well a bit like overcooked pork, with the consistency of dry chicken. Not really that good, but not too bad. Considering its cost I wouldn’t order it too often.

I also have a plan to see if I can get free meals in the next restaurant I go to. I will post about it here if it works, but we shall see. Anyways ciao!

24/9/04 – 26/9/04

What a kick arse weekend. Starting Friday, after class there was a tug of war between the different foreign students. We won the first one, but lost the next two. This was pretty surprising I seriously thought we were going to be owned each time. In any case it was a bit of fun. After that Wang or computer teacher meet us to give us our results from our crash course in multimedia. We all passed which was good I suppose, but I would have liked to have done a little better. Meh doesn’t matter I suppose. So anyways afterwards we went out for Dinner with her, her niece and 2 of her friends. I must admit I like eating Chinese style, and I am getting used to the whole not paying thing. It makes me feel guilty, but I don’t worry about it too much these days. Anyways it was quite good. What getting annoying though is the fact that EVERY Chinese person thinks that we don’t eat anything that is spicy. It’s really getting annoying. Anyways that was a pretty cool day.

25/9/04

Oh man this was a great day. Starting at 10:00am (and Kirill came too, the first time I have EVER seen him awake before 2pm on a weekend). Our goal was a the Russian market. It was kinda dissapointing, however there was a heap of interising things to look at, like old russian army hats, and random russian artifacts. They also have russian clocks (yes dad I did have a look for you and when I find a nice one its yours). Anyway they were all kinda the same. What we were looking for is a place that sells pearls, I know its around here somewhere and I will find it eventually. Anyways we decide that for lunch some Russian food would be a good plan. Since Kirill couldnt work out how to tell the taxi driver to take us to this place he wanted to goto we went to centeral streets 1914 Russian Cafe. The food was pretty good (mmmm bread and butter goodness), although it wasnt cheap… well by the standards around here anyway. Wandering aimlessly down the street we ran into Craig and Christina. They showed us to this tea house where we had bubble tea. It was really bloody good. I dont know how to describe it other then its kinda like flat softdrinks with bits of jelly in it. It sounds terrible but is really quite good. We also (because we are white i guess) ended up with all these free snacks like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and popcorn etc… Leaving this place to a dvd store, I ended up buying a few dvds. I also ended up with 2 extra that I didnt want to buy. I have no idea how they got into the pile of things I was going to buy. Meh she will be right since it didnt really cost me anything. At this point it started to rain a hell of a lot, so we caught a taxi back to craigs place. WOW! considering what it costs its pretty freakin huge. Needing a break we sat down and watched the movie “Finding Forrester”. It was rather amusing since all of the black person speak was totally over the heads of Kirill and Christina. Anyways they liked it all the same, and I didnt mind it either since I havent seen it in ages. Once the movie concluded we were off to a restaurant to dine full chinese style. Ordering was a hoot, since Christina and Craig simply wandered around asking people if what they were heading was good and then picked based on that. The food was pretty good, and the beer was plentiful and cheap. So cheap that we stayed for 4 and a bit hours in the place. Getting increasing louder, eating a heap of food and so on. These other guys sitting near us had their shirts off. Apparently its ok if you a male and your sitting around drinking to take your shirt off. Hence Craig and I decided to join them. Really quite liberating. What was also good was that the place kept giving us free stuff. A plate of chips, popcorn, sunflower seeds, choclate bars…. etc… it was really nice. We also took advantage of the fact that nobody knows what we are saying by swearing like sailors for a little while. All in all a fair bit of fun. When we did leave we headed out to this huge bar that was kinda western style but with chinese in it. There wasnt too many however. Ording drinks, I later discoverd that Craig was good mates with the owner. So we ended up with 5 free jugs of beer. (What I really think is that the owner knows that westerners comming to his bar is a good way to make the place more popular. So he is willing to do anything to get us back there.) We drank and danced a bit (is dancing going to become a bad habit of mine? hmmm prehaps). Craig then showed us how to crash random peoples sitting areas and get free drinks which we then did. The guys we chose were rich blokes who set up modeling contracts or somthing like that. They took out photos which was kinda weird but yeah it was good. Except for the shotting vodka bit. Since I dont really like the taste I elected to drink more beer insted. At this point it was about 1 in the morning and Tiff was compleatly plastered. Hence when she said I want to go back I was rather happy because she so didnt need anything more to drink. She told me the next day she cant really remember the taxi trip. At least she was fine eventually. All in all it was good. Except I left my dvd’s and my camera at craigs. Oh well im sure he will bring them for me on Monday. Oh and the chinese dancing girl was pretty dammed good too, actually she was REALLY good =P

19/9/04 – 23/9/04

Long time no blog. Sorry but I have kinda been studyinf for an exam. Have you ever done 1 semesters worth of course in 8 days before? Let me tell you, it wears you out just a little bit. At least the exam is over now and life can continue at a normal rate. Let me tell you i need it too. Now what to say, oh on the 19th Tiff and I went out again. Cept we did it twice. The first time was with…. Cookie and Angel. Both lovely girls, but they ask the strangest questions. Do you like chinese girls? Do you have a girlfriend? WHat kind of girl do you like? I then discovered that one is married and the other has a boyfriend. So yeah thats a little random for me. We went to a buddist temple which was pretty cool. I cant remeber the name of it but its the one thats open to the public all the time. Not just on the 1st and 15th of the month. It was pretty cool. Tiff and I did some worship thing where you make a wish. No im not going to tell you my wish. I might if it comes true however, but time will tell, and I may never know if it does. BTW we also got in trouble from a monk! Can you belive it? Anyways it was pretty fancy. Here is a message I sent over icq that talks about it,

“i couldnt get a photo cos ur not allowed which sucked, but i kinda managed some that were taken from outside

they are rectangular with a lot of kneeling pads in front of golden budda statues, coloured prayers written in chinese on silk with tassles on the end hand around the place, some of these are ciricular and hang from the cealing. they have a big golden budda in the center behind class with offerings of food in front of it. the main statue has flowers and plants in with it. The air smells heavily of incence which people burn outside. The floor is simple and wooden, brown, and gives a little in some places. There are also big bells on tripods in the corners, with mallets next to them. The back of the building had a small…… sunroom is the best description, tacked onto the main rectangular building

and there is about 4 of these, one behind another, untill you get to this courtyard that has covered walkways around the edges with paintings and things that people pray in front of, its really quite peaceful in the place, with lots of trees and bushes and bells hanging around and making nice tinkling sounds”

Anyways I will post the photos soon…. prehaps even after I write this. I also threw some money into this wish…. pot thing, and managed to get it in the top spot on my first throw! No im not going to tell you what I wished for so dont ask. Anyways we then went and had dumplings at this nice little resteraunt. Nothing crazy here except for a sign in the toilet (see the photos), and the way they poured the tea (which was excellent btw). The kettle with hot water had this huge spout that shot hot water out at speed. It was really amusing to watch the bloke doing it shoot the water into your cup from a distance. What was even more amsuing was walking past him and he looking at “the foreigners” and spilling tea all over the place, hehehehehe. So we then headed out and went back to the uni. Then Tiff and I went out again. This time with a girl from out computer class and her sister (who was quite pretty). Orginally planning to goto some fancy place we ended up cruising around a WalMart cos the other place was closed (how random is that?). However it worked out quite well. I scored some cheese and chinese vodka type stuff which is pretty bad (also 53% alchol NOT 53% proof). Tiff bought a dvd player, some kaifei (coffee) and a cd wallet. Twas quite good in the end. Oh she also bought thes fiber optic lamp things from someone in the street. Anyways we then told the girls who we were out with (whos names have escaped me) that we were going to take them to dinner. So we took a taxi back to uni and then took them to some strange place. Food was….. interising. I have never eaten deep fried worms before (i think they were silk worms) and they were kinda ok. Nothing I would choose to eat however. The highlight of the meal however was cooked (baked i think) sweet potato covered in toffee. Man that was pretty tasty. Attempting to pay prooved fruitless (curse the chinese mentality!) so we came up with another scheme to make things right (in our opinion anyway). Tiff distacted them both and I ran off to my room and got a handmade pen (thanks dad) and a bookmark (thanks mum!) to give to them. BLOODY HELL! they tried to not accept these gifts either!!!!! However we forced them to take them after a while. And I told them that that didnt have to give anything back and I would be VERY angry if they tried. All in all it was a good day.

The next few days arent nearly as exciting however. Mainly studying for the exam (which wasnt too hard thankfully). I should be doing some tutoring soon which could be ok, but we shall see, I only agreed cos i want to see the inside of a chinese house. Oh somthing else happened which was good. We had a bit of conversation with some people in a store and we more or less understood them and were able to chat about things. The conversation was basicly “do you speak chinese?” “our chinese is very bad” “are you from england?” “no we are from australia!”. Anyways I was pretty proud of it, so I dont care what you think! HA!

18/9/04

Ever woken up to the sound of air raid sirens? Didnt think so. However after today I cant say that any more. It was quite scary actually, however I looked outside and couldnt see anyone in panic so I assumed that it was normal. However Tiff ran me and wanted to know what was going on. I said I didnt know. So she called Lucy who said that prehaps the Uni is testing the alarms for when they might be needed. We found out later that it was a bit like Anzac day back home and that today in 1933 (i think some year around here) the Japanese attacked and invaded Harbin. So after this little fiasco Tiff and I headed down to the bank and looked in a few underground shopping centers and the like. We also found this HUGE place that sells cloth. It was bloody huge, about a 5 min walk from on end to the other, and that was down one corridor. There was at least 3 in there too. Anyways we had lunch at this weird little place and ate some meat on skewers which was pretty tasty actually. Neways we didnt have too much because we knew we were going out with some people. I cant remember theird names and im not even going to try frankly, because I kinda suck at saying and remembering chinese names. Anyways we went out with two people, one who is a Police man and the other a friend of the former. We walked down centeral street (again) and looked at the flood monument (again), then went and had a look at the church of St Sophia (again, but I still like going there). Tiff and I got our (chinese) names painted by this old guy. The look pretty spiffy I recon and should be somthing nice to hang on my door when I get back to CSU (and if I get on campus again). Anyways we then headed back to the Uni and had dinner in this nice place that had blue chinese lanterns outside it (this means its ok for islamic people to eat since it dosnt serve pork). Anyway the food was good, and I drank quite a bit of beer, since I refuse to let it waste…. actually I probably drank too much, since I then started asking them interising questions. I should mention that at this point there was another person there and she is a TV journalist. Anyway I asked them for their opionions on the Chinese government (which they think is doing a great job), freedom of speech (which they said they have now, but didnt have a while ago hence they can say negative things about the government if they want to), their opinions on Iraq (they are against it), Osama Bin Laden (they dont want him around but think that what was done was the wrong way to go about it), and about Pornography and Prostitution. All things I probably shouldnt have asked, but I did stear clear of big forbidden subjects. In any case it was pretty good. Afterwards Tiff Kirill and I headed out to the local bars to have some fun. They were all doing Karaoke, so we dicided to head to a big one thats called the Kiss bar. Unforntatly we didnt know how to get there and the taxi driver didnt understand what we were saying, so I ran back into the bar we just left and grabbed two chinese girls to help us. They came with me in one taxt and Tiff and Kirill were in the other. Anyway the chinese girls (who we gave the names Emily and Aeris) we both lovely, and helped us out a fair bit. They also wouldnt let me pay for anything which was nice but kinda annoying, since it made me feel cheap. It was also interising talking to them in half Chinese half English. I guess this is the best way to learn, and actually use the language. Anyway in the Kiss bar (which is huge) we hit the dance floor. WHOA! it was crazy, the entire thing was on springs or somthing so it bounced. It was pretty cool but really hurt your legs after a bit. After an hour or so Tiff ran off with some Russians to another bar and I headed with Aeris and Emily out to a place outside to get some drinks of water. We talked for a fair while and then headed off to some hotpot place for the chinese equilivent of a kebab at 3 in the morning. IT WAS PACKED! however we were in a private room, with our own toilet and stuff which was pretty cool. After about 10 mins, Tiff rings on Emilys phone saying that Kirill has her keys, so we arrange for her to come to where Emily Aeris and I are. So we are sitting around and eating and talking and so on. I must admit I dont find hotpots that great. Sure they are nice but nothing great. Sooooo Tiff and I bailed out and left a bit later after eating some food, and headed off back to the dorms. Since Tiff couldnt get into her room, so slept on Kirills bed till he came back and gave her the key to her room. All in all a pretty crazy, but fun day.

16/9/04 – 17/9/04

Well nothing much happended today. That being the 16th, hence the lack of an update. Oh David went home.

17th, well today wasnt too bad. Ignoring class (which wasnt too bad), I ended up having a weird lunch (kinda like kebabs, but diffrent types with a lot of what I think was tumeric) with Tiff followed by some nice cake things that were mighty tasty. Since I love pastries and cakes I think I might have to visit these cake stores more often. Mmmmmm tasty. So anyways afterwards I went and helped lucy with her english so that she can pass the exam thing that she needs to study in Australia or somthing like that. I am more then happy to do this considering how much she has helped me over the last few weeks. This wasnt too bad, the part she is worried about is speaking and she shouldnt have any problems with that at all. She can get the idea she is trying to communicate across, but sometimes has difficulty explaning it. Also her notes on what the test might be about are in chinglish. So I offered to translate them for her, which I will do ASAP. Afterwards it was time for the last computer class, YAY! Now all I have to do is sit the exam and I am in like Flint. It shouldnt be too hard, so a little study should be good enough to fix me up. Tiff and I were also talking to our teacher about the whole staring thing and well it was interisting to get her views. If you want to know more then email me, cos im getting sick of typing it out. Dinner was also rather good. The Korean place thats on campus (and about 2 mins away, probably less I can see it from my room) is pretty dammed tasty. I rate it quite a bit, and the fact that it sells you Pi Jiu (beer) is quite good. Susan, Tiff Kirill and I all had dinner there and it was pretty good. Neways thats enough for today…. Oh I might also be doing some Tutoring (which i kinda didnt want to do), which should be OK since I will get to go into a Chinese house and have a look around, which should be interising. Neways CIAO, n have a good one.

15/9/04

What to say about today… class, the usual. David took us to this huge lunch deal. It was a banquet thing with 15 dishes and 8 people. Plently of Pi Jiu (Beer). I tried one of everything on the table, and belive me there was a heap of stuff to try. 1000 year old eggs, arent exactly the best thing around. They look pretty cool (but not too tasty) but they taste, well…. just like a egg. I was a little disapointed. The flake, prawns, pork, mutton etc…. was all really good though. Come to think of it, everything was tasty. It was served in this really swish room which was nice. Pics of it soon to follow, when I can be bothered uploading them. Afterwards we kinda chilled out till the next class, which was pretty interising about rendering methods for computer animation (eg Toy Story stuff). However its really funny this random girl in the class came up and said she would take us out on sunday. Now here the catch, we already are doing somthing on sunday with someone else. When Tiff asked her about it (the one in class whos name has escaped me) she said that it was her. So as a consequence, Sunday is going to be a very big day, since we are going to be doing somthing from 10am to 6pm i would say. Meh it wont kill us and im sure it will be fun.

BTW – for those of you worried about my beer intake (im sure some people are) CLICK HERE

Proof that beer and wine are good for you so neh!

Now after walking back from class. (dammed rain, the most useful thing I have ever bought here would have to be the umbrella) I get into my room and start to chill out. Ring ring, goes the phone, its Daisy (The korean girl from next door) saying shes bored cos her roomate is out somewhere (supposedly studying, yeah right). So she comes around and we watch a few movies (Troy and King Arthur, PS she really likes Eric Bana and didnt belive me at first when I said he was an Aussie) and then chat for a while late into the night. It was interisting to get her views on things like North Korea an Japan. She dosnt like N.Koreans very much and considers them not part of her country. They also have conscription and her boyfriend is currently serving in the S.Korean Army. She also dosnt like Japanese very much (although does like some of them as individuals), or the Chinese. She also really dosnt like Harbin, but likes Shanghai. I asked her why she came here and se said that this university has the best Chinese Learning program so yeah. I also gave her a scotch, and she liked it unlike Kirill. When she brings her friend around I will give her some too methinks. She is also thinking of visiting Australia next year to improve her english. Because of this I showed her pics of my house (which she said was really nice), CSU and other things. Its quite amusing, they all find Kangeroos and the other wildlife of Australia so dammed facinating, and they all belive that you can pick up any animal and give it a hug. They get scared when you tell them that you might not want to do that unless you want the crap scratched out of you. Anyways we all talked until about 1:30am and then decided to hit the hay. All in all it wasnt a bad day.

12/9/04 – 13/9/04 – 14/9/04

Sorry people about missing an update or two. There is a reasonable explination. Firstly I did nothing on the 12th. I literally just sat on the internet all day. Mainly because I needed a break and I had the time to do it. The only exciting thing that happended was that there was a wedding going on in the morning. You can see the photos of it somehere in the pictures. It was really really loud and happended pretty early in the morning. Being unusual I took the photos and then went back to bed. So yeah that day was a bit of a write off. Although Tiff and Susan enjoyed teaching English from what I gather.

Right the 13th was no big deal. Class in the morning as per usual, which was pretty fun, although the length can be a bit annoying. After class we decided to goto some random resteruant for a meal. Susan wasnt feeling so good so she went to bed instead. So off Tiff and I went. Oh damm I dont think I will ever forget that meal. We opted for a hotpot and ordered random dishes off the menu (this time we picked things with short names). Boy did we get some interising things. Bok Choy, some sort of thin beef a werid salad, baby octopus and some purple stuff. Now when the purple stuff arrived everyone in the place was looking at us. It really didnt look that good at all. However we ordered it and I will try anything once so into the pot it went. It instantly turned grey and kinda ended up looking like a bleeched tongue. Oh well here goes….. kinda steaky, bitter aftertaste. Not tough at all, it kinda broke apart really easily. It wasnt too good at all. Really curious at this point we asked the waitress what it was. I think the responce was either Kidney (which seems likely after thinking about the shape) or liver (but it wasnt the right colour). Anyway I think I am kinda over hotpots which admittedly I tend to find a bit bland anyway. So concluding this ‘lunch’ (where we chucked most of the stuff into the pot so it looked like we ate it) we all kinda chilled out for a bit and did nothing. Kirril and I headed off to the IT place to get some internet and that was pretty fun. Since we dont speak much Chinese it took us a while to get it sorted out. It all went a bit faster when this lovely chinese girl came up and helped us. Here english name was Echo (which is a cool name I recon) and her English was quite good, I gave her my room number and told here if she stopped by I would give her a present for being so helpful, however I doubt she will ever turn up, prehaps I scared her? Dosnt matter, if she turns up tho I will make good my promise. Tiffany and I decided we needed to let our hair down. The plan was to goto a random bar accross the street and drink some beer and have a bit of fun. More on this in a minute. Firstly however we needed to meet the friends of a guy who works in the Foreign office here. There was about 6 of them, and they were all keen to meet Aussies since we are the only ones that seem to have ever come to the University and be enrolled or somthing. Hence we a still an oddity. They were all lovely and we are going to out with some of them at some point. Now for the planned outing Tiff and I had managed to recruit 2 Japanese guys (Yutaka and Ali), 2 Korean girls (Emily and Daisy), and Kirill to come with us. Sraight into the first bar (which was bloody loud) and several beers (coronas!!!!!!!!) later, Tiff and I decide its time to wriggle around. Now considering they all said they wouldnt we did quite well in getting most of them up there. Tiff took Yutaka and Ali, and I had to physically drag the Korean girls out there. Once out there they had a bit of fun it seemed. They kept trying to leave and I kept grabbing them (nicely, im not a tool) and getting them back out there. After a while Daisy managed to escape. Oh well, I ended up having fun. I even had some random Chinese girl come up and ask where I was from and dance with me for a few songs which was pretty cool. Then they started playing crap songs so well went and sat down again. However we so totally owned that dance floor, and were even clapped off! So Tiff and I declare “TO THE NEXT PUB!” and off we go to the next place thats blaring out music. This one wasnt as good as the other, and we only got to have one dance which actually had moves. All of which defeated me until the end of the the song, which had me a bit annoyed. Then bang on come a live singer (who wasnt good at all) and well all head off to finsh some more beer. I just want to say that the people we were with arent the best drinkers around. When your double lapping people without trying to you know that prehaps you have a problem. Anyway Tiff and I again decide “NEXT PUB!” and off we go again. However the dammed soft others decide its time to call it a night. WHAT! Its only 10:30! After a failed arguement we all headed back, but I convinced the Japanese that on saturday or sunday they are comming out, drinking at my pace and staying out until I leave, muhahahahaha. I also discovered that its going to be either Daisy or Emily’s birthday on Wedsday. So we will take them out again too. And make sure they stay out.

Now the 14th. Class as usual. However half way through guess who walks in? David Tien!!!!! It was really suprising and wonderful. We went out for lunch with him and talked about all sorts of things about the University and China. I cant remeber how long he is going to stay, but its nice to see someone familiar in this very unfamiliar place, even if I feel I have settled in with no worries at all. Bah thats enough for today.