China Trip (30004 words)

Everything below is from when I was in University and went on exchange to Heilongjiang University in Harbin China. Please excuse the spelling and whatever is below as I did write it quite a while ago. This content is taken from http://silica.csu.edu.au/depot/dapeng/harbin/ as I want to preserve a copy just in case it is lost. I will be making a copy of the photos available at some point as there is a lot of content in there I would also like to preserve.


On August 28th I (Ben Boyter a 21 year old Australian from Charles Sturt University) departed the fair shores of the land down under. My destination, Harbin China. Several days before leaving I had decided that I would keep an on-line journal (Blog) in which I would write down what I had done as well as adding pictures of everything I saw. It would be something to help keep in contact with my parents and something I could look back on later. To my surprise it was incredibly popular, with many thousands of hits, and lots of hate email if I failed to put an update up for a while. Unfortunately what I made was for lack of a better word, shoddy. It looked terrible and had a LOT of spelling errors, dead links, dodgy photos, navigation problems etc….

Which brings me nicely to why this exists. Its here to help create a better website one that is easier to use. One that doesn’t have a heap of dead links lying around. One that I would have liked to have created from the beginning. I have also gone through and updated many of the comments for photos (and added more which can be seen as anything added following a * ) as well as hyper-linking text everywhere. I do hope it is appreciated. Now with no further ado, here is the content.


11/9/04

Firstly a big Happy Birthday Mum!!!!!!!! Sorry I wasnt there and that I didnt call you. I couldnt get an outside line at all. I do apologize, I will make it up to you somehow. Anyway today Tiff and I went out shopping with Utaka (I have no idea how to spell it) who is Japanese, and Sunny who is a tiny Chinse girl, and quite lovely. We took a taxi straight to the Church of St. Sophia. Oh man, the taxi drivers are crazy. Weaving in and out of the traffic, crossing lanes, leaning on the horn, running red lights, driving on the other side of the road. It was nuts let me tell you. So after being scared to death on a few turns we arrived and got out, oh damm that was a good feeling let me tell you. We then went an had a look at the church. Wow! Its really really pretty. Being very Russian, its quite interising to look at. It was made in 1907. Personally I would prefer if they restored it more, however I doubt this will happen since I think they wish to preserve the inside as much a possible. It is full of photos that deal with Harbin and its liberation from Japan etc….. Its really quite interising. I also looked around the back and took all these photos of interising russian religous artifacts. However afterwards I then found a sign saying no photo. Whoops! So I took a photo of the sign. Hehehehehe. After this we went accross to this famous shopping centers. I was looking specificly for shoes but they dont have any in my size anywhere around here which is a pity, they have a habving of being to narrow if they are long enough. So looking at the jewelery, I discovered they have this really cool betting thing. You pay for a few oysters which you pick and then shuck them and get the pearl inside. I got 2 and the first one was pretty average, but the second was really nice. They asked me if I wanted them in jewelery but I just took the pearls as they are since they are nice to look at. Tiff bought somthing however im not going to go into details since she is going to use it as a present. But it is quite nice dont worry about that. We then wandered down that very famous street that we wandered down last weekend. Looking in diffrent shops and the like. I stopped into a jeweler and walked out a little poorer. I have 11 boxes with interising things in them to give away. IM not going to mention whats in them however, muhahahahaha people reading this expecting somthing can sweat on that ha! Also when walking along this random lady came up to me and pushed a rose into my hand. I presume she thought Tiff was my Girlfriend or somthing cos she waved at her and then asked for some money. Since I had already accepted it I figured I may as well pay for it. I bought 2 (hey I dont want to show any favorisism) and gave one to Tiff and one to Sunny. They both seemed pretty happy with that. Sunnuy seemed quite shocked at first actually. Ducking into a Korean BBQ place we had lunch which was might tasty. It was also weird how the waiters keep staring at Tiff and I. I dont think im ever going to get used to this. Utaka also said our chopstick skills were quit good which was nice. We also talked to him about how we get stared at everwhere we go, and after lunch we prooved it. Tiff and I walked down the street apart from them. Afterwards they agreed and said everyone does look at us. I asked Sunny why and her responce was “Because you are cool and so handsome” No I know I said i wouldnt mention this again, but bloody hell its getting crazy. Its really starting to effect me too, some random people with spiffy looking cameras took my photo again and I asked sunny why and well you can guess what her responce was. It wasnt “cos your a freak”. Oh well dosnt matter. Wandering a bit futher Tiff decided to get her portrait done from a guy on the street. There is actually about 10 of them all lined up. So she sat down and instantly we are surrounded by 40 million people all having a look. Heck I wasnt doing anything and I had a heap of people standing around me. Not doing anything just staring. And the moment you look back they try pretend it didnt happen. One girl I kept catching at it blushed looked away then walked to a diffrent spot before looking again. There was even this weird short guy who knew about 6 words of english and was very eager to use them on us. Which was quite hard. Its starting to make us feel like monkeys in a cage. But we can handle it cos we cool. Finally having had her sketch done (which was quite good I must admit) we wanderd back down the street. And I managed to find a pair of shoes that fit and werent too bad. So I got them cos I need another pair around here. After that we bought some mooncakes.

http://www.newton.mec.edu/Angier/DimSum/china__dim_sum\__moon_festi.html

See that link to learn more about it. Afterwards we skedadled back to the Uni, sat in Tiffs room and had a for mooncakes, which were pretty tasty. All in all a pretty spiffy day.

Phew! I really should learn somthing about spelling, grammer, and how to paragraph things. Oh well I dont have to read it =P

10/9/04

Well morning classes were more of the same today. Except people asked me where I was yesterday, Oh and apparently my pronunciation is getting better or so the teacher said (i think). Tiff Susan and I also arranged to go out for the day with 2 Japanese blokes and a Chinese girl who is studying both languages. Thats going to happen tomorrow and should be quite good. We also talked to a guy whos name has escaped me in the Foreign office and he asked if he could give out numbers to a girl he knows who is a journalist. Naturally we agreed so prehaps somthing interisting will come from that. I kinda just sat around after class and a meal which was good. However not too long after Kirill and I went down to buy some food stuffs and things. He had never been in the shopping center I took him too, so yeah It was kinda nice to actually be the one leading for once around here. We bought some sausages and the like, which are pretty tasty. The second class for the day was also very interising. Again I was told by random girls in the class I was handsome!!!!!! Im going to have the biggest head. Sorry im not going to mention this sort of thing again, but it tell you its a real shock to the system. Apparently I look like someone thats famous on tv here. In fact several girls asked to pose for photos with me, and wanted my email icq number etc…. anyways enough of that, even tho I dont think I will ever get sick of it (hey who wouldn’t?). So we took some photos of the class and I asked for directions to all of the interisting places around Harbin, which I now have marked on a map. So I will go and visit all of them when I can. I will post photos of this class when I score a copy of a Tiff, which should be tomorrow, or sometime, speaking oh which I should upload the other photos I have from here. Neways that will do for the day. I will have more tomorrow.

9/9/04

Ok I didnt goto morning classes. Frankly I was too tired and well i needed a break. I didnt miss too much apparently and well yeah I needed the sleep. It was nice to do nothing for a bit. Oh it rained today, quite a bit which was a bit of a change from home. I went shopping with Tiff today and bought a heap of food and so on, and 2 jeans west shirts because I didnt feel like washing clothes. I will have to do it soon though. But thats still very lazy. I also thing im going to pay for all my accomdation in one hit soon, since its only about $700 Australian I think, which isnt too bad at all considering how long I will say and the service we are getting. OH funny story on the supermarket I was being stalked. I keep walking around and this one girl kept following me staring at me and then when I looked at her she ducked off into a diffrent isle. It was really strange, but amusing at the same time, this behaviour was semi exmplained a little later on. Oh I also bought some cheese! And bread that isnt super sweet! Comming back the first thing I did was have cheese on bread, with a little sausage. Kirill joined in which was cool. The cheese wasnt great, but hunger is the best sauce, so it was really tasty. There was a few people in the class which was cool. We gave them all info about Charles Sturt Uni and how to get there and such. Tiff also gave them all little koalas holding aussie flags. The all seemed pretty happy about that. Now back to explaining the strange behaviour the Teacher asked us if we get stared at and I told her that story. She simply said oh thats because your so handsome! What is it with these people! This is bad, im going to think im so dammed good when I go back and im going to get shot down somthing fierce. Oh well I can live with it while it lasts. The people in the class are all really nice and seem to want to do somthing together. I think I might shout them all lunch or dinner somewhere which could be a lot of fun, and I recon it would be a really nice thing to do for them all. Its really strange though they are all so shy. I think tomorrow when I go in im going to give them all a big hello and see how they take it, muhahahahaha. Also a few of them wanted to have an English name. Lord its tempting to give them crazy names like Parmenion, and Agamemnon, and so forth, but I think they really want simple names like Mike and Nick etc… because they can say them more easily. They also have problems with th sounds like in the and v sounds. Neways enough of this…. damm i need to wash these socks, or buy more. Im going to take the second option I think, I so cant be bothered washing.

8/9/04

Just wanted to cover some things that I have forgotten. Right firstly 2 days ago sitting in class there were all the loud banging noises. This kept going for a fair while. Naturally I was a little curious so I asked about it. Turns out it was what we suspected. Fireworks and pleanty of them. The noise went on for about 5 mins, and was continousus. Apparently when a store is opened or somthing like that you get a big display like that. The money you use here is pretty dopy looking. It looks a lot like monopoly money, which is very amusing. Also whenever you pay for somthing with a 100 yuan note (about $18) the shop keepers check it to make sure its not fake with theses little machines, very amusing. Now if you ever come here dont be alarmed by all the people waling around holding hands. Its quite common to see girls holding hands, and even men holding hands. It dosnt mean anything, they are just good friends. I even asked Kirril about this and he thought it was normal. I then told him he better not expect me to hold his hand ever, because its not going to happen. A few days ago Tiff and I looked up what each part of out names mean accoring to the chinese spelling. Benjamin = Ben jie ming and means somthing like root/stem, outstanding person, brilliant. Which I thought was rather amusing. Somthing interising to notice here is that all the girls wearing stockings tend to wear white ones. This is somthing to do with the whiter you are meaning you are higher on the social scale because you dont do any manual labour. Oh another thing about the food, the bread here is very sweet. What I wouldnt do for some sourdough bread. I guess its somthing else to look forward to when I come back. I was talking to Kirill the other day and we were talking about the Russian police. He was saying that most are corrupt and take bribes, and that its considered fairly normal there. Today Miriam bought me some Pringles because yesterday I mentioned to her how hard it is to find chips. She also bought Tiff some swiss choclate. In the spirit of the moment I gave her a wooden pen which she seemed quite happy about. She mentioned that she collected wooden things, so hopefully she does like it. Whats interisting about her is that her husband collects slang/colloquilisms from diffrent counties, and asked for an Aussie one. I offered “Flat out like a lizard drinking” which she seemed to find very amusing. On that note im going o be doing a little teaching while im her. So is Susan and Tiff. It shouldnt be too hard and could be quite fun since its for 2nd graders or somthing like that. BTW a few messages ago I mentioned that we had our picture taken for a newspaper on Sun Island, and were told we might make the paper. Did we what, we made the front page. In a big colour photograph! And supposedly its a major newspaper for Harbin. So yeah thats pretty cool. Heres a tempoary link to a photo of the newspaper until i can get a better one,

Newspaper Image

Well theres not too much more to say other then we ordered food in a Korean resteranut today by picking things off the menu, and we have ordering beer down to a fine art. Oh it was also good fun in the computer class today. Talking to the other students who were eager to improve their English and so on. On a unrealted note Kirill is having the longest shower ever. Neways im off.

7/9/04

Interising day today. Right ignoring class which was more of the usual except for the second, but more on that later. Yesterday we went and bought what we thought were dvd players, from a woman in a market. However they turned out to be VCD players (they did have the dvd logo on them tho and I asked the lady if they were a dvd player and she said yes). So naturally we were a bit annoyed and tried to return them. The best we could do (using someone who spoke a little english and was really helpful) was get them excanged for speakers. I guess its not an experience unless you have been a victem of daylight robbery at least once. So after this little fiasco Kirill and I headed down town and bought a real dvd player. We also walked around for a bit in this huge shopping center and listened to the people telling us about things for sale. I could only understand a little of what they were saying but meh. Now interising things to know, they dont seem to have a game store anywhere. I presume thats because of the piracy problems but I cant even find places that tell pirate games which is weird. Oh well dosnt matter. Also there appears to be random parades and things all over the place. I will try to get more pictures of them. Oh and I will get a picture of the streets in peak hour, since some people have been saying that the traffic dosnt look too bad. I will show you all the truth. Now about this second class. Its some sort of multimedia thing thats conducted in English for Tiffany Susuan and I. Its on the top of this 6 story building that dosnt have a lift. Susuan didnt like this very much, but at least we will be getting some more exercise, and considering how much im eating around here that can only be a good thing. So anyway we went into the class and it has about 30 chinese in it. At the time we all figured that they were part of the class, no worries. Later on we discoverd they were all just there because they wanted to speak to Australians, and that the class was just for us. I have a funny feeling that tomorrow there will be about 50 million people in there. Oh well. We did chat to a few of them which was nice. Everyone here is really friendly and helpful, its great. I will take more pictures tomorrow, I just dont feel like doing anything about them at the moment. Hmmmm I do need to go and buy more clothes. I might do that tomorrow or somthing. Oh and this sand fly bite on my arm is bloody annoying. At least I hope its a sand fly… I dont think they have botflys here do they? I bloody hope not.

People asked me what im missing in terms of food, here the list

  1. Cheese.

  2. Smiths potato chips, chicken ones (although apparently you can get pringles here which will ease the pain.

  3. Lamb Chops, oh damm how I want lamb chops right now. Grilled with salt.

6/9/04

Not too much happened today. Class as usual etc… We also meet out new lecturer for our IT subjects. Class for that will be from 6 to 9 monday to thursday. I swear I have never done so much class in all my life. And to worst thing is it starts tomorrow. However the teacher for the subject is really nice so its all good. Tiff had about 5 guys in her room trying to fix her internet, which was supposedly a comedy of errors. Kirril and I went and bought some dvd’s and a player today. Cept the player dosnt work so yeah we will have to take it back and try to get another one that works. Ohhhh I also bought something and the woman who sold it said I was very handsome! (I could get used to this) Kirril Tiff and I then had noodles at some place just accross the road, which were pretty tasty. It was also fun ordering things in chinese. I think im getting much better at the language. I also tried Harbin beer which was pretty tasty.

5/9/04

Damm today was a big day. Lucy Tiff Susan and I all went into the city form some retail therapy and to explore. After a interisting bus trip through the city we arrived at the street that we were going to we walking down. However the first thing I see is a fur shop and I procamaim “whatever they cost we are getting some of those”, little did I know that they cost 20,000 yuan or about $3,500 so yeah no fur coats for me. I have no idea what the streets name we walked down is, but its a tourist street with some really classy shops and the like on it. The entire thing is cobblestones and really nice to walk on. So naturally the first thing I look at is a booze shop, some of the prices are pretty high but some of them are pretty cheap. That reminds me I need to print out the sheet I have that tells me the conversions for most prices. Anyway we looked in all sorts of shopes. They have all sorts of things, like hip flasks, jewelery etc… When we went into a jewellery store I was looking at the pearl bracelets, and well I had to have a few because I thought they were so nice. There is quite a few people on the street, actually there is people everywhere, and its not really that busy. Lucy advised us to have an ice cream from a famous place so we all did. They were pretty tasty too, and each had a few chinese characters on them. I didnt recognise any of them tho which was kinda annoying. Wandering along we looked at all sorts of stores and went into one called tiger fur, or somthing like that. Dont get worried there isnt any real tiger fur in there but damm some of it was classy. Tiff tried on a fur coat and it made her look like a million bucks. Its a good thing im not a girl because I would have lived on air for the next 4 months and paraded around in a nice fur coat. They were really quite lovely. We were also picked out by some woman who gave us sample of green tea, jasmine tea and candied oranges. All were pretty good I thought tho the green tea was better then the Jasmine tea. Anyway we then went and had lunch at a restaurant that David Tiens wife and daughter apperently really like. It was pretty dammed good. I ate everything I could which was good and I even had Tsing Tao beer which wasnt bad at all, althought I recon the Snow beer I had was better. I had roast duck with rice and some roast pork, as did Susuan. Tiff and Lucy had duck in some kind of soup thing. Anyway it was really bloody good. After that we wandered out and had a look at a this monument that is about floods that have effected harbin. Its really quite interising, as was the hunchback which I managed to get a photo of. We then went and had a look the river. There was quite a few people around flying kite which was pretty cool. The river is pretty low, apparently this is somthing to do with the damming of a lake or somthing, I dont really know. Anyway since we stand out quite a bit we had some nice lady come up (whos job was to look for tourists) and tell us about how to visit Sun Island. So we followed her. What was really strange about this was that someone came up and touched Susuan. Apparently she had never seen someone like us before, it was really quite strange. Wandering out to the boats was interising, watching a man fishing for tiddlers to sell to people on the shore of the water and such. Once we reached the boat I was a little hesitant to walk out to them, since well frankly the walkway didnt look that safe to me, but it was which was good, you didnt want to land in the drink since its pretty muddy. What was really amusing is that the tour guide woman, said somthing to Lucy. What she said quote is “he is a very handsome man” I felt pretty dammed good about that for some reason =P Anyway we went off to the Sun Island and looked around on it. When we were taking photos near a piano statue this guy came up who was a photographer for a newspaper here. He asked to take out photos for the paper which was pretty cool. I guess he had never seen an Australian before. We then wandered around and looked at vairous things around the place. I climbed this hill where some small lad came up said a few words like hello and asked me to sign an autograph, and then some old lady asked me to sign one as well. It was pretty strange I must admit, but the celebrity thing is kinda cool. So after this we headed out to the cable car to cross the river again. Lucy was a little worried about it, and Tiff and Susuan reveiled that neither were very comfortable with heights. So I had to try not to make too many comments about how far it was down, the mess we would make if we hit it, how thing the cables were etc….. After touching down with no worries at all, we simply took a few buses back to Hei Da (Helijiang University).

4/9/04

The nightclub last night was pretty dammed cool. Just thought I would open todays blog with that. It was a foreigner bar I think, near the Harbin railway station. Walking in (they dont check id here at all) and upstars I was confronted by a wall of smoke. At first I thought there was a smoke machine, however checking in that turned out to be be wrong. Nearly everybody in the bar/club was smoking. The bar was square shaped with a upstairs that ringed a central dance floor which was on the bottom, so you could look down on it. When we walked in there was 4 Russian girls doing this dance act, all dressed in lingerie. It was really quite good. They danced around for a bit, and then a russian singer came out. Then after a while the dancing girls came back even more scantily clad (to many cheers by the guys in the place) and began dancing again. They were really quite good. At this point everyone was a little thirsty so we all went and bought a few beers. Unfortunatly the only beer was Budweiser. And its bloody terrible stuff. King of beers my foot, but it was wet, and went down pretty easily. The dance music they played was pretty standard, most of it I recoginsed, things like some Moby, Madonna and Eminem. There was also some strange Russian and Chinese stuff. Now I dont dance as a rule. However somehow Tiffany and…. vladamir conviced me to go out and cut some rug. I think the argument they presented was good enough for me to hit the floor and wriggle around. It was basicly “hey nobody here knows you and will probably never see you again”. So yeah I actually went out and shook my thing, and I dont think I looked any more stupid then anyone else. Hell you never know the next time im in Bathurst I may even hit the floor again. In any case it was kinda fun. BTW if you ever come here remeber that the toilets arent segregated. Guys and girls goto the same toilet, but use diffrent stalls. It really confused me for a bit.

Anyway the next day, which is today I sorta slept in, before going off to do some study with Tiff Susuan and Lucy. It was a good oportunity to attempt to learn some more of the language and pick up some skills with pronounciation. We shouted Lucy (she is a lovely person, so if you see here in Australia when she goes there this year be nice to her or I will hunt you down and im NOT kidding) lunch afterwards. We went to the Korean resturant thats located on the campus right near the international food place. It was pretty tasty, however im not sold on carp, its not what I would define as somthing good to eat. All the little bones are a real pain in the backside to avoid. What I do think is quite good is the local beer. I had one longneck with lunch and it was bloody good. And really cheap too, somthing like 4 yuen or 70 cents. A total bargin. I also talked to Lucy about Chinese attitudes about Japanese. WOW! they really dont like them very much. Also the entire meal for 4 including 2 drinks and 2 beers was only 53 yuan, about $9, this place kicks arse. Anyway after that it was back to study for a little while. Its a bit of a shock to the system. I dont study this much for anything, let alone one subject. However im making some progress which is nice. Anyways thats enough for now I think.

3/9/04

Well what can I say about today. Its really just getting started, since Im going out with some Russians germans and a Canadian tonight. It should be quite fun. Class was more of the same, except its really hard because we have never studied the language before. Everyone else has had some chance to learn it and it really puts us at a disadvantage. Nevermind, a litte extra work wont kill me at all. You know what Im really missing out here? Cheese. I want a block of Cheese to munch on, but there is none. They have plastic cheese but i dont want fake cheese. Although I think i might just have to put up with it when I finally get crazy for it. I could really go some blue vein cheese right now mmmmmm tasty. During lunch today with the mob, Craig mentioned that you cant even say “I like you” to a traditional chinese girl. Apparently they interpert it as “i love you”. He said he had 3 stalker during the first few months of his time in Harbin. So yeah Im going to have to watch myself, while having one for a while might be cool i think i would rather just avoid it. Im kinda getting sick of the food in the cafeteria. Dont get me wrong its pretty tasty, but its the same thing for every meal. I so need to go shopping I think. I really need a decent set of headphones, cos the ones I borrowed from Tiff really hurt my ears (i dont think they are big enough), and I desperatly need sunglasses the light is killing my eyes. Oh I should probably mention this before I forget this place has the most unusual smells. They kinda waft over every now and then. Some are quite foul but some are good…. speaking of smells someone is dying their hair around here and the smell of the peroxide (is that was it is?) is kinda killing me. Hmmm I seem to have run out of anything else to say.

2/9/04

Well It looks like quite a few people have been visiting this site. Hurray! I didnt spend 5 mins building it in vain. I dont have any pics for you today simply because I didnt really go anywhere, and I also didnt take my camera with me. Class was… interisting. Its really quite diffrent the be taking a language class in another language. I dont have huge problems following whats going on in them however. I am learning things however. I know how to write my name in chinese characters, I also know how to write ni and hao. I can also read and pronounce nearly anything thats written in pinyin, which is useful. The language seems to use the roof of your mouth to speak more then English. Its quite annoying at first, but you do get used to it pretty quickly. Its also amazing how quickly you pick up some things. For instance I now know when the teacher is asking if I understand, or is saying that I have done well. It was also a shock when I bought a bread roll with honey in it and thanked the lady who sold it and she said bukeqi (pronounched book-a-cheer well kinda) and I knew straight off what she said without thinking about it (it means “your welcome”). I went for a bit of a wander today. The main purpose was to pickup the passport photos that we all need to get a student card. Whats quite amusing about it is that I was wearing the “Beer Delivery Guy” shirt when the phto was taken. So all of the photos say beer in them. After they I ended up wandering around the back and side streets around the place, just checking out everything around. Its quite amusing because 3 minutes later up comes this nice student at the Harbin Medial University and starts talking to me. I guess he just wanted to test his English, which was sketchy, but not bad at all, I told him this and he seemed quite happy about it. I asked him about these students that were marching in the square of his university, and he said somthing about how all first years have to do it. It did look pretty funny since most of them were out of step and so on. After that I wandered throught section B Heilongjiang University (the one im at), and its even bigger then I thought it was. I know there is a section C and that it is 20 mins walk away, but I have no idea how many sections there is after that. Probably a lot though. Tiffany checked and we are allowed to have a pet here, somthing like a turtle or somthing. So im thinking I might get one. The only problem with it is what to do with it when I leave, since im sure I would get attached to it. Tomorrow Tiff and I are going to head out to a city nightclub with the Russians (christina and friends) and Graig (the canadian) which should be a lot of fun. It will be interisting to see how many nationalites are there when I go to it. Anyways thats about all for the day.

1/9/04

Today was the first day of classes. These are all in a building pretty close to mine and with a whole heap of people. They start at 8:00am and finish at 12:20. Which is a long time but you dont seem to do much in there. There is frequent breaks which is nice, but a lot of the time seems to be wasted. They are all in pure chinese, which makes life kinda difficut, but at least the textbooks have english in them. I have no idea how the Koreans cope with it. The aussies are kinda at a disadvantage here, because most of the other nations have had some experience learning chinese. Thankfully we are in a class with Craig (the canadian), Christina (russian girl) who is a bit of a riot, who have a smattering of chinese, and 2 germans who can speak a bit of chinese. So anyway the language is pretty hard. Its a tone language and you have to use 4 diffrent tones to say things. It can be pretty difficult at times since some of the sounds dont really have any english equilivents. In any case im going to get a tutor to help me with it. As is most of the other people i think. Anyway after class which was pretty cool, I had lunch with Craig, Christina, Tiffany, Susan, Natasha (another russian), and a german bloke whos name has escaped me. It was pretty cool, they have these nice roll things that kinda have honey in them or somthing, but are pretty dammed tasty. After discussing views on the world etc… and asking people about their country and so on, Tiff Susan and I headed off to the supermarket to get some things. I ended up buying a watch (a quartz kingtris thing) a pillow (i need 2 at night i have decided) and some random food stuffs, most of which I have no idea what they are. Some of them taste pretty good tho. They have these chips here that taste like steak which is kinda weird. Anyway the total cost for all of that was about $50 which was groceries, watch, books, food, pillow etc… pretty dammed cheap really. I think im going to buy a dvd player and hook it upto the tv. Cos I dont really want to watch them on my pc, and besides the tv is louder.

http://worldfacts.us/China-Harbin.htm

The above is a link to some facts about harbin if you can be bothered looking at it. Anyways im done for the moment. I might get around to uploading some pics in a while.

31/8/04

Well today started well and ended even better. Firstly I got all my subjects and things sorted out, with Sui Han (i think thats how its spelt) who can speak fluent english. Then I wandered down the road with Tiffany and Susuan to get Tiff an network card. Pity that the line to her room is kinda busted. Then we headed back and chilled out for a bit. Then it was down into the center of harbin to the bank of china…. the big one anyway. There we meet another Australiann whos name has escaped me for some reason. Anyway he informed us that we can simply use out cards in any Bank of China atm which is greatly reliving because I was kinda running out of dosh. So Tiff and I then pulled out some money from the bank. I pulled out too much apparenty because Lucy said i should hide the money and shred the recipt, and the place the shreds in diffrent bins. I did do this but i think the chances of me getting mugged are pretty slim. I just a wee bit bigger then well, frankly everyone around here. So then a quick walk through the city to find what Lucy rates as one of the best dumpling places around and the we hopped back on the bus to get back to the uni. Its a great comfort let me tell you to know that i can pull money out whenever I need it. Even if i do pull to much out each time. Im sure I will spend it however, possibly on dvd’s, since they are only 6 yuan or about a dollar australian here. Anyways im going to sign off because there isnt too much to say, other then the folks ran me. Everything is good otherwise.

30/8/04

Well this has been a slightly eventful day. I went down town with Lucy, Tiffany and Susan, to the bank of China. Unfortunatly for me, they wouldn’t allow me to take out any money. So it looks like I will have to head to the main bank in town or something in order to live. It was so weird walking down the street. Eveyone was staring at us. And not with any subtleness either. Its weird when a bus passes and everone in it is looking at you, let me tell you. The traffic is crazy, seriously! I am afraid to cross roads its that nuts. Walking back we headed into a book store to pick up some books on how to speak Chinese. It’s a huge book store, with 5 levels and thousands of books around the place. I also met this nice Canadian bloke named Craig there which was great. He has stayed here before as a teacher but is now back as a student to learn Chinese. Its nice to know there will be some other people around that I can talk to. Anyway he had to head off so we wandered down to a supermarket. WOW! There is so much stuff in there, clothes, food, toys, electonics, stationary, in the sporting goods there was even nunchucks for sale. In both wooden and metal versions. It was really quite amazing. And the biggest thing was how cheap everything was. Working out how much it costs in Australian money just isn’t worth your time its that nuts. With some luck I should have internet access by the end of today so then I can upload all of this and some pics for you all.

29/8/04

After having a decent sleep and waking up at 8:30 its time for a shower to pack my crap and head off to the lobby to be taken back to the airport. Damm the scenery is bleak. A quick journey to the airport where I chat to the German woman I was talking to yesterday. Find my flight, through all the checks etc… and straight into waiting for the plane. A short flight later (which completely avoids North Korean airspace) and I am over china. Interesting note I am the only Anglo Saxon on the flight at all. What really strikes me is the amount of crops growing around the place. So through customs etc… which didn’t even hold me up, I am outside and hit by “taxi?” and the followed around by people asking if I need one. As promised however there was someone to pick myself and a few other students up. Unfortunately he had very little English speaking ability. By which I mean almost none. Never mind he mentioned “University” so I figured he was the one to follow. Driving through the city is nuts. Traffic accidents are all around, people casually leaning on the horn, bike riders weaving in and out, people in small pedal cars, its just nuts. Anyway I arrive at my dorm, and after a while get taken into where I live (cost $4 us a day) the catch is I am in with another person. His name is Kirill. He is pretty nice however. He is Russian 17 doesn’t drink vodka (what???? I thought most Russians drank it) and is here to study Chinese language. After a bit the phone rings and it’s Lucy. I don’t know exactly what she does, but she speaks English reasonably well so I go and meet her. I also meet her dad, and they whisk me off to meet Susan and Tiffany. Both lovely people. However I discover they are paying for their own room in the place. They have 2 beds and pay for the other one. What I am going to do tomorrow is see if I can get the same deal in the block they are living in, because frankly I need a place where I can do a little timeout. And it would be nice to be near people who I know can speak to me. So I finish the night getting to know them a little better.

28/8/04

Well what can I say? To begin with I didn’t realize that two 5 o’clock exist. I knew there was one in the afternoon, but as to the one in the morning, whoa! Perhaps a 4 o’clock exits as well.

Please note that anyone trying to do a smartarse imitation of “The Castle” will be disappointed, because I remembered what I had for meals and what movies I watched.

Well arriving at the airport I discovered that in actuality I was having a stopover in Seoul. Bit of a shock considering how I thought I was actually going to Shanghai. Oh well I can say that I have been to Korea as well. Now since I have a ticket its time to hit the duty free booze. Oh yeah. So I scored some Glenmorangie 10 year old scotch. Right after a semi misty eyed farewell to the folks, brother and godmother, its time to head off to get scanned, checked prodded and poked. Actually it wasn’t so bad at all. I didn’t even have to go through the metal detector more then once. Sitting down at the gate (number 32 if you really want to know) I all of a sudden feel slightly out of place. Checking around, number of people who can claim to be Anglo Saxons, 0. So anyway naturally the flight is delayed. Anglo Saxons 5. This is meant to be an 8:45 flight and it doesn’t even begin to board until 10 past nine. Anglo Saxons 9. After stepping onto the plane and sitting down at the back right (yay! a window seat, with nobody next to me!) there are the usual checks safety instructions etc…. We take off. And out comes brunch. With food (black bean beef with choy sum and rice, fruit, black forest cake and a bread roll) a movie (13 going on 30) Ben is starting to think, “Hey this flight thing is pretty easy. Why do people winge about it so much. Time passes. More time passes. Pressure builds. Another movie (The punisher), 3 cramps, a stiff neck, a twitching left eye, and this strange curried egg fart awfulness; I decided its time to let the dam break. Man those cubicles are small. I wonder what really obese people do in there…. dammit I have too good an imagination to think about things like that. Sitting down again its time to hit the puzzles. Dammed cryptic crosswords. I managed to defeat 3 in 2 hours or so, but oh damm my brain hurt after that.

Ok the movie Hellboy has started again, I should watch that….. I kinda fell asleep somewhere in it, so I guess it wasn’t that good. Oh well. Checking out the in flight where you are thing I notice that Iwo Jima is just of the starboard side, luckily where I am sitting. Then the next meal heads out (Marinated chicken, beef parmentiere, chocolate cake and a bread roll). At this point I just sit and think. And I am getting bloody sick of the whining noises from the plane and the people around me. A bit later and we are flying over Japan. However I can’t see a thing until we pass Osaka and it just suddenly stands out. I guess dirt and trees just don’t have enough albedo to reflect the light so you can see them from the height I guess. And so the land of the rising sun refuses to reveal its mysteries. Never mind I will be back to check it out one day. At this point I decided to check out the in flight radio. And on pops Avril Lavigne – Don’t Tell Me. Nothing else to do I listen to it. And guess what, it’s censored. You know the line “will get you into my pants” and the next one about how she will kick some arse? Well it was cut out. It wasn’t even a good job. And it’s not like it’s that bad anyway. So what’s the deal with cutting it?

So finally we arrive at Seoul. No major problems getting through customs etc…. straight out to find the place where I can get taken to a hotel. Being escorted around is pretty cool, makes me feel kinda special, but when the driver has white gloves on! WHOA! What’s interesting is that I didn’t even notice that they were driving on the other of the road until he had to stop to pay a toll. And what’s the deal with those flashing fake police lights on the road? Anyway after booking in at my motel (Novatel. score!) It’s about 9:30. After eating and having a much needed shower its 11:00. If only that flight wasn’t late, or I wasn’t so rooted I would be out having a look at Korea. Instead I am so dammed tired it’s a struggle to even type this. A quick check seems too intricate a wireless network around here however. Time to do a little haxoring and see what I can find before I go to sleep. Oh and yes the water does go the other way around when it goes down the drain =P

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.

 

01/02/05 – 14/01/05

Well I figured I may as well add an end of the story, I believe that anyone who reads this deserves and end to the story and hence I am writing this for you all. Anyways what to say….. Here is my description of New Years Eve for you all.

IT WAS LIKE THE APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gunpowder smoke everywhere (making it hard to see), fires burning in the street, fireworks launching in the sky, enough small bangs that it sounds like its raining VERY hard on a tin roof. Giant bangs that rattle your teeth every minute or so. Figures running around, fireworks that fell over launching crap at you, it was nuts!!!!!! The majority of the explosions ended at 2:00am.

And ever so fun, I blew up my share of stuff, and even threw fireworks out the window of my unit which is 8 floors up onto a main road. Didn’t burn myself at all. I would have gotten photos, but my camera stopped working. I guess the cold really affected it. Anyways it was a wicked cool time and I can still hear explosions going on.

Like it says it was a great time and I really enjoyed myself for the duration of it. Now… the trip home… uneventful really. Getting onto the plane was rather easy (hey I like knowing the right people), which Chinese customs not even looking at me. It was rather sad saying goodbye to Cookie and Angel who have been a rather large part of my life at this point. I wish them the best of health and luck in whatever they decide to do in the future. Anyways the trip as I said was nothing special and it wasn’t really that much fun. Oh well that’s long plane trips for you. Customs in Australia was also rather efficient. Naturally I declared a few things such as the Tea I wanted to bring in as well as my leather jacket etc… The people there looked at what I had (in the line I might add) decided I obviously wasn’t dangerous and flagged me through. I didn’t even get x-rayed which was a bit of shock. I cannot complain at all. As a result all of the DVD’s I wanted to bring into the country weren’t a problem at all. Meeting the folks was a nice thing I must say. It was a mixture of feelings when I saw them waiting at the airport. It was great in a word. I loved it. Getting back home was nice as well. Hence I will close this now. It has been a lovely experience and I have been very happy to share it with you all. This is the final blog that I will make, thank you for reading it and if I didn’t get to say goodbye to you in China I do apologize. You know who you are. Anyways signing out.

Hong Kong – Xian Odyssey

28/1/05 – 31/01/05

Right on the 28th we had a look at the amount of effort that would be required to get to the major attractions ourselves so we just booked ourselves on tours. Easier for us in the long run. The first things we wanted to see were the famous Terracotta Army Warriors of Xian. Unfortunately we ended up going to a heap of other places that we didn’t want to before hand. I guess these tours get extra money for plugging the tourist attractions. The main thing being that because it is the extreme low season for tourists here there is nothing to see really. Most of the attractions we closed etc… which was a bit of a plus since it means there weren’t too many hawkers trying to sell stuff. They can get really annoying even when you tell them in Chinese I don’t want it. One of them was very insistent, he was a small child, and I told him for 2 minutes that I didn’t want it and he kept following me. Eventually I told him to F off in Chinese and he took the hint. Now ignoring all of the boring stuff the highlight of this day was obviously the Terracotta Army. I didn’t get a sense of awe from the Great Wall or The Forbidden City, that was anything like the one I got from the Terracotta army. I don’t know if I can describe it. I remember feeling after the Great Wall well I climbed it…. But after the Army I felt as though OK I have seen what I really wanted to see I can go home now. I’m not going to repeat too much about it here, just look at the pictures. Another interesting thing was walking outside we walked past a group and a little boy in it was “Look Mum! Americans!” so I turned around and told them “We are foreigners but we are not Americans we are Australian” They seemed pretty shocked at that, saying wow your hearing is good. Muhahahaha. The 29th was also pretty good. The main things on the day were the Tombs of the Empress, and the Empress’s Son. They were pretty interesting. As was the final museum, which showed all kinds of Buddhist relics…. Unfortunately photos weren’t allowed to be taken…. Which means the ones I did take are a little fuzzy and from a distance. Don’t tell anyone however because I am sure someone will hunt me down. In my defense I didn’t use a flash which I think was the main consern for the exibit. Now the 30th was also a good day. Starting off we ended up at some Chinese medicine place. Tiff dared to tell the people there I had diarrhea and see what they suggested. The poor sales girl could barley control her laughter when I did tell her and then took me over to see what could fix it up. The thing she pointed out was a weird fossilized kidney thing. Anyways we soon left that. Supposedly 3 mountains are in China that need be climbed. One of them is Hua Shan in Shannxi province. On the 30th it was conquered… again. It was a bloody hard walk considering the mountain is 2,100 meters tall or so. Thankfully a Cable car (build by Austrians) takes you half way. The rest is all on foot. My lord it was a hard climb. Even with stairs it’s still dammed hard. The views are incredible however and totally worth it. Some Chinese girl walking along near us fell over with laughter when I told her we should have taken the lift to the top. Also some other guys were talking about us and Tiff told them that we understood and they quickly shut up. Anyways enough of me harping on, just go and see the pictures because they tell a better story. Tomorrow the plan is to check out the main parts of the city, and then the next day head back to Harbin.

22/1/05 – 27/01/05

It has been a big break since I last wrote in this. Well as I write this I am sitting in a hotel in Xi’an. Firstly about Hong Kong. We spent ages walking around the Kowloon side and on Hong Kong Island. We were really lucky in that the 2 times we went to the top of the mountain, Victoria Peak. The view at the top is incredible. It think it is better at night personally. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures at the top at this time. That day we also ate off the street which was nice. I ended up getting chicken livers in special salt. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. It was kind of chewy…. But not too bad at least. At the beginning of the day Tiff bought a Video camera. So if you see here, be sure to see all sorts of random footage since she was kind of excited and happy to play with it. We also went to Jumbos floating restaurant. The food was average, the service was average, and the prices were inflated…. But I guess its one of those things you have to do. The next day I bought a camera. Nothing fancy just a simple camera that I can take photos. All good and proper. We also went back to the top of the mountain to check out the view during the day which wasn’t too bad. I took a few photos. By the time you have read this they should be uploaded for you all to have a look at. Hmmm what else….. Oh we got totally mobbed by people at the bottom of the Chungking Mansion. There are a heap of Indian guys telling you to come to their restaurant. Now up to this point we had ignored them. However since we kind of decided to have Indian food one night, Tiff made the mistake of taking one of the pamphlets. The next 2 minutes were like dawn of the dead, with 20 or 30 guys standing around each of us trying to convince us that their restaurant is the best. It was somewhat scary in a way and we ducked into a nearby shopping mall to avoid them. In the end we went to the only place that has A/C and is licensed. The place was called Swagat. It was really quite good food. The next day we bought some silks etc….. And then checked out and headed for Beijing. Unfortunately we had been unable to get direct tickets to Xi’an so we figured we would go to Beijing then play it by ear. It worked out really well and we were able to get a train the same day to Xi’an. The only problem being that it meant going 30 something hours without a wash…. I did kind of feel very dirty at the end of it. Rolling into Xi’an the plan was to head to head to a Hotel that is very closely located to the railway. In the end a guy saw us reading up on it and carried our luggage their. We then booked in. The first thing being a shower and some much needed sleep. Getting up at 12 we wandered off the Main Bank of China. The other thing that was interesting is that I caught a child about 6 years old attempting to pick Tiff’s pocket. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. The child seeing he was caught wandered off. He is lucky I was shocked because the things I would have said to him might not been…. Errrr in good taste. We then stopped off for a meal and then back to the hotel. The plan being to go out and do things tomorrow after a bit of a recovery.

19/1/05 – 21/01/05

Well I am changed around on the subject of long Chinese train trips. Traveling Soft Sleeper, while more expensive, is much better. See the pictures. Anyways arriving at the station and sitting in the V.I.P. lounge (the first advantage of being Soft Sleeper) we then got onto the train. WOW!!!! Not only did we have our own T.V to watch (with some of the shows having English) we also had power! This meant I could play around with my laptop for most of the trip. Since we started at 8pm however I did go to sleep at around 12. Arriving in Beijing (awoken at 6 am arghh!!!!!) we got off the train and went for breakfast. Now at this point we didn’t have a ticket to get to Hong Kong yet. The plan was go to the West railway station and buy one there. We leapt into a taxi and off we went. Talking with the taxi driver was fun. He said he didn’t like foreigners because they were bad. Oh well it doesn’t matter. He took the fastest way to the train station which was nice. Now the size of the West railway station is well frankly enormous. We ended up having to ask directions about 8 times to get to the ticket office then a few more times to get to where we had to go to get onto the train. Frankly I thought leaving China would be a bit harder. They didn’t even frisk us for cultural relics or anything. Now when we go to onto the train we ended up in a compartment of our own. Unfortunately we didn’t have power or a TV on this train which was a bit of a blow. Oh well it means playing cards, reading books, and sleeping. Although I hate having nothing enforced on me it wasn’t too bad this time. We also went to the dining car and ended up talking to an English couple and a couple from Finland. This started because I asked the waitress to bring some Iced Tea (in Chinese of course) and they asked me what it was. So we talked about why we were here, where we were going etc…. They couple from Finland are going to Australia soon which should be good for them. Anyway after dinner back to the cabin to watch some south park then read and get some sleep.

The next day we were well into Southern China. The landscape was totally different to Northern China. Rather the view from the train is different. It’s more mountainous, and generally more interesting to look at. This may be because I am somewhat used to the north however. We went off for breakfast in the Dining car which was eggs and toast. Not too bad but too expensive for what it was. Then back to the compartment to pack etc…. Not too much to do really, however by 1pm we were in Hong Kong. Hurrah!!!!!! It’s totally different to elsewhere in China. Most of them speak English which is nice. A quick train trip across town to out destination. The Chungking Mansions. Now it sounds fancy but is perhaps described with the word ‘ghetto’. I have stayed in some pretty dodgy places in my life but this one takes the cake. The room is well…. About 1.8 meters by 2.5 meters long. 2 beds and a tiny (1.5 x 1m) shower/toilet. It’s really ratty, and so is the building. It is however very cheap, and clean which is the most important thing. It is also in the main section of Kowloon on Nathan road which is good. Being right in the middle is nice. The shopping is well fantastic. It’s amazing how much stuff there is around here. I am having problems finding the Bottoms Up club as seen in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Never mind I will find it in time. Tiff and I wandered around for a bit with her buying a bag. There truly is anything you wish to buy here. We also managed to find the famous Tailor Sam’s. I will probably go there and get a shirt made or something like that just because I can. What else to say…. Not much really. Heaps of things are planned for tomorrow. So I will leave it at that.

9/1/05 – 19/1/05

Whoa! Look who is lazy…. Maybe I should have updated a little more then I have. What to say…. Getting a shirt made which should be cool. It’s some Chinesey looking thing with a dragon on the back and these threaded button things. Should be pretty fancy. It was nice getting measured up, and extremely funny to watch them do Tiff. The tailor basically told her hips were too big and her waist too narrow!!!! BAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! In other words she has a shape. Very amusing. What else…. Err not much really…. Oh I sang Karaoke can you believe it? More then once too… I need to get out of this country it is starting to effect me in a bad way it seems. Dancing singing… what next?! In any case it’s not too much longer come to think of it. Now at the end of today I should be heading towards Beijing. Hence this will probably be the last message/blog/entry for a while since I am planning on getting to Hong Kong then Xian. If I can I will put more on here, if not…. Well there will be a heap of pictures when I can get access to the internet again. So basically this is a small sign off. Oh I should probably mention, went to an all you can eat place last night. 35Yuan ($6) with unlimited beer as well. OH YEAH!!!!!!!

2/1/05 – 8/1/05

Well I actually have some things to talk about. The 2nd was pretty boring and mainly consisted of sitting around and preparing for the forthcoming exams. They weren’t too hard at all and I was surprised at how well I think I went on them. The rest of the week was more exams etc… which was quite good. We all went well and Tiff should blitz it since she knows so many more characters. On the Wednesday Tiff and I went out with Angel and Cookie. We looked around these really fancy shops and we found the coolest store ever… wait for it…. It sold Jackie Chan merchandise!!!!!! Shirts, pants, watches etc… however the big catch is that it’s all pretty expensive. $100 AUD for some of the shirts which are admittedly very cool looking. We had lunch in this store and ate some food that comes from different parts of China. The best thing being the Hamburgers from Xian. They are more like Kebabs then hamburgers and really quite tasty. Finishing it we wandered around the store which was preparing to have a 6 day sale because it is 6 years old in a day or two. Cookie and Angel have wanted to have their photos taken with us for a long time so we got them done. The way it was done is similar to those sticker photos that you see in many video arcades. Except this took forever to do. While it was a pain I did get to look at these girls getting their nails done which was interesting. They have these…. What can only be described as tasteless and tacky fake nails. They put small raised patterns on them, I.E. like raised flowers, and some even have small dangly earrings hanging off them. Really awful looking things. Interesting to look at but one has to ask why at the end of it. I suppose they aren’t too bad…. Just not my thing. Anyways afterwards we wandered to the bank and to the post office to post some stuff. I ended up getting some stamp sets because some people wanted some, and because I wanted one. They are kind of surprise gifts… (which were asked for…. So are they still gifts?) So I won’t go into details about them. Anyways when we finally finished the exams Tiff and I took Susan to lunch since she is going to England on Monday and we were likely to be busy on the weekend. We went to a BBQ place across the road and it wasn’t too bad cooking the food etc. We also that night went with the class to the 6th Harbin Ice and Snow World. WOW!!!!!!! The size of the things that can be carved out of Ice is incredible!! Tiff and I raced down the big slide that is the great wall. Well kind of… since it is partitioned you cannot really see what’s going on. It’s done luge style and seriously the tight is to hold on tight and try not to die. Totally worth it, and incredibly fun. Since it was with the class we ended up wandering around with Craig and Christina which was quite good. There was a wall of ice with a rope on it which I stupidly climbed. It’s the sort of thing that would require legal fees, signature on a rights waver and a harness in Australia. However I decided to climb to the top and then walk down the stairs. Naturally I conquered the thing. After this we headed to the giant Ice disco floor and after looking for a bit then headed to the Harbin Beer Snow Castle for a few cold ones. Stupidly we asked for 4 beers before asking what the cost was. 30 Yuan each!!!!!! Talk about being majorly ripped off. Oh well. Because of it we took the bottles with us. Normally you cannot do this because they cash them in for money. Pics of the ice festival will be coming soon. Back onto the bus and back to Uni. Meeting up with Zuran (spelling?) and a Korean guy whose name has escaped me we went to a hotpot place for dinner. It wasn’t bad actually as we sat and talked and drank beer etc… The consensus then was to head out to Kiss Disco. This is the big one that we had previously been to before with the floor that is on springs or something. I cannot believe that I someone who never takes the dance floor spent the majority of the time there on it. This is getting to be a bad habit of mine. Anyways we then headed to Blues Bar which has quite a few foreigners. There was even 2 other Aussies who have only been in Harbin for 2 weeks, and already getting into trouble with the Russians. I decided to bail at this point with Zuran and the Korean guy.

Next day. We had arranged to meet Christina and Craig. Craig said he knew of a place that sells decent hamburgers. He wasn’t kidding. They are ever so tasty. The place is run by some African bloke and is really hard to find. It has a reputation based mainly on word of mouth. Seriously I can only describe it to be like one of the cafes in the Blue Mountains. Quiet (rare in China), with the same sort of foods etc… Really good. Afterwards we headed to a DVD store. After buying a few Craig and Christina headed off while Tiff and I went in to get her another Web cam that has a light. It’s the same as mine and apparently works better then her original one which is good. Neways enough from me. I think the Hamburger is making me ill despite being so dammed good. I think I need a lie down for a few hours.

23/11/04 – 1/1/05

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Firstly I want to apologize for the lack of updates. I have been rather busy. However since things have calmed down somewhat I should be able to update a little more often. Right, on the 23rd Angel Tiff and I went to this Ice Festival thing. Angel managed to get some free tickets and we went. The pictures have been up for a while and show all kinds of things there. Most impressive of all were the Forbidden City in Ice and the Aircraft Carrier. The latter having a huge ice slide down it (more about that in a sec). The ice was filled with lights and everything was really pretty and clean. Tiff fell over and busted her knee which wasn’t good. However she did end up with “a colourful bruise”. Now the slide was 5 Yuan to ride. That’s less then $1, however the queue was really long, however behind the slide was a huge mound of snow and ice that people were sliding down for free….. If you could climb to the top. Tiff and my years in Scouts obviously paid off as we quickly ascended the slope and waited to slide down. It was fast, it was fun, and it was painful…. Very painful. You see the ‘slide’ didn’t have a nice end. It ended by becoming ground at a very different angle to the angel you slide down. As such I really nailed my tailbone. It was pretty painful I can tell you. Also while sliding down I kicked up so much snow I couldn’t see a thing since I was blinded with it going in my eyes. All good and fun. Afterwards we went to KFC to have a got drink and sit in the warm. I am sorry about the lack of pictures, the extreme (yes it was extreme) cold prevented my camera working.

The 25th being Christmas was the next big day. Tiff describes it quite well so I will just quote her here. BTW I will leave it as it is with no spell checking or anything.

“Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Hope everyone got everything they wished for.

Christmas eve was a riot … Ben and I went and bought chrissy supplies and copious amounts of beer from the supermarket and went out for dinner to a korean bbq which was heaps good. After dinner we came back to my room and watched EuroTrip – Its absolutely hilarious .. i recommend it- while watching the movie we had chips and beer … and this wine. Now, keeping in mind – we bought 2 bottles of this wine from the supermarket for Aud$3, it was absolutely foul. It was Red apple wine, and green apple wine… i have never tasted anything so bad in my life … so we mixed baijiu with it .. and it made it 10 times worse. It was so bad .. but we managed to drink the 2 bottles – we couldnt waste it .. lmao … i acutally think ben made me drink more as i always seemed to have a full glass and he wasnt filling his up – i think something suss was going on – anyways… it was brilliant fun…

Christmas was good. My mum rang at 2am to wish merry chrissy and then my family rang again at about 8am for the family round of merry christmases. Was good to hear everyone. Ben came down about 10.30 and we had biscuits and ham and cheese with pringles and chips and ice tea for breakie – while watching Love Actually. We tried ringing susan – but she wasnt there which was a bit annoying because we wanted to swap pressies and things, so after the movie at about 2… susan turned up so we did the pressie swap thing … Ben bought me this absolutely gorgeous bracelet – its red and has jade flowers on it … its brilliant… I love it. Thanx Ben :) … I also got a scarf from Susan which was nice. Angel bought me this head thing … i think its made of coconut shells … but its cool … also got a candle from oneof my students, and this huge chinese knot from James … its great – i dont know how i am going to get this stuff home!! … I got a card from one of my students which is really sweet. So after pressies and all , Ben and i headed down the street to buy more beer. We got Mirium and Robert a fruit things aswell. At 4, after giving the girls in the canteen around the corner a lil chrissy present, we headed out the ShuangChang to have chrissy dinner with Mirium and her husband – Mirium is one of our classmates from Switzerland. We turned up and OMG .. their house is gorgoeus. The Kitchen was amazing .. it was HUGE … so we sat around and talked with mirium, robert and another fellow that was there i cant remember his name … but he worked with Robert. They were so lovely. And then the food came…. damn there was so much!! … We had a salad to start with with this bread that mirium made herself, then we had soup. and then the mail meal. Roast Chicken, Carrot, Onions, Red Cabbage, Potato, brussel Sprouts, cawliflower with white sauce and gravy… it was soo good. And yes mum .. i did eat the brussel sprouts .. ben said he would vouch for me ;) .. So after stuffing myself with the food which tasted so good. We cleared the table and Ben and I got stuck into the dishes … we washed and dried the whole lot. Yes mum and dad .. thats right …. i washed every single dish that was dirty … and Ben dried. Mirium and Robert were so greateful for it … but hey … ive always been taught to offer for the dishes … and i did. So Ben and I had a good natter while doing the washing up while the other sat in the lounge room and talked. 2 soaking wet teatowels and lots of wrinkly fingers later, we had finished and headed into the lounge room where we all sat around the chrissy tree singing christmas carols while mirium playe dthe guitar .. it was aweesome. Then Robert read a bit of the Christmas story out of the bible and then deseert. Fruit salad and cream with coffee and things. We gave eachother pressies after that. Miruim and Robert bought me 2 pairs of socks …. both knee high and one pair are toe socks … also this pig thing you like pull them away from eachother and let them go and they like wiggle back to eachother .. its cool. By that time it was 10.30 and our taxi driver was waiting for us so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Harbin. It was an absolutely brilliant night .. i had a good time. And we’ve been invitied back for miriums cooking which is a bonus!! ..

Today has been uneventful. Just cleaning the mess up in my room that ben and i created yesterday with everything and fixing up some things for when i go home in a few weeks:)”

Boxing Day consisted of rest and recovery. Which was nice, however I missed the usual sitting under the A/C sweating and watching the Cricket and then the Sydney to Hobart start. A little later we also had a Chinese Character exam…. this is where my weakness lies. I don’t know nearly enough characters to pass these things with confidence. This is annoying. However if they are spoken I understand. Oh well such is life. I am still very impressed that I can read anything at all. In other news, New Years Eve and day… Before going out on New Years Eve Tiff and I wandered down to the bank and also went into the Bookshop. I managed to walk away with only 2 books. Both of which are on programming and so cheap compared to the cost of ones in Australia ($10 vs. $100), so I may as well stock up with a few. New Years Eve was somewhat uneventful (Sorry Tiff) we went out to a bar which was nice, drank some Coronas (even got a glass of Champagne which was nice) however for some reason I wasn’t feeling 100%. I did however spend the last moments of 2004 on the dance floor, and even did the countdown to the new year in Chinese which both Tiff and I were rather proud of. It kind of ended pretty quickly after that however. New Year’s Day however is a different story. Lucy, Shannon, Susan, Tiff and I went to Sun Island to see the snow sculptures. It was pretty cool. They are really impressive. However it was bloody cold which hampered on the fun a little. We also got to sit in the warmth of a real Yurt (round tent made of felt) which was pretty cool. Afterwards we had a meal in a nice restaurant (for which Susan paid for which was very nice of her. Thanks Susie!). All in all a good day. As I write this the day still isn’t over and Tiff and I are going out with Angel and Cookie to some place, which should be a lot of fun. Anyways that’s enough from me. UPDATE – Ok back from the big night out. We went to this classy bar with Angel. Nice leather seats, cool lighting, live entertainment, and cheap drinks. The entertainment was good, particularly when there were Chinese and Russian dancing girls in what Angel would describe as “too sexy clothes!” The highlight being however a guy who made a cocktail flipping the bottles, breathing fire etc…. Then the resulting drink was auctioned off. Now since our money is worth so much we were able to outbid everyone. Hence 220 Yuan later we had the cocktail. It was pretty dammed good actually. Angel really liked it. Speaking of Angel…. We sort of broke her. I do believe she ended up talking to god on the big white phone…. Interesting that we corrupted someone named Angel…. Makes me feel kind of dirty in a way. But I am sure she had a great time, since she has never been drinking before. In any case Tiff warned her to drink a lot of water before going to sleep after we piled her into a taxi.

14/11/04 – 22/12/04

Because of reasons I shall not go into here there has been a lack of updates to this site. Right anyways what has happened…. Flat out doing this project thing…. My god it’s a lot of work. Still should have it all done in time without too many worries. Now not too long ago I decided to go shopping and spend some dosh. I came back with the following, about 50 DVD’s including the Matrix Ultimate box set which was really quite cheap. A web cam (which for the price takes a really good picture) and a microphone. Also bought another CD wallet, because well my DVD collection is getting quite insane. Using the web cam I have set up internet connections to my folks and other people so they can see my insane hair (it’s really really really curly these days) and see the things I have bought for them. Other things I managed to do was get a decent voice connection to Toohey. It was just like a phone call, really crisp audio etc…. it was really quite good. Much better then anything else I have seen with regards to internet communications. Now other news the plan for Xmas is, one drink a lot of booze, two go out for lunch, and three go to a classmate’s house for a Christmas dinner. Should be quite good. Boxing Day as per usual will consist of sitting around doing nothing. Also it’s bloody bloody bloody bloody cold here. You literally have no idea what its like until you experience it for yourself. I cannot believe how dammed cold it can be. I never wear hats, but I sure do here because otherwise your ears freeze off. It’s even worse when it’s not snowing (due to the lack of clouds) and becomes incredibly bitterly cold. The most annoying thing is the amount of effort that goes into going outside, boots, hat, jacket, gloves, etc…. Really takes a long time to go anywhere. Oh also in the 15th it was Taylor’s birthday and the 21st was Christina’s. Happy birthday to both of them! Now back to getting this project done on time.

6/11/04 – 13/12/04

Ok it’s been a long time since there has been an update. This is due to two things. 1. My Laziness and 2. My lack of doing stuff. Yes that’s correct I haven’t really done anything since the last one so there isn’t much to discuss. However there was one thing that was pretty amusing that happened today. During tutoring with Angel and Cookie we established a “voice over internet” connection with Nick (Friend of mine). This was solely in the interest of Cookie who said she wanted a secret Australian lover. Nick, having admitted he wanted to see more pictures of Cookie was the obvious choice. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out too well. Stupid internet and its lack of a decent connection. So we switched to 1900’s technology and phoned him. This resulted in much amusement as they professed love for each other over the phone. Very very funny stuff, since Cookie is married with a daughter. All in all very very amusing. Now onwards to other things, I have decided to stay for the Chinese Spring Festival, (Chinese New Year) which is on the 9th February. However it will be quite annoying since it means I will get home and have only 5 days or so before Uni starts again. However I am going to tour and see the following, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xian. Which should be quite good. Oh in other news it has snowed a few other times which is nice. Everything looks so nice and clean afterwards. I would really like it to snow a lot however. I also discovered why leather coats are so popular here; the snow just bounces off them. It’s really quite good, and they look semi stylish and are warm. Speaking of warmth, it’s bloody cold. It was minus 24 the other night, and minus 17 during the day. Really quite nuts. Also we know how to order certain things on the menu from our local restaurant. Which had one of the waiters posing in outfits tonight, causing Tiff and I to speculate that she was going out with someone special….

27/11/04 – 5/12/04

Yes…. Yes I know I should update more often. It’s mainly because I haven’t really done anything of note till the weekend. Since that is over as I write this there I have something to talk about. Now, the week was pretty standard. The only thing that I can really comment on is that, Hotpots are all the same as far as I am concerned, and it’s bloody cold here. IE my hair was frozen the other day, and so was my snot. It’s really quite an off feeling when it’s all in there and frozen. Oh and also stores don’t use fridges anymore. Ice creams sit out in the open. Also it’s SNOWING!!!! There is snow everywhere!! It’s great. It started in the night. What happened was that Angel had finished tutoring with us and walked outside. She then rang the phone and said it’s snowing. Naturally Tiff and I raced out and had a look at the snow. It’s really quite pretty when it’s falling. Like little sparkly diamonds. Anyway I then went to sleep and looked out the next day. Oh Wow! Snow all over the place. It was really quite lovely. The freshly dropped snow is like a fine power when you walk on it and looks like crushed diamonds or glass have been scattered through it. This was on the Saturday, and then Shannon Tiff Susan and I headed down the bank to get some dosh and things. We also went to the Music Street where Tiff bought a flute and some gourd on a flute thing, and Susan bought a big string thing, and a pot thing…. Sorry I can’t be more descriptive, but I don’t know very much about music instruments or music in general. Anyways I played in the snow for most of the time which was good. I even made a snow angel. So getting back Tiff and I then wandered out again with Angel! We went to a place near St Sophia Church and did some shopping… that is Tiff did, I mainly wandered around and looked at interesting things that were in the place. It was quite good actually. It took us forever to get a Taxi back to the University however. I cannot believe how long it took really. Anyway once we did we had previously arranged to go out to a bar with, Sebastian, Shannon, Susan, Tiff, Angel and I. We also got Sebastian’s Friend from Germany Ingle (Spelling?). It wasn’t too bad. We went to the place where Tiff and I are regulars now and had a huge feed. Played a bit of pool, which was a new thing for Angel. Generally had a good time. All in all it was quite good. On an interesting note, I put a glass of water outside to see how quickly it would freeze over…. 1 minute later it had… so it is pretty cold here.

23/11/04 – 26/11/04

Ok I admit it. I have been a little lazy with the updates, but that’s mainly because I wanted to let things build up so I would actually have something to talk about. Right…. Since I ran out of internet on the Monday I walked off to the place where you get more on the Tuesday. Wandering along I bumped into this nice girl who’s name has escaped me… Wang something (I cant read the 2nd character) according to this piece of paper. Anyway she is one of the people I meet reguallry at the English salon. Shes really nice and gave me a few maps… goodness only knows why, but hey. So when I went there I gave her a bookmark aussie pin and a pen. She seemed really happy about it. Now english salon. I actually got around to looking up what the word means,

  1. A large room, such as a drawing room, used for receiving and entertaining guests.

  2. A periodic gathering of people of social or intellectual distinction.

  3. A hall or gallery for the exhibition of works of art.

  4. A commercial establishment offering a product or service related to fashion: a beauty salon.

I wonder which meaning they are going for…. I am presuming the second…. You will question that meaning once you read what I have to say next. Walking in I was informed the topic was “Sex Giving”. I stopped in my tracks and said “What?!?!” and they said “Sex Giving”, at this point im considering walking out, however Looking at the board I noticed it had written on it “Thanksgiving”. Ahhhh now it makes sence, since they tend to have problems with the th sounds in english. I then told them I was an Australian and that Thanksgiving was an American holiday and I knew next to nothing about it. Dosnt matter… I was informed…. Yeah right. Dosnt matter I spent the rest of the night talking to several people and well its not too bad I suppose. I even got invited to dinner! From little, Wang ( I really should find out her name). Although I didn’t go, because all I wanted to do at the time was sleep. Speaking of which for some reason Susan, Tiff and I are continually tired and unable to sleep. Might be the food or something but yeah its not good. Now in other news. I managed to expunge all traces of Kirill from my computer which was nice. Its running back at my speed and respondes to things the way I like them to be done. He keeps asking to use the internet too whenever Im doing some work on the dammed thing. Sureley when you see someone working on something you leave them alone and let them get the work done. You certainly don’t ask how something works and then expect a length explination on the inner workings of SQL or something. Sigh dosnt matter I suppose. Now what else to say. Lucy got 6.5 on her IELTS test so she is all primed to goto Australia. Thank goodness for that. Its really starting to get cold around here. Its at the point where you don’t want to go around without a hat on. Anyway, I will attempt to get some more photos up in the furture. I just feel so lazy about the whole thing.

19/11/04 – 22/11/04

Winge, winge, winge. I don’t update my site for a few days and heaps of people have a winge about how I haven’t done anything. Well here’s the usual update for everyone. In case you didn’t notice I tend to have one every 3 days or so. So quit complaining. Now where was I, ahhh yes we couldn’t get into the Dragon Tower (apparently its quite popular) so we went into this nice dumpling place. Was one of the better meals I have had actually. Cookie and Angel (not Angle she gets upset and hits you if you call her that) were with us and showing us around and stuff. After it we went for a wander around the town. Wandering along the streets we got some paddle pops from this little street shop. I bet Cookie and Angel that I could fit the entire thing in my mouth, and I won! Wandering along we entered this street that was full of people playing hacky sack. So Tiff got a ball hack thing, and we played for a bit which was somewhat fun. I think I have some photos of it which I will upload at some point. The street had a really funny name Guogeli! We also went to the Sweet Chocolate shop, and bought… well Tiff bought some Tobelone (Spelling?) which she fed to Cookie and Angel since they had never had it. Angel was really interested in this alcoholic drink, so I bought her a sample one and some mints with Gurana. The mints are pretty minty…. Actually insanely minty. Ahhh well. The next day was….. Saturday! Oh what a day it was, well the day was pretty boring actually but the night. Tiff and I well drank a little too much. Let’s leave it at that. Suffice to say I don’t often wander down streets singing “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!”. Not exactly my finest hour and the next morning wasn’t exactly Tiff’s. Not that it matters we are young so yeah… Nothing much happened they day afterwards. As for today…. Again not too much… oh at some point on the weekend Tiffany dyed her hair, it’s a really cool red colour. She also has been off and gotten it cut. As you can see I don’t have much to say if I am mentioning things like that.

16/11/04 – 18/11/04

Would you look at that date! I honestly cannot believe it has been that long. A quick word count of this document gives me 21,000 words. Again I cannot believe it. Not bad for the occasional ramblings of things I have been doing around here. Anyway about usual things. Class as per usual. Except I haven’t gone. Not that I have been slacking, I am working on the other IT subject they have me doing. Class is getting a little monotonous at this point. I think the fact that it’s always the same really makes it a drag. I don’t mind it but really I would love a breath of fresh air. In other news I am feeling 1000% better then I was 1 week ago. The bags under my eyes are gone and I am smiling again and feeling really good. I guess I was just really tired when I was with Kirill. Don’t get me wrong he’s a nice bloke, but I never want to live with him again. I also think I am going to have the best self esteem ever when I get back to Australia. I can’t believe how good I am feeling right now. It’s really a great feeling I must say. Not much else to say really. I should have some more to talk about following the weekend. I believe that tomorrow Tiff and I may be going to the Dragon Tower with Cookie and Angel. Speaking of which, funny story about Angel. We were talking to her while walking outside. Being dammed cold Tiff states the obvious and proclaims “Its f**king freezing!” to which Angel asked, “what is the meaning of f**king freezing?”. So we told her that it meant it was really really really cold. Later on when we were talking Angel said something to the effect of “Cold, cold, f**king cold.” My god it was funny considering how quickly she said it. It had both Tiff and I in stitches on the floor. Angel also had her IELTS exam and I wish her the best of luck in that. Tiff mentioned something about that every student here has to go overseas and study or something. I don’t know if that’s for all students or just ones that are doing certain degrees here. Oh well doesn’t matter. I can look into it later, perhaps tomorrow.

PS – I do apologize about the swearing in this one. But any efforts to censor it would loose the effect that it had.

14/11/04 – 15/11/04

The opera wasn’t too bad at all. Tiff and I were semi dressed up and looking reasonably spiffy to tell the truth. We had dinner before going since we figure that it would go for 2 hours at least. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to meet our class to go or get there ourselves. Hence we took a taxi to the place. It was fun arriving as there was a great many people standing around on the stairs into the place. We walked up and waited near the front door to get it. It was quite odd as nobody from our class was there that we could see. It was also bloody cold. Thankfully they opened the doors nice reasonably soon after we arrived and we piled into the warmth. We then sat down and waited. Now before I say anything else bare in mind I have never been to Opera before. So my views might be a little biased. Beijing opera is well…. I have a mixed opinion on it. The seats were a little too small for me but nice otherwise. The performance was rather interesting I must say. It opened with a performance about a girl that drinks too much wine and gets drunk. My god her voice was annoying. Each note was like a shard of glass being driven into the brain. They were all skillfully delivered but crikey they hurt. I suppose the best way to describe it is “something really cultural you have to see” so that way you never have to see it again. The costumes that were being worn were fantastic however, really long sleeves on most of them that the performers pulled back in what can only be described “an artistic way”. The second act/scene was similar to the first. At this point I must admit I ended up resting my eyes for a bit. I didn’t fall asleep but I was certainly working on it. Thankfully the rest of opera was much better. The next scene had a smoke machine and seemed to be something about being in clouds or something like that. It was much better. The following one was placed underwater I think since it used bubble machines and had a bluish transparent screen cover it. It was then that one of the performers was using these large colored ribbons extended from each arm to make lovely patterns. That fantastic looking that there was a deafening applause from the crowd when her bit was done. The next few scenes had some fantastic acrobatics, tumbling etc… and this fancy playing with these springy poles that one of the preformed would kick back to each of the other people. Really quite skillful. I wish I could do that. Anyway all in all it was worth going to. I wouldn’t mind going again actually. Afterwards Tiff and I had previously decided to go to a bar that we like named Pacers. Walking in we were greeted by all the owners and so on. I ordered straight off 2 Rum and Cokes and 2 Martini’s (I wanted dry but got sweet ones, oh well). One of the bar managers then comes up and starts talking to us. He then gave us free coffee and a fruit platter. We stayed for a while, playing foosball but after a bit I felt ill so I left and went back home to sleep. The next day was reasonably uneventful. Tiff and I went out to the computer market. I went a little nuts buying DVD’s. I bought the entire James Bond collection, the godfather, South Park series four and Dilbet. I also picked up several other movies. Tiff got a microphone because I kind of lost her other one somehow (sorry about that Tiff). This was the same computer market that I visited before, that being the really huge one that’s 5 stories high. It’s really quite good in there. Anyways we wandered back home. We then went off and had a meal at this KFC like place call DICOS. It’s located next to the supermarket here and isn’t too bad actually. Much better food then most other places. When we got back and into the room I got the best phone call of my life. It was a Korean down stairs whose English wasn’t too bad, asking about if I wanted to take the free room! Hell yes!!!!! So I have my own room now. Hurray! I’m quite over the moon about it. Nice to have my own space and be able to go to sleep anytime I want. So yeah it’s all good really. Oh and here is another question I keep getting asked, “If Tiffany your girlfriend?” Dammed Chinese, but I suppose it’s a fair question since they don’t know that she has a boyfriend back in Australia. So here is a shout out to him (assuming he reads this) “Hey Sam!”.

11/11/04 – 13/11/04

Again room less. Oh well. Now onto interesting things. There was this Karaoke challenge deal going on between each of the foreign students on Friday. Our token homeboy was our entry and he did quite well. We had bed sheet banners, balloons & flowers (thanks to Tiff), etc….. All the songs were in Chinese and when out guys time came around he had a guitar and everything. I have no idea what he was singing so don’t ask. He was apparently pretty good because there was a lot of cheering. The clincher was however was when Tiff walked down the isle with a bouquet of flowers and upon giving them to him planted a kiss on is cheek. WOW! The crowd goes wild! I guess they just aren’t as open about that sort of thing as Aussies are. Oh well doesn’t matter, it made out class look better. There isn’t too much to report on, oh Kirill stayed up for 36 hours straight, then crashed so I managed to get a normal nights sleep so I am feeling quite good. I also really need a haircut; I am starting to look like Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings. Oh and on another note here’s a shout out to all the people in Blaxland High. I don’t know how you got this address but hope you are all well!

In other news I told Shannon that several of my friend and their friends think she is cute. She turned bright red and got all embarrassed. Muhahahaha, I did the same thing to Cookie (who then asked to be set up with a secret boyfriend). She also was rather embarrassed. I don’t think these girls realize how attractive and desirable they are. They also are incredibly nice people. They would last about 30 seconds in an Aussie bar before being snapped up by about 30 crazed guys.

Talking to Kirill, oh damm he’s going to have his own PC here soon. It will be a desktop…. I need to get another room; if he has that I am never going to sleep. I can’t even sleep with a laptop on in the same room as me. How the heck would I manage with a full fledged desktop! Arghhh!!!!! Should be interesting to see if he makes class ever when he gets it. Not much else to say, other then that I am going to a Beijing opera tonight (13th) which should be well…… interesting.

6/11/04 – 10/11/04

Dammit. I didn’t get my own room as of yet. I’m still working on it, because frankly I cannot take this lack of sleep anymore. Anyways on a brighter note you may have noticed there is a huge amount of pictures that have been updated. I should probably talk about them a bit here. There is a heap in there about Shannon’s birthday. That was on the… Friday. It was pretty good actually. Not knowing what else to get her I bought her chocolate and flowers (hey why not). She said it was only the 3rd time she had ever gotten them. But dammit they are so cheap here and they make a nice pressie to give. Tiff and Susan gave her stuffed toys and the usual girly stuff that guys like me wouldn’t really think off. We went to dinner at this little place across the road from Heida, and had a great time. Plenty of beer etc…. It was interesting watching another party end and a few of the guests being carried off. A little too much beer for them methinks. Anyways one of the dishes we had was fish covered in chilies. IE there was that many they needed another bowl the same size of the dish to cart them off. The thing was the dish wasn’t really that hot, but oh damm there was a lot of chilies in one place. The other dish that really got me going was the corn thing. It was covered in sort of a flour and sugary thing, not too sweet but really tasty. We all had a good time, and we managed to get Shannon semi hammered. When we left we dropped Susan off and then walked Shannon, Taylor and Alana (I really like that name, I keep trying to get them to pick names like Alana, Karah, Aeris, Adara) back to their place. It was then I did the most stupid thing ever. Giant puddle of ice, room + beer. How could I not attempt to slide across it? I did. Till I fell hard on my arse. Oh well the beer dulled the pain and seriously I didn’t damage anything at all so yeah doesn’t matter. We then headed off to bar…. Which had nothing in it so we went back home. The next day Tiff was kind of sick. She had also scratched her eye. This resulted in a trip to the hospital for her to get some eye drops. Nothing too serious but it looked pretty painful because she doesn’t seem to be one to complain over small things. We also visited a nursery to get a Xmas tree. OK fine we ended up with and asparagus fern, but it’s the closest we could get and it will do the job. What else to say…. Not much really, only that it’s going to snow some more soon hopefully, and maybe in a few days I will have my own room *fingers crossed*.