It's certainly outside Mackay.
It's been a long time since I've written a blog. The main reason for this was a closure of Windows Live Spaces where I was previously hosting my blog. The automatic transition process from there to WordPress.org didn't work for me, and had I not manually backed up my blog earlier, I may have lost everything. Needless to say, I didn't take to WordPress.org and ever since, I've been looking for alternatives. Enter Travellerspoint...
I hope everyone is well and has a wonderful Christmas planned. Christmas here certainly has more of a presence than it did for me whilst I was in India. Commercialism, which is rampant here, has done a wonderful job of ensuring that. Moreover, most of our (as in your) decorations are manufactured here, so its not so much of a surprise. I picked up a Christmas tree complete with a full set of decorations for only AU$5. In terms of Christmas cheer, Hannah, one of the other foreign teachers here, has organised a Christmas party set for Christmas Day and we've got a Secret Santa going. Certainly more than the brief mention of Christmas I received in passing in India.
Other than Christmas, life here has been going quite smoothly. The weeks seem to be flying by. My Chinese is coming along albeit slowly. Earlier this week, I acted as a host for the Closing & Awards Ceremony of the 4th International Business Festival of Guangdong Teachers' College of Foreign Language and Arts. They had me speaking some Chinese for that which went relatively well apart from a couple of people's names. I've also started to learn to write Chinese characters. The problem is, I've never been much of an artist nor a rote learner and each of the approximately 2000 simplified Chinese characters is different! Jessie tries to persuade me that it's not art, that it's just writing, but I beg to differ. I'd like to hope that by the time I leave China, I'm relatively fluent in Chinese, but I'm such a poor language learner that I'm not so confident of this endeavour.
In three weeks, I'll be flying out to Sri Lanka. I'm quite looking forward to it. I'll be able to catch up with Nabeel, a mate of mine from India. I'm also keen to head into the hill country and sip on some tea. I'm wondering how similar it will be to India and can't wait for a bit of warmer weather! (There's been a cold snap here in southern China.)
Since I last wrote a blog, I've done a little travelling. I had a week's holiday in Xi'an. Xi'an is a very historical city having been the centre of most of China's preceding dynasties. While I was there, I climbed Huashan, a famous mountain, which true to Chinese style, had a complete set of stairs ascending the 1600 metres. I spent a freezing night on the mountain (having not brought enought clothes) to watch the sunrise, which wasn't all that spectucular. I also travelled to Guilin and Yangji. Guilin is a 'beautiful' city studded with crags. However, the air pollution was pretty terrible when I was there and it didn't relent when I left for the hills around Yangji. Nevertheless, Yangji is a wonderful, small little farming community of a minority group here in China. Unfortunately, it seems to have been turned into more a tourist attraction with the help of the local authorities. There, they are famous for their terrace farming, one of the 'agricultural engineering' marvels of the world. It's true though and I'd love to return in a different season (all are very different). After all that travelling, the last six weeks of classes have been quite mundane.
To break up our stretch of classes (I'm getting used to having a holiday at least once a month), Jessie and I headed off for Hong Kong. We took advantage of her family's hospitality and scored a free lift to and stay in Shenzhen. On a Saturday, we left at 8 am for Hong Kong. However, due to the sheer number of people, it took us 2 hours to cross the border (wait, isn't Hong Kong part of China now?). Most of the day consisted of us wondering around from various sites to various shopping districts. We took a double-decker up the windy route ascending Victoria Peak which was quite disconcerting for Jessie. We also met up with David, a current foreign teacher from my college, and Ryan, a previous foreign teacher from my college. With them, we watched the 'light show' which plays along the river in Hong Kong every night, and had dinner at an Indian restaurant. We left Hong Kong at 9:30 pm and got back to Jessie's brother's flat at midnight. It was long day, enjoyable and definitely worth it considering the prices in Hong Kong and my limited income.
That's roughly it up until now. Stay posted at this address for more to come...