Monday, January 29, 2007

Ronald McDonald says: Explosives are Fun!

Well the Chinese New Year is rapidly approaching (Feb 18th I believe) so the red lanterns are starting to assemble and the markets are rife with kitschy things on the theme of pig.

Even everybody's favorite meat sandwich peddling clown* is not immune to the charms of the festive season

Pyro McDonald

Here's a few scenes from my recent trip to the Imperial Palace at Shenyang (basically a holiday home for the Qing Dynasty, which as you all know, puts it at about 400 years old)

Entrance hall front

Temple Detail




Main Hall


As usual, there's piles more. Get 'em here

So, despite the fact that the forces of fate seemed to be arraigned against me having a holiday, I'm off to Beijing tomorrow to see what I can make of it. Not sure where I'll go or what I'll do right now, but rest assured it will be blogged. oh yes.

*apologies if you in fact prefer some other meat sandwich peddling clown.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Stupid Seismic Shennanigans

So apparently there's been ANOTHER freaking earthquake that has set the repair of China's internet back by like 3 more weeks.

I estimate my current speed of internetting to be about 15 kbps, which allows me to view about one page per hour. The rest of the time is spent hitting refresh and becoming enraged (and yes I'm on holiday and I have nothing to do so I sit and get angry at inanimate objects when I should be studying Chinese or something).

Without the internet I am reduced to reading the 2+2=5 Chinese news, and actually having to go outside to find out how cold it is. Its barbaric.

Fortunately, should my new plan remain unthwarted, I will shortly be leaving this country for a while, giving it time to get its shit sorted out in my absence.

Get to work brave ocean-going cable repair persons. And if the Eurasian Plate could just sit still for a few months that'd be great.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Winter Month Novelties

Well I'm still kicking around Liaoyang trying not to go crazy or spend all of my money on DVDs of dubious origin. My winter travel plans have received a swift kick in the nuts from ol' lady fate, but more on that later.

It snowed pretty heavily yesterday, but that didn't stop me, Martin and Andreas from heading up to Shenyang for the day to enjoy such exotic treats as Subway and Starbucks coffee. The main highway was closed so we had to take the 'old highway' which, from where I was sitting (directly over the bus' rear axle), felt like a series of potholes strung together with a few handfuls of ruts, bumps, furrows, ditches, depressions and random protrusions.

Upon arriving in Shenyang, we got into a taxi with a driver who decided that the best way to overcome the language barrier was to communicate entirely in whistles. He did eventually ask (in Chinese) if we were American, and when I replied that I was from New Zealand, and my buddies in the back were German, he was moved to stop whistling, and start shouting 'HEIL SHITLER', over and over, complete with salute. Oh how we laughed.

Anyway, taking advantage of Shenyang's greater embrace of capitalism (a KFC on every corner!) I went camera shopping, and bought me one of these puppies which is pretty much the coolest toy I've ever owned.

It came with some image stitching software, here's some initial messing about:

My school

school stitch2

The Park where I do Tai Chi (I was playing with manual exposures on this so its a little dark)


You can click for embiggenment, but be warned that they're freakin huge (bout 5800x1600).

Anyway, I am getting out of Liaoyang shortly, I will hopefully update soon on the where and why, with pictures.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I shouldn't really laugh at this but...

Here's a text message I received from one of my students yesterday, apparently concerned about whether they'd passed my class or not:

Hi ben .I feel my Orcal speak english examle can not get fourthy

The student didn't attach their name so I can't reply and tell them that their Orcal english got fourthy just fine.

This probably isn't a shining endorsement of my teaching abilities is it?

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm a little concerned

I'm planning on crossing a national border or two in the next month, and I'm a little worried about my passport. If you were a customs agent (especially one unaccustomed to looking at white faces, because, face it, we all pretty much look the same), would you believe that this guy (circa 2004, my 'dangerous fugitive' phase):


was one and the same as this dashing windswept individual?


better carry a razor and a pair of scissors with me just in case.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Scarier than Santa

is how I would describe hurtling down a highway in a crowded bus on a night when the fog is so thick you can barely see the tail lights of the car ahead. Knowing the relaxed attitude that some Chinese have to concepts such as 'lanes' and 'working headlights', with the a pinch of the old 'x' factor (what's that up ahead? an overturned truck? a donkey cart? someone attempting an ill-advised u-turn?) you can see why I was kind of nervous.

Its times like this that I take comfort in the fact that in a country of 1.3 billion people, the odds of this particular bus being involved in a horrific accident are pretty slim.

My confidence wasn't exactly bolstered when I felt the bus go over a curb and a shopfront loomed out of the mist towards the front of the bus. The busdriver, who must drive this route dozens of times a day, had gotten lost. We were about 20 minutes out of our way. Fortunately, he had in his passengers a team of enthusiastic volunteers who were only to keen to help him with such tasks as:

- wild speculation as to where we might be (I think I saw a tree back there!)
- Using a sleeve to smear the condensation around on the inside of the windscreen
- Delivering detailed (though varying) lectures on precisely where the driver had gone wrong
- and of course, most importantly, taking turns at hurling abuse out the window at similarly lost and aimless vehicles.

All while the driver attempted a tricky and basically blind three point turn amongst about five other vehicles attempting the same.

Anyway, I made it home, alive and only an hour late, and had some Korean BBQ which kicked ass. All in all a good day.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years and Old Internets

Welcome to 2007 everybody.

You may or may not know that an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan on Boxing day destroyed the cables that provide internet services for the 1.3 billion of us living round these parts, so for the last week or so I've had a wonderful trip down memory lane, internetting at speeds reminiscent of the mid 90s. I've come to the realisation that most webpages these days just aren't designed for viewing at a startling 1kb per second.

I'm assured that the finest network repair technicians in all of China have donned wetsuits and are working on the problem now, but it will be late January until they are back to speed, so I probably won't be putting much up here.

On the other hand, there probably won't be much to write about, I am officially payroll ballast until the start of March, as my classes have finished (as far as I'm aware anyway, getting a definitive answer on that issue has been difficult. For all I know I'm supposed to be teaching right now.) As it is snowy and freezing outside, I'm basically confined to quarters for the next few weeks, working on my Chinese and going crazy (probably at the same time).

Come the end of January I've got a week in Beijing, followed by a train to Hanoi and a few weeks there (including Vietnamese New Year - Tet, which should be fun), which I'm pretty damned pumped about. Expect plenty of photos and blather then.

xin nian kwai le!