Thursday, 20 October 2011

庆祝国庆 !

国庆 is Chinese for National Day and it celebrates the establishment of the People's Republic of China in October 1949. As I'm a state employee, I got 2 weeks off. Mainland China (大陆中国)gets very busy at this time, so I  I took this opportunity to visit Clare in Hong Kong and to explore some more!

I flew from Wuxi to Shenzhen in Guangdong Province (广东省)and then travelled by taxi to the border, it is much cheaper to do it this way, as a flight to Hong Kong is counted as an international flight. Luckily, at the border I could get a coach to Hong Kong which went to Lam Tin (蓝田, where Clare lives! 

In Hong Kong we visited all the tourist sights, we took the tram to the top of Victoria Peak and the Star ferry across Hong Kong Harbour. We also bet on the horses at the amazing Happy Valley Race Course and went to Lamma Island, one of Hong Kong's beautiful out-lying Islands (which has no cars) for Grave Sweeping Festival (清明节), where Clare's father's ancestors come from.

If I had not been with a Honger I don't think I would have been able to have found so many wonderful places in Hong Kong! An example of this is such as finding the best places to eat (which doesn't mean most expensive), like in Aberdeen, HK's famous fishing town, where we eat at a small restaurant serving fish ball soup, where the last HK Governor Chris Pattern ate! Or amazing, historic temples. Clare your family were so lovely and kind!  I am very grateful! 呵呵 

From Hong Kong, the former Portuguese colony of Macau is only about 40 minutes by high-speed boat. Not needing a visa, we decided to go and check it out! 

Arriving in Macau was as bizarre as arriving in Hong Kong. As soon as you arrive in Hong Kong, you can feel the British influence. They dive on the left, and the Chinese drive on the right, the street signs look British, there are British shops and lots of foreign ex-pats. Hong Kong really feels and looks different to mainland China. The same was true with Macau. Immediately you could feel the Portuguese influence, it was not just the signs written in Portuguese, but the tiled pavements and old colonial buildings. The cultural side of Macau was amazing, and the food was really good too. 

Macau now has the world's largest number of casino tables, and in the evening we hit the casinos. We headed for the biggest one at the Venetian Hotel. As well as having a roulette tables, thousands of slot machines any other game you could imagine, it also had a canal and a shopping centre! An amazing place. 

We only went to Macau for a day trip and went back to HK in the evening. When I was little, one of my favourite programmes was Michael Palin's Around the World in 80 Days. I have always wanted to copy what he did, and by going to HK, I have been able to do one part of that! 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Check out Changzhou

China is a big country and has thousand of years of history. My aim in China is to see as much of it as possible, which requires going to as many places as possible! Living in Wuxi (无锡)I am on the Shanghai to Nanjing railway line. This line has many stops, the first one I checked out was the one to Changzhou (常州). Like Wuxi, Changzhou has a multi-million population, and is unknown outside of China (and quite possible unknown outside of Jiangsu Province.)

By slow train, the journey is about an hour, and tickets cost about 20 yuan (£2). The itself is clean and feels very safe and the city centre is compact and easy and cheap to get around by bus (1 yuan).

Changzhou has several specular old temples and buildings, as shown above, as well as several high-end hotels. It is possible to find good accommodation for about 150 yuan a night though. 

Changzhou is a very interesting "small" city and I would recommend visiting the city. Wuxi has few foreigners, but time in the city I didn't see a single foreigner! 真奇怪啊!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Wuxi Life

With only a day to settle in Wuxi before the first day of work, I was more or less thrown in at the deep-end. Having been shown my office, my first class would be at 1.25 in the afternoon. It wasn't until after my first class, that I found out that I would be teaching all 3 ability groups. One could call my first class a baptism of fire; my advice for anyone thinking of teaching in China, unless you can 1.) speak Chinese and 2.) have an enormous amount of patience, think very hard about teaching in a Chinese middle or upper school!

However, teaching can (and was for me) very rewarding. As a teacher there will often be the students who really want to learn and take a lot from your classes, that is what makes teaching worthwhile doing. Chinese students have to work so hard, so if you make the lesson engaging, but also fun and different from their monotonous rote learning they are accustomed to, you are sure to become their favourite teacher in a very short space of time!

In Wuxi, one I found the Blue Bar, the main ex-pat bar in Wuxi and made some new ex-pat friends, I settled into Wuxilife quite well and used the city as a base to travel to other places in China as well as Asia. There will be many more blog posts here detailing my trips to other places and countries!

My aim is also to be fluent in Chinese in 3 years, with reading, writing and speaking. It can be done, all you need is 努力学习!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Beijing Daze

On the 20th August, on a very hot and smoggy Beijing day, with 60 other British Council Cultural Ambassadors, I arrived in China.

The two weeks we would be in Beijing were meant for attaining our TEFL certificate. Which I did, and also managed to see some of the sights, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Night Market. It was a really interesting awakening to the world's most populous country!

Once our 2 weeks in Beijing were over, the British Council group would split up and go to our respective cities and begin teaching. The training we had had was meant to prepare us for classes of 50+ students. More appropriate advice would have been "good luck"!

We set off for Wuxi on one of the new HGV "高铁“ trains which travel at over 300 k/ph, thus meaning that the 1,100 KM journey is done in only 5 hours... with a ticket costing only £50!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Only Way Was Essex

On the 22nd June 2011 in the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall I went from being a graduand to a graduate! It was a fantastic ceremony, conducted by Chancellor Lord Phillips of Sudbury and included speeches from heads of departments and the incoming Vice-Chancellor.

As I sat there for over an hour with the speeches being made, and the names of firstly the History of Art students then the E15 students being called, it was impossible not to feel nervous! But finally as it was the turn of us History students and then the eleven of us who studied Modern History and Politics were to be called I drew a deep breath and the nerves went and most importantly I didn't trip, slip or fall! 

It was great to have my family with me on this day, and those who couldn't make it to Colchester were able to view it over the internet as it was being streamed live! Pretty cool! 

After the ceremony we had official pictures taken and then to the Departmental reception which was a great way to say goodbye to some good old friends, although there was many I missed on the day! and also thank my excellent lecturers for their tuition and to promise to keep in touch with them as well. 

With reflection on the three years, I honestly feel that there was no other university which I would have wanted to go to for my undergraduate degree. The quality of the tuition, the university's high quality of research and the brilliant people, from all over the world and all social-economic backgrounds have made Essex so fantastic to have studied at. (Especially my awesome Honger!)

After the ceremony, I have gone back home, and it is nice being home for a few days now and having a bit of relaxation with the family, but I'm soon going to be picking up with Clare's family in Bath for their UK trip - busy times!

Only three weeks until I go to China now, the summer doesn't seem to really have started because I have had so many things to do and things coming up, but it will be great to be in Beijing in August, the weather is going to be 30c+!! 

I'll write another post after I come back from the UK trip, until then, thank you, good night, much love. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The End of an Era

As the clock reached twelve noon on the 7th June, my last under-graduate exam had ended, there was no longer anything more I could contribute to my grade; it was now in the laps of the gods (or markers) to decided what I would be coming out of University with.

I felt the last exam, which had been on Soviet and Russian history, had gone quite well, but then there was never anyway to be able to tell for sure; I would just have to wait until the 28th June to find out!

With no more exams to take, me and Clare set off for our summer holiday to Barbados. 

Even though the Hurricane Season had officially started (!) the weather was perfect. We were only there for a week but we packed a lot in in that time!! We stayed at the 5* Crane Resort which was an amazing hotel, right on the beach, and we had a seaview from our hotel room and balcony. 

We also went to the fishing town of Oistins and ate all sort of fish like Flying Fish, Tuna and Marlin... we even ate Dolphin :P

The capital, Bridgetown, is very small but is very nice, and it was from there we went to the Kensington Oval cricket ground and to the world famous Mount Gay rum factory, where there was lots of testing to be done!!

The swimming pools at the hotel were great for relaxing in (and also posing on)!! It was  sad to leave Barbados as the people were all so warm and friendly and the country was so hot! 

Having got back to the UK, I had another week to kill until my results came out. In the end they released them a day early on the 27th ! And to my huge relief after three years of studying, worrying, balancing of time, procrastinating etc. I am to graduate Essex University with a 2:1 in Modern History and Politics!!  

I was very happy and relieved to have got it, although as it turned out, I had already secured a 2:1 before my first exam started as my Dissertation had already been give a 65 (not that I'm moaning!). 

The next era of my life is now about to start, on the 12th August to be precise, when I fly off to the PRC and become a fully ordained laoshi :P ...just a lot of Rosetta Stone to do before hand!

thank you, good night, much love. 

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Eastern Promise

With all the pressure and focus on finishing my degree, exams and local Council elections plus the excitement of my summer holiday to Barbados, it has only just dawned on me that within a matter of weeks I will be on the other side of the world teaching classes of fifty English!

A few months ago, I applied to teach English in China through the British Council's English Language Assistant Programme, and I was lucky enough to have passed the group assessment and interview stage and have been offered a place to teach in Wuxi, China.

I of course accepted straight away, the opportunity to be a teacher in a developing country, to experience another culture and to explore the People's Republic and other countries in Asia was too much to be able to pass up. However it is now starting to sink in what I am about to do.

In a few months I will leave Essex where I have lived most of my life and leave my friends and family behind to go to a country where I can't speak the language! However it is very exciting to now be reading the Lonely Planet China guide book and be planning what to do, as an imminent reality, rather than it being a long-off dream. I will soon be making a checklist of place and things I want to visit, so check back regularly to see my progress!

Furthermore, I will keep you all updated of my progress in China (and Asia) via this blog, so keep on followingmorris!

Thank you, goodnight, much love.