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My New Life & Adventure In The South West

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

What started off as a questionable place to live and teach has become rather comfortable.

Tension causing 'things’ have been raised and dealt with, life has moved on and both Aussie Brad and I are actually beginning to really like both the school and the area we will both share for the next term and if it stays that way I doubt I will have a problem staying longer. We have gone from not being able to find any bars to almost tripping over them each time we are out walking and the same goes for fellow foreigners as there is supposed to be around twenty of us wide eyed freaks living here.

So where is here? I can now be found slurping my noodles and drinking my cold beer in Hanzhong city.

The shire was established around two thousand four hundred years ago by the Qin Kingdom during the Warring States Period (476BC-221BC). It is the birthplace of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) and served as the main battlefield between the Wei force and Shu force during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD220-280). The city is located in the southwest of Shaanxi Province and lies to the south of the Qinling Mountains, north of the Daba Mountains with the Hanzhong Basin in the center.

It is bounded on the southwest by Gansu and Sichuan provinces, my beloved ancient walled city of Xian is around four hours to the northeast, the city gained its name from the Han River which runs through the southern part of the city and it is the administrative capital of Southwestern Shaanxi.

Supposedly there are year round snowcapped mountains, vast forests and many rivers that tumble towards the Hanzhong basin below. When I first arrived and spotted the KFC I thought the city was going to be much too large for me to feel at home on my peddles but thankfully over the past two weeks I have found that it really isn’t that large at all and is relatively small with a population of around two hundred thousand.

The majority of the community is Han Chinese but Hui, Mongol, Qiang, Tibetan and Xinjiang Minority Peoples can all be found living here.

The city itself displays its borderland heritage and has an entirely different feel than those of the rest of Shaanxi. Sichuanese influence is evident in the dialect, food, and tea culture that exist in the city. There are numerous indoor and outdoor markets to be found throughout town where anything from yarn, spices, vegetables, dried snakes, handicrafts and animals can be bought or traded. There is a small but modern city center, however the atmosphere and general layout of Hanzhong is more of an historic mountain outpost with winding alleys, fading tenement and community minded residents.

After a bitter cold winter the weather over the past few days has finally warmed to my affection. Sadly though, when I was speaking to Luo Wei several nights ago it was still snowing in her part of Shaanxi.

Thankfully though from what I can gather I should be in for a good ride here as the city is situated in the transition area between warm temperate zone and subtropical zone and has moderately humid weather in summer and the winter wind current coming from North China is blocked by the Qinling Mountains so winter (if I stay longer than this term) is relatively warmer than where I was in Shangzhou city which was several hours into the Qinling mountains three hours south east of Xian city. The rainy season usually appears during June and lasts until September during which this year I should be found packing around Cambodia and Laos (depending on money) or in the south of China in Hunan and Guizhou Provinces.

For Chinese food buffs and a big Sorry Mate to Aussie Crusty;

The food here is a delicious blend of Shaanxi and Sichuan styles which means that it can be explosively hot or a more comfortable hot that actually leaves you with taste buds allowing you to enjoy your next meal and as usual here in China, there are a million restaurants all over town and the local street food is also a mixture of both Sichuan and Shaanxi styles. Thankfully Western food is mostly limited to one KFC but from what I can gather from the small Coffee Shop Culture that has recently crept in there should be a couple of places experimenting with pizzas, steak and salads.

I've been checking out the internet for things to do and see and due to its history there handfuls of historical sites along with more than enough natural beauty to see so I'm hoping to check out a heap of them over the next few months and show the world what the Hanzhong Area has to offer.

So what have I been up to over the past few weeks?

After arriving we were taken in to the head masters office and handed the contract etc (which were in both English and Chinese) and he had to blow his golden trumpet and go through each part in Chinese and then have a Chinese English Teacher interpret it for us. Not long after he started Brad and I had had enough and I soon asked for a stop to the trumpet blowing as we both of course could read English and he soon moved on to the ‘do's and don'ts’ which is normal. This school though has a bad reputation with many of its past foreign teachers and one of the main reasons is that they were treated like young children. In the past they have been made to return to the school by 9:30pm and if they didn’t the following day they were called in for a meeting with the big guy.

Being older males we were told that we must be home by ten and I once again cut it short and told them that we were both very well travelled and had been to more places in China than all of them put together and there was no way that either of us would be bound by such nonsense.

There have also supposedly been a lot of problems with the Chinese English Teachers taking over the foreign teachers classes and treating them as their own along with the school using insanely hard class books. When I was given my books my jaw dropped and I was shocked at what I was supposed to teach Grade five and six. Then after finding out that the Chinese English Teachers used a different books (which are used for the exams) I told them they were crazy and wasting not only my time but also the students time and I quickly refused to use the books and have been teaching my own classes which I have been teaching for the past five years and ever since the kids have been loving their new found freedom of thought and expression and we have been having so much fun together.

Our apartments are new and everything within their walls is either new or almost new.

Best of all is the fact that we are the only two people (besides the Gate Man) who live at the school so our music won't bother anyone and both being huge music fans this is more than a huge bonus. I've gone from twenty three lessons a week down to eighteen which is much more comfortable on the throat but not so comfortable on the back pocket. Aussie Brad is teaching Grades one to three and I'm teaching Grades three to Grade six and though I love my timetable the only problem with it is that for the first time in many years we both have Friday afternoon classes. Most foreign teachers usually have only Friday morning classes, which then allows them to scamper for the weekend to far off places.

After receiving my timetable I couldn’t help but wonder if the controlling headmaster made sure that all teachers here work Friday afternoon which then makes it almost impossible to have a weekend away.

It’s not so bad as Hanzhong lies on the main rail line between Chengdu and Xian and express busses to Xian take around four hours and supposedly heading south over the mountains into Sichuan takes around the same. So depending on when the last bus leaves to a future chosen destination I should be able to pocket some further away sites as well as the local ones.

How will all of the above effect my bike riding?

Several days ago Brad was told that our bikes had been delivered so Brad raced up to my apartment and threw my lock keys at me and of course I jumped for joy. We then happy raced down to the bike shed and began searching for two mountain bikes. After finding none we began thinking that our bikes had been stolen until the Headmistress came over to show us our new bikes. Being a huge bike rider my heart sank at what was shown to us which was two tiny Chinese ‘Plod Along’ bikes, both with no gears and a little wire basket on the front. As I’ve killed almost every bike I’ve had over the past five years I felt like having my say but we both I agreed that a Plod Along one geared bike is better than no bike at all so we smiled and buggered off for our first ride which found us a few hours away in the south eastern hills.

We both felt instantly at home and agreed that if things continue as they are, life will be good here!

Brad and I are very similar in many ways, we both love exploring and I was extremely happy when I found that he loved both walking and riding continuously for more hours than most and we are more than happy to be part of an English Teaching team that is full to the brim of beautiful Chinese women. We have met up with several of the other foreigners and had a night or two swapping stories over beer and Sichuan/Shaanxi style food at a local bar. We also have a city that is full of ancient alleyways that take us from the Muslim quarter down to the ancient river side streets.

More than anything though is the fact that the city streets are crowded with food markets and beer. Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: The bowl of noodles you see in the pictures below, after five years of searching for the most delicious bowl of noodles in China, besides the Fujian 'Lanzhou Beef Noodles' I'm thinking that this is very much THE most delicious bowl of noodles I have ever had in China and I have been slurping my way from the east coast all throughout this big noodle bowl of a country.

Surprisingly found in a very tiny noodle eatery just off West Street here in Hanzhong City.

PSS: Some how the Chinese have found a way to block Hot Spot Shield so I no longer have access to Facebook and it is doubtful I will have in the future....oh well, it was good while it lasted. ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Daft Punk The album was ‘Discovery’ ____________________________________________________________

First Adventures  Around Hanzhong City

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First Adventures Around Hanzhong City


First Adventures  Around Hanzhong City

First Adventures Around Hanzhong City

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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