A Travellerspoint blog

December 2006

Christmas In China Mate, I Even Went to Church

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you Christmas time has once again graced us with its flashing lights and bells and whistles to then quickly bugger off for another year. In most cases it left behind countless smiles in households around the world but I'm sure it also left its usual trademark debts that many families will find hard to pay. This is the sad and unspoken side of Christmas that is also now quickly creeping into China. As this country grasps the 'Western Ways' new festivals financially come with it. I personally see no reason why China should celebrate Christmas but this year the streets were lined with both the Coca-Cola originated 'Santa' and the tinsel covered Christmas tree that we all know. The sad fact is that with new Festivals come new responsibilities for the parents. Many Chinese children now expect Christmas presents to appear beneath the tree upon awakening. A rather difficult feat for a country that is between 60% and 70% below the poverty line. I know some of the more religious people will be thinking, Christianity also has its claws in China. My answer is, the Chinese New Year is only a month away, this also costs most families more than they can afford. China celebrates an extensive calendar of Festivals and Celebrations each year that cost each family a lot of money. BUT...these are Chinese celebrations NOT Western celebrations that quickly seem to be kicking in doorways here. Compared to the amount of Chinese in this country there are sweet buggerall westerners. A total opposite to countries like Australia and America. With this difference comes a reality that China has no need to give up any of its festivals and celebrations to make way for western ones that really have no meaning here except 'Commercialism and Advertising' which realistically means only one thing...MONEY! If you are questioning why I keep repeating the words, why should China give up... Remember around 60 to 70% of this country live below the poverty line and I mean extremely below the poverty line....like dirt floor and a single light bulb type of below the poverty line. So for those who are still saying 'Yeah but'...that is 60 to 70% of 1.4 billion people. They can barely afford to live let alone buy Christmas presents for their children. Anyhow, enough of that, I will leave it up to you to make your own decision on Christmas in China. For me, I had a great Christmas. I spent many hours walking around town and I then spent the afternoon at school with the children taking part in and watching their 'Christmas Sing Song'. It was such a beautiful afternoon. Thankfully it was a smaller and less glamorous than little Tianyang which was surprising but for me the main thing is that the children had such a good time and there was little expense paid out on the bells and whistles. Unexpectedly and a little unwillingly, Christmas dinner was spent at a swarve restaurant with the school. Don't get me wrong, I love spending Christmas dinner with my friends from the school I am teaching at the time but as it is MY celebration I would prefer to bare the cost of the dinner or share it amongst the foreign teachers but this is never allowed and the Chinese school always pays the way. I truly understand that they are doing what they think is the best thing to make 'US' comfortable in their country on a day that we are away from our friends and family but most foreign teachers would prefer to treat the Chinese and make them comfortable on a day that 'WE' celebrate back home. Anyhow, it never ends up this way and I thank the Chinese people for their deep understanding and feelings for me on such a special day that Christmas Day is 'to us'. Though I am not a religious person I love 'Christmas Time' for what it truly is in a society such as Australia. It is a time for families to get together and enjoy each others company. Most of us live far from our families and it is a time to offer each other the special gift of simply being together and catching up on where we all are in life. After a most successful and extremely delicious dinner we all said our happy good byes. I then thought, 'Hey, the old church might be rokkin in the Old Quarter'. I ran upstairs to grab Alexa and Daniel and we all headed down to the Old Quarter. I found this church the week before and thought it was a great time to see how the Chinese Christians celebrated the birth of Christ. I also found out that it was built in 1882. To me being from Australia that is pretty bloody old. We soon found the old arch way and entered the 'Old Quarter'. We found the church covered in bright and flashing Christmas lights. Sadly when we entered the church stood empty of human souls, full of dust and full of bicycles. Within seconds we were shown to a building across the road. This ugly, white tiled building was the new church. Ok I thought, this is China, why would you even bother to use a beautiful Church built in 1882 when you can simply build a horrid boring white tiled building and use that instead. The old church is now sadly the bicycle park for those who attend the new church. How strange! We were all happily accepted and found a place to sit and experience what was to come. Daniel and Alexa left soon after and I stayed to experience a most beautiful evening. The plays, the singing, the dancing and for me the most beautiful part of the evening, the fan dancing were so beautiful. It really was a most extraordinary experience. When the night ended the Big Guy of the church raced me to the stage for some photos together along with the dancing girls. It really was a most delightful Christmas! Thank you China and thank you to everyone who reads my blog, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Travelpod New Year! Beers N Noodles to you...shane

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Anyone Want a Chinese Burn For Christmas

Hey Hey and a Big Happy Christmas G'Day to ya Though I'm far far away from all of my beautiful friends, family and my homeland , I just wanted to let you know that..sniff...sniff...sniff...sniff I will be eating noodles for Christmas dinner...AGAIN!!! Har Har pretty freaky really! Though I thought I would be spending Christmas with the snowmen I now find myself once again amongst green fields. Life my friends is such a beautiful gift. Sometimes it may take much of your life for you to actually find LIFE but when you do, grab hold and let it take you far into your dreams! I want to send everyone of you a huge slice of happiness along with a bowl full of noodles and smiles for 2007. Stay safe over the Happy Season and make sure that both Christmas and New Years are an awesome time. Say G'Day to the family for me, give the kids a hug and lets all share a safe yet beery fun filled time. WAHOOOOOOOOOO N YIPPPEEEEEE FOR 2007! Go Baby Go Baby Go Baby GO! Chinese Burns to ya...shane

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The Aussie Xmas Tree 2006

The Aussie Xmas Tree 2006

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Beautiful Mountain N The Alleys Of The Old Town

Hey Hey and a Big Christmas Eve G'Day to you all I have had the most beautiful day today. I spent an entire four hours on the phone to different friends in Australia before finally getting out of bed to start the day. At the moment in Shaowu I am still totally confused as to where north south east and west are. My Shaowu map has no 'north' focus point on it so I don't actually know where north is, therefore I don't know actually where I am...if you know what I mean. I know which way to lay my map when I walk but that's about it for now. Anyhow, I have just had the most beautiful day walking through 'Xi Chun Park' which is an awesome mountain to the left of me if I face the main river. My walk was such a welcoming and lovely experience after being in Gansu's Baiyin City. There was so much colour and life. Birds were singing and I could hear little 'things' moving around the undergrowth all around me. It was so green and so alive. I felt like a child again. After being here for a week I can feel a huge part of 'life' returning to my body and soul. Prior to moving north, a friend told me that my subconscious would miss the colour green and other lively lush colours. Of course I thought, 'Yudda Yudda, what ever' but I can tell you, no truer words have been spoken. Since returning to the south of China, each day I have felt a new energy return. I really had no idea how unhealthy I had become or was becoming. In the north each day past with me trying to get as much walking and exercise in as possible, but I had no idea how quickly ones mind can actually become stale and unhealthy. I now realise that my normal 'jump out of bed and get ready to teach' state of mind had kind of disappeared. Don't get me wrong, I still taught as best I could but my best actually slipped without me actually knowing it. How strange the human mind really is! Here in Shaowu each lunch time I walk for an hour or so along the river. I walk from the cities main bridge to the next bridge which I believe maybe east. I walk beneath or along side the cities main mountain (Xi Chun Park). I then cross the easterly bridge and walk back along the other side of the river and return to my school. Today I spent a wonderful few hours actually climbing the many stairs and walking along the beautiful walking tracks that take you from Pagoda to Pagoda upon the mountain. I stopped to chat and sing with many local peoples whom visit the mountain each weekend for a chance to relax and wind down after a big week at work. The end of the walking track led me to my normal easterly bridge as I thought it would. I crossed as usual, but instead of walking back along the river side I headed into the old alley ways that society is based around on 'the other side of the river'. It was such a great time. I found so much more than I was expecting to find. I also found that no matter where I am I always strive to find 'the poor' section of the town/city. This is the section where I find 99% of the cities 'real' smiles. Though they have sweet bugger all in comparison to the rest of the city, they are so happy to have what they have and to actually be alive. The children come out in droves and happily skip and jump along side me as we do our best to conversate. I find that the more Mandarin I know the less exciting it is for the children so I usually totally revert to total 1% conversational knowledge and add in the basic requirements, like where I am from etc. After such an awesome day I returned home and was then invited out for dinner with Daniels Middle School for a Christmas Eve Dinner. As usual the food was out standing and the company was amazing. Mr Doo who is my schools Foreign Affairs Teacher was at his normal self, full of smiles and downing beers like the beer factory was running out of beer. Like that could actually happen in China! After dinner Daniel, his Chinese friend and I headed back to my place for beer and a chat. On my wall hangs my world map and of course an Australian map so we spent the next several hours happily chatting about our travels and future travels and dreams. I now sit here at 1:30am happy knowing that tomorrow is a public holiday for us Foreign Teachers. I have spent uncountable days and nights whilst being away from my home land wondering why on earth the world's most multicultural society doesn't celebrate other cultural holidays and beliefs by granting them Public Holidays. Why doesn't Australia completely get rid of all of its current public holidays and introduce public holidays that totally relate to the society that we live in. Why not a few days off for Christmas and New Years, and then a few days off for the Chinese New Year along with days off for other cultural beliefs and traditions etc. Oh I'm sorry, we do! We celebrate the Queen of England's Birthday! Argh, Festive Beers N Noodles to you all....Shane

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Walk Through The Old River Quater...BEAUTIFUL!

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you Man how beautiful is this little south eastern city. I am so totally happy to be here. It is so full of a combination of both old and new that I found it hard to know where to begin exploring. My map tells me nothing at all. It is in Chinese so I'm guessing that where ever the Chinese writing is that means there is a noodle house...tee hee! I figured the best place to begin would be anywhere near and along the river since that is usually where any normal person would begin the building of a town or village. The other evening I found an old stone arch way that led into one of the cities 'old quarters' so I figured that would be a great place to head towards. So I headed back to the cities main bridge and began my journey along the river from there. My school is only half a block from the river and I soon found another archway that lead into an alley way that ran along the side my school. Here I found another 'old quarter' that actually ran along the river behind all the glitzy shop fronts that ran along 159 Street (or is it 519 Street) which is the cities main shopping street which is actually my address. How cool am I! I zipped in and out of the alley ways lined with moss covered little houses, noodle shops and old men and women hocking and coughing up lungs all over the place. Somehow I ended up back in the other 'old quarter' and spent many hours ducking in and out of little alley ways and dodging hand pulled carts and three wheeler bicycles. I found the old church and played some badminton with some young children for half an hour. During the game an old gent came out and pointed to the church and told me that it was built in the year 1882. Lucky for me I know how to count in Chinese (ee ba ba er - 1882). I then headed further along the little main street until I finally came to the cities edge. It was too dark the other night to see what was here but today I found beautiful vegetable patches in which farmers were hand watering them with old wooden 'double buckets' with sprinklers. Unfreakingbelievable! They were totally amazed to see me and motioned for me to come over and take some pictures. They were so full of life and huge smiles. They wouldn't stop giggling like little school girls. Maaaaaaaaate, I've still got it! Go Baby Go! Anyhow, that is enough from me. I am so full of 'street eats' that I need another walk to even begin to try and digest the food I have eaten today. I love China so much more each day. I just love the life here, they are such vibrant and colourful people. Life away from the glitzy shop fronts is such an indescribable experience that houses so many happy feelings that fill my stomach full of butterflies. Life is an awesome experience my friends. If you have the courage to leave behind everything you know and that feels comfortable, you too could be eating 'street eats' in little cobble stone streets in a mountain town on the south eastern coast of China. Beers N Noodles to you.....shane The soundtrack to tonight's writing is brought to you by two of Australia's most colourful bands. The first was none other than: The Cruel Sea and their award winning album 'The honeymoon is over'. If you don't have it...Get It! It really is like a panoramic experience for the mind. Beautiful! The second...HHhhhhmmm, well they are one of my favorite bands and the singer is one of the most unusual people you'll come across on stage: the band is The Fuck Fucks and the album 'Here' Get it if...I don't really know...maybe if you want a listening experience to a lot of my past which was spent in good old Aussie Pubs where you feet stick to the carpet. Awesome!

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The City So Far...Beautiful!

Hey Hey and a big G'Day What a wonderful life and what a wonderful place to live. I've spent the last two evenings walking the city and changing my Chinese map into English. Have got lost a few times but the city is not that big so in the end I always walk past something that looks familiar and I know I'm somewhere where I should be able to find my way back home again. It doesn't help that it's dark and when I pass by another old alley I'm drawn into it to explore. What usually happens is that I end up totally confused and lost again and the search for something familiar begins again. Mate I love exploring new cities. Lunch times so far have been spent walking along the river bank to the second bridge, crossing that and heading back along the other side of the river. All up it takes around fifty or so minutes. After school I've been chatting to some of the kids and then head out to find an alley full of street eats and spend an hour or so moving from stall to stall. The next three or four hours have been spend simply walking and getting lost in the excitement of life. Tonight I finally found what I've been looking for several months, a decent lightweight pair of hiking boots. In Lanzhou they had 'hiking' boots, meaning heavy and thick and terrible to pack. Baiyin, well Baiyin had sheep's wool boots and not a lot else I'm afraid. And Tiger Beer never appeared on the Great Supermarket In The Desert shelves again. Where was I...oh yes hiking boots. Tonight I found a great pair of lightweight boots. I was after hiking shoes but these boots aren't as high as normal boots so they should be cool. They'll be used mainly for what I do best, walking! That is when I'm not walking in my sandals! Tonight I made my way to the huge stone archway and spent a lot of the time walking the dimly lit streets of the old quarter. It was a beautiful night and I ended up winding my way through the little streets until I reached the farm land on the cities edge. I stopped to pat a few fat happy cats lazing the night away on some of the little store counters and really gave some of the locals something to talk about. I don't think there have been too many foreigners in Shaowu City, mainly teachers I'd say and I don't think a foreigner has ventured that far into the old quarter before. Anyhow that's it from me this evening. I hope to post some photos soon but right now it's time to hang some washing out. An entire load finished and I never had to fill a single bucket! Life just keeps getting better and better! Below is some information my buddy sent me on Shaowu City. Beers N Noodles to you all.....shane Inner City area: 10 km2 Population: 120,000 Per Capital: 7500 RMB Forest Covers: 70% of land area Farmers Per Capital: 3400 RMB Schools Of All Levels: 164 Pupil Enrolment Rate: 99.8% Weather Forecast: Thursday 21st: 1-17, Friday 22nd: 1-18, Saturday 23rd: 5-17 Now that beats -10 to -20!

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)