Practice and Theory and other Misc events



In Theory China has some of the tightest laws and controls on drugs, security and crime. In practice their application is to be polite, sporadic. Train stations in Beijing have security sections at both entrances and exits where any bags must be subjected to X-ray so that the officer who has fallen asleep behind the machine can completely miss anything dangerous or illegal.

In other news my work partner Kyall was turned into a pin cushion a few nights back by Lanzhou’s resident mosquito population and so he went to one of the city’s many pharmacys to try and find some bite cream. He came back somewhat unerved as apparently pharmacy staff in Lanzhou find the idea of you browsing or shopping without their help unthinkable. So speaking no real mandarin Kyall was assulted with a endless selection of presumably polite but unintelligable questions by no less than 5 floor staff and 2 cashiers as they accompanied him round the store. Eventually found what he wanted though after much pointing and cry’s of Zhege! (this one!)

Finally, the school I work at, “The High School Attached to the Normal Northwest University” ( I am not making that name up), has a sizable running track which I’ve started to use every 2nd-3rd night ( the day is too interesting to waste running).  The portions of food that you get in China are simply enormous and the vast majority of it is fried as well.  Some of the bowls in which the food is served seem closer to buckets. It is not difficult to work out that this coupled with no exercise is going to cause considerable width-wise bodily expansion.  I don’t fancy returning to England as ****ing fat.

So while running 2 nights back at around 9:30 on what I thought was a deserted running track, I noticed that it was not in fact deserted and that two students were locked in a tender embrance, broken by a round of passionate snogging right by the side of the outer line of 200 meter mark.  This is a sight that I just find unbearably annoying and nauseating. However as I trudged/jogged passed them feeling disappointed that I hadn’t got a fog horn on me I had a wonderful thought. The two students who had evidently snuck out of class (school finishes at 10pm, and no I am not making that up either) where enjoying a sickenly romantic moment together, you know staring into each others eyes on a moonlit field while embracing one another with no one else about, wispering each others names and all that crap.  Until I ruined it  by showing up plodding, wheezing, sweating and occasionally letting off a gasp of “…****…this” like the hairy foreign devil that I am. What’s even better because it took me at least 2 and a half minutes to make it fully round the track there was enough time for them to get back into the mood and wonder if I had finished before it was trashed once more as i came round for another lap. This thought cheered me up so much that despite getting increasingly exhausted, I decided to run on the outer line so I would be that much closer when I wheezed passed them. Disappointingly it only took about 3 laps before they left, I was hoping to ruin the moment at least 5 times. If they show up again, and I hope they do, I’ll set it as a challenge to see if I can achieve that.

The great wall…its big

The Great Wall of China is rightfully called one of the great wonders of the world. That is if you can find a bit that is not swamped with American tourists noisily commenting with their usual wit on everyone and everything in 50 meters.  Possibly while simultaneously trying to buy something from one of the army of street vendors that colour the wall, not speaking a word of mandarin and assuming that the vendor will understand them if they move closer and shout even louder.  As the vendor just stands there smiling not understanding what is being said but knowing that they can safely charge 5 times the normal price and their oh so culturally sensitive customer will still think its cheap.

Luckily I and the rest of the project trust volenteers managed to avoid such a experience by going to what is known as the “wild” wall. That is a part of the wall which is not maintained for tourist reasons. Granted it was a two hour journey from Beijing, followed by a overnight stay in a small village plus a 40 minute climb up a mountain that became increasingly vertical as you reached the top, in 33 degree humid heat causing everyone’s shirt to be soaked with sweat to the degree that it could be wrung out of our t-shirts (there is a reason as to why everyone in the photo’s has their shirts off).  However this is a small price to pay in order to see the Great Wall as it should be seen, a stunning historical monument not a farcical theme park.

Those various barriers ensured that we where the only ones who where on that part of the wall. It is quite impossible to genuinely describe what its like to be on that wall…so i won’t i just hope that the pictures speak for themselves 

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Patience is a virtue in China in much the same way that breathing is a necessity for continuing to live.

I know I said that it would be a few days before I posted again, though I can’t imagine anyone reading this has really been that distressed from my protacted absence. As it turns out, it took us, me and my work partner Kyall, nearly a week to get internet in the apartment where we now live for the next year. China is a bizzare mix of efficiency and druken work ethics.  Punctuallity is vital to maintaining all imporant face yet it will take you eons to get anything fixed in your house. The Chinese are also very good at not sharing what you would think was imporant information. The resident Texan teacher Pat told me of Continue reading

Beijing: The Boris Johnson of the East

First up i would like to present the latest hat style found on hotter days in Beijing, hope you enjoy.

In any case I’ve just spent 2 out of 4 days in Beijing on what Is a rather free and refreshingly lax sightseeing tour. Project trust feels quite rightfully so that this is a gentler landing into your new home for the year rather than lobbing you head first into your project as the often unprepared devil foreigner that you are. In any case Beijing is mad as a city, literally and metaphorically. The Chinese had garnered a PR image as one of immense tranquillity, unity and self-control. Everything is carefully ordered and structured and follows Continue reading

On my way in Abu Dhabi airport

Sand DunesWell this begins the Straw Dragons blog which detailing the experiences of its author while teaching English for a year in a Chinese high school. As it currently stands I am not actually in what its natives modestly call zhong gao or middle nation (as in the centre of the earth). Instead I am sitting on a sturdy suitcase, probably taking up more room than I need, waiting for the gate of my transfer flight to Beijing in Abu Dhabi to open. Given then that whatever exciting/tepid adventures I may experience haven’t actually happened yet I have very little to write about.

So I will simply finish by saying that for whatever reason you are reading this, either because you know me and care enough to follow my often rambling steam of thought or because you have simply stumbled across this in the recesses of the net. I hope that you find what you see to be at least in part amusing.