A Travellerspoint blog

My New Bike!

And other assorted points of interest.

semi-overcast 12 °C

DSC01586.JPGToday was filled with awesomeness! The first of which being, I bought a bike! Mine is the bright shiny turquoise one in the middle. It cost me Y170 (which is less then $30AUD) and it came with a lock, basket, and bell! The latter of which I used tentatively only once but they use them here like nobody's business. And bonus points, I actually made it back to uni without killing OR maiming myself on the streets of China! It took me three hours to find the actual place, after having been sent on a wild goose chase by the cleaning ladies/house keepers here at the dorms (I was pointed in the right direction by my Korean classmates), but I went to the first shop I saw, bartered down from Y230, and got told many times how pretty I was, and how much prettier foreigners are than Chinese people. And, yet again, asked about what religion I was - and laughed at when I said I didn't believe in anything.

POINT TWO FOR AWESOMENESS, you won't remember a few entries back, but in Taiwan I was charged twice for a transaction when I couldn't find any banks that would give me any money at like 10PM in Xi Zhi? Well, I got a letter from my bank ages ago saying "we are on your case, it may take up to 45 days for things to be resolved" and then bang, this morning I find that EXACTLY 45 days after that letter was dated, my bank reimbursed me the money the Taiwanese bank charged for AND the $4AUD transaction fee. Which, in Chinese money, is close to two weeks' budgeting! So I am worry-free about my bicycle-buying and trip expenditures (which means I have to go to the bank tomorrow to take out more money - I meant to go today but I forgot my PIN, haha).

Other points are, I have a job teaching English to four kids (three of them are ten, one is twelve) for an hour and a half on Saturdays. I was a nervous wreck the first time last week, but I got on all right and we had fun and making the lesson plan for this week was a piece of cake! Y50 for the time, which is a crock of shit and I'm going to ask for more when I go to the teacher's meeting tomorrow (maybe. I could wimp out on that) but really, I don't mind it for the experience anyway. It's not too far, takes about an hour to get there on the (VERY CRAMPED) bus, but I might try taking my bike out there tomorrow, just to see how I go. But then, I might not, because the bus is so convenient, and it's only Y1, even if it is lung-crushingly packed. It makes the ride interesting, anyway!

I went to an Indian restaurant today, apparently the ONLY one in Xi'an (you'd have thought there'd be more!), and it was delicious. I hadn't realized how much I missed Indian food until I had the opportunity of eating it again, because I got really excited when it was suggested and I think the Palak Paneer was the best I've ever had... possibly because I haven't had it in so long. I also asked Niki about any Thai restaurants, which there are a few of, apparently, and I really want to check them out, because yay for having Pad Thai in various countries!

Also while out, I realized that October is nearly over. Niki is putting together a Halloween party, Godfather themed, and I realized that Halloween is NEXT WEEK. Like, to the day. And then she mentioned the school trip we're going on, and that's in TWO WEEKS. Where did all the time go! I'm not ready for it to be November! I barely got used to being here at all, how is it nearly November! And then, November is nearly December, nearly the end of the year, and then! Then it's only two months until I leave China and that wasn't nearly long enough at all! I won't want to leave, I can tell already, but at least now I KNOW I'll be back. Who knows when, but I'll be back.

And then, there is the HSK exam on December 6, which I plan to take but not study too hard for. It's apparently a ridiculously hard test, the listening section is as hard as we have for our class which I NEVER get unless I'm reading along, and there are ten levels and last year Niki got a level three. Still, I'll see where I am in December, and then maybe take it again next year.

Other interesting things, in point form!

- Bought a bootleg of The Departed, a movie that's out in America right now, and it was AMAZING, EVERYONE MUST SEE IT I EVEN SUGGEST SHELLING OUT MONEY TO DO SO! lmao watch as it's still in Australian theatres when I get back.

- More on the aforementioned school trip: We're off to Henan province, where the only thing I remember there being is the Shaolin temple. There are other things, of course, but I've forgotten what they are, and THE ENTIRE THING cost Y300, which is $50AUD. INSANITY, but the school subsidizes massively and makes short-term or scholarship students pay through the nose for it. Talk about amazing.

- I learned that you can buy a driver's license for like Y2000. I mean, there are technicalities about having to take a driving test, but Niki knows some French guys who have just bought the license and not had to take a test. Too bad I don't have Y2000 lying around because that would be awesome! Bypassing Ls & Ps, definitely worth Y2000!

- Need to buy more sheets. Not this week though, I feel bad about the expenses of bike and last week's paying for the school trip, but on November 15 they turn on the heating and apparently the radiators get everything dirty so I'll get some sheets to put over the radiator vent, and probably move my bed out a little. Also another set on top of that so I can change them every now and then! I am going to be taking home so much bedding, haha.

- It has been FREEZING here, and raining on and off for a couple of weeks. I think I will definitely need some more clothes for winter, just layers and things but I sort of feel bad not taking advantage of the crazy cheap clothes as well!

That's all for now!

Posted by alexifer 06:02 Archived in China Tagged photography Comments (2)

Xi'an Tourist Day Trip!

semi-overcast 18 °C

This was yet another hasty decision for a tour, but also one that worked out really well in the end. My American friend Sarah was interested in going to the Terracotta Warriors, so she with her very limited Chinese set something up. There was much confusion and the bus was an hour late, but we got on the bus in the end and managed to squeeze five amazing Xi'an sights into one twelve-hour day!

First up was Lin Tong museum, which was nice but it wasn't exactly a booming start to our trip. It was a museum that was basically a bunch of old pots and ceramic ware, bronzes and other sorts of artefacts, put into an old Buddhist monestary building. It was interesting, in that you got to see some museum-type things, and there was also a particularly interesting poster about the various corporal punishments in Han dynasty China, but other than that it felt a bit random.

Second up was the Hua Qing Hot Springs, the site of the springs from Li mountain, which is actually a dormant volcano (or, in our English tour guide's words, 'a hot mountain'). The water is around 80C underground, but by the time it comes up to the surface it's a lovely 43C, and we paid our Y.50 to wash our hands and faces in it - apparently, it makes you beautiful! There, we saw three old chambers from the Tang dynasty, during which the whole place was made. There was the first emperor's bath - which looked about the size of a swimming pool! - the seventh emperor's bath - slightly smaller - and the seventh emperor's famous concubine's pool. The seventh emperor's concubine was named Lady Yang, and she was famed for her beauty, which was said to be replenished constantly by the hot springs.

For a bit of a recent history lesson, Chiang Kai-Shek also had a field operations base at the Hua Qing Hot Springs, and it was also the site of what has now become called the Xi'an Incident. The story goes that the Communists and the Guomindang were both getting really scared of the Japanese threat to the country (as it was the 1930s and Japan was scary) and there was supposed to be some sort of unification between the two Chinese factions. However, the Communists say that Chiang Kai-Shek didn't want to agree to form a united front, and so they chased him out of his bedroom at Hua Qing and up the mountain.

So, following chronologically, after the Hot Springs we went up Li mountain to take a look at Chiang Kai-Shek's hide-out. The touristy things were only put up in the last six years, which is really interesting, and they now have a pavillion that tells the story of the Xi'an Incident, and also climbing ropes so that you can climb up the rocky side of the mountain and take a look at the little hole Chiang kept himself hidden in for the few hours it took for the Communists to find him. Sarah went up there, with rather more ease than any of the rest of us thought we could do, and said it was a tiny hole with a opening in the top. The rest of the tourist attractions included a "park", in which there were displayed some tanks and Jeeps, and also a plane, integral to the Xi'an Incident, and a nice stone mural that told the story in carvings. You could also take a picture with a Chiang Kai-Shek look-alike!

From there, we went to the Qin Shi Huang mausoleum, which was the first emperor of China, responsible for unifying China for the first time under one ruling after the Warring States Period. He's also the one responsible for the army of Terracotta Warriors, the site of which was only situated a few kilometres away. The mausoleum is a big mountain, which we were going to climb up but we were short on time, so just had a quick jaunt around the base and watched a performance that included various ceremonies that would have happened during the Qin dynasty: there were some offerings to gods, with one person dressed up as Qin Shi Huang; a dance by some ladies dressed in long flowing white dresses; some warrior-type dances, as well as some guards looking very intimidating. That was enjoyable enough, but there were a lot of moths and bees hovering around the flowers near us which was a little off-putting.

Lunch was interesting, if only for the fact that the restaurant we stopped at was behind the site of a wedding, which of course was filled with huge celebratory dances and lots of fireworks and everything. We couldn't see them from inside the building, but we could definitely hear them, and at one point they started playing the wedding march on their traditional instruments, it was pretty funny. It was also this point that I revealed how competent I was with my Chinese. There were a group of Australians on the tour as well, two of whom had been living in a city in the west working as teachers, and none of them spoke Chinese. I was there with Sarah, so I was really the only person who could speak Chinese amongst them, and I worked out our bills and everything because just waiting around for it was just getting too tedious. I don't mind being one of the foreigners and having an English-speaking tour guide and all, but when it's hindering our ability to eat or pay, then it just gets annoying. So I helped everyone out, and then they all knew I could speak Chinese - even if I'd told them before.

So then we went to the Terracotta Warriors - the entire point of us going on the trip! It's a huge complex with three pits of warriors, horses, generals, and archers. Pit #1 is the first one you go into, and the most famous. It looks like an aeroplane hangar, the curved rooftop and the wide open space, and it's large enough to fit planes in, but instead there is a large hole in the ground. At the front there are a few rows of repaired warriors and horses, and behind them are long aisles of warrior carnage. The way they were buried was in empty chambers, so due to the earth's natural movements over the last couple of thousand years, the statues were broken and buried with earth. The statues themselves are hollow all except for the legs, so they were particularly prone to breakages, so it's understandable. Still, there are lots of repaired ones, and they do an amazing job restoring them. One of the reasons they're not digging up any more is that the warriors are actually brightly colored and painted, and for the first few moments after being excavated, they retain their colors, but they quickly change into the dirty brown color after mixing with the atmosphere, so they don't want to dig up too many more before they figure out how to save that coloring.

Pits #2&3 are smaller and contain more carnage, which is really interesting as well. Pit #3 has a lot of the brick flooring in tact, and because they're smaller pits, you can see a lot of the details much better. They're just more of the same, though, really, and Pit #2 has some of the restored ones in glass cases where you could see them up close (one of them had the bright red on its armor, which was amazing). I remember this about last time I went to the Terracotta Warriors - just seeing them isn't really that spectacular. I mean, just the concept of them is amazing, and the actual reality of seeing them is sort of less impressive than the whole fact that they're there and what it means. Sort of like the pyramids? Though I've never seen them up close and imagine they're a bit more visually stunning.

And after that it was time to go home! There are lots of other things to see around Xi'an - I have still yet to go to the Hua Mountains, which I've heard are stunning - and I'll get around to them eventually, but this was one of those Xi'an Essential trips, something you have to do otherwise you just haven't been to Xi'an.

My Travellerspoint Photo Gallery has been updated with photos from the trip!

Posted by alexifer 07:41 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

桂林:一山, 一水, 一名城

Gui Lin: Mountains. Rivers. A famous city. October 1-4

sunny 22 °C

The title of this entry was gleaned from big flags stuck to lightposts in Gui Lin city, and I believes it sums up most of the experience of Gui Lin.

But, you know me. Let's start at the beginning.

I had originally intended to spend the week off (given for the National Day holiday October 1, and the Mid-Autumn festival, this year on October 6) with a friend from Sydney Uni who was working in Beijing, but those plans fell through on the Wednesday or so, and I made the rush decision to make plans to go to Gui Lin, which I'd heard of as being 1) one of China's most beautiful places, and 2) one of China's biggest tourist traps. It sounded like fun, so I enlisted the help of an English-speaking travel agent my friend Niki had dealt with before and caught the last tour group with space free, with a flight leaving at 9:30am on the Sunday (National Day) and returning on a 10:30pm flight on Wednesday. It was a rush decision but it was definitely worthwhile in the end.

Of course, it wasn't without its downsides, and the first of which was that I had to wake up at 5am to meet Steve (the travel agent) who took me to the airport shuttle in the city, and I got to the airport by about 7 - way too early for a domestic flight on a good day, and then there was the matter of the thick haze in Xi'an which meant the flight was delayed by two and a half hours.

This hanging around the airport wasn't without consequence, of course, the first of which was that I was noticed sitting alone by another tour group filled with what I can only assume were not city folk, who decided that I was terribly interesting and they all took photos of me with their kids. It was a little strange. Well, talking to me was all right, I can accept that even for city folk it's not every day you see a lone Westerner sitting in the airport looking bored, and certainly not one who can speak Chinese, or who studies in Xi'an, so that was all right. The photos with their kids was strange, though, and it's weird to think that these people are going to take the photos home and show people and I wonder what they'll say. "And this was the foreigner that we met at the airport..." - it seems bizarre to me.

Secondly, the travel agent (not Steve, a Mr. Wang I'd met when I picked up my tickets) hooked me up with three people who were in my tour group in Gui Lin. There were two men and a woman, who were all from the same 单位 (dan wei, a system of organizing people under the Communist party through their workplace, now more commonly just referring to one's place of work), and we chatted and they fed me dried fruit sticks and peanut/sesame bars which were absolutely delicious and filled me up after my lack of breakfast. It's hard to spend two and a half hours talking to people, though, and so I settled down with an awesome book my sister got me for my birthday and finished it to pass the time (thankfully I'd brought two books with me, though I didn't get very far into Fever Pitch).

Then, once we'd gotten to Gui Lin, the three people were sent to another hotel and I was left with a young couple who were staying at the same hotel as me, and we went out after settling into the hotel (at about 4pm, yes ELEVEN hours after I woke up). We walked around Gui Lin city, which isn't very big by Chinese standards - only 400,000+ people actually live there, most of whom I assume do so to serve the tourists which make up the rest of the floating population - and quickly found the Sun & Moon temples. We also found a large stall for a fancy brand of 白酒 (bai jiu, which is about 50% alcohol and the foulest thing I have ever tasted) and they had a look at it and while I was hanging around, the salespeople decided it would be great for PR if they got a photo of me trying some. So I obliged, but the stuff is really disgusting - the couple seemed more discerning, but I just said I wasn't used to alcohol that strong.

Other than that, we wandered around looking at shops and stalls and they took me to dinner (which I insisted upon paying my share of - they'd already bought me a drink and some meat-on-a-stick! The hospitality was overwhelming, really) and then helped me catch a taxi back to the hotel at around 8pm, because I was starting to feel really crap. I'd caught a cold, of course, and they helped me to find some medicine (which, not that I could read the ingredients, but to me seemed more health-related than drug-related) and I was starting to fade by 8pm. I spent the rest of the night in the hotel room watching a karaoke TV show, something that felt sort of like Idol but wasn't quite as polished.

The next morning there was a 6:50am wake-up call and we were out of the hotel and at our first destination by 9am (after visiting three hotels to pick up everyone - the first signs of disorganization). Our first destination was a five-hour cruise down the 漓江 (Li Jiang) river, which was fantastic. There I got acquainted with most of the other people on my tour, because once we went up onto the top deck to take photos they all seemed to want photos with the foreigner in their group. The most lasting friendship I made there was an English student about my age and her mother. They're all from Xi'an, so I've got the girl's number and we'll probably see each other again. The boat ride was fun aside from making new friends, the scenery was gorgeous, and the tourists many, so there was always plenty happening. Of course, after lunch was nap time and after that was karaoke time. And yep, you guessed it, the foreigner was nabbed for karaoke. I had no idea what to sing, so I just serenaded them with my horrible singing voice doing a rendition of the Australian national anthem.

After that, there was some mass confusion about what we were doing for the rest of the day. There was yelling, and the tour guide seemed to be apologizing at the same time as yelling back, but I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I asked the second tour guide, a boy about my age who seemed to naturally speak slowly which was great for me, and he explained that there was not enough tour buses to take us all to places we had picked out earlier (or, in my case, had someone pick out for me because I didn't know what they all were). So it's understandable everyone was getting angry, but I was all right with it because I had very few expectations anyway, so I just waited out the fighting and eventually we were taken to another place for an hour's ride down a smaller and shallower arm of the 漓江 river. I sat next to the woman I'd met at the airport, and she showed me pictures of her five year-old daughter (who was adorable!) and we talked generally about how lovely the area was. There were some mini-waterfalls that got my jeans wet but the water was nice and warm, so I didn't mind at all.

Next on our list was a minority village. The exact minority group it represented was lost in translation, but the whole village wasn't a real village, it was an entirely staged event to portray the minority as uncultured, childish people, and I didn't know what to make of it. I knew the place was fake, but I couldn't tell whether the behavior was entirely put on or not. I don't doubt that these people spoke the language they were speaking to each other, but I had my doubts as to whether they truly didn't speak any Mandarin Chinese. I mean, since the place was fake and this was just a job to them, they had to speak some so as to get on with their jobs. But it gave absolutely no insight into these people's everyday lives - just the lives the minority peoples probably lived years ago. I just don't know what the reality was - did these people go back to a little village approximating this, or did they go back to apartment buildings and televisions? Their behavior was even more confusing. We had been told beforehand that they were a boisterous lot, and it was true. They took your hand and touched you and stared at you (me more than anyone, obviously - I didn't see a single Westerner in the entire place) and bumped you with their bums, but I didn't know what to make of it. Was that all put on too? Or was it really how they acted with one another? I was inclined to believe the girls' behavior more than the boys', but mostly because they were less loud and didn't make advances to me in incredibly clear hand gestures (nothing rude, just pointing at me, pointing at himself, and then making a sleeping and kissing gesture. Still!). One of the girls did slap my ass though - it was dirty because I'd been sitting on the ground after being dragged into the middle of a performance, which I was so thankfully joined by Destiny, the English student.

Dinner that night was nothing special, but afterwards we went to a Miao minority performance on the Li river which was directed by 张艺谋 (Zhang Yi Mou), of Hero fame, which was spectacular. Most of the performance was on the river, boats and there was an amazing display where people on about ten rows of little bamboo boats manipulated these huge long streams of red fabric in waves. I've uploaded a video of some Miao girls in their traditional dress and silver adornments which you can download: here.

The second day was a bit of a rip-off. We went to five places that were pretty much entirely advertisements and excuses to buy things. Three were gem places (crystal, jade, and other gems), one seafood snack & health product place, and one coffee place. It was about the most bizarre thing I've ever experienced. For the crystal and seafood places, you went first into a room to hear a spiel about how awesome these things were, and with the others you were shown some examples and given some history on whatever it was, after which you were shunted into a big sales floor where you could buy to your heart's content. It was a colossal waste of time, but it did on the other hand give me time to talk more with Destiny, her mother, and the young tour guide, who were more than happy to teach me words (I learned how to explain what my parents do for livings, and also the words for 'crystal', 'Buddha', and 'Goddess of Mercy' - the latter two of which were relevant because they were common statues made out of crystal and jade). That was great, and it was about then that I really started to open up to the whole learning part of the trip, which was half the fun of it for me, really.

Other than advertisements, we went to a few parks, which are of course more spectacular than any other parks because in Gui Lin they're at the tops of mountains and have spectacular views of rivers and there are Buddhist carvings in the sides of caves. One of them had a zoo in it, which I visited with the young couple and managed to hold up the rest of the group because we were looking at animals. The main attraction was the panda, who was awake and eating at the time, but we also had a look at bears, a red panda, and some monkeys. It was actually quite upsetting, because they weren't exactly the best conditions for animals to be kept in (parts of the gibbons' cage was broken, the bear looked really frustrated in his tiny cage, and people were throwing food at the tiny baby chimp), but the young couple seemed to be happy with it and it just struck a strange chord, I suppose.

Another highlight was a visit to the Reed Flute Caves, which were huge underground crystal caves with some really impressive crystal formations, and also some amazing lighting stunts that just made the crystals so much more lively. However, I was put on edge the entire time by the lack of barriers and the fact people could (and children did) touch and climb over anything they wanted, with complete disregard for the crystals! I have to give some background history here, because if you haven't (or even if you have, I don't know) been to a crystal cave like this before, I went to the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains just a week or so before I left for China, and it was very different. My dad and I went to the first cave walk of the day, and it was just a quiet and intimate setting with about fifteen of us walking through the caves with the guide, who was probably the reason for my discomfort in Gui Lin. He told us stories about how the crystals were formed, how long it took, and he stressed how you should never, under any circumstances, touch a crystal because it will be tainted by the oils and never be able to grow again. He also told us stories about how people and broken things just trying to steam-clean the caves from gases, and how they'd blasted through things just trying to get into the caves. So then to be at the Reed Flute Caves with a thousand other people, kids running around, people touching everything and dirtying up the crystals... it was just incredibly jarring. And even though I didn't say anything about the animals in cages to the young couple, I actually mentioned this discomfort to Destiny because I was so affected by it.

And that was about the last of it. I had another day there, as my flight left at 10:30pm, but that was filled sitting around talking to Destiny all day (I spent a happy half hour trying to explain Survivor in Chinese, and how it's interesting as a social experiment), which was really fun but it was like four hours of sitting around, so by the time they left to catch their train home, I went out and retraced the steps I'd taken with the young couple so I could peruse the markets and buy some things before I left. I made a couple of bargains, then nearly got lost on the way back, but made it back in time for the bus to take us to do more and more waiting. There was another contingent of Xi'an people getting back in on the same flight, and we all gabbed on for a bit (it was sometimes difficult, as they had very thick Shaanxi accents) and got on the plane, I caught the last airport shuttle bus back to the city, caught a taxi back, and finally got into my room again at 1:30am.
One of the most amusing strains in the conversations I had, though, was the fact that everyone was surprised that I was paying for all of this myself, and that I pay for half of my uni education, I buy my own clothes and all that, and they were even more stunned when I told them I knew people who lived away from home after they left high school. It's very much the custom here for children to be looked after until they're married, when they usually live with their parents anyway, and then they look after their parents when they get old. It was one of those moments, I guess, when something I'd only read about in class and heard about from people who'd been away from China for too long really came true for me. I could sort of believe it wasn't true, or at least they wouldn't be surprised that it went on, before I got here, but having conversations with several different people about it just confirmed the cliche, I guess.

So, all in all, I felt disoriented about it all for the most part, but once I started using my Chinese a lot more, it was fun and educational, and I got a lot more than just a vacation to see pretty scenery out of it.

Posted by alexifer 00:26 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Fitness Center promo video

The things you get roped into as a Westerner in China.

sunny 15 °C

Hokai, so.

One of my friends here, a girl named Niki from Belgium, has a great Chinese friend with fantastic English who is the owner of a fitness center just outside the university. Last week sometime I got a call from her asking if I'd like to be in a promotional video that was going to be playing in Denmark (of all places), where they were thinking of opening up a fitness center. We went to check it out (me, Niki, and some other people we'd dragged along) last week, and then yesterday was the actual video shoot.

Well, the morning was a regular day, fairly normal classes (we talked about men who have facials in speaking class, and I didn't understand anything in listening again...), and I had lunch and did some homework before having to high-tail it out of there to get to the fitness center across the road by 1:40. It was all good, I caught Sarah (an American girl) on the way down, we had both changed into our "sporty" clothes already (my pyjamas, haha!), and then we met up with Niki and the two Frenchh boys she had recruited also, Xavier and Sylvain. I know their names so well because they have had to say them about a thousand times for the Chinese people - I mean, they're hard enough to pronounce if you speak English, let alone Chinese!

Anyhow, the fitness center we were going to videotape in wasn't the one that was conveniently located five minutes from the south gate, no! It was about ten minutes by car away, in none other than the Gao Xin area! Also known as, the high tech zone, aka my old stomping ground! It wasn't that far into Gao Xin, but my goodness I recognized the big abalone restaurant on the corner, a huge intersection where there were two massive banks and a hotel where we had lunch with the headmisstress of the school... further down I'm sure I would have seen my old apartment building, and it's made me even more excited and determined to go back! Things have changed, of course, and I don't recognize a lot - there's a KFC at the top of the road now - but I think my memory of Gao Xin will be much stronger than that of the city. Which reminds me - I had placed the Stelle Forest somewhere entirely wrong, as I stumbled across it with Malcolm (a Belgian boy I've made friends with) on Saturday.

Back to fitness, though! The place in Gao Xin was new, opening on Friday I think, and so it was empty, with only a few interruptions from prospective members walking through to use the equipment. In true Chinese "organizational" manner, nothing was organized or even remotely on time. We were sitting around for more time than we were actually doing anything, but that was fair enough, because when we did actually get to working out, it was hard work. Duh, obviously, but it was surprising! The idea of the fitness center is based around this one work out that's 30 minutes long and it's basically a circuit of hydraulic machines that work various muscles. The hydraulics are really light and easy to use, but after a while of course, your muscles get tired and you start feeling a bit like everything is heavier. I don't think we actually did a full 30 minutes, but we did two short bursts which probably ended up being about 30 minutes. This was to show off the group classes, and we all had to go around the circuit once and do all of the machines. Then, after doing one take and ANOTHER because we were apparently not perky enough (I don't know why they thought we'd be perkier for take two!), we did some more just random circuiting as the owner of the center, Jennifer, introduced the video. We also did individual introductions to each of the machines, and then we had to do introductions to ourselves, which involved us using the machines at the same time as we introduced ourselves. Very embarrassing.

Then by the time everything was done, it was about six o'clock. So it had taken four hours to shoot what will probably be a five minute video, haha!

After we'd all finished up our video, we went to dinner out in Gao Xin, at a place that was apparently Chinese fast food. I don't really know how it was fast food, as the food seemed pretty fresh, and they brought it right to the table andeverything, but there you go. It was really nice, it was seven of us - the five students and Jennifer, the owner, and her sister Ivy, who both speak amazing English. Jennifer's spent lots of time in Florida, where she picked up the idea for the 30 minute hydraulic training, but Ivy's just learned her English in college, which was pretty amazing. They both look incredibly young, Jennifer looks about 25 but she's turning 40! It's insane, and totally unfair as she's also tiny. She told us how she was graduating from Peking University in 1989 when the protests were going on, but the story she told was about how she copied her final assessment and only got a B on it!

The dinner was very kindly paid for by Jennifer and Ivy, beacuse we didn't actually get paid for the video shoot I suppose, and they even paid for our taxi ride back to the university! We also got a three-visit pass to the fitness center and Jennifer has offered us a discount if we decide to become members. I'm thinking about it, because well, it's just half an hour out of my day (or however many days I decide to do it), which including travel time is probably only an hour, so why not, really? I guess I'll see how expensive it is, but Niki's already a member and she's going to start going again, so I don't really see why not, when there's one just over the road.

After dinner, me and Niki and Sarah went to King Coffee, which I had already been to with Niki, after a nice birthday dinner she took me to. The previous time they burned the coffee, but this time it was great. Quite expensive, by any standards, Y22 which is about $3.50 for a large, and about six times the price of a 600ml bottle of Coke. We talked for a while, about an hour I suppose, about lots of different things - China, death (Niki's grandfather is a few days from dying, essentially, so she's sort of processing it right now), religion, boys... it was quite good.

Then we walked home, and the rest of the night was quite boring. Today my legs hurt and my chest (there were exercises for everything!), but otherwise I feelt all right.

And now, the guy to fix my bathroom light is here! So I shall go. (Showering in the bathroom was annoying...)

Posted by alexifer 00:05 Archived in China Comments (1)

Photo Update!

sunny 17 °C

I went out shopping today and bought some more things for my room, so I thought I'd upload some pictures. Since I messed up with Flickr, I've got these new photos up at TP, and the link is


Since everyone has gotten used to seeing my pictures on Flickr, I won't use this new one very often - mostly only use it if I run out of room over there. But you can subscribe to this new one just like you've subscribed to this blog, so you can get updated when I put new photos over there.

Just your PDA for today, I'll update about that mysterious-sounding fitness video later...

Posted by alexifer 00:01 Archived in China Tagged photography Comments (0)

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