Update + Summer 2012 Travel Plans

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June 27th 2012
Published: June 28th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

End of Year School

Well, it's the end of the school year, and all that's left is some odds and ends mainly about grades. Was assigned to teach 8 Science 10's this year, but in both semesters I got bumped off a couple of those for other classes:Math 10 and Chem 11.

The language and the work ethic overall of the second semester was noticably worse. Almost 10% of them rarely (if ever) show up. School doesn't seem to be able to do anything about it. (As there is no threat of expulsion). Laziness is rampant, in part due to the mismatch between the two cultures. Where normally here in this country, attendance (even if asleep the whole time with no work done) means a pass, and teachers often get 'bonuses' to ensure higher marks. It breeds significant laziness. It doesn't quite work here, but the boys don't seem to get that. They generally are only motivated by things that bring them immediate rewards (or avoid immediate consequences). There is almost no communication between the two sides of the school, so while I send many messages to the counsellors about such boys, I never know what if anything was done.

But aside from the rampant laziness and the complete apathy of so many of the boys, they are always respectful to authority. And it's bizarre how you can bring the hammer down on a kid, and the next day he is happy to see you. I would imagine that's a pretty rare event back home.

Russian Visa

I had been waiting for a mail of my Russian official invitation (by a travel agent) for some time. I had started to get the secretaries to pass messages along, but got the message back that the mail guy was too busy to bother to look for mail (read as: too busy to do job). So after one final check in my mail-box, I got a Chinese colleague to walk with me around to the various locations that mail is stored. And one by one looked through each. Nothing there. It had been 1.5 hours since I had looked in my mailboxes, and since I am a believer in probabilty I figured the odds were so insignificant that the mail would be there. Nonetheless I was nudged on to do it by my Chinese colleague, and lo and behold it was there. Coincidence? I doubt it. This scenario has happened a few times.

This week I went to Shenyang twice to apply for and then pick up my Russian Visa. The train ride was long (5.5 hours each way). I was in the equivalent for the lower class in China. Packed into a seated train, with a fair number of standing passengers. I arrived 2 hours late (spent one hour sitting in one train station waiting for something) at almost 2am. I took a taxi to my hotel for the night. The next morning I taxi'd to the Russian consulate. It was in a relatively small complex of a few of the significant and important countries' consulates: US, Russia, Japan, Korea (that I saw). I got waved into the Russian Consulate and started to apply but the form they had on the website was not correct. So I had to fill out a new one that had a lot of information needed liked previous employers, post-secondary education (and phone numbers and such). After I completed my form I handed it in, paid the 754 RMB fee for Canadians ('rush': 3 days processing). I headed back to the train station, bought a ticket for later in the day and was off to Dalian.

A few days later I went back to pick-up the visa. I trained in and then had a few hours to kill so I wandered around the downtown area. Eventually I set off for the consulate, armed with naught but a blurry photograph of a map and a compass. The map lost all detail in the area I wanted to go so I ended up making a wrong turn somewhere and made it off map. I had a larger less detailed map as well and it did have the street I was on and I was able to deduce where I was and subsequently headed back in the right direction and found the consulate with no problem. I picked up my shiny new Russian visa in my passport and headed back to the downtown. I stopped for Indian food, wandered through a rainy park littered with Chinese playing games or music (and one guy singing opera) under covers. I got into the downtown and decided to watch a movie. Ended up seeing the only English movie available: Hunger Games. Acting was quite good and plot was quite good even if the tone and theme was clearly aimed at teens.

Once finished I headed to the train station to wait for my train. I took out my book to read and almost missed my train (missed the 'calling' for passengers). The train itself was exceptionally smelly, hot and filled with people. The older man across from me kept bugging me for the first 2 hours to ask questions. Another man beside me knew a bit of English and would interpret. I often knew how to answer in Chinese, (as they were the typical questions) - I just had no idea how to interpret the questions.

The train arrived at 6 am, and so I hopped off and took the kuai gui train back to home before plopping on my bed, exhausted.

Bike Trip

I also did a bit of a camping bike trip. I was originally intending to camp along the Great Wall, but none of the nearby places were panning out. Qinhuangdao and Qing Dao were too difficult to get to to do a weekend. Dandong only had a very small section. So instead I just did a short bike trip into a nearby peninsula. It was a route I had done many times before up to the top of a significant hill, but instead of hitting the top I took a new route down and into a true Chinese fishing village. I gambled and got lucky when I randomly picked a dirt trail heading away from the village up into the hills. It was a rough trail and eventually I spotted what looked to be a clearing up the side of a hill. I bushwacked through the shrubbery and it was a good location. I set up my tent, which was a bit of a process. Then cooked dinner (my home-made fajitas) and by the time it was all done, it was dark. There wasn't anything nearby to really make a fire so I used a bit of fuel to roast marshmellows for desert. The next morning I got up packed up and hit the big hill to head back home.

Summer Plan

So the summer planning is coming along. The main plan is to train from China to Mongolia on July 3rd arriving the next day in Ulaan Baatar. A 20 day tour through the country-side with a company called Khongor has been booked, and includes many long drives through the country-side, staying in many local gers, horseback rides and camel rides. Should be an experience. Then on July 26th we train up to Russia in Irkutsk **update** and will train to Novosibirsk to do a 12-13 day trekking/white-water rafting tour through the Altai mountains. Then we would return home on Aug 8th. Owing to the nature of the trip, these blogs are likely to be few and far between. I will try to update them when I can, but this trip I will not have the internet on the phone like I did in Indonesia, nor will i have the regular access to Wifi like I did in Vietnam.

My flight back to Canada leaves (and oddly arrives) on the morning of Aug 11th.


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