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Published: August 22nd 2007
FIRST TRIP -TRACK
arrived in Shanghai then teacking in Nanchang. I made side trips to Lushan, Guilin and yangshou, Kumning. I finally left thru Beijing and hong Kong
Entry #1 China 2004-05
I soon found that travel in China alone, (away from the tour groups), was a lot harder than India. It was bloody hard at first, with virtually no English and no Tourist information, even in Shanghai, where I arrived. Even when I did get help, a lot of it was out of date because the place is changing so fast!
MY HOME TOWN FOR TEN MONTHS.
The city where I was to teach was Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province; a fairly unknown place off the tourist track, of about 4 million people. It is considered a little behind the other bigger cities, but more like the ‘real’ old China, so I thought it should be more interesting. It was changing fast, back in 2005 and I probably would not recognise it now.
It was actually the first city in China to become communist; but only for a few days (in 1927) before the government kicked them out. They escaped to the hills nearby and met up with another rebel leader named Mao Tse Tung. Together, they went on a bit of a ‘walkabout’ called ‘The Long March’ and the rest is
Welcome to Nanchang
China's leader in the 1980’s-Deng Xiaping said, “It doesn’t matter the colour of the cat, as long as it still catches mice.”
I say,"Any city that has two giant cats as their symbol, is OK by me."
It was quiet relaxing exploring it and surrounding areas on the weekends, in spite of the crowds. There was always something new to see and I am sure I was the first foreigner many of the locals had seen. The people were always friendly and getting lost was never that much of a hassle; actually it was the best way to see things. People would always point you in a direction, often the RIGHT direction. In the end I really got to like this 5000 year old city and surround villages with giant empty skyscrapers and 6 lane highways leading to nowhere; waiting for the future to catch up.
MY WORKPLACE FOR TEN MONTHS
Arrived at the school to welcoming banquette and a few days latter another one with news reports and cameras for the President of the Province at top class hotel. They really make you feel welcome.
I was working at an established university on the edge of the city named "Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University" and living on the campus in a fairly quiet area with well-established gardens. It was only a pleasant seven-minute walk to work and two-minute walk to cafeteria and
Rebiult 9 story buiding next to river with fishing boat in foreground
basic groceries. My co-teachers were from Oz, England Canada, US and Italy, so it was good to have feedback from others who have done this before.
My apartment was very comfortable overlooking other universities with a park below my window. (I even had a mountain view; admittedly off to the side and only visible on clear days, but it was there!) Overall, it was quite a pleasant area to live and work.
Teaching was hard at first and I made many mistakes. I guess they were not used to Aussie accents (I have been told that mine is not very strong). They seemed to have more American/Chinese accents, so I thought it was about time that they had a bloody change anyway. So, after many months of teaching them English words instead of American and much cultural confusion by the end of the year I think most of them learnt something. It was a good experience and the students were great, even the ones who didn’t want to learn English. I even used making an English map of the city part of the lessons, which was fun; also useful for my weekend excursions!
Across the river to modern part of city
hours away was a town on top of a mountain, called Lushan, close to the Yangtse, which was interesting, but crowded. Great walks thru fir and giant bamboo forests to hidden temples.
After Christmas I had to get away from the cold of Nanchang during the school break, so I headed south to Guilin area, close to the Vietnamese border. Giant ‘karsts’ (vertical rock mountains) rise everywhere out of the middle of this garden city- very bizarre. It’s fun to climb some and sit back and enjoy the view in the pagoda at the top. Even more popular is a town a little south of Guilin, called Yangshuo, where travellers ‘have a break from China’. It’s a bit more westernised with international food, but still more karsts to climb.
Further west is the ‘eternal spring’ city of Kunming. It was great to change from four layers of cloths and snow down to short sleeve shirt in January. Once again the scenery changes, this time with more ‘mini-karst’ in a wonderland place called the ‘Stone Forest’.
Back to the cold in Nanchang and four more months of teaching. I was starting to get the hang of it now and enjoying it,
Dinasours having tea party at Museum
except for the cold and being sick sometimes. May was more pleasant with another quick trip to Wuyishan in the east. More great walks; this time thru steep gullies of tea plantations with more temples(of course), even a wooden Confusion monastery half way up a cliff face! It’s good to go to some places that are recommended by the people you work with, not knowing what to expect, because everywhere you go, China is full of surprises.
I finally made it to the end of my teaching contract. It was a real battle, but completely worth it, in spite of some of the inconveniences, like the weather, traffic, language, cultural confusion. The people were so friendly and helpful. I think I may have learned more than the students (culturally and about myself mostly). The experience was worth repeating, so I decided to come back in a year’s time, this time to a different place.
My final days were in Beijing. Once again another incredible place; too much to see! I have to come here again also. I did not think I would enjoy my final (stop-over) day in Hong Kong, but it was interesting. It was much easier
AT THE ZOO
Animals doing circus tricks
to get around and it was surreal with sky-scrappers rising up the sides of mountains, but it wasn’t the REAL china.
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