What a performance!


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May 21st 2013
Published: May 23rd 2013
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Foreign Teachers, School 10th AnniversaryForeign Teachers, School 10th AnniversaryForeign Teachers, School 10th Anniversary

Lip Sync. & Guitar sync. Multiskilling
New photos on:
http://s251.photobucket.com/albums/gg311/draftwrite/

…..Xiang Gang, or Hong Kong, as you & I know it, is now a part of China yet still apart. It is pretty autonomous in many ways & having spent such a long time under the influence of the British it's quite different from the mainland. An ex-colleague has been living there for a couple of years & suggested we visit. Lisa is a really lovely Canadian lady who is preparing to get married in July before moving to Vietnam with her French husband. A group of teachers from our school plan to go to Hong Kong during the 5 days of the Labour Day holiday. As usual there is attrition & in the end only Julie & I make it.....

.....this blog is a bit late as the internet, already only partially functional in this country on a normal day, has been worse this week due to unspecified problems with the server at the school. We have been incommunicado for about 3 days.....

…..Julie is from the USA. Things haven't worked out in China quite as she had planned. She has hardly been anywhere since arriving here so this is her big chance to see something before she leaves at the end of the year to go & work in Egypt. She's the one who managed to find the cheap return flights, (¥2,100 return, about $320). Good work!.....

…..all airports are expensive but Nanjing airport takes the cake. It's not even a major airport, convenient for us though as we can fly to a lot of destinations without having to travel 4 or 5 hours to Pudong airport in Shanghai first. Still, ¥55, ( $8.50) for a coffee! Forget it, We can drink water until we get on the plane.....

…..only 2 hours from Nanjing to HK. On the bus from Chek Lap Kok airport Julie brightens up. “Look at that!” We're looking down from an elevated highway onto a gigantic waterfront scene, hundreds of cranes & gantries, thousands of container boxes stacked as far as the eye can see. I wonder what exactly she's looking at. She says, “I can't believe how organised it is, after China”. Well, she's right, it's a remarkably neat & tidy set up. It continues into the city. Busy, of course, but we're used to that. Everything does look a little tidier, a bit cleaner & yes, more organised. The tall buildings seem somehow more restrained & elegant than some of the brash, or frankly just bizzare, skyscrapers in Shanghai.....

…..The hostel is on a side street, up 2 flights of stairs to the reception then on 7 or 8 floors above that, (there is a lift, (British English), or elevator, (U.S.)), handy as Julie's on the 4th floor & I'm in a dormitory on the 7th......

…..a trip to Victoria Peak, or, as we HK veterans now call it, “The Peak”, is a fizzer at night. The low cloud obscures everything in a thick fog, so we brave the huge queues for the Peak tram the next day & manage to get some views of the skyline from above, still under an ethereal low cloud layer that sweeps across the top of the Peak. Julie also takes the opportunity to face her fear of heights by looking over the edge.....

…..one of the most noticeable differences is that almost everyone speaks some English, often really well. As I know no Guangzhouhua, (Cantonese), I assumed I'd have to try to write requests in Chinese characters to get around, but no. Barely any spitting in the street. Another glaring contrast to the mainland is a sprawling tent city fronted by caricatures of city leaders & tycoons associated with a docker's industrial dispute, where the workers are camped out & voicing their grievances in full public view. You don't see that in mainland China!.....

…..my good friend Jo in Norwich, England has a friend in HK. I sent him an email & he's happy to be our guide on Tuesday evening. Live music, the bright lights of Hong Kong. Tim is an incredibly engaging guy, a Londoner who has lived in HK for years & has a Chinese wife. He takes us to a restaurant with swinging chairs & insists on paying for our pizzas, (thanks for your generosity, Tim). He has both of us in stitches with his tales. After dinner he shows us around the Wan Chai district, full of pubs, bars, clubs & other establishments fronted by gorgeous, if rather bored, girls wearing very little & older women who are, no, surely not, their mothers..... whatever their function they're known as Mama San in Chinese. Tim seems to know some of them & stops to chat. We concentrate on places with live music, usually Filipino bands, & probably consume more beer than we really should. I stick to that as I can gauge when to stop. I think Julie knows how much vodka she can take. I hope so anyway.....

…..Tim continues to regale & entertain us & takes us briefly into a dodgy looking bar after he chats to the Mama San outside. I think the girls in the bar are all confused when 2 western men walk in accompanied by a blond American woman. We have one more drink & make our exit before they have a chance to work it out.....

…..one thing I find really irritating in HK is the service charge. It's not ubiquitous so, after a couple of places, already charging more than we're used to on the Chinese mainland, you are suddenly slugged with an extra 10% or 15%. It wouldn't bother me so much if they just stated an inflated price & let me decide whether I want to pay rather than include it in microscopic print on the bottom of a menu. Is delivering a meal or drink you have ordered an extra “service”? Do I have the option of walking to the kitchen & delivering my own meal to the table or pouring my own drink or is it part of the duties of the staff? Julie, being American, is accustomed to tipping & service charges. I take to writing on the bill, which is always delivered in a neat black folder, “Service charges suck, just tell me the total price in future”. In fact there probably won't be a future as far as I'm concerned but I hope they can read my writing. A lot of women seem to smoke in HK, unlike mainland China. Is this what the influence of western civilisation is all about?....

…..Lisa meets us at the hostel the following morning & takes us on the bus to Stanley, a peninsula on the south side of Hong Kong Island, where she lives & works. She is a very charming, tall Canadian with a Chinese father & Canadian mother who worked at our school & was the dean of one of the summer camps last year. She has a small apartment in Stanley, paid for by her school, luckily, given the exorbitant prices of accommodation in HK. Her rent would be more than our salaries in Yangzhou.....

…..Julie & Lisa hit it off, as I assumed they would, & we spend the day admiring the view of the sea from her 5th floor apartment, wandering around the markets, trying Dim Sum at a local restaurant that Lisa knows. I always thought Dim Sum was what we call Shuijiao in China, meat-filled dumplings cooked in a soup. It's actually a selection of small selections of various dishes & another side of Chinese cuisine I haven't tried before. Lisa recently had an operation on her leg so has to rest for the afternoon so we get back on the bus for the half-hour trip back to the city.....

…..Kowloon, on the other side of the bay, is just a short ferry trip away, a vantage point for a light show which turns out to be not as spectacular as the skyline promises but the low cloud, illuminated from below by the city, looks stunning. As for the Hollywood style “Avenue of the Stars”, the apparently comprehensive but in practice totally confusing signage all over HK, which has had us walking for kilometres in circles for the past 2 days, leaves us ready to give up but, on a final, footsore attempt we find it, full of famous Hong Kong movie stars we have never heard of. I can't remember now whether we actually found Jackie Chan's hand print in concrete & by now I don't really care!.....

…..some people are not short of a bob in HK. We saw more Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Maseratis, Ferraris & Lamborghinis than anywhere we'd ever been before. Not so sure about the Filipina maids, on their big day out, sitting in the middle of the roads near the Causeway in their thousands, on sheets of cardboard, chatting & sharing food, or watching the rather bizarre cross-dressing Philippine Alliance Hong Kong show on a stage in the middle of a road near the ferry terminal.....

…..despite the prices & service charges HK is a pretty cool place. The world's longest escalator, snaking up the hill on HK island, covered, with bars & restaurants on both sides all the way up. Catching up with Lisa was great & there's an open invitation to visit when she & her husband are set up in Vietnam. Tim is a hoot, I hope I get to catch up with him again sometime too.....

…..I have another violin students, Cherry. She's only 5 so again I only teach her for half an hour at a time on Monday evening at 6pm. She's doing OK but it will take a while to master “Twinkle twinkle, little star”. Betty, the grade 5 student I used to teach in grade 3, is bravely working her way through Pachelbel's Canon & I think she'll get it too. My music lessons are conducted in a mixture of Chinese & English. I know quite a few words for instruments, hand positions, ordinal numbers etc. but can never remember the word for “tuner”.....

…..apart from our Friday night gig at Gloria Jean's coffee bar Steve & I now play at a the Lotus bar, on Dongguan Jie, the busy tourist street in town, & are being courted by the Miss Bar, not far from the Old Brewery.....

…..”Bigger than Ben Hur” does not begin to describe the ridiculous & unwarranted “rehearsals”, changes of plan, mind-numbing waiting backstage & only partially organised chaos that eventually led to the school's 10th anniversary show, presented to the principal & numerous VIPs, the mayor of Yangzhou, Education Department officials etc. It turned out to be an epic, if patchy, variety show, rich in colour, short at times on rhythmic & tonal coordination, in which the highlight of the Foreign teacher's contribution was a rendition of Alex Lloyd's, “You are Amazing”, with yours truly miming guitar & vocals to the CD while the other teachers, with varying degrees of success, pretended to play a collection of instruments on loan from the music department. Most, understandably, never quite got the hang of the half a bar of music which went missing when the mid-8 was edited out of the song in an effort to shorten it. We were unexpectedly compensated by a cash bonus for our efforts. What a performance!.....


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24th May 2013

Thanks
Again we really enjoyed your observations and the photos are terrific.... love the one of HK at night. The sky looks awesome (in the true sense of the word)!
27th May 2013

Thank you!
I'm glad someone is still reading them! Did you visit Hong Kong at any stage? I have been trying to follow your African odyssey on FB, not without difficulty from China, of course, but it appears to have been a great trip. When's the blog due?

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