Tuesday, September 26, 2006

First Home Cooked Meal

We never usually bother to cook at home. We have a reasonably well fitted out kitchen-with stove, gas burner, mircowave and utensils. But food out here is so cheap that its not worth the hassle to cook, then wash up.

Yesterday we cooked. We had BEANS ON TOAST! The plan had been coming together for a while. Hiliary had brought us the butter last week, I'd had the beans in the cupboard for some time and then yesterday I purchased a TOASTER.

It all came together nicely. Of course it wasn't the same as home. The bread was quite sweet, the beans like Lidl own brand value beans (certainly no Heniz 57 Varieties) but it was lovely all the same. Dave being Dave managed to spill water in his straight away and half spoilt it-but he still ate it!

100 Years Behind the Times

Walking around the Farm I couldn't believe how primitive it all was. So far away from the world of John Deer Tractors and Class Combines and all the uneccessary bureaucracy.

It reminded me of something from one of Dad's farming in the old ages books and looking at it in these pictures it really does look as if it could be 100 years ago.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Just Like home?

Sunday arrives and brings with it our trip to the Farm. I'd been looking forward to this for a while, the promise of some country air, farm views and the chance to pick apples and peanuts sounded too good to be true.

The coach departed at 8am. Dave, the criple with his broken foot, was excused from the trip-instead he got to spend the majority of the day in bed and then went out for curry-can I stub my toe next please? Anyhow, so we caught the bus to the midde of nowhere. Whilst it was the "country" it was just basically a run down, poor version of where we live. The same shops, the same banners but everything smelt slightly worse than normal. I couldn'y thinking as we passed the many shops, that if things were dirt cheap where we were in the town, then they must be giving things away out in the sticks.

After 2 hours we arrived at the Peanut and Corn farm. We started off by picking Peanuts from the ground. Despite being a Farmer's son I didn't have a foggiest that peanuts came from the ground and was quite baffled when they didn't grow on trees like most other nuts. We picked them and then cooked them on a open fire and ate a few. But they really don't taste as nice when they are not covered in salt, dry roasted coasting or (I'm really pushing it now) Honey.

I picked some corn from the fields hoping it would be sweetcorn. I peeled back the outer layer a and roasted them on the fire using a rake to hold each piece of corn. I did a succesful job of burning the corn and when they were at their optimum blackness we were allowed to start eating. This tunred out to be field corn, which tasted more like popcorn kernals than sweetcorn but still made quite a decent snack.

We then went for lunch in a resturant in the country. We had been told that country was quite different and whoever said it was not wrong, as out of a room of 15 of us, only the chinese people, who had come as guest of the foreign students, barely ate anything. The one dish that did go down a storm was Potatoes coated in Honey and Sugar that you then dipped into water and ate. Superb. Brock couldn't fit in our room at the start, as we were sat with the majority of the European foreign students-italien,German,Austrian,Italien and Icelandic-, so he was carted off downstairs. We thought it was quite funny at the time but Imagine our envy at the end when we find out he's been getting hammered with the teachers-not fair!

We then went to the pear/apple farm. The quick drive gave a drousy Brock a chance to clear his head and take a quick nap. When we got there we couldn't work out why there were little brown bags hanging from the trees. It turns out that when the pears had matured a little, to stop them being ravaged by wasps and other insects, the farmers put these bags over the top so they can be finished off. Supberb-but looks rather strange.

Anyhow so we were told that we had 45 minutes to spend in the Orchard. 20 Students-all around the 15 years old mark-told they could spend 45 minutes in an Orchard. This was only ever going to have one result-apple fight. And after looking over disapprovingly over at the mayhem for they first 40 minutes, Brock and I gave in. The war had died down at this point, but I took an apple and hurled it and hit one of the students dead on the body. This resulted in a massive Foreign Students v Foreign Teachers melee. (20 v 5) We held our own.

Near Disaster Strikes

Its the day after the night before. Dave and I have had about 3 hours sleep and we decide to get up, go to town and eventually go swimming to clear our heads. We had seen an amazing pool advertised on telly-"sea world"- with multiple pools ,loads of slides, river rapids and a wave machine.

We'd had an enjoyable couple of hours at the pool, when we heard that the wave machine was about to come on. After a little debate over who should go and get them Dave swam off to fetch our inflatable rings so we could enjoy the waves to the maximum. On his way, I didn't see it-regretably, as I imagine it might have been halarious-, Dave managed to slip completely over and stub his toe on the floor. He told me what he'd done when he got back but thought nothing of it as the wave machine was on-most vicious wave machine I think i've ever seen.

Anyhow, when we eventually get out, some half an our after he originally stubbed his toe, Dave can hardly walk and is taken away to see a doctor. She reccomends going to hosptial for an xray. We are blinded by chinese so we call our "minders" Sandy and Mr Dong, who after an hour finally turn up and just repeatedly say "is it serious" and "i don't think really you need hospital". But after a little insistance on both of our parts, and reminding Sandy that she is barely a teacher, let alone a doctor, Dave gets his xray. It confirms that he has a very small break in his toe and so as a result will need to be in plaster for 3 or 4 weeks.

Dave was given some pills at the time, we both point blank agreed that he shouldn't take them. We thought that they were just some Chinese pain killer, but it turns out they they are to "make bones grow back". Straight out of Harry Potter-ridiculous. Our first instinct decisions have never been so valuable before!

The Scotland Bar

A place where you are greeted by Beefeaters, lead downstairs and surrounded by statues of Elvis and Buddy Holly. It is of course, it could only be, the Scotland Bar. This took Chinese bizarism to even grander levels.

There was no haggis, no caber tossing, not even a kilt. The beefeaters were the only thing remotely British about the place, yet "The Scotland Bar" is its rather innapropriate moniker. But what a place!

Rather than being filled with Irn Bru, Battered Mars Bar and bad 1980's esque perms and leather jacket combo's- it was in fact a rather happening little joint. Probably the closest we have come to a club since being here. In fact with Basement Jaxx was pumping out, light show in full swing, £2 bottle of beer in hand I could have been anywhere else in the world. It was quality.

The evening had started a lot earlier.

Brock had his friends over-Wallace and Renae.It was Renae's birthday so we had a Cake and a meal out in a resturant. Sandy once again excelled herself in choice of venue, despite actually booking the wrong restuarant, for the wrong time -somehow she got the number of people spot on though. Food was delicious and as Wallace has managed to pick up a little more Chinese than we have so far, he treated us to a few different dishes to normal.

So afterwards we left for the bar and after some drunk fueled dancing between Brock and Becky, a superb Karaoke version of Wonderwall by Brock, Wallace and myself, and being accosted by some very expensive Hookers, we ended up in "the Scotland".

We went with two new friends- Anthony (a really sound French Lad from Rennes) and Kavitha (a friend of the Yank's who went to the same University) . They joined Meredith, Becky, Dave and Myself for what was to prove to be our most bizare evening yet.

People kept treating us to free shots of Whiskey for being "the whities", and after being accosted for using our camera's and threatened to have them confiscated, we started taking sly pictures from under our shirts to actually taking photos of the police men who were threatening to confiscate the cameras.

We left about 3am and went home. The girls went straight to bed. Dave and I went out for takeaway at our favourite late night spot. On the way we played football in the street (Dave managed to set off a car alarm) and sang a few songs. We had a few more beers and finally got to bed about 5am.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Student Rooms

The school has about 6000 pupils, of which I think 3000/4000 stay on Campus. They live in Apartment blocks, there is two for the boys and two for the girls. From the outside they look like holiday flats and wouldn't really look out of place in Spain or at least Blackpool!

We presumed that there were two sets of bunk beds in each room-so shared by four. It wasn't until we went in a room after having lunch with Hunter and Dave that we found out that 8 kids were crammed in, with nothing more than a bed each and a phone line to share between them.

The kids were quite happy there, and enjoyed giving us a very bried tour. We both felt quite bad as our apartments are so nice and we still have the gall to complain over little things.

The picture shows Dave in a Room with 8 Boys in various states of undress- this photo is of course completely unconnected with the above story!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lunch with the Students

I can basically order about 5 meals in China,

1.Tang Cu Li Ji - Sweet & Sour Chicken
2.Zha Mo Gu - Deep Fried Mushroom
3.Yu Xiang Rou Si- Pork in a Spicy Vegtable and Onion Sauce
4.Ji Rou Chow Bing - kind of like Chicken Chow Mein, but instead of noodles it is made with thin strips of pancake, with chicken, spring onion and other veg thrown in - GORGEOUS!
5.Gong Bao Ji Ding- Chicken in a spicy sauce with Cucumber and Nuts

These would either come with Rice - Me Fahn- or Fried Rice - Chow Me Fahn.

We have eaten a combination of these every day since we got here, and whilst they are all delicious, we have all grown a little tired of them. Occaisionally we venture off the beaten track and order randomly from the menu, but when we do that things like Donkey happen!

So we asked some of Daves students to take us to lunch to order us some new food that they thought us "foreigners" would like. Imagine our delight when Sweet and Sour Chicken turned up! The rest of the stuff was good though- we had some lettuce in a kind of oyster sauce with peppers (Suan La Ba Cai), some small chicken cuts in a spicy sauce with spring onion and green peppers (Hong Shao Ji Kuan), a dish of mixed vegetables (Sucai) and also another Chicken dish that was kind of soupy, and whilst nice wasn't the sort of thing we'd go for so didn't get them to write it down.

You Can Take the Boys out of England......


So....We've just finished a fine meal. Just breathing in the clear night air and having a highly intelligent conversation. Then we did what all Brits do best and climb on a sculpture and pull a ridiculous pose. We wouldn't be brits abroad if we didn't!

Dumplings for Tea

So we wanted to go for Dumplings. We asked our "advisor" Sandy for advice on where the best place to go would be, and once again she came out on Top.

We ordered Tomato & Egg and Pork & Shallot and they were both Gorgeous. They only came in batches of 15 so we had 15 of each and then took the left overs home for dinner the next day. We also had some Fried King Prawns which were extremely nice- I refuse to follow the Americans and Call them Shrimp- and some Pork which was quite close to eating Roast Pork-in a quite close but still no where near kind of way!

We all ate a plenty and had a thoroughly good time!

The Day After

Well hung over as hell we ventured into town and went and got some western food from UBC Coffee. Egg, Ham and Chips-could you ask for anything else. Well, yes a hot chocolate-which don't seem to sell in China.

We struggled with ordering as usual- Daves facial expression in the poster says it all. Actually that picture sums up our whole experience in China Perfectly.We only ended up with Chips by mistake as we thought we were getting fried potatoes-but chips were better.

In my hung over state I felt a little artistic so here are the results. A glass of water, some milky coffee and dave looking really pensive.

We walked around the town and were harrased by the locals as usual, but these ones were quite nice so didn't mind too much. We were just stood there and they shouted out of these windows at ask, begging us to come up, we refused so they eventually came down and said hello- completely normal in China!

A Quiet Friday in!

So we've been teaching for 2 weeks. This is what we have turned to. 72 cans of beer, 12 redbulls, bottle of absolut citron and 9 packs of assorted crisps. Mostly all consumed within the one night. We were rough as hell the day after- glad I didn't have to face 35 little chinese mentalists.


So my mate Dan is a serial traveller. He left the Uk in Feburary, it is not September and he is still yet to return home. He has visited Thailand, Vietnam, Laos,Cambodia, Hong Kong, China and he is going to Mongolia, Russia, Iceland and then Europe. This whole time he had been well and free from any type of illness. This was, of course, until after he stayed with me.

Dan came and had a week with me to unwind and to catch up with people from home. Being a solo traveller can be a lonely affair I'd imagine, but at least you get to do exactly what you want-well as close to exactly as you can get when the locals don't actually understand what you want to do. My apartment is big enough and has two spare beds anyway so it was no problem. It was great to see him again after such a long while.

We had a few nights out- notably on the thursday, friday and the saturday. Because I work during the week and have to be up at 7am most days the ability to drink on week nights is very limited-so we made the most of my long weeked (i have friday off).

On the Friday night we went to an Amazing Duck resturant. The night didnt start out too well as the Americans taxi never arrived. We waited for about an hour and Dave made a journey back home again to see if they had wound up there-they hadnt. After we waited a while we sat at our table and ordered.

Whilst I'm sure we've all had Beijing Crispy Aromatic Duck at home (and all love it) it is no way remotely close to what you get here. The chef came to the table and carved us the duck into small slices. It was more like lamb in the way it look, and nothing like the small light bits that you get in England- Matt Kwok be warned! To go with it you got cucumber, lettuce, nuts, onion, spring onion, garlic, herbs and two sauces. We experimented all night! It really was delicious! It was our most expensive meal so far-probably £16. But we had a beer each, 3 other dishes and rices and a whole duck in a posh restuarant so a bargain really- once again Matt Kwok take note! We also had enough left to feed 5 people the next day as well!

Afterwards we went to Kareoke and had muchos beer which didnt lay too on a full stomach.

The saturday we went out to the Foreigners bar again and had a decent time.

Anyhow back to Dan.

Now Dan has been travelling for a long and hasnt really been doing any drinking. Those that know him will tell you how much weight he has lost - i still call him fat boy- well it turns out that his liver couldn't handle the alcohol and has become inflamed whilst in Mongolia. Now if there is any place in the world you would less rather be ill then please let me know. The doctors first diagnosed his problem as appendicitus- but he got a westerners opinion and it was only dysentry. Now the moral to this story is Never Stop Drinking!