Sunday, 31 August 2008

What we found at the Temple Markets.....

Three of us decided to venture out to the Temple Markets this morning and we found an array of interesting turtles, tattoos, poodles with orange ears, reindeer penis', fighting crickets, Chinese style baklava (they love their bakeries over here, must admit the crossaints are not bad!), yummy satay sticks (don't ask what sort of meat it was!), and all sorts of other things you would normally find at a market! I did manage to leave with a few carefully selected items - a 1000 piece puzzle (for 'team building' on the first day at school tomorrow!), a bag for the gym that cost $1.50 (it's amazing how much you sweat here!) and another piece of artwork. At the rate I'm going, I will have enough art to open a gallery when I get home! I loved this piece though and I love hearing the story behind the art. With the help of my phrase book, I managed to work out that this piece was done by an 80 year old man with a long grey beard from Shanghai! Off to gym (a fairly safe addiction at the moment!) and then head massage before an early night, ready for 6.30am bike ride to my first day of teaching at EtonHouse tomorrow. Take care, Anna.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Surviving the Wuxi roads.....

I am now the proud owner of a bright orange bike, complete with bell and basket! And I am probably the only person in China to be crazy enough to wear a helmet as well! They were so impressed (or surprised?) in the shop when I purchased my bike, that they gave me a 50% discount on my helmet. So, the next step was to actually ride the bike!! Tracey and I set out this afternoon on a practise run out to school and, as the pictures show, we made it all the way to school! (and back of course, via a local market for fresh bokchoy and tomatoes - for 80c!). The hardest part about the riding on the roads is getting used to traffic travelling on the opposite side to home, very confusing! Also, the Chinese (along with most Asian countries, I think), seem to have their own chaotic system for transport. In Wuxi, it involves not using indicators, not checking your blindspot and ignoring traffic lights. So, to fit in with the locals (not sure what the chances of this happening are.....people think it's funny to see a forgeiner in a helmet on an orange bike!!), I think that my bell will be getting a good workout! Off to the gym now (hopefully without running into my new 'friend', Stone the Gladiator who has taken it upon himself to try to teach me Chinese while I am running on the treadmill or lifting weights!!) then having a DVD night with some of the girls here, we bought up big at the DVD shop yesterday - so cheap! Take care, Anna.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Goodbye 5D, hello Kookaburras

Preparations for the beginning of the year are going very well here, albeit on 'Chinese time'! I am loving working at EtonHouse so far, there is lots of great stuff happening with the curriculum and everyone is so organised and friendly. My room is beginning to look like a classroom, thanks to my wonderful teacher assistant, Mike. He has put up fantastic displays and is doing lots of the little jobs so I can focus on planning for the first term. I met some of my students today, they are so little but they are so excited about Monday. Each class is named after an animal, I decided on Kookaburras because I wanted an Australian animal and I hope that our class will laugh a lot during the year! All the expat staff have been learning Mandarin each day and this will continue during the term time. The Chinese staff have also been learning English, so when I see the cleaners, I say 'ni hao' and they say 'hello'! Hopefully we will be able to have more of a conversation with them soon. I'm off to buy a bike now and brave the Chinese traffic!! Take care, Anna.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Shanghai, a town of 22 million people............

Well, I have well and truly caught the travel bug. On Wednesday we ventured into Shanghai on a staff excursion. I promptly followed this up with another trip on Friday followed by a trip to Suzhou on Saturday. Shanghai is amazing, such a big and busy city. The train stations are interesting experiences - you wait in a waiting room and then when your train is called, you line up and push your way onto the train (despite the fact that there are allocated seats!). On Wednesday, I missed my train back to Wuxi (I stayed in town to hang out with David, my friend from the UK) but was lucky enough to meet some new friends on the way back - I have had invitations to go to dinner at my new Chinese friends' homes and for them to take me singing!! They loved practising their English and I was able to have a practise of my Chinese too. Suzhou is gorgeous, beautiful canals and gardens, will definitely go back there soon. I bought my first piece of artwork there - an oil painting by a famouse Chinese painter from the area. Am very proud of it and looking forward to getting it framed soon. We start 'real school' tomorrow - a week of curriculum planning and PYP training. I get to meet my teaching assistant too - not bad for a class of 8 children! Will post some photos of my travels soon. Take care, Anna.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Is there such a thing as too many massages??

Well, my first real discovery in Wuxi has been the massage centre. Ridiculously cheap massages and other treatments too. Three of us became members there yesterday and all had a foot massage - we provided great entertainment for the masseurs as we fumbled our way through the phrase book to strike up some sort of conversation. We have also struck a deal with one of the girls there - we help her with English and she helps us with Chinese, not a bad deal! Am quickly learning some cultural no-nos. Tracey (from NZ) and I made our first appearence at the gym this morning and had a few important learnings - women are generally not seen in the free weights room and also, that it is not the 'done thing' to walk down the street in your gym clothes! We nearly cause some accidents on the road this morning!


The first day of work began with a tour of this amazing school. It is absolutely fabulous - big, light, airy classrooms, computer lab, science lab, music/drama rooms, forgein language section. It really does sound like an amazing place to work, I can't wait to get into my classroom and get started! Had my first experience of Korean BBQ last night, was really yummy. I was extremely adventurous and tasted Ox Tongue - my first and last taste of this very 'tonguey' dish. The rest of the food was beautiful.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Do I have something on my face??

They keep telling me that there are lots of foreigners in Wuxi, but I'm yet to see them! And judging by the stares I'm getting, I'm not sure. Well, I'm here at last and my first impressions are much the same as those of my trusty friend, LP (Lonely Planet to the uninformed!) - 'smoggy and characterless'. Others tell me that it gets better but you need to get out fairly regularly. Hmmmmm. On the up side, my apartment is amazing, very big, light, cool, great views (hmmm, see photo attached) and modern, so new that everything was still wrapped in plastic! I've had a few adventures so far including flooding my bedroom (not my fault, washing machine), interesting taxi rides and trying to leave a Korean restuurant before I've actually eaten my meal. All good learning experiences. I've met all the new staff and the principal, it sounds like it is going to be a very exciting place to work. Our working week begins tomorrow with two 3 hour days followed by a day in Shanghai as a team and then a 4 day long weekend to 'dive into the deep end of China' - what a way to start! So, LP has been consulted and Tracey (NZ teacher) and I are going to head down to Hangzhou for a few days of exploration.
Take care.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Off the beaten track....

The last two days have been wonderful, hardly any tourists in sight! Yesterday I spent the day on Lamma Island where I walked the length of the island from one village to the next. Along the way were two beaches and it was a relief to be able to stop for a swim - the humidity was insane (79% to 96% according to the news last night). First beach was great, lovely and clean, the second not so....I got out as soon as I saw a condom float past me! At the last village, I stopped for fresh seafood which the island is known for, yum! This morning I ventured out into the New Territories, to a town that all Hong Kongers I spoke to haven't heard of. The town was Kam Tin, where there is an amazing walled village dating back to the 16th century, it was renovated in the 1720s, how modern! Off to the GP dressage tonight then onwards to Shanghai tomorrow, where the real adventure begins!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Feeling slightly inadequate.....about the size of my camera

I have finally made it to the Olympics and it is so much better than I ever expected. The Dressage yesterday was amazing, such talented riders and it was fantastic to be so close to the competition. But the highlight so far has definitely been the Cross Country this morning (despite the rain and my tiny camera compared to other peoples HUGE ones!). It was so easy to walk around the course and to stand so close (2-3 metres) from the jumps and the competitors. The jumps were (as to be expected!) massive and there were some fairly tricky tests for the competitors. The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was so friendly and proud of their countries. It was amazing to see competitors who I have grown up reading about and watching on TV in real life! Am currently walking and eating my way around Hong Kong and loving it (although if I eat too many more Portugese Egg Tarts, I may need a new wardrobe by the time I get to Shanghai!). Am catching up with a friend tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to a familiar face (I'm sick of asking for a table for one!). Going to the Grand Prix Dressage on Wednesday night and off to Lamma Island tomorrow for a day of no cars and 'the best seafood in Hong Kong'!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Redefining the meaning of 'spicy'.....

Well, I am finally in Hong Kong and loving it - it is so vibrant and busy with so much to do and see. The first lesson I learnt was not to ask the question 'How hot is it?' and then believe the answer 'it not too hot', twice so far I have finished a meal with a bright red face and burning lips and throat. The food is sensational though, and so cheap. Already, I have met lots of people, I watched the Opening Ceremony on a big screen on the harbour with a woman from Hawthorn! Off to the Olympics tomorrow, a 4am start but it will be worth it, I can't wait! Hope everyone is well and enjoying themselves! Anna.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Up, up and away!

Well, nearly a year after making the decision to move to China, the time has come for the adventure to begin! I'm packed and ready to the Olympics first of all! Heading off tomorrow morning after a lovely roast and bottle of wine to see me on my way! I'm very proud of my technological efforts in setting up a blog, so easy! I look forward to keeping everyone up to date with my travel adventures! Take care, Anna.