A Travellerspoint blog

First month

Study study study, play play play!

Sorry its been so long since I made an entry all you avid keeper uppers (all 1.2 of you!).

The first month here has been pretty good. I have got back into the swing of study after a few weeks and began learning database stuff (which at the moment is going slowly as I concentrate more on Chinese) and Chinese.

My Chinese learning is split up as follows. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I have a 10am class with my teacher who lives on the other side of the city. Its a bit of a ride over there but nothing too serious and I quite like (sick I know for anyone that has tried it) hooning through asian cities on my bike dodging here and there! My teacher practices verbal Chinese with me, which I am pretty poor at still and need a LOT more practice. We also have started on writing the characters which is really hard to remember! They characters are sometimes pictographs (highly stylised) but appear to mostly relate to nothing in particular. Each character represents a sound like "xing" (said sing with a slight shing sound) and can mean a word by itself (like 法 means France) or stuck with another one make a word (like 高兴 which means happy). The structure of the language is something we also look at as its quite different. For example, I would say "I feel happy today!" but in Chinese it comes out "I today very happy!" (Wo jin tian hen gao xing! or 我今天很高兴). So its a bit tricky! The good thing is I can start to recognise shit on signs and understand! The BAD thing is its really hard in that there are often many different characters for exactly the same sound! So xing (兴) with down tone (imagine its at the end of a sentence) has at least two different characters (the other one I know now is "性", my girlfriend tells me it has maybe 15 or 20!) depending on the stuff around it! Enough to drive you mad? Yes.

With the spoken its a bit tricky too. Everywhere I go I hear the local dialect - which, while close to standard Chinese, is rather different in accent and lots of completely different words! So when I go to the market I am like "huh?" even though I know how to say I want to buy stuff and all the numbers etc. Its a bit tricky!

The easier part of my study at the moment is the database stuff. I am doing the first bit of my SQL Server certification and most of it is review but with a lot of Best Practice stuff which I didn't really know before. My friend Wayne is actually doing exactly the same thing and his good advice to me was "Get out of bad habits before they become ingrained" which is completely true of course. There is a bit of new stuff to keep me interested though, particularly some functions which I previously thought "It would be really good if you could do this!" which Microsoft has built into its products. Sweet!

On the love front, Chen Min and I are going really well, hanging out with each other a lot and getting to know each other more and more. She is really easy to live with and we don't get into many (if any) arguments! Although the cultural difference show through really fast, she wants to know where I am all the time and is fine telling me things like "I didn't make shit today!". Ha haa, awesome! I actually really like this part of Asian culture, nothings hidden and it makes you really close to your partner.

I dropped into a cycle shop the second week I was here and met up with a guy who ran the place. It ended up there was a race coming up and he was keen for more foreign entrants. I thought it was a good chance to meet the local bikers so signed up. The race was the next Wednesday and I had done no training for it but thought I would be OK. Little did I know that some of the other competitors included a former Asian champion and the Chinese MTB champion from 2 years ago. Oh... OK, MTB royalty! The race was supposed to be a bike up a hill (about a 300m vertical ascent) followed by a 1 km run. It was organised by the owner of a couple of bike shops here and done in conjunction with Nike China - with the head of Nike in China attending.

Some more bikers. The guy on the far rightis former Asian champion and the guy next to him is the former Chinese champion

Some more bikers. The guy on the far rightis former Asian champion and the guy next to him is the former Chinese champion

More bikers

More bikers

I found a kids bike to race instead

I found a kids bike to race instead

Actually starting!

Actually starting!

I managed to smile because I was almost at the top!

I managed to smile because I was almost at the top!

The race itself ended up being about 20 minutes up the hill with no run at the end due to the lateness of the organisers/sponsors! Anyway, I came in 2nd out of 3 in the international category (about 20 seconds behind a Norwegian guy who was on a road bike, damn!) and for my troubles received a pair of top of the line Nike running shorts and jacket! Considering my entry was free... I wasn't complaining! The gear is excellent for running and cycling, the jacket is wind stopper in the right spots and even has thumb loops. Unfortunately the pants are synthetic and anything synthetic I run in gets really smelly really fast. All in all a good day out though! We were even shouted for a free dinner afterwards where all the Chinese etiquette about who sits where and talks to who and serves who etc etc is observed (stuff like the head guys sit together furtherest from the door... too much to list!).

A couple of weeks after this it was a big Chinese 1 week holiday where we went to Lijiang - the subject of the next entry!

Posted by brent.leslie 06:09 Archived in China Tagged race cycling study Comments (0)

Back to Kuming

Into China again!

A dragon air flight was taking me into Kunming. I was a little nervous about the amount of luggage I had (2 big bags and my smaller carry on) as I approached the counter. The young girl was nice though and gave me a warning "Next time make sure you have less than 20kg" (my total bag weight was more like 32kg!) and then let all my bags on the flight free of charge. Sweet! She also spied my "small carry on bag" was a little weighty (13kg!), so she got me to weigh it. After saying its too heavy, she asked if I had a laptop in it, which I did. Removing it took the weight down to 10kg which she then said "OK, no problem!" because a laptop is a "free item". I aren't complaining!

Having never travelled by plane into Kunming, I had never been to the airport. Regardless, I knew what to expect and wasn't disappointed!

Air transport through China is (luckily for the environment!) not the preferred method of travel for Chinese people (or me). And I can understand why with all the security checks, arriving about 2 hours before you a supposed to fly, the not so comfortable act of flying... I can totally relate. As such though some of their airports seem to be an afterthought. Kunming's airport is no different! Straight from the 70's (though probably in reality the 90's, this is China!) the airport looms - a sprawling set of buildings in the distance. Yuck! Kunming is getting a new airport soon though so I can understand the lack of maintenance that makes it look bland and dreary. Off the plane and through customs I went to the baggage lines. Peeping through into the arrivals I saw my girlfriend waiting for me with a huge crowd of people (she had pushed to the front and was using her elbows to good effect to ensure she stayed there!). What a happy sight!

I grabbed my bags and headed out to a warm long overdue hug. So glad to be back here! My girlfriend is a cheeky, witty, wise beyond her years, hard worker who is as happy to see me as I am her.

We grabbed a taxi and after some discussions piled everything in and headed to my girlfriends apartment in the North West of the city.

Over the next few days we hung out getting to know each other again, had dinner with her mum and I got used to China and Kunming again. I will be relying on Chen Min for a while until my Chinese becomes better and I get more grounded with where I am again.

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After a week of settling in, its time to start studying. I contacted my old lao shi (teacher) and we organised classes for 3 times a week. Hopefully enough to kick start my Chinese! I want to learn characters as well so we will see how I go!

I also set to downloading all the materials I need for my computer study. Now for the hard part, the actual studying! After a couple of weeks, I am back into it!

The rugby world cup is on in New Zealand - it started a couple of days after I left. Luckily for me, there is a small community of NZ/Aussies that have organised to see it at some local pubs. One close to my home has most games streamed - its a place called Samoana - a Samoan themed cafe run by Samoans from Avondale in Auckland! I suspect I will be a regular of this place...

My girlfriend and I have also organised a trip to Lijiang, further west past Dali for the Chinese national holiday week in October. I can't wait! That will probably be my next blog so stay tuned...

Posted by brent.leslie 19:12 Archived in China Tagged life kunming Comments (0)

First stop Hong Kong

Kowlooning

I am a 33 year old guy heading to China for a while to learn Chinese and be with my girlfriend who I met on my last trip here. The last time I came this way was an epic ride - I lived in Malaysia for a couple of years and then decided to cycle up to China in a round about kind of way. You can read more about this adventure on the cycle blog www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/asiaroundabout

My last stop on the trip was Kunming China. There I met a lass and we both promptly fell in love. I will not bore (or excite?) you with the details, but after a couple of months I needed to leave due to dwindling savings and expiring visas. So back to New Zealand it was for a 6 month contract (which has turned into a "need to support from China slightly longer contract!") where I saved up to live for a year or more and get back to my girl. The good news is in the 6 months away from my girl, we have grown to know each other a lot more (well I believe, she might tell you different!) due to the forced distance and language problems making us talk to each other in a different way. Its hard to explain, but 6 months on and we are still strongly a couple and I feel very close to her despite the distance. Although there are a few nervous moments about seeing her again, I am so happy about seeing her I could burst!

The first stop in the trip is Hong Kong, a place I have been to numerous times. This time I am staying in Kowloon though, Chunking mansions at the brilliant Australian guest house. This is asia as I remember it, tiny rooms in mega tropilis'! People everywhere selling, buying, walking, eating... seemingly all at once. The pace is frenetic and coming straight from the west at first its a bit overwhelming. Five minutes later though I am back into the groove of asian life and loving it!

On arrival at the airport however I found a young girl holding a board with my name on it. That usually spells trouble if its a young lady, but is sometimes good if its a young man with a hat (limousine!). This time it was trouble. I had packed my bike into a bike bag to get it back to China. The oversized bag was bumped to a later flight and would arrive tomorrow afternoon. The staff were very good about this, quite apologetic, but actually this worked out well for me. I was planning to leave 2 bags at the airport anyway, taking 1 small one into Hong Kong proper. This saved me the cost of one of the bags - the airline said they would hold onto it for me. Sweet! That saved me about 300HKD in left luggage fees. No problem for me! After that was sorted out, I grabbed a train ticket and headed into Kowloon. Woo hooo, back in China!

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Hong Kong isn't really China though. The people are so used to Westerners and so westernfied in some of their attitudes you can't really say its China. Here they have some good local food, but it all seems so bland compared to what I am used to in Kunming. Admittedly Yunnan food is spicey and full of so many varieties of flavours that ANYTHING is bland in comparison! But its an analogy that I feel applies to the differences between Hong Kong and the rest of China. Here you can make yourself understood with english and western gestures, which they are used to. There isn't the rural attitudes that seems to pervade most of China (with the exception of some of the big cities) - probably as a result of the mass migration from rural to city life experienced over the past couple of decades. The development in Hong Kong is decidedly western - there isn't 10,000 people working on a single road that seems to be partially planned and the rest will be figured out en-route. In Hong Kong, the slopes even have to have registration numbers, everyone appears to be pretty honest and the politicians get into office on random campaign offerings such as "Reduce the number of hand rails on walking tracks". China? Territorially only.

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After a couple of days getting accustomed to the number of people, I was ready for Kunming! Not only was there a beautiful girl waiting for me there, there was the China I have been missing!

Posted by brent.leslie 18:57 Tagged hong kong Comments (0)

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