Location: Perth, Australia
The end of the Easter holidays. Back to uni on Monday. A week of intensive study, getting assignments done and at long last 3 days of 'free time' to enjoy ourselves.
We found Perth's bike paths and in the past 2 days have ridden approximately 40km! I know, me the unfit, lazy one zooming about on a bicycle...sounds incredible but it's true. Down on the banks of the river Swan I've seen cormorants hanging their wings out to dry after bout of fishing, little puffin-looking birds soaking up the sun, a pretty wetlands area with different types of ducks, and native birds, a family of black swans, a plethora of jellyfish sized from a thumbnail to a small seagull bobbing around in the fresh water, which I find most peculiar because I didn't know there was such a thing as fresh water jellies, and even more incredibly, two dolphins! I'm not kidding. I saw two playful dolphins having a splash, chasing fish in the shallows of the river just outside the city centre. I was stunned because I didn't know that dolphins hunted in fresh water. Then, I read that Perth is the only city in Australia that has dolphins that come so far up a river into fresh water.
There is no shortage of tourist attractions in Perth, and the riverside is a good place to start. There is a ferris wheel, as seems to be the trend ever since London did the 'Big Wheel'. At $15 /adult, it was too steep for us, being students and all, but I'm sure the views would be gorgeous. I'll save my pennies and play tourist another day and confirm that. There's a marina of sorts, a floating restaurant, a ferry service that will take you over to South Perth, and plenty of cafes to lounge about and enjoy the pretty view looking out over the river.
We rode south, past the old Swan Brewery which has been converted into the most stunning warehouse apartments. A killer view for sure, and they look massive. Worth a fortune no doubt, situated right on the river edge, backed by King's Park, no other neighbours and 5 minutes from the city centre. I'd live there in a heartbeat if I had that kind of cash.
Last night went to the German Film Festival and saw an offbeat comedy called Freidliche Zeiten (Peaceful Times). A great little movie, set in the late 60s, about a family that has moved from East Germany to the West. Mum is the worst driver in the world, and often depressed, and hubby while doing his best to cope, seeks solace in another woman's arms. The two children, girls, decide that their parents should get divorced and do anything they can to get their parents to agree. Lots of comedic moments interspersed with heart-wrenching moments as you feel both the children and the adults painful moments.
I was excited to understand a lot more German than anticipated, and it was almost a trip down memory lane as I heard phrases that were uttered throughout my own childhood and saw mannerisms and even memorabilia from when I was a kid. Brought back memories of travelling through GErmany, and I felt a ang of sadness at not being footloose and fancy free. No jumping on a plane and landing in munich for me, surrounded by steins of weissbeer, knackwurst and pretzels. Ahh, one day soon...
I was surprised to see 10 police officers within 100m at 8.30pm on a Saturday night, and a cruising patrol car with two more police officers. We were of course in the notorious Northbridge, where all the drunken violence happens every weekend. Police numbers have been increased dramatically, and I'd hate to be in the area after midnight when everyone is really tanked and looking for a fight. I've never seen such an intense police presence, so early at night, and just for a standard weekend night. What's the problem? Can't figure it out? Are the bars & clubs not abiding by responsible service of alcohol? Are the young people of today more prone to violence? Is this happening in other cities - say Sydney or Melbourne - or is this a Perth problem? Too many questions and no answers I'm afraid. All I know is that there is a lot of controversy in the papers about the violence and the public want clubs to close earlier, some are even calling for clubs to be shut down.
Sunday is a chill day sipping a latte at a local cafe, reading, and that's it for the Easter Week Holidays. Editing class first thing tomorrow morning (groan) and the study goes on.
Location: Perth, Australia
Okay, it's been a long time between entries! Ash and I are back in the land of vegemite sarnies and shark infested beaches. Hoorah!
We've settled in Perth and are both now pov university students studying our little butts of at ECU ( Edith Cowan University). Ash is going to major in photography, and me, I'm doing writing. Let's see if I can learn about colons, semi-colons and the em dash... yep, exciting stuff.
Perth is Ash's home town and initially he wasn't that excited to be back, but, reconnecting with his old friends has helped him to settle in. I've never been to Perth before, and so I'm exploring it with new eyes. A small city, relatively quiet (especially after living in China), I like the place. A lot of the locals bitch and moan saying it's boring but I think Perth has a lot going for it.
Just down the road in Northbridge the police are stopping brawls and getting beaten up every weekend. I think the latest figures say that 4 officers a week (I think that's right, or is it a day?) are hospitalised in Perth. Binge drinking is outta control and the local government has put forward a suggestion to raise the legal drinking age to 21. I'm all for it. The young kiddies of today have no sense of self-control and just want to fight everyone. If you can't hold your liquor then you shouldn't be allowed to drink it till your smart enough to know what your doin.
That's me on my soap-box done.
Drunken idiots aside, of which incidentally I've not encountered any, Perth has a good little Arts community. There are great photography and art exhibitions happening every other week, a few festivals going on, parks, beaches and good quality restaurants and cafes. We live in Mt Lawley, the more boho area from what I can tell. nice vibe, good coffee and creative. Just a short bicycle ride away from uni.
Car-less we've gone green and now ride our bikes everywhere, or catch the bus or train. Getting around is easy, and fun.
In the past few weeks we've been to Cirque du Soleil - twice! It was spectacular, as always and even better for having seen it twice. A slight wedding anniversary surprise saw us getting two lots of tickets. Oops. Loved it both times. The first show there was an accident in one of the acts and so the second time we got to see performances that we missed the last time.
The Perth Writer's festival was very interesting. Got to listen to some great authors speak about their works, and learned about a whole range of new books that are now on my reading list. I've not read them yet, but my list from the day is:
The wasted vigil - by Nadeem Aslam
How the soldier repairs his gramaphone - by Sasa Stanisic
The good mayor - by Andrew Nicholl
The literati - by James Phalen
The tale of a terrorist who wasn't - Mamdouh Habib
I've just finished reading, and highly recommend: The white tiger by Aravind Adiga
Discovered Perth's unoffical 'Chinatown', which has some good asian food and even some close to real China Chinese food. We got to practice speaking our Chinese at Hoi's Dim Sum place, where the squid legs are to die for and the dim sum divine. Plus, it's cheap as chips! Perfect for us AUSTUDY kiddies.
Oh, had beers in the park at Fremantle Arts Centre, which is the old lunatic asylum, listening to local musicians perform. Very nice! Must go back and check out the artwork and find out more about the history.
No swimming at the beaches so far - there have been a few shark sightings over the summer and so I've decided to let others become shark bait.
Cheers and I'll write again soon.
Location: Ben'niu, China
At long last we are on holiday. Five weeks of nothing no classes, no planning, no prep, no students, no Rob! Plenty of time to sleep in, mooch around in our PJs and stay locked indoors because its freezing outside. I spend the first three weeks writing like a mad woman trying to finish my book. It may never get published but at least Ive done it Ive written a book. Ash has provided photos and it looks pretty good. Now, just gotta find an agent/ publisher.
As the month draws to a close we get a sprinkling of snow. Bennui is all white and fluffy. Ash and I duck across to the school to check out the fresh blanket of snow on the oval. The bell rings and its break time. The students come tumbling out of their classrooms onto the oval and start an en-masse snowball fight. They are delirious. For many of them its the first time they have seen snow.
A week later Benniu gets the biggest snow dump its seen for 15 years. Actually China gets the biggest snowfall in 51 years. Over 3 days at least 3 feet of snow falls causing havoc not just in our little industrial town, but nationwide. Benniu cant cope with the snow. The roads are closed, people cant get to work. Die-hard idiots still drive on the snow without chains, slipping and sliding over the roads. The people make snowmen of giant proportions only they take on the resemblance of a mouse. The year of the Rat is approaching.
For the first time Benniu looks pretty. An ugly town, now covered in snow even it manages a romantic look. For a few days anyway until a snow plough is found and clears the roads. Then the snow turns first grey, then almost black with the deposits of coal dust and pollution.
We are invited out to dinner and taken on a drive in the snow to a pretty park by our new Chinese friends the Chen family. The deputy Mayor of the next town is invited as is his daughter. Harmony Chen (a boy) performs over dinner he sings a song, and recites a speech made by Nixon on a visit to China. Why? We are the guests and its meant to make an impression on us.
Rare and exotic food is ordered in our honour: wild boar in a curry sauce, game chicken, reef fish and hedgehog all spin past on the lazy-susan. Yes, hedgehog. Considering we have a pet hedgehog I am at first reluctant to sample this dish. But in the name of research and not wanting to offend our hosts I take a piece. Its fatty with minimal meat and maximum bones not worth the effort of cooking in my opinion and far more fun to have as a prickly pet running round the house.
Transport has stopped over much of the nation due to the snow and Ash and I fear that our train to Beijing may be cancelled. We are lucky the snow stops a few days before and the tracks are cleared just in time for us to catch a sleeper train to Beijing. At long last we are going to see Emma and Simeon! Bring it on.
The sleeper train is definitely our favourite way to travel in China. We went hard sleeper 6 bunks with 3 tiered on each side of the compartment. Blankets supplied, and hot water for tea. The rail staff were friendly and helpful. After the first stop almost 90% of people got off so we had a very empty carriage for the journey. The next morning we were popular as people passed, stopping for a chat to Ash in Chinese and me smiling like an idiot.
Finally we arrive in Beijing and there are our beloved friends waiting for us outside the train station. They bundle us into a taxi and off to their very lush apartment. Ooohhh, I want to live in Ems place forever. Very nice and spacious after our little shoebox.
We spend the next two weeks indulging our bellies in a range of non-Chinese delights. Paddy Osheas for pints of Guinness and cider, a Cuban restaurant for Emmas birthday, a Thai place for our first wedding anniversary, a Belgian restaurant for pizzas and exotic beers, an Arab place with live belly dancing and more. Shopping is our addiction and we spend up big on winter coats Beijing is f--kin freezing! Im certain that Ill get frostbite and lose some toes if I stay outdoor for too long. The bookshop is big on our list too. Some new English reading material is always appreciated.
All too soon its time to leave. We are reluctant and drag our heals about it. But finally we must go and with tears in my eyes I get swallowed up by the throbbing crowd at the train station and board the train.
This time we travel by soft sleeper more expensive and terribly over-rated in my opinion. Sure theres a light above my head and only four bunks instead of six but the bunks are shorter, theres less luggage room and our compartment companions have sprawled out claiming almost all the luggage room. One man lounges in his long john underpants, legs splayed, toupee perched nearby. When lights are out and the door is locked the room becomes stuffy with most unpleasant smells.
We arrive in Shanghai bright and early, get a connecting train to Changzhou and are soon trudging up the driveway to our apartment. Snow is still piled in mounds on the side of the road. Its completely black now and littered with rubbish. Benniu is back to its industrial age self.
School starts and we get a pleasant surprise. Senior 2 classes are cancelled until April maybe for good. So we divvy up Senior 1 classes between the four of us. Yes, Rob did come back, but secretly I think hes been abducted by aliens during the holidays. Hes being abnormally friendly, and behaving like a normal person. I almost want to ask who are you and what have you done with Rob the Nob?
But I digress. The girls (Susan and I) now have a total of 7 teaching hr/wk, and the boys have 10 hr/wk. Thank you God! This is wonderful. Finally low stress teaching and plenty of time to indulge in other pursuits.
Ive introduced a new teaching method to my class the use of a book I know, very advanced of me, and its working a treat. All my classes are going fabulously. Even the class that I despise and have 10 letters of apology from the students are not just behaving but actively participating. For the first time in ages I am really enjoying teaching and realise that I am going to miss my students when we leave in June.