Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: sorry

As I was trying to say, China loves Celine Dion. Unfortunately, Titanic was one of the ten foreign films the government allows to be played in China each year. Therefore, everywhere you go you hear that damn song (the muszak version)

I was watching the telly the other night (a pointless exercise as you might imagine) when I found one channel broadcasting an English version of the news and I discovered that China TV has no qualms about showing the results of accidentally driving your jeep over an anti-personnel mine. Nor what a body looks like after it has suffocated to death in a bomb blast.

I have only a very limited access to the news and much of it I am very suspicious about. Chinese reporters take great delight in making 'the west' look either sinister or foolish.

I don't know what to believe about anything. I read one article about how Australia had put the blowfly on the $50 bill because Australia is so clean now that there are no dirty places for flies to breed in, so they are cleaner, so they are now regarded in much the same light as bees. Also (and I know this can't be true) I read that Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise have split. What I read about Pres. Bush is enough to put fear in anyone’s heart (but I’ve been kinda scared of him for a while). And as for Falun Gong... I don't want to think about it. Beijing is outraged that America is going to try and pass legislation against them bidding for the 2008 Olympics because of human rights violations, but they executed seven people yesterday for smuggling, "The seven were also deprived of their political rights and their personal property was confiscated".

I fixed the noise in the class by trying to teach Junior One to do the hokey pokey. They were so shocked at the idea of putting their right foot in and shaking it all about that they all just shut up. So much for the hokey pokey.

hope you're well
love ceels

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

china loves celine dion

Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: china loves celine dion

Monday, 16 June 2008

golden girl yearning for the moon

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: golden girl yearning for the moon

Hi ya
According to the People's Republic of China I tested negative to Anti-HIV (ELISA) and the Syphilis Serum agglutination reaction. Also I do not have Cholera, Yellow fever, Leprosy, the Plague, Psychosis or Venereal Disease. I have however developed the distressing habit of extreme enunciation and a discernable gap between each word and the one previous. This is to say that I can no longer talk like a normal human being and sound quite the norris.

However, China's medical system is not infallible as they reported no abnormal finding of my diaphragm, and yet, I am still hiccoughing (we're going on five years now). The hospital we went to had a 'propaganda and re-education room'. I did not ask, I tried not to appear too interested.

The kids are getting better (or should that read, I am getting better). And the weather is getting daily warmer. It felt rather like a cool summer evening today (of course that was at two o'clock and I am wearing a gortex jacket, but my point is it's warmer)

love you

Sunday, 15 June 2008

notes from ceels's tummy: 'Ah, what was that, and how do I digest it?'

Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: notes from ceels's tummy: 'Ah, what was that, and how do I digest it?'

Y'all are lucky that the internet has not been working in this, the first week of my teaching experience. I would have SCORCHED your ears and inboxes.

The first two lessons were a hell I am surprised I survived. I was as nervous as a girl can be and they all knew it too, the little buggers. By lunchtime I was a taxi ride away from catching a plane home. But I stayed around for the lesson after lunch and it was fine, a dream by comparison.

The rest of the week has been a mixed bag. I have been lectured on the evil influences of falun gong and warned of their cunning attempts to lure foreigners with their lies and deceit. They are a cult and it is the duty of the citizens of the world to stamp out their foul blight. I have been firmly advised that Beijing must have the Olympics in 2008 because it is the greatest (and most beautiful) city in China (and therefore the world).

Can anyone give me advice on keeping a class of 40 twelve year olds quiet (short of a piece of 4 by 2)? Everybody here thinks I am very beautiful (at last!!) and I have been given a very beautiful Chinese name. Of course it did occur to me that seeing as the teachers know Chinese and I don't know Chinese it could be a completely silly-arse name and they are just telling me it is beautiful as a colossal joke.

But nobody has laughed yet.

The first bit means gold and the last bit means moon. I didn't mention certain connotations 'moon' has in Australia (bare bums out bus windows, Bert Newton, lunatics) it didn't seem appropriate.

One of the students today asked if all Australians had wet skin like mine. And I must admit I was stumped. My skin has been as dry as can be since I got here (in fact, before I started moisturising, anywhere something rubbed my skin (a fold in a sock, my thermals, my watch, my shoes) it broke through and I bled), he meant white. I tried to explain that there are many people of different backgrounds in Australia and, besides, I saw less sun than most. No joy.

So I have survived the first week, I’m feeling jovial, I’ve made some friends and I think that next week will be easier (please)

love you very much

Saturday, 14 June 2008

I've got no shame, nobody knows my name

Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: I've got no shame, nobody knows my name

Good morning, my name is Celia and I am here to teach you to speak English (and this is the part in my dream where I forget how to speak English and start desperately trying to remember year eleven French lessons)

My address here is:
Celia King
Foreign Teacher's Dormitory
No. 6 Xi Wai Nan Rd

I have a phone number too, but I have no idea what it is because I wrote it on a piece of paper and it has lost itself.

Nevermind, maybe the next time someone rings me I can ask them what it is.

I start teaching on Monday and I am not at all nervous (no, that is the girl at the computer next to me in blue jeans and a green shirt)

Everyone is still staring at me, I sort of thought it would stop, I don't mind though, I’d stare too.

love you

Friday, 13 June 2008

barbarus hic ego sum qui non intelligor illis (or, when i say chicken, i don't mean bones and gizzardy bits)

Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001
From: Ceels

Subject: barbarus hic ego sum qui non intelligor illis (or, when i say chicken, i don't mean bones and gizzardy bits)

Until I left the hotel I had not realised what a buffer zone the tour was. A very large comfy fat buffer zone, available for lounging against, peering over and generally being depended on. Although this is NOT to say that it was not a good idea, it was a splendid idea. The shock of transition from hotel to teacher's dorm was scarcely a blip compared to the shock that Port Fairy in summer to foreign teacher's dorm would have been.

Half the agony was due to being in a temporary room and that it snowed for like four days. But last night I moved into treen and jamie's old room and found all the stuff they left for me (did I mention I love them?) and had a lovely night setting up a little nest for myself, fortunately there are two beds because I sat on one and it fell apart.

And today it is sunny.

I have borrowed some ideas from the people on the tour for dealing with China.

*From Bernard that the best way to clean the mud off your shoes is with a hotel toothbrush.

*From Celina that the best way to gain revenge for the spitting is audible (or (ahem) smelly) farting, apparently most Chinese people find this at least as offensive as I find the spitting (if it was just spitting I could deal with it, but the other part... oh, I can bear thinking about it.)

*I am going to apply Eric's enthusiastic dedication to trying every beer to trying the confectionery (thus far with mixed results, best to stick with Snickers)

*And from Nicky (tour leader) that there is no China induced woe that cannot be fixed with chocolate, a hot bath and an Andy Lau VCD.

It has just occurred to me that as of next week I have to start teaching people to speak English and I haven’t the faintest idea how

love you all
A bit more -

Okay, so it is looking suspiciously like a craftroom at the moment. I am having some sort of trouble exporting photos at the moment. Tip your head.

See, a little neater, a little more furniture.

This is where the picture of Jem's room would go. If he weren't currently in it. Asleep. You know that it occurred to me that he is jetlagged, and prolly sleeping quite soundly... but where *you* would find the end result of that train of thought quite amusing, I have a suspicion that he would be creative in his revenge and so I immediately turned to thinking of innocuous things like kittens and tea. Not a bit tempted.

Less mess?

See sunny patch onna floor, ideal for basking. (Some yarn crept back in).

Still talking to you.

Bathroom taps still falling off. Toiletries still in the bath (and iron, and dish rack).

Thursday, 12 June 2008

there are all these cute chinese boys in china

Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: there are all these cute chinese boys in china

It snowed like you would not believe all last night and really really lots this morning and it is all light and fluffy like tumble dryer lint and the roads are covered in black slush and it is COLD.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

tourism promotes prosperity and wellbeing

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: tourism promotes prosperity and wellbeing

My god.

I just crossed two busy roads to get to the post office (this is where the internet is) and I don't know how long I am going to survive in this country if I have to keep crossing the roads. Even if I remember which way to look when I get to the curb, I am still convinced I am going to get swiped by something coming from the other direction (which is where my brain thinks the traffic is really coming from (which it would be if everyone drove on the left (which they don't (which is confusing me)))) and traffic turning the corner has right of way no matter what. And sometimes people don't stay on their own side of the road. And sometimes they ignore the traffic lights (as a general rule of thumb, it seems, the Chinese ignore the traffic lights unless there is a policeman on the corner watching)

Sorry, I didn't mean to tell you about the traffic. I meant to tell you about how I went to the Great Wall at Simatai yesterday and it blew my mind. I have nothing much to say about the Great Wall (there is nothing much to say) but I just wanted to note that I’ve been there.

Today we found the silk market, I shopped until my money ran out, and if they'd had a place to change travellers’ cheques, I’d have shopped until they ran out too. And if they'd had a place for credit cards... I don't even want to think about it. I have never been much one for shopping, but I have reformed, all I needed was bargaining. I love to bargain. I could shop all day if I was just allowed to bargain. I limited myself to things I’d need in China for the next six months (I really need a fake pashmina, I really do).

I can't believe I was ever horrified by the idea of not paying the price that someone was asking.


Tuesday, 10 June 2008

traveller's tips, by ceels (or, "no, mum, it doesn't rain in china")

Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: traveller's tips, by ceels (or, "no, mum, it doesn't rain in china")

Not only does it rain in china (four of the six days so far) but it snows. And if you pack toilet paper on the outside of your day pack and forget it's there, it goes mouldy (yes it does) and if you pack 'feminine hygiene' products on the outside of your suitcase, they will get wet and, well, they're not much good after that are they?

China is great. China is wet and cold and to quote a great philosopher, China is very Chinese. The food is Chinese, the supermarkets are Chinese, the language is Chinese and the traffic is Chinese.

I have decided against buying a bike in Beijing until I have had at least six months to study the traffic. We gave an English lesson on the Bund in Shanghai and one of the 'typical Shanghainese' students reckoned that if the traffic stopped in Shanghai it would stop for good, so no one stops (not for traffic lights, pedestrians, bikes/cars)

I am gradually getting used to the Chinese junk food (no tim tams, and the chocolate? I don't even want to talk about the chocolate) and I am endeavouring to reconcile myself with the lack of bread as I know it.

I have eaten loads of things the guidebooks say you shouldn't and the closest to death I have come is slipping over on the snow. I know three times as much Mandarin as when I left (thanks chris chris blair bec alex, I know that 3*0 is still zero,) and picked up a little Cantonese and Shanghainese (which I’m sure I will promptly forget).

Next stop is Xian where I am going to shop myself silly and will give you an update on some of the people in the tour (and tell you about my great plan to become a tour leader with intrepid and sail the seven seas).

loads of love
ceels (the intrepid explorer)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Rodney and the surfing duck

Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Rodney and the surfing duck

It recently came to my attention that there is a bet running on how long it will take until I return from China (for those of you who don't know I am going to China). Naturally I was outraged (outraged!), but decided that in all fairness I should open the betting to all. Bets must be in to Bec Dridan rdrid@orm… by the 4th of Feb (which is when I finish my tour) and the length of time starts from that date (one month seeing me home on the 5th march), I have signed a contract for six months, (finishing on the 31st of July) and the shortest bet so far is five weeks (thank you Chris).

The stakes haven't been decided, at this stage the winner gets the satisfaction of knowing they were right about me all along. closest to the return date wins.

love to you all

Sunday, 8 June 2008

strawbries strawbries, three for two dollar

Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: strawbries strawbries, three for two dollar.

A grave and tragic thing happened this morning at work. you remember the barista I was in love with? deeply in love with? I found out his surname.


Yes indeedy.

And, ladies and gentlemen, there is no chance of me ever being known as celia seal.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000
From: Ceels

On Monday I made the decision to stop drinking coffee

On Tuesday the barista who I fell in love with asked me if I wanted a coffee and I said yes.

What's a girl to do when a boy who makes perfect coffees just the way she likes them offers her a coffee?

I’ve noticed a correlation between people and the type of coffee they drink, more later...

Thursday, 5 June 2008

7 signs you get up at five o'clock every morning

Date: Wed, 8 Nov 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: 7 signs you get up at five o'clock every morning

I have found where the stupid people are. They are all in publishing.

When I went out into the world from the hallowed halls and grave traditions of university I was told to be careful, I was warned of the stupid people out there.

I found a couple of stupid people in England. There weren't any stupid people in the kitchen, there is the odd stupid person making coffee, but where were the hordes? the unwashed masses?

Fear not, gentle reader, I have boldly gone and found them for you.

You may consider that after only an hour in my new job that I am being unnecessarily harsh. You are entitled to your own opinion. But if someone asks me if I know where the start button is, they need to expect me to be a little scathing.

If you worked like that in the kitchen you would be belted over the head with something heavy, doused in oil and kicked out so fast you catch on fire on the way out the door. I have met sheep with more individuality and self-direction.

My eyes glazed over and my brain knocked off for the day, fortunately the computer system was not working, so I had to go home.

On a brighter note, making coffee is heaps fun. I have developed a habit of getting a strong iced coffee with no cream for the walk home after work. The way Belinda makes it for me it is more of a triple espresso with ice cream. As I wander home and look at the trees the ice cream bumps against my lips and the caffeine buzzes happily. It is the kind of iced coffee that makes you feel tall and gorgeous.

love you all

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000
From: Ceels

What an eventful day I’ve had, I’ve fallen in love (twice), fallen in hate and been upgraded to making coffee.

I have fallen in love with one of the other baristas who smells quite delicious. Unfortunately he works afternoons. Which was why I was quite good humoured about working an extra shift tonight (it meant I had to close up with him, I thought it was going to be just the two of us (sigh) but the manager was there to do a stock take.

I have fallen in hate with another chap who works there (they must be more tolerant than me, I would have fired him weeks ago) and I wouldn't even mind him so much if it weren't for the fact he smells like he accidentally wet his pants a couple of days ago and forgot to change them.

It was as well I worked this afternoon because a guy I went to school with, and haven't seen since, came in for coffee and I looked up from pouring a tall skinny latte with a shot of vanilla and there he was and I fell in love again. Naturally, I blushed crimson (very very) but maintained enough composure to get his number.

I worked from 7am to 7pm today, with a four-hour break at lunch. In my break I went home and did three loads of washing (in the washing machine that Lex and I fixed all by ourselves yesterday, yes we are real diy home hardware girls) and while I was putting the second load out I stubbed my little toe and popped off the nail. I hissed and hissed and hissed, but I didn't swear scream or fall in a heap.

I went to the publisher yesterday (where I am doing my second job). The coffeeshop might eventually result in glassy eyes and a hollow heart, but I think data entry will do it right away. The coffee manager keeps trying to convince me to not to do data entry and to work more hours at the coffeeshop (maybe in the afternoons...), but data entry pays more (and I have discovered after my first pay check from the coffeeshop (compared to the kitchen) that I quite like money) and I have said yes to data entry (although I also said yes every time the publishing lady said 'and of course you can type really fast').

but I must away, my stomach is calling,

much love (oh yes indeedy)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

How to irritate your housemates (without really trying)

Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: How to irritate your housemates (without really trying)

Today I was upgraded at the coffeeshop to heating milk. Consequently, I smell like warm milk, which is no bad thing compared to calamari intestines, but I might have to resort to two showers a day. One so that I am awake enough to serve customers and one so that I don't smell like sour milk for the rest of the day.

I am getting up every day at five or six am, which is something (you may be surprised) I am quite used to. I had forgotten though, that you still wake at five or six on the weekends too. and I have developed several techniques (inherited from my mum) to encourage my housemates to get up, too, and play with me.

My favourite is to open the door to upstairs and cook bacon and eggs. If I do that at nine, I am guaranteed to get someone out of bed by ten. The smell of freshly brewed coffee is actually more effective for Lex, but I won't drink it, so it would be a waste to make it. I have not stooped to mum's most-used ploy, which is to open the door at the end of our corridor, then open our bedroom doors and incite the budgie into impressions of a train going through a tunnel or plastic bags rustling in the cupboard.

This is largely because we don't have a budgie.

Nor am I allowed to get a budgie.

And I have been told quite firmly I will be kicked out of the house to live in the gutter if I bring home any ducklings from the market. Pip and Lex are being quite unreasonable on this point. They have some theory about the ducks getting bigger and pooing all over the courtyard.

Our washing machine is all over. it was struggling valiantly with my jeans until suddenly it made a peculiar noise and started smoking. I think that is not good, but I will have a fossick around underneath and see if I can't fix it.


Monday, 2 June 2008

there's only one thing worse than Lionel Ritchie at six in the morning

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: there's only one thing worse than Lionel Ritchie at six in the morning.

realising you know all the words

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I could get used to doing an easy job and having heaps of hours off to see people and do stuff

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: I could get used to doing an easy job and having heaps of hours off to see people and do stuff.

Dear all

I have begun my new job as a coffee maker at the coffeeshop on the crn of Bourke and queen streets. At the moment I am only trusted on the till, but I am going to be trained to make coffee over the week.

I like this job. Everybody looks more beautiful when they are buying coffee and everybody instinctively loves you because they know you are going to give them coffee, so I get to smile at people all day long.

However, the Kitchen has ruined my work ethic. I scoff at the idea of a three-hour shift (what's the point in working less than eight hours). I scoff at the idea of an unpaid half hour break (what am I going to do? sit down?). I can't relax, while I’m at work I have to be doing something, so I keep finding things to clean and doing the 'must be cleaned list' (what, do you mean this cupboard doesn't get cleaned out at the end of every shift?)

The only draw back is that when I get money out of the till the shirt I am wearing allows the customer a full view of my cleavage. I am going to go and buy another shirt now.

I am going to China at the beginning of February.

love you