Saturday, 7 November 2009

home again home again jiggety jig

Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: home again home again jiggety jig

We did the census last night. If it had only been a little earlier I could have put down 'English teacher' and 'Beijing' for occupation and residence the week before. Then I would have felt cool and then when people read the censuses in 99 years time, they would have thought 'hey, she's cool.'

I have started life after China and feel (aside from a lingering feeling of "where are all the people/oh look at how clean it is/which way is the damn traffic coming from anyway/big brother is watching") largely unchanged.

I have started Uni and am studying a subject I love, with a lecturer I adore. He is the type of lecturer who makes me want to do my homework. And when he speaks Latin he sounds just delicious. Latin being the subject I am studying, hence 'delicious' not 'pretentious'.

I have found a new cafe to call my own. It’s quiet and the man who owns it bakes his own biscuits. It feels like you are sitting in his lounge room having a cuppa. Perfect place to sit in the window seat and study.

I am getting to know my new housemates. It is fun watching how everything is shifting around with my arrival. It is a share household, which will be a test for me, as I am not good at sharing.

Life is slower at the moment. I spend much of my time sitting in cafes around the university translating Latin into English. It is lovely to feel relaxed, the only demands on me being to saunter into class on time and wake at a reasonable hour.

love you

Thursday, 5 November 2009

not for all the chickpeas in china

Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: not for all the chickpeas in china

I hate packing. I seem to have six times as much stuff as I have room. You should see China Post people pack. They defy the universal laws. If I didn't have such big feet I could fit way more in my suitcase. It turns out that Chinese men don't like big feet, no matter how big your bottom is. Dammit. Now I am going to have to go back to being liked for who I am.

The other night there was a full moon and a clear sky and I saw the man in the moon for the first time. Until now I have only ever seen a rabbit sitting at a table. It was very exciting. (Yeah, I know).

So I am leaving Beijing.

I have changed a lot, you know. I can now dodge traffic with an ease that few who have seen me cross a road would believe. Because of the lack of full-length mirrors I now have a self-image that consists of two pairs of limbs and a face in the tiny bathroom mirror. I can project my voice over a room of forty yelling students. I can catch Beijing buses at peak hour. Food in all its guises does not faze me (except the stinky tofu). I can sing along to aqua, backstreet boys, n'sync, Christina and Britney. And I haven't watched television in six months.

And there are lots of things to miss. No more 35 degree heat and 75% humidity. No more waking up at 3am in a tangle of soggy sheets. No more men falling off their bicycles trying to get a better look at how white my legs are. No more catching a glimpse of my reflection on the train and realising that not only am I twice as big as everybody else, but also the neon light is making me glow like Christmas. No more walking into a shop and declaring that I have something, instead of saying that I want something. No more chewy-air days. No more cheap fresh lychees. No more watermelons that would make you cry for how sweet they are. No more being cheated because I am a foreigner. No more being stared (pointed/ laughed/ spat) at because I am a foreigner. No more squashing the mosquitoes on the wall by my bed (that really annoys mum). No more Chinese lessons from the guards at the gate. No more lots of things, but I can't think of any more.

It will be good to come home. I am going to eat pizza and steak and one of mum's hamburgers and I am going to spend all the money I have saved on clothing. All of it. I went to the bank yesterday to change my money. Unfortunately I didn't have the seven billion bits of paper and three eyewitnesses that Chinese bureaucracy needs to do any thing, so they wouldn't change my money. Another Australian teacher came in just after me. I tried bursting into tears and he tried raising his voice. We neither of us got what we wanted. I have to go back today with my plane tickets, contract, residence visa, passport, foreign expert papers and all my money (in cash, in brown paper envelopes). They are all in the one bag. I am experiencing hyperparanoia about someone stealing it.

Well, I must run, I am about to go head to head with my suit case to see if I can't convince it that it is bigger than it is.
all my love
china blossom

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Olympic Games

Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Olympic Games

I have been having a good read of the age, and stuff about the Beijing bid. It is very interesting. One of the strongest arguments for giving Beijing the games was because it would mean there was greater focus on them and greater incentive for them to clean up their environmental and political act. And the last speaker for their bid actually played that card, with faintly ominous undertones of what might happen if Beijing didn't win.

One day at the start of the year all the grass was sprayed a foul green colour and I just found out that was for the IOC inspection. And they also shut down various factories to make the city seem less polluted. Just as well the inspection didn't come a month later, with all the dust. The dust was a nightmare. You would no sooner clean it up than it would appear again behind you.

In a lot of ways Beijing frightens me. Apparently there have been 1781 public executions in the last three months. All this stuff happens that is hugely inconvenient to people (like tearing down their place of residence or employment) and there is not much they can do unless the have connections in the party, in which case it wouldn't have happened in the first place.

None of it really affects me, and I suspect I know very little about it, it makes my head hurt trying to understand.

Another thing mentioned in the bid is how friendly Beijing people are. Which is and isn't true. To short term visitors 'hosts' will be excessively friendly. On the other hand people selling stuff will generally try to fleece you, unless you have been their customer for a long time (a month for dvd stores, four months for fruit and veg sellers) or have established your 'in-ness' (friend of a friend). People stare at you in the street with varying degrees of suspicion and dislike, a heavy weight to bear.

On Friday a taxi driver tried to fleece me by taking a circuitous route to my destination, making the taxi fare twice what it should be. I got really mad (I was having a bad day) and waved my hands and stuttered out a few phrases to the effect that I knew exactly what he had done and I’d be damned if I was going to pay the full amount. He seemed to find humour in the fact that I knew what was going on, and dropped the fare without argument. Perhaps encouraged by the fact that I had written down his cab number and the phone number for complaints.

Which is not to say that there are not just as many lovely people in Beijing as there are in Melbourne, but the (now rescinded?) government policy of overcharging (cheating) foreigners is a tenacious one, encouraged by three things. Everyone assumes that foreigners have plenty of money and so should pay more (maybe this is true?); the vendor gets extra money and is very unlikely to cop official reprimand; and a majority of foreigners aren't in Beijing long enough to realise how much extra they are paying. Paying 10 quai for a watermelon (roughly AU$2) isn’t that much, it’s just that everyone else is only paying 2 quai.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Beijing 2008

Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Beijing 2008

Beijing has the Olympics. The decision making process was broadcast live on about 16 of the 24 channels my television picks up.
I could make many cynical comments about Beijing’s presentation, but I am keeping a tight hold on them. It is very easy to be cynical in China.

The decision was announced at around 10:10pm and the entire city went bananas. Fireworks (illegal in china's big cities) were going off for the next three hours around the school. People were running through the streets. I went down to the gate to say congratulations to the guards, but my Chinese must be worse than I thought, because they thought I wanted to go out into the street and became quite distressed. It led to a waving of arms and 'you must not go out by your self'. It is nice to know they care about my well-being, but I did feel just a little like a big kid (which is what they call me, the other day one of them told me in tones of great appreciation 'you are so large and white and beautiful', mmmm.)

Yesterday and today the backslapping and self-congratulation were still going on. If I hear Beijing er-ling-ling-ba one more time I am going home.

Okay, I will just say two little things. One major point of the presentation was that they are nearly finished a three year tree planting project with something million trees put in. but I would like to point out that I have seen them planting the trees and in another three years they are all going to have to be chopped down because they will interfere with power lines, or buildings or roads or water/gas pipelines.
And the footage from the promotional video is all from the southern and eastern parts of Beijing (quite affluent) and must have been filmed last year, because we have only had one day that clear of air pollution since I’ve been here, and it was only a couple of weeks ago. So either they had a clear day last year too, or the whole thing was done on a computer.

hope everyone is well
love ceels

Friday, 30 October 2009


Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: wanting

On the off chance I can get a flight out of China before Uni starts, and assuming I do decide to come home now, I don't suppose anyone knows of anyone in Melbourne who wants a housemate (me) for next semester?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: unwanted

Yesterday the newspaper made me redundant. The other part time guy just moved closer to the paper, so he can work full time now so my services are not required.

They made me redundant!! Apart from it being a crushing blow to my ego, they've known about this for weeks, so if they had just told me last week instead of last night, I wouldn't have re-signed my contract on Friday.

So now I am stuck in China for another six months.

Monday, 26 October 2009

you’re always tease tease tease

Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: you’re always tease tease tease.

The weather is just superb. The air has been clear for two days, the humidity has dropped and the sky is just too blue for words.

They are moving right along with the construction. Today the trench in front of the supermarket had changed into a pit, guarded by a snarling toothful beast. The flames roared and little men with shining eyes brandished weapons of destruction. All looked grim in my quest for Snickers. I studied the situation. Sauntered past, attempting an air of disinterest. With swinging across out of the question and the bridge gone, the situation seemed bleak. Suddenly I noticed one of the beast's foul minions precariously balanced on a trail half a mile off. I ducked behind some passing natives and managed to gain the trail unobserved. Stones slid from beneath my sandals and my dry breath caught in my throat. With gazelle like agility I leapt to the other side as the path swept out from beneath my feet in a mini avalanche.
Quietly, calmly, casually I slipped behind the fierce warriors guarding the entrance to their lair, and into the underground cool of the supermarket.
And met with disappointment.
Someone had beaten me to the snickers and there were none to be had.

Did you know that no one in Tibet has a surname? I have a Tibetan name now. The first part is the name of a Tibetan goddess and the second part is 'moon'. I feel like I don't really have my own name in China. I will answer to my name, my Chinese name, lao shi, teacher. One of the reporters at the paper has my name wrong and calls me 'xixi'. I get called 'Katrina' once or twice a week and I have even been called 'James'. (And here I thought only my mother called me that). In the street people expect me to answer to 'hello'. And I have learnt the negative word for 'foreigner' and the word for 'big nose' through repetition. No one here calls me ceels. Apart from anything else it is too hard to say.

with all my love
who ever I am

Saturday, 24 October 2009

a wilting china rose

Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: a wilting china rose

'Just answer your damn phone mister, before I do something irreversible with it.'

Stupid phones.

'Scuse me. The man over there won't answer his phone. It has the most irritating ring tone.

Living in Beijing is very interesting. You are as likely to be run down in the street by a front-end loader as a bus (they move at about the same speed) and even going to the supermarket has become an adventure. There is a saying in Beijing about their roads being like zippers. Apparently this time they have opened up the road to put in a new subway line, but it looks suspiciously to me like they are just digging big holes and filling them in again. There is a deep trench in front of the supermarket that you cross by means of three muddy planks tacked together. They bounce. And I am much larger than your average Beijinger. I have a good imagination.

Actually my imagination is getting out of hand lately. I keep thinking of doing things and imagine so strongly that I have done them, that I don't. And then the other night when I was having dinner with Aiyi (one of the reporters at the paper) I made a remark about wanting to learn Chinese better and he said something along the lines of 'well, when you have been living and working here for four or five years...' and suddenly I had a very clear vision of myself married to Aiyi, with six or seven Chinese babies. (Well, one Chinese baby of course, but while the Chinese government can stop up a girl's loins, they can do nothing about her imagination)

Maybe it IS time to come home.

I saw some foreigners near the school today, but they were Russian, so I couldn't talk to them. I can spot a foreigner a mile off. It is even getting so that I can pick people who are not from Beijing, sometimes.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I have seventeen mosquito bites

Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: I have seventeen mosquito bites

I’ve read a lot about having your pockets picked, every one from Prince Kheldar to Sherlock Holmes. But now I feel I have the authority to write about it.

Didn’t feel or see a thing.

I have heard that members of the 'Jedifaith' want to have the 'Jedi Faith' listed as an official religion on the national census. I think I might have to come home, as Australia seems to be falling apart.

Yesterday on my way to work at the newspaper I saw a couple of dozen police hats neatly lined up in a grid pattern on the foot path. Because nothing in China surprises me anymore, I was not surprised. And when I got around the corner I discovered that a couple of dozen policemen were being made to run around the block in forty degree heat with no hats.

When I left the paper I ran into a bunch of army guys marching in time and I felt a little intimidated. Then I noticed that, just like in my classes, the ones up the back were stuffing around and generally behaving like fools, knocking each other’s hats off and tripping each other up, and I felt reassured.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001
From: Ceels

Also, on Friday I ate clotted pig's blood. It is supposed to clean out your lungs, and at this stage, I’d give anything a go.

On Wednesday I learnt a valuable lesson about squat toilets and leaving your keys in you pocket.

Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: On Wednesday I learnt a valuable lesson about squat toilets and leaving your keys in you pocket.

Beijing is a very interesting place to live. It is full of noise and people and music and construction. The other night someone was playing the violin down on the driveway and I went down to investigate and ended up singing a rousing Chinese/English duet of 'Click Go the Shears'. And the immersion technique of learning language is very interesting. As each new fruit comes into season I learn its name and last week when the mosquitoes started biting me I learnt 'wen zi' the Chinese word for mosquito (and entirely more appropriate). And yesterday I learnt the Chinese words for 'your wallet', 'stole' and 'little boy'.

By the way, the lambs are still alive (by what miracle I do not know)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

sunburn and speed wobbles

Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: sunburn and speed wobbles

Yesterday, when I was sitting on the Great Wall watching a thunderstorm come over the mountains from Mongolia, I was thinking that...

Actually I don't know what I was thinking, I just wanted to start my email that way because yesterday I was sitting on the great wall and I was watching a thunderstorm. But I wasn't thinking much. I was exhausted from having climbed so far. I actually made it to the end of the section we were on (si ma tai). When I was nearly there I sat down on a rock and was really comfy and thought 'ehh, I’ll just wait here for the others to come back’. But then I figured I’d got that far, a little further probably wouldn't kill me.

And it didn't. And I met a man from London who was in Port Fairy when I was in Dorset and there was a stunning view and it was all good and I was happy. Then on the way home on the bus with the super-cold air conditioner my cold got worse. Then when I got home I was all misery-guts and hopeless. And now today I am really sick and I’ve got the speed wobbles and I want to go home.

So, reasons to stay in Beijing: good job(s) (most of the time).

I am just starting to get the hang of the language.

With fewer hours working, I might make some friends.

The kids are really cool.

And to return: I might shake this cold I’ve had for four months now, it's back for the seventh round.

I can do fun uni stuff.

Less smog.

I’ll be home before they decide about the Olympics.

In the balance it seems I should stay here. Mum thinks I am just being stubborn about staying. She has been known to be right about me before.

The school is foolish. They should have made me sign the second contract when I changed my mind the first time.

Thank you for all the lamb-milk recipes.

love you

Friday, 16 October 2009

happy as a pig in mud (more apt than you might expect)

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: happy as a pig in mud (more apt than you might expect)

Today in a serious error of judgement I became a mother, a saviour and a science project.

I was teaching junior one (year seven) class 2 when one of the little girls came up to me and asked me if I knew how to feed sheep
'I guess so,' I replied carefully (as you would)
'Do you know how to feed baby sheep?'
'Ye-es' (I did grow up on a hobby farm)
'That’s wonderful'
'Ah.... why?'.

It turns out that on the very top floor of the school they have a little room and in the little room are two nearly dead lambs. They have been there for three days and the children have been feeding them lettuce leaves. I tried to tell them that they need to be fed milk and was met with 'but where would we find that, that is not a good idea.' so I made up some runny porridge and they picked at it, but really weren't interested. And now I am stuck. What do you feed lambs if you don't have sheep’s milk and you are living in china and wouldn't have the first clue where to find formula.

Not only that but because it has rained for the last two days it is now quite cold. Which I like but it is not so good for lambs living in a concrete room with only a sheet of newspaper to sleep-on. Which they have been trying to eat.

There have been three thunderstorms in a row. Every time lightning struck last night I woke up with a faint buzzing feeling and all my hair standing on end. Very strange feeling. The rain has been simply bucketing down. The streets are awash with mud and 'other', and all the plants are clean.

Last week I went with the American (Ginny) who is staying in the school and her Chinese friends to the western hills. We climbed Xiang Shen in 37degree heat and then had lunch in a temple with no Buddha. I didn't take to Ginny immediately. Probably because her first reaction to me was one of pity. Apparently I am young and I should be going out and making friends. I felt like telling her that I am practicing for when I am an eccentric old biddy living in the mountains with my ducks and horses. Anyway, I quite like her now and have forgiven her magnanimously.

I guess you can't get a group of friendly Canadians every time.

Oh, and here's something to give you a bit of a laugh. My job at the newspaper? I am proof reading the finance and business pages. You could start quite a successful company on what I don't know about finance and business. So between my lack of knowledge of how that sort of article should read and the Chinese propensity for making everything sound like a murder mystery novel, I am not cutting a very impressive figure, but they have not fired me yet, so...

I have just realised that I haven't eaten. I forgot to eat breakfast and spent all lunchtime trying to feed baby lambs. And, as today is my day from hell (back to back classes from 8am to 3.15), I haven't had any other time.

I go to satisfy my hunter gather urges

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I’m only happy when it rains

Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: I’m only happy when it rains

This hot has melted all my brains and I don't make cents.

I waaas going two rite a letter four youse all, but their is no words allowed in my hed.

I tink I be work too much and all the lessons and mistaks are mudled in my mind. Sometime I tink if they were not paying me so much monkey then I would just nik orf. But insted I rite my name at the bottom of another contrat and say I will stay for seven other months than this one.

Many many norty kiddlets have addled all my egg, and I have no choice but to flour the chooses and reddadle.

If mine terrible grad fa then it not really a problem, but if that sun gets anny hota then I ravveled sleve never.

If a skippy stinky lad sees one more word I will say to it that snorky blatts are formididibble in the shunker.

So with a brain like a stepped on tomato, I leave you with this thort.

ha ha ha I trikkked you.

there is no thorts here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

the cows burp every two or three minutes, each cow producing up to 200 litres of methane gas

Date: Wed, 30 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: the cows burp every two or three minutes, each cow producing up to 200 litres of methane gas

Well the Coke and Snickers diet is working and I have started putting on some weight. Actually it may even be working a little too well, but that doesn't matter. According to Melinda, Chinese men are attracted to big bottoms. They also like pale skin, but they don't fancy stubbornness or independence. Apparently Melinda wishes she looked more like me (mainly because of my bottom), which is funny because I’ve always wished I looked more like her (kinda petite and graceful).

I asked her the other day about her childhood and she seemed kinda reluctant to tell me. She was astonished to discover that there was no MacDonald’s or KFC where I grew up and that we only had two television channels, too. Actually, my most bestest memories have nothing to do with the telly but with playing games, like four run away kids and a dog, cops and robbers, secret valley. Or playing in the sheep shed or haystack or the old cypresses, or riding a sheep or catching frogspawn or collecting mushrooms. I used to nearly believe that there were fairies and elves and that my teddy had feelings and came alive at night time. I sometimes wish that there was someone I could play ‘just pretend’ with. It is easier to believe in magic stuff in china. That the hills are sleeping dragons, that the seedpods from the stuff (that I thought was marijuana but isn't) are little itty bitty fairies on the wind (of course then it rained and they were little itty bitty flat fairies on the ground).

I did an exercise with junior two last week where they had to think about ways they could help look after the environment. Unfortunately I combined it with an article about cows in Australia contributing to the green house effect because they burp up so much methane. So there were loads of answers like 'Kill ten million of the cows' 'Eat the cows' 'Change the diet of the cows so they don't burp'. I also mistranslated burp into Chinese as hiccough. 'Scare the cows' 'Cut off the cows’ tails, the pain will stop them hiccoughing', 'Play the cows eminem music to scare them'.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

why are you looking at me?

Date: Sat, 26 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: why are you looking at me?

What a week

When there was a wasp the size of Texas in the classroom did I panic? No, I got a broom and brushed it out the window. (The kids thought I was a total rockstar).

When the train was delayed and I was going to be late to the first day of my new job at the newspaper, did I panic? No, I jumped in a taxi.

When the fan fell off the wall, nearly decapitating a child, did I panic? No, I went and switched the power off at the wall.

When one of the boys jumping to touch the roof beams slipped and landed at my feet and broke his arm just above his wrist so that when one part was pointing at the roof the other part was pointing at the door and none of the students would go and get the nurse, did I panic? You bet your arse I panicked. I was just a huge enormous panic inside, and Charles (the boy) was going green and then four of the others picked him up to take him to the school's clinic and I was thinking 'aahhgg, what if something happened to his back' and they got him down two flights of stairs and couldn't carry him anymore, but he managed to get up and walk and already his arm had swollen about three times its size.

The last touch to my week was when in my second last class on Friday one student tried to kill another student and there was blood everywhere and I got hit when I stepped between them.

Maybe I will come home and pull pints at the Stump.

And my advice to the world is that you should try not to teach twenty-six classes a week and go and work two nights at a newspaper. At least I said no to the Saturday teaching job, now if only I could get out of the recording on Friday. It turns out I have an excellent recording voice. Easy to understand for the second language listener. I have caught the knack of speaking slowly without sounding like I am speaking slowly.

The only other thing to report is that it rained and everything has cooled down and I got my first night's sleep in two weeks last night.

love you

Quote for the week:
'Pop music is characterized by a simple tune and slightly mental lyrics'

Thursday, 8 October 2009

tai re

Date: Mon, 21 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: tai re

I am just not accustomed to perspiration. I am not what you would describe as an active person. I don't play sport, and on the two or three days each summer that it gets this hot I respond by staying very very still. For example, I did not know that the dip down the middle of your back makes a perfect funnel for perspiration, and leaves you looking like you've wet your pants.

This is ridiculous, and it's not going to stop just because I want it to (I’m outraged). No bloody wonder they never went to war in the summer. It had nothing to do with getting the crops in, who'd want to fight in this heat? There are a bunch of army guys just by the internet cafe, all standing in line, swinging their guns about. Poor buggers, they're in full uniform.

oh well, in three months it will get cooler again, maybe I will be used to it by then (yeah ahuh).

love you

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

she stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him, hiccoughing and amicably waving him in

Date: Fri, 18 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: she stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him, hiccoughing and amicably waving him in.

Dear all,

Quote for the week:
“What did you do last week?”
“I went to visit grandma.”
“What did you do while you were there?”
“We looked at grandma.”

I ate fish head soup on Monday, so I can add it to the list of weird things I’ve eaten (which so far only includes stinky tofu and haggis (don't eat stinky tofu))

I learned how to say 'my nose is bigger than your nose' in Chinese (my most useful sentence so far, after 'I don't speak Chinese')

Last Saturday night at 1am every light in every classroom was on, and all the tellies were tuned to what looked like surveillance camera footage of the room in question. Last night at midnight all the lights in the rooms on the third and forth floors were on and the tellies had the blue screens again. Please somebody tell me I am being paranoid. I would go and investigate, but it always happens after they have locked my building, and besides...

Yesterday was a gritty teeth day in Beijing. The wind brings the dust and it gets all in your mouth and slides around against your teeth. I don't like it (okay, so I maybe ate a bit of dirt when I was little, or was it chook pellets? I can't remember) anyway, it gets in your ears and in your nose and in your eyes. And you can tell which kids use gel in their hair, they look kinda... dusty.

Today was 34 degrees Celsius. Tomorrow will 37 and it is only may. At home it is moving along well towards winter and, even in the equivalent season, which is, what, November? it doesn't dare top 27. This will mean less email. Trek to the internet cafe at -12 I will, trek to the internet cafe at +37 I will not.

Oh well, according to Zest, perspiration is good for you.

love and kisses on all your pink bits

Sunday, 4 October 2009

maisy doats and dozy doats

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: maisy doats and dozy doats

I am not in the mood for emails. I was when I left the school, but now I am hot, dusty, and full of cigarette smoke.

So here are a few notes

*If you work on a platform, make sure all four legs of the chair are on the platform before you sit down.

*Never sit on the duster

*Never lean on the blackboard

*The highest art of teaching is not wiggling your bottom while writing on the blackboard.

I am having an internal dilemma (it's my indecisivitis again). It turns out that finding an apartment is a nightmare. You can live in a foreigner's apartment block (costs more than my monthly salary will be), or you can live illegally in a Chinese apartment block (and the PSB are cracking down on this, and I don't want to get kicked out of China, because I want to come back and teach in Tibet one day).

And then there are my students. I love them. How am I going to leave them? In the first two weeks they were just a 920 person strong, faceless form of torture. In the third and fourth weeks, I began to notice a difference between classes. Then I started to remember names and the classes had individuals. Now, (apart from two classes I choose not to think about) there are 920 littlepeople I love to distraction.

Still, there is something fishy about this school. There is this big satellite dish, but it's not for picking up TV. And last night at 11pm all the lights were on in all the classrooms on the third floor, and all the tellies were tuned in to the same thing (a blue screen with a swoosh) and there were no people (I watched). There is also what looks to be marijuana growing outside the refectory at the boarding school. And there is a little microphone, top and centre, of every blackboard (I only just noticed, I don't like to ask) and there's other stuff too.

*They have the same grass in Beijing as they do in Grasmere.

I found out that the reason the students think that I am beautiful is because I am so pale. But I think that with people telling me I am beautiful every day, I am actually getting prettier.

Well I have to go now, I have to go and buy a Snickers (the Snickers here are made in Ballarat and so taste 'normal', along with soda crackers they form a staple part of my diet).

Oh, and, I have fallen in love. The man selling spicy kebabs at the night market at Wangfujing told me I have a face like an angel from heaven, at least I think so, he might have been saying I am ugly enough to make birds fall from the sky. I just gazed at him in adoration as he whispered sweet nothings in a language I don't understand.

love you

Friday, 2 October 2009

normal smells in odd places

Date: Fri, 4 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: normal smells in odd places

On the way here I saw a man selling hedgehogs on the side of the road. A man selling hedgehogs on the side of the road. I opened the bus window and leaned out to get a better look. There were six hedgehogs in a string bag on the footpath. 'What called?' the man yelled. 'Hedgehogs’ I yelled back as the bus pulled away. A man selling hedgehogs on the side of the road.

The other day I smelled horse, and lo, there was a donkey and cart gunning it down the fast lane of the second ring road. As I left school about a week ago I smelt poultry. There was a man cycling past with a coop of ducks and chooks on the back of his bike. Occasionally I smell cow poo, and look sharp for where I’m putting my feet. But it turns out it is just the wafting fragrance of stinky tofu. (Don’t eat the stinky tofu; it tastes just exactly like it smells, with perhaps a hint of horse pee).

All the smells in China are smells I’m familiar with, but they are in unfamiliar places. Fresh popcorn in a shoe shop. Pancake smell in the middle of nowhere. The tantalising smell of toasted cheese sandwiches (that one might just be wishful thinking combined with an over active imagination). Stagnant water smell in lots of weird places. Urinal smell in the corridors of the school.

Old books smell like old books though.

I just blew my nose and the girl next to me nearly leapt out of her seat in fright, or it might have been disgust, I don't think using a tissue to blow your nose is socially acceptable, but what was I going to do? Sniff?

I am getting more excited about working at a newspaper, after all Andy Lau is coming to Beijing, what if I get to meet him? And maybe if I work at a newspaper I might hear more news. I heard about bloody protests in Sydney and dingoes eating babies on Fraser island, but it came as a complete surprise to hear about Australia sailing around Taiwan, and to hear that things are hotting up ‘in China’, as far as I can tell, nobody here cares all that much. About Australia or America, but particularly not Australia.

well, my love
must run

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

'pop' goes the weasel

Date: Tue, 1 May 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: 'pop' goes the weasel

My thoughts are turning ever homeward. I am recovering from being sick, the third time in as many months (the second in as many weeks). And I feel a strong yearning to be where my heart is.

In brighter news, I think I forgot to mention that I have stopped hiccoughing. Yes indeedy. Caffeine makes me hiccough. So the reason why I was hiccoughing so much at Hudson’s, was not because I was nervous about coming to china, but because I was drinking three cups of coffee a day.

The mysterious stranger sitting to my left keeps staring at me. I think I might leave now

Monday, 28 September 2009

Say manure, say manoeuvre. See my problem?

Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Say manure, say manoeuvre. See my problem?

I have that feeling I get when I haven't been eating properly, not sleeping, and worrying too much.

It turns out that the 'editorial' position is a foreign expert position (proof-reading) and maybe some writing. Melinda says the town near Wuhan is a hole. The kids have exams this week and are being holy terrors. I have heard nothing from Tibet. (Do we hear an 'I’m coming home in this?') I said yes to the newspaper.

There has been a rash of 'f*%k you's' in junior one. I have dealt with this situation by clapping my hand over my mouth and faking a heart attack every time I hear the phrase. The student involved is then so embarrassed that the phrase is never uttered again by anyone in the class (a miracle cure).

It is a funny thing about other people's swear words. Melinda's English teacher gave the class a run down on words relating to sex. He would only explain meanings in English (e.g. 'the male organ'). And the lesson was apparently to prevent situations like the one where his friend had to fill out the customs report in English. He had his little electronic dictionary so there was no problem and he wrote Name: Zhong Shu, Age: 31, Sex: No Experience.

Now, Melinda is sweet and innocent. But she told a joke about a banana that made my hair stand on end. I clapped my hands over my ears and howled, (remember that I went to boarding school and was an apprentice chef, and I have just about heard it all). Finally I asked for all the relevant terms in Chinese and she quite happily rattled them off. Then I asked in Tibetan. She paused. The room chilled. She could not say a thing. She looked stricken. Close to tears. I said 'ah, no no nevermind, I don't want to know.'

So I don't know the words in Tibetan, but I can swear passing well in Chinese.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

oh crap

Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: oh crap

The job I want: Lhasa Middle School, Tibet.

The jobs I have been offered: Another semester at my current school.

:A semester (or more) at a middle school near Wuhan.

:An editorial position at a new English newspaper in Beijing.

Amount of time to decide: 5 days.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

from Bono to Beatles

Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: from Bono to Beatles

I had a China Experience on the way to the internet cafe today. There was a traffic jam so bad that the people walking (like me) were stuck.

There is all this fluffy white shit in the air. Apparently it comes from the willows and it is pollen or something. It makes it hard to breath and hard to see. Gets stuck in your teeth and eyes and ears and nose. It looks like a blizzard but the sun is blazing and it is stinking hot. (Was it ever cold? I can't believe it was ever cold)

I got my hair cut, the really picturesque spot where the guy has been cutting hair was ripped down, but I think I still got some good photos. They are ripping down all the buildings at the end of the street, you can look in and see little bits of people's lives, men are coming and taking away all the furniture on bicycles and everyone looks a bit lost.

Hope Easter was funners
love ceels

Friday, 21 August 2009

happy Easter to me

Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: happy Easter to me

I was going to write an email about snot, but mum absolutely forbade me. She thinks I have written too much about the old green goo and should give it a rest. So I will restrict myself to remarking that I have a cold.

This week I am even more Chinese than I was last week. For example, I have always had very firm opinions about my personal space. Strict rules about where it started, who was allowed in it and when. I think it was about a foot and a half and not many people not often. I didn't even like other people's personal space being in my personal space. But this has all changed, I walk arm in arm with people, lean against people when I’m talking to them, and feel reasonably comfortable on the bus.

Also, I am learning more Chinese. My problem till now has been remembering the words, and I have worked out a system.

doorshow jen? (how much)
go away (expensive)
how (good)
hen house (very good)
thai howler (really good)
chafing (let's eat)
jaguar (all purpose word, mainly meaning 'this one')
negligee (all purpose word, mainly meaning 'that one')
I see one (I like)
and so on. There are lots more.

My hair is growing (imagine!) and I am starting to look more like me again, not that strange girl in the mirror. Actually I am starting to look a lot like Bono when U2 recorded 'Under a Blood Red Sky'.

I am going to go to the barber in the street. I am waiting for my courage and a sunny day (for good photos) to coincide. I figure if I can shave my own head, I can go to some guy on the side of the road to get a hair cut.

Happy Easter to everyone. China embraced Valentine’s Day, but hasn't seemed to notice Easter. I have some Easter eggs, (thank you Canada (no! I haven’t eaten them (all) yet)).

love love love

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

girl conquers china

Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: girl conquers china

I am writing from Melinda’s room. It always smells like butter tea and dried yak meat. Very exotic.

I finished off the lying game and I got an 'I feel lonely everyday' and a 'I hate myself and I want to die'.

I also had another nice young chap come up to me and ask me if I was Christian. And I replied 'um, no, not really.'
He appeared stunned and said in disbelief 'but I thought all Americans were Christians.' (and that just about sums it up, doesn't it) What could I say? I just shrugged.
'So why aren't you a Christian?'
(Y'know, kid, I’ve never really given it much thought)


The beauty of teaching is that I love all the kids. The spotty ones, the dumb ones, the geeks and dweebs, the kids too cool for words, the smarties who don't want to show off, but desperately want you to know that they know. I even love the irritating ones. There is a boy in one of my classes, I’m pretty sure he's the smartest kid in the class. We are playing a game where he pretends he is disruptive and rude and I pretend that he is stupid. This week he called me a pig and I said 'now that's not very nice' in my best 'speaking to a five year old' voice. He kept repeating it and with wide-eyed innocence I said 'perhaps you do not understand what you are saying.' slowly clearly, slowly clearly. 'But it is very rude.' 'and-if-you-keep-saying-it-then-will-send-you-to-the prin-ci-pal.' he stopped.

The moment he stops being disruptive, I drop the stupid act.

I am having second thoughts about my new watch. I had my old watch a long time and I am feeling a little unfaithful with the new blue one. My grandpa gave me my old watch and it has seen me all the way through high school and uni. It survived horsemanship, a fall in the Yarra and my short-lived apprenticeship. But I don't think it will survive China. I dropped it on the floor of my room and cracked the face, and the band is about to give out. I am utterly attached to it, but let me not be spoken of as one who loves not wisely but too well. I have packed it away with my spare pair of glasses, and will suffer valiantly along without it.

I am becoming very Chinese. I went out to a banquet last night and didn't even think of asking for rice with the meal. I am getting used to the amount of personal space and if I could just do something about the way I look and my command of the language...

But then maybe not, I bought a DVD player yesterday and christened it with The Matrix. (So very good to hear English)

love and kisses

Monday, 17 August 2009

he trusted in god that he would deliver him

Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: he trusted in god that he would deliver him

China is wearing thin. Or maybe I have had an intensive immersion in Canada for the last week and now the Canadians have gone home and I am still here.

We had a lovely time swapping cultural differences (they don't have yobbos in Canada, or whingers) and laughing at each other’s cultural blunders (I referred to Canada once as America and they mentioned Crocodile Dundee. Did I ever tell you that I failed cross-cultural communication in first year? (So what am I doing in China??)) They have gone now, taking their English and leaving their Canadian chocolate (so good, so good).

Since last week everything has got green. It practically happened overnight. Suddenly the view out the bus window has taken dimension. All the tones of brown kinda made the landscape (if you call it that) look flat. Now there are contrasts and the fields stretch back to the horizon rather than up to the top of the bus window. I also saw a man driving a horse and plow. I know that the new ways are much more efficient, but o, how romantic.

I went shopping a lot with the Canadians and I have bought my first name brand item. A Gucci watch for 50 yuan, which is roughly 12AUD, 10CD, 6.50USD, or 4pounds Stirling. It will be interesting to see how long it holds up. I guess I can no longer take a stand against China's breaches of intellectual property and copyright.

Two weird things have happened this week. While I was at the boarding school, some of the older students, whom I don't teach, asked if they could talk to me. I wanted to say no, but I sat down with them. While we were making stilted conversation, a young chap with a burning look in his eye barrelled up to the table and said over the top of another student:

'Are you a Christian or a Catholic?' in a tone that suggested there were no other options.

I was puzzled and, keeping a hold on my irritation, said 'Well, Catholics are Christians.' I paused, but that was clearly not the answer he was after. 'But I guess I’m neither.'

He studied me for a moment, 'Ah, then you do not trust in god.' Wow, slow down kid. I didn't say that either. But I decided he did not have enough English or patience for me to explain that many things have shades of grey (it seems many Chinese people of my acquaintance see things as either black or white and have no time for my "yes, but" answers. I have had some rather alarming questions) so I settled with 'um, no.'

The other thing was just yesterday. With the junior two kids I am playing the lying game, where they have to say something about themselves and everyone else has to say whether they are lying or telling the truth. This was fine until one girl said 'my father hits me once every day.' and then said that it was true. So what do I do? I couldn't tell if she was serious or not.

I hope everyone is well. Is it true that there is a new James Bond movie on its way? That would be good reason to buy a DVD player. I am having my usual bout of indecision that comes with the idea of buying something. If I don't get over it soon, it will be time to come home and I still won't have got it and then it will be too late, and then I won't have to make a decision… sounds perfect.

love you

Friday, 14 August 2009

the taste of chalk dust (think tofu and you're just about there)

Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: the taste of chalk dust (think tofu and you're just about there)

I want to tell you all about my funners week.

It all started on a Wednesday, I know it was a Wednesday because on Wednesday the milkman always comes at two (sorry, I have been reading a lot of Agatha

Any way, on Thursday I went out to dinner with jenny (an English teacher) and her boyfriend Vince and her friend Bob from Texas. Bob from Texas is very disappointing as a Texan, he doesn't even say y'all. He knows of black adder but when I said, 'Bob, that's a funny name for a girl' he didn't laugh. He invited me out the next night with a bunch of his American friends (two of them were going home). I went to meet him at the train station, when I got there there was this man who started chasing me round saying 'wo ai ni, wo ai ni.' and that he wanted to kiss me. Close to tears, I fled into the train station. Ten minutes later it occurred to me that Bob from Texas might not be coming by train. So I ventured to surface. and to my great joy the drunken man had gone and Bob was there.

We were out until so late and when I got home the gates were locked. Just as Bob from Texas suggested I come to his place for the night, one of the nice men came out and opened the gate. then of course the building was locked. I thought for sure I would be curled up next to the garbage bins for the night. but then the man in the basement appeared from below in his long johns and slippers and rescued me from my ignoble fate.

On Saturday I found some jeans that fit (men’s jeans, one size down from the biggest size you can buy. The women's jeans, not now, not ever.) and a shirt (men's).

On Monday a Canadian group arrived (from Canada!). There are two teachers and four students, so I am quite replete with spoken English. I took them out shopping and for dinner and discovered I have learned more about China and Beijing than I had thought, I am quite an accomplished tour guide.

Also this week, I have had three nosebleeds, my hair started falling out and I cleaned my room. I am hoping the nosebleeds are because it is so dry and the hair because it is getting warmer, I cannot explain why I cleaned my room (with a mop and everything) it is totally out of character, what’s more, it has stayed neat til now.

all my love

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Lovesong of Celia J. Prufrock

Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: The Lovesong of Celia J. Prufrock

oh coffee
remember me?
I want to hold you
in my hands again.
roast beef you remain,
with potatoes and gravy
and maybe some peas,
most pleasing.
pasta with pumpkin
and cheese or something
spicy and hot
with ginger and not
a hint of star anise.
o Cadbury, who am I
without you, o timtams.
o cheese, o cheese
in a toasted sandwich
with salami.
what bliss.
olives and hommus
biscuits and bread.
o bread cut thick
and spread with honey
or toasted and, with the
most exquisite jam,
fish, barbequed, tender, flaking
your white flesh would take me
through raptures untold.
lamb to capture
the magic of rosemary and sage
and garlic and wine.
Babka's lemon tart
sharp in my mouth, I smile.
Tasmanian Blue Banner pickled onions
does anything matter
with your bitter taste
between my teeth?
oh for the velvety feel
of tomatoes - hot from the sun -
against my fingers.
almonds, cashews, black jelly beans
nutella, cracked pepper pate
smoked oysters and cheese.
nectarines from our tree
tasting like sunshine.
a bowl of müsli
crunched while tired eyes
desire a deeper sleep.
a breeze that touches your skin
and brings the smell of fresh baked
fruit cake
catches in your heart
and you yearn
for foods forgotten
and far away.

Monday, 10 August 2009

bikinis and banana lounges

Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: bikinis and banana lounges

I do not understand the weather.

Last week I was still wearing my jacket in the classroom because I was cold. Yesterday it was 20 degrees C and too hot in a light silk shirt, and today is 25 C. We seem to have skipped my favourite season and moved right on in to summer. It gives me a weird feeling of having changed country again. Of course I have no summer clothes and yesterday when I went to buy some, I discovered again the benefits of being a small person in China.

I have realised that the length of my stay will not be determined by how homesick I am, but how by long my undies last.

Friday, 7 August 2009

"and she cried lacrymatory tears" (student's writing in junior two)

Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: "and she cried lacrymatory tears" (student's writing in junior two)

Although I feel foolish to have to admit this, I discovered this week that the most important part of teaching is learning your students' names. I decided on Wednesday I was sick of pointing and saying 'you!' when I wanted someone to do something. So I made an effort to use people's names, or used the role when I couldn't remember. And once the students realised I was making an effort to remember, they began to help me, not just with names (Richard, make Richard do it) but with everything. I can't believe it took me four and a half weeks to realise something so obvious. Of course when I sat down to work out how many photocopies I need, I discovered I teach 920 students a week (is it any wonder I can't remember them all). The kids all think I am very cool, as a result I am learning to be very cool. This is a new thing for me as usually I fall closer to dork along the cool to dork continuum.

I got on the wrong bus on the way here. I am suspicious of buses at the best of times. I am never entirely convinced that they are going to go the way that they are supposed to go. Add to that not knowing where they're supposed to go and having no common language in which to ask the driver and you have a very nervous girl indeed. Still, I am learning bit by bit what numbers go where, which is also how I came to be stuck in a traffic jam for an hour the other day. The traffic jam left me with plenty of time to wonder why the driver had a kitchen knife and an iron rod on the dashboard.

I read some news reports about Oz the other day. All that seems to be happening is floods and droughts and also that John Howard, leader of the ruling coalition party, was in serious trouble for the next election. I had as much trouble explaining to Melinda why I found the coalition being described as ‘the ruling party’ funny, as I did trying to explain Easter, except I think I know even less about Easter than I do about the coalition.

'So why do you eat hot cross buns and chocolate eggs?'
'Well, you know Jesus?'
'Ah, well, um you know the bible?'
'Okay, you know Christianity?'
(There followed a scuffling of dictionaries)
'So, in Christianity there was a man called Jesus and on Easter Friday, I mean Good Friday he was crucified.'
'Oh, he was taken away?'
'Um, no, he was nailed to a cross.'
(a look of horror)
'Or maybe they nailed him to the cross on another day and he died on Friday. Anyway, the he rose from the dead on Sunday.'
(a look of disbelief)
'He came back to life and, oh any way, we eat eggs then to celebrate.'
and I gave up.

Okay, I have my phone number now, (and because I know that everyone wants to call, I am going to tell you) it is (010) 68885555. I am considering losing it again so that I can tell people that I don't know what it is. If I tell people they just call me to ask irritating things like can I help them/ their family/ their friends/ their friends’ families with English after school/ in the mornings/ at lunch time/ on the weekends (the answer is no and will continue to be no).

love you

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Q: What's brown and squishy and falls apart when you touch it?, A: I don't know, but I'm not eating it.

Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: Q: What's brown and squishy and falls apart when you touch it?, A: I don't know, but I'm not eating it.

If you happen to look at the weather report in The Age for Beijing, and you notice that under weather it says 'smoke', that means that the smog is so thick that you can chew on it. Like today.

Teaching twenty-six classes seems to be all right. This morning one of the students asked me if I would help him pierce his ears. Just like mine. One of the teachers keeps asking me out on dates. Or to 'just help him with this thing', 'shall he come to my dorm?'. I don't think so.
Today, when I arrived at one class, they were still at PE and the door was locked, I couldn't be bothered standing, so I sat on the banister to wait. A bigger reaction I have never seen, as students came down the stairs or along the corridor they gasped in shock. The ones who know me asked 'Celia, what are you doing?' I don't think they would have been more astonished if I’d taken off my clothes and danced up and down the corridor in bra and knickers (okay, a little bit more). Mental note to self 'don't sit on banisters'.

And I’m tired of being stared at, it is like an itch I can’t scratch, I can feel people looking at me all the time. When I came to the internet cafe with Melinda, she couldn't believe it. She kept saying, he is looking at you, she is looking at you, he is looking at you and he said that...

Melinda lives in the foreign teachers dormitory with me. She is from Tibet and is studying English at Beijing University because she wants to go to Wellesley College in Boston. She is an odd girl, but nice. She is good to learn Chinese from because it is her second language, too, so in moments of frustration I can abuse it as much as I like. I worry for her though, I am the person she speaks the most English with, and she is picking up some of my speech patterns, the other day I distinctly heard her mutter 'ahh crap'.

Other than that all is well. I hear I missed John McCutcheon at the Folkie. I tell you, China had better deal something pretty spectacular to make up for that.

love you

Monday, 3 August 2009

teaching my knickers to fly

Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: teaching my knickers to fly

Qantas is no longer flying to china. To catch my Qantas flight home I have to go to Hong Kong. Look Hong Kong up on a map. And where is Beijing? Irritated? What do we think? The cost of a plane ticket is half a month's salary and to take the train is thirty hours.

But now to the weather. It is warm enough to go outside in just a shirt and jeans. Soon there will be no more little kids wrapped in so many layers of clothes that they can't walk. They look like little chubby starfish. I saw one the other day fall down some stairs. It didn't feel a thing, it just lay at the bottom and waited for someone to put it back on its feet.

Soon maybe there will be some greenery. We drive past quite a lot of farmland on the way to the boarding school. The paddocks look as though nothing has ever grown in them ever. They are just dry dusty clay beds. Quite often you see sheep (and shepherds!!!) but I don't know what they eat. In fact I am not even sure they are sheep. They have really long legs and big floppy ears. Now, I know sheep. Hell, I’m even wearing a pair of sheep earrings. But these things look more like those big walking things in return of the Jedi.

Except smaller.

There are many odd things that bother me, but those sheep bother me the most. Although the trees run them a close second. The bottom three feet of all the trees on the side of the road is painted white. This is a mystery to me. The birds are starting to come back. There are some that look like mudlarks, but with really long tails and I think the other morning I saw an owl (bearing in mind that all flora/fauna is seen from a tinted bus window at 80-130 kph). And some little sparrowy things.

The most astonishing fact in my life at the moment is that (wait for it). I enjoy teaching, even the chalk. I even feel closer to the teachers from school and want to write them all letters apologising. For every thing. I was cleaning the board today and was suddenly overcome with memories of year twelve Lit, and the smell of chalk and mint chewy and cigarette smoke (the teacher snuck to his car for a ciggie every recess then chewed chewy to pretend that he didn't). That smell will always remind me of Shakespeare and Africa (A Dry White Season).

I am teaching twenty-six classes now, but they are paying me quite a bit more. I have also had an offer to teach night classes. I will wait and see.

And this weekend is the Folk Festival. It has been the hardest couple of days since I arrived at the school. I should be in Port Fairy listening fabulous music and drinking Guinness, but instead I am in China listening to EZY FM and drinking sprite. I don't even have my Pat McKernan cd to comfort me (I forgot to pack it).

Oh well, there is always next year.

love to you

Friday, 31 July 2009

rest in peace Don Bradman (and, Qantas leaves Australian girl stranded in Beijing)

Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: rest in peace Don Bradman (and, Qantas leaves Australian girl stranded in Beijing)

I was going to joyfully tell you that it is daily warmer and now feels quite like spring. Then, last night, the wind started. It howled and moaned and banged doors and banged the corrugated iron beneath my window. It sucks moisture out of the air and freezes skin and bone. In its defence it seems to have got rid of a large amount of the dirt and rubbish, but the noise! And already there is almost more noise in this city than there is dirt. If you have music, you play it loud. A horn, you lean on it. Cars don't have suspension and the brakes don't squeak they scream. I make two trips out to the boarding school each week and at an hour each way I estimate that I will be tone deaf by April and stone deaf by June.

So, something of my weekly routine? On Monday and Tuesday I teach from 8:40 to 3:15. On Wednesday and Thursday I leave for the boarding house (read: back of beyond) at seven am and return at about six pm. On Friday I have one class at 8:40 and two at 1:40.

Breakfast: I do myself. Lunch: as soon as I know what I'm eating, I’ll let you know. And dinner is usually lunch reheated. I would cook for my self, but so far it seems too much effort for too little result, what I eat doesn't seem very important. In England they did something magic to the food so that you could eat and eat and never feel full. In China they do some thing magic so that sometimes just looking makes you feel full. Add to that the amount of stairs in my life and lack of elevators/escalators and you can understand how I am half the woman I was (as a weight loss program, China could make millions)

The teachers are very nice, the students bow to me in the corridor and run riot in the classroom (no, that is not fair, the only truly horrible ones are in the two classes on Friday afternoon.) at lunch on Monday one of the teachers (whose name I do not know) asked me what I had planned for the weekend, and when I said nothing she told me that I was going to tutor her niece who is in Senior Two. She would tell me later in the week when and were. Naturally, I hid from her for the rest of the week. Unfortunately this means I have not talked to anyone else either. Oh well, lesson learned. In future if anyone asks me what I am doing on the weekend I say 'loads'.

Actually I don't know anyone's name. So I just smile and nod and smile and nod. It doesn't matter that I don't know any names, because I don't know any Chinese either.

Anyhoo, keep up the news, I have loved hearing about everything, even the bad things.

all my love

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

this email is yukky - you have been warned

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001
From: Ceels
Subject: this email is yukky - you have been warned

I have something to say, and it regards food.

I will not eat the head or feet of any animal. I will not eat the digestive system of any animal. I will not eat anything that has fallen on the floor (this used not to be the case, but in china there are two factors that have strongly influenced my change of opinion. I used to believe that if you dropped a biscuit on the floor you could brush it off and eat it. in china people spit on the ground, and children use the ground as a toilet.

To expand:
- the spitting involves large amounts of phlegm (also known as snot) and sounds like this: hhhkkkarrrgg-phut. Or you can use the nostril technique, where one nostril is blocked and the snot expelled from the other nostril with force. It sounds like this: phirrrnt. If not enough force is exerted the result is a large goober (phlegm gob, booger) left hanging.
- most children don't wear nappies (enter split-pants syndrome) there is a long split in the crutch of their pants and when they need to go, they squat. Where nature calls, there nature is deposited.

I will not eat anything I recognise from lunch the day before (a hang-over from the boarding house). I will not eat melon that has been cooked (it's unnatural).
If I think of anything else, I will let you know

And remember, kids, you can poo in the streets but not in the train stations.