A Travellerspoint blog

October 2012

29 hours on a train!!

X'ian to Guilin

Having stocked up on supplies for our epic 29 hour train journey to Guillin we headed to the train station. This was the longest train journey during our tour of China and we had cottoned on to the fact that there where hot water points on the train so we could join the locals in having chinese pot noodles and tea rather than just snack food we had got before. I'm not gonna lie, we still had got plenty of chocolate and biscuits to keep us going too!

It was a mad crush to get through security at the station with everyone pushing a shoving like cattle in a pen to get through. Once we all got to the other side we found a spot to sit on the floor of the waiting area whilst we waited for our train to come in. This station was much more dark and dirty than the ones we had been to before and let's just say you could easily have a face to face conversation whilst in the loo if you wanted to (or be stared at) and lets leave it at that!! Once the train was announced it was everyman for himself as again we joined the crowds to pass through the ticket check. We were swept along in the hoards of people and soon were all separated from the group as you were bumped and shoved along. Soon enough we had found our carriage and our bunks for the journey.

Having done several train trips here with the group will definitely help Dan and I when it comes to doing them on our own!!

So how do you pass the time on a 29 hour train journey...

Name game
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Sleeping
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Peeping
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Reading
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Looking at trains
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Cards
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Trying to escape
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Journal writing
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Eating noodles
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Looking out the window
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More reading
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More cards
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More noodles
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Ok so I think you get the picture.....

What you won't get from the photos is the constant noise on the train of people chatting, eating, snoring, shouting from the food trolley as it goes by every 10 minutes and worst of all the incessant screeching from this box which was like nails down a blackboard to most of us!

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All in all though it was not a bad journey and as the train pulled in at 11pm the next day we were all surprised that the 29 hours had passed quicker than we had expected....we must have been having fun :)

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 20:22 Archived in China Comments (1)

Bye X'ian!!

Our home from home

After 10 days in X'ian it had begun to feel like home particularly as we had our own apartment to chill at and had some great home cooking...

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But it was time to move on, but first here are some more memories of x'ian...

This is my next car!
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Kites are awesome!
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A bike is not just a bike it's can be an accessory to your outfit
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The kids are too cute
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Candy is 'very good' and makes Jude happy
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How to make a Panda treat
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How to count in China
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Love the market streets and the pancake treats you can get...yum!
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It's never too late for take away cake!
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Always practice your Kung Fu
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Pandas are awesome!!
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This 'chocolate' is not!!
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Peter and Ronney!! Great guys so helpful and funny, thanks for everything!
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Bye X'ian!!

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 19:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

X'ian nights

Warning: photos of acupuncture and cupping

Whilst staying in the apartment in X'ian we had some activities planned for us to keep us entertained in the evening...

Dumpling making...

We got to impress Peter with our Dumpling making skills we had already picked up in Beijing. He helped to hone our skills with different folding techniques and I think we are getting the hang of it now...

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And they're tasty too!

Acupuncture and cupping

One evening a Chinese specialist in acupuncture, cupping and massage came to the flat to let us try out these treatments for ourselves.
There was definitely a tense vibe in the flat and the smell of fear as the instruments were being taken out that looked more like they would be used for torture!

We all nervously looked at each other and wondered who would go first and politely saying 'after you' to avoid being stuck with needles but Dan stepped forward and bravely showed us how it was done by having not 1 but 4 needles put in his knee! As everyone squealed each time a needle went in and got twisted Dan remained very calm...

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One by one the group lined up and had needles put in energy points on the arm, leg or hand. Some felt relaxed whereas others were not.

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The next treatment was cupping where a flame is put into a glass cup to create a vacuum before being place on the skin. The idea is that the vacuum helps to draw out the bad toxins in the body. Again Dan offered himself up as the first guinea pig, but we were not fully prepared for just how much of the skin it sucked up into the cup and I don't think our gasps help the situation!

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Jude and Sam also bravely tried the cups despite the odd look on Dans face. It apparently feels like someone squeezing or pinching your skin really hard. You are left with large circular bruises afterwards and the darker the circle indicates a problem in the body and that you need some more cupping treatments to help draw the problems out of the body.

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I'm a bit dubious about this as I bruise like a peach and so think it may be a bit of a ploy for getting return customers...but I may be wrong as I was too chicken to give the cups or the acupuncture a go!!

Instead I opted for a nice relaxing shoulder massage.......or so I thought! I have never been more pummelled in my life. He really found the problem areas in my back and did not shy away from trying to work them out hard which was quite painful at times. I started to relax as he gently started massaging my neck and moving my head from side to side which was quite nice until....CRACK!!!! I d never had my neck cracked before and the noise was loud in comparison to the stunned silence of the group who also weren't expecting that to happen. It was a bit hard to relax for the other side to be done! What made it worse was the guy seemed to take great pleasure in making us nervous lol!

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When Dan had his done the guy properly cracked his whole back by pulling his arms back, Peter thought he would try this technique on Ronny but he chickened out in the end.

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Panda party

Who says you only turn 28 once! In China I was to have two birthdays as the guys had planned to have a celebration a couple of nights early in X'ian as we were going to go out to bar street that evening and we had the flat too.

They surprised me with an awesome Panda birthday cake and a Panda outfit which yes I had to wear out all evening in the bars of X'ian!!

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It was a fun night and when my Long Island ice tea arrived I felt like a hobbit as wasn't just a large one...it was a pint!! And v strong!

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Thanks everyone for a great pre-birthday :)

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 19:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

Back to school!

For the last three days we have be volunteering at a local Primary school teaching English to the kids there.
Each grade has 6 classes and each class has 53 students! So the school is HUGE and there are 100s of kids everywhere!

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We each chose a grade to work with and were given a teacher to assist. My teacher was called Rosie and we were teaching in Grade 1 (6 year olds) and Dan was working with Sarah in Grade 2.

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Every Monday the school has the flag raising ceremony where the whole school marches out to the playground and stands in formation to wait for the flag to be raised. This is the only day of the week when the pupils have to wear uniform, other than open days or if another school is visiting. Select pupils have the honour of marching with the flag and raising it whilst the whole school turns in unison to watch the hoisting of the flag and sing the national anthem to the music being blasted over the loadspeakers. Rosie told me this was when the students get to mimic the military and we found that a lot of aspects to school life seemed to reflect the order of a mini army such as standing to attention, shouting replies as one and group exercise. After the flag was raised there was a presentation of certificates and flags to the class, pupils and teachers that had done well in the previous week given by the headmaster of the school. After receiving the certificate the children would salute. Rosie addressed the school with a summary of the good things from the last week and any bad things that could be improved on.

Depending on the teachers schedule that day you were either in class assisting in the lesson or in the staff room preparing for lessons or helping with marking.

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In Grade 1 we were teaching how to greet each other. I was introduced as Rosie's new friend and we demonstrated how to say hello, how are you, nice to meet you and how to ask someone's name. The class all chimed in learning the phrases and jumped at the chance to come to the front to greet me and shake hands. Parts of the lesson were taught in song and on one day I was thrown in the deep end, complete with microphone headset (Britney style), to teach the kids the hello song with actions! It was great fun although a little embarrassing to begin with. Rosie took some photos and video so there is evidence but we can't open the file she sent at the moment so that'll have to wait for another day!

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One of my classes, so cute!

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I was very impressed with how Rosie managed to stay in charge of 50 six year olds at a time. There was not one class that didn't listen to her. She would shout 1,2,3 to get their attention and they would chant back A,B,C, or she would say "listen to me" and they would respond "listen to you". Each class sits in 4 rows and each row was allocated stars if they were participating well, listening and paying attention. If they were naughty a star would be taken away. The row with the most stars at the end got some biscuits. When I went into my first class they were in the middle of doing their 'eye protection' exercises, they do this mid morning and mid afternoon to give their eyes time to relax as their school day is long from 8am until 7 pm on some days!

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Some of the kids had great English and had great confidence in coming and speaking to me, particularly for 6 year olds. They each choose their own English name and one girl in my class was called Panda which is sooo cool! Another was called Berry and after class one day she came up to me and said "Sarah your nose is long" :) I didn't take offence though as they have not had many western volunteers in the school and after lots of giggling she took great delight in naming all the colours on my earrings, clothes, eyes etc...

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I'll hand over to Dan to let you know about his school experience....

My lessons were very similar to Sarah as we were teaching a similar age group. However my task was to teach the kids about plants and their features as well as how it is planted and different names of flowers and vegetables. Much like Sarah's teacher, mine was very good at keeping The attention of the kids. However her methods were far removed from what I would expect a school in England would work. That being said, controlling 50 6 year olds is a job in itself and to get them to learn needless to say was difficult.

I was impressed by some of the kids as their English was very good, Sarah my teacher said that there were very bright kids in her classes who could sometimes speak better English than her. For the majority that weren't so good they had to keep up with the military style approach to learning by shouting back the word with the teacher incessantly until they got it. The first lesson plan was simple enough, get them to look a parts of the plant and try to put the word to the part. The teacher conducted the class and I helped in parts by getting them onto shout back began to get quite annoying and I wasn't sure if many of the kids were getting it. I tried to walk around and show to some of the kids but I think they were more interested in me.

She would shout PLANT! LEAVES! FLOWERS! And they would shout back, then we would try and use little games to get them to think about the words and parts as well as chuck in little songs and sentences for them to repeat which again was all repetitive.

They were all very cute and cheeky as you should be at the age which made my first experience a fun one but then she said that I would be leading the next one ! ....Bugger!!

I have better respect for primary school teachers in China and in England now I would say having conducted my own class. To keep up the energy levels and enthusiasm so that the lesson doesn't trail off and start to bore the kids is something I didn't gel with straight away. I wanted to try and help some of the kids who seem to just sit and by drowned out by louder kids but it just became more and more difficult to keep their attention. I was able to get the lesson across regardless however I couldn't say for definite whether tomorrow they all would be able to tell me where the root of a plant is but all in all it was a fun experience and the kids were very sweet.

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As a side note to this I experience probably the weirdest gig I have ever done. Firstly it was me singing solo, it was to the whole school (about 1000 kids) and I sang "if your happy and you know it clap your hands" .... It was a good laugh and I had some backing dancers to take some of the limelight and later the kids too who all jumped at the chance to get onstage.

I subsequently found out that I was volunteered by Jo to step up and so was asked by a teacher "you sing" to which I replied " er, yes..why?" ...the why was not really answered, it was more like "good,easy song, you follow me now" ........ so I did... After all the karaoke had warmed me up to singing again and I followed the motto of group 'why not'?

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Thanks Dan :) .....your singing was great, definitely think you could get a number one with that classic!

On my last day I had a free afternoon and so Jude, Sam and I sat in on the class that Jackie was taking in Grade 6, so 11 year olds. It was very different from the classes I had been doing singing songs etc... She had had to prepare a class to teach about the different types of Chinese fan in English. She was great and it wasn't only the kids that learned something new. We were suddenly put on the spot though when Marbrain (the teacher) asked us brits at the back of the class to speak to them about the "hat culture" in England! We were a bit stumped but had some breathing space to come up with some ideas as we were put into teams with the kids and started to play an odd game of musical statues, only problem was if one of the kids on your team moved then you had to go to the front and talk about "hat culture", I think we pulled it off...just!

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And how could we forget...the skipping!! P.E. class is a huge affair as 100s of kids are split into different groups to do various sports - ping pong, Kung fu, badminton, football to name a few. As Jackie pointed out if you stopped and look at the playground it was like everything was in fastforward with all the kids rushing about in some kind of ordered chaos! Skipping was a highlight and we all gave it ago. It was amazing all the moves they could do and we struggled to master just one of the 'basic' moves much to the amusement of the teacher and the kids! We even tried to practice the moves in the flat but it didn't help much!

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Although I think Dan is nearly there and we have plenty of time in the next year to practice, just need a bit of rope...

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 06:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Only 1600 steps to go.......

Cuihua Mountain

Today was originally going to be another day at Panda conservation but as we're weren't able to get involved with the project we thought it would be best to climb 1600 steps up Cuihua mountain. Smart decision I hear you say? Apart from the lousy weather which was the worst we have had for the last two weeks it was actually a good decision and although the weather was overcast it still offered great views.

We started our walk to the steps and then the heavens opened but luckily we were able to duck under and go into the ice cave.The construction of it was impressive considering that the steps had been laid between these huge rocks which looked like they had fallen on each other.

What we found as we went deeper into the cave was that temperature dropped about a couple of degrees and the rocks were very cold.

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And Sarah was scared by Gollum!

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The first ascent up the steps led us to good spot for a photo.....

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After this point it became more and more steep and the legs began to feel the burn!! We began to see the summit of the mountain and it was a long way up.

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On the way up we passed a small house which was pretty amazing because the building materials they would need would of been carried up and I started to remember my time spent garden landscaping as a labourer and was thankful we didn't have to contend with building on mountains!! The same thing could be said for the steps and the railings. Each step had three inch thick slabs laid down and the railings were made out of concrete so the amount of cement mix that would have to made, it doesn't bear thinking about.

Later we reached an iron bridge and made sure we adhered to the safety sign!

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Sarah and I stayed back to take more photos and was able to see the girls reach the top.

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The final ascent was all that was left and the weather began to get a little worse with high winds and cold rain. We all huddled to together to get a photo and I made a few friends as well

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Making the descent was a easier but after a long time going down your legs began to wobble! Before we reached the bottom we got another good group shot.

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We got another good photo at the lake which was situated at the bottom of the mountain range.

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Having defeated the mountain it was time for lunch and our guide took us to a famous restaurant in Xi'an which serves roast chicken! . The restaurant was outside but under cover which wasn't ideal but the chicken was good. However, it was presented in a slightly different way to our roast Sundays with the whole chicken (head included) roasted and squashed on a plate to grab at with your chopsticks.

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The meal went down well and was washed down with a rice wine mixture that looked like cloudy lemonade, very sweet, which I quite liked. We all agreed that as it was a poor day for weather a movie night was needed and so back at the apartment we grabbed duvets put on A Man On Fire with Denzel! Not your average Sunday afternoon movie but a great one nonetheless.

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Tomorrow would be our first day teaching at the local school.

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan.

Posted by doyledan 03:16 Archived in China Comments (0)

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