So I’ve just finished probably the busiest week I’ve ever had.  I did over 40 hours teaching on top of my other regular job – that’s over 60 hours 8-O.

Today I get a much welcome opportunity to rest, though I’ll most likely be spending the best part of the day moving to another apartment. I’ve accumilated a ton of stuff – too much to carry myself – something like 15 bin-bags full of things! I’ll probably have to do it in several trips even after throwing a lot of stuff away. It’s just all too easy to pick-up new things here, before you know it, you’ve got enough junk to keep a charity shop in business for several months!

I might just resort to hiring a few workers to move everything, cost about 100元 for everything last time.

Thankfully, my landlord this time has been quite the opposite of the first one.   She didn’t even ask for a deposit and only asked that I leave enough cash to pay for the utilities owed (about 50-60元 a month).  As it turns out I’m actually going to leave a few things behind, either as they are too big or easily replaced, but also as a way of thanking the landlord for her efforts :mrgreen:.


weather forecastThe weather’s been pretty much perfect of late, warm but not humid during the daytime and pleasantly cool at night.   

Today I had my first class since June . Throughout the summer I have had various other projects going on, it’s been an interesting time and lots of things are still developing from this.   

The problem is that now that the semester has started,  I am almost overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do. For the next few months,  I’m not sure if I will be able to do it all. Technically it all fits in nicely, my schedule looks good, but realistically it might not be physically possible – only time will tell. 16 weeks to go!


earl grey popcornSaw this bag of popcorn when shopping earlier today, but it’s not any old Chinese popcorn, it’s Earl Grey flavoured popcorn! 

I wonder who came up with this idea, as real Earl Grey tea is extremely hard to come by in Changchun – I doubt most Chinese actually know what it is, let alone what it’s meant to taste like!  

Actually tastes not too bad, though i won’t be buying it again! 

New Cars

It’s become distinctly autumnal almost overnight, finally the hot humid air has gone replaced a welcome refreshing breeze. I give it 6-8 weeks before it starts to snow again – can’t wait! 🙂

It’s been a while since I took an early morning bus to the centre of town, but this morning, I couldn’t help noticing how many new cars were on the streets. I’d hazard a guess that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of new cars being driven out of the showroom every day.

There are some real nice motors on the streets of Changchun. I’ve never seen so many BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, and Buicks – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this city was full of millionaires.
In Changchun, the Audi 6 is probably the most popular luxury car, usually in black complete with blacked out windows. Also I am seeing more and more Japanese 4x4s, especially the gold coloured Lexuses (lexi?) and lots more Hondas.

People back home talk about ‘gridlock’ but I predict that within the next 5 years (or sooner) China is going to become one massive car park. Changchun is particularly bad as the road layout was designed in a time when traffic from cars wasn’t a consideration, and so there are many huge cross-road junctions and sets of traffic lights. If you have the money you can just take taxis everywhere – afterall they are cheap enough – and avoid the problems associated with maintaining a vehicle.

However, there is still a huge novelty value to owning a car as many families have never had the opportunity to do so before. Also there is massive social status and face value in being able to show others that you are rich, and I think this is factor most important to some. But in Changchun there is no real need beyond this to have your own transport, it is a small compact city with a half-decent public transport system. I would never buy my own car here.

I also wonder what kind of people can actually afford to buy such cars when the prices are still so high. To put this into perspective, a decent family car is about the same price as a large new apartment, and unlike an apartment, you will never recoup your money if you buy a car.
The average wage in Changchun is only 800-1000元 a month, maybe it is just that people have company cars or cars through finance deals or that they are filthy rich bandits.
For example a new VW Jetta costs 98,000元, Ford Mondeo 199,000元 and a Lexus 800,000元!

Travel Experiences

Back from a trip around the east of 辽宁省 Liaoning Province.  Went a little off the beaten track as well as visiting the most easterly site of 虎山长成 the Great Wall.   Almost running parallel to the wall is the North Korean border and we took a walk down to the very edge to a place called 一步跨 One Step Across.  north korea - one step acrossOn the other side were lots of farm workers moving earth and all wearing the same coloured at north korean border  They stragitically planted a North Korean flag in the earth next to where they were working, though you’d have to be a complete cretin to unknowingly cross the border as the river is about 20 feet wide – although there are stepping stones if you really want to take the risk.

great wall It was really interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. Also managed to visit lots of sites that are not particularly well known for tourism and so are still un-spoilt from the droves of giftshops and vendors trying to sell tack.   There’s actually a lot to see in and around the Dandong region If you’re prepared to find it yourself as the lonely planet guidebook is next to useless.

Dandong is cheaper than Changchun, clothes and shoes cost less, and it’s a good place to get authentic North Korean cuisine as well as cheap seafood.

 Got on one of those Chinese mini-bus tours (150元), took all day and saw so much.  As with my previous experience with these tours (if you don’t mind visiting the odd place of not much interest to you) in return you get transportation everywhere, food and free admission.  Indeed I think without going on such a tour it would be almost impossible to see everything, unless of course you have your own car and you know where you’re going, such were the distances travelled. 

All the guide books mention the broken bridge 断桥 (20元)and thenorth korean trawler boat rides you can get along the river (20元)which gets you pretty close to the other side.  It’s interesting but there really isn’t much to see apart from a few rusting North Korean trawlers and the odd person looking back. Did see a couple of soldiers with rifles and some fishermen wearing broken bridgetraditional looking clothing and hats. Of course you’re not meant to take photos – but being China what are rules for! – and everyone does it regardless, much to the annoyance of the North Koreans.  

Went to a dam called the 太平水电站 Taiping Hydro Electricity Station.  It is where the Yalu river is dammed, changing it from a fast flowing waterway into something reminiscent of a Scottish loch. There was some confusion as to whether I could cross the dam along with the other tourists in the bus, as the other side is technically in North Korea. 

The Chinese tourists (or people who look Asian, they don’t actually chbroken bridge bombed by the yanks in the korean wareck papers – just see if you’re white or not!) are allowed to go to the other side to get the  ‘I’ve actually stepped in North Korea’ photo. 

After the mini-bus pulled up at the border point, the soldier asked if there were any waiguoren in the vehicle and that they would have to 下车, everyone else thought it was rather funny and started laughing and it was all in good humour.  I got off the bus and waited in a nearby office. Beforehand I didn’t actually realise that the mini-bus was going to go over the dam, had I known in advance, of coursecranes and old dockyard in N.korea I would have got off the bus earlier!  I think it will probably be the first and last time that a Chinese official has done me a favour without asking for a bribe!  Afterall If he wasn’t doing his job properly I  might now be in some North Korean prison, who knows.

On the other side the road just stops, there is a memoriaend of dam, note the soldiersl to the Korean War or as the Chinese call it ‘The War to Resist US Aggression’ and I thought its was a UN force not just US – anyway; there is also a couple of soldiers standing there too. end of the dam memorial 

 Looking at the pictures, I don’t think I missed out on much! 🙂 Then we visited another bombed-out bridge, left untouched just the central span missing.  The Chinese side bustling with tourists, the Korean side quite the opposite, just fields of crops and unfarmed hills speckledwith huge hundreds-of-year-old trees.the north korean side of the bridge

Had another one of those lessons in  ‘how to argue the chinese way’ on the train from Changchun to Dandong. Being in the hard sleeper was fine until about mid-day when it got too hot for me to bear.  I idiotically assumed that the hard sleeper at 89元  (being the most expensive ticket on that train) that there would be A/C.  So I walked down the train and into the next carriage which was the soft seat section  where there was air conditioning.  So the cheaper seats have air con and the more expensive beds (about 25% more) have none!  

Anyway the plan was to downgrade. I felt a little bit farsical, like something from a Monty Python sketch ‘I wish to downgrade my ticket’ .

The air-con carriage was almost empty, infact the train was only about half full so I hard sleeper thought this would pose no problem.

Wrong again.

  The ticket inspector was a rather dull woman who tried to move us from the carriage saying we didn’t have the correct ticket.  So I offered to buy another ticket, she responded with ‘不可能’ Impossible! ‘Okay then I wish to change my ticket for a different ticket since this seat is empty, so is that one and that‘  Now i’m pointing all all the empty seats.  She just says no and says we must move even though the temperature now in the hard sleeper carriage is hovering at a tropical 37C. 

Then the Old Bill show up, the train police,  three of them all very polite and straight forward – yet they sided with the ticket inspector when it was plainly obvious she was wrong. So it was time to go grudingly back to the kiln for another 3 hours or so,  though I think my point was made. 

But lo and behold not five minutes later, the same policemen came by and said ‘you can go in, no problem’ ‘please come’ ‘come’ even referring me to as their ‘foreign friend’.  They knew that the ticket inspector was wrong, the other people in the carriage knew she was wrong, the nearby farmer’s rabid-goat knew she was wrong, maybe, even she knew it?

I think this is a very good example of the sometimes farcial Chinese attitudes towards ‘face‘ – you’re wrong and you know it, but can’t publicly admit it in front of others for fear of losing face. And from where I see it, face seems to be everything.  I know the same logic extends to some business practices – You’re really a sloppy worker but I can’t tell you this to your face even though it might make you a better worker – so i’ll just sack you .  

Took the coach back costing roughly double the price of the train, but taking 7 rather than 10 hours. In my experience the long distance buses are sometimes great or sometimes a nightmare, it really depends on the roads and on the bus.  Luckily this bus had plenty of leg room (even for me) was really comfortable and was air conditioned!!