A Travellerspoint blog

au revoir

My life has been interesting of late, plenty to talk about, nothing I want to say. That's always been the problem with this blog, that I avoid interesting gossip and end up talking about negative TIC stuff like oh...I don't know, like the taxi driver last night who had a rigged his meter that charged about twice the going rate. Maybe not something people notice too much round town but when you're doing 35km it's impossible to disguise. (I've done the route at night metered several times before, it should be a little above or below 40, we were heading towards 80 but I got out the taxi early). I could have scared him by asking for a receipt, his ID number and so on but I'd rather let the universal forces deal with him. And the ratio of time to write and stuff happening has been tipped in favour of stuff happening to the extent that there's been no time to write about it as well. So I think it's time to let the keys sleep. I've got a lot of bitching out my system and any that's left will have to be sung in the shower. I'll post the odd comment and photo but I'm too busy to keep this going...

Thank you to my four subscribers for their support.

Posted by safemouse 19:51 Archived in China Comments (2)


This blog is not dead. It's resting. SInce I last posted I've filmed a couple of scenes with Airuna who is getting better and better as Jack's wife in my Shining homage (in spite of her own humble opinion) and I've started polishing my French, because I plan to stop off in Paris on my way back this summer.

Nobody official has officially told me that we have a holiday coming up. I know that I have 10 days off (including my regular days off) but I've only just found out through Joe. It only matters because I'm going to Xi'an tonight and I might not have bought a return ticket for Sunday if I'd known. I'll write once I'm back in gear.

Posted by safemouse 23:06 Comments (2)

Connected and disconnected

A semester flies by. Today marked the half-way point. I gave two exams to my two third year Western Culture classes, as they are just doing an 8 week course. In first class a girl called Natasha asked for the PowerPoint Presentation I made because she said the content was interesting, she wanted to study it. I was quite flattered and impressed with her and ashamed I didn't do better. Also a tad paranoid she might have been asked to obtain it by her superiors. Anyway I copied the whole Rome Lecture folder to her USB stick. And in that class, I sent one student out the exam for talking.

In the second, I did likewise, and it was a bit harsh because I hadn't begun the questions. But he'll sit the exam later and be passed, it's no skin off his nose. When that class was over I spoke to a girl called Daisy for half an hour afterwards. I initially asked her to stay behind to talk about cheating in the exam and generally not putting any effort into the course in general. She was quite honest and said she didn't have any interest in studying but had to go to uni to improve her job prospects. Out of the 13 questions I asked, I gave her half a mark. I asked who the first Roman Emperor was and she said Julius Caesar. In fact it was Augustus but Julius laid the foundation. The exam should have been easy to pass because I went through it right before the students actually took it to give them a reasonable hope of success. Unfortunately Daisy mysteriously had 3 right answers to 3 questions I had asked my other students in the first afternoon class. Other students may have done the same, I haven't looked at the papers yet.

You can imagine that half an hour is quite a long time. But this girl is not conventionally pretty and like a lot of the poorer girls in these parts she has halitosis, so I wasn't there to admire the view. But when you get these students in a one to one situation they can really open up and I really want to give them something, even if it's a ticking off after they've 'failed' a course and I feel I've failed as a teacher. I mean it's still good English practice and she was very chatty and reminded me a bit of a rat. She was very slight, with thin, mousy hair and very pale blue eyes and a slightly whiney voice and she was rather likeable, I thought. I really need to find a way to get to know my students. First there is Natasha, who doesn't say a word to me and then comes and asks for the PPT, then there was this girl, this other little soul. I assume.

The classrooms are so scruffy and dreary. They are designed to be as depressing as possible. How can I inspire my crew? In my view, China should build sailing ships and have students sail around with foreign teachers as their captains. They'll soon learn the ropes.

The girl. The girl. I'll probably have to fail her. She claimed that she just happened to hear some students talking about the test and stuck to this story rigidly but her answers were also in the right chronological order, it's more likely a friend prepped her.

Later, los tres amigos rocked up for English corner but the room was being used for something else. No one had told us. We felt like we usually do. Grateful to have more time off, but forgotten, like some stuff left in a cupboard years ago.

And yesterday I shot a scene with Joe and today I edited it. All the scenes have names. This one's called 'Let's drink to that'. I still have 34 scenes to shoot and I've got about 2 months to do it. That's one every two days, which sounds doable but I'm working around the guys' timetables. Randy said he'd do his just after the holiday but he got sidetracked. It's going to be tight.

Posted by safemouse 05:43 Archived in China Comments (0)

Exchanging ideas

But nothing is settled yet

Yesterday, as I was typing 'Noo shooz' my phone rang. I answered. It was Claire.
"This is Claire. You wanted to exchange some ideas so you can come over."
"Exchange ideas? No. I didn't say I did."
"Well, it's up to you. As you like."
"Claire, what do you want to talk about?"
"Just to exchange some ideas."
"Ok. What time?"
"3 o'clock."

First we discussed the misunderstanding over the weekend and though I still don't know exactly what happened, neither do I care, because we seem to be cool about that now.

Claire then asked me what are my plans for the forthcoming year. I've been mulling it over and talking it through with Joe. I would like to leave for distant lands- play chess with hookah puffers- merengue in South America- but I need some savings and I don't want to leave until I have arranged for two friends to come on holiday to England. The reason being, as long as I teach at a Uni in China I get long holidays and I need a long holiday that coincides with theirs.

The other thing keeping me here is the cash. It's not enough to keep me here indefinitely but I need to save a bit. I've been telling myself that for years, 7 years down the line I have almost no savings. That's ok, my China venture hasn't been about saving money. It's been about life experience and time to work on artistic endeavours. It's funny but most of it is just more of the same, and if I could turn back the clock I might not have come back after my first 6 months. But then being here has taught me a lot about myself. Anyways, now I need to start building up a pension or an inheritance for someone, or something for emergencies. AND the other thing is, I do actually want to do some better teaching in China before I leave. Every year I add strings to my bow and figure out how to solve problems. Where would I like to be? Ideally, somewhere else in China, but the low hours and good pay here are a potent combination. So I told Claire that I'm 50 50. I would be happy to go somewhere else, even if it meant I had to work a bit harder for less money. I could also extend my position here and may do so, subject to agreeing amicable terms.

That's how it goes in Chinese universities. You don't get a 'We are very happy with your work and would like you to stay and grow with us' type conversation, at least I didn't. You get a simple 'What are you plans?' Of course, this is where I see Joe's point. We are not really valued, we are here because there is a requirement to fill posts with foreign teachers that came down from on high. It's clear that they've been struggling to give us all things to do this year and the lighter workload has been welcome for reasons aforementioned.

The other thing is, it might just be that they aren't happy with me but see me as at least being reliable. Or it could be that Claire didn't want to lose face if I turned around and said: screw your job. I told her my mind after she kept saying, "I just want to know your mind", but knowing her mind was a lot harder. What was her mind? Finally, she was open and said she'd very much like me to stay.

Posted by safemouse 07:07 Archived in China Comments (3)

Noo Shooz

Saturday evening Joe and I filmed a short scene. My character, Jack, coming out of my flat and meeting him for the first time. We swept the cat turd out the way because in the first take he nearly stood in it. In this massive building its one careful owner had plenty of locations he could have disposed of it in but I get one now and then.

I liked what we filmed-given how quickly we did it- but on second thoughts Joe wasn't shy enough. If I get time I'll film it again, otherwise, as I joked to Joe, my film will be in danger of looking like a...well, never mind what.

All I'm saying is, I have no lighting or pro-sound to give it that professional gloss it's important to get the bits I do have control over right, such as direction, script, scene composition. But I'm very much afraid that the whole thing is so rushed and cheap budget and on the fly that it will indeed look like a...

I'll be recording some of the sound with my Sony PM-10 but I just don't have time to do that much dubbing and the noise you get with the N8 indoors is just something that can't entirely eliminated. I've just ordered a second hand Kodak Zi6 off Taobao and I hope it turns up. It's slightly better than an N8, I think, and for 200 RMB I thought it might be worth a punt. I used to have one. It got stolen. I used to have a Cannon 550D. It got stolen.

Yesterday I met Inner Mongolian girl for a drink. I'm not sure what name to give her in the blog yet. We were walking towards Clown Service Coffee and...I don't recall the exact conversation but the jist of it went something like this:
"What are these people living for? I don't think they even know."
"Maybe not. Do you think it's a question worth asking?"
"But if you are going to the shops you know the reason. If you put on a sweater, you know the reason. So why wouldn't you ask yourself why you are living?"
"I have asked myself this question but I didn't find an answer."
In UBC rip off we talked about what that answer might be. I guess she may be influenced by me after talking about the film last week but anyway, in all my years in China this is the first time I have heard a Chinese citizen speculate on an existential matter, and note I say citizen, as _____ is ethnically Mongolian and Mongolia is the one country she wants to visit.
We chatted for an hour or two but she was not feeling too good because she had a hangover after drinking biju the night before. The bill for one beer and a pot of tea was 66, which I rather think was wrong. They probably charged me for 2 beers. I should have queried but I didn't because I didn't want to seem cheap. Which is silly, because I am. In China you often get overcharged, very seldom under. It's what friendship means in China today. Am I bitching? Sorry.
On the way to Undersized Beverage Cups we ran into a male friend of _____, on the way back a female one. She has lived in Bayan Nur all her life and wants to get out but one upside is running into friends in the street. She talked to her friend in Mongolian. Her friend, curiously, spoke to her in a mixture of Mandarin and Mongolian. I pointed this out and she said some people do that.
Later, I bought myself Chinese branded sneakers for 179 RMB. I've been wearing Adidas for years because they're comfortable and fit my wide foot but they've never lasted all that long and some ones my mother bought me back in the summer already have a big hole in them after not excessive wearing. 2013-04-15-2629.jpg

Posted by safemouse 19:44 Archived in China Comments (2)

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