Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Getting my computer

When I made the decision to get a new computer I knew that I had to face a few challenges. The language barrier was one, but I managed to find my way to several computer shops and determine if they sold the Asus brand I was looking for. When I had the specifications I went again, and eventually took a Chinese teacher with me to interpret.

We spent some time with one concession at a big computer sales centre, and managed to get the price down a little. They treated us - we sat down, a bowl a sweets was put in front of us, and a glass of water, and about 6 staff stood around while we discussed the computer and my needs.

Eventually we decided to walk away, and went to another concession where again we were treated to seats, water etc. The first place said they could deliver the computer by Sunday morning, but the other was vague, so we went back to the first. When we arrived there was some fighting between two staff members and it was a chaotic scene for a few minutes so we waited until all had settled down. But of course, because we had been to the other concession, the price had come down again.

Having eventually agreed, I paid 100 Yuan deposit, and left agreeing to come back on the Sunday to collect the computer. I showed them my Australian Visa card - no worries, I was told. Yeh, right.

On the Sunday I arrived around 10.15 am - and they were still preparing the computer for me, so I sat and waited for them to finish loading the OS. I could not have Vista (lucky me) because it is in Chinese, and they only had XP in English. (That worked for me!!!)

Eventually all was ready, and I had to go upstairs to pay. Guess what! Australian Visa card did not appear to work. Now, thinking this would all be simple I did not have a translater with me, so managed to work out what was going on (most of the time) alone.

"We wait" I was told. They got a chair for me, and we sat around "waiting". For what I do not know. By this stage it was Chinese meal time, and they were concerned whether I had eaten! They got me a bottle of water - but all I wanted was to pay and leave.

When I asked about the Visa card, I was told to wait. Eventually I managed to work out that it had not gone through - what we were waiting for was a divine intervention I think! Anyway I said I could go to the bank. So the salesman, carrying the box and computer followed me across the road to the bank. I needed to gt 12,000 Yuan from the bank. But my limit was 6,000 according to the ATM, so we went into the bank. Me, the salesman, and my computer!

After discussion in Chinese, looking at my passport, my Visa card etc, it all got too hard.

So I said I'd paid the money that I had, and return to the college. Maybe I could transfer the necessary funds to another account and access the money and come back. This freaked them all out as they thought I wanted to take the computer and I hadn't paid for it. They settled when I explained that I would pay the balance BEFORE I took the computer.

So I caught the bus back to the college, transferred the funds, rode my bike to the nearest ATM, got the money, walked to the bus station and got the bus back into town.

Now this is Sunday - the BIG day for shopping when the millions of Shaoxing people spend their day and money in the city. It is chaos.

Eventually I got to the computer shop, paid my money and walked back to the bus stop, and returned to the college.

Nothing is easy here. It had taken me 6 1/2 hours to do all this. I arrived back home and barely had the energy to open the bag to look at the new computer.

Chinese Children

Little boy at the West Lake, Hangzhou

You can see and feel the love of children here. Grandparents are often the carers of little ones while their mothers work, and on weekends the father gets involved with child care too.

The babies are quite cute - and so well dressed and cared for. I like the little girls that have fancy hairstyles and clothes, and many will come up to us to say hello, as many children are learning English at school now. Even our own college has a kindergarten where the children learn English songs and words.

This little follow (above) was dressed in traditional Chinese clothing for a photo session at the West Lake at Hongzhou.

The little fellow below was on the train to Ningbo with his mother who spoke good English and little John had a short conversation with us too. He was such a lovely confident little boy. His mother helped us with our ticket etc in the Shaoxing railway station as we were looking to get on to the train to Ningbo a few weeks ago.

We have found that there are many English speakers around, and generally when we are in need one will appear. Certainly John's mother Lisa was helpful when we needed help! Thank you Lisa.

Mothers and babies at Ningbo

This little family asked that we pose for photos with them - which we did - but we wanted a photo of them too!

Start all over

In a way, I feel like I am starting all over again. It is because of my new computer. The College provides a computer here, but it is limited. It is not a current model, and seems to be missing some bits, and some days has a go slow period where it takes 50 seconds for a letter you have just typed to appear, for you to type another one.

My own little laptop that had served me well, worked for the first three or four weeks, and then played up. I could not save any Microsoft Office documents, and many I couldn't open. All my work for the course was locked in the computer.

I went from person to person, place to place, and no one could seem to make much of a difference. I am still waiting on some software from Australia, which just might resolve the problem, but in the meantime I had to endure the frustrations of it all.

In the end I purchased a new computer - and while it is working almost as well as I need it, it still has some hiccups, but I will persevere. Maybe at the end of the week, I'll take it back to the shop for some advice. Maybe next week - it is a holiday week, so the people I want to see may well be away. It is not urgent. Just a little frustrating.

As well as the software from Australia, I am still waiting for my new camera. That too is frustrating as the "old" one (still under warranty) chooses when to function or not, and anyway would not let me transfer photos from the camera to the computer. Grrrrrr.

With the new computer I just pull out the SD card from the computer and happily upload the photos to the laptop. Easy.

I have so many photos and stories to write I may never get it all done. It is hard to believe that it is less than two months before we are due to finish the term, and I should be winging my way back to Australia.

I have been asked to return for next semester - and it is very tempting. Some days I am all enthused about it, and other days I wonder at the wisdom of it. One thing that really appeals is that the college I think has been granted university status (we are waiting on confirmation) so it will look good on my resume that I have taught at a university, but the most important thing is that the whole living in China thing, and teaching here is so overwhelming that the first few months are a blur - and I'd like to come back because I know so much more.

We will see. In the meantime, I have work to do - but will post some photos and stores. This weekend - May holiday - I am going to Shanghai for two days - probably with the old camera by the look of things, but I'm looking forward to that!

Back again.

I've been "off air" for a while as my computer has been playing up. I'm not sure what it is - but in the end I've bought a new one! And still struggling with some things that I have decided must be associated with the "system" here.

In any case I am back on line, with more features available to me with this computer than with the other one. Still some challenges though. For a start, negotiating getting the computer with non-English speaking salesmen was a challange in itself, and it took me 6 and a half hours to pick it up. And I need to take it back for some adjustments.

But at least I can do some things, and I've got a pile of stories and photos so there's plenty to do.

This weekend is May holiday weekend, and we have four days off. I am going to Shanghai with two other English teachers from Australia, so expect to have a busy time. No great plans - just to look and learn a bit more about that part of the country.

So afte my lessons tomorrow (Wednesday) I will make a hasty retreat and get to the bus station in time for our bus to Shanghai with my new suitcase - just a little one that will beuseful for such a short trip. We are due back in Shaoxing on Friday evening, so will have another two days of rest. Sounds great to me.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Money matters

Some things are inexpensive here in China and other things seem to be more expensive - and it is hard to understand some money matters.

For example, I had my hair shampood, and cut for just 10 RMB, (less than $A2), and when I went to the bike repair man, he charged me 3 RMB for working on the bike for about 20 minutes. In a hotel in Ningbo we paid 38 RMB for a cup of coffee in their coffee lounge, but an all you can eat buffet at the same hotel was just 78 RMB.

My cleaning lady works for just 15 RMB an hour.

Some items I have been told are less expensive in Australia - in fact some things like cameras and computer items are best ordered from Australia and shipped back here, even though they were made in China in the first place.

On Friday we went to a small restaurant for a good meal which included dumplings and vegetables in a soup - which was well presented and very filling. It cost us 5 RMB (less than a dollar!) and so on.

On the whole though, things are less expensive here. Which is good for us.

There is a suggestion that wages will rise - so I guess we will soon all be paying more for our items manufactured here in China.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Post from Australia

Not long after I arrived, I realised I need a few things from Oz, and phoned home, as one does. I was keen to get some more Panadol - I'd used up my meagre initial supply when I had the flu, and I needed Vicks' VapoDrops - just in case I had need again.

Chux towels - I've not found anything here that works as well, and some new jeans. I had almost worn one pair out in the first few weeks - and I'd lost weight and they'd stretched anyway. And a camera for the laptop as this one doesn't have one, and the folks at home wanted to see what I looked like. (I haven't changed!) But the children like to see DeeDee when they speak with me. (The grandchildren, that is!)

Over three weeks ago the parcel was posted - Air Mail to China. No doubt it arrived within 24 hours of leaving Brisbane - but it was to take much longer to reach me. And today it did.

I'm still trying to set up the camera , but all else is good. I've tried the new jeans - the fit and look good, and I'll put aside the medical things hoping that I will never need them.

The chux will come in VERY handy to wipe away the persistant dust, and one day I'll get the camera working.

But three weeks - air mail from Oz? Oh, well, this is China.


I can't wait to be able to get my photos onto my computer - am still waiting for the computer to be returned to normal.

When we arrived in Shaoxing it was only weeks after they had had a snow and very cold winter, and all the trees were without leaves, and the place looked brown, barren and boring. Even then though, there was colour as the gardeners who work from a small plot near the foreign teachers apartments, kept bringing out pots of colour as I have described previously. And they worked laboriously to ensure that all was taken care.

They weeded, they changed the pots and the colours changed. When the weather started to warm up green shoots appeared on the trees and hedges, and not long after rainbows of colour from the various trees and shrubs. The college now looks spectacular, but I know in a few weeks time it will be even more so when the gardenias, and the azaleas are in full bloom. I can see the buds. It is exciting.

Overnight there are great changes - trees are removed and replaced, and the lawn grass around the tree is returned to it is hard to know that there was ever any activity. I have a photo of 7 men and women weeding between the pavers of the car park opposite the apartments.

Down below a "horse" has appeared. Four bushes have been planted and trimmed - and it looks like a horse or donkey eating the lawn. It is a bit spindly yet, but the form of the animal is quite clear. I am sure when the leaves grow and fill in the spaces it will be fantastic. I don't know the reason for the horse to be there, but that is the way it is!

Looking out from the fourth floor of the number eight building there is a spectacular view. Several hundred cherry trees are in bloom, with the green foliage appearing to grow as one watches. Oh, to be able to show you some photographs!

Soft beds or hard beds

We Aussies are used to soft mattresses - probably why many of us have "bad backs" - but that is the way it is. When one first tries a bed in China - well, it is like sleeping on a rock. It seems the harder the bed the better - in fact soft mattresses are less expensive, and if you go to someone's house to stay, they will apologise if the bed is not hard enough.

It is good for "making" the bed - the bottom sheet never seems to move, so there's little smoothing out of wrinkles in the bed. If you catch a train - for example from Shanghai to Beijing, you have a choice of beds - soft beds or hard beds. And guess what! The soft beds are the less expensive ones!

Way to go!!!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Exercising in the Fog

Every weekday - Monday to Friday, the freshmen (first year students) are expected to exercise in the morning. From our apartment we hear, from around 6.15 am, the music and the voice of the exercise marshall, as they go through their paces.

Some days, I can see them from my window. There are some 30 students, in their white tracksuits on the stage, and someone on the microphone "one, two, three" I suspect, as it is in Chinese of course.

This morning there is the most amazing fog - we cannot see the building right beside us, so I can only guess how much vision there is on the "parade ground". The fog keeps the sound low - so this morning the music and the commands were clear - but of course we could see nothing.

Today is going to be warm.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Cleaning in China

I've tried NOT to be critical of anything I see in China - but this issue has been important to me. I don't like working in a "dirty" classroom, but that is the reality for me. There are no paid cleaners of classrooms like we have in Oz, and worse, students eat and drink during class. Even if I stop them - other teachers allow it apparently. So there is allways food debris, papers, packaging etc left in the class room.

During the mid day break some students come in to the class room and take away the obvious rubbish, but the room is never properly cleaned. The chalk dust build up is annoying - piles high on the chalk ledge of the blackboard and spilled over to the floor. This remains day after day, even if I am polite and ask for it to be cleaned.

It seems to be the same with much cleaning - it is as if dust/dirt is moved around rather than removed. If I had a vacuum cleaner I'd do it myself. Now that's a thought.