Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Kaifeng and Jason, Jason and Kaifeng

You can’t name one without mentioning the other.. Jason and his city are entangled as strongly as polar bears and the North Pole, something which many people have hitherto found out by visiting Kaifeng.
After having disposed of the various taxi drivers who wanted to take me somewhere whilst I had more important matters on my mind (finishing the delicious breakfast I had just bought for twenty cent) a guy on a rickshaw approached me. His expression was one of concentration, as if looking for some words he had difficulty remembering, and naturally I assumed the bloke wanted to share some of his five-word strong English vocabulary. Utterly surprised I was however when his introduction was in Dutch, not so much of the fact that he knew the words but rather that he knew I was from the Netherlands! It appeared that he was kind of famous for taking foreigners around the city and hence his English was of a level I had not run into in China outside the school grounds. Proudly he showed me the newspapers in which articles about his business were written and his treasure.. the diaries in which hitherto 508 foreign tourists had written something about their experience in Kaifeng with Jason. One could not have supplied me with a more convincing argument and hence I entrusted Jason with showing me Kaifeng. And that he did. Elaborating about historic stories at the various sights we visited, taking me to the best food markets and, above all, being pleasant company during the day Jason made my weekend! I have posted plenty of pictures below as well as some videos. In one of them one can see Jason showing one of his precious diaries, one to which I have also contributed by now!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

some football... finally!

Last weekend was the first one since the tenth of January that I did not undertake a journey of some sort. On its own a very pitiful occurrence, but I must say my first weekend spent in Sanmenxia was a good one. The dinner I got to enjoy on Friday night was not the one and only time I got to enjoy Chinese hospitality as the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon held similar happenings. The remaining time I spent with playing a lot of sports, something I gravely lacked hitherto.

Coming weekend a journey to Kaifeng is scheduled, after which I shall return once again to my beloved Xi’an the subsequent weekend. Now I am sitting behind my laptop with aching muscles, a feeling I really missed, from the intense football I enjoyed this afternoon with Jhao and a bunch of students.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Getting to know the Chinese culture

It is one of the main motives to take on jobs like these.. the unique insights in a culture that one gains. This very evening I was yet again invited for a social gathering, and once more it exceeded expectations!

One of my colleagues, a lady called Helen who teaches English to the first grade, invited me on behalf of her family and friends for a dinner. The location was not, as I had assumed, a house but rather one of the city’s best restaurants! Upon arrival I was introduced to the friends of Helen and her husband after which we took our seats in a private dining room. The round table at which we sat was huge and overloaded with different dishes. And then I don’t mean five or ten, I think there may have been over twenty different plates, platters and bowls with delicious food. The glass plateau on which this all was placed could be turned around at the preference of those who were eating and about three waitresses and a cook ensured perfect service during the meal.

As I get to enjoy more and more of these social gatherings I notice one outstanding fact; Chinese like to drink. Wine, beer and liquor are abundantly served and the question of how much I can drink has been stated more than once each respective evening.
All in all great ways to meet new people and enjoy local customs!

Monday, 16 March 2009


or well, that's the name I've given her after she asked whether I could find an English name for her. This 3rd year student visits me whenever her schedule allows it and two weeks ago I was even invited at her parents' home for dinner! Those are the local cultural insights that are unique for jobs as these and hence a main driving force for me to pursue working as an English teacher in mainland China. The great hospitality and superb food made a memorable evening and I am happy to make such friends among students.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Xi'an II; more and better!

The heading may suggest that my life in China consists solely of weekends and related trips, as nothing whatsoever has been posted since my last voyage to Xi’an a week ago. And that is probably how I will look back on this period; discovering China during the weekends and an occasional holiday and a grey blur of routine that fills the weekdays. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy teaching most of the time, but now that a certain rhythm has kicked in and the excitement has ceased long since I get somewhat restless in the small town that Sanmenxia is. Fortunately weekends such as the most recent one make up for this.

The best time spent since I left India by far, as I got to meet plenty of new people and consumed a proper quantity of beer for a Friday and Saturday night. The hostel I resided at was great, with free internet access, cleans showers and toilets, great staff, pool / table tennis tables, Terra the Golden Retriever, a cozy dinner / chill out room, and last but not least a great bar in the basement. And it was there that I spent the Friday night, drinking decent quality Chinese beer and chatting with some nice people I had met. The next night I hit the bar street with Mark from England to watch Man U – Liverpool and Arsenal – Blackburn. It’s been ages ago since I’ve seen a football match live and hence I enjoyed it most!

During the day I mainly chilled out, walked the 14 km city walls, and played football with Mico anc Charley whom I had met the previous weekend. Now it’s Monday afternoon and soon I’ll head for another two classes to teach, but time flies and it will be soon again that I pack my backpack and take off to the train station early Saturday morning.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Of course not all time was spent gazing at the mighty terracotta warriors last weekend, as Xi’an had a lot to offer on itself as well. Roaming around the first day in the Muslim quarter, visiting the famous Bell tower and Drum tower (pictures), watching the seemingly biggest fountain show in Asia and playing chess at the hostel with Yuki.. Xi’an made my weekend!

Two Chinese dudes who invited me for a beer at the hostel were studying at the local university and invited me to play football with their friends that afternoon. Since I had not taken any clothes in which I could sport we agreed upon doing this the next time I’d go to Xi’an, which will be soon enough! As there is loads of other stuff to visit I’ve already booked my ticket for coming weekend, and I’m sure that even once I’ve seen all the sights Xi’an will appeal to me just for the sake of being in an ancient city which has the current day backpacker lots to offer!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Terracotta Units

Maybe my expectations had been a little bit too high. Maybe a tiny little bit. Of course I was impressed, and naturally I enjoyed the ancient treasures exposed a lot. But unconsciously hopes had been rising for something mind numbing, and that the mighty Terracotta Army did not accomplish. On the second day of my Xi’an visit (later more on that) I took a bus together with Yuki, a Japanese guy whom I had met the previous night at the hostel, heading for the village close to which the first discovery of the army had taken place. As usual I had not taken my student card so the 50 % reduction was relinquished yet again (I should change that habit) but the sights were worth the full price nevertheless. Three pits, with the largest one displaying around 7000 ancient warriors, created decennia ago on the command of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor to unite China. The informative movie made sure of some decent background knowledge and I must admit that the ‘eight wonder of the world’ deserves this entitlement more than the over hyped Taj Mahal. Pictures and videos visualize some of all this!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Random Sanmenxia Experiences

Outstanding these four months are of course the trips I intend to undertake each and every weekend, but there’s also a lot of time spent during weekdays. Here some random happenings of the past days.

As I strolled the central square last night in search for a public phone I ran into a crowd of about one thousand women doing some synchronized dance on music that came from various speakers. Some white-clad people were leading the moves and the crowd followed surprisingly accurately. Weird habits these Chinese people have!

What’s more.. The enthusiasm I cherish for the majority of my students seems to be mutual as girls from my classes repeatedly pay me visits to hand me written cards, drawings, folded flowers, and gifts.. (!) Today a young lady from the third grade (which I don’t even teach) came to bring me a personal welcome letter and a nicely wrapped package of tea. I feel very much appreciated and am about to write her something back soon.

Last but not least I’d like to share with you the most random fact that I’ve ‘discovered’ a nice coffee place on the way downtown. The warmth and coziness of my room was tempting today after having taught my classes and having done the grocery shopping, but spending too much time in the same space makes me want to go out and hence I set off towards a big ‘Coffee’ sign I had spotted some days back. The place turned out to be a top of the class coffee house, beautifully decorated, with excellent service and live classic piano music. Prices are Western but the coffee I got to drink was truly one of the very best I’ve ever had! Definitely I shall pay this place a visit again very soon, it is the ideal location to read a book whilst enjoying the luxuries of superb coffee and a great environment.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Longmen Caves

The temptation to ignore the ringing alarm clock, stay in bed, and forget about the whole Longmen Caves was strong this very morning, especially since I had closed my eyes a mere four hours prior to this moment. Fortunately I managed to get out of my bed and set of for what would become a two hour bus drive to Luoyang, a city that finds the famous caves in close proximity. And it was well worth it. Carved out of sheer rock by the first Buddhists who settled in China the statues vary widely in size but have all in common the devotion dedicated to carving the sculptures perfectly in the details. All in all my second weekend trip was a great success and I deem it not unlikely that I shall return to this historical setting. Tomorrow classes start again, but plans are already materialising for coming weekend.. If all goes as intended I will visit Xi'an for the first time!