A Travellerspoint blog

March 2008

Mt Tai

Tai Shan

overcast 12 °C


Today Kathy (Chinese Teacher), Barbara and I climbed Mt Tai.

Mt Tai to the Foreigners or Taishan to the locals is the most revered of China's Five Sacred Taoist Peaks with imperial sacrifices to heaven and earth offered from its summit. Only five of China's emperors ever climbed Taishan, although Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty scaled it 11 times. From its heights Confucius uttered "the world is small"; Mao declared "the east is red"; I said "I'm knackered"!

Mt Tai is 1545 M above sea level, with a climbing distance of 7.5 Km from base to summit. There are some 6600 gruelling steps.

The weather conditions on the mountain were very cold, windy and wet. There was even snow on the mountain! I wore leggings underneath my pants and a singlet, long sleeve thermal top, a vest and a jacket.

They say to allow two hours for climbing to Midway Gate to Heaven and then another 2 hours to climb to the summit and eight hours for a round trip. Well is took us 6 hours to get to the top and 4 hours to get down.

You see a bewildering catalogue of bridges, trees, rivers, gullies, towers, inscriptions, caves, pavilions and temples. Lost on us foreigners are the literary allusions, word games and analogies spelt out by the calligraphy decorating the journey.

The Midway Gate to Heaven is where we stopped to rest our legs and allowed our pulse to slow. Breathing became difficult in the altitude.

Path of Eighteen Bends eventually leads to the summit. Climbing in this phase was in slow motion as our legs turned to lead. Even Tribes of wiry grandmothers passed us as it is said that if you climb Mt Tai you shall live to 100.

Posted by Bettinamc 19:32 Archived in China Comments (4)


Medical Certificate to apply for Residence Permission Certificate

sunny 10 °C

25 March 2008

Today the driver took me to the hospital with Zhang Jie (Chinese teacher who teachers Professional English but this term is working in the office) for my medical. Now I had been warned by other foreign teachers about what to expect but nothing can really prepare you for the encounter!

Firstly the school has completed the form for you which is taken to register (I guess). Now the school has attached 2 different photos to the form and Zhang Jie tells me that they are not going to accept this. Well me being me, I'm not going to accept that these two photos are a different person, given I know they are me.

OK one of the photos was an old photo I had in my passport wallet of when I was 33. Now I haven't aged that much! The other photo was of me taken yesterday. So I proceeded to discuss the point with them in English and they discussed back in Chinese. I won - they accepted the photos.

I then went in to have an xray. Rather interesting when someone is moving your body into uncomfortable positions because you can not understand a word they are saying. The xray was rather painless.

Now the fun begins. The Chinese must think that because your skin is white everything else must be different. It was like I was on display.

The Blood Test
Firstly I will describe the room. Lets say the waiting room of any Qld Hospital. The staff are behind the glass as if you are in a bank. You sit down in front of them and put your arm underneath the glass. They tie a piece of plastic tubing around your arm. I thought I had gone back in time. The next thing all the Chinese come shuffling over to peer at what colour your blood is. Funny that, it is the same colour as there's. You can almost hear the disappointment in their faces. I wished I had some power to change the colour of my blood!

The Medical Room
Don't worry if the Dr is with someone you just walk straight in and watch whilst you are waiting. Except when I went in 20 Chinese shufflers were with me! Now this Dr takes your pulse. Plays with your neck and pushes you in the tummy. Not quite sure what he is looking for. But he stamps the form and off I go, (with my 20 shufflers)!

The Facial room.
This Dr looks at me and decided my height and weight. He thinks I'm taller than I am and lighter than what the scales tell me. I kinda like him! He asks me about my eyes with Zhang Jie interpreting. I have no idea what the degree of blindness is. I have got my script with me but I didn't take it with me for my medical. He decides that my eyes are 4.1 vision. I've checked my script and he also thinks I can see better than I actually can. He takes my blood pressure. He gives me the thumbs up. I'm assuming that means good.

This is where I draw the line of my congo line of shufflers. I am not taking my clothes of for them to check me out. We lock them out of the room. It is absolutely freezing today in China and here I am lying top naked on a cold steel bed with archiac steel ECG equipment. I still do not think I have defrosted.

After I watch everybody else have there scans I lie down on the bed. This time I just have to pull my top up to the bottom of my bra. My Chinese shufflers are in tow, so I do my best party trick. I push my stomach out so I look pregnant. The look of horror on their faces was priceless. They shuffled out of the room. At last I was no longer on display. The gel is cold at best of times but on a freezing day in China it was like ice. The Dr doing the scan was ever so heavy handed with the scan, moving it in under my ribs.

My medical is now over. Zhang Jie goes to pay for the test. She takes it back to the place where we registered. She then goes downstairs again. She than comes back and calls me over. I have to sign it. I have absolutely no idea what I am signing but sign anyway. We can now leave the hospital.

Now Qld health can learn something from this production line I am sure. If I was at home and had to have all these tests done I am absolutley positive that it would not all happen in one day at one location. This whole experience took me 1 Hr.

Posted by Bettinamc 16:49 Archived in China Comments (4)

My Apartment

sunny 10 °C

The teachers apartments are on the school campus. There are 4 floors of apartments, however there are two entrances depending on which floor you are on. There are 2 apartments on each level with a study between each apartment

When you enter the first building there are glass doors and like a concierge desk with a phone and couple of chairs and a table and some plants to add some life. The apartments are basically looked after by who we call "the girls". There English is limited and there seems to be new "girls" all the time. My apartment is in this building on the second floor.

The front door of my apartment is timber and I always seem to have problems locking and unlocking it.

My apartment has 1 bedroom with a huge queen size bed, 3 bedside tables, a lamp and two wardrobes. Attached to the end of the wardrobe is what I would call a divider which has two shelves that I store cards, photos, perfume and stuff on and underneath is a storage cupboard. The phone is also in my bedroom. My bedroom is also air conditioned.

The bed is rock hard. It has no bounce. I have cushioned it putting a doona underneath the bottom sheet. You cannot tuck in the sheet. With a rock hard mattress the sheet does not move anyway. We are used to soft mattresses. Sleeping on the bed is like sleeping on a rock. Apparently the harder the bed the better quality. In fact soft mattresses are less expensive!

There are some advantages to this when you are traveling - you have the choice of soft or hard beds when travelling on train. The soft beds are less expensive!

In the main living room there is a fridge, microwave, water cooler, 3 seater lounge and a one seater, a small entertainment cabinet with a TV with cable, desk with a desktop computer and printer, a coffee table and what I would call a grey metal office cupboard where the top is glass and the bottom is metal. This room is also air conditioned.

The water cooler used to hold an 11L bottle. This was not enough to last me a week. It was increased to an 18 L bottle. This also would not last me a week. It used to be Y3 for the bottle but has recently increased to Y4 IE 66c for 18L. The water cooler has both a hot and cold tap. I have to admit that I have become accustomed to drinking hot water!

On TV there are 2 English Stations - one is CCTV9 which shows news and documentaries the other is a movie channel that shows either movies in English or English sub titles. If I'm forced to watch the box I watch CCTV9. If you find something interesting but you miss it, there is no need to worry because the shows are repeated on a daily basis.

I have a shared kitchen with the other teacher who lives on this floor. I have never used it, couldn't tell you what was in there. I have been in there though. It is very clean but it appears no one from the floor uses it. I don't know my neighbor. I believe he is Chinese and I am yet to see him.

The bathroom is OK. It also serves as the toilet and laundry. The bathroom has a hot water system and an enclosed shower which is quite a luxury in China. The toilet is a western toilet (YippEEEE!) except it doesn't have water sitting in the bottom. It only flushes with water. The washing machine is a Chinese washing machine with only Chinese writing. It is the smallest washing machine that I have ever seen. Check out my photos and you will see what I mean. It is that small that I have to wash on a daily basis.

As I eat out every night I have had to buy a few utensils such as cup, glass, plate, knife & spoon to get me through breakfast and lunch. I also had to buy a container to wash the dishes in, dishcloths, washing detergent, tea towels just to make my life a little more comfortable.

I have bought some things to make the apartment more comfortable, however some foreign teachers do spend a lot of money making their apartments more comfortable. The walls do get to me at times so I have put up some photos from home. I also bought a potted rose. And surprisingly it is still alive!

The clothes line is a bar that runs above the washing machine. Now we all know that I am vertically challenged, but so are the Chinese. I need a step ladder to hang my clothes! And hangers.

The rooms are carpeted except of course the bathroom. Well maybe it is just red underlay. It picks up everything.

Normally when I go away I would iron my clothes before putting in my backpack. This time I just put everything in my suitcase unironed. Mum and Deleece both warned me that there may not be an iron. Of course there would be I thought! My nightmare became a reality when on my first day here, the men are all dressed in suits and take of their jackets to reveal an unironed shirt. I went a week without an iron. I finally bought one yesterday at the department store. Gee it was very interesting trying to communicate that I wanted to buy an iron. In the end I went into a woman's dress shop and went into their store room to find an iron to show them. They took me to the fifth floor. Success at last. I have an iron. And an ironing board.

I still haven't been able to find a bath mat. Those that have lived with me or shared a bathroom with me, will understand that I need a bath mat. I don't understand the concept of drying in the shower. And besides this shower is not big enough to be drying one's self.

Other than that I think my apartment is now set up and ready to go.

Posted by Bettinamc 00:19 Archived in China Comments (3)


sunny 10 °C

Tai'an is a smaller city with a a population 787K. It is the gateway town to the mountain of Tai'shan looming above. Tai'an is much wealthier and more with it than Qufu in the South.

The most appealing part of town lies in the vicinity of the Dai Temple, Hongmen Lu, and the east-west running Dongyue Dajie and Shengping Jie. This area also contains a range of hotels, internet cafes and restaurants. The train and long distance bus stations are in the less attractive west part of town.

There are many buildings - old housing and new housing. Old factories and new factories.

It is always very busy with cars, trucks, bicycles, scooters, bung bungs and pedestrians all mixed together. There must be road rules, but I don't know if anyone knows them or uses them. When crossing the road you must always have your wits about you as it is not uncommon to find a car driving on the wrong side of the road.

When I cross the road I walk out into oncoming traffic stopping in the middle for a break in the other direction before proceeding across the full road. It's wise not to make any sudden movements. It is quite daunting. Some days I just seem to take forever to cross a road, other days I'm like a local.

Owning a motor vehicle is only for the wealthy. Most people get about by bikes, scooters, bus or the trusty legs we were given to walk with. I prefer to walk that way I can stop and see what I like.

Posted by Bettinamc 21:11 Archived in China Tagged educational Comments (0)



13 °C

Good Friday 21 March 2008

Today after class Maria, John (Chinese Teacher) and I went to Qufu. The driver from the school took us there. And yes, he still likes to travel at 150Km/h.

Qufu is a small town by Chinese standards with a population of 88K. It is the birth and death place of Confucius (551 - 479 BC), whose impact was not felt during his own lifetime. He lived in abject poverty and hardly put pen to paper, but his teachings were recorded by dedicated followers. His descendants, the Kong Family, fared considerably better.

As the original Confucian temple at Qufu , dating from 478 BC, was enlarged, remodeled, added to, taken away from and rebuilt, the majority of the present buildings date from the Ming Dynasty. in 1513 armed bands sacked the temple and the Kong residence, resulting in walls being erected around the town from 1522 to 1567 to fortify it. These walls were recently removed, but vestiges of Ming Town Planning, such as the extant Drum and bell Towers remain.

Less a religion than a code that defined hierarchical relationships, Confucianism has had a profound impact on Chinese culture. It teaches that son must respect father, wife must respect husband, commoner must respect official, official must respect ruler and so on. The essence of its teachings are obedience, respect, selflessness and working for the common good.

Confucius was seen as a kind of misguided feudal educator, and clan ties and ancestor worship were viewed as a threat. In 1948 Confucius' direct heir, the first-born son of the 77th generation of the Kong family, fled to Taiwan, breaking a 2500 year tradition of Kong residence in Qufu.

While the current popularity is undeniable, it is debatable as to what extent his teachings are taking in China. The majority of devotees around Qufu are middle aged or elderly. Chinese scholars are making careful statements reaffirming the significance of Confucius' historical role.

After Visiting the principle sights - The Confucius Temple, the Confucius Mansions and the Confucius Forest we headed back to Tai'an. At great speed I might add.

We stopped for dinner with the driver at a Hotpot restaurant. They ordered lashings of beer and you sweat it out fishing out strips of meat , fish balls, mushrooms, "blood" tofu, potato slices, Chinese cabbage from a boiling broth. Not exactly my idea of a meal. I became very full, very quickly. I hope I don't have to go there again!

Posted by Bettinamc 20:23 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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