China Trip

Everything below is from when I was in University and went on exchange to Heilongjiang University in Harbin China. Please excuse the spelling and whatever is below as I did write it quite a while ago. This content is taken from http://silica.csu.edu.au/depot/dapeng/harbin/ as I want to preserve a copy just in case it is lost. I will be making a copy of the photos available at some point as there is a lot of content in there I would also like to preserve. Becase of the length this has been split into 3 pages.

Part 2Part 3


On August 28th I (Ben Boyter a 21 year old Australian from Charles Sturt University) departed the fair shores of the land down under. My destination, Harbin China. Several days before leaving I had decided that I would keep an on-line journal (Blog) in which I would write down what I had done as well as adding pictures of everything I saw. It would be something to help keep in contact with my parents and something I could look back on later. To my surprise it was incredibly popular, with many thousands of hits, and lots of hate email if I failed to put an update up for a while. Unfortunately what I made was for lack of a better word, shoddy. It looked terrible and had a LOT of spelling errors, dead links, dodgy photos, navigation problems etc….

Which brings me nicely to why this exists. Its here to help create a better website one that is easier to use. One that doesn’t have a heap of dead links lying around. One that I would have liked to have created from the beginning. I have also gone through and updated many of the comments for photos (and added more which can be seen as anything added following a * ) as well as hyper-linking text everywhere. I do hope it is appreciated. Now with no further ado, here is the content.


11/9/04

Firstly a big Happy Birthday Mum!!!!!!!! Sorry I wasnt there and that I didnt call you. I couldnt get an outside line at all. I do apologize, I will make it up to you somehow. Anyway today Tiff and I went out shopping with Utaka (I have no idea how to spell it) who is Japanese, and Sunny who is a tiny Chinse girl, and quite lovely. We took a taxi straight to the Church of St. Sophia. Oh man, the taxi drivers are crazy. Weaving in and out of the traffic, crossing lanes, leaning on the horn, running red lights, driving on the other side of the road. It was nuts let me tell you. So after being scared to death on a few turns we arrived and got out, oh damm that was a good feeling let me tell you. We then went an had a look at the church. Wow! Its really really pretty. Being very Russian, its quite interising to look at. It was made in 1907. Personally I would prefer if they restored it more, however I doubt this will happen since I think they wish to preserve the inside as much a possible. It is full of photos that deal with Harbin and its liberation from Japan etc….. Its really quite interising. I also looked around the back and took all these photos of interising russian religous artifacts. However afterwards I then found a sign saying no photo. Whoops! So I took a photo of the sign. Hehehehehe. After this we went accross to this famous shopping centers. I was looking specificly for shoes but they dont have any in my size anywhere around here which is a pity, they have a habving of being to narrow if they are long enough. So looking at the jewelery, I discovered they have this really cool betting thing. You pay for a few oysters which you pick and then shuck them and get the pearl inside. I got 2 and the first one was pretty average, but the second was really nice. They asked me if I wanted them in jewelery but I just took the pearls as they are since they are nice to look at. Tiff bought somthing however im not going to go into details since she is going to use it as a present. But it is quite nice dont worry about that. We then wandered down that very famous street that we wandered down last weekend. Looking in diffrent shops and the like. I stopped into a jeweler and walked out a little poorer. I have 11 boxes with interising things in them to give away. IM not going to mention whats in them however, muhahahahaha people reading this expecting somthing can sweat on that ha! Also when walking along this random lady came up to me and pushed a rose into my hand. I presume she thought Tiff was my Girlfriend or somthing cos she waved at her and then asked for some money. Since I had already accepted it I figured I may as well pay for it. I bought 2 (hey I dont want to show any favorisism) and gave one to Tiff and one to Sunny. They both seemed pretty happy with that. Sunnuy seemed quite shocked at first actually. Ducking into a Korean BBQ place we had lunch which was might tasty. It was also weird how the waiters keep staring at Tiff and I. I dont think im ever going to get used to this. Utaka also said our chopstick skills were quit good which was nice. We also talked to him about how we get stared at everwhere we go, and after lunch we prooved it. Tiff and I walked down the street apart from them. Afterwards they agreed and said everyone does look at us. I asked Sunny why and her responce was “Because you are cool and so handsome” No I know I said i wouldnt mention this again, but bloody hell its getting crazy. Its really starting to effect me too, some random people with spiffy looking cameras took my photo again and I asked sunny why and well you can guess what her responce was. It wasnt “cos your a freak”. Oh well dosnt matter. Wandering a bit futher Tiff decided to get her portrait done from a guy on the street. There is actually about 10 of them all lined up. So she sat down and instantly we are surrounded by 40 million people all having a look. Heck I wasnt doing anything and I had a heap of people standing around me. Not doing anything just staring. And the moment you look back they try pretend it didnt happen. One girl I kept catching at it blushed looked away then walked to a diffrent spot before looking again. There was even this weird short guy who knew about 6 words of english and was very eager to use them on us. Which was quite hard. Its starting to make us feel like monkeys in a cage. But we can handle it cos we cool. Finally having had her sketch done (which was quite good I must admit) we wanderd back down the street. And I managed to find a pair of shoes that fit and werent too bad. So I got them cos I need another pair around here. After that we bought some mooncakes.

http://www.newton.mec.edu/Angier/DimSum/china__dim_sum__moon_festi.html

See that link to learn more about it. Afterwards we skedadled back to the Uni, sat in Tiffs room and had a for mooncakes, which were pretty tasty. All in all a pretty spiffy day.

Phew! I really should learn somthing about spelling, grammer, and how to paragraph things. Oh well I dont have to read it =P

10/9/04

Well morning classes were more of the same today. Except people asked me where I was yesterday, Oh and apparently my pronunciation is getting better or so the teacher said (i think). Tiff Susan and I also arranged to go out for the day with 2 Japanese blokes and a Chinese girl who is studying both languages. Thats going to happen tomorrow and should be quite good. We also talked to a guy whos name has escaped me in the Foreign office and he asked if he could give out numbers to a girl he knows who is a journalist. Naturally we agreed so prehaps somthing interisting will come from that. I kinda just sat around after class and a meal which was good. However not too long after Kirill and I went down to buy some food stuffs and things. He had never been in the shopping center I took him too, so yeah It was kinda nice to actually be the one leading for once around here. We bought some sausages and the like, which are pretty tasty. The second class for the day was also very interising. Again I was told by random girls in the class I was handsome!!!!!! Im going to have the biggest head. Sorry im not going to mention this sort of thing again, but it tell you its a real shock to the system. Apparently I look like someone thats famous on tv here. In fact several girls asked to pose for photos with me, and wanted my email icq number etc…. anyways enough of that, even tho I dont think I will ever get sick of it (hey who wouldn’t?). So we took some photos of the class and I asked for directions to all of the interisting places around Harbin, which I now have marked on a map. So I will go and visit all of them when I can. I will post photos of this class when I score a copy of a Tiff, which should be tomorrow, or sometime, speaking oh which I should upload the other photos I have from here. Neways that will do for the day. I will have more tomorrow.

9/9/04

Ok I didnt goto morning classes. Frankly I was too tired and well i needed a break. I didnt miss too much apparently and well yeah I needed the sleep. It was nice to do nothing for a bit. Oh it rained today, quite a bit which was a bit of a change from home. I went shopping with Tiff today and bought a heap of food and so on, and 2 jeans west shirts because I didnt feel like washing clothes. I will have to do it soon though. But thats still very lazy. I also thing im going to pay for all my accomdation in one hit soon, since its only about $700 Australian I think, which isnt too bad at all considering how long I will say and the service we are getting. OH funny story on the supermarket I was being stalked. I keep walking around and this one girl kept following me staring at me and then when I looked at her she ducked off into a diffrent isle. It was really strange, but amusing at the same time, this behaviour was semi exmplained a little later on. Oh I also bought some cheese! And bread that isnt super sweet! Comming back the first thing I did was have cheese on bread, with a little sausage. Kirill joined in which was cool. The cheese wasnt great, but hunger is the best sauce, so it was really tasty. There was a few people in the class which was cool. We gave them all info about Charles Sturt Uni and how to get there and such. Tiff also gave them all little koalas holding aussie flags. The all seemed pretty happy about that. Now back to explaining the strange behaviour the Teacher asked us if we get stared at and I told her that story. She simply said oh thats because your so handsome! What is it with these people! This is bad, im going to think im so dammed good when I go back and im going to get shot down somthing fierce. Oh well I can live with it while it lasts. The people in the class are all really nice and seem to want to do somthing together. I think I might shout them all lunch or dinner somewhere which could be a lot of fun, and I recon it would be a really nice thing to do for them all. Its really strange though they are all so shy. I think tomorrow when I go in im going to give them all a big hello and see how they take it, muhahahahaha. Also a few of them wanted to have an English name. Lord its tempting to give them crazy names like Parmenion, and Agamemnon, and so forth, but I think they really want simple names like Mike and Nick etc… because they can say them more easily. They also have problems with th sounds like in the and v sounds. Neways enough of this…. damm i need to wash these socks, or buy more. Im going to take the second option I think, I so cant be bothered washing.

8/9/04

Just wanted to cover some things that I have forgotten. Right firstly 2 days ago sitting in class there were all the loud banging noises. This kept going for a fair while. Naturally I was a little curious so I asked about it. Turns out it was what we suspected. Fireworks and pleanty of them. The noise went on for about 5 mins, and was continousus. Apparently when a store is opened or somthing like that you get a big display like that. The money you use here is pretty dopy looking. It looks a lot like monopoly money, which is very amusing. Also whenever you pay for somthing with a 100 yuan note (about $18) the shop keepers check it to make sure its not fake with theses little machines, very amusing. Now if you ever come here dont be alarmed by all the people waling around holding hands. Its quite common to see girls holding hands, and even men holding hands. It dosnt mean anything, they are just good friends. I even asked Kirril about this and he thought it was normal. I then told him he better not expect me to hold his hand ever, because its not going to happen. A few days ago Tiff and I looked up what each part of out names mean accoring to the chinese spelling. Benjamin = Ben jie ming and means somthing like root/stem, outstanding person, brilliant. Which I thought was rather amusing. Somthing interising to notice here is that all the girls wearing stockings tend to wear white ones. This is somthing to do with the whiter you are meaning you are higher on the social scale because you dont do any manual labour. Oh another thing about the food, the bread here is very sweet. What I wouldnt do for some sourdough bread. I guess its somthing else to look forward to when I come back. I was talking to Kirill the other day and we were talking about the Russian police. He was saying that most are corrupt and take bribes, and that its considered fairly normal there. Today Miriam bought me some Pringles because yesterday I mentioned to her how hard it is to find chips. She also bought Tiff some swiss choclate. In the spirit of the moment I gave her a wooden pen which she seemed quite happy about. She mentioned that she collected wooden things, so hopefully she does like it. Whats interisting about her is that her husband collects slang/colloquilisms from diffrent counties, and asked for an Aussie one. I offered “Flat out like a lizard drinking” which she seemed to find very amusing. On that note im going o be doing a little teaching while im her. So is Susan and Tiff. It shouldnt be too hard and could be quite fun since its for 2nd graders or somthing like that. BTW a few messages ago I mentioned that we had our picture taken for a newspaper on Sun Island, and were told we might make the paper. Did we what, we made the front page. In a big colour photograph! And supposedly its a major newspaper for Harbin. So yeah thats pretty cool. Heres a tempoary link to a photo of the newspaper until i can get a better one,

Newspaper Image

Well theres not too much more to say other then we ordered food in a Korean resteranut today by picking things off the menu, and we have ordering beer down to a fine art. Oh it was also good fun in the computer class today. Talking to the other students who were eager to improve their English and so on. On a unrealted note Kirill is having the longest shower ever. Neways im off.

7/9/04

Interising day today. Right ignoring class which was more of the usual except for the second, but more on that later. Yesterday we went and bought what we thought were dvd players, from a woman in a market. However they turned out to be VCD players (they did have the dvd logo on them tho and I asked the lady if they were a dvd player and she said yes). So naturally we were a bit annoyed and tried to return them. The best we could do (using someone who spoke a little english and was really helpful) was get them excanged for speakers. I guess its not an experience unless you have been a victem of daylight robbery at least once. So after this little fiasco Kirill and I headed down town and bought a real dvd player. We also walked around for a bit in this huge shopping center and listened to the people telling us about things for sale. I could only understand a little of what they were saying but meh. Now interising things to know, they dont seem to have a game store anywhere. I presume thats because of the piracy problems but I cant even find places that tell pirate games which is weird. Oh well dosnt matter. Also there appears to be random parades and things all over the place. I will try to get more pictures of them. Oh and I will get a picture of the streets in peak hour, since some people have been saying that the traffic dosnt look too bad. I will show you all the truth. Now about this second class. Its some sort of multimedia thing thats conducted in English for Tiffany Susuan and I. Its on the top of this 6 story building that dosnt have a lift. Susuan didnt like this very much, but at least we will be getting some more exercise, and considering how much im eating around here that can only be a good thing. So anyway we went into the class and it has about 30 chinese in it. At the time we all figured that they were part of the class, no worries. Later on we discoverd they were all just there because they wanted to speak to Australians, and that the class was just for us. I have a funny feeling that tomorrow there will be about 50 million people in there. Oh well. We did chat to a few of them which was nice. Everyone here is really friendly and helpful, its great. I will take more pictures tomorrow, I just dont feel like doing anything about them at the moment. Hmmmm I do need to go and buy more clothes. I might do that tomorrow or somthing. Oh and this sand fly bite on my arm is bloody annoying. At least I hope its a sand fly… I dont think they have botflys here do they? I bloody hope not.

People asked me what im missing in terms of food, here the list
1. Cheese.
2. Smiths potato chips, chicken ones (although apparently you can get pringles here which will ease the pain.
3. Lamb Chops, oh damm how I want lamb chops right now. Grilled with salt.

6/9/04

Not too much happened today. Class as usual etc… We also meet out new lecturer for our IT subjects. Class for that will be from 6 to 9 monday to thursday. I swear I have never done so much class in all my life. And to worst thing is it starts tomorrow. However the teacher for the subject is really nice so its all good. Tiff had about 5 guys in her room trying to fix her internet, which was supposedly a comedy of errors. Kirril and I went and bought some dvd’s and a player today. Cept the player dosnt work so yeah we will have to take it back and try to get another one that works. Ohhhh I also bought something and the woman who sold it said I was very handsome! (I could get used to this) Kirril Tiff and I then had noodles at some place just accross the road, which were pretty tasty. It was also fun ordering things in chinese. I think im getting much better at the language. I also tried Harbin beer which was pretty tasty.

5/9/04

Damm today was a big day. Lucy Tiff Susan and I all went into the city form some retail therapy and to explore. After a interisting bus trip through the city we arrived at the street that we were going to we walking down. However the first thing I see is a fur shop and I procamaim “whatever they cost we are getting some of those”, little did I know that they cost 20,000 yuan or about $3,500 so yeah no fur coats for me. I have no idea what the streets name we walked down is, but its a tourist street with some really classy shops and the like on it. The entire thing is cobblestones and really nice to walk on. So naturally the first thing I look at is a booze shop, some of the prices are pretty high but some of them are pretty cheap. That reminds me I need to print out the sheet I have that tells me the conversions for most prices. Anyway we looked in all sorts of shopes. They have all sorts of things, like hip flasks, jewelery etc… When we went into a jewellery store I was looking at the pearl bracelets, and well I had to have a few because I thought they were so nice. There is quite a few people on the street, actually there is people everywhere, and its not really that busy. Lucy advised us to have an ice cream from a famous place so we all did. They were pretty tasty too, and each had a few chinese characters on them. I didnt recognise any of them tho which was kinda annoying. Wandering along we looked at all sorts of stores and went into one called tiger fur, or somthing like that. Dont get worried there isnt any real tiger fur in there but damm some of it was classy. Tiff tried on a fur coat and it made her look like a million bucks. Its a good thing im not a girl because I would have lived on air for the next 4 months and paraded around in a nice fur coat. They were really quite lovely. We were also picked out by some woman who gave us sample of green tea, jasmine tea and candied oranges. All were pretty good I thought tho the green tea was better then the Jasmine tea. Anyway we then went and had lunch at a restaurant that David Tiens wife and daughter apperently really like. It was pretty dammed good. I ate everything I could which was good and I even had Tsing Tao beer which wasnt bad at all, althought I recon the Snow beer I had was better. I had roast duck with rice and some roast pork, as did Susuan. Tiff and Lucy had duck in some kind of soup thing. Anyway it was really bloody good. After that we wandered out and had a look at a this monument that is about floods that have effected harbin. Its really quite interising, as was the hunchback which I managed to get a photo of. We then went and had a look the river. There was quite a few people around flying kite which was pretty cool. The river is pretty low, apparently this is somthing to do with the damming of a lake or somthing, I dont really know. Anyway since we stand out quite a bit we had some nice lady come up (whos job was to look for tourists) and tell us about how to visit Sun Island. So we followed her. What was really strange about this was that someone came up and touched Susuan. Apparently she had never seen someone like us before, it was really quite strange. Wandering out to the boats was interising, watching a man fishing for tiddlers to sell to people on the shore of the water and such. Once we reached the boat I was a little hesitant to walk out to them, since well frankly the walkway didnt look that safe to me, but it was which was good, you didnt want to land in the drink since its pretty muddy. What was really amusing is that the tour guide woman, said somthing to Lucy. What she said quote is “he is a very handsome man” I felt pretty dammed good about that for some reason =P Anyway we went off to the Sun Island and looked around on it. When we were taking photos near a piano statue this guy came up who was a photographer for a newspaper here. He asked to take out photos for the paper which was pretty cool. I guess he had never seen an Australian before. We then wandered around and looked at vairous things around the place. I climbed this hill where some small lad came up said a few words like hello and asked me to sign an autograph, and then some old lady asked me to sign one as well. It was pretty strange I must admit, but the celebrity thing is kinda cool. So after this we headed out to the cable car to cross the river again. Lucy was a little worried about it, and Tiff and Susuan reveiled that neither were very comfortable with heights. So I had to try not to make too many comments about how far it was down, the mess we would make if we hit it, how thing the cables were etc….. After touching down with no worries at all, we simply took a few buses back to Hei Da (Helijiang University).

4/9/04

The nightclub last night was pretty dammed cool. Just thought I would open todays blog with that. It was a foreigner bar I think, near the Harbin railway station. Walking in (they dont check id here at all) and upstars I was confronted by a wall of smoke. At first I thought there was a smoke machine, however checking in that turned out to be be wrong. Nearly everybody in the bar/club was smoking. The bar was square shaped with a upstairs that ringed a central dance floor which was on the bottom, so you could look down on it. When we walked in there was 4 Russian girls doing this dance act, all dressed in lingerie. It was really quite good. They danced around for a bit, and then a russian singer came out. Then after a while the dancing girls came back even more scantily clad (to many cheers by the guys in the place) and began dancing again. They were really quite good. At this point everyone was a little thirsty so we all went and bought a few beers. Unfortunatly the only beer was Budweiser. And its bloody terrible stuff. King of beers my foot, but it was wet, and went down pretty easily. The dance music they played was pretty standard, most of it I recoginsed, things like some Moby, Madonna and Eminem. There was also some strange Russian and Chinese stuff. Now I dont dance as a rule. However somehow Tiffany and…. vladamir conviced me to go out and cut some rug. I think the argument they presented was good enough for me to hit the floor and wriggle around. It was basicly “hey nobody here knows you and will probably never see you again”. So yeah I actually went out and shook my thing, and I dont think I looked any more stupid then anyone else. Hell you never know the next time im in Bathurst I may even hit the floor again. In any case it was kinda fun. BTW if you ever come here remeber that the toilets arent segregated. Guys and girls goto the same toilet, but use diffrent stalls. It really confused me for a bit.

Anyway the next day, which is today I sorta slept in, before going off to do some study with Tiff Susuan and Lucy. It was a good oportunity to attempt to learn some more of the language and pick up some skills with pronounciation. We shouted Lucy (she is a lovely person, so if you see here in Australia when she goes there this year be nice to her or I will hunt you down and im NOT kidding) lunch afterwards. We went to the Korean resturant thats located on the campus right near the international food place. It was pretty tasty, however im not sold on carp, its not what I would define as somthing good to eat. All the little bones are a real pain in the backside to avoid. What I do think is quite good is the local beer. I had one longneck with lunch and it was bloody good. And really cheap too, somthing like 4 yuen or 70 cents. A total bargin. I also talked to Lucy about Chinese attitudes about Japanese. WOW! they really dont like them very much. Also the entire meal for 4 including 2 drinks and 2 beers was only 53 yuan, about $9, this place kicks arse. Anyway after that it was back to study for a little while. Its a bit of a shock to the system. I dont study this much for anything, let alone one subject. However im making some progress which is nice. Anyways thats enough for now I think.

3/9/04

Well what can I say about today. Its really just getting started, since Im going out with some Russians germans and a Canadian tonight. It should be quite fun. Class was more of the same, except its really hard because we have never studied the language before. Everyone else has had some chance to learn it and it really puts us at a disadvantage. Nevermind, a litte extra work wont kill me at all. You know what Im really missing out here? Cheese. I want a block of Cheese to munch on, but there is none. They have plastic cheese but i dont want fake cheese. Although I think i might just have to put up with it when I finally get crazy for it. I could really go some blue vein cheese right now mmmmmm tasty. During lunch today with the mob, Craig mentioned that you cant even say “I like you” to a traditional chinese girl. Apparently they interpert it as “i love you”. He said he had 3 stalker during the first few months of his time in Harbin. So yeah Im going to have to watch myself, while having one for a while might be cool i think i would rather just avoid it. Im kinda getting sick of the food in the cafeteria. Dont get me wrong its pretty tasty, but its the same thing for every meal. I so need to go shopping I think. I really need a decent set of headphones, cos the ones I borrowed from Tiff really hurt my ears (i dont think they are big enough), and I desperatly need sunglasses the light is killing my eyes. Oh I should probably mention this before I forget this place has the most unusual smells. They kinda waft over every now and then. Some are quite foul but some are good…. speaking of smells someone is dying their hair around here and the smell of the peroxide (is that was it is?) is kinda killing me. Hmmm I seem to have run out of anything else to say.

2/9/04

Well It looks like quite a few people have been visiting this site. Hurray! I didnt spend 5 mins building it in vain. I dont have any pics for you today simply because I didnt really go anywhere, and I also didnt take my camera with me. Class was… interisting. Its really quite diffrent the be taking a language class in another language. I dont have huge problems following whats going on in them however. I am learning things however. I know how to write my name in chinese characters, I also know how to write ni and hao. I can also read and pronounce nearly anything thats written in pinyin, which is useful. The language seems to use the roof of your mouth to speak more then English. Its quite annoying at first, but you do get used to it pretty quickly. Its also amazing how quickly you pick up some things. For instance I now know when the teacher is asking if I understand, or is saying that I have done well. It was also a shock when I bought a bread roll with honey in it and thanked the lady who sold it and she said bukeqi (pronounched book-a-cheer well kinda) and I knew straight off what she said without thinking about it (it means “your welcome”). I went for a bit of a wander today. The main purpose was to pickup the passport photos that we all need to get a student card. Whats quite amusing about it is that I was wearing the “Beer Delivery Guy” shirt when the phto was taken. So all of the photos say beer in them. After they I ended up wandering around the back and side streets around the place, just checking out everything around. Its quite amusing because 3 minutes later up comes this nice student at the Harbin Medial University and starts talking to me. I guess he just wanted to test his English, which was sketchy, but not bad at all, I told him this and he seemed quite happy about it. I asked him about these students that were marching in the square of his university, and he said somthing about how all first years have to do it. It did look pretty funny since most of them were out of step and so on. After that I wandered throught section B Heilongjiang University (the one im at), and its even bigger then I thought it was. I know there is a section C and that it is 20 mins walk away, but I have no idea how many sections there is after that. Probably a lot though. Tiffany checked and we are allowed to have a pet here, somthing like a turtle or somthing. So im thinking I might get one. The only problem with it is what to do with it when I leave, since im sure I would get attached to it. Tomorrow Tiff and I are going to head out to a city nightclub with the Russians (christina and friends) and Graig (the canadian) which should be a lot of fun. It will be interisting to see how many nationalites are there when I go to it. Anyways thats about all for the day.

1/9/04

Today was the first day of classes. These are all in a building pretty close to mine and with a whole heap of people. They start at 8:00am and finish at 12:20. Which is a long time but you dont seem to do much in there. There is frequent breaks which is nice, but a lot of the time seems to be wasted. They are all in pure chinese, which makes life kinda difficut, but at least the textbooks have english in them. I have no idea how the Koreans cope with it. The aussies are kinda at a disadvantage here, because most of the other nations have had some experience learning chinese. Thankfully we are in a class with Craig (the canadian), Christina (russian girl) who is a bit of a riot, who have a smattering of chinese, and 2 germans who can speak a bit of chinese. So anyway the language is pretty hard. Its a tone language and you have to use 4 diffrent tones to say things. It can be pretty difficult at times since some of the sounds dont really have any english equilivents. In any case im going to get a tutor to help me with it. As is most of the other people i think. Anyway after class which was pretty cool, I had lunch with Craig, Christina, Tiffany, Susan, Natasha (another russian), and a german bloke whos name has escaped me. It was pretty cool, they have these nice roll things that kinda have honey in them or somthing, but are pretty dammed tasty. After discussing views on the world etc… and asking people about their country and so on, Tiff Susan and I headed off to the supermarket to get some things. I ended up buying a watch (a quartz kingtris thing) a pillow (i need 2 at night i have decided) and some random food stuffs, most of which I have no idea what they are. Some of them taste pretty good tho. They have these chips here that taste like steak which is kinda weird. Anyway the total cost for all of that was about $50 which was groceries, watch, books, food, pillow etc… pretty dammed cheap really. I think im going to buy a dvd player and hook it upto the tv. Cos I dont really want to watch them on my pc, and besides the tv is louder.

http://worldfacts.us/China-Harbin.htm

The above is a link to some facts about harbin if you can be bothered looking at it. Anyways im done for the moment. I might get around to uploading some pics in a while.

31/8/04

Well today started well and ended even better. Firstly I got all my subjects and things sorted out, with Sui Han (i think thats how its spelt) who can speak fluent english. Then I wandered down the road with Tiffany and Susuan to get Tiff an network card. Pity that the line to her room is kinda busted. Then we headed back and chilled out for a bit. Then it was down into the center of harbin to the bank of china…. the big one anyway. There we meet another Australiann whos name has escaped me for some reason. Anyway he informed us that we can simply use out cards in any Bank of China atm which is greatly reliving because I was kinda running out of dosh. So Tiff and I then pulled out some money from the bank. I pulled out too much apparenty because Lucy said i should hide the money and shred the recipt, and the place the shreds in diffrent bins. I did do this but i think the chances of me getting mugged are pretty slim. I just a wee bit bigger then well, frankly everyone around here. So then a quick walk through the city to find what Lucy rates as one of the best dumpling places around and the we hopped back on the bus to get back to the uni. Its a great comfort let me tell you to know that i can pull money out whenever I need it. Even if i do pull to much out each time. Im sure I will spend it however, possibly on dvd’s, since they are only 6 yuan or about a dollar australian here. Anyways im going to sign off because there isnt too much to say, other then the folks ran me. Everything is good otherwise.

30/8/04

Well this has been a slightly eventful day. I went down town with Lucy, Tiffany and Susan, to the bank of China. Unfortunatly for me, they wouldn’t allow me to take out any money. So it looks like I will have to head to the main bank in town or something in order to live. It was so weird walking down the street. Eveyone was staring at us. And not with any subtleness either. Its weird when a bus passes and everone in it is looking at you, let me tell you. The traffic is crazy, seriously! I am afraid to cross roads its that nuts. Walking back we headed into a book store to pick up some books on how to speak Chinese. It’s a huge book store, with 5 levels and thousands of books around the place. I also met this nice Canadian bloke named Craig there which was great. He has stayed here before as a teacher but is now back as a student to learn Chinese. Its nice to know there will be some other people around that I can talk to. Anyway he had to head off so we wandered down to a supermarket. WOW! There is so much stuff in there, clothes, food, toys, electonics, stationary, in the sporting goods there was even nunchucks for sale. In both wooden and metal versions. It was really quite amazing. And the biggest thing was how cheap everything was. Working out how much it costs in Australian money just isn’t worth your time its that nuts. With some luck I should have internet access by the end of today so then I can upload all of this and some pics for you all.

29/8/04

After having a decent sleep and waking up at 8:30 its time for a shower to pack my crap and head off to the lobby to be taken back to the airport. Damm the scenery is bleak. A quick journey to the airport where I chat to the German woman I was talking to yesterday. Find my flight, through all the checks etc… and straight into waiting for the plane. A short flight later (which completely avoids North Korean airspace) and I am over china. Interesting note I am the only Anglo Saxon on the flight at all. What really strikes me is the amount of crops growing around the place. So through customs etc… which didn’t even hold me up, I am outside and hit by “taxi?” and the followed around by people asking if I need one. As promised however there was someone to pick myself and a few other students up. Unfortunately he had very little English speaking ability. By which I mean almost none. Never mind he mentioned “University” so I figured he was the one to follow. Driving through the city is nuts. Traffic accidents are all around, people casually leaning on the horn, bike riders weaving in and out, people in small pedal cars, its just nuts. Anyway I arrive at my dorm, and after a while get taken into where I live (cost $4 us a day) the catch is I am in with another person. His name is Kirill. He is pretty nice however. He is Russian 17 doesn’t drink vodka (what???? I thought most Russians drank it) and is here to study Chinese language. After a bit the phone rings and it’s Lucy. I don’t know exactly what she does, but she speaks English reasonably well so I go and meet her. I also meet her dad, and they whisk me off to meet Susan and Tiffany. Both lovely people. However I discover they are paying for their own room in the place. They have 2 beds and pay for the other one. What I am going to do tomorrow is see if I can get the same deal in the block they are living in, because frankly I need a place where I can do a little timeout. And it would be nice to be near people who I know can speak to me. So I finish the night getting to know them a little better.

28/8/04

Well what can I say? To begin with I didn’t realize that two 5 o’clock exist. I knew there was one in the afternoon, but as to the one in the morning, whoa! Perhaps a 4 o’clock exits as well.

Please note that anyone trying to do a smartarse imitation of “The Castle” will be disappointed, because I remembered what I had for meals and what movies I watched.

Well arriving at the airport I discovered that in actuality I was having a stopover in Seoul. Bit of a shock considering how I thought I was actually going to Shanghai. Oh well I can say that I have been to Korea as well. Now since I have a ticket its time to hit the duty free booze. Oh yeah. So I scored some Glenmorangie 10 year old scotch. Right after a semi misty eyed farewell to the folks, brother and godmother, its time to head off to get scanned, checked prodded and poked. Actually it wasn’t so bad at all. I didn’t even have to go through the metal detector more then once. Sitting down at the gate (number 32 if you really want to know) I all of a sudden feel slightly out of place. Checking around, number of people who can claim to be Anglo Saxons, 0. So anyway naturally the flight is delayed. Anglo Saxons 5. This is meant to be an 8:45 flight and it doesn’t even begin to board until 10 past nine. Anglo Saxons 9. After stepping onto the plane and sitting down at the back right (yay! a window seat, with nobody next to me!) there are the usual checks safety instructions etc…. We take off. And out comes brunch. With food (black bean beef with choy sum and rice, fruit, black forest cake and a bread roll) a movie (13 going on 30) Ben is starting to think, “Hey this flight thing is pretty easy. Why do people winge about it so much. Time passes. More time passes. Pressure builds. Another movie (The punisher), 3 cramps, a stiff neck, a twitching left eye, and this strange curried egg fart awfulness; I decided its time to let the dam break. Man those cubicles are small. I wonder what really obese people do in there…. dammit I have too good an imagination to think about things like that. Sitting down again its time to hit the puzzles. Dammed cryptic crosswords. I managed to defeat 3 in 2 hours or so, but oh damm my brain hurt after that.

Ok the movie Hellboy has started again, I should watch that….. I kinda fell asleep somewhere in it, so I guess it wasn’t that good. Oh well. Checking out the in flight where you are thing I notice that Iwo Jima is just of the starboard side, luckily where I am sitting. Then the next meal heads out (Marinated chicken, beef parmentiere, chocolate cake and a bread roll). At this point I just sit and think. And I am getting bloody sick of the whining noises from the plane and the people around me. A bit later and we are flying over Japan. However I can’t see a thing until we pass Osaka and it just suddenly stands out. I guess dirt and trees just don’t have enough albedo to reflect the light so you can see them from the height I guess. And so the land of the rising sun refuses to reveal its mysteries. Never mind I will be back to check it out one day. At this point I decided to check out the in flight radio. And on pops Avril Lavigne – Don’t Tell Me. Nothing else to do I listen to it. And guess what, it’s censored. You know the line “will get you into my pants” and the next one about how she will kick some arse? Well it was cut out. It wasn’t even a good job. And it’s not like it’s that bad anyway. So what’s the deal with cutting it?

So finally we arrive at Seoul. No major problems getting through customs etc…. straight out to find the place where I can get taken to a hotel. Being escorted around is pretty cool, makes me feel kinda special, but when the driver has white gloves on! WHOA! What’s interesting is that I didn’t even notice that they were driving on the other of the road until he had to stop to pay a toll. And what’s the deal with those flashing fake police lights on the road? Anyway after booking in at my motel (Novatel. score!) It’s about 9:30. After eating and having a much needed shower its 11:00. If only that flight wasn’t late, or I wasn’t so rooted I would be out having a look at Korea. Instead I am so dammed tired it’s a struggle to even type this. A quick check seems too intricate a wireless network around here however. Time to do a little haxoring and see what I can find before I go to sleep. Oh and yes the water does go the other way around when it goes down the drain =P