I was going to write a blog at least once a week; perhaps daily. It was a fine goal, right up there with I was going to work on one of my novels, poems, paintings or children stories a little bit every day, especially the ones I started back in the 1970s, then the one I did in the 1980s and surely I would add to the finished ones of the 1990s and my favourite, “Leaving Australia” that was completed five years ago. That one, all 550 pages, I printed and bound two copies of; one for my son in Melbourne and one for me. When Sacha came to visit a month ago I asked him if he had read the one I gave him four years ago and he said he was going to read it on his trip to Dalian but it was too heavy to carry with his other stuff; something about traveling lightly. Good golly. But surely a blog, added to if not daily at least weekly would be easy. Then as usual life got in the way and I just noticed I had not written anything since Chinese New Years almost four months ago. I have put up many youtube videos in that time from our wanders in Thailand, and various places in China but to write…. It is school – I work so much on lesson plans and projects that I never write anything for myself.
So I will just jot down notes about yesterday as it was a bit of a typical this-is-China day.
It started way to early, Saturday the 19th of May. I was awake at 3 AM, worried about something; our renters moving out of one of our houses – the one in NYC, or was it my Flash class that my overly-driven Korean students are determined to get a perfect score and the more challenging I make the content even getting them to learn ActionScript coding, the more determined they are to outdo me, or was it that I got an email about re-roofing our house in upstate NY; the Victorian house with a slate roof – not cheap, or our upcoming little trip: to Beijing and getting to Atlanta a week after Narda as I have to stay back and do some IT stuff @ school then taking a driving holiday around the deep south and going to New Orleans for a week – my old stomping grounds in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was a street artist in Jackson Square, then back to Beijing and on to Australia for July and then back to work here in Dalian – though I was not worried about the road-trip but that we may have to fly to New York because of having to deal with renters or roofs or some other fun-not stuff. I was worried that I was getting more grey hair – though people tell me that at a few months nearer to 65 than I wish to be, the fact I have little grey hair now is a fact to celebrate and not moan about having a few grey hairs is not what I want to see. I look in the mirror and say who is that old fart?
Back to yesterday. Maybe I did fall asleep for a while but I was awake at five and got up because I was scheduled to chaperone our middle-school overnight lock-in. I managed to get out of any overnight duty and was slotted into the 6 – 10 AM section. The children were already running around, some having slept less than a couple of hours. They were doing their overnight in the gym and surrounding rooms so I did my early morning weights routine and played some basketball with them and herded about 60 middle schoolers off to the school and to breakfast. (We live a two minute walk to the gym and another one minute walk to school so our work and home life is all muddled together and many of the children live here too as their parents work for the big companies nearby: Intel, Goodyear, VW – stuff like that). So yes the morning shift was easy – though I was sleepy. It was the rest of the day…
A couple of our teachers were celebrating their 40 anniversary together and wanted to have a shared celebration at Discoveryland. Discoveryland is a Disneyland Chinese copy. It is also a ten-minute bike ride away. We live rather remotely but not far away is the national resorts of Golden Pebble Beach (our morning walks before school) and forested areas and the big tourist thingy of Discoveryland. We had never been inside, because the idea of being in a place like that was quite repulsive. So we ride over, tie up our bikes, pay the 170 RMB (about $25 US) to go in and though it is supposed to be the largest adventure park in China and one of the largest in Asia it was the most budget thing I had seen. It is not Disneyland – though in some fake Chinese manner it is quite similar. The food places were all Chinese and quite bad. I managed to get a vegetarian meal but Narda took one bite of her alleged meat ball and could not eat any more. We noticed someone had thrown up at the next table and a crew came in to clean up but it pretty much summed up the place. I found it interesting that inside their large medieval castle there was a cathedral and the cathedral was actually the start of the ghost-house tour and there were bats flying around the stained glass windows. I suppose it is the Chinese concept of religion as superstition and they wanted to be clear about it. We did not want to go on any rides though some of the teachers we went with got in line for the roller-coaster and two hours later they were still in the same line. We walked around, Narda bought a dress – always the way to make a great day better and we hopped on our bikes and headed home leaving the rest of the people we went in with to enjoy Discoveryland without us. The downside? Yes, I get to go there next week with our whole upper school, a kind of end-of-year event. How exciting. Maybe I will take my camera – this was the first time I had not taken videos or stills in years which tells even more how much I enjoyed myself.
So I am buggered and decide to take a nap at 3. Narda was a bit concerned as she was given a couple of tickets to the “Dalian Korean Youth Orchestra’ concert. As some of her students were in the group parents had given her tickets to attend this ‘special event’. Luckily, she was going with another person and I was going to be left to take a nap. At 3.15 the friend said she was ill and could not go. At 3.20 Narda rang our driver and said to cancel the car to Kaifaqu and everything seemed great. At 3.40 the driver rang and said he was downstairs waiting – we have had no communication problems in the past but Narda was sure that the driver understood ‘cancel’ ‘no car’ no no no. Narda doesn’t want to go alone and then I am up and dressed in five minutes and we are hurdling toward our concert at 3.45 that is to start at 4 and Kaifaqu is half an hour away except for the way most people drive they manage to cut the time down heaps. It only took us 20 minutes. We have learned not to look out the front window because it is too scary the way people weave and cut and beep horns and rarely use blinkers. One thing Narda noticed at a traffic light was a person laying on the grassy part between streets. He wasn’t moving and there were a couple of cars stopped but no one was looking after him. We realized he was dead. In China if someone causes an accident and injures someone it is up to the accident causing person to look after the injured for the rest of their life. It is better if the person dies as they only have to do the funeral. Also, and we saw this our first week here with a person who fell or was knocked off his motorbike and lay dead in the road and was still there hours later, it is up to the family to come and collect the person. Bottom line, don’t get killed in China.
So we got into the concert fifteen minutes late but no one had started – like most things we see in China, this was quite chaotic and we just sat in the first empty seats we found instead of finding our actual seats which seemed to cause confusion around us. In China we have noticed, people talk all the time no matter the setting and as someone up front was introducing or saying something everyone around us just kept chatting like there was no one on the stage. The thing started at 4.35 and got off to a bit of a shaky start. At one point a child behind me, being restless and as bored as us, started kicking the seat in front of him, which was mine. I turned around and said ‘will you stop kicking my chair it is very annoying’ in nice clear English without realizing that these people probably had no idea what the words were but the content was obvious as the mother hit the kid and yelled a whole stream of foreign words at him. He didn’t kick my seat anymore.
We managed to slip out at intermission and decided to attend a movie, something we had not done in China. At the Cinema we found that the new movie (we think it is new) “Avengers” was playing. As we have gotten adapt with pointing and head nodding and shaking we saw it was in English and it was 3-D and we got free popcorn and soda all for 55 RMB (about $9) and it was starting right then and there. The theatre and large screen were better than what we had seen in NYC and the seats were large and comfortable. The last time we had been to a movie in Asia was in India and we walked out after half an hour because the movie was so stupid and violent.
We got a taxi home – I carry my business card with me that has our home in Chinese so we get around easily, and that was our day.
Last weekend we spent the weekend, two-nights, at the 5-star Kempinski Hotel in downtown Dalian overlooking Labor Park http://dalian.neuage.us/LaborPark.html. And previous to that we have been to Thailand for spring break and Beijing and just exploring here on the weekends. Maybe the next blog will be from a one-star motel in Alabama as we go off to see the real-America.