I'm back in Beijing!


Corrigendum: (29th September)

Instead of visiting Inner Mongolia for next week's holiday (see below), I am leaving China to go to Mongolia (Outer Mongolia) for a week! Looking forward to the thirty-hour "Trans-Mongolian Express" to Ulan Baatar and all that should follow (not sure what -- lots of nature and lots of meat, methinks)! My next news should tell all! The nightly biting has also ceased -- as the temperature begins to drop.

23rd September

It's 7 am on Saturday morning, cool (18 degrees centigrade?) and cloudy outside. I'm using a pretty speedy connection provided in this bedsit-turned-internet cafe, taking advantage of their cheap morning rate (around 45 pence an hour). My own living quarters are just upstairs: a comfortable main room, a small kitchen with gas rings and fridge (YAY!), and a bathroom. I shared with a lovely Thai woman for my first week back, as despite my having made a reservation back in June, no rooms were available! Bai Gong ("white palace" or "The White House") is really nice, and a very good deal, though still going through teething problems -- possible bed bugs (but luckily discovered the mattresses are still encased in plastic wrapping so they must be clean), rather leaky gas control tap, and initially no fridge. The best bit is having the kitchen, so that my self-catering is no longer limited to instant noodles. I haven't procured a bike yet, so am taking the building-provided minibus the mile and a bit down the road to the campus in the morning, and usually a public bus back in the evening -- though I have walked a few times too.

I've got back into studying very quickly (no choice really!) -- I attended the afternoon class (in a somewhat zombified state!) on the day I arrived, not wanting to miss any more. I was a few days late -- so cunningly avoided the placement exam!!! My class of ten is all women (by the way, check out the photo of my class last time, now viewable under "Beijing" in the Gallery), all in our twenties. Most are from Japan (I hadn't realised how relatively easy it is for English speakers to pronounce Chinese!), but there is also a Korean, and an Indonesian Chinese and a Thai Chinese woman. And me! I am turned to as a presumed fount of knowledge on all things Western. We have class every day from 8-12 and then 2-4 in the afternoon (two very good teachers). We are getting through a lesson in our text book a day, so learn about 45 new words every day, each with between 1 and 4 characters (though the number of new characters up till now has typically "only" been about 20 a day). I am having to use a lot of the time spent studying out of class learning how to write all those characters -- far less of a problem for the Japanese women -- and hoping that there will be some time in the future that I can use for reviewing all the grammar exercises, etc. -- and am concentrating all the time in class for MAXIMUM LEARNING EFFICIENCY!!!!!! So by 9.30 p.m. I am totally exhausted!

It's a bit strange to be back in CHINA, that most foreign of places, and for it to be familiar all the same. I have now bumped into or caught up with most of the people that I knew when I was here earlier in the spring. I'm eagerly looking forward to my supposedly coldest winter ever, as everyone keeps saying how cold and gloomy it is -- let's hope my box with warm jacket and sweaters arrives from the UK! (Though right now it is still warm, and last week was actually very hot, up to 35 degrees centigrade!). I feel renewed coming back after such a top summer, having spent time with my family (lovely new nephew!) and many of my close friends, so that I've got lots of new memories to relish --- two fabulous weddings, tents in the Peaks, big dinners in Italy (lots of food in general, actually -- so I am diligently back at the swimming pool!) I am just missing having seen the American crew!! Anyone wanting a short holiday? --consider Beijing -- a mere 12 hours by plane from London, Sydney, or anywhere else! And a free bed!

More interesting news from me in late October -- we have a week off starting next Sunday (1st), and I am planning to go to Inner Mongolia. But I need to start arranging it ASAP, as ALL of China is on holiday (rather like in May, when I ate the dog since having to travel by bus, and sprained a muscle in my back in a battle to get on a bus at Sun Yatsen's tomb). My passport is at the police right now, getting my visa extended till February, but should be back tomorrow so that I will be able to venture beyond the metropolis.... Late October should also be when photos from August with everybody in them, as well as miscellany from Iran to China, will be uploaded -- if Dad has time to do the scanning! (I still need to send him the photos....)

I hope you all like our new look on the website. Many hours were spent by Richard toiling during the summer, and hopefully by now we have fixed broken links etc. But keep me updated with emails and letters of your news! And I do have a phone in my room, so if you want the number, just let me know.

Lots of love


The tiles on on this journal page are from a ceiling inside the Tash Hauli Palace in Khiva, Uzbekistan. |Click here to view the original photo|