Still in England


The last 3 weeks have been devoted to visa activities, investigating Mandarin courses, refining the itinerary, creating a 'finished' version of my CV for the first time ever, learning about Psions, and catching up with people in a rather manic fashion.

The visa front has been 'fun'. I have secured visas for Pakistan and for Syria, but for nowhere else yet, and it is likely that I won't get any of the others before leaving England. I have found out useful things such as that Australian passport holders in some instances can get a visa upon entry into the country (e.g., Jordan and Turkey), and in others, a visa is not required for short visits (e.g., Indonesia - at least that's the current position). The republics in central Asia, having staked their position in my mind and on the itinerary more firmly, proved to have rather enigmatic requirements. After several days of piecemeal enlightenment regarding the need for letters of invitation, the typical time taken to process applications, etc, someone in an office somewhere chose to tell me that it is not worth getting visas for Uzbekistan until within a month of arriving in the country. So all those visas can now wait till I get to Tehran, and I won't get the visa for Iran until I am in Turkey for the same reason. However, I had fun in Shepherd's Bush market last week buying a headscarf to use for photos for the visa for Iran - as well as to wear when I get there, of course - and being taught how to put it on properly so that my hair won't peek out.

The Beijing Language and Culture University (also known as BLCU, Beijing Yuyan Wenhua Daxue, and Yuyan Xueyuan) has surfaced as being the most handy and suitable place for a 3 month Chinese course in Beijing starting in April 2000 - not least because it was the only one I could find that actually meets those requirements! I have found out about lots of willing and friendly places for foreigners to study Mandarin in China. BLCU seems to be widely recommended, as I have heard good things both from people studying there right now and from other China-related contacts that I've dug out. So I've asked to be sent an application form which when filled in and sent back should result in a place on the course for next April and a confirmation form from the Ministry of Education in China which I will then be able to use in order to apply for a visa in order to be able to enter China as a student. Phew. Given the number of steps involved and the short time intervening before leaving England, I'll probably get that visa in Turkey, too. In the meantime, I've started to play some Mandarin language course cassettes that I ordered over the web. But I haven't got round to opening the accompanying text book yet. So I can be spotted repeating unfamiliar noises with a puzzled and concentrated expression while I drive along in my as-yet unmended and unsold car...

What have I learnt about Psions? Well, that they don't like water. Even just a few drops of heavy end of summer downpour through the open-ish pocket of a rainproof jacket.

Oh, and Richard and I have come to the opinion that 'Moccasin' is not the way forward as a background colour on the website - far too much like sick when viewed on some screens. So we are going to try something a little less intrusive and more groovy (white background, with blocks of colour). The next site update (with the final 'news' before the trip actually begins!) should reveal a new colour scheme, and in the meantime the background is banana-flesh yellow (which means that you can't really distinguish the Middle East from the sea on the map). You never know, maybe by then we will have worked out how to make our heading fonts follow the style sheet and how to tame Netscape browsers, too!

Keep visiting!


The tiles on the journal pages are from the Masjed-e-Pa-Minar, in Kerman, Iran. |Click here to view the original photo|