Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letter from Abroad

Xijiahui Church - about five minutes walk from our house; one of the only churches to survive the Cultural
Revolution. Note: there is no connection between the content of this posting and this picture. I only posted a picture because you probably more likely to read it with some sort of visual stimulation.

Recent Group email I sent to everyone. In case anyone didnt receive it, or if you felt like reading it again, here it is. Plus saves me having to explain myself again on this blog.

Family and Friends,
This email is long overdue. I have been meaning to send this for a few weeks now - I had even written a draft email, it was ready and rearing to go, I kid you not. However, in the nature of travelling, where plans change as fast as a McDonald's drive-thur, the draft I wrote soon became void, the information expired so to speak. And so here I am starting another one.
Since I last entered your inboxs, maybe about 3 months ago I believe, I have experienced my fair share of things ("things" is such a pathetic noun, but in this case, I think it adequately describes the complete randomness of my time here in Shanghai - drunken expeditions, cultural frustrations,and an array of amusing situations. Colloquialisms exist for a reason - just use them).

Anyway, to ensure that I do not continue to go on tangents as I tend to do when writing (read previous sentence) , I thought I would use bullet points to structure this letter; my attempt to clearly capture some of the key things (that was intentional) that have been going on. Also I was thinking of you, the reader: you want the news, the goss; not have to endure the painful task of reading my amateur attempts at creative writing.

I digress. Onto business.

Returned from Japan just over three weeks ago, where I spent two glorious weeks during the Chinese New Year holiday period. (How cultural of me.). I began the trip staying with my father and stepmother in Fukuoka, Japan - the capital of Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. Following that reunion, I headed down south to Kagoshima: my birthplace, home of the great Mt.Sakurajima, a town that, for me, permeates such a sense of rural friendless that it is almost tangible. My time in Kagoshima was pretty uneventful, but fun nevertheless: endless trips to the local onsen, hanging out with my uncle and grandma, catching up with distant family friends.
Although I lie, I did do a road trip to this town called Chirian, a quaint little place in the middle of nowhere, built in honour of Japan's fallen Kamikaze pilots. All the streets were lined with these small temples, commemorating each fallen pilot. Truly amazing - the Japanese war machine was really something back then. things have changed. After the intensity of Shanghai, Japan was a great pit stop - my quasi-spiritual home and birthplace- and I definitely arrived back in China rested and ready to tackle the "Middle Kingdom" again.

Shanghai, China
Trying to summarise one's cultural experience in a paragraph or two is by no means a easy feat, but I will give it a try. Firstly, let me start by saying this: Shanghai is truly an amazing place - Whore of China, Paris of East, the list of allegories that have been used to describe this place could take up this whole email. By day, Shanghai's 40,000 taxis weave its roads; by night, the skyline transforms into something out of Gotham city - you have to blink twice to make sure that no, you weren't accidently transported into Stan Lee's apocalyptic universe. It's an awesome city (other than the pollution), and I would recommend visiting it if you ever get a chance.

On a personal level, everything is going pretty smoothly. My weekends, for better or worse, tend to revolve around "extra-curricular activities" with the two lads I am here with. Our Ayi (maid) arrives promptly every Sunday to clean up our mess, do our laundry, and engage in other domestic duties that we are too lazy to do. The cost: a mere eight Australian dollars a week. (Apparently, we are paying her too much.). We have befriended a good bunch of people, and with it, social activities plenty. Although the initial euphoria of arriving somewhere new has long since dissipated, it certainly is a great life here.

And the teaching job. Well, how should put this? There are some things that are driven by financial incentives, economics at its purest form...this is certainly one of them. If any of my friends back home were to see me in action, singing Mary had a Little Lamb to a bunch of three year olds who have no idea what you are on about, I would probably be mocked for the rest of my young adulthood. The teaching is pretty tiring (up at 6am, back at 5pm) and I am not really enjoying it. Not so much because of the teaching itself, but of the routine I have found myself in: waking up early, living for the elusive "Weekend", that sort of thing. This is not why I wanted to travel, or so I have been thinking as of late.

Trip Update:
Which brings me finally to the third, and perhaps most important, aspect of this email: updating everyone on my travel plans. In light of teaching job (which I hate), I have decided to quit and begin my travels much earlier than I planned.

The three of us (Sloan, Turks and I) originally planned to undertaking the great Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow in June. Unfortunately, since that cost too much, we had to scrap it. Sloan decided to move to Spain to be with his girlfriend, which left Turks and I. After much discussion, we decided that we would leave Shanghai in June - explore China for a month, head across to Tibet, before heading down into Nepal and India, with the goal of arriving in Europe around the end of August/start of September.
However, since I have had enough of English teaching, our plans have changed once again. Turks is off to explore South East Asia. And me, well, I am off to Mongolia in about three weeks. I am going to head up to Beijing, before hopping on the Trans-Mongolian railway to Ulaatar Bator. I am planning on staying in Mongolia for about 3/4 weeks before heading back into China, where I will meet up with Turks in the South. From there, we will continue our original plan: Southern China, Tibet, Nepal, India, and from there, Europe. To be honest, I am a bit nervous about travelling alone, but it will be a challenge, an experience to remember I hope.
Bring it on, I say!!

Anyway, I hope you are all well and enjoying yourselves. Please drop me a buzz - I would love to hear how you are all doing....hearing from family and friends keeps me sane.
Take care and stay safe,

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