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Friday, April 27, 2007

Almost Queens Day :-)

It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!!

To start with I'll tell you something funny:
Everyone seems to think that I moved to a huge city and in a way you are right. Kunming has 4.5 million inhabitants, which is approximately 5x the number of people in Holland's biggest city (Amsterdam) so most Dutch people would consider it a very big city. However size is a relative matter... Weert only has 49.000 inhabitants which equals to approx. 0.003% of the Dutch population. But since there are around 1.3 billion people in China, the relative size of Kunming is almost equal to that of Weert (using population as the variable). So, in fact the change for me isn't that big at all ;-) That sounds logical, doesn't it..?

The past few days I once again visited one of Collin's classes, checked out two gyms, went cycling again and got an invitation for a Queens Day party organized by the NBSO (Netherlands Business Support Organisation, Kunming) thanks to Marc. Really looking forward to that, because it is an ideal chance to get to know and start networking with some of the Dutch people that live here. Besides that I'm grateful I will still be able to celebrate Queens Day :-)
To get back to those gyms, I decided to "join" one that is in the building opposite my apartment building. It is old, simple, small and cheap. The other one is a much more fancy one with a sauna and a lot of classes you can attend. However getting there requires a bus ride and I know that that will be my most important argument for not going...

Sunday I will go to Dali with Shoshannah, Trish and four of her friends for a short holiday. Together we will visit Dali, Lijiang and trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge. I have been to these places during my previous trip as well, but it is one of the most beautiful areas of China, so I don't mind going back at all. Travelling for a week with five girls... let's hope I (and my eardrums) survive :-)

To all of you: Have a great Queens Day!!!
See you all next week!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cycling and having fun

Mexico vs. China...

Last Saturday I made my first cycling trip in China. I knew beforehand that is was not going to be easy finding good roads around here, but I must say that I was pretty successful! It took me about 10km to get out of the city traffic and found a nice, but very steep climb on the western side of Kunming. Of course I tried cycling up and I reached the top, but a combination of high altitude (around 2000m) and heavy gears caused me to get off my bike two times ;-) Nevertheless the top rewarded me with a magnificent view over entire Kunming! My first 33 Chinese kilometers are in the pocket!
Later that day we decided to make Mexican food (makes sense when you're in china, right..?!).

After a great diner and several Redheaded Mexicans (tequila shots) with Trish, Aaron, Shoshannah and three of their Chinese friends we went out for some real Chinese entertainment: KTV. Also known as: Karaoke... I have to admit that it was really funny, but it definitely is not something I want to do more than two times a year ;-)

You can listen to a recording of my magnificent voice, but I have to warn you: I CANNNOT SING!! Haha, enjoy the video!

On Sunday I didn't do anything spectacular, slept in, ate, watched some movies and that's it :-)

However, the next morning I joined Collin to one of the classes he's teaching (Collin's job is the one I would like to get next year...). The subject of the class was International Negotiations and I really enjoyed watching him teach. What he does is giving a kind of lecture, while actively involving his students at the same time. Felt like the system we used in Maastricht, with the difference that here they actually have a teacher and in Maastricht the students educated each other.
In the afternoon I went cycling again. Found a great road to the south and climbed the hill towards the Dragon Gate Temple (about 4.2km with a 300m rise in altitude). It was a great ride and everything went perfect until I got back into the city itself... I knew I had to go north and a little east, but it still took me about an hour to get back home! But well, another 60km could be added to my cycling total ;-)

About the weather... it is great! Feels like summer all the time. Sometimes there are some strong winds, but you can always walk around in shorts and a t-shirt! My two cycling trips already caused "sunburn lines" on my arms!

Nothing more to say at this moment!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Getting used to everything

Ni Hao!

After a few days in Kunming I'm starting to get used to the idea that I will be here for a long time. I try to make myself feel at home by exploring the streets, starting to learn some Chinese and doing things I would do back home as well. I bought a Chinese SIM-card, so I can call people and companies around here, put my bicycle back together and shopped for several items I still needed. There is one thing that is a lot worse than expected: Chinese are small! And so are their feet... The largest shoe size they sell is 44 and I'm a size 45/46 :-( So I can't find any sport shoes (except very ugly, huge basketball shoes) or normal shoes to fit my suits... It's going to be a challenge finding them!

Yesterday I got a call from Aaron, one of the Americans teaching here, that a Chinese company was looking for a white person to act as a spokes person for a perfume company. Of course I was interested, because why not get a job just because you are white... haha! Three people from that company picked me up in a huge Toyota and drove me to their company near the airport. Although one of them spoke a little English and acted as a translator, it was really hard to understand what it was that they exactly wanted me to do. After a tour of the company and lots of blah blah another person arrived that did speak "excellent" English. But even with his help my exact job description remained a little vague.
However this is what I think they want me to do: To be a representative of the company they do business with in France. To do that I have to sit in a glass office, pretending to be heavily involved in Research and Development on new perfumes and cosmetics, while Chinese tourists walk by and are impressed by this tall, white, "handsome" person that is working for this company so they will buy more products...GREAT Chinese business experience! Don't know yet whether I'm going to do it. First have to discuss the amount of time and the pay, but it sounds really "fun" to play a "white monkey"!! And at the moment I don't have anything else to do ;-)

Today I will make my first cycling trip. But that is going to be a challenge as well. There are no good maps of the area and traffic is, like in any other Chinese city, a disaster... Let's just hope I'll be able to remain on my bicycle ;-)
Besides the daily stuff, we are also planning the better parts of life: holidays!! The first week of May (National Holiday) we're going (back) to Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lijiang and Dali. For the summer we are planning to go to Laos and the Philippines! Lots of good thing to look forward to!!

Mensjes, dat was alles, de groeten maar weer!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back in China!!!

He's back!!!

The flight to Beijing went without any problems and I arrived as planned around 9.00. Grabbed my suitcase and bicyclebox (which arrived a little damaged, but the contents were still alright) and walked to the exit to enter China! And surprise, surprise... I even had a welcoming committee! Even though it was a single-person committee it didn't make me any less happy! Shoshannah was waiting for me and after several hugs and kisses we dropped my bike at a left luggage place and took a taxi to the center. The first day we walked around and after a trip around Hou Hai lake we decided to go for the HotPot place I loved so much when I was here last time! And it still exists!! Again only 20 kuai for all-you-can-eat-and-drink! Good food and lots of fun.

On Friday we did some shopping at one of the tourist malls. Lots of counterfeit stuff, but also some nice clothing, shoes, jewelry and anything else you can think of. We also changed hotels, because yesterday we came across this very nice, bright, well-located hotel called 7 Days Inn and I loved it from the start. Later that day it was time to do the thing I decided to do long before I got here: get a tattoo! We went to this really nice guy that did Shoshannahs tattoo as well last year. After some talking and showing him exactly what I wanted he copied the picture on some paper and then onto my arm. It took him a long time to prepare all his equipment and I did get pretty nervous. But seeing how he handled his stuff like he'd done it many times before made me feel more at ease. Then the actual hurting started... it feels like he's scraping into your arm with a very tiny and extremely sharp razor blade. It only hurts every once in a while, but in general I must say it wasn't bad at all!! The pictures below show the result!

She was supposed to get her tattoo redone after mine, but the tattoo guy insisted we had to have diner with him and his wife first and then he decided to watch a movie... at 23.00 we told him we would come back another day because it didn't look like he was planning to do her tattoo in the next hour or so... Chinese ;-) At night we had some drinks near the Worker's Stadium and went to bed slightly drunk :-)

On Saturday we made a trip to the Summer Palace. The weather was great and at moments like these the palace area looks incredible! After our trip we took a bus to a local noodle place and had some really good noodles. Later that night we again wanted to go out and have a party but it was kind of "dead" all around the lake... too bad, but we still had a nice night.

On Sunday we slept for a long time and then decided to go to the Forbidden City. Arrived around 15.00 both hungry, so we decided to get some noodles. While the noodles were being prepared I already got the entrance tickets and we sat down on a railing to eat the noodles and watch the Chinese do their thing. Had to go on a picture with a Chinese family (they just love white people...) and then wanted to go in. But... the big gate that serves as entry gate was closed! They stop allowing people in at 15.30 and guess what time it was... yes, 15.35 :-( At least that gave us a plan for Monday morning, back to the Forbidden City. So we went to the central shopping street of Beijing, looked around a little and again went back to the HotPot place :-) Lucky me!!

So on Monday we did the Forbidden city tour and got back at the hotel around 13.00. Got our bags, took a taxi to the airport, checked in, got on the plane and at 20.00 we were in my new home town: Kunming!! Again as taxi to the apartment, ordered some pizza and unpacked. Now that I'm "home", I can start doing everything that is needed to get a real life here. Look for a job, study Chinese and do everything possible to make me feel at home here, but I don't think that's going to be very difficult :-)

And you all know: you are always welcome!!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The last weekend!

The "end" is near... but so is a new beginning!

This week I started with putting aside all the things I want to take with me to China. After some rough measurements I was happy to conclude everything falls within the space and weight restrictions I have :-) On Thursday I packed started with the actual packing. My dad and I prepared my bike and were able to add three suits, three shirts and some other bicycle stuff in the big blue "KLM Bicycle Box". So the first 19.9 kg are packed!

The weekend consisted of nothing but small and bigger parties. On Friday out to diner with my parents and my sister and her boyfriend and after the diner we went out in Weert. Nothing special, but nevertheless it was the last time before I leave.
On Saturday Mark, Erwin, Yvonne, Thieu and I went to Holland Casino in Valkenburg with the idea of leaving the place as rich people. Those dreams didn't quite come true but we still had a great time. Thieu was allowed to go into some kind of whirlwind box where he had to collect as many cards as possible. Sensation all over the place, but he did win us a round of drinks and snacks on the house!After the casino we went into town and did some barhopping. Valkenburg is a fun little place to go out. Nothing spectacular, but exciting enough to have a good night out!

Yesterday it was time to say goodbye to my family and neighbours. My whole family was together, the weather was great and everyone was having a good time! We made lots of pictures so I have some physical things to remember them by and the night ended in a bunch of us being a bit drunk and others making fun of the things we did ;-) I had a great time and would like to thank all of you that were present!!! See you in... well... don't know exactly yet, but it will be at least a year and a half!

I must say that the last weeks were really great! Feels like I have done everything I could and wanted to make my goodbye as nice as possible! One thing couldn't be resolved and that is too bad... but that is not in my hands anymore even this ended well!!. So I am going to pack my last stuff and will leave for China on Wednesday afternoon!


Monday, April 02, 2007

Last full week...

Busy, busy, busy...

After a tough Monday night and a boring Tuesday, I treated myself to a brand new, great laptop as a "goodbye Holland" gift :-) Did some cycling and worked at the printing company, Manger Mangiare and at Parc. Also went clubbing in Utrecht once more (and got really, really wasted...) and went out in Weert with my sister. On Sunday I visited a birthday party and had diner with both my grandmothers and that is it...

Doesn't sound like a lot, but it didn't leave me a lot of time to spend on the preparation of my departure. This week I am really going to get all my stuff together and put it all in a separate room, so I can more easily check whether I've got everything I need or not.

Next weekend there are a bunch of goodbye parties :-) Really looking forward to those!
See you all soon!