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Why?? Facebook came along... No need to keep updating the same stuff on two different places.

Friday, August 31, 2007

First teaching experiences

Foreign Expert @ Yunnan University, School of Economics

It finally happened... Last Wednesday I started my teaching "career". My first class was at Yangpu campus, a 40 minute bus ride from where I live. The topic of the class was "Theory and Practice of Multinational and was supposed to last for 3 hours (in China also known as 3x 45 minutes...). And they don't do what you call small classes here. 45 pair of eyes were staring at me, all wondering what that strange, tall foreigner was going to say. But I have to admit, everything went quite well :-) No unexpected things happened, I didn't make any embarrassing mistakes and I even liked it!

The Thursday was more of the same although this time I had to deal with senior (4th year bachelor) students and I could just cross the street to the main campus instead of bussing to Yangpu. Did my two classes (3 hours each) for the day and left again with a happy feeling! The pictures you see are from the main campus and this is definitely one of the more beautiful and quiet spots in Kunming!!

(the building on the bottom right is called "Huize Hall" and is the original main building of Yunnan University. Do I sense some Dutch influence in Kunming?!)

Today I had the same students as on Wednesday so at least I won't have to remember that many names... Again everything went without surprises, so I can conclude that my first week was a "success"!! :-)

Of course there are many differences between Chinese students and i.e. Dutch students and I will have to get used to them. The main difference is that they do not speak up when you ask questions even when they know the answer. I keep stressing that they will be graded on participation, but that doesn't seem to affect them. Hopefully they will become somewhat more reactive (or even proactive) after a couple of weeks.
They also had two tips for me: talk slower and write more clearly... Good to know!

Meester Ruud

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A plane, a lot of rain, but back "home"

It didn't go exactly as planned, but I'm back in Kunming!

Picking up the passport with my new Chinese Z-visum and catching the train to Guangzhou went without any problems at all. Taking the metro from one trainstation to the other, also flawless. Finding the ticket office to buy my train ticket to Kunming worked out well. BUT after standing in line for over an hour they kindly told me that all trains to Kunming were completely sold out for the next 2 days... Bummer! Since I absolutely did not feel like spending three nights in this huge, commercial city I decided to fly back.

Besides a short delay due to heavy rainfall the flight was alright and at around 22.30 I was back in Kunming. Short taxi ride home and a difficult discussion with the frontdesk lady I got the key to my (our) new apartment. We now have an apartment on the other side of the hotel where it is more quiet and people can't stare into your room from the adjacent buildings :-) So room 401 at the Yunda Binguan is where I (we) will live for the next 10 months.

("old" pictures of the Tiger Temple near Kanchanaburi)

The next days I spent getting all our stuff out of storage, unpacking and "decorating" the room. And of course a big part of my time is spent on preparing for classes that start next Wednesday. The schedule is pretty full since they put all my hours in 3 days. So Monday and Tuesday are off, Wednesday 14.30-17.20, Thursday 8.00-17.20, and Friday 8.00-12.00. Luckily I only have to go two days to Yangpu campus which is 45 minutes away by bus. The Thursday is on the campus I live next to, so at walking distance!

In the next post I will tell you all about meeting my students and my first "classes"! Tonight a BBQ from the NBSO and tomorrow Shoshannah will be back. Normal life can start... ;-)


Monday, August 20, 2007

Palawan and the Asian Las Vegas

Almost back home...

No more Philippines... After Moalboal (which is pretty boring, especially when you don't plan to dive) we went back to Cebu. Spend half a day there and didn't really like the place. Just another big city. The only nice thing we saw was an old Portuguese fortress. However, the next day we went to Palawan, the skinny, long island in the south west. Arrived in Puerta Princesa and transferred via a tricylce to the bus station right away where we took a Jeepney to go to Sabang, home of the longest, navigable underground river in the world.

Sabang itself is a miniature town with no electricity and just a few shops but it does have an absolutely stunning beach. Wide and white with fine sands even when you walk into the sea!! So we spend some time on the beach and in the sea and did a hike to the river. The river is on of the more beautiful things I have seen during this trip. Lots of stalagmites (and -tites of course ;-), swallows, bats and a ceiling that reaches over 60 meters at some places! More than worth going to!! And you have to admit that this picture looks so amazing it looks like it's fake...

When we left I found out just before the Jeepney took off that I left my cell phone in our bungalow... the driver was willing to wait for 10-15 minutes so I ran back to get it. But of course Murphy's Law works just as well in the Philippines and we had a bungalow on the complete opposite side of the beach as the Jeepney was waiting... So I had a great workout, running at noon on my flip-flops for 15 minutes! Whaaa!! But I made it and it just took a few liters of sweat and some heavy breathing ;-)
Besides that, the transfer to Manila went without problems (except for running into the biggest asshole Filipino in the world...) and after a rather sleepless night we got up at 5.00 to make our way to Clark Airport. It was a long and tiresome morning but at around 16.00 we finally arrived in Macau. Macau is a very cool place, it's the Las Vegas of Asia so it has some huge buildings (casino/hotel things...), but you can also still see the Portuguese influence in a lot of buildings. I even found a pair of Adidas running shoes in my size for less than 30 euro! The other nice thing is that Macau is very small, you can go almost everywhere on foot, so no need to figure out difficult bus schedules or something.

On Saturday afternoon Shos went to the Chinese border to catch a bus to Yangshuo and do a trip to some other places, while I took a ferry to Hong Kong to arrange my visa. And that is exactly what I did today :-) I can pick it up tomorrow morning, have a train at 10.32 to Guangzhou and hopefully there are still tickets for the 14.13 overnight train to Kunming. If so, than I will be back "home" on Wednesday afternoon!!!
Here in Hong Kong I am staying at the Ascension House, a guesthouse run by a Scandinavian Christian organization. I know that you all think: That so does NOT sound like something for Ruud! And you are right! But this place is great! Nice people, good beds, yummy food! And it is cheap to stay: for HK$ 125 you can sleep and get 3 meals a day! Try beating that in this expensive place :-) Probably some of the people working there will be in Kunming later this year so we might see each other again.

Pictures will follow asap, but this computer won't let me connect my camera for some reason! (updated on 22 Aug)

Ciao vanuit Hong Kong!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Beaching in the Phillies

Just a few of the many islands...
Here I am again! After all the rice terraces in the north we went straight down to Manilla where we had to catch a flight to Bacolod on Negros Island. Everything went well and in the afternoon of the 1st of August we moved directly from the "airport" to the bus station to catch a bus to Cadiz. Again no problems!! Got a room and the next morning we took the boat to Bantayan Island where we were planning to do some serious beach time. However... we both didn't like the island! It is to big to get the real island feeling and the beaches were far from extremely nice. That called for a quick decision and resulted in us leaving the next day and heading for Malaspascua Island. After a tiresome boat, tricycle, bus, boat trip we arrived at Malapascua and this was great! Nice small island, very friendly people, white beaches... just what we wanted.

Besides being on the beach and doing nothing I also went for three dives. Malapascua is known for the Thresher Sharkes and of course I wanted to see those! But no luck for me! Just a nice dive but no sharks. In the afternoon I did two more dives around Gato-Gato Island and those were very good. After 5 days we decided it was enough (and honestly we got a little bored because there is absolutely nothing to do besides doing nothing...). However the local kids were practising for some kind of festival and they had the best music and dance ever! Drums, trumpets and dancing kids, great way to spend an evening! And to share this experience with you I made you a movie (turn up the volume!!):

Yesterday we moved to Moalboal, a beach/divers town in the middle of the eastern side of Cebu Island. Going to look for the White beach this afternoon and I will tell you next time what we think of this place. Up to this point I am still a little unsure whether to recommend the Philippines as a destination to anyone. For divers there is no doubt that they should come here but for "normal" backpackers... I don't know. There isn't a lively backpackers scene as in Thailand or Laos but there are some beautiful sights here. The rice terraces in Luzon are beautiful, some of the beaches are great, but it just doesn't excite me as much as other places. The easy thing is that most people speak good to great English, so getting around is very easy!
Another "fun" thing here is that we are really getting into the Philippine way of living especially when we were on Malapascua. That means waking up at 6.00 and going to bed at 21.00-22.00... Strange, but there is so much noise outside that you just can't continue sleeping. On Saturday we have a flight to Puerta Princessa and that will be the last real destination for us in the Philippines. More on that in the next post!