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Hai Longs Blog
Aka Stu Evans
34, Australian
Teaching the minds
and hearts of Central Asia.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Hai Long returns to Blogdom!!

It's been a long time away from the lair.... but something must have happened in the offices of power to reverse the ban on Blogdrives in China.... I'M BACK AND READY TO BLOG TO MY HEARTS CONTENT!!
This is a short message to check that my excitement is not premature...... never really been a problem before, but that's another story most probably don't want to hear..... Also to say to y'all.... Keep an eye out for my blog notifications and stay in touch through the comments and chat functions. I'll check it all daily and I think it's better than me group emailing people and filling their In Box with messages. This way those people that want to keep in touch can and those that don't, won't.... that's fine too.
I won't try to write about the last eight months.... too much has happened since Tianchi and Home and Broken Hearted entries were posted. But the future holds many uncertainties and interesting times ahead. I'll be travelling to Shanghai sometime in April, sneeking in a holiday hopefully with another friend from Australia and also the daily events of life in a remote Chinese outpost that holds its own fascinations. All in all, I hope to hold your interest, entertain and share a little of my life... the trials, triumphs and passion for what I'm experiencing.
It's all wonderful out there..... we just gotta dare to BE! So come on back from time to time and check out the Lair of Hai Long's China.... Until then....

Man zuo a

Posted at 08:43 pm by HaiLonginChina
Comments (1)

Thursday, May 13, 2004
At home and broken hearted

Returned from Tianchi to the news that Geoffrey... the jolly.... great mass of a man that we have all shared more than a few laughs with over a Baijio...... had to up and go hastily to deal with a family emergency in Australia..... Sad to see him go.... A great guy!

I know that he will cross paths with Hai Long again someday.

Man zuo Geoffrey!

Now going through the post holiday blues....

Thank god for the music my sister sent me for my birthday.... and for my new.... very flash... full suspension mountian bike. Sometimes it's the little things that are comforting.... Many of you will not understand the relationship I have with my bikes (it is a friendship).

This week I have been missing my neice. It was her 2nd birthday.... she's growing up so fast! Thanks to Lisa and David for sending me some photos of her celebration and also for the ones of her in the outfit I sent her. It was a Qing Dynasty costume in a beautiful blue satin with bright embroidery and gold trimming. It's way too big at the moment, but it won't be too long she'll fit it.

Congratulations to Rob too. After a couple of months of uncertainty over his future at EF Karamay, he has finally been offered another contract to see out the year. This was only after a lot of quite unfair treatment and arguing his case regarding the difference of teaching styles between him and our acting DOS. It has been a source of some tension here and I can't help but think it was handled very poorly over a long time. Double standards and mixed messages abounded.... convenient memories were exercised..... alot of trouble was caused for all parties concerned quite unnecessarily.

But in the end its all ok. We are meant to be getting a DOS by the end of the month. Long overdue! We also have another Aussie teacher coming.... once the Uni stops trying to saboutage our business by witholding assistance at getting work permits and residency visa's. They have a vested interest in our school going under.

Some Chinese business men have absolutely no integrity.... they are liars, cheats and back stabbers. The Chinese women on the other hand seem to be the upholders of the good values of honesty, rationality and integrity. I have very little trust or respect for the Chinese Businessmen  I have met to date. I have a good working relationship with my boss (the owner of our school). He has only been hospitable and accommodating to me so far, however, I see the way he talks to his other staff and this raises my awareness.

But life is like that... every forest has its wolves and its rabbits and its wise old bears, mountian lions and slow dopey mooses. I want to be the eagle that sees it all but is not effected by it.... only choosing to swoop when its good and ready to.

I'm off to fly....

Zaijian

Posted at 08:42 pm by HaiLonginChina
Comments (2)

Heaven for Hai Long

May 10th 2004

Last week I went to Tianchi.... Otherwise known as Heaven Lake.... and as I discovered, it is named this for a very good reason.

I went with 2 of my colleagues (Pia and Chris) both Canadians; and some of my students and friends.

Tianchi is a majestic place.... Towering peaks capped in a permanent snowy icing against a turqoise blue lake.... Green meadows that seem to hold on, precariously perched on steep craggy outcrops then cascading down amongst pine forests, occasionally showing their yellow flowered brilliance before disappearing under a blanket of snow in a pocket of shade.

I sat for ages and just soaked up the wonder of the area. I was in love with the trip! I was also in love with the romantic notion that one day I would return there for a long stay and get away into the backcountry.

But mostly I think ..... Renae. I got to share my tent with Renae and in so doing we shared more than floor space..... No Paul, not like that!.... We both observed each other sleeping.... you learn alot about someone by the way they sleep.... both looked out for each others gear, helped each other cook, washed each other and spent time caring for each other. We talked about many things and taught each other simple things like knot tying and damper cooking.

And now I have to appreciate that it is not the time for any further development of that relationship... for she is married..... We have had a wondeful and innocently romantic holiday together with 7 other people. We have an undeniable chemistry that is obvious to everybody around us and yet strangely mysterious to both of us. One thing is very clear... I love spending time with her, just talking and learning about her culture, her ways.... her gentle calmness is refreshingand her grace has a great effect on me.

We camped at the tourist end of the Lake on the first night afer a steep hike uphill for a few hours. The lake is at 1910m above sea level. We had a cold first night. Arkin and the boys got up at 3am and went for a run to try to warm up. I don't think it worked very well. My water froze in the tube of my "camelback". In the morning I awoke to a glorious sunrise and climbed a nearby hill to do my morning routine of Stuyoga.... my own adapted exercises to get me moving in the morning. 
 
I was looking out over the lake towards the snow capped peaks that tower above 4400m, the sun having just risen enough to hit the high snow and light it up. It was bloody magnificent.....


And then the tourist hoardes arrived and we made a quick getaway. The Chinese don't seem to know how to have peace in a tourist area. They are horn happy, dirty litterbugs that swarm around clicking madly away for ten minutes then jump back on board the bus and whizz off somewhere else to destroy the serenity. No different really to most tourists, just seem to have a little less style and no clue about personal space.... that's very much a cultural thingy!

We walked around the lake to the other end, along the way meeting a Kazakh horseman and his wife.... and some other walkers in suit jackets and leather dress shoes.... they are a crack up!

At the other end of the lake Renae and I scouted out for a good campsite. Everybody was feeling a bit ordinary... tired from walking all day with very heavy packs (some of them had three bags... it looked more like school camp or moving house!). We found a beautifully sheltered spot, with a bloody great view straight up the valley to the high peaks, beside the river bed.

This was to be our home for the next few days.... I decided... and we would do day walks from there. It was the best option given that we were here for fun and not an endurance event. I had a group of inexperienced walkers that had never been in the mountians before... and I wanted them to love it!

After 7 days I say it was a complete success! They all loved it! Even Farouk.... who asked to go home early.... He is a young Muslim boy of 15 and he'd never been away from his mothers home for more than a night.... for him the concept of cooking on an open fire and eating handmade bread off a stick that was lying on the ground a few minutes before, was unheard of. If there is one thing the Uyghur Muslim people are aware of it is hygeine. They are painfully clean! We got him on his way a day earlier than the rest of us, meeting him in Urumqi when we returned. He said he didn't think he was enjoying it until he returned to the city and he wanted to be back in the mountians....

Another successful mission at increasing peoples self awareness and that of the environment!

I said I wanted to make a difference in the world.... I feel I have with seven people.... Pia and Chris are already well aware of the mountains as they are from Calgary. It was especially rewarding to see them all a few days after returning... They could barely conceal their excitement still!

Kind of gives you a warm fuzzy feeling deep down in the cockles of your heart.... maybe even deeper in the sub cockle area..... I don't know;)

Come on back soon and I'll have a photo or two added to this website. Put a face to the names, and see Tianchi for yourself..... we have the technology!

Man zuo a


Posted at 08:05 pm by HaiLonginChina
Comments (1)

Dragon mates

OK... So I don't know how that last entry became white.... but not to worry.... It's there... so I'm not complaining!

Thought I'd share a little of my life with you.... some of you may think that I've done a lot of drinking alcohol while I've been here. It's true... I've consumed more alcohol in 6 months in China than I have in probably 3 years in Sydney.... most of it Baijio.... all of it horrible. But even then it's been maybe three drinking sessions in as many months. Such is the custom over here. You get invited out by many people and they all love to drink the evil juice.

I'm now suitably NOT new on the block... So I am now exercising my right to not go within a five block radius of the Devils Nectar. I enjoy a beer maybe once a fortnight if I'm lucky! I'm back to swimming, cycling, running.... the usual activities, in a more interesting environment than I have been for years.

So, NO MORE DRINKING TALES!

I've met some wonderful people here in Karamay since October 2003. I'll introduce you to some of them.

Arkin: Arkin is a Uyghur man, 27. If I've sent you some photos recently of my trip to the mountains he is the strong guy with the white t-shirt. He is a Prosecutor.... or should I say.... was a Prosecutor up until last Tuesday, when he quit his job to follow his dream of studying English in Shanghai. We change jobs all the time.... nothing new for us..... but in China, many people get a job through their university  and there they stay. They are often in long contracts and have to pay a hefty fine if they break that.

Arkin is one of the most respected Uyghur men in this city. He is a great personality... strong willed, calm, honest and very funny. He'll argue you around in circles if he gets the chance... the whole time with a wry smile on his face to let you know there's plenty more ways he could mess with your mind if he wanted.... but at the same time letting you know he's not going to make you lose face or feel embarrassed. He is a thorough gentleman to the ladies.... and seems entirely unaware of how they swoon over him. If there was to be a champion for the Uyghur people.... many would choose Arkin.

He has just had a break through.... A Canadian-Chinese joint mining venture has just employed him. This is a pioneering move for a Uyhgur man to be employed by a non Chinese company. He was also lucky that his employer let him break contract without penalty. In a word... it's Brilliant for Arkin!!

Renae:  We hold an English Corner at the local KFC once a week. There I met a very elegant, graceful and calm woman that had a beautiful energy about her. After several weeks of talking with her she asked me to give her an English name. I named her Renae.... don't know why.... just like the name.

Renae and I have a strange chemistry I don't fully understand. I am very affected by her. I admire her courage and commitment to her work. She has been a teacher of deaf children for the one school for 15 years, in a country that is still very much in the "dark ages" when it comes to providing services for anybody with special needs. She gets almost no pay, her school is in a bad state of repair and yet she keeps the children as happy as can be. She teaches signing, Chinese and English and I think embodies all the positive attributes of a teacher.

See my entry "Classical Serenity" for more.

Pat and Chris: My two crazy Canadian neighbours! These guys are great fun and intelligent guys to have a conversation with. Pat can mix it well. I love having a deep chat with him about life and then we both interject some irreverence to lighten it all up and make a nice end to it all.
Chris is a little more reserved on the surface, but that's only a smoke screen to allow him to get away with more while your working him out.

Krystal: Somewhere along the line my family thought I was seeing Krystal. Well I am... everyday... I work with her. Actually Rob is seeing Krystal and they make a good couple, for she is outgoing where he is slightly reserved and he is..... Well he just is.... They're good together!
She's slightly crazy outside of work.... Her nickname is Monkey or Beerbucket... depends how flattering I want to be! But she's smart, funny and has been a real saviour to many of the foreign teachers, myself included. She helps everyone to find their feet in China. A big thankyou lao shi!

That'll do it for now I think..... More as parts of stories.... a little each time.

Posted at 07:04 pm by HaiLonginChina
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One out, One in: Seems to be the Karamay thing

It's been a long time coming and I hope this one works. I've been flaming mad and firey tempered with these computers and the Blogdrive system..... a while back I lost seven entries in a row..... the damned computer kept blanking out every time I hit the Publish button. Now I hope we have it all sorted!!!!

Good to have you back to the Lair!

I've got a few months to catch up on....

Not all at once though...

February 12th... Celebrations in the Lair.... Hai Long turned 34... I was treated to a surprise cake and pyrotechnic candle midway through my class. After class it was off to a nearby Uyghur Restaurant for some food and first time Uyghur dancing. The whole premise of Uyghur dancing is for the man to claim his area on the dance floor with a lot of chest beating, slapping and gesturing with arms outstretched.

A little food and dancing with 20 of my closest friends....(Who were those people?) and it was time to go join another table for some of the other great male bonding behaviours.... Baijio....

I have no sympathy for myself, nor do I expect any from anybody else.... I just proved that night that I was a slow learner. As if my time in Illi had not been lesson enough.... I must have felt lacking fire and in need of a refuel.... for we consumed the dreaded nectar of the devil in copious amounts.

Rob was the first to crack. A little redecorating of the flooring and then off to make a new friend in the bathroom for a few hours. I went to see if he was alright and only remember hugging Geofrreys water cooler because it was the heaviest, most stable thing I could find. I had a dragons eye view of the living room in time to see Geoffrey fall off the lounge and smash the bottle everywhere, then involuntarily lie down in the broken glass... I think it's some strange Queensland Accupuncture Ritual.

It was about then I decided I needed to go and help him.... I don't know why... I hadn't even made it to Rob yet.... and that was an hour before.... but I dragged my Dragon ass off the chair next to the water cooler and stumbled across the room toward the middle image of Geoffrey. I missed....

Next thing I remember I was standing with my head resting on the front door of my apartment.... attempting to place a a four pronged key into an X shaped lock! I can't even do this door when I'm sober.... But I must have had someone watching over me. I got it first go.... opened the door and then repainted.

Always considerate... I then proceeded to clean up. At some point.... I really don't have a clue when... I went back downstairs to see if Geoffrey and Rob were actually still breathing.... Oh boy.... Where's that water cooler?!

Time Passes in a vacuous stare of inebriation....

I think I must have clicked my heals together and said "I just wanna be home in Kansas...".... for the next thing I recall was walking out of my bathroom and thinking "How the hell did I get here?"

I'm not proud of it.... I'm not ashamed.... I don't think it's funny to do that to yourself.... But it has been the source of many funny stories and questions...

How did we get home from the restaurant? How did we get two extra bottles of Baijio? How the hell did I negotiate the lock? If a glass breaks and nobody is sober enough to remember it... did it really happen? How did Pia's doormat get so wet?....

These are the mysteries of my long memorable for being unmemorable  birthday. 

Posted at 05:20 pm by HaiLonginChina
Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Illiwhacked

I worked like a Dragon over the Winter Intensive period..... That's the time when the school kids are on vacation from their "Labour Camp" styled schools and actually get to be kids..... if their parents don't send them to English School, that is. Fortunately for our school some parents decided that it was best that they don't let their little Johnny or Mary or Chen or Li, have a rest from the daily grind of study..... and they sent their kids to EF for a daily dose of the good word.... English! Oh and quite a few doses of the word QUIET!! and STOP!!!


I'm not going to drone on about work. It was long hours and fun!


In the middle of it all Rob, Krystal and I made a mad dash for the valley of Illi.... Krystals home town and a reunification of family after a years absence. It was a 14 hour overnight bus ride. I've done my share of them in Australia, in varying states of discomfort.... sitting up for 14 hours is not what the spine was designed for. This trip was different! Gravity was taken out of the equation..... it was a sleeper bus.... very comfortable (if a little short).


We arrived in the morning of Chinese New Years Eve. Krystals family live about half an hours drive out of Yining City, a few kilometres from the imaginatively named Yining Town. I don't know for sure the name of the village.... but on the formula presented I'd suggest Yining Village No.1. OK, I'm going to take my tongue out of my cheek!

It was great to see the energy and enthusiasm that Krystal had to meet her family. She is a live wire! As soon as the Taxi pulled up, she leapt out and wrapped herself around her Father.... who actually looked quite perplexed. Strong displays of emotion in public are not the norm.... I think Krystal likes to fly in the face of convention for some things..... certainly not others..... I'll touch on that nerve in future blogs.

We spent the days in Illi relaxing and meeting her Uncles. It was quite easy to remember their names, as they are affectionately known as Uncle No1, Uncle No2 etc, etc.... I think you get the drift! Uncle No1 was outstanding! Picture a tall man, quite wiry in stature, but strong looking. He was always smiling and cheerful..... he wore a jaunty little driving cap.... had weather beaten, tan skin and NO FRONT TEETH!!!

He is a classic Chinese Mr McGillicuddy! He kept telling Rob...."England tries to bully China.... Soon we will be able to bully them back!".... A comforting bit of food for thought for those in power of Muvva Engwand...... 1.4 billion people pissed off at you is not a pretty thought!

I was a little concerned at what he knew of Australia's late start in the self righteousness business. He turned to me and smiled...."Audalia rides on the sheeps back!" Phew I got off lightly!! Then he pulled out a bottle of the Evil White Nectar and poured three shots.

Gamb¨¦! (Bottoms up!) Then another....and another.....schtill anoza..... Oh gosh um feewing jusha widda dwunk!!!


It got a whole lot worse from that point forward for five days. The Chinese are great hosts. You are never wanting of anything as their guest. Unfortunately this hospitality is matched by their tradition of drinking Baijiu...... it is considered rude to knock back the first three offers of the stuff. At 11am that is all it takes me to be completely stonkered..... A fine mist descended over the room in my mind! I slipped into the Baijiu Vacuous Stare of Inebriation I am now famous for. It is the monitoring signal to say "No more for Stu!!!!"


At some inebriated point in the afternoon, Uncles horse bolted, somehow getting from its confine out passed our window and through the gate to the street. I thought this might have represented a slight problem for Uncle No1, but he approached it in his usual comic way...... "In China, good luck comes when the horse runs away!"..... and off he trotted down the street to recover it. I stupidly followed..... considerably looser in my foot placement..... and managed to slip flat on my back on the ice at the base of the stairs...... gave my head a damn good whack!!!!..... didn't feel a thing!!


After the ringing left my ears, Rob and I indulged in some "zinger berries". Now I have no idea what their real name is.... but they use them in cooking. They are like a lemon peppercorn to look at.... taste mildly like that too..... and have a strange ability to feel like you've connected a 9 Volt battery to the tip of your tongue. They make your entire mouth numb, your taste buds salivate overtime and your tongue tingle with electricity. I hate the burn of chilli, but I love the sensation of what I've nicknamed "Zinger Berries".


The rest of the time in Illi, we loped around, reading, going for walks and drinking more Baijiu with visitors than was healthy. On the third day I got the China Belly!


I'd gone for three months without needing to use a squat loo. For those of you not familiar with Chinese bathroom facilities..... well, let's just say the Chinese don't DO bathrooms well..... The squat is at best a porcelain lined hole in the floor with a flusher unit, somewhat similar to a toilet as you know it.... just not raised and you definitely don't sit on it. At worst it is two planks, precariously perched in the dark over a hole in the ground full of...... well you get the picture! In the courtyard home of Krystals family.... it was the latter description to contend with!


At 3:20am I felt the rumbles of China Belly erupting. It wasn't going to be pretty!
It was well below zero outside.... I felt ill.... Off balance.... we've all been there at some time when travelling!
I'll write only one word so that nothing is lost in translation....

EXPLOSIVE!!!

It was about then that I wanted to go home to Karamay and the comforts of the apartment. I've been more comfortable in the Aussie bush. But I felt crook.... and didn't want to cause a fuss..... I endured the next few days. Really just sat around reading, going for the odd walk... observing the village life of the Hui People (Muslim Chinese).

I've lost this damn entry so many times it's all out of order! I should probably mention very briefly, that we were there for the Chinese New Year Celebrations. It was subdued fun in the small village.... but they love their fireworks!!!

Krystals brothers were chomping at the bit to let off the big momma that Rob had bought that day. Even her father, usually a serious man, was swept up in the excitement. We stood with our hands raised high to the night sky and let off Wizard Wands... Pretending we were casting magic spells as our sticks shot fire into the heavens. It was cool!!!

I also showed how different things are here in China for me.... Out of about 500 Jiao Zi (dumplings) I got two out of three lucky coins..... Sad ass Rob who needs to get out more, worked the odds of this occurring again as 17000:1.

I couldn't care to challenge the maths. All I know is China is a lucky place for me, so far.

We jumped the bus back to Karamay. Another overnight trip through the mountains.... rough... but comfortable! I listened to my CD Walkman all the way and slumbered to classical music and The Boss. Back to the grindstone of Winter Intensive....

Thankfully the Dragon's out of Steam now....

Drop by the Lair again soon....

Posted at 07:05 pm by HaiLonginChina
Comments (2)

Thursday, February 26, 2004
Classical Serenity

It's been a long time away from the Lair....

Computer problems and being very busy have meant no entries on life in China..... no warped, verbose stories about bad music or observations of the people I've been meeting. I miss writing about it and sharing it with those of you that are interested.
Well.... an update of things that have occurred in the last month and a bit.

Following the mess that was so verbosely portrayed in the Kazakh Koncert Kapers entry, I was approaching another concert request with fear and apprehension. However this proved to be unfounded as it was Classical Music from an internationally renowned Pianist and his Mother that was an accomplished Violinist. I decided to treat some of my adult class to the concert, as they had been so generous to me over the time I was teaching them and I knew many of them enjoyed classical music. So I bought tickets for Lucy and her daughter; Lou and his wife, who is very pregnant; Rose; and Renae, who is a teacher of deaf children here in Karamay.

The day of the concert was a very busy one for me and I had thoughts of pulling out at the last minute. I'm glad I didn't listen to that part of my mind.... the part that withdraws from those around me from time to time..... I went to the concert with my class, some of my workmates and friends. We couldn't all sit together which at first seemed a disappointing thing to me. Rob and Krystal sat with most of the others, such as Pia, Lucy and her daughter, Lou and his wife and Rose. I'm glad I wasn't there with them. Rose arrived 15 minutes late and then proceeded to answer her mobile phone continually throughout the night. To any of you that know me well, you'd know what my response would be..... broken glass, cracked circuit boards and alot of steam.... most of it coming from my ears! Yes, I'm a little intolerant of the things.... especially at a concert!

In her defence, in retrospect there was a good reason for her to be receiving calls. She was late to the concert because she was at her Fathers wedding. She left it to come to the concert and was hoping she would not be missed for two hours. (Kazakh weddings go for ages). She couldn't explain to me on the phone that she had the wedding to attend, so she did the skip out trying to satisfy everyone. I felt so guilty about getting angry..... my first lesson presented to me.

The performance was by Li Jian on Piano and his Mother, Yu Li Na, playing the Violin. Yu Li Na has been teaching music in China for 45 years, which gives you an indication of her age. The atmosphere was very different to the Kazakh concert of the previous week. There was an aire of sophistication and calm anticipation. I sat next to Renae, separated from the others we had come with. Let me explain something..... mmmm...... this is real for me..... not just writing.

It was a great privilige to sit beside a woman of such refined elegance and beauty for this experience. I sat for a large part of the time with my eyes closed, feeling the music flow through me and in a state of blissful calm as only classical music can induce. Apparently the power failed for a few minutes during this time, but I was unaware.... lost in the journey of the Yellow River as the music swept me along. Then something told me to open my eyes.

I turned my head to see Renae in a soft lit profile. Her eyes were gently closed, her eyelids fluttering lightly as her mind too, was being swept along with the flow of the music. She had such a serene ambience about her. A light smile crept onto her lips and she exhaled any remnants of stress she was harbouring. I sat for what seemed like hours, just observing her elegant beauty.

The music softened and her eyes opened slowly. She peered to her left and I met her gaze. She smiled at me, touched my hand and then averted her eyes to the stage. It was a perfect moment..... seered in my minds eye and unable to be communicated adequately to anyone else. Just two people sharing a passion for something..... sharing something beautiful.

I stepped outside after the ovations were done. I wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep..... No post mortems of the show..... no idle conversation or fussing about where to go. I wanted to continue the escapism. I saw Renae onto transport home.

Posted at 10:13 pm by HaiLonginChina
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Tuesday, February 03, 2004
I can nearly see St George!

My first Blog for ages....

I'm nearly at the end of the Winter Intensive and feeling pretty tired actually. Thank goodness we had a week off in the middle to recharge or I think I'd be run down and sick by now.

This is just a short Blog to say watch this space in the next week for an update of life in Provincial China.

If you're wondering what the heck the title of this Blog is about, then you really don't know my mind and the way it works...... I'm finding that compared to many people I meet, my mind works in a warped and complex way! No wonder it takes me so long to work out how I feel about things! I should be named "So Long" instead of Hai Long!

Anyway, I'll help y'all out some... Hai Long is a Dragon..... St George was a revered Dragon Slayer..... to be slain is to meet ones end..... and the Winter Intensive is almost over.... so I can nearly see the end!

Yeah! I gotta get out more!!

See you real soon.

Zai jian

Hai Long

Posted at 01:51 pm by HaiLonginChina
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Monday, January 12, 2004
Kazakh Koncert Kapers

A dose of larrikin local Kazakh comedy was sampled by two befuddled foreign looking lads in the company of a luscious local lady last night at the Karamay Koncert Hall. It was a spectacular to behold with a mixed programme of guitar, D¨¹mbra, stand up and two hep dudes in very bad suits...... oh and the dead fox accessorising the day-glo orange suit was a personal favourite!

The lads (who shall henceforth remain anonymous for their own credibility's sake) assimilated into the thousand strong crowd as oil does to water. It was unclear at one point if the acts were on stage or sitting in the tenth row, two seats apart. The comedic Host made a few one liners that were pitched at a height too lofty for our blonde headed comrades.... the humour being swiftly lost over their heads, laughter abounding around them. Nervously, they joined in, an uncomfortably wry smile appearing on their faces. Onwards the programme marched towards much hilarity and applause.

A linguistic tongue twister of an introduction over and on strolled the first Maestro and his "Axe". He was a lanky bean-pole of a man with annoying hair falling across his face so that he had to perpetually do the Decor¨¦ toss-of-the-head.... an endearing trait for the first two minutes. Wait a minute..... this guy had some talent on Guitar. If this reporter could translate directly (and he can't!), he'd describe accounts of Hendrix-esque ability grinding that axe..... making it cry and sing..... chug and whinny in all manner of Bluesy interpretation. Alas, this reporter is not that man..... the account is of good guitar skills and poor lip synching. There is, however, a flowery lining to every slivery tale..... at the silencing of that axe grinders every song a gaggle of game youngsters would run onto the stage at the prompting of parents too embarrassed to do it themselves, delivering a bouquet of roses, carnations and other floral forays. Very quaint...... the lads went "Ahhhh" and "Ohhh so cute!" on cue as they felt compelled to do...... by the twentieth repeat it was a bit more like "Ahhh... just get on with it wouldja!!!"

They cowered down into their seats trying to create some cushioning over their ischiums to allow the enduring of at least four more acts. The Maestro finished his very public Axe sharpening and retired to the wings, a florists livelihood remaining on stage ungraciously. Never fear for the laughter returned for a few witty assessments of Kazakh life-in-the-boonies. Damn.... missed that one as well!

Now we must take a moment to explain the D¨¹mbra (apologies for the spelling of a word that appears in no Microsoft thesaurus... just accept that somethings are!). Imagine, if you will, a thin wooden pear shaped instrument with a fret like the much adored classic guitar...... then rip a few strings from it so that a mere two remain, alllowing for a somewhat limited musical range resembling that of plucking a cats eyebrows with chopsticks...... you have the picture and sound of the D¨¹mbra. Ah.... yes... this is a rather unfair account of a musical experience that many hundreds of Kazakh children heard without any ill effects, leaving the only conclusion being that it is an acquired taste..... as is Baijio..... and its other accepted name is "Liquid Lobotomy".... so it is a game Hunter that goes after that beast voluntarily..... Likewise the Dumbra!

Thirty two minutes of twanging Dumbra.... much grinding of teeth and the buxom singer had a strong voice.... along with some other unusual clicking noises, snorts and bellows. A pained applause followed.

The moment had arrived! A hush descended over the crowd...... or was it veiled fear of what was to come.... nobody could say for sure. Then it happened.... You saw the glow appear first. It started faintly at first.... like on coming headlights on a country road. Then more intense until a flash of orange emerged from the velvet green drapes. They had arrived!

Exactly who "They" were was a mystery to our two intrepid larrikin lads.... but who ever they were it was apparent by the number of sunglasses in the audience that they had arrived. That was the brightest part of the performance. From there it descended into audio mayhem and floral genocide..... It never dawned that so much could be owed by so few, to so many, after such a short time of doing nothing much with very little!

The best that could be written was that it was like watching two very portly lads, that have imbibed copious quantities of the amber nectar, put on a performance well above their inherent ability whilst under that wonderful illusion of greatness that the amber stuff allows. A pained laughter eminated from the central two seats in the tenth row.... luckily drowned by the clapping, jeering and rarified cheering surrounding them. Disbelief filled the air in a small pocket of the auditorium..... Something was rife in the state of Denmark!

The night was seemingly drawing to an unnaturally painful conclusion when a smartly suited comedic terrorist ran onstage... hijacked the microphone and held the auditorium to ransom for another dose of the prior acts. It was a blatant act of imprisonment for our two lads were out on a school night and it was fastly approaching bed time with supper and cookies. They gazed at each other with contempt on their faces.... for they were pinned in by narrow seating and a few too many Rubenesque Kazakhs between them and the smell of freedom in the aisles. They hunkered down, put a piece of wood in their teeth and bit down hard for the next hour and a half.

The suits didn't improve... although the taxidermic accessories didn't make a second season appearance on the broad catwalk. The flowers kept-a-pilin' and the world grew a lesser place for it..... And then it was over! The effect was like slowly coming out of anaesthetic in recovery.... dazed and culturally confused..... the lads gingerly stepped out into the foyer dreading the enthusiastic line of questioning that was inevitable......


Posted at 11:00 pm by HaiLonginChina
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Saturday, January 03, 2004
Happy New Year!!

Welcome to the Dragons Lair

Thanks for stopping by.... and for the recent comments.... It really does work!

Well the New Year is already well underway.... The last few weeks one continuous blur of late nights, parties and celebrations of..... well.... just being here..... and different. If there is one thing the people here love to do it is to host a party.... and there are plenty of people here.... you can do the maths..... seven days in a week, plenty of people wanting to host a party and they love to invite foreign teachers..... and there's not many of us to go around, so it's been a busy social time..... and a whole heap of fun!

Christmas was spent with the other foreign teachers for a lazy afternoon lunch and some music, good conversation and plenty of laughs. Although we've only known each other for a few weeks, we are a pretty close knit mob. You have to be. We're all so far away from family and friends, we speak very little of the language..... which is fine when its a holiday.... different when you live here..... so we have to look out for each other. I'm lucky we have a really positive group of people here. It's easy to stay sunny even when the weather is grey and cold. Not that that happens very often.... I think there's been about three days where the sun hasn't been shining brightly for at least part of the day. So no matter how cold it is, if the sun shines I'm pretty happy. I guess its kind of screwed up to have your moods so set to the weather conditions.... but we all have our own buttons that get pressed!

So we had plenty of food. I missed the usual Christmas feast of seafood and turkey and salad, but trust me.... when you've been living on noodles and unusual Chinese foods (they eat anything and everything here!) a home made pizza with real cheese, Pringles, Kit Kats, fruit, Nang (Uyghur Bread) and other assorted goodies was to die for!

I loved my start to that day too. I was woken by a ringing phone.... on the other end was Karen sounding all Christmas cheery. It was a great start to a day that just kept getting better..... at night I called my family as they were gathered in Perth, at my sisters place. This time I joked around with my Brother-in-law, and spent a bit of time catching up with George. Sometimes I need to remind myself of the people that are important in my life. Then it was off to the local watering hole where we sang some songs and socialised with many of our new local friends. They have all made us feel so welcome, it was fitting to include them in our big day for the year.
The New Year was a fairly quiet evening. I guess all the parties caught up with me on Saturday night and I got ill. Turns out that my diet was lacking some pretty important stuff..... like nutrients..... I got a bit disoriented. I'd like to think it was only due to being blonde..... but alas I cannot back that up in fact any longer... as my blonde locks are now slowly leaving me. So, New Years Eve was a dinner with some friends at my apartment, watching Roses' music video on the TV and chilling out with some wine. Then at 1130 we headed down to the Culture Street, a walking boulevarde with galleries, a big screen TV and clock tower, fountains and a big ice slide to muck around on. We got into the celebrations with the Drum Troupe, the ringing of the bells using a large carved dragons head (not mine!). We saw the New Year in at about -15 degrees then went on to look at some gallery exhibitions of photographs from around Karamay. It was a cruisy night spent with some new friends and thinking of what my friends in Sydney were up to. I felt a bit reflective for a short while later that night and relaxed into the feeling the whole of the next day. Sometimes the best times are the quiet ones that afford you a chance to touch base with your thoughts and feelings. I enjoyed the peace.
Well thats it for now.... I trust you have all had a safe and equally enjoyable entry into what is going to be a year of development for so many people I know. It is the year of the Monkey coming up.... a year of new beginnings.... in whatever way you wish to interpret that. May it be a grand one for you and those you love.....

Come on back to the Dragons Blog again soon.......

Posted at 08:11 pm by HaiLonginChina
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