Wednesday, January 11, 2012

School's out (nearly)

The final exams are done and marked, and all that's left is to figure out if all those numbers next to student's names mean anything. My hunch is that they don't... but I doubt that this will lead to a collapse in quantitative examination of high school students or reform of education. After all, people like numbers. Maybe because you can usually find someone who's number is smaller than yours and feel good about it. I am not a number, I am a free man, I hope.

On Saturday night we will get on the night train from Kunming, the start of what will hopefully be five weeks of exploring around Southern China, Northern Vietnam, a bit of Thailand, and back to China again. We've made a big effort to plan as much of our travelling overland as makes reasonable sense, so I'm happy about that. We will still be squandering the Earth's precious resources by flying over a couple of large stretches... but I'll make sure I feel slightly guilty while I do it. We might even end up going to Hong Kong on the train at the end of our trip and then figure out how to get back to school in time for next semester.

We will update from wherever we are, when we get around to it... and that's a promise.

Next semester I will be somewhat relieved from my task a an English teacher. No, I haven't been fired (surprisingly). I will be teaching "Introduction to Math(s) and Science" which I think will be much more fun for me... though possibly not the students. It's still teaching English language, but talking about fractions and the carbon cycle give me a much warmer feeling than writing the word "poetry" at the top of my lesson plan. I like poetry and reading things, and even writing pointless things myself (an obvious example being this) but really have never got my head around the idea of being taught how to appreciate poetry, let alone marking a writer's poem. It's those numbers again. I'm looking forward to teaching numbers rather than sticking them on poems (or free men for that matter).

So we're off for some adventure and some exploration, no doubt with some misadventure and frustration thrown in. We'll hopefully be hiking, rock-climbing, paddleboarding, and possibly even sleazing around Asia and find Yongchuan a warmer and springlike place when we return. Maybe they'll put some plastic lambs and rabbits in the park to celebrate.

On that note, here is an entirely unrelated HDR photo I took when we were at Tiger Leaping Gorge. I was pleased with the weirdness.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The light at the end of the tunnel

With only a few more classes to teach and some exams to mark... the end of our first semester of teaching in China is nearly over. It's been a strenuous journey, and appropriately we found ourselves on a strenuous journey of another kind this weekend. 

Wexing Lake runs alongside Cucumber Hill, which has been a good spot for previous bike ride and hikes. At one end of the lake there's a campus of the local university, but we have been curious about what could be at the other end. Google Earth showed a dirt road running all the way along the lake shore, then ending strangely in the middle of nowhere. Yesterday we set out on our bikes to find what really happened on the ground. 

Unsurprisingly we passed by back-to-back farms and the stares of confused locals and their chickens. However, a surprise waited for us at the end of the rutted and muddy road. A temple and local's fishing spot turned out to be the destination.

Wexing Lake's local Buddha

The temple at the end of the road

Saturday afternoon fishing.
Optimistic that we might be able to complete a loop around the lake, we pushed on (sometimes literally) through the mud and made it to a steep switchback climb. The locals were gathered at a restaurant at the start of the climb and enjoyed watching us winch our way up the slippery hill. The ride was turning out to be pretty tough and the damp, chilly weather was not helping our spirits too much. After some perseverance on the intermittently cobbled and then muddy bog of a road we made it back to the top of the ridge and were lucky to catch the end of the "lunchtime rush" at a little eating place we'd been to before. We were grateful that the owner not only recognized who we were (not hard around here) so we didn't have to fumble through explaining we didn't want any fried intestines to eat, but cooked us some tasty lunch before closing up shop.

Our regular eatery on Cucumber Hill
Back at home we've been getting our preparations done for five weeks of travelling in southern China, Vietnam, and Thailand. We leave on the night-train to Kunming on Saturday night and will getting a much needed break from teaching life. Hopefully we'll be able to post a few updates from the road!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Not Chinese New Year in China

After a lengthy stretch of lots of work and not much play combined with fairly nasty weather and general lack of joy here in Yongchuan, we received the remedy. The format of this was the classic 3-day weekend enhanced by incinerating a few prehistoric crustacean's remains. The lengths we'll go to for some sunshine and mountains eh?

Tiger Leaping Gorge - New Year 2011/2012 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.