Monday, January 22, 2007

Of Flights and Movies

Today's top news is that my flights home have been booked for May 4th, so everything is set. I just need to send a few things back by sea in a few weeks. Geoff, I'll hook up with you for an hour or two in Vancouver, if you can manage it. If I look doped up, it's because noon in Vancouver is 5am the following day for me...

Things in general have been fairly quiet. It appears that our "busy" winter period may not be too busy, which isn't good news (for the school). That starts next week, or ought to. Government doesn't release dates for festivals/holidays until about two weeks in advance of them. We teachers are likely going to have 5 or so days off for Spring Festival, and I'm not sure what/where I'm doing/going. Possibly just Tianjin for a day. I can't see myself wandering too far, though perhaps a little trip to Tai Shan would be nice. Hmmm... I just don't want to dip into the funds for my Sojourn with anything too extravagant.

I went to the movie theatre and saw "The Curse of the Golden Flower" yesterday. As an international release it had both Chinese and English subtitles. It was alright, but it felt a bit too "I'm Zhang Yimou! Look how much I can spend on my movies!". In other words, too much lavishness for the quality of plot. Of course, I suppose that was part of the statement he was making, but it was done somewhat frivolously and without much of his usual stylistic flairs (ref. "Hero"). It was worth seeing anyway, though it's weird how many pop singers are also actors. Found out one of the main male leads in House of Flying Daggers is a singer, and Zhou Jia Lun was in Curse of the Golden Flower. (Hell, even Jackie Chan has an album or two out. Scary, I know.)

I've been buying quite a few Chinese movies over here. I got Crazy Stone, which is sort of like a Chinese Guy Richie film; After This Our Exile, a great little story about a Chinese father and son in Malaysia; the Banquet, one of my favourite movies now; Confessions of Pain (haven't seen it yet, but it has "Tony" Leung Chow-Wei so it's gotta be good); A World Without Thieves which is awesome; and Letters from an Unknown Woman (haven't seen it yet)... on top of all the wuxing style movies (Crouching Tiger, House of Flying Daggers, Seven Swords, Hero, etc). I've also bought three Takeshi Kitano films: Zatoichi, Boiling Point and Kikujiro (which is such a great little story). I never knew that "Beat" Takeshi who is in almost all of Takeshi Kitano's movies is Takeshi Kitano, the director. Sneaky bastard...

We teachers also had our first at-school Chinese lesson. There was a high level class for Duncan, Camilla and Andrew run by Katy, and the low level lesson for myself, Michelle and Alistair which was orchestrated by Lily. Learned a tonne of things, and she taught very well. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to get in an extra lesson on Tuesdays if one of the girls is available. Actually, I need to head into work fairly soon and arrange a little surprise something.

Not too much else to report, really. I haven't done anything extraordinary in a while, though for Nick's going-away party we're having a night out in Beijing, so that ought to yield lots of fun and silliness. I will be wiser this time in terms of my alcohol consumption...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Count Down

Less than three months to go... Lately, I've been completely pre-occupied with thoughts of finishing up here in Tangshan in March and getting my ass on the road. Wanderlust, I guess. I still haven't decided where I'll head first - Zhengzhou or Xi'an - but I have a good idea of what I want to see. I just hope 5 weeks is enough time. I'd like 3 or 4 days in each area, and the hope is to minimize accommodation expenses and maximize wandering around time by covering long distances via overnight train. That reminds me... I'm going to have to ship by sea a lot of things before I go a-wanderin'. I'll leave my laptop and small suitcase with Michelle or Duncan that I will pick up in early May before I fly out of Beijing, as I want to travel light and not lug around more than a backpack for those 5 weeks. ... now I just need to find a good backpack...

However, I'm not sure how I feel about going back to Canada. In a way, I'm looking forward to it, but in another I worry about it. I didn't have much culture shock coming over here, but I know I'll experience reverse culture shock when I return. I also have no clue what I'm going to do in terms of a job. I suppose I'll have to wait and see. I'm hoping that the Sojourn in April will help me find a bit of closure in terms of feeling as though this experience has been worthwhile. With the weather having been inclement since November, I haven't really been out and about. I haven't been to tai ji quan in a long while, either - not for 2 months. Again, due to the weather. Aw well. If I feel weird when I go back to Canada, I'll just consider it temporary and work on getting back here, albeit to someplace more... authentic and away from the commercial zones. Tangshan is not what I thought of when I pictured "China".

Oh, the Christmas package I sent and ranted about arrived without issue on the 27th or something, so I'm happy about that. I also have xmas packages arriving here in the near future to look forward to and enjoy. New Years was a quiet affair - I just stayed at home and watched movies and did some reading. It didn't feel like anything special, which was fine by me. It's odd to think that it's 2007, though. The Transformers TV show was set in 2005 and I remember as a kid thinking 2005 was aeons away, almost untouchable. The Transformers movie, coming out this summer, looks like it'll be fit only for compost, though. They changed Bumblebee from a VW Bug to a stinking Camaro because, and I quote, "A Camaro is cool," smiles the dumb-ass producer. "Herbie the Love Bug isn't cool." Morons. Megatron has also been changed from a gun to some secret airplane (what... there weren't enough jets amongst the Decepticons?), and the movie will be focusing on the "human element". What fucking human element? Spike, the twerpy kid? I don't have much confidence that the movie will be worth the $12 it'll cost to see it.

On another note, I'm still having internet problems over here due to the earthquake(s) that hit Taiwan a week or two back. (It's taken 8 minutes just to load 10% of one of my pictures on Flickr.) Everything's so fickle at the moment. Some sites load quickly, others I have to enter a few times to get it moving. However, when that all gets fixed the new trans-Pacific cables are supposed to be 60% more efficient than the old ones. It's also scheduled to be fully installed in the next week, but I'm not holding my breath.

I had my first show class yesterday, and it went off without many hitches (class photo at the top). No parent complaints and the kids did quite well. I had very little involvement - they ran the 50-minute show, which I wanted. The idea was not to demonstrate concrete grammar or vocabulary, but to show a developing conversive ability using language learned over the course. I didn't have a single parent who raised an issue, and I didn't have any "may I make a suggestion?" crap. I'm quite relieved it's over with now. Oh, it was also filmed. The local news station is doing a segment on our school. It'll be 15 minutes taken from 6 hours of footage captured on Saturday and Sunday. I'm asking to get a DVD of both the segment and all my footage. It will have about 35 minutes of my Early Learner 2 class, my HF-Starter class and the TB 2B show class.

Anyhoo... that's about it for now. Gunna go grab something to eat.