Dressed in my Canadian Tophat and AIESEC Edmonton T-Shirt, I made some pancakes for my flatmates this morning. (The pan was only big enough to make one at a time!)
Thursday, June 30, 2005
I hope you all have big plans back home and have loads of fun. I am interested to hear though what Canadians abroad are doing on a day like today? Are you celebrating or are you letting it pass by like any other regular day?
I feel that this is the one day of the year where we should feel proud to show our heritage and share our Canadian culture with others. This morning I woke up and made breakfast for my flatmates: Pancakes with maple syrup (and peanut butter - which was surprisingly good) and chopped up fruit. Although I was a little limited with materials (ie. No Canadian Bacon), the meal turned out really well! Then I'll be on the train tonight to Shanghai for chairing an AIESEC Training Session for students going abroad for the Alcatel exchanges in France.
Did You Know...
Mike Myers, Michael J. Fox, Jim Carey and the Tragically Hip are Canadian...
Basketball, the 24 time zone divisions, Hockey and Apple Pie were invented by Canadians...
And the reason the Whitehouse is white - is thanks to the Canadians as well :)
So my question to you - my fellow Canadians abroad (and for that matter, anyone abroad), what do you do to celebrate your country's national holiday while living in another country?
Monday, June 27, 2005
I stayed up all night on Friday because our power meter had run out (so we didn’t have any electricity) and so the AC didn’t work. Around 5:30am, I drove to the meeting point where the minibus was going to pick us all up. On my way there, I asked myself ‘What are you doing?!?…..Are you crazy – you’re going to Inner Mongolia?!?’ And then it hit me – when else am I going to have the opportunity to take such an adventure!!!
As I arrived at the pick-up spot, I was introduced by one AIESEC alumni from India (now living in Beijing) to 10 people from France, 1 girl from Korea and 2 guys from India. So there were going to be 14 of us in total on the trip! We all packed into the little minibus and took off. We all dozed on and off the whole way there to catch up on our sleep, but some sights on the way out there included: Approximately 700 construction workers, countless mountains covered with lush green plants, numerous farmers fields growing everything from rice to watermelon and so much more.
We finally arrived at the gates to the town and were greeted by about 20 smiling locals (one of which was our host, so she jumped onto the bus and directed us out to her place). Of course, the whole way out we bargained down the price and got it to 10 quay for the night (yes - $1.50!!!) We finally pulled up to a modest little house in a village of about 10 houses. There was a bathroom, a kitchen (where our hosts cooked our meals) and 6 bedrooms. There was also a henhouse where they kept all the chickens, a pen for some sheep and huge piles of hay everywhere!
Immediately after getting unpacked, we had lunch and bargained for a price to ride horses for 75 quay for the entire day. Then all of the locals from the other houses seemed to rush over as fast as they could with their horse – so this resulted in everyone yelling at us to choose their horse to ride. I got extremely lucky! I ended up with probably the best horse in the group – as it was obedient…and fast J We rode through open fields and over rolling hills, visited villages and rode through streams – it was amazing! The end result after 4 hours of riding was an incredible experience, but a REALLY sorry butt!
After we returned to our place, we decided that we would buy a lamb and have a huge feast! We purchased an entire lamb for 400 quay ($65 Canadian) and they ended up doing the whole process of killing, skinning and gutting the lamb right in front of us, then putting it on the BBQ – directly onto our plates. It was definitely something that at first made my stomach a little queasy, (you can see the pictures of the whole process on my pictures website, but I warn you that they are VERY VERY gross – Vegetarians DO NOT ENTER), but the lamb was delicious! We also had noodle dishes, pork and peppers, green onion cakes, slivered potatoes, egg pancakes and sugared tomatoes. Then our hosts cleaned up all of the dishes, pulled out two gigantic speakers, started pumping some crazy old-school English techno music and brought out the beers! They set up a huge fire for us right in front of the house and we all started playing drinking games (Whiz – Bing – Bong!!!) around the fire. Next thing we knew, fireworks were exploding in the sky over the hills and the music pumped on…
5am the next morning….”Cooooooock-a-doodle-do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”…..(you should have seen the look on my face!) Waking up at 5am definitely what I was planning, but I rolled around until 6am, then got myself up for a morning hike. I climbed by myself up a nearby hill and had an amazing view of the entire village (and nearby villages).
After returning to our place, most of us decided to go on a big hike, so we took a 4 hour journey up into the hills – through villages – passing local farmers, pigs and horses….and SNAKES! Yes, that’s right, we even came across a couple snakes on our climb.
We returned back to our place, had one last great meal and then departed for Beijing. On the way back, we came up to a roadblock…we were about the third vehicle in line. There was a crane and ambulance blocking the road in both directions. We all got out to see what was going on and realized that someone had driven off of the road (mountain on one side – 20 foot drop on the other side). The crane pulled a jeep out of the ditch. It’s top was completely crushed. The crane laid the crumpled vehicle down on the street and immediately the paramedics pulled a dead body out of the vehicle, bagged it and took off for the nearest town. I stood there feeling completely numb…I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. By this time there were about 40 people looking on. At this time, locals and tourists forgot about the places they had to go or getting out their camera to take pictures…everyone just stood there looking on – praying for the families of the victim and looking on in complete shock. This put a bit of a sour note on the end of the trip, but the trip itself was still an incredible experience and I loved every moment of staying with our hosts, horseback riding through fields and partying around a campfire.
Inner Mongolia and the people I went with will definitely stay with me wherever I go.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Have you always wondered what a Value Meal at McDonalds in China looks like? Now you know! The portion size is about half of what it is in Canada and the toys are multicolored Lance Armstrong wristbands that have the McDonalds arches with sayings like 'Soar', 'No Fear' and 'One-on-One' on them.
The employee uniforms here are hilarious! They are huge baggy rapper jeans that have the McDonalds Arches stitched in on both back pockets. They all wear yellow plaid shirts and black ball caps with runners. You can also see that this worker is wearing all 6 multicolored wristbands - HOW COOL!!! Hehe. Makes me wonder if this uniform is an attempt to create a North American image of how people dress in Canada and the US? If so, it's not very accurate.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
3 Lonely Planet Books
60 Photographs on my Digital Camera
40 Laps at the Swimming Pool
2 Really Cheap Bus Rides
…and finally, 3 Great Flatmates…
Mix in a handful of culture shock with a pinch of embarrassing moments, then let it bake in the sun at 38 degrees celsius and you will have a regular day of my life in Beijing!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Now - in my opinion, this can be considered a mountain. I think that if you are on top of the hill and are looking down to the bottom and can barely make out the town at the base of the hill - it is safe to call it a 'mountain' :)
Long story short - 4 hours later and 7 exhausted people, we made it safetly down to the bottom. (Of course not after Leon and I had a push-up contest at the top of the 'mountain' to decide who would be doing the dishes back in the flat once we returned to Beijing.) Again - long story short - Leon did the dishes last night :p
What an amazing feeling it is though to be at the top of a 'mountain' that I thought I would be unable to climb, leaning up against the railing with all of my friends at the top and looking down at the distant town below.
That was an ultimate feeling of accomplishment.
Monday, June 20, 2005
The Buses: The buses here have drivers AND collectors! For Canadians, we are used to getting on the bus and paying the driver. In China, when you get on the bus, the collector will ask you where you are going and tells you the price. Funny side-note; if you are a foreigner and they come by to collect the fee, they will often overcharge you by a few quay because you often don't know how to communicate where you are going or how much it should be. The funniest part about the whole thing though is that the female collectors all walk around with huge black purses that they just stuff the money into it.
Half Time Shows: Basketball game halftimes here are FULL of entertainment! I watched one game on TV this past weekend and for half time they had tons of performers that got about 2 minutes each. Dancers first came out with flags and performed, then guys on rollerblades skated around in complex formations and showed off some moves, then a pop singer came out with her back up dancers and sang one song, then dancers dressed up as basketball players came out and did a choreographed dance with basketballs and to top it all off at the end, the crowd had all been seperated by colours (red, white and yellow) and stood up in different formations to spell the team's names. Their half time shows put shame to NBA half time shows where they just 'analyze the game' and talk about 'shooting percentages'. NBC or CBS should pay China a visit to see how half time shows should REALLY be done!
Crossing the Street: Crossing the street here is a science...with deadly consequences! In North America, when you cross the street, you first look left - then right. In the UK, you first look right - then left. In China, you look left - then right, then left - then right. Let me explain: First here you have to look out for the bikes (there is a bike lane closest to the sidewalk). So first, you look left - then right. Once you have passed the bikes, then you have to deal with the cars and buses! So again, look left - then right. Then you run like a madman as fast as you can! One funny sidenote: When the light is green, you have to watch your ass because you still have vehicles going everywhere!
Thursday, June 16, 2005
On Tuesday, first I had a meeting with Leon, the MCP of China and the Tsinghua Science Park Services Director to discuss an AIESEC Partnership. We came to the conclusion that next week I will send the Science Park an information package on AIESEC which they will translate and distribute to the companies in the Science Park. I will then hold a presentation on AIESEC for about 20-30 companies on July 5th to see if any of them are interested. As well, right around the beginning of July, I have been given a small desk at the Science Park so I will be able to work their at their offices to put the final touches on the presentation. After this we will follow up with the companies to see who is interested in taking trainees. I will then be the account manager and person responsible for the partnership until I leave in August.
After Leon and I's meeting at the Science Park, we met with the LCP of Tsinghua University LC which is just starting up. We have set weekly meeting dates and a time for me to hold an exchange and insight training session for all of their members. There is alot of work to be done here, but this might be my most enjoyable task, as I will get to work with fellow AIESECers. Hopefully when I leave, I will be able to look back on the LC and see noticeable improvements.
My last big piece of news which is really exciting is that last week at dinner, Leon asked me to Chair their next national conference in 3 weeks! It's a 4 day national planning conference that will have AIESECers from Beijing, Shanghai and hopefully guangzhou and tainjin attend. I'm really looking forward to this opportunity and I will have to sit down and pull together all of my ideas/thoughts/experiences from chairs at past conferences. If you have any ideas or thoughts - please post your comments. I am open to ideas.
As for what is coming up: We are leaving in about an hour for an MC planning, transition and teambuilding weekend where we will be travelling to Xiangshan, which is just northwest of Beijing. Since I won't have to be there for the whole time, I think I will make some side trips to the Summer Palace and the Botanical Gardens. Also, if I can fit in some time for climbing - I hear there is a really good mountain to climb at Xiangshan.
For next weekend, I will either be in Shanghai for some AIESEC work (preparing SN's that have already been selected to work abroad) or it will be a weekend trip to Inner Mongolia with about 12 other people. Either way - it will be an adventure.
As I sit here at my desk - I feel satisfied and also incredibly lucky. I have my Lonely Planet books beside me here and each and every weekend I hope to find myself in a new place somewhere throughout the country. Only time will tell.
This is everyone minus Leon and Adam that were at the MC apartment for our first home cooked meal (by, ahem - our new hired cook). Yes, we have a hired cook that comes every night for 2 hours to cook for us. Since this was our first night we didn't have much food to be cooked, so we had five different types of steamed vegetables! Mmm!
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
First, you need to have a good sized beer belly so that you can roll your shirt up so that it sits on top of your belly (with a few more Tsingtao beers, I think I will be almost the right size). So you roll the shirt up so that it won't unfold easily and balance it on top of your stomach. You can also pat your belly for added pleasure ;)
After you have the shirt rolled up to the right height, you then either borrow your girlfriend or wive's umbrella to shade out the sun. Some men might go to the extreme of purchasing their own bright colored umbrella - but normally men will borrow a yellow or pink umbrella to keep the sun out.
Now, with these two steps completed - you would be ready to survive a hot day in Beijing.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Dogs: Everyone here seems to own a dog! We were joking that people own dogs so that they can have a family of four (mother, father, child, dog) because families are still only allowed to have one child. But, amazingly enough, people have to pay taxes on their dogs – 2000 kuai ($350/year). Also, within the fourth ring-road of Beijing, only small dogs are allowed. Outside of the fourth ring-road people are allowed to own medium and large sized dogs. The funniest part though is that they are all shitzou’s! You see people walking their dogs down the streets (and carrying them across the crosswalks – not to risk having them run over!) I’m curious though because people don’t walk around and pick up their dogs ‘droppings’, but there never seem to be any on the streets. Hmmm…where do all the droppings go??? Hehe.
Excersize for the Elderly: The elderly Chinese people do not go to the gym or work out and instead they do tai chi in the morning and social dance in the evenings. This last weekend we passed by a large group of elderly women dancing with fans to the music of some elderly men banging on drums. Also, in our living complex on Friday nights – there are elderly couples out in the main square dancing to music with other couples. I think that they enjoy the social aspect of the exercise and do it solely for enjoyment.
The People: They are loyal, genuine, trustworthy and kind. There has not been a person I have met yet that has shown disrespect or raised their voice to anyone. Everyone so far that I have met have just been such considerate people.
With the flight attendant that 'waits' on The Chairman.. literally!!
Originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.
Monday, June 13, 2005
These last three days have been jam packed!!! For pictures from the last few days – check out http://johnkelly.fotopic.net/ (I should have them up by the end of the day). The internet connection the past few days has been dodgy, so please bear with me.
On Saturday, there was a group of us that rented a minibus and went to the Chinese Aviation Museum about 30 minutes north of Beijing. Here we got to visit Mao’s private plane, test out some old artillery guns and explore an underground cave housing hundreds of China’s old fighter jets. Before we left, I made a hike up a steep hill to get an incredible view from the top looking down on the Aviation Museum. I returned to the minibus and I thought my legs were going to give out…but we decided we had some extra time and would go to the Great Wall - Mutianyu section! Climbing up to the Great Wall was the hardest part – but once up top…what an amazing experience! Absolutely incredible. You feel like you’re on top of the world. After climbing down we returned to a party at our apartment in Beijing. We all came in tired and sweaty to the apartment only to be greeted by about 25 AIESECers from Beijing! What a great night…
On Sunday Peter, Pierre, Leon, his girlfriend Crystal and I all went to a traditional Peking Duck restaurant in Tian’anmen Square for lunch and then to the Forbidden City. Crystal was a great tour guide and told us all of the history and importance behind each of the buildings. We got a glance at what life was like as an emperor. One word that comes to mind…luxurious! One thing that I noticed while we were at the Forbidden City was how the Chinese absolutely cherish their historical landmarks and take so much pride in them. Whereas in many other cities I have travelled to around the world, the locals very often or not vandalize or litter around their historical landmarks. The Chinese are incredibly proud of their culture, knowledgeable about their country’s history and cherish their city’s monuments.
Today was a day of work! It was the first official day for the China MoC MC to be in office. We worked throughout the day on transition and turnover. I also worked on my CEED timeline and we had a team meeting from 3:30pm to 8:00pm. For lunch today though we went out to a Taiwanese restaurant and I ate pig kidneys…mmm!!! I’m being adventurous! Dinner was delicious as well…and both meals were only $3. (Including lots of beer!)
Friday, June 10, 2005
I'm absolutely loving it though. Last night we went out with a group of about 15 people to an Italian restaurant and then to a mediterranean bar after for shisha and drinks. It was a pretty expensive night (well - for chinese standards), but it really showed me the life of expats and I learnt that alot of them hang out together at the same places. Last night was good for me because although I had a great time, I realized how much more I want to get to know the Chinese culture and stay away from the expat lifestyle. I didn't come to China to hang out at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Tai Chi: Older people here practice tai chi in the mornings out in the gardens or parks around the apartment complexes. This morning I woke up to six chinese people in about their fifties practicing their tai chi. I asked Leon, the MCP of AIESEC China why young people don't practice it and he said that most students learn it in school, but don't generally practice it. So after time - they lose the movements and forget how to do it. It's great to see that alot of the older people though still do it. I'm watching from up in our apartment and am slowing learning the basics. Maybe if I get enough guts, one of these days I will go down and practice with them :p
Hair Salons and Massage Parlors: Yes, there are "sketchy" massage parlors, but less and less as they are getting closed down. But the good massage parlors only charge $5 for a 30 minute back massage and hair salons are on every corner! We have one in the main floor of our apartment building...but some of the hair styles here are a little too crazy for my liking...and with my luck, if I went in to get my haircut, I wouldn't know what to ask for and might walk out with some crazy coloring and style. I'm adventurous, but not that adventurous. Haha. We'll see...I might get forced into it as my hair grows longer. But, the point of this topic is that these places are located everywhere for very cheap prices!
Taxi Cabs: There are two main types of taxi cabs here - 1.2's and 1.6's. 1.2's are generally older/smaller cars without air conditioning that charge 10 yuan for the first 4km. and then 1.2 yuan for every kilometer after that. 1.6's are newer cars with air conditioning that use the same pricing system - 10 yuan for the first 4 kilometers and 1.6 yuan for every kilometer after that. Really, there is very little difference from them...so we always take the 1.2's. This basically means that you can take a taxi for a 10 minute cab ride and pay about $3. Pretty sweet eh?
That's enough for today. We're going to be cleaning up the new apartment today and finish unpacking so that everything is ready for our big MC Transition party tomorrow night for all of the aiesecers in our apartment! Don't forget -I'm only posting some of my pictures here - you can view all of them at http://johnkelly.fotopic.net
zai jian (goodbye).
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I am sitting on the plane right now on my way to Beijing – we’ve been up in the air for about eight hours already, so I suspect we have about another five hours to go.
How am I feeling right now? Anxious…Excited…Nervous…Giddy…Cautious…I am experiencing all of these feelings wrapped together at once – it’s quite bizarre! I really can not wait to get to Beijing though and start my new two-month life abroad.
I’m sure that very soon I will have a lot to report on, but at this time – right now – all I really have to say is that it has finally hit me. I am going to China! I will be living in China for two months! I will be travelling throughout the country! I will be meeting new people every day! I will experience high’s and low’s, but they will only just contribute to this incredible experience.
The plan is to get picked up at the airport by Leon, the MCP of AIESEC China and Pierre, one of the international MC members from India. Hopefully I am able to spot them ‘ok’ and we don’t have any crazy logistical mishaps…haha…and if we do – it will make for a really good story.
That’s it for now. Beijing here I come.
With this being the third time that I have been to Las Vegas – I also started better understand life in Las Vegas for the locals (definitely a life I would never want to live). Everyone there is just trying to get by – and if that means scamming people for money, lying through their teeth or just doing whatever it takes to make money – they’ll do it. “Business” in Las Vegas is completely different than any other city. It’s all about who you know and how everyone is connected to the right people.
After already going through the phase of initial excitement and disillusionment during my first two visits, I really started to notice a lot more of the blue collar, run down and tired parts of Las Vegas. For example, one night I was playing blackjack in the Stardust Hotel and had a woman – my grandma’s age – serving me drinks all night. Part of me wonders if she is happy doing this or is she just trapped in this industry and lifestyle?
Needless to say – Vegas was a blast and I got to know a great group of guys, but I also saw a different side to Las Vegas that really makes it unappealing to ever want to live there. Four days was just perfect for me.