Friday, 22 May 2009


For seven days our beloved Blogger Website has been blocked all over China.  Thus, I haven't posted anything for a while.  Whenever I try to connect to this site I always end up with this kind of message:

Rather than outright tell you that the site you want to access has been blocked by the government big wigs, they make it so it just looks like a usual connection difficulty.  But when that message pops up for the 100th time you begin to realise that it is not the case.

The same goes for YouTube, Amnesty International, Wikipedia (partially), and about a million more websties.  Try Googling something"sensitive" like: "Tibet Protests", and after clicking on a link you will soon find that the site is blocked once again.  This can also cause a domino effect and within a matter of seconds every single page you try and open will also be blocked (but only for a few minutes).

I do not know the real reason why The Great Firewall of China has chosen Blogger as its next target, but I have a good idea:  The 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.  It is possible that many bloggers around this time will be writing all sorts of posts about this historical even that China would prefer is forgotten about.  In fact, a lot of young people I have spoken to have no idea what actually happened during the protests.

I'm accessing Blogger now using a proxy tool for Firefox called Gladder, the only problem is that it's painfully slow and very often tells me that some pages don't exist.  It's been so frustrating to use that when I tried to post this article a few days ago I got so fed up that I just quit.

We'll see if things get better soon....

Friday, 15 May 2009

Silence IS Golden

Me, before Chinese New Year and the construction work

When I returned from the UK at the end of January it was Chinese New Year, and the fireworks were exploding every other minute. This was fine -- until I had to start work. The celebrations didn't end after the one week holiday, they continued for more than half a month more. Bed time would come and all I could hear would be people playing Ma Jiang or cards while shouting to each other, and the fireworks of course. The talking (shouting) would sometimes last all night, and because the walls are practically made from paper they might as well have been in my apartment doing it. As for the fireworks, they would be set off at random intervals throughout the night, maybe a dozen at 1am, a few at 3:30am, and then a whole bunch of them at 7am. I would be sleeping in the quiet spots only to be woken up time after time. It got to the point where I just couldn't get to sleep sometimes because of the noise. It was driving me crazy.

After 15 days the noise did start to die down which was a huge relief, the talking stopped and the fireworks were stowed away for another year (or wedding or funeral). However, I still found it difficult to sleep just because of my previous experiences, I was continually waiting for something to wake me up, and it left me feeling restless (after talking about this with others I have found that all but two of the foreign teachers at Web have also experienced very similar things). After a couple of weeks more of so-so sleeps, I started to worry I wouldn't sleep properly again. Then my mum told me of a supplement called Valerian which isn't a sleeping pill, but a natural sedative. It has no side effects unlike the sleeping drugs, and is actually beneficial in many other ways. Surprisingly I found a bottle of the stuff in my local pharmacy. I started taking it and found that it really did work, I was feeling much more relaxed and started to sleep better.

This was a couple of months ago, and now I'm sleeping just like normal again thanks to the lack of noise and the Valerian. I've even recommended it to other teachers at Web and now three of them are all using it and have found beneficial results. The fact is, Wenzhou -- like so many other cities in China -- is developing so quickly that it is permanently noisy. For people like me who have been brought up in relative silence at night time, it can be difficult sometimes.

Another reason Wenzhou can be incredibly noisy at night is something I spoke about before (here): construction work. I had been living in my apartment for almost a year without any interfering work -- until March this year. Two construction sites suddenly began working throughout the day, it was loud but not a problem. Then one night I noticed the work didn't finish, it just kept going, all night. I was really quite angry about this and asked Kimi to complain. She called up the local government office only for them to tell her that they had given the site permission to work all night. Up until now it has happened on nine or ten occasions, two nights ago was the worst. It was so bad I had to sleep on the sofa in my living room with tissue stuck in my ears. It is completely unbelievable how common people have absolutely no rights whatsoever. If the government wants to do something they will, regardless of whether it causes hundreds of people to have a sleepless night. Can we do anything about it? Not a chance. Unfortunately this is cost of living in a country and city which is developing at the speed of light. In the mean time I hope I find an apartment which is sound proofed from head to toe.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Happy Birthday Mum

Happy Birthday, I hope you had a treat like this (and I'm glad you liked my gift):

This is actually something that Kimi bought a few weeks ago from Haagen Dazs. Unlike in the UK the ice cream chain has cafes in China. They don't just serve only scoops of ice cream as you can see, but something rather more posh. It also doesn't come cheap, this item off the menu cost a staggering 230 RMB (£23). Kimi was given a bonus at work and felt like flaunting the money, I had no objections whatsoever.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Long Time No Blog

I've been having withdrawal symptoms from my blog recently as I've just not written anything for more than a week. The reason is very simple, the time I used to spend writing on my blog has been spent doing exercise or going out. There's only one thing I can think of to remedy the problem: get up earlier -- which for me, is easier said than done.

As of today the weather in Wenzhou has soared. It is literally boiling outside and inside the Web office the air conditioner is on full power. Although the heat is climbing above 30 degrees centigrade the weather is consistently beautiful. A couple of days ago Johann and I went to a local park just walking distance from my home. I couldn't believe I had never been before.

I have always thought that Wenzhou is a terrible place for two groups of people: the old, and the disabled. This is because quite frankly, the outside world is incredibly dangerous. The park was the first time I had seen a place that is suitable for all groups of people. It was almost like the whole area was dedicated to senior citizens, it was perfect. There were areas for badminton, massages (not the bad kind), Chinese opera, debates, Tai Chi, and of course sitting (something which is lacking everywhere else in the city). The children also weren't left out of the equation, there was also a small train running through the park, and a small play area.

I'm also quite intrigued at how every single temple I have visited recently seems to be almost brand new. There are barely any genuinely old building remaining in the city. I can only imaging these buildings were torn down previously and then in recent years it was decided to put them back again.

Here are a few pictures from the park:

Spot the toupee of the year on the man at the back (it's not a hat)

Grass is a rare treat in Wenzhou

The dog didn't like me very much

If only people took notice of this

Now I just hope the weather doesn't climb too much more before my sister arrives here in a few weeks.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Labour Day -- A Trip to the Zoo

The first of May -- like so many other countries -- is labour day in China. The national holidays are perfect times to travel and see new parts of China, the only problem is that everybody else has the same idea too. When you have a country with more than a billion people occupying it, this can be a problem.

When I came to China on holiday in 2007 I landed in Shanghai on the 1st of May (when the holiday was still 7 days). It was a shock to the senses seeing so many people in one place. I can remember walking along The Bund with my friend, Richard only to get mobbed by a group of people wanting to take our picture:

We were stuck against a wall at this point

Last year I was in Hong Kong for the May holiday, waiting nervously to apply for my working visa. There had been rumours circulating that Hong Kong wasn't giving the visas due to restrictions for the Olympics. Luckily for me I did receive my visa in the end, but it was slightly nerve-racking waiting in the office for 3 hours to find out if I'd been successful or not. My short trip in Hong Kong was much more civilized than the year before, and I even managed to meet up with two good friends, Mona and Mabel.

This year I stayed in Wenzhou. Kimi and I, with Johann and his girlfriend decided to take a walk up Wenzhou's Snow Mountain (which I'm quite sure never has any snow). We took a pleasant walk around a garden area, a large and very new Buddhist temple, and then the zoo. I was a bit wary about visiting the zoo because I imagined the conditions might not be up to much. I was proven wrong in most cases, it was very well maintained and most of the animals had good environments to live in. I was only disappointed at the amount of rubbish people had thrown into their habitats to try and get the animals to do something.

As predicted there were tonnes of people crammed into every crevasse and corner, most of them from Wenzhou, but I guessed that a lot of them had come from the outskirts of the city. I say this because throughout the day at every minute I was hearing the word "foreigner" spoken, many people were stunned to see us. I heard the word in the only three variations I know: "Laowai" (informal Chinese), "Waiguoren" (Chinese), and "Vaiganen" (Wenzhou Dialect, I have no idea how to spell it in Pinyin). I've always found it funny why strangers in the street will just shout out the word "foreigner"if they see one, what compels them to say it out loud rather than in their mind?

The day was long, tiring, but hugely enjoyable. It was also good to see another side of Wenzhou than the usual cars, drilling, and general chaos that is prevalent in the city centre. Surprisingly, a lot of what we saw was actually very beautiful. Here is the day in pictures:

Happy Labour Day!