Sunday, 25 April 2010


One of many things I missed while away in China was my cats.  Unfortunately our number of 3 is now down to 1.  But here's a short video I made of Molly -- who is now almost 17 years old -- enjoying some Catnip on my bed.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Back to School

My Hypnotherapy and Counselling books
 One of the main reasons I decided to come home was because I felt a strong urge to study again.  I really did enjoy teaching a lot, but felt it wasn't fulfilling my purpose in life.  After months and months of procrastinating, I finally came to the conclusion of something that may fill that gap:  Hypnotherapy and Counselling.  Although I originally studied a music degree at university, and I do still have a great passion for music, I feel that I don't want it as the core of my working life (part-time would be nice!).

There are many reasons I have chosen these subjects, but primarily I feel that having a job where you can actually make some sort of a difference to somebody's life is incredibly meaningful.  Also, from my experience of teaching at Web, I have found that I am most comfortable working with either one person or with small groups of people.  This, along with a list of other reasons, has brought me to studying Hypnotherapy and Counselling.  I have now started both courses and am finding them greatly interesting, and even exciting -- especially the Hypnotherapy course.  A huge variety of problems can be successfully treated with this therapy, from anxiety and addictions, to phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder.  The feeling of having it done -- and doing it -- is by itself a worthwhile experience.  Many people believe that you are actually asleep while under hypnosis, but this is a myth.  The best way I can describe it is that of the short period of time when you are just about to drift off to sleep; still consciously aware, but relaxing into the first stage of sleep.   Once the session is over you feel so very relaxed, but also refreshed and ready to do anything.  

At the moment I couldn't be enjoying these classes more, I can't wait for the next ones (I wish school could have been more like this).  I have even finished all of my homework assignments long before I needed to.

Now, I just need to find a job to continue funding the courses....    

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When the Bombs Fell

This year February 14th to many people was Valentine's Day, but to even more people it was also Chinese New Year.  Unlike the previous year, I was prepared for what was to come this time, the noise!  I certainly wasn't disappointed, if anything it was even louder, and more unrepentant than the year before.  A couple of sleepless nights came to me and Kimi, but it didn't really matter as the daytime was mainly spent eating and drinking, and eating more, and drinking more, and eating a little bit more (and then being sick).

If I had to describe Chinese New Year in as few words as possible before I came to live in China, I would have said something like:  "Dancing dragons, celebrations in the street, fireworks".  But after living in China, I would now say:  "Fireworks, money, fireworks, family, fireworks, food, fireworks, more food, fireworks drink, fireworks, TV".

On new year's eve, I decided to take a short walk outside as midnight beckoned.  There was an annual television show playing, which is quite a large draw in China.  It is a variety show of sorts, with many singers, comedians, dancers, and a magician (doing tricks from the 80's) all having their own segment where they can wow the largest audience in the world.  It is mostly performed live, but some of the bigger stars usually decide to mime their way through a performance or pre-record their part (e.g. Faye Wong).  Anyway, the show was going through an incredibly tiresome comedy sketch, and for some reason the English subtitles on CCTV9 only stretched so far as to explain the premise of the sketch instead of just translating what was happening -- lazy!  So, as I said, I decided to take a stroll outside, with my camera.  What I experienced was nothing short of terrifying.  It was as close as I could imagine to being in a war zone.  The culmination of all the fireworks simultaneously going off around the centre of the city made it sound and feel like bombs dropping from the sky.  And by the way, these fireworks were not an organised display, this was a free-for-all.  I even saw somebody firing them out of their apartment window.

The following day -- New Year's Day -- Kimi and I went to have a very enjoyable family meal at her uncle and aunt's home.  They very kindly cooked an assortment of vegetarian dishes for me, and at one point I didn't think it was going to end.  New dish after new dish was coming, but as they were all so delicious, I just stuffed myself.  And of course, I had to do my fair share of drinking.  On more than one occasion I have sat down at a dinner table and a bottle of red wine has been presented to me which I am expected to drink all of.  This time was no exception.

The table of devoured food, notice my whisky glass and wine bottle in the bottom right
Alas, the fireworks didn't stop, but we were shown a new year's ceremony where food was given to Buddha, drums were drummed, and a paper boat was paraded around.  For me, it was refreshing to see some real traditional elements playing a part in between the eating and drinking -- even if I didn't understand why some of it was happening.

A slightly different table of food.  Not too sure if Buddha is into Pig's head though, but I'm sure he won't complain....
Other days in the week were spent very much along the same lines.  More eating, more drinking, and more listening to the cracks and bangs of fireworks outside.  We also met Kimi's uncle's new dog, a beautiful Golden Retriever:

I didn't intend to write all of this, what I was really getting around to in this blog post was telling you about the short video I edited together in response to the aforementioned fireworks.  It shouldn't come as a surprise that I called it:  "China Bombings":

Friday, 9 April 2010

For Sale: China Photo

Edit:  Sold!

My father is a picture framer and photographer who frequently sells his own pictures in his shop.  His website (which hasn't been updated for a while) is here.  After looking at some of my pictures from China, he surprised me today by framing one of them.  Tomorrow it will be available to buy in the shop for the considerable price of £67.  I am very flattered to think that any picture of mine could actually be bought by someone.  The shot is a close-up of some colourful hair-pins I found in Shanghai when my sister visited me last May (an event which I will blog about very soon).

Get it while you can

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Running with Nike+

Today I did my first run using the quite remarkable Nike+.  For those who don't know, Nike+ is a system of planning, tracking, and measuring runs while listening to your favourite -- or most motivational -- music.  To do this you need to buy a few things first:
  • An iPod Nano and Nike+ Sports Kit (which consists of an oval-shaped sensor and a rectangular receiver that connects to the iPod)
Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch you only need to buy the sensor -- which is half the price on its own

Also, to make full use of Nike+ you can sign up to the Nike running website where you have the option to choose training programs, make a calorie/distance/speed goal, or compete with friends on the site.  I am currently trying a program that will train me to run a 5 km marathon within 3 months.

So far so good, but Nike still wants you to purchase more of its gear before you can actually hit the concrete:  a pair of Nike+ shoes please.  The only reason you need a special pair of trainers is because Nike (or someone in a sweatshop in China) have carved out a small oval-shaped hole in the left shoe under the innersole where the sensor sits (see below).

Of course, a quick look on Amazon will show you that if you already have a favourite pair of running shoes there are numerous pouches and holders that will adapt your shoes for the sensor.

Now you've got the gear, got the shoes, and signed up to the site.  Ready to go?  Not quite.  I personally find that the earphones supplied with iPods can fall out quite easily (as tested when running for buses, trains, planes, etc).  A good pair of speciality running earphones are probably in order.  I went for a pair of Sennheiser PMX 80 Sport headphones.  They loop around your ears and behind your head so they don't move at all when running.  After my first run today I can tell you they work perfectly, completely solid, no jittering, and crisp clear audio.

....and they're nice and yellow
 Surely there's nothing else to buy?  Well, maybe one more thing.  You need somewhere to put the iPod as you're bounding around the streets.  Placing it in a pocket could be OK, but the iPod is so small it could easily fall out if you don't have a zip.  The solution is either to hold it or buy an arm strap:

Can be bought for just a few £'s from eBay or Amazon

And that's it -- well, apart from the actual running!  As I mentioned earlier, today was my very first session using all of this newly bought technology.  I certainly felt like a runner, and I kind of looked like a runner, but after a few minutes on the road I literally thought I was going to die.  I just about managed to finish my target of 1.7 km, but I have no idea how I'm going to do the 3.2 km that's waiting for me on Saturday.  I did find the option of a "power song" (where you press the centre button on the iPod and it plays your most motivational song) helped for a short time when I started to lose power, and the inner-geek in me finds some motivation in uploading runs and keeping track of my progress.  Overall I am very impressed with how it works, and once it's all running, how easy it is to use. 

Here's hoping I'll still be alive to do 5 km in 3 months....

P.S.  Although it may look like it, I am not an employee of Nike or Amazon!!

Monday, 5 April 2010

I'm Alive....

Just to prove I am indeed living
....because you may have thought I was dead considering it's been almost 11 months since my last blog post!

I'm sure you can guess the reason for my absence by just reading said previous blog post.  Just one thing stopped me from writing pages and pages of more drivel:  The Great Firewall of China.  I did try to use a proxy server (a computer network that will connect to websites on your behalf making it look like you are in another country), but found that the terribly slow speed and lack of security was too much of an issue to ignore.  After a few failed attempts at logging onto Blogger I very quickly learnt to live without blogging in my life.  I could have tried an alternate website, but the fear I had of other blog sites being blocked put me off.  You see, Blogger was just the beginning of a new internet crackdown in China.  Twitter and Facebook soon faced the axe, and even IMDB was blocked at one point.  It seemed no site on the planet was safe from the over-sensitive internet police of China.

"How can you be writing this blog post now?"  I hear you ask (oh no, that's just the voice inside my head).  Well, two weeks ago I managed to climb over the wall and escape to the safe island state of the United Kingdom -- which really means I've come back home.  It was not an easy decision to make by any means, but I felt the right time had come.   Almost 3 years in China had flown by so incredibly quickly, I could very easily see myself staying in the same position in another 3 years, and then 6 years, and then 12 get the idea.  Another factor that was calling me to leave was because I had finally decided on something I genuinely would like to study and do as a career.  I was just torn as to whether to stay in China for longer or not.  The itch to make a change became too much and I took the plunge of leaving the life, love, and friends I had made.  Now, back home with my family in Manchester, England, I am starting on a brand new path by studying two subjects that will lead to the career I really want:  Counselling and Hypnotherapy.

The most difficult part of leaving was having to part from Kimi, my girlfriend.  She had known for a very long time that I hadn't intended to live in China forever, and she was a big deciding factor as to whether I should come home now or not.  Luckily for me she was very supportive and understanding about my decision.  Now we are working on the long arduous visa process so that she can finally come and live with me here.  For the next 12 months we have planned to make sure we see each other via holidays.  She will come on holiday in summer and I will go on holiday back to China at the end of the year.  It is by no means a perfect solution, but it's the best we can do considering the circumstances.

That's pretty much my life updated.  Next blog post will be sometime in 2011 then....

Not really!  In fact I have a host of subjects I would like to write about over the coming months.  As mentioned above, I will certainly be updating progress on Kimi's move to the UK over the next year; I will continue to write about China as I still have almost one year's worth of stories to look back on (which was also the reason I decided not to start a completely new blog); Also, I would like to document my progress with regards to studying, job hunting, and living in the UK -- something which is quite removed from life in China.  But the main reason I have decided to start writing on my blog again is the same reason I started blogging in the first place: to keep a diary.

In all honesty I have sorely missed doing this, just writing about anything seems to rattle the dust from my mind.  I look forward to more blogs to come.  

P.S.  If anybody is reading, then I hope you like the new design -- it took me bloody ages!!