Archive for February, 2006

What Not To Do At The Beach …

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

First off, a little school update. Apparently I’m doing my PhD now, and will be here 3 years as opposed to 1 1/2 to 2. One more year for the priviledge of being called “Dr. Lenio”, eh, I felt it was worth it.

But to the beach story: This weekend I signed up for an Orientation Weekend for international students, and we went to the Narrabeen Lakes just north of Sydney. On Saturday afternoon my group was scheduled to go chill at the beach. That morning we’d had a beach safety talk, and they tell you all sorts of important things, like the importance of wearing sunscreen, what a blue-bottle jellyfish looks like and what to do if/when you get stung, and what you should do when you get caught in a rip and start getting pulled out to sea. Turns out, a very useful talk.

So we go to the beach, and it’s more windy and a bit rougher than it was in the morning, but the waves were big and exciting looking, and so a bunch of us went right in to play around. The mentors had the good sense to talk to the lifeguards ahead of time and let them know there were a bunch of us newbies here and to keep an eye on us. Well, there we are, playing in the waves, dive into one, and get caught in the current (without knowing it) and get taken out quite far. After a bit we turned around and were just like “Holy shit! How did we get out this far?” A bit scary. So we started trying to swim back, but of course now you’re in the current. There were maybe 8 of us out there, so an American girl and I started swimming back between the flags (as we were told to), where the waves would take us back to shore. This was also difficult though because there was also a sideways current, so it was some hard swimming. To my credit, though, I did make it back between the flags, and would have made it back eventually, but am very glad I didn’t have to.

Dev, from Indonesia, thought he was going to drown, and Dennis, from Amsterdam, was out there with him, as was one of the mentors I believe. And Robin, a girl from Sweden or somewhere. Robin had the good sense to realize she couldn’t swim back and signalled to the life guards and a bunch of them grabbed some floatation devices and came to the rescue. So all these lifeguards kept swimming by me and asking if I was okay, then saying they were going to help the people out further first. Because comparatively I was fine. It really was scary for Dev, he really could have drown. And I didn’t know at the time, but a little bit further out than I was there were a lot of blue-bottle jellyfish. They won’t kill you, but they will sting you and it will hurt quite a bit. Dennis got stung by 4. At least. The lifeguards gave the guys out there floatation devices, and then picked them up in a motor boat. I got picked up by a lifeguard on a surfboard on his way back in.

The other people all managed to swim out of the rip and swim back to shore on their own. Apparently it was a lot easier to swim out of the rip to the right, as opposed to the left, which was the way the American girl and me chose to swim.

There were a couple of other blue-bottle incidents. One of the mentors got one wrapped around his leg, and Guido from Germany got one stuck down his shorts! Luckily, the back. But still, somewhat hilarious for the rest of us.

So that was our exciting beach trip. The whole weekend was fun. Oh, interesting fact: 90% of all the lifeguards in Australia are volunteers. Amazing, eh? And they’re really good, and they just hang out at the beach all day, and it’s all really professional. I don’t think I’ll go swimming anywhere without lifeguards for a while.

So remember kids, stay out of rips, blue-bottles will hurt but not kill you, and lifeguards are the real heroes of the day.

1st Day Apart

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Sue left for Melbourne last night, I remain here in Sydney. From here on out you’ll be reading about 2 different adventures.

Arrival in Sydney

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

Hello all,

Sue and I arrived in Sydney 3 days ago. We crashed. Then got up ate, and crashed again. That was day 1. Day 2, I bought some essentials, then I met Sue at the beach. It took me an hour and a half to find her, but once I did, it was great. I live a 30 minute walk from Coogee Beach (if I was a faster walker, it would be closer), and we’ve been every day so far. I can see myself going every single day while I’m here.

The waves are quite big. Sue got tired of waiting for me at one point and went for a ’swim’. She got rocked. She waited at the edge for a while, just eyeing the waves. She then decided to enter the ocean at the wrong wave at the wrong time - her feet were wiped out from under her, she got sucked into the wave, tumbled around, popped up somewhere else, and the people around her were very surprised to see her there. People laughed, her swim suit was full of sand, and she decided to head back to the beach. The girl beside her on the beach said “you’re not very good at swimming, are you?” when she returned. She advised Sue that she won’t be so likely to get sucked in by the waves if you turn your body sideways to the waves, instead of meeting them head-on. I found Sue sometime after this episode, and she had sand all through her hair and all over her face.

Today was my turn to be tumbled. We happened to run into the same girl at the beach today. We’ll probably end up beach buddies. It’s handy to have someone to watch your stuff when you go in swimming. Although everyone just asks everyone else to keep an eye on their stuff when they go in. We watched some random guys bags today, and Sue had beach girl watch her stuff yesterday. Everyone’s quite friendly. It’s great.

So yeah. My appartment is nice. My flat-mates are all quite nice (if somewhat disinclined to share their pots and pans, but whatever. Every culture has it’s quirks). I go past a race track on my 15-minute walk to campus. There’s a huge park mearby that we’ll check out tomorrow. The location, frankly, rocks and you should all come out and visit.

Okay, that’s about all I have to report for now. Still trying to figure out how to get bl***y photos onto this bl***y website. Later-o.

Parting notes on Hong Kong

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

Hey everyone,

So Susan and I are leaving Hong Kong today. We’ve been staying with the So family, Conrad So being a friend of my parents from university. Conrad and his wife Candy have three boys: James (9), Victor (8), and Thomas (5). James and Victor woke us up before breakfast this morning by jumping on our bed. Freaked Susan right out as their faces were about an inch away from hers when she opened her eyes.

James is a great reader, and both him and Victor are very interested in Harry Potter, although surprisingly neither of them had read the books before we arrived. They’d only seen the movies, and as a result ask a lot of questions about Harry Potter. “So, in Harry Potter …” was a very common conversation starter. “So, in Harry Potter, how does Dumbledore die if he’s the greatest wizard ever?” “So, in Harry Potter, what does it mean that the wand chooses the wizard?” “So, in Harry Potter, why didn’t Harry die when Voldemort attacked him when he was a baby?” and so on and so on. I did not tell them who the Half-blood Prince was though. Both James and Victor have started reading the books now, and now our conversations are more like “Did you know that when Hagrid saved Harry from the burning house when he was a baby, he was riding Sirius Black’s motorbike?” yes, yes I did James.

Thomas speaks Cantonese as his first language, unlike James and Victor whose first language is English. Thomas is also completely deaf, but is able to hear when wearing this very sophisticated hearing aid device that involves an implant in his head and a battery pack strapped to his back. He goes to bed a bit earlier than the other boys most nights, and Susan and I had been trying to be quiet for the most part when he was in bed. Then one night Victor was talking loudly to us, and walked right into the room where Thomas was sleeping, still calling out to us in the next room. We tried to hush him so as not to wake Thomas, and Victor just looked at us funny. “He can’t hear. He’s deaf,” said Victor. Which is very true, and we felt rather silly afterwards. But still, it must be such an entirely different life. And how soundly one must sleep when one can’t hear anything at all!

As for China, it was good fun. I’ll probably come back through next year for Chinese New Years again. I now know people in Beijing and Hong Kong, and would like to see both again (people and places). Aggie asked about what kinds of toilets they have in China. Well, in Hong Kong they’re mostly Western-style. And in Beijing (and I’m assuming the rest of mainland China) they are mostly Eastern-style (squatting over a hole in the ground. Looks kinda like a sideways urinal, and flushes). Other random things we’ve learned: there are no such things as fortune cookies in China! Biggest joke ever, in their opinion. Also, bubble tea doesn’t exist the same way it does in North America. You can’t get tapioca pearls. You can’t get chunks of jelly or anything either. All you can get is solid jelly stuff at the bottom of a fruit/tea drink and then you mix it up with your straw and drink it up (and bird’s nest can be used as the jelly). Also, no such thing as an egg roll. I know, I know. Unbelievable.

Martha’s Conquests: Parts 1 & 2

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

Part One: Martha and Susan go to Beijing

The set-up: Martha and random guy we’ve met on the train are sitting in the hall on those little fold-down seats. Susan is in the compartment beside us laying down on the top bunk, possibly writing this journal entry. A little Chinese boy, about 9 years old, walks up to me and guy whose name I forget, followed closely by his mother.

Boy: Hello, what is your name?

Mars: My name is Martha. What’s your name.

B: My name is (something I couldn’t pronounce).

M: Oh, well you speak very good English.

B: Sex you very much.

It’s at this point that Susan looks down to see what’s going on, and nearly breaks out laughing.

B: Where are you from?

M: I am from Canada.

B: Oh! (Pause) Can I sing you a Chinese song?

M: Yes, that would be nice.

Boy starts singing. Guy beside me breaks out into a huge smile. Susan has to hide because she’s laughing so hard. The ENITRE train is now looking down the aisle at us and smiling. The kids mother is standing directly behind him this whole time twisting the hair at the back of the kids head to hurry him along, but he’s having none of it. He just keeps swatting her hand away, and continues his singing for a full 5 minutes.

The song ends:

M: That was very nice. Thank you. What was is about?

B: <Thinks for a second.> Little star. (Pause). Would you like to come to my house?

M: Where do you live? Is it in Beijing?

B: No, it’s (somewhere I couldn’t pronounce).

M: Sorry, I can’t. I’m travelling to Beijing with my sister.

B: Oh, ok. It was nice to meet you Marfa.

M: It was nice to meet you too. Thank you for the song.

Boy leaves by retreating backwards down the aisle, past everyone who’s been watching, making kung fu moves the whole way.

Part 2: “Trouble”

So it’s our second-last night in Beijing, and the last night for a few others at the hostel. So we decide to go out. Sue and I, a couple of the Aussie’s, Simon (owner of the hostel), and Mr. Tom, the Chinese guy who has a bit of an art shop set up at the front of the hostel. Simon’s goal for the night is to get Mr. Tom ridiculously drunk. Which, it turns out is pretty easy to do.

We go out to an ex-pat bar (all the cheap ones have recently been torn down), and I’m at one end of the table with Sue, Brad, Simon, and Mr. Tom. Part way into Mr. Tom’s first pint he starts looking at me funny. He asks me my name, and I say “Martha”. He couldn’t really pronounce it, so I told him that “Mafa” would be find. Simon repeats it, then him and Brad break out laughing. Apparently “Mafa” means “Trouble” in Mandarin.

By Mr. Tom’s second pint I am “clever” and “cute” (Simon having now taught Mr. Tom all these words), and I should stay in China. After a while Mr. Tom disappears. I go to the washroom, and one of the stalls in the womens bathroom is shut. I go a while later, and it’s still shut. After a while people start wondering where Tom’s got to. So I go back to the washroom and knock on the closed stall - it’s Tom. When we’re ready to leave Simon goes to collect a very drunk Mr. Tom from the women’s washroom, and Mr. Tom keeps moaning “Trouble, Trouble” from time to time. Sue, Simon, Tom and I catch a cab back. The original plan is that we drop Simon off at his place, and Sue and I take Tom back to the hostel. But when the cab stops Tom pukes outside the cab again, so Simon continues home with us to take care of Mr. Tom. I think one of the Aussie’s got a great shot of Tom on the floor of the hostel, puke on the floor beside him, and Simon standing beside him laughing.

It was a fun night.

Steals and Deals in the Beijing Silk Market

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

So today we went to the most craziest market I have been to so far… the silk market. It looks harmless from the outside - it’s just a large building. But once you get in the sales people go nuts yelling at you to come in and see their stuff and if you don’t listen they will just grab your arm and pull you in. It’s true. We saw this 6′ white guy get dragged into a booth by a very small, but very strong little chinese woman (martha also had a similar experience but I pulled back harder and won).

Some of the deals we got were on DVDs - Mary and Lucy you will be happy to know we bought ourselves each a copy of veronica mars- the best part is that on the cover her head is imposed over a stripper type body which is totally funny looking haha.

other dvds, Narnia, Amelie, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, bowling for columbine, king kong, wedding crashers, and coach carter. - So mom and dad dont buy these.

Steals were on the two pearl necklaces and an earring set for around $8.00 canadian and they are very nice, real and pretty. Martha also got a good deal on pearl earrings to match the necklace she has back at home. Some friends also got shoes for around $8.00 and also raw silk for $25 enough to make a very nice dress.

What a great place for deals, but man are they pushy and over-charge by like 1000%. They will say like, ‘ok i give you a good price….$420..just for you friend’ and then we give them our price of $50, usually get it for around there (this is in chinese yuan currancy).

Time to hit up the dumpling place for dinner - Tomorrow is the long train ride back to HK, another sleepover party with 4 random chinese people in a space the size of a closet.

peace out,

SL & ML (aka “Trouble”… but that’s another story)

Great Wall- The Secret Wall

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Beijing is cold- today it is snowing, which is very pretty. The hostel that we are staying at is very nice, we are in a 4 person dorm room which is working out well. The hostel is like a 5 min walk to Tiananmen Square and there are street markets along the way- which is where i got an awesome down-filled jacket for$15 Can- awesome steal.

China is a great place for getting deals so far I am loving the shopping- but still no digital I am on a mission for the best price.

So, yesterday we went on a tour of the Great Wall of China- our tour guide spoke no english and was an excellent climber compared to the rest of us. We drove 2 hours to a small village where we meet and family and our guide who took us along the Great Wall- this was a not a novice walk as we were climbing mountain cliffs and sliding down steep hills. the view was AMAZING- everyone must experience this once in their life times.

Out little Chinese guide lead us across a not so frozen part of the water where martha, the guide, and an australian fraser all broke through the ice and were up to their ankles in water- ** The guide thought this was freaking funny and couldn’t stop laughing at martha and fraser - haha.

the hike lasted about 4 hours of mountain climbing, climbing the guard towers, and walking on the frozen river- not a soul in sight. just us and the mountain.

We walked back to the families house where they cooked us and amazing lunch with 6 or 7 different dishes. They didn’t speak english but wanted to know where everyone was from, they LOVED the digital cameras - seeing themselves in the pictures.


time is up and we have to get going- we are both having a great time.

Till next time, Suz/Mars

Off to Beijing

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

We are on the move again. Since we didn’t get enough travelling yet we have decided to do a 25hr train ride to Beijing in a sleeper train. In Beijing we are staying in a hostel for CDN$5 a night which is a steal to me….but we will see what it is really like once we get there.

Hong Kong has been great so far, a good transition in preparation for mainland China. HK has English signs and most places also have English translations too which has made things a lot easier.

The markets have been interesting as well- so far I have bought this really cool swiss army watch set… turns out to be a total fake and it will always be April 9th on it…oh well. I guess it’s more about the fun of trying to talk a sale down.

We went to the jade market where there is a lot of jade and a lot of people selling the same type of jade. I did get a nice necklace which Mars talked the lady down on which was awesome.

Oh, yesterday, me being the avid hiker/camper, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to go for a hike to the peak [I also thought it was a good idea -M]. This hike turned out to be more of an iron man mission to make it to the top, who knew that climbing up a mountain at about a 45 degree incline for 4 hrs could be so much fun - haha. So the hiking here is on a whole other level. I was just glad I didn’t have a canoe on my back. The views along the way were very nice and the huge houses along the way were amazing, the one appartment had a putting green in the backyard, sand trap and all.

But, we made it to the top where there was a shopping mall and a McDonalds so we got an ice cream [ice cream from McDonald’s here is CDN$0.50, and the McFlurries are just under a dollar, so we’ve been eating a lot of ice cream -M] and took the tram down to the bottom. [It was a bit anti-climactic to get to the top of the mountain and find a mall. But I guess it is Hong Kong. -M]