Sue meets China - a battle of wills

[EDITOR'S NOTE - Sue's blog is sent via email direct from China and therefore includes any grammatical errors caused by character set incompatibility and/or Chinese government censoring]

See Virtual Tours of China

Hi everyone Ive not been in touch for a while as Ive been very busy#.escaping from China. Yes I finally managed to get across the boarder to Thailand 每 believe me they were stopping people at the boarder 每 the only country in the world where its harder to get out than to get in!! I did believe infact that they wouldn*t let me in again but after much paperwork which naturally I completed in English and they clearly only understood Chinese, I was allowed back. Im paying for my time off now though 每 Ive got to make up the lessons I missed 每 I never heard of school holidays where you subsequently make up the time (!). Anyway, Pete brought me a copy of Bend it Like Beckham and in my role as English Language Expert I can make a powerful argument that watching this film over the next three weeks is a worthwhile experience for the children and gives them a comprehensive and insightful perspective into British culture from a teenager*s point of view as well as the opportunity of hearing the English language expressed naturalistically#..Whatever, I get to have lots of free time to plan my trip to Beijing and catch up on my paperwork!!!

Thailand was a dream 每 lots and lots of white sand, blue sea and sky. It was very hot too tropical infact! 每 It very hot here in China but Thailand hits you with that humid wall the minute you go out in it 每 of course tropical doesn*t just mean lush greenery but also my favourite form of insect 每 yes those hard backed things#- I have become very calm around them because I know that there isn*t any escape so it wasn*t too bad 每 but my god they can be pretty large and threatening#.On the wild life theme, we had the most amazing outdoor shower, very Conrad, lots of neutral colours and hard wood surfaces#.This also meant that we had two spiders the size of a small cat in with us and #and#the piece of string hanging round the shower head wasn*t a piece of white string at all but a discarded snake skin!!!! So where is the snake? Pete was also joined by a centipede when he went to the loo but as I dealt with the spiders he had to deal with that. We had a lovely bungalow with the most efficient air conditioning Ive ever come across and the most amazing swimming pool 每 it had incredible underwater lighting and downlights along the side of the pool 每 infact lighting in Thailand was pretty stunning, someone had clearly got a copy of one of those minimalist architectural magazines that bare no resemblance to realitity and reproduced it. I loved it so much that I took mountains of photos and now feel its perfectly reasonable to have a swimmingpool at home!!! When I showed my work colleagues the photos they just cant understand this English madness 每 they want to know where the photos of the Ladyboys are!!! Truly, people stopped me in the street and said 每 oh what were the ladyboys like in Thailand!

See Virtual Tours of Thailand

It was a wonderful rest and I thought Id find it horrific to come back to this concrete jungle 每 which it is of course but its not too long til I go home and I went for a walk along the road leading up to the Mossie resturant and I had a couple of nice chats in the beautify salons 每 they have promised me the looks of a 20 year old 每 the greengrocer said Neehow (Hello), the &clean* supermarket had a good selection of icecreams and the little shop has a NEW icecream fridge (icecream is very good in china and very cheap 每 3p to 28p for a magnum for those who are interested). I also had a nice chat with a lady who has a clothing shop#so I feel I can bare it a bit longer.

Yesterday however, I was seriously pissed off..I couldn*t get to sleep it was so hot and I had all the windows open and then around 4am I woke up again to the sound of loud voices#of course its like they*re in the room with you cos the concept of privacy just doesn*t seem to exisit and we*re all on top of each other anyway#so this went on and on and on until I finally got up to look and there was a group of people outside pointing and shouting so eventually I went out#5am #and joined them..I was looking up like everyone else but I couldn*t see anything. But the chat continued#.I did a bit of washing, yoga, had my breakfast#6.30 a.m when the official alarm bell goes#.everyone disappears only to return at 7oclock.. Im in work by 8 and find out that there was 4 apartments burgled in my block!!!!! The chaps (Im assuming) scaled the 20 foot wall into the campus and then climbed up the cages that enclose the windows to get to the 4th floor and cut through the metal bars and got into the apartment while the people slept#and then did it 3 more times!!! I still cant believe it#And Im on the ground floor and every single window is open#.These apartments are not large believe me so how they did it I just cant imagine. Now of course its like fort Knox but if they have metal cutters I just don*t know how to keep it secure.

This really is a high crime area#Ive been here three months and thank god nothing has happened to me but Jill has been mugged, stalked (I thought he had mental health problems though) and now these robberies!!!! And the other day I was on the bus and the bus driver ran someone over!!! Yes and they didn*t call an ambulance just put her on the bus!!! And drove to the next stop!!!!#I hope I can get through the next weeks without coming to harm!! I just wander around trusting everyone and strolling down unlit streets late at night convinced that my new Thai bag with the secure zip will prevent any possible crime!!

Our Thailand Travel Video Guide

Im continuing to getting fatter and fatter and fatter 每 I eat out every night cos I cant cook on the hob but unlike everyone else who travels to China Im yet to be poorly 每 I met a woman on the plane going to Thailand who said 每 everyone loses weight in China 每 No Im keeping up my calorie supply with endless noodles, icecream and #.well endless noodles 每 it*s a bit samey 每 sometimes I have spicy bread too! Please tell me how these Chinese girls are a size 4 to 6 while eating vast quantities of fried stuff#In Thailand I ate fish every night 每 it was amazing 每 they h ad huge huge prawns and we ate them on the beach laying on these triangular cushions and eating off low tables lit by candles 每 ah so romantic! Prior to the Thai trip Id only been out for the weekend once here in China 每 its so so hard to travel.

Anyway, Jill and I met this couple down at the pavement caff 每 well its more some stools on the pavement 每 infact that night there was a potential police raid and we had to switch out the light and crouch on the floor 每 However, we started talking to a couple who work as architects in the building next door 每 neither like their job and I guess if you saw the average modern Chinese architecture you*d feel pretty dispirited too. Anyway, they were very very nice and invited us out in a borrowed car on the following Saturday to a &mountain*. We all went me, Jill and Tom the Fin. Now I have to say Jill was much keener to go to a local beauty spot called Taibay so on the way Taibay came up and &Oliver* the chap says (I thought reluctantly) well we could go there instead. Yes, Yes says Jill, No No says me#It was miles away and I wanted to get home again 每 also we*ve only just met these people we*re in a borrowed car on some dirt track and we*re just asked a girl with a goat in her arms the way#we might never return. So that forced a bit of conversation. Shi Yuen (the girl) says oh it is very dangerous 每 the Chinese say everything is dangerous and now I realize they are being truthful! 每 Oh whats dangerous says Jill 每 Well say Shi Yuen its easy to get lost 每 and my friends were lost for 5 days and its good that they had so much water and food#the police and the army finally found them#..Ive got a litre of water and two apples #Sharyn*s going to be seriously pissed off if I don*t turn up#And then Oliver says Oh yes it is very sad because my friend went in a group and only one returned (or was he talking about the Blair Witch project) They were eaten by the bears!!! No I don*t want to go and then we move on to the snakes (Im in sandles)#.So we went to the mountain and we had many, many people keeping us company 每 approximately 20,000 at a rough count! And I spent the last of my money on one of those pulley system things where they strap you into a seat and allow you to travel at great speed down a wire#I went from one side of the lake and back again. It was great fun and I only got vertigo climbing up- the steps.

Our Thailand Travel Highlights

On the way back we got stuck in a frightful traffic jam and it appeared that there was some kind of dispute with the bus company which involved rocking passing minibuses and turning them over!!!! Im not sure that trade unions are allowed here!!! One of our British Council colleagues came to stay a few weekends ago and she brought with her a guy called Declan who was sharing her dormitory (you strike up the most unusual friendships here). Anyway Declan was telling me all about how he stayed with one of his students over the New Year Holiday 每 took him two trains, 5 buses and no road for the last mile to get there. He kept touching his ears and it turns out that it was so cold at night that his ears got frost bite!! He didn*t wash for three weeks (except for his feet) and all water was collected from a well. In case you*re interested they had a cess pit loo 每 you just went over a ledge and the pigs did the rest 每 of course I asked, I have to add to my loo experiences#Thailand had western style and flushing water in most cases except for the ones that used a bucket of water#.I need to go to John Lewis I know!!! Have just got back from my lunch to find that I have the afternoon off 每 I would have liked to know that 21/2 hours ago and I could have gone out!

I went to have a foot massage yesterday 每 a proper one without extras, well I did have a cup of tea but that doesn*t count. Im desperate to spend some money after being broke for so long 每 Ive been investigating manicures and underwear 每 that accounts for about 2 pound! I wont be having a hair cut as Ive just been to watch Jill have her hair cut 每 he had just the one technique, feathering but as she has very very thin hair she didn*t actually want it any thinner 每 I have so little hair I haven*t really got much to lose 每 Ill wait. So it looks like I have a couple of unexpected free hours maybe clean the apartment? No I think its off to find an airconditioned teashop with a English language magazine#.lots of love to everyone Sue xxxxxxxxxx

Our Guide to Annual Events in Thailand

While Im waiting for the hotmail to load 每 this week the internet is even more frustrating 每 Ive been waiting 30 mins to get &new message* 每 Kate,the lady I met on the plane going to Thailand whos also teaching in China told me a story that confirmed that &every class has a spy*#.! Well, this may sound outrageous but Tom the Finn also insists that every class has a spy and I wouldn*t think about it except when I was going to the airport Madam 每 Sharyn 每 when she finally got off her two mobile phones and we*d finished the conversation about mobile phone servers (here in China it is considered perfectly reasonable to cut off any conversation with anyone to answer your phone) Anyway then she says to me &Oh Sue your classes are too easy#* No I don*t think so#And then she goes on to tell me how I have to make the children stand up and give me 9 sentences of English#.Well I wouldn*t think anthing about it except this one child months ago said she wasn*t doing the work cos it was too easy#So I think well how come Sharyon knows about this #and then I spoke with Kate the lady on the plane and then I thought about Tom the Finn #..and now I cant get my internet to work, my subscription to the Archers update has not come through ##Its Len Deighton all over again#####.. No still cant get an email so Ill send this another day xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx