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from the ends of the earth

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

by phone-phobic Rach, friend of phone-phobic Rosie
Guangzhou, China


We were standing right there in the middle of that bridge when Rob quietly chided Mboy6 for fiddling with the valuable-items-in-his(Rob’s)-buttoned-pocket. Apparently pickpockets are prevalent round these parts, not that we’ve become acquainted with any yet, and the fewer hands disturbing the wallet, the more likely it will be that Rob will notice if something untoward does happen at some stage.
What he didn’t realise this time was that M6 was trying to draw his dadda’s attention to the mobile phone, which was ringing. By the time the pocket was unbuttoned and technology extracted, it had gone silent. It was then that it struck us how strange it was for the phone to be ringing for us in China!

It was about as strange as hearing music just minutes beforehand – and not just any song; it was ironically “The Sound of Silence” – pulsing out of a rock. We had taken a second look, and yes, there were speakers in rocks at regular intervals along the neat manicured paths.

Now our own music restarted…..and Rob answered the call.
From the other side of the world, five hours ahead of us, came the voices of people, who are still talked about Every Single Day by the children.

Stopping in our tracks to try to decipher the cryptic message, which was breaking up over the airwaves in its quest to find us, provided the perfect opportunity for our newest fan club to congregate around us. Simply stopping is enough to ensure we make a spectacle of ourselves. Whether in the park or in a community square, when we grind to a halt, the rest of the pedestrian traffic slows too. But until we extend an invitation, the crowd hangs back politely. If you catch their eye, they look away. They position their bodies away from us, but their camera lenses are pointed directly in our direction….or there are the other sort, who pretend to be photographing the rubbish bin or lamppost nearby! Furtive photos.
All it takes is a smile, or perhaps making the hand signal for the number eight (thumb straight up, index finger out as if you’re pointing to your left) and the crowd becomes brave and brazen. All those lingering individuals suddenly descend on us, full of friendly questions.

And that’s exactly what happened when we “hung up” today. Hello. How are you? Where am I from? My children? And the question, which we now “recognise” even though we couldn’t repeat it, to which we standardly answer in Mandarin, “Eight children.” This is always greeted with head-nodding, thumbs-ups and repeating of the new information to those further back in the crowd……and on it goes…..

We didn’t really notice today….we were basking in the enjoyment of connecting with friends…and Rob was too busy laughing that the two mothers had predictably said not a word!

Thanks for thinking of us again guys.

apartment living

Friday, February 27th, 2009

by Rachael
Guangzhou, China

China features four times in the top twenty “biggest cities of the world”, and while we won’t be going to number 19 (Shenzhen), we will be visiting numbers 14 and 16 (Shanghai and Beijing), and right now we’re in number 18, Guangzhou, with a population of 12 million.
12 million people. A number I cannot comprehend. When you have so many people in one place, where do they all live? It would seem most of them are in apartment blocks. As far as the eye can see, the entire length of the road is apartment after apartment after apartment after apartment. And when you turn the corner you see more apartments. And more apartments. And still more apartments.

As visitors to this city, we are living away from the tourist hub, in an apartment complex full of yellow faces. On the ground floor are screened rooms with table tennis tables, outside is a communal exercise area, there is a reasonably-stocked super-mini-market and there are manicured gardens inside and outside of the security-monitored gates.


This, clearly, is not one of the standard apartments in town – I doubt they all come with a daily cleaning and laundry service – but even still it is far cheaper than staying in a (totally-fiscally-inaccessible-to-us) hotel or even a hostel. Extra bonuses are that no-one is trying to sell us a tour and we don’t have to share the toilet (actually we do have a loo-queue before going out, but we’re not sharing with others as well). We have a kitchen and the novelty of cooking for ourselves – although being in a city renowned for its food, we are going to have to eat out sometime this week! Dumplings are calling.

Not all apartments have views to the city and views to Guangzhou’s main hill. We appreciate that ours does, especially when we consider what these people get to look at each day.

Obviously there’s apartment living and then there’s apartment living.

We observed yesterday that if you had to be poor, it would be preferable to be rurally poor than poor in the city. The rows of drab grey concrete blocks crammed into the streets like sardines in a can would be no match for a mountain vista. But people are flocking to the cities for healthcare (even though they often end up with pollution-induced diseases), education for their children and apparently better housing. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a man just a week ago about the people who live up on the terraced mountains of Longji.

Man: They have a hard life. They work the old traditional way. It is hard work.
Me: Do they have enough food? Or is there sometimes famine?
Man: Oh, they have food. They grow everything they need.
Me: Then it’s a hard life, but maybe a good life.
Man: Do you think so? (It’s his turn to question)
Then he clarified his position, “It’s a hard life, but not a good one. They even live in wooden houses.”

This makes me wonder if the people living in these concrete cells see them differently to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.

travelling in the twenty-first century

Thursday, February 26th, 2009
by a tired Mama Yangshuo to Guangzhou, China Take a red plastic bag that's hanging beside the door to put your shoes in before you creep along to the end where you are going to spend the rest of the night. ... [Continue reading this entry]

of mice and men and mercury

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
by Rach Yangshuo, China Down West Street, which until recently was called Foreigner Street, and for good reason, you can buy a t-shirt with a relevant picture and Mickey Maos written on it. You can eat at the Mickey Maos cafe ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fans of Fuli

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
by Rachael Fuli, Yangshuo surrounds, China


The tout didn't try to sell us his guiding services when we said we were cycling to Fuli village. Accepting that we would go it alone, he just advised ... [Continue reading this entry]

slowed to a stop

Monday, February 23rd, 2009
started by Rach, who is sick in bed, and Rob, who finished it off Yangshuo, China Some days we slow down, sometimes coming to a complete standstill. Today, was such a day; stopped for the Mama, but only slow for the children. Kboy10 was ... [Continue reading this entry]


Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
by the lady, who has known the birthday boy for over half his life so far Yangshuo, China


Not many men would be satisfied with a pair of handmade socks and a made-in-China t-shirt with ... [Continue reading this entry]


Saturday, February 21st, 2009

by Rob     Yangshuo, China Yangshuo is a glitzy, boutique tourist-town for sure. However, it is also a fantastic launching pad into rural China. So today, we ate an early breakfast (yes, we were eating before nine today LOL!) and sorted ... [Continue reading this entry]

no tour thank you, we just want to walk around the town, no bike, no show, no raft, no boat, no taxi, nothing thanks

Friday, February 20th, 2009
by Rach Yangshuo, China Tourists and touts, that's Yangshuo, or so we had heard. It's not all cannot walk down the main street without a very friendly local walking up to you wanting to strike up a conversation and out of ... [Continue reading this entry]

*use your noodle*

Thursday, February 19th, 2009
by Jboy13 Yangshuo, China No matter how hard I watched, I couldn't work out how he did it. This man at the front of a little shop on the street started with a ball of dough ... [Continue reading this entry]