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(found on a notepad from 2015; uploaded a bit later)

Modesty and humility (went into a bar)

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

somebody

[suhm-bod-ee, -buhd-ee, -buh-dee]
pronoun
1. Some person.
noun, plural somebodies.
2. A person of some note or importance. A person of greater importance than others: he seems to be somebody in this town.
[ Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition]

What makes a somebody? I’ve heard this term banded around so freely in China. It bugs me, because not everyone has had the fortune to rise-up the social classes or has been afforded a chance, a real shot at life. Some are born into poverty, some grit their teeth in a no frills lifestyle and almost everyone tries their hardest to improve themselves. No single person wants to awake each day in shit. Yes, many paths are different, some opt for crime, fraud and treachery, others seek out lawful means. In my humble opinion, saying “he is a somebody” or “she is a somebody” discounts the fact that people are always somebody. I also find that most of the time being a somebody means having money. Yeah, I get business and success, hats off to them for working hard and pushing on. My gripe is along the way, is the questions.

  • Were they paying their staff fairly?
  • Were they putting profit before quality?
  • Did they compete fairly?
  • Were laws and regulations followed fairly?
  • How clear was their conscience?
  • Who did the real work?

The list could go on and on, and I’m not lecturing. Did they recycle more than a box of plastic bottles in their career? Does this make me ethical? I don’t know. I just don’t rate this capitalism lark. The rich get richer and the poorer fall further behind. Life quality may improve but equality is a dream, that has eluded many for many generations and will continue to without a focus on community and bringing balance. Wouldn’t we be much stronger if we supported our poorer communities globally and brought more education to the table? Or should we stay focused on me, myself and I? I get little satisfaction from tunnel-vision about rewarding myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love to improve but seeing others rewarded for teamwork and togetherness is far more nourishing to my soul. So, when I meet people and they are immediately introduced as a “somebody”, I generally think, “I literally couldn’t give a fuck, knobhead.” To others they may inspire, support and do something for the greater good, but wearing a shiny gold watch and belt, parading their flashy investments is not enough for me. Their crocodile skin shoes may be as fake as their smile. For me human kindness is more genuine.

You can either make money fast, or steady in a highly competitive world but at some stage values, principles and moralities must come into focus. Having attended the opening of a Multinational Conglomerate Corporation Group Worldwide’s new mega-city-one-shopping-mall-effort once, one guy played Top Trumps with me. I didn’t enter the game. Still he persisted with, “I ate champagne and drank snails on the Seine.” I’d soon learn how Big Ben looks from The Shard and the London Eye’s V.I.P. suites. If only he knew that Big Ben was the bell, and not the tower. I interjected that the Thames now has octopus and is much cleaner than many years ago. He looked unimpressed. I asked where he visited in the U.K. Just the city of London. Just the centre. He spent five weeks there. Not one museum or walk around the heart if the city. All business. No play. This Panini sticker album of boasts kept going on and on. Eventually Business Man Of The Year from the Province of Most Wonderfulness, asked me, “so what was your best view of a city?” I said, whilst I am from Manchester – the Northern Powerhouse of England, I don’t think cities are the be all and end all of life. I explained how farmers in the U.K are admired and not looked on as peasants like in some countries. I said many aspire to hold idyllic homes built by Transnational Cosmopolitan holdings in quieter places with less traffic and smog. His jaw seemed to drop. He pushed for my greatest city view. I said aside from working in an office overlooking the great Manchester Town Hall, and views of football stadiums, old architecture and the like, cities for me were not amazing. So, then he said his greatest moment was to sit in an office at Trump Towers and see New York. Whilst I admit, New York is a great city, for me the view lacks nature, green and blue. His great moment reeked of cliché. That pong, not only had New York’s wonderful skyline, attached to many romance movies and stories, history etc, but also Donald “Fake-word inventor” Trump added extra buoyancy to it. He pushed me again for my greatest view. Eventually I caved in, and told him, “I had a shit that froze in the Himalayas. The view from the small wooden toilet window was breathtaking. I shed a tear of joy. It was pure beauty.” He didn’t ask for my WeChat I.D.

If the next James Bond novelist needs an inspiration for a baddie, there are loads here in China. Not bad people out-right. Just they fir the platitude and formula required to face up to 007. Between many of them, none have checked a fire extinguisher. Some have probably moved said item to fit a company logo made of copious amounts of precious stone. They’re the sort that open their business with a fashion show of pre-teen girls (and one stand alone boy for good measure). The inappropriate catwalk of minors. Many men, usually in their thirties and upwards, the ones who made illegal massage parlour culture popular, whip out their camera phones and snap away. There is no hint that they are paedophilic in nature. This is not always true. They are just plain improper in their actions. Their snapps line their social media moments, probably unprotected from those they have rarely met. As the skimpy-clad clothing of teenagers departs, on steps a man. He’s usually in his 40’s. He wouldn’t stand out in a street ordinarily. But today, today, he is wearing all white. He has dance moves that everyone’s uncle and father could pull off after a hip replacement. His voice isn’t too bad. It isn’t too good either. The song evolves from Cantopop to a segment of rap which he pulls of in the antonymical meaning of flawlessly. He departs to applause. Singular. His partner is obliged.

Next up comes two children. The cutest ones from the class. They hum and mime a song by TF Boys. Like the TF Boys, they are one voice drop from disappearing forever. Their catchy pop songs will reign eternal as they inject the royalties into their veins. After a talent competition hate-filled juvenile eyes look on at their winning rivals. Throughout the audience product placement is as barefaced – totally unashamed. The latest overly-gassy alcopop sits next to a the most colourful of children’s sweet confectionaries. By the end of the night, the event highlights will have included a smoke machine clashing with a bubble machine. You had to be there. In closing there is a group photoshop and individual photos with a selction of glass phallus-shaped trophies.

Occasionally, through the excessive lighting comes a bright spark of talent and a real clap appears from the audience. Sadly, like Dan Brown novels, you must read many pages to enjoy a chapter or paragraph. Can you get the two hours of time back no? Did you enjoy it? Yes, maybe, but perhaps not in the ways that others did. And that is life. Enjoy every moment, write aggressively and angrily when required or nod, smile and carry on. Do what you love. Love what you do. Hate nothing, but observe and report in your own ways. You never know. You could be talking to Mr Business Man Of The Year from the Province of Most Wonderfulness tomorrow. It doesn’t mean it will all be bad. Share your favourite view from a bathroom.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

A noodle unravelling in a pan of boiling water

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,


Continued…


Last Thursday I started writing this. I was at the time acutely aware you could be reading this on any of the other six days, or most likely, not at all. Print is dead, I hear. It feels like this last week has been tough. No money from two sources that should have paid up by now – and stupid requests to get what is owed. It feels like being taken for granted – and right before summer, where the money is precisionly planned to leave my account for good reasons.

Then, there is the visa nightmare. My CRB (now called Disclosure and Barring Service) application should take 14 days, it shows 23 online and there hasn’t been a reply by Disclosure Scotland, where I applied. I called them. It said on their number to check online. Online it says to call their customer services for problems. I tried that again. It said check online. Catch 22.

So, I fly to the U.K. with a signed contract, but no visa after 13th July 2017. The Foreign Expert Certificate expires on the 30th of August 2017. It will have to be sorted in Manchester or London. Exactly, what I did not want. I’m due back by the 23rd of August 2017. School starts on the 28th of August 2017. The race to return is under way…


Today, no students are at school, a typhoon (Merbok) threatened to impact the city. In fact, the day is grey with mostly calm skies. A few strong gusts last night did little, other than air the city. Better safe than sorry.

School wouldn’t let me make make a farewell speech. Instead, I plan to post this before I fly…


Dao Ming Foreign Language School has been part of my life since February 2014. I landed in a new culture, village and city not knowing how important Dao Ming would be in my life. It has been much, much more than a job. Dao Ming introduced me gently to Chinese cultures, ways of life harsh and poor, to strong and privileged. It opened my eyes to a fast-developing country and gifted me the chance of new friends. From the off, Principla Mr Wang, Bright and Miss Jiang guided me through the gates and allowed me the freedoms to teach oral English and culture. They embraced me from day one and pushed me to be better, despite my lack of singing, dancing and musical talent. To each, I say:

谢谢你给我很多建议.(Xièxie nǐ gěi wǒ hěnduō jiànyì.) Thank you for giving me so many suggestions.

There were days when the transition from a temperate climate to a sub-tropical range drained me. Adjustment took a rather long time. The team of P.E. teachers pushed me on, as did my first batch of foreign teaching colleagues in Esben, James, Liam and Bri. To each teacher that first semester:

当我消沉的时候,你鼓励了我。对此我十分感激。 (Dāng wǒ xiāochén de shíhòu, nǐ gǔlìle wǒ. Duì cǐ wǒ shífēn gǎnjī.) I really appreciate that you helped lift my spirits when I was feeling low.

My colleagues have worked tirelessly along the years and many have sadly moved on to other schools. Some to be closer to home, some to face new challenges and some due to artistic differences. The nature of education does that, but one thing that each and every teacher I have encountered throughout my time has had, is passion and a smile on a Monday morning. Not every Monday, but not far off it. To see each teacher so tired yet to passionate about making a difference, is in my eyes inspiring.

太感谢了(iài gǎn xiè le) So thankful.

In grades 5 this last year, I have worked with Alice, Orchid, Amy and Jack Armstrong. They have bubbled with enthusiasm and encouraged me despite our cultural differences, and our workload being far apart. They are the backbone of English at a most important stage of development. I have seen each teacher improve with every passing month.

万分感谢(wàn fēn gǎn xiè) Ten thousands percent (of) thankfulness.

In previous years, I have taught in Grade 6. Only Nancy now remains, from her once passionate and dedicated team. To her, I say thanks for the gift of remaining so positive and confident. It rubs off on others. She can inspire and lead.

谢谢你的礼物! (Xièxie nǐ de lǐwù!) Thank you for your gift!

In actuality, as it is, right now, I do not feel like writing anything and my ebb is out of flow, yet I know deep down in my heart, I need to express my gratitude for my time at Dao Ming Foreign Language School. It was an opportunity given to me by Worlda International Education. Jessie and Casey right at the start pushed me hard and fast from landing in Guangzhou’s airport to stepping off a sweaty coach in Houjie Square. Things moved quickly, almost like a blur and before long I was in my first class, alone – and in full control. You either sink or swim. I don’t believe I sank. I still believe I am learning to swim. Experience has led me, and instinctive calm supported me, but none of this would have been possible without Worlda presenting the opportunity and relations with Dao Ming Foreign Language School. Kimmie, and Mico have been very hands on, yet hands off in recent times, being there when needed and assisting me with the technicalities of working under foreign laws, rules and regulations.

Then there were colleagues such as Yolanda, Michael, Joy, Keith Tao, Chloe, Christine, Dan, Teresa, Ishit, David, Jessie Wang, Joanna, and Wendy who all assisted me in some shape or form. None will be forgotten. All played their part in this journey of sorts.

非常感谢你的帮助 (Fēicháng gǎnxiè nǐ de bāngzhù) Thank you very much for your help.

The students have always been a joy. Without them there would be no school. There would be no community built closely around the school. There could be no jokes about test and exams on a regular basis with vast descriptions of homework mountains. There surely would not be smiles in sunshine and delight at cooling rains as the harsh summer drains energies. There would be no requests for Acton’s Independent Sweet Store to re-open. To each student:

辛苦你了!(Máfán nǐ le!)   Thank you for your hard work!

真不知道该怎么谢你(zhēn bù zhī dào gāi zěn me xiè nǐ) I really don’t know how to thank you.

没有你我该怎么办 (méi yǒu nǐ wǒ gāi zěn me bàn) What would I do without you?!

To everyone, who has been lost, found, confused or clear in working alongside me, I want to say thank you. Please forgive me if I have confused you or even made your stay here blighted by any negative comments about humanity. This is me. I hope I cheered you on. If I didn’t, I certainly tried! To James, Liam, Esben, Bri, Mikkel, Liane, Andreas, Catherine, Emily, Micaela, Kira, Joe, Tess, Arvid, Jack, Beth, Analisa, Josie, Omar, and Alexis.

欠你一个人情 (qiàn nǐ yí gè rén qíng) I owe you one.

To all, I say:

非常感谢你 (fēi cháng gǎn xiè nǐ) thank you very much.

Have I finished in China?

没有没有,还差得远.(Méiyǒu méiyǒu, hái chà dé yuan.) No no, not at all. There is long way to go.

步步高昇 (bù bù gāoshēng): Onwards and upwards.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

“All change.” – Part One

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

So, on June the 16th 2017, I will leave Dao Ming Foreign Language School after 3.5 years teaching there. I am not allowed to make a farewell speech for fear of upsetting the students. I suspect it is more so that parents don’t get an incorrect message. It is a private school, afterall! I had requested the opportunity to say goodbye at the final flag-raising ceremony to which I was told, the ceremony is taken “very serious.” I guess departing and wanting to say thank you and good luck is not serious. I do feel a little more than disappointment. I am gutted. And, to confound that, I was told not to tell teachers and students. However, some students in Middle School already now. There is a fear in the school of overly-emotional students and mobbing for hugs. I suspect mostly, the fear of parents removing their students. So plans to abseil into the playground and announce in bright lights of my departure are on hold.

What next? I will free transfer to St. Lorraine Anglo-Chinese School. It isn’t religious. It just liked the name, so I gathered. They are Hong Kong-owned. They often have fencing, croquet and archery – what’s not to like?! They want a science-based English teacher. They work with schools from Wales (U.K.), Florida (U.S.), and the Gold Coast (Australia). Anyway, visa-permitting (I am awaiting – and chasing the CRB in the U.K.), that is where I should start on August the 28th.

Yesterday, I played 7-a-side football in 35°C heat, with humidity that gave it a real feel of 47-52°C. Our team, Houjie Murray’s FC lost three games on the bounce, losing the latter with no subs. We forefeited the fourth game due to pnly having 5 players. We started with 11. The Treehouse Invitational Cup was excellent but the weather was the winner.

To be continued…

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Best laid plans.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Arriving at school today early, to find that the school trip had been cancelled could have worried me. It did not. So often is the case with respects to being ill-informed or a lack of information, that I just do as Oasis say and “Roll with it.” Yesterday’s school trip for grades 1-4 went successfully. Today’s weather is forecast to be, as the meterologists may or may not put it, “Proper grim.” A tad moist, like a Greggs Steak melt. Glum faces of students seemed conceded to the fact of no school trip, and possibly one to be held back by bad weather for some time.

In stark contract at Monday morning’s meet and greet around 7am, bubbly bright things bouned through the school gates. The odd student sporting sporting pink visors, and other wearing their best summer hats. Smiles replaced the usual Monday morning tired and weary expressions. Hellos were shouted in full voice and with venom. Excitement bubbled up as the convoy of coaches pulled into the school grounds. Each would cart a class to Foshan and a mysterious day out.

Whilst yesterday’s students and teachers enjoyed a fun day trip, today we are on a regular timetable. Sadly, mock exams have been slapped into place over my two morning classes in grade 5. My season-based class will have to wait. It can debut tomorrow. Today, all I have is the football VIP class in period 7 at 4pm. Should the expected storm arrive by noon, that could be washed off too. We shall see. Like I tell my students in football, “Stay on your toes!”

With respect to Plan E, having scuttled Plans A through to D, I have interviews lined up for jobs in ChangPing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The jobs vary from teaching in Dongguan to working between Blighty and China in various trades. That is on top of Plan A, not completely scuttled, just trimmed to work in alongside all else. Such is life. Best laid plans…

This weekend the UCI Track Cycling World Championships are in Hong Kong. I should be there. I have wanted to write more of late, but find life to be quite a distracting affair. Too many shony lights make my feline paw reach to swat the glimmering reflections. Before I get distracted again, here are my recent additions to HubHao:

In Brief – Track Cycling World Championships

Happy Birthday Ched!

No doubt over the last two years, you will have seen many wonderful, meaningful and happy snaps. A large proportion are down to one man. HubHao wishes Ched a happy…

Teaching with Tofu – Tips For The Classroom #5

Teaching can be rewarding, right? Teaching can be amazing, do you concur? Teaching is never easy, agree? Teaching is plain-sailing, sometimes? Writer John Acton adds a…

In Brief – Tomb Sweeping Day

Life is wonderful and remembering those no longer with us is part of life. Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. Today is the right time to remember the luck and fortune that…

Bar Review – The Ship (Houjie)

HubHao recently enjoyed a ship-shape outing to The Ship in Houjie. Fish and chips, beef wraps, and a full English Breakfast was had by all. Writer John Acton scribbles…

In Brief – Cabin Restrictions

As reported across many media outlets today (22nd March 2017) there are some important security notices – and we don’t want you to be caught out! “Electronic devices…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

On the Saturday morning (prior to the 30th of March, when I started to write this), I sat down to breakfast with Maria, her mother and mother’s partner (shūshu or uncle, 叔叔). The kitchen was squat, old and wide open to the elements. As I tucked into my chángfěn (intestine noodles/rice noodle roll/ 肠粉), a small flash of brown streaked through the door and behind a cabinet. Seated mother of Maria spotted it too, she screamed, stood up and slammed the door closed. I personally would have kept the door open. In moments, her handbag was gripped alongside an umbrella, she chased the rat around the room, past me as I continued eating. Eventually it was cornered and a swift foot by shūshu ended its life. I spewed in my mouth as its brains squeezed outwards. Surprisingly, I lost my appetite. I did not finish the accompanying tray of noodles.

Whilst the weekend’s breakfast was a grim attitude towards life, it hasd to be said rats carry diseases and they make food dirty. I get why they are looked upon as little more than a hindrance. As recent as 2009, China sporadically reacted to rabies outbreaks with dog culls. Stray populations in cities were also for the grinder.

China has embraced local and international Non-Government Organisations in ways to humanly manage and apply methods to problematic dogs. By 2014, 320 staff were educated in 46 different cities. That has led to neutering and vaccination programmes, with even some cities imposing laws on abandoning or absing our four-legged friends. Charities to house stray dogs have appeared – and some are even government funded. The adoption programmed generally feature education. Coupled with media attention to dog meat festivals, animal rights have been a focus of media debates and issues. Conversation is growing. This is a fantastically non-political debate and one that may cause divide. Should we eat an animal that goes woof? Action has followed. Mindsets are opening up to debate about animal rights more and more. As each Yulin Dog Meat Festival has approached since 2014, I have seen more and more media exposure. Welfare groups, and groups of volunteers have brought this to the attention of the authorities. Some have rescued canines and felines. When people push the law to enforce the rules, this is a sure sign of positive action.

Since I moved to Houjie in 2014, I have seen the number of dog owners go from roughly, very, very few – where I would see a dog maybe once a week – to encountering dogs at breakfast, lunch and dinner, without having to go to a restaurant! They are everywhere, small terriers up to St Bernards and Border Collies. Even Yorkshire Terriers have found their way far east of East Riding. Even papers have been written in university and International Animal Law Conferences. Times have changed for dog owners here and there. Poodles, huskies, Labradors, are perfectly aligned to those who once had simpler Pomeranians, Papillons, or mixed mutts.

Dog genetics indicate that ownership started in Asia. There is far higher diversity in the gene pool. Pugs, for example, made homes in the time of Confucius, alongside the Chinese imperial household. Nobody else was allowed that little ugly doggy. Recently shepherding and security jobs have been assigned to hounds.

In Beijing, there is a strict rule, 一犬一户 (Yī quǎn yī hù – One Dog, One Household) on pooches. To Stephen King lovers’ delight, the capital city even houses a pet cemetery at Baifu. Each plot will leave your pocket around 20,000RMB lighter. But what does that matter if you invest in doggy fashion. Every pooch needs gloves, hat and a scarf in temperatures as low as 10°C right?

Over the years, I have had many pets. My dog Pup was accompanied by several Yorkshire Terriers, Nomaz, Suzie and West Highland Terrier by the name of Snowy. Pup being pure-breed mongrel, was part Labrador, Rottweiler and Kangaroo. Having looked after Charlie, a neighbour’s German Shepherd for many a year,

In the feline world, I was raised with Basil (like Jess, from Postman Pat, a black and white cat). Then there was Sparky and Tigger. Others have joined for shorter periods of time, due to Sparky not being neutered and the kittens being rehomed.

In the world of hamsters, Bright Eyes (a Syrian hamster – why does no one complain about this batch of furry pet shop refugees coming over to the U.K. taking the roles of mice!?), Stripe and Gizmo (Russian hamsters – have rodents had a Cold War?) )amongst other rescue hamsters and a whole clan of show mice.

Then, there was S.A.R.A.H. (Swift Arachnid Revenge Assassin Hybrid), a Chilean Rose tarantula.

Oh, and the Stick family, Indian Stick Insects. A skinny bunch. Pets are a wonderful way to embrace our complex world.

[The above is where I finished off on the 30th of March. I will not touch it again]

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

March on.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The frequency may have been reduced to one post every blue moon, but that doesn’t mean I don’t write anymore – of for that matter want to write nothing more. I have just been busy. Like a pretty busy bee, but taller, even if I do bumble just as much.

My right knee had some minor reconstruction to reduce a strained tendon and a knotted ligament. It is recovering. As such I haven’t played football for a while and will continue to avoid contact sport and cycling for at least three weeks. I am permitted to do none-impact sport. Cycling fits into that category, but on the roads around here, I will not be taking that chance. Instead all my stretches and physical activity is confined to indoors, like making cheesecakes and cooking tuna with pasta. That kind of thing.

School has been ticking over and classes have passed by as always. Some are great, others so, so. I always try to add a new zest each week. In one class, it works, then I try it through the other classes of the same grade. I’d say 1 in 7 classes enjoy it and it works very well. Class 503 (by far the noisiest and most disruptive class I have ever encountered) tear all plans to shreds. I don’t have teaching assistants in class, and seldom require them. The gremlins of class 503 need it. I ask. I bed. I plead. I demand. I explain the futility of trying to teach that class. I get mostly empty promises by Teacher Jack Armstrong that he will attend and observe. In fact, of the six classes, Jack attended two of them, and the students were amazing. A real life-affirming wow factor was felt. The competition levels shot up high to the sky and a positive perfunctory response to all tasks was had. Then, the week after the ruins of a conquered castle reappeared. I find some grade 8 classes to be a challenge, but this class in grade 5, are nemesis-like. They are all very smart but collectively they want the ship to sink. I shouldn’t get too worked up, because after all they are kids. Mostly aged 9 to 11!

Where have I been of late? Let me think. Shenzhen, twice, in two days. Mostly Dongcheng and Hengli. Not really, anywhere that can be considered exciting. I haven’t watched any music, seen any shows, or attended anything dramatic. But, life has been beautifully wonderful, on the whole. I think. Food has been had many times in Dalang and great sushi moments in Hengli. My City hat has been found safe and well, and wil be collected this weekend from Sam at Winner’s Bar (sadly, soon to close) in Hengli. The hat has a lot of sentiment. It is the third time I have lost it and t has returned. Granny Ivy gave me the hat a birthday gift once. There is also a City ski hat soon after with the same retro style crest. Although I can’t wear that hat in this heat!

HubHao writing has been continuing. But, even that is less so than usual. I guess the month in Nepal during January slowed up the writing. But, here are some pieces yet to be mentioned on this blog.

A Taste of Nepal

The written piece to accompany the Photographic Taste of Nepal.

 

Bar Review – Ziggy’s DG

In Bar Review – Ziggy’s DG, John Acton enters a world of great beer good food, billiards, darts, and KTV.   One sentence reviews would say, “Any bar…

 

Didi or Didi not?

Didi Chuxing, having recently acquired Uber’s Chinese venture, has announced an English smartphone application in on its way. The monopolist taxi arranging service…

 

A Photographic Taste of Nepal

Writer John Acton’s piece from February is accompanied by his photographs. He allowed HubHao a taste if the experience. Here are his favourite shots… The first…

 

Revolution @ One For The Road

Revolution is such a powerful word. Moving away from the political connotations of the word, I can mean a swift movement in cycling. Revolution, the band, in Dongguan…

Is March the bluest of blue months? It has been mostly grey of sky, devoid of spring flowers and greenery with the odd patch of dullness. I am fairly certain that every relationship I have broken up from, was in March. I also know March to be the time I felt the lowest back in the U.K. The seasonal affective disorder thingy would always be mentioned in the news and the Spring Equinox (it happened yesterday) barely mentioned. In the Premier League, it can prove to be make or break time, and as City sit 12 points adrift of Chelsea with ten games remaining, you’d be forgiven for not believing in a late title charge. If City deliever 30 points from 30, even then it is asking much for Chelsea to lose 4 games or draw much more! Still there is the Champions League League Cup F.A. Cup semi-final to go for! C’mon City! March on!

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Trust me, I am a professional?

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Trust. A small word with big implications. Do you trust every decision you have made? Do you trust those that you have allowed close to your heart? Do you trust you have learnt from your mistakes? Do you trust in your own ability and those that you work with? How much trust given is too much? Have you received so much trust from someone special? By its own definition, trust is placing a firm belief in someone or something. Believing that truth, strength, reliability, or ability is to be found within someone (or something). Having confidence assists with assurance, belief and gives conviction to certainty. Reliance in a faith. All mistrusts, doubts and distrusts should evaporate. Rely on, depend upon, bank on and be sure of someone or something. Earning trust and respect works both ways. I hope to prove myself in as many ways as possible.

The problem with trust, is that is heavily influenced by the past. By mistakes of your own causing, or that of others. Where security should stand, the pathways are locked hand in hand with experiences of negativity. They prise away at what should be a smooth journey of sailing, offering strong Atlantic winds in shallow waters lined with crooked-edged rocks waiting to swallow you whole. No matter what you feel, you either must give your all, or hold back. If you hold back, does that make the plant of insecurity grow? Or, does it allow you to make an informed decision? Only time can tell. Give your all, or give as much as you can. Trust works both ways. Trust can be both a lesson and a response.

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Toils and rewards

I’d seemingly been walking for ages, when I grasped my watch. Three hours had passed. I stopped for tea at Goyam, height of 3220m. I had ascended 645m. It had been arduous. A real slog of slow steps, one foot in front of the other. One at a time. Ever. So. Slowly. At a tea shop, a toddler sat beneath a sign advertising Yak cheese for sale. The toddler, joined by a thin grey cat, played and smiled. I tucked into garlic soup and yak cheese potatoes, quickly cooked by the owner. Across the path a series of flattened houses and following my meal, I would see several houses up the path, equally as destroyed. A soulful reminder that nature rules these mountains and the people here are guests clinging onto the edge. Immediately after leaving Goyam the trail seemed to steepen more than I thought possible. Was I climbing or trekking?! The beautiful primordial Rhododendron forests became sparser. The odd lightning struck tree flanked an otherwise trench-like path. Was the path formed in a riverbed or did the summer monsoons strip the earth away? It felt like I was in Tolkien’s Rivendell. A beautiful stray mongrel, part wolf-like, part-Labrador like followed me for several hundred metres. Every now and then I skirmished to the side of a path to allow cattle, mostly yak-cow hybrids to bundle by. Their heavy weight shook the loose pathways as I perched precariously on a ledge just inches above.

Since leaving Sete, I had been regular passed and overtaken by a young pair of children heaving 20kg of potatoes. The 12 year old girl and her 14 year old brother had stopped to talk with me several times. They rested their sacks of potatoes and commented on my weight load and walking pace. These local Sherpa children were polite and invited me to their parent’s lodge for the night. I politely declined and stated my end point of Junbesi. Eventually their strength and experience allowed them to zoom ahead of me as I rested and took in the panoramic scenery. Several Kathmandu to Lukla flights passed lower in the valley beneath me, rising to fly over Lamjura La pass and mountain. This was my aimed route, over that curving ridge way off in the distance. The plants and trees became bare of leaves and greenery. Even the mosses and lichens dulled in colour. I started to tread on ice and snow. It lasted seemingly for several kilometres. I reached a Stupa and several closed lodges. Looking up at higher ground, I placed my rucksack down and looked at the towering boulders and scattered Mani stones, scrolling prayer after prayer. I turned around to be greeted by something grim. A blizzard.

The clouds, thick as ash, grey as the darkest of skies, and swelling with tumbling snow and a menacing amount of local wind. I turned forwards, aware that inside ten to twenty minutes that storm was going to hit me. I took in my surroundings. An open creaky wooden toilet was not adequate. I had to keep going forward in the hope of finding a lodge. I stumbled between two large and saw an open door set inside a wooden single storey building. The sign, Lamjura View, bellowed out, hope and sanctuary. A Sherpa man gestured me to enter. We talked and drank black tea. He said I was lucky to avoid the raging blizzard outside. In the corner the teenage boy and girl I met on my trek sat talking. They were the man’s children. The mother had died in the devastating earthquake. The family, strong and very together, ran this lodge and farmed potatoes lower in the valley. To some they live an idyllic life in a mountain paradise, but to those with open eyes, a harsh lifestyle with nature battling all odds was clearly in play. After maybe thirty minutes the storm dissipated and disappeared completely. I stepped out of the hobbit-hole like door, thanking my hosts and wishing them all the best.

Immediately after leaving the lodge, the crest of the mountain pass folded away. On the steep descent, after only a few short metres the snow line ended. Green primordial trees towered high and strong. Thick orange-brown trunks crammed the slopes and a path wound tightly beneath them. Each tree blanketed in moss, a coat of rustic pubic hair belying that of the ancients.

Large steps downwards, occasionally showing a dusting of snow that had breached the thick tree canopy overhead. The sky disappeared above, hidden by foliage. Still air and an eerie lack of sound pinpricked my ears up, alert, listening for any discernible sounds. Few came. Not even birdsong. The climb to 3736m, along a ridge that hit 3300m and finally 3530m had been relentlessly tough, on icy slippery paths with a sheer drop far below. The descent started as a welcome break. It ended almost on tears. The downwards path seemed to go on forever. Down, down and down like listening to Radiohead and mulling over personal depression on a grey autumn day, faced with a long cold winter ahead. A massive downer. Down. Seemingly eternally cast downwards.

A shriek of an eagle came from my left. I looked up at a cloud covered peak and cliff-face. I suddenly felt extremely small, like an ant looking up at a tree. To my fore, a broken patch of land emerged from trees. Ruins of a once glorious looking alpine-style lodging scattered across the ground. The damp looking wooden timbers, long rotten and rock walls draped hitherto and with no order.

My legs dragged as I walked the final kilometres downhill, slipping slowly into the valley surrounding Junbesi. Few lights twinkled between trees and from the village below. I sought a lodge. Between dark trees, I found a row of lodges. I opted for Apple Lodge, despite my dislike for Apple products. To my surprise, I linked up once again with Will and John. We compared thoughts on the day’s trek. They had arrived earlier than me, having departed from Sete much earlier too. My twelve hours up and up, gave me good reason to go to bed earlier. That and the cold. I found my room pleasantly warm. I pulled my sleeping bag shut and drifted away into a peaceful sleep.

I opened the curtain. The view looked out onto an apple orchard. In the distance, I spied a new roadway from Salleri, south in the valley, stretched up the long deep crevice of valley into Junbesi. This was a sign of modern times and a connection to the outside world, likely welcome that would advance the region’s prosperity. Maybe even bringing silence to busier villages between Jiri and here. Many jeeps from Kathmandu travel to Salleri now to allow Everest Base Camp – and other popular wanders in the region – treks to save money compared with flights to Lukla. Yesterday’s 15km of apparent endless up and down walking.

The day would involve 17km ending at Nunthala village, 2194m. I departed without breakfast and arrived two hours later at Phurteng. The lodge proclaimed to all, “Everest View” as a name. It was accurate. The Himalayas beckoned up the valley. Sure enough, there it was, to the left, a pyramid-topped peak with clouds whipping from the summit. Pure beauty. This was the fifth day of trekking and I had already seen the world’s tallest mountain, above sea level, with my naked eyes. I ate my Sherpa stew and Tibetan bread, satisfied at this special moment. Scaling Taksindu Pass and passing Taksindu monastery complete with helicopters buzzing back and forward to assist with construction work, I descended to Nunthala, along slippery muddy and mule-dung strewn pathways. A trio of Lammergeiers (Bearded Vultures) glided overhead. This is a beautiful bird with around one metre of long narrow pointed wings and a stocky tail. Their underbodies light in colour and black underwings a light coloured heads. Having seen Himalayan Serow, deer-like mammals that day by a waterfall, and also Siberian Weasels, it had been a most pleasant nature day.

I arrived in Nunthala, checked into a pleasantly warm lodge, ordered a Yak cheese pizza which was 90% cheese and 10% base. No tomato or vegetables. It was brilliant and crispy around the edges. The sound of mules passing by with bells tinkling one by one reminded me of days spent by Welsh harbours enjoying the sound of boats gently rocking on calm waves, with the sound of cables rattling on metal masts. Most relaxing. I chatted briefly with a Canadian couple, only the fourth and fifth foreigners I had encountered in eight days of trekking.

Will and John stayed nearby in a different lodge. Our leapfrog casual way of bumping into each other was becoming part of the trail. We marvelled at how fast the French man, Vincois moved. He always set out later than us, smoked a chimney’s measure of cigarettes and managed to beat us to every end-point. Not that it was a race. Trekking is all about managing your own pace and not rushing. You take in your surroundings, manage the weight you carry and your body. Your feet need tender loving care, as does your meal management and nutritional requirements. Energy and comfort is the key to performance, aside from hydration and mental belief.

Leaving Nunthala, 2194m, with contrasting views of the Himalayas, cold and icy beyond fertile hills and mountains, the morning mule trains carrying freight to and fro, passed by, bells ringing gently and softly. The odd yak train interrupted the passage of mules to give a continual hazardous flow of passing footpath traffic. The paths generally being no more than a metre wide, meant for a tight squeeze often and regular brushes with cargo ranging from gas canisters to cement to wood and occasionally polystyrene blocks as high as the animals themselves. Passing through Chhirdi (1500m – the river crossing of the mighty Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river), Jubhing (1680m), Kharkikola (1985m) to reach Bupsa Danda (2340m) resembled a Tour de France stage with a mountain finish. This was the least tough of all the trekking days today, a gentle meander with a climbing at the end. From Jubhing to Kharikola, a patchwork of gardens and some well-maintained ornamental pathways gave a tropical feel. Banana plants, flowers and other tropical fruit mixed with higher altitude plants. One tree even had an umbrella on top. The mystery as to why remains unanswered but it did make me laugh and raise my spirits as school kids skipped by on the way to their mountainside education places. Gumba Danda at the foot of the climb to Bupsa Danda was very busy and queues to pass a packed suspension bridge held me up for twenty minutes as mule trains passed over and over again. On stalking the steep trail to Bupsa Danda, it immediately became apparent that this village had far more hostels and lodges than previous villages. The spur of a Lukla to Tumlintar trail and a higher concentration of hydro-prayer wheels and monasteries are the probable draw.

At Bupsa Danda, I stayed at Sherpa Guide lodge, overlooking a valley with the Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river passing way below. The walls of the lodge were covered in summits that the Sherpa leader and owner had reached. 14 of the top 20 Himalayan peaks were there! Two children including a toddler who ran through a wall (MDF panel, it may have been) played around the room. I spoke with a Sherpa guide, Lakpa Nuru Sherpa, on a week’s holiday from his home village of Namche Bazaar.

The Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river is fed by glacial run-off from the gargantuan Cholatse and Ngozumba glaciers. It thundered deep in the vale below. The morning walk involved something more serene, Orange-Bellied Himalayan squirrels, chipmunks and many unique birds accompanied me on my stroll skirting Kari La at 3080m high. In Paiya, I stopped at Dreamland for a late breakfast and met Will with his father John. We discussed the trail and John, being a former Nepal tour guide from over 15 years ago told me of how the trail used to be bustling with porters, guides and much more freight feeding the lodges from Jiri to Everest Base Camp and Namche Bazaar.

Having a late breakfast at Dreamland, with their penned motto of, “Come as a guest, leave as a friend,” I mulled over my thoughts. Nepal is like a distant, yet loving brother, one who has gone through the best and worst of times, together and apart. Seeing Siberian weasels along the route connected me with nature, seeing fish painted on buildings reminded me of the high levels of illiteracy. Many political parties favour symbols to gain votes, because words simply cannot be understood. Amongst the scuttling Highland shrews, the pathways were clean, save for the odd lonesome horse going to the bathroom. At stages I had been followed by faithful-looking dogs, perhaps looking for scraps of food or simply as a guide through perilously precarious passes.

Stood by the river Dudh Koshi Nadi, rapids crashed against rocks and solid mounds of pebbles. The glacial blue water, deep and powerfully displacing all water flowing beneath it. Ice lined the rims of calmer shallower pools, set back from the main violence of malevolent torrential channels. The sounds resembled that of Viking god Thor crashing an iron hammer in the sky. Passing through the villages of Muse, Chheplung (2660m), Nurning (2492m), Phakding (2610m), and Monja (2835m) before reaching Jorsalle (2740m), the river kept me company. Ever present, ever powerful. I walked against the flow of the river, safely dry and up bank from the crushing waters. Missing posters of a trekker, who fell into the river in November, issued a stark reminder of the dangers of those waters. The water flowing was equally relaxing. I felt like Clark Kent when he walked and formed his fortress of solitude. Awakened.

Winter is coming.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

I am sat here smugly sat here, with my cup of squeezy no-added sugar Vimto. I have less than two days before I feel myself soaring into the sky…

My flight to Nepal’s Kathmandu (via Mumbai, India) departs Hong Kong S.A.R. International Airport on Saturday the 31st of December 2016, at noon. I arrive local time in Nepal at 23:00hrs. Hopefully, I’ll have my baggage collected and be mobile before the year 2017 A.D. arrives. The 2966 km journey (as the crow flies) will take longer as a budget flight dictates the change in India. Jet Airways, I have heard, aren’t that bad, so here goes a journey into the unknown and unexperienced with an airline I know little about. An adventure awaits.

Just like Father Christmas has done in recent times, I have made a list of things to take, checked it twice, thrice and more times. Am I ready? I don’t know. Did I plan? Yes. Just to prove a point, here is my checklist

Water bottle/1L water pack

Nalgene/

 
Passport photos

Insurance

Additional risk insurance

Notify bank

Flights

 
Trekking poles  
Camera and accessories

Camera bag

 
Pens  
Toilet paper  
SteriPen  
Synthetic or nylon top

Pants. No cotton.

 
Bandanna  
Trail food  
MP3 player  
Sleeping bag  
Sleeping bag liners  
Cotton pillow case  
Wind breaker  
Wind pants  
Long socks  
Day sack
Batteries/bulbs/torch/head lamp
Swiss army knife
Sunglasses/goggles
Lip sun block
Sun lotion
Medical/first aid kit
Sewing kit
Wool socks
Sun hat
Woollen hats
Long Johns

Baselayers

Gloves
Gaiters
T-shirts
Down jacket
Waterproof jacket
Trekking boots
Trainers
Hiking pants
Hiking shirts (full sleeves)
Ruck sack
Towel

After three days in Kathmandu, I will begin my ascent. I will somehow get to a place called Jiri by car, jeep or bus. From there, I will hike from Jiri (1951m) to Deorali (2705m); Deorali to Sete (2575m); Sete to Junbesi (2675m); Junbesi to Numtala 2360m; Numtala to Khari Khola 2100m; Khari Khola to Surkhe 2293m; and Surkhe to Lukla 2810m. Nowadays many people abandon the old ways and fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. Not me, I’m walking as the explorers of old did. I’ve allowed 8 days for this journey. Some say it can be done in 6, but I guess they’re more Superman than I. There are a few alternative routes that bypass Lukla and head on to Namche Bazar (3.440 m) but perhaps the altitude gain is too great. My plan involves Phakding (2.610 m), Mojo’s Sagarmatha National Park Entrance around Larja bridge (2.830 m), and Namche Bazar (3.440 m), hopefully arriving on a Friday to witness the great Saturday morning market. Khumjung (3.780 m) looking over at Ama Dablam (6.856 m), Tengboche (3.860 m) for the great monestaries, Pangboche (3.930 m), Pheriche (4.270 m), Dingboche (4.410 m), Dughla (Thokla) – 4.620 m, Thokla Pass (4.830 m) and my final place for sleeping in Gorak Shep camp (5.140 m). Here I will trek to Kala Patthar (5.545 m) and Everest Base Camp (5.364 m) to gaze upon Everest (8.848 m). After a few hours of that, I head back to Kathmandu as fast as I can. Hopefully I’ll get a day in the city before flying back to Hong Kong S.A.R. with my onward road of China by the 29th of January 2017.

Months, weeks, days and hours of planning is about to begin… I’m both excited and nervous. I’ll miss those I love, dearly, as I do. But, dreams… dreams must be put into action, one by one.

 

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye