This is Aileen, teacher of Dao Lu Tai Chi in Walthamstow. Aileen organises trips to China for her students, and we joined the Mandarin class she offered in preparation for the April trip. I liked Aileen’s teaching style so joined her women’s group on a Friday morning. I’m sure it's good for me but I asked Zhoey how to say "W0 de xīgài hěn téng 我的膝盖很疼
Zhouey (pictured with the cello in the previous post) accompanied us to this exhibition of Chen Li's paintings, curated by Katrine Levin. We had the opportunity to meet Chen Li (and I really love his work) after meeting Katrine at Terry McKenna's exhibition of his portraits in the same gallery. Thanks to Zhouey, we now have an invitation to visit Chen Li at his studio in Kunming.
Zhouyi, our latest HelpX guest from China, has joined Anqi and Louise (my singing friend who is studying Classical Chinese) to help us learn Mandarin. But our last few meetings have been rehearsals for our performance of Where has the time gone (with an added verse of our own) at my 70th birthday party
Jason, who prefers to use his English name, was our second HelpX guest from China. When he was 16, Jason won a competition to become a DJ and he worked for many years as a radio DJ. Jason has 4 older sisters and he is not the only young person we've met whose parents found ways to get around China's "one child" policy. As the only son, however, Jason feels that he is primarily responsible for providing financial support for his parents.
Jason liked to dress up and go out on the town, but when I asked him to help me in the garden, it was evident that he was no stranger to manual work.
Confronted with a bag of compost,Jason didn't do what I've always done (reach into the bag with a trowel and get compost all over my arms). When he carefully rolled the sides of the bag down, he betrayed his experience of manual work. My heart went out to him as I realised that this 'city boy' does what men (it's usually men) do if they've worked in construction or farming. And now I do it too!
Jiang came to stay with us as a HelpX volunteer in February 2018. Jiang grew up in Xinjiang province, near the far Western border with Kazakhstan, where his parents had a pear farm. He currently works as an IT consultant and goes where the work takes him. After helping us build a garden fence, Jiang made me a potting bench with the scrap wood from the old fence. That’s what he’s doing in the photo, working outside in the rain and snow! When it was his turn to cook, he went off to Chinatown and found a new friend Shirly, and together, they cooked us a feast. Jiang gave us our first lessons in Mandarin and he found us a student, Anqi, to continue as our teacher. Anqi has invited us to stay with her family in Zhengzhou and we’ll have plenty more to say about Anqi and her family. We hope to spend a few days in Beijing with Shirly, who is an English teacher there. We also hope to meet up with Jiang who has opened so many doors for us.
Organising this trip has been a full-time job over the past month. The visa requirements for China prevent us from just turning up and wandering about. They want our precise itinerary from London and back to London, and every address where we plan to stay in China. So here’s the plan, with all international journeys and accommodation booked.
24th July London to Cologne- stay overnight in Cologne
25th July Cologne to Lubeck – stay 3 nights in a yacht
29th July Ferry to Helsinki
30th July Three days in Helsinki (a flat above a sex shop!)
3rd August Ferry to St Petersburg
4th August Three days in St Petersburg
7th August Train to Moscow and train to Beijing via Mongolia
13th August 4 nights in Beijing
17th August We've booked a very cheap room in Zhengzhou although we have been invited to stay with a friend's family. If we use their address for the visa we have to ask them to provide a whole lot of documentation which we did not want to trouble them with. I'll write about our Chinese friends in a separate blog post.
27th August Train to Chengdu and a week there (just a provisional booking for the visa)
4th September Lost Garden Guest House, Kunming
18th September Fly from Kunming to Perth, Western Australia
12th October Fly home to London
My next blog will be about Chinese friends who are helping us prepare for the trip
Ian is 86 and I'm 69. We decided to go to Western Australia for a family birthday, a wedding and a music festival in late September/early October 2018. I really wanted to go all the way overland, and there are freight and cruise ships that go from Singapore to Freemantle. It's also possible to get as far as Bali, taking a ferry to Jakarta and bus and train from Jakarta to Bali. But I just can't find any ships on that route for the dates we want. Also, when I researched freight ships a few years ago, I found that none of them would take passengers over 75 years old. So we'll probably fly from Singapore.
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