“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bulletin Boards

As wonderful as new technology is, it can also be a pain in the neck when everyone discovers it at the same time! So I'm doing 4 courses at the moment, that means that there are 4 different bulletin boards. On every single one, the professor helpfully suggests that we introduce ourselves. While that's all well and interesting, I don't care to know that Joe is from Sydney and has 2 children or that Peta from Brisbane is a waitress but wants to get ahead so is doing her GradDipEd part time or that Jenny is from Melborne, studying full-time and is feeling stressed. So are we all, and all the chit-chat doesn't help! Four frickin' message boards, four frickin' sets of annoying greetings. Sure, they're all finding study buddies and old friends they went to Uni with. While it's lovely that I have yet another way to procrastinate, it makes actually using the board to ask legitimate questions REALLY hard. You have to sift through 180 messages (example in one course) to find the ones that really ask something instead of say "Hey John, did you go to Penrith High School and study music in 1994?". In one of the courses at least, the prof is limiting social chat to a Bulletin Board "Coffee Shop". I so do not have time for this stuff--and I'm contemplating moving into a house next year with no internet. Am I crazy?

Winter clothing

In preparation for our trip to Beijing this week (this week!!!), Friday was Jacket Check Day, where I had all my lovely but naive students bring their jackets in for me to check that they were indeed going to be warm enough. I told them that winter jackets and spring/fall/autumn jackets are not necessarily the same thing. I told them that in Beijing they will be the coldest they have ever been in their life.

So on Friday, one student dilligently came to me with a plastic bag. Out of it he pulled what I call a woollen sweater. Very nice, cream colored. I laughed and said "that's a sweater not a jacket". The poor student wouldn't believe me! When I said that if that was all he had, then he'd need at least 5 layers, his jaw dropped to the floor. I said... "what about the wind? what about if it rains?" and they said, but on the internet it says it's 11 degrees (centigrade). I said, yes, at around noon, and that doesn't take into consideration a wind (from Siberia) chill of -5. So off the poor kid wandered, now determined to go out and get something a little more suitable.

Overall though, I got the same thing over and over again. It's a real challenge to take tropical kids into a 4 season enviroment. I can't decide if I want it to be freezing so that I don't look like the fool, or if I want it to be warm so that they aren't all miserable. Can you imagine being on the Great Wall or in the wind tunnel that is the Forbidden City with the winds of Siberia at your back wearing a sweater? Keep in mind that they're wearing long sleeves here and it's pushing 30 degrees. Their winter just doesn't prepare them for the real thing.

Still, of the one or two that did get it right, it was pretty hilarious watching them pose like some kind of gangsta, arms crossed, all tough-looking, with the fluffy hoods around their heads. Still others came in with their parents clothing--ancient really out of fashion looking things. They have no idea that they're hideous of course--winter fashion doesn't reach here. It's refreshing in many ways that because they're together, it won't matter, because they're all as clueless as one another.

Trying to explain long underwear was also pretty interesting--is there a name that isn't a brand that crosses cultures, that these kids would have heard of. I couldn't think of it anyway. Long-johns. In NZ we call it poly-propelenes! Haha.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


So earlier this week when I was working on this (procrastinating from following my wall chart of readings), I wrote some lovely interesting news about what's been happening. Of COURSE I don't remember what I wrote now, that's why I wrote it down! Anyway, it was never posted. There's some glitch in the system. I've just spent another hour trying to figure it out in IE, but now in Mozilla it works fine. I suppose that teaches me something. I guess I should be using this browser, hey?

I will say that I hate this silly new blogger format. Screw me for accidentally allowing it to sign me up through gmail. Bugger Bugger Bugger.

Okay, now that I've vented that, let's move on to the actual news.

I'm in Week 2 of my uni course. They always assign about 100 pages (each course) per week. I know they did that at Beloit too, but I bluffed my way through most of it. My values and priorities have changed I guess--I must be more boring now. I worry about that a lot actually!!!! Certainly more serious. What happened to the carefree me?

Anyway, readings readings readings--why do they assign so bloody many? They even say that they're not going to use all of them. Sure, I know it's INTERESTING, but damn, I don't have time for interesting. I'm working full time and studying full time and still trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. Yes, I know I'm insane, but still, it's only for one year, and it's not like there are any exciting men in Myanmar anyway.

I'm going to Beijing next week! Yay! Was calculating yesterday that I'm up to country number 49 in my list. I'll post a link to that list eventually when I'm in a country that the internet actually works the way you want it to. Sam knows all about it... I aim to visit all countries before the age of 60, which means 4.2 new ones per year. Did well last year with 6 last year though my bumper year was 2004 with 8! I know I know, not really that exciting.

Anyway, my point was not that China would be a new country (I've already been to Beijing), but my point was that in the two months of this year I have entered a total of 5 countries already this year (NZ, Australia, Thailand and Myanmar twice) and clocked up god knows how many air miles. Yet even with this, I'll be lucky to get to two new countries this year (and none so far). I'm thinking perhaps I might be able to swing Oman if I visit the folks in June, and maybe something exotic like Sri Lanka in October, but this year looks like it's a year of revisiting. There is nothing wrong with that eh... see my glowing blog about Australia below. Great things happen when you REVISIT. Besides, one of my trips this year will be Amanda and Nick's wedding where I'll be a bridesmaid. What can be more exciting than that!? Still, my boss is a little bit antsy about me missing so much. I am now quite famous for going to weddings that are WAY out of my budget, WAY long-distance, WAY ridicuclous travelling time.

Anyway, Beijing... I will be escorting 35 bratty teenagers on a trip around the sites. I'm excited. The one time I went to Beijing it was summer, and I missed everything worthwhile (like the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven) because I was too busy crying tears and sitting for hours in Qingdao airport (they wouldn't let me on the earlier flight in an act of silly communist bureaucracy). Anyway, this trip is not likely to be any less stressful. Hopefully no tears this time, though maybe a few of frustration--I've already lost my voice attempting to TALK to them. What can I say, they're excited!

At first I wasn't going on the trip, but now I am, and can I say I'm REALLY excited. Something to look forward to in the drudgery of the semester of work. Especially now that my Model UN trip to Singapore was cancelled, this will be good. Okay, I'll stop raving now.

New plans! I've figured out what I'm doing this summer. I'm working. It's not as bad as it sounds however! I'm going back to CTY summer camp as an instructor. Everyone looks at me like I'm mad, but I enjoy it, plus I get paid well, which right now I need. I'll likely be at the South Hadley site in Massachussetts for 6 weeks Jun-July if anyone's in the area and wants to visit. I'm trying on bridesmaid dresses in mid June in Madison, but unfortunately won't get much tripping around in--time is short. I start here again for a new year on the Monday after the Friday finish--calculate THAT travel into crossing the date line and losing a day! It sucks.

Anyway, will probably spend two weeks in Dubai finishing study, a week in Australia doing the last exam, but don't know yet. Some enticing destination may yet appear on the horizon and tempt me away from studiousness. There's only one assignment due that week anyway...

Well, I have well and truly procrastinated the night away. Didn't do any of my readings, still have a test to write for tomorrow, and it's already 11pm. Bad Natalya. 'Night all.

NZ rules!

Here's news on why NZ is a global leader in terms of the environment. Our fab PM Helen Clark (yay women leaders!) has announced that we will be carbon neutral by 2012. Read and weep! :)