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Flu Flung!

Our Foreign Correspondents Mike & Angie reporting from China

Mike & Angie... in sidecar not China

Hi folks! Apologies for the delay but your two intrepid adventurers have been 'under the weather' recently with a dose of the flu... nothing exotic like SARS or Bird Flu, just the common old flu!

The May Day holidays gave us 9 days off work and they were spent in some more exploration of the Middle Kingdom. Our first three days were spent in the capital city of this province called Guangzhou, approximately a 6 hour bus trip from our 'home' town here in Chaozhou.

We went there by invitation of the Chinese family who have taken us under their wing ( you might remember we went away with them in Jan/ Feb to Yunnan Province). They own a factory that makes Christmas Decorations, Nativity Sets etc ( yes we told you this before so we hope you were all paying attention in class!)

Twice a year in Guangzhou there is a huge Trade Fair (also known as the Canton Fair) where manufacturers from all over China display their wares and foreign buyers from all other parts of the world come to see the goods and negotiate deals. We had heard of this Trade Fair but nothing had prepared us for the sheer size and vast range of products; from what we saw, all factories in the West may as well close their doors because China makes everything and we mean everything!

From the humble tooth-pick to the complete bathroom suite, you can find it there and the prices are so low... we in the West don't realise just how much we are being ripped off by the middle man! Things that we thought were culturally sacred like the Provencal goods that Angela saw in the South of France to the North American Red Indian genuine artifacts of feather bonnets, shields, spears etc... all made in China.

So next time you decide to purchase your next piece of genuine Aboriginal art... beware... have they removed the 'Made in China' sticker?

Guangzhou, as a capital city, doesn't offer much except pollution, noise (never been in such noisy restaurants before in our lives!) and too much traffic. KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut are all in abundance there; we prefer our little back water of Chaozhou, the real China, where we can sit quietly in a gutter somewhere and eat our bowl of fresh steaming rice and dog or whatever!

Part two of our holidays saw us with the same Chinese family heading off to Hunan Province for five days. Too far by bus so we flew there. Our first port of call was a spectacular National Park called Zhangjiajie; the scenery was the sort of things you see on typical traditional Chinese paintings... high soaring peaks of mountains with crystal clear rivers... magic, but as usual, the teeming masses of other Chinese visitors were there at the same time.

Again we were the only two foreign faces;again everyone wanted to practise the one and only word they know in English 'hello' ( can you imagine how much we hate that word!) again, everyone wanted to take our photo with or without our permission... oh the price of looking different!!

We revealed to you in a previous update that Angela has now mastered the 'squatting' technique of the local dunnies; well, since this last trip she has squatted in places that would blow your mind to say nothing of your olfactory (smelling) senses; furthermore she has now learnt to perform her necessary bodily functions with an audience... we kid you not!

Picture this, a public toilet (holes in the ground) no doors, no walls, just a long line of holes, Angela about to spend a desperate 'penny' ( reluctantly) and about half a dozen local women come in and proceed to look, talk and laugh at her... she wished she could have said the Chinese equivalent of 'please go away' or words to that effect... at least no one took any photos that she is aware of!

In this National Park there is a massive cave 15 kims long with an underground river running through it. We took a boat trip on this river which was quite interesting. In this cave with us there were 1000's upon 1000's of people but as we left the cave it dawned on us that the exit and the entrance were one and the same tiny hole in the wall just large enough to get two people through at a time; we hadn't paid much attention to this on our way in. Safety is not high on the list of priorities here!

From Zhangjiajie we went by bus to the capital city of Hunan (Changsha).  At first we enjoyed looking out of the window at the scenery of terraced rice paddies along the mountain sides; however, our nerves got the better of us and we stopped looking out of the windows because of the many 'near' misses our over-confident and zealous bus driver encountered!

We passed many accidents some of which had just taken place (are you aware that almost one million people are killed on the roads each year in China? Now we believe it!) On route we stopped at the home town of Mao Ze Dong. We always thought that this guy came from a poor peasant background but he didn't; his family were landowners and well-off.

There is a huge bronze statue of him in the town which people worship (like a god) and pay homage to him. Mainly the older people, as the younger generations don't think too much of him. There is a huge industry of "Mao" tacky nick-nacks built up around this place... weird!

Changsha appeared a nice clean city and we had a walk around the Uni there where in fact we'd been offered two jobs for next year. Food was a little salty for us but we didn't starve. We returned to our little city of Chaozhou with a million people without any further adventures of note. Our last few days have seen us in negotiations with the Administration here at the University as they are very keen to have us return here for another year.

They've doubled our salaries, plus a few extra incentives, so we've decided to stay put and travel around during the holiday times as we've done this year. We will return to Oz in July for a few weeks before heading back here at the end of August, so hopefully we'll catch up with some of you then... gee... that year went by quickly! Cheers.

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