Banking, Biking, and Relaxation

Today, I went to the bank to send money home. To do this, I have to go to my Chinese bank and withdraw my money. Because the ATMs only let you take our 3000 RMB per transaction, and I was taking out 23,000 RMB, I had to wait for a teller window. About 30 minutes later, I had my money.

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I then had to go downtown to another bank that does Western Union. There is only one person that does Western Union there, so I had to wait for her. Another 30 minutes, because she was busy with another customer. And, another 30 minutes for her to process the transaction. This is what 23,000 RMB looks like. I wish it was US dollars. But, its value is only about $3500 USD. But, you do feel rich when you have a wad of money like that in your pocket.

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So, my banking is completed, and it is lunch time. Feeling a need for western food, I hit up the local Dico’s. I think it is from Thailand. It is our version of KFC. But, the food tastes better to me and the cost is less.

After dinner, I decided to take my bike for a ride. It is a beautiful day. I decide to go out to the lake park in the New City part of town. There is less traffic out there. And, I had not been to the park for several months since spring arrived. What a wonderful trip.

IMG_5375My Bike.

One the way, I ride past one of the main government buildings, City Park, and an area that they are developing into a park across the road. I noticed a strange structure being built. I am not sure if it will be a building or just an ornament of gigantic proportions. But, it will be interesting to see it when it is complete.

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I get to the park and there are so few people there. It is a Monday, so most are working. That is fine with me. Some peace and quiet time to myself is what I was seeking here. There is a row of very nice, expensive looking homes overlooking the park. I am not sure anyone is living in them yet. But, they look very nice. And, the pictures of me…see the tall tree to the left that kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. It is not a tree really. It is a cell phone tower. I see these often in natural setting. Kind of cool I think.

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After a leisurely ride through this park, I exit and continue on my way. This is the new city of Shangrao. Building are going up all over the place. I think they will eventually get filled in about 3-5 years. But, that is how China plans their cities. They just build a city. Not just one or two buildings at a time. It is quite remarkable. But, there is a housing bubble here that will be bursting in a few years if China is not careful. And, under current policy, these apartments are bought…but they must be turned back over tot he government after 70 years. I am not sure what they will do about the policy when that happens. If you have a house in the county, it is yours to hand down to generations. But, these building are destined to be torn down after 70 years and replaced. That is why they have the policy…supposedly. Seventy years from now, I will be looking over a cloud from heaven to see how China handles this situation. I am curious.

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On my way back into town, I rode along the river. I saw these guys doing some fishing and snapped a shot of them.

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I rode by a favorite hangout of my friend BJ. He likes to grab a cup of coffee at the café. Sure enough, he was there. He had just arrived. So, spent some time with him and drinking an iced tea. He had been deciding to get a bicycle too. After my adventures today, he decided to buy one. So, I took him to the place I bought mine and he got himself a bike. Afterwards, we went on a nice ride for about an hour. It was good.

And that was my day. I am now sitting at home relaxing. My legs are fine from biking for about 6 hours. But, my bottom is very sore. Time to relax and rest.

The Relics of Shangrao

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My friends BJ, Rose, and I went to a local tourist site here in Shangrao. I have been trying to get out there to see it. It is an old war prison from the 1940’s. They call it s concentration camp. I guess you could say it is. But, not on the same level as a concentration camp from the German side of the war. They did have some brutal torture tactics. And, the conditions were not much better as to the treatment of the prisoners. Officially, on maps like Google, it is called The Relics of Shangrao. I am guessing that there is a translation purpose to that.

The following is an article from the China Daily. Keep in mind that it is a Chinese newspaper article. But, it does give you the facts about the place.

Shangrao Concentration Camp is located in the southern suburbs of Shangrao city in Jiangxi province.

In March 1941, the Kuomintang Government imprisoned 600 officials of the New Fourth Army who failed to break the siege in the Wannan Incident, including over 80 communists, anti-Japanese youth and patriots from five southeast provinces. The Kuomintang set up a large-scale concentration camp, Shangrao Concentration Camp, which extended to Maojialing, Qifengyan (where high officials were imprisoned), Zhoutian (for hard workers) and Licun (where the Kuomintang used soft tactics to win over its prisoners). Ye Ting, commander of the New Fourth Army, was once imprisoned at Qifengyan.

The Shangrao Concentration Camp was surrounded by high walls and wire netting, with densely distributed lookout posts and stern guards. A guard circle was set up within 15 km of the camp. Imprisoned revolutionaries staged the famous Maojialing Uprising there on May 25, 1942. When Japanese invaders captured Shangrao in June that year, the camp was moved to Fujian province. Revolutionaries held an uprising when they passed through Chishi town of Fujian, known as the Chishi Uprising.

A martyr cemetery was built in Maojialing in 1955 with a monument for the martyrs. The monument was inscribed by Zhou Enlai, which reads: Eternal glory to the revolutionary martyrs. The cemetery was renovated in 1980 and a Revolutionary Martyr Memorial was also built that year.

During my research online for this site to give you information. I came across this movie made in 1951 about this very camp. The description of the movie reads…

Shangrao Concentration Camp is set in the hellish confines of a Guomindang (Nationalist) prison, where the brutal officials try to force two female Communist prisoners to reveal their leader’s identity and location. While its subject and year of production might suggest a propaganda film, Shangrao has garnered some interesting (if chronologically impossible) comparisons to Bresson from some critics for its intense, haunting minimalism, though its true roots are in the Soviet cinema then widely distributed in China; in particular, the great cinematographer Zhu Jinming offers a brilliant echo of Dovzhenko’s overwhelming landscapes in his images of China’s rugged northern climes.

新闻 网页 音乐 图片 视频 地图 知识 购物 更多>>上饶集中营 (1951) (SHANGRAO CONCENTRATION CAMP)

The movie is still available on various movie sites like Netflixs and Putlocker. I hope to watch it soon to see how it matches with what I saw today.

Before I go further in the blog about today’s trip, I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the site. I was hoping to see more historical things. It was mostly pictures of various prisoners who were there. There is not much to see, other than one of the prison buildings and the torture room. And, I suspect, now that I see that a movie was shot there, that the instruments of torture and other furnishings were movie props. But, it was still an interesting day.

Also, there is not much English at the site. Wheat little English there is, winds up being Chinaglish. You really have to read between the lines to understand what it is trying to say. I will give you some examples below.

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It looks like English. When you read it aloud, it sounds like English. But, damn…your mind really has to work to understand it. I guess I know how my students feel sometimes with this. It is kind of like reading old English or reading Shakespeare.

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These are pictures from prison building and the torture building. They are actually old Chinese homes that they converted into the prisons. Although this was a movie set once. I think it is still the original home/prison structure from the war period. The attention to detail in construction is pretty “spot on” from what I have seen in other period building in this area.

A little of my mother came out today. She and I share a belief in the supernatural (spirits). We both have had our experiences with it in the past. I was kind of hoping to find something in my pictures. Ha Ha.

In the museum that they had on the grounds, they gave an introduction, through drawings, of some of the torture processes they used. Rose, who reads and speaks Chinese well, said that they used the five elements of Chi in their torture. Fire, water, earth, air, and something else (???). All I know is that being buried alive is one of my largest fears in ways of dying.

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We finished the day walking the grounds. It was a nice day. There are some burial plots, some monuments, and lots fo people enjoying a nice spring day. The picture of the kids and the other was fun. Their grandmother was climbing the long steps up. They were at the top cheering her on in unison. Grandmother had a cane to help with her walking. And, after two short breaks on the stairs, she finally made it to the top to the joy of the kids. It was heart warming to see family react this way.

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I will end with this little oddity. There is a tomb there with a special recognition significance. It just so happened that the person buried there is from Ganyu, Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province. My old school town when I first arrived in China. I thought it was interesting.

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Train rides are…

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Ah, spring is back in China, as are the women’s fashion.

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Standing room once again on a train. Lucky for me, it is only an hour trip. For others, it is hours of travel. When you get standing room only, people pack themselves in like cattle and try to get as comfortable as possible. But, I usually make some good “at the moment” friends. On this trip. I met a young university couple who will graduate this July. Both will be teachers. She is an English teacher and he is a PE teacher. They are a loving couple, holding hands and looking more western in their relationship than Chinese. They asked for my QQ to keep in touch with me. They go to school here in Shangrao. I hope to meet up with them again one day soon. The two boys in the picture were fun too. I think they thought I was a traveling comedy show. In fact, I was kind of today. I had people smiling and laughing with some antics. Most had no idea what I was saying. But, it made for a better trip for all of us to laugh and have some fun with each other. It may have been a packed train, but we all made the best of it. Having a foreigner on the train to get to know makes their time better. And, after the day I had in Guixi, I needed this experience. Not a good day today overall in Guixi. But, that is detailed in my previous blog posting.

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As I was waiting for my train to arrive in Guixi, I noticed these guys across the street painting the building. I have seen this type of work before. No safety harnesses. A rope tied to the roof. And, they are sitting on wooden boards. In the first picture, it looks like it is not very high. I took the second picture to show that this is a large building of about 8 stories tall. This is common in painting building in China. Not for me, thank you.

AIEP/UEI Meeting in Guixi

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We had a meeting in Guixi today. Headmasters from schools within the region and those affiliated with AIEP/UEI were in attendance. And, all the foreign teachers from the area were invited. I suspected I knew why we were invited to begin with. I have been to enough meetings to know that we were marketing tools to show to Chinese authorities and others. Why do I say such a thing? Well, when we arrived at the hotel, the information packet they gave to us had all Chinese materials. Everything was in Chinese writing. Apparently, we were not important enough to have translated materials. And, today, during the meeting, we were asked to sit in a three hour meeting with most of it spoken in Chinese without translation. Actually, few of the foreign teachers wanted to be at this meeting. They are done during our weekends and those days are days we use to prepare our next week lessons and recharge our batteries. And, like me, many have been through these meetings before and know that very little comes from it. It is mostly for show and tell. Although, I think we all will admit that we like to get together and see each other once in a while.

Luckily for me, I positioned myself at the back of the meeting hall. I quickly realized that the meeting was going to be in Chinese without much English being used. I finished one lesson plan and an English Corner lesson plan. I then noticed that the back door was unlocked. I quietly removed myself from the meeting. I went outside to enjoy the day and play with some of the school kids, as the meeting was being held at one of our schools. We had a week’s worth of cold and rain and today was sunny and warm. So, it was good to get out and enjoy the day. The kids were great too. They eagerly came up to me and began trying to talk to me in English. Their skill levels are so much higher than our kids. They were asking me to sign their school books, take pictures with me and just spend time asking me questions. Even a few teachers got into the act. It was great fun. The picture above is of a boy on a motorcycle parked outside. I just had to take his picture. So cute.

After the meeting let out, everyone made their way to the buses. We were transported to the lunch restaurant. What a spread they had for us! The food just kept coming. I think there were no less than 20 entrees sitting in front of us. Here in China, with this type of meal, all the food is on a plate located on a giant “lazy susan” wheel. You just pick what you want to eat from the plates and eat it. Occasionally, when needed, you put some of it in a bowl or small plate provided. But, usually, everyone just digs in. It is actually fun.

After lunch, we all went back to the meeting room. I forget to say that the room was on the 5th floor of the building. No elevator. Just stairs. So, we get there and after a brief announcement, we break up into groups. Headmasters of schools had their own meeting. Foreign teachers and teaching assistants in another. We were sitting around in an open forum style manner talking about relationships between teachers and teacher assistants, classroom management, and programming. Many of us dislike using the book we have. And, we began discussing alternatives for it.

Anyone who has read my blogs know that I am usually very honest and open about my experiences here in China. I tell the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, this is one of the ugly parts. And, I have to admit, as open, honest and frank as I am with my opinions, I know I can come off being rude, obnoxious, and a complete asshole. But, that is who I am. I figure that I would rather you know where I stand on issues than play the PC game all the time. I do not back stab people. I tell it how I feel. I have long given up on trying to be everyone’s friend and conform to their wills and desires. And, especially since I have come to China, I have realized that I really have a hard time accepting many foreigners and their viewpoints. That is not to say that I can’t and won’t be friendly to them. But, when they constantly make comments that goes against my life beliefs, or they have a perspective that their shit does not stink any worse than any others, I have a problem with that. I think the vast majority of foreigners are left leaning, liberal minded folks. And that is fine. But, when they say things without thinking about who they might be talking to, then there are problems. I am a moderate, independent that leans slightly right. And, it seems the vast majority of us here feel we are experts in whatever we are doing here and that everyone else should follow in step with our opinions. I know I am guilty of this sometimes. And, the problem with that is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen that spoil the broth.

With all that said, I had a confrontation with one of the teachers during an open forum. I do like this person. But, I have often found that I have to agree to disagree with many things they say and believe in. Sometimes I just keep quiet and let them speak their peace. Other times I will just speak my case and ask that we agree to disagree. I really don’t need to go into too many details. The point is not to beat the dead horse. Needless to say, I pissed them off. I do not apologize for what I said. Many of the others in attendance seemed to agree with my analysis of the situation. But, I could have been better in handling the situation in HOW I said things. Part of me wants to use this blog to vent my feelings in what had happened. But, I think I am better off trying to evaluate the situation and accept that although I feel I was 100% justified in what I said and that this person has many faults too, I need to focus on my faults more so.

The main problem is that we expats come from all different parts of the world, from different backgrounds, different cultures, different social lives. When we lived back home, our friends were people who often shared our core beliefs and understood our dynamics as a person. They accepted us and we formed our inner circles. Here in China, that is much harder to do since there are fewer choices to make. We are social animals that want to be with others like us. Not necessarily the same as us. But, we seldom get with apples and oranges. Think of it this way, we all are from the same family of white, western English speakers. But, we are seldom of the same breeds. Some may be a dog, while others are cats. They just tend to fight with each other, as much as you want to be friends with such a small pool of choices to make. And, often, many of us are alphas in personality. Too many alphas in a pack is a dangerous mix. Expats are unique individuals. We are wired differently than some people. We have to be really. Who, in their regular life, chooses to pick up from their normal life, moves across the world, and starts a new life? Most people would prefer to stay in their comfort zones and live out their daily life with few bumps in the road. As an expat, I think we cherish the challenge of the bumps in the road and test our abilities outside of that comfort zone we got familiar with back home. And, that is where conflict among expats comes from…in my rude, obnoxious, asshole perspective.

Spring Bike Ride in Shangrao

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I went for a three hour bike ride today. It was a great spring day. Sadly, I forgot to change the battery in my camera. So, the pictures were limited. The little two story stone structure is over 800 years old I think. It looks to be either a fire alter type thing or a smoke warning structure. You build a fire inside and there are smoke vents at the top. With this being on top of a hill along the river, I could see it being used for either situations.

The old building picture I took is a picture of what the house once looked like in the older days of Shangrao. It is either being remodeled or being prepared for demolition. Most of the hoses like this have been destroyed to make way for the high rise apartment complexes or new individual houses. It is sad to me. I love the old architecture of China. But, they are being torn down to make way for “modern” China. Even in this condition, it look very beautiful to me.

I hope that the bicycle will help me lose the tummy bulge from the winter hibernation. I just can’t seem to get to my goal weight of 100 kg (220 pounds). I will just keep trying.

Happy Easter/QingMing Day

Today is Easter Sunday in the world. And, it is Qing Ming Day here in China. They kind of share the same concepts. But, as the Chinese mourn the dead and remember their ancestors, the world is celebrating Jesus conquering death and we rejoice in eternal life.

Chinese will go sweep the graves of their ancestors and pay respects. As a Christian, I tell them that they can go to Jesus’s tomb and sweep it too. He is not using it any more since He rolled the stone away and has come back to life.

Chinese will go climb a mountain to find enlightenment. Christians go to Church to celebrate the miracle of Jesus and our salvation.

We will eat a fine lunch or dinner. The Chinese will do the same.

We celebrate the warmth of spring on this day. Chinese do the same.

We like the Lily flower and other flowers of Spring. So do the Chinese.

Kids go searching for Easter eggs. Well, there is one big difference. Nothing to go find for the kids.

Many holidays are shared between China and the world. Maybe we are not as different from one another as many claim. China is a remarkable country and the people are equally remarkable. Now, if we can just get the governments out of the way, we might have a little more peace and understanding in this world.

Lotus Flower Day…Or something like that

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My co-teachers and I climbed the mountain to the temple in Shangrao. It was a special day. I think it was Lotus Day after the Lotus Flower. The temple has origins back over 1000 years. Yes. 1000 years.

It is a special place where the lower temple and monks are Buddhist. And the upper temple and monks are Taoist. It is government run now days. But, people go there to pray and connect with their roots. It is a nice place to visit.

A side story here: My co-teacher and friend, Rose, prayed for happiness. She had been wanting a dog very badly. She had just told me on the walk to the mountain that she was going to wait until the Fall term to look at getting a dog. And, she wanted a dog that was already fully grown. Well, she made a prayer. And, then she sees this puppy playing around one of the monks. Apparently, the puppy was left there and the monk was not permitted to keep the puppy. Sooooooo….you can guess the rest of the story. You can see her holding her new puppy in the picture. And, he is so adorable.