Saturday, November 30, 2013

China day 5: The Buddha

Sunday. My day off from teaching. Strange to have a end of week after only 2 days of classes, however, due to my horrific sleeping pattern, a day off was indeed required. It wasn't exactly a restful calm day though! 

It started with a miscommunication, a Chinese whisper if you like... Where I was still in bed when Leon came to collect me! However, In half an hour I managed to wash, dress, pack up my room and move to a different room (mine was noisy and had no washing machine, yes that's right, you read correctly, I now have a washing machine in my hotel room!). We then walked to where a group of the students were waiting for me. Not for a class, but because , like me, this was their first visit to Shanghai and they wanted to do the tourists sights too! It was lovely to have their company for the day and for us all to be tourists together. Our first stop off the subway was Jinan temple. The huge gold lions were obvious form the second we got out of the subway station and this prompt the first of our many photo opportunity stops! 

I didn't know very much about Buddhism, but I learned a lot this day. All of us were continually frustrated by the lack of a common language, but we managed. I tried to throw a coin into the giant urn in the centre of the temple, if it goes in its good luck. And you will get rich. I failed. Then I burned incense and bowed to the 4 Buddhas , one in each of the four long temples which made up the temple complex. That seemingly will grant me my wish. Next I rubbed the stone hands and feet beside the symbol of two intertwined fish. That seemingly will bring me happiness (fu). One of the few Chinese words I can remember because I do want to be 'fu' of happiness!!! 

Listening to Leon and the girls describe their faith to me,  the faith that the government has tried to get rid of from the country, I saw two main things. The idea that the responsibility is on you, to try to become a better person, and also that if you get good luck you will wish for money! The first I find admirable. The second really became rather irritating, everything seemed to be about 'getting rich' to the point of obsessiveness. Or maybe I just understood it wrong. 

I did feel a little lucky, the day we visited the temple was a special day, so there was no entrance fee (money!) and also one of the rooms in the temple that wasn't normally open had been pined for the first time in seven years. That truly is lucky. We got to see three Buddha statues that normally cannot be seen! I was unlucky because my camera ran out of space half way round the temple, but even that turned into a good thing because all the girls took photos for me and with me and connected with me on wechat so they could send them to me. So something not great turned into something lovely! 

Since I had missed breakfast, leon and I decided to do luck while the girls went shopping. We had a very special lunch, a traditional shanghai meal of pork belly that is cooked in a sweet sauce. Not to mention the dates stuffed with sweet sticky rice, and the  cream cakes too. Fattening? I couldn't have been more so! But it also couldn't have been tastier! 

After lunch we walked down one of the main shopping streets of Shanghai. Every designer name you can think of has a massive flagship store here. I didn't go in. I have been amazed by the prices of things even in shops in consider inexpensive, like H&M and Zara due to the high tax placed on these goods by the government, so I cannot even imagine the prices in Prada and Gucci ! I did like though that on one stretch of the road there was some building work going on, so they had out up a chipboard 'wall' around it. But instead of leaving it blank, or using it for advertising, they had covered the whole thing with plants. It was a living wall. Beautiful and good for the environment. I couldn't ever imagine This happening in Egypt where the outsides of buildings often aren't even painted, never mind covered in plants! 

I can however imagine this happening in Egypt, a stunning piece of architecture, covered completely by a massive billboard! 

The weather is cold. Colder than I expected. I had thick tights on, but I had to go into a shop to buy some leggings to wear on top! We also bought some traditional Taiwanese tea to warm us up, made from ginger, dates and dragons eye fruit! The shopping street is pedestrianised, so they have little toy trains that take tourists and shoppers up and down the length of it. I suspect we could have walked it faster, but it was a fun thing to do and we were able to pass by the musicians in the streets, how similar are these to The Egyptian instruments, Quanoon and Rababa?! 

And the hip hop dancers, and saw madam taussards too!

We dragged the girls away from the shops and met with Leon's sister Mai. Except that I found out she is not really his sister, but his cousin. Because in China they are only allowed to have one child per family, first cousins often call each other brother and sister. My heart did a wee flip at this story. How beautiful is that? 

The Bund is the corniche, or promenade in Shanghai and is the area that used to be a British colony. All the buildings looked incredibly familiar. I felt I was in Edinburgh, or London. They way they were lit at night was stunning too. On the other side of the river is the crazy skyscraper area ( my name rather than official place name!) . This place 20 years ago was completely flat land. Now it has some of the highest buildings in the world, and we went to the top floor of one of them in their amazing high speed lift that counts up the height as you ascend, and has a sound and flashing light things going on to make it even more exciting. As if you need more excitement when you know you are going up 100 floors in 66 seconds! Our ears were popping! Coming from Egypt, a land where the lifts are often not even working properly, the concept of this was mind boggling! So were the views from the top! 

Chi means luck in Chinese. And today we had Fu Chi since there was a free open air show in front of the tallest building, the one that looks like a bottle opener! The show was images of shanghai with lovely music. One song I swear was a Scottish song but with Chinese singing over it! Would love to know the history of that piece! 

It was such a mind opening and fun day playing tourist with my students. It was also a long day and we had left it too late even to buy dinner, so we ended up, I am ashamed to say, in Macdonalds! It is always interesting though going to Macdonalds in another county because there is usually a slight concession to the local food. In this case they had rice wraps, and bubble tea! 

I returned to my hotel to unpack and settle into my new room with an aching face, from all that smiling. A good day. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

China day 4 part 2: Alf Leyla we Leyla

Blog day 4 part 2,,,!    1001

1001, alf Leyla we Leyla, or one thousand and one as they call it here. I can't help but call Shanghai's main Arabic restaurant by its Arabic name, it just feels wrong in English. 

As you approach the entrance you see the large wooden engraved doors, that are just a little intimidating to open when you don't yet know what's on the other side. As it opened them however, I left instantly at home. Every face I could see was middle eastern, except the waiting staff. I felt like I had been lifted out of China and straight back into Egypt! (Dr Who tardis style!) The decor, the smell of sheesha wafting through the air mixing with the smell of kebab and the sound of om khalsoum mixing with a cacophony of Arabic dialects around the room. 

My friend, student, and the bellydancer for the evening, DouDou, had reserved me a table but was stuck in traffic (which is not quite as bad as Cairo, but not great either) so I was taken to my table to sit alone right at the front of the restaurant by the stage. I realised that I would feel very uncomfortable in Egypt sitting alone in a restaurant like this, but in China no one blinked. It did still take me a few minutes to relax and process that though. The owner came over to introduce himself and quiz me in Arabic about where I was from etc. It was all very pleasant and welcoming. I fancied a drink, a wine or a beer or something, but it took me a while to get over the social stigma that I have obviously learned in Cairo about the impression that would give. A woman sitting alone drinking alcohol! It's only in these sort of situations I realised just how much my thinking has been influenced by Egypt, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not! 

DouDou arrived, and as she said, it was like a dream. Last time I saw her was in Cairo, at my birthday party at the end of June when she had been attending the ahlan we sahlan dance festival. To be sitting in her workplace, an Arabic restaurant in the heart of Shanghai, just felt unreal! Almost as though the entire last 5 days had been a dream, I had never been to china and we were in reality somewhere in Cairo! 

1001 has two dancers, seven nights a week. The system of the dancers there seemed very strange to me. They each dance 2 songs, with 30 minutes break between each dancer. Compared to a one half hour, or even hour set like I am used to seeing in Egypt this felt very different! I saw how it must feel for the dancer too... You get all your adrenaline pumped up to perform... Then you sit for an hour as the adrenaline crashes... Then you have to psych yourself up again for another 2 songs, then another hour sitting. For 4 hours! Exhausting even though you are physically only performing for 6-8 songs, so maybe 45/50 minutes in total. Give me an hour long set any day!  Despite that set up, both girls did incredibly well!

I can't remember the other dancers name I'm afraid. I am finding the Chinese names very difficult to remember. If they have an English name as well, then that really helps! She was elegant, but a little distant and I kept getting distracted by this horrible red curtain around the outside edge of the stage though. In my imagination it was as though the dancer was some prized exotic bird behind her cage. It reminded me of the alicia keys song 'caged bird'! I asked DouDou about it, thinking she would be annoyed by it, as I was. I saw it as a barrier between the dancer and the audience. She however liked it. She said that many Chinese dancers are shy, so they like having it there! 

When DouDou danced she blew me away! I knew she was technically talented however, I wasn't expecting so much sass and cheek and sexiness and power. She captivated the audience in such a way that the air was heavy from all the words and unfinished sentences hanging in it. Her style totally Egyptian. When I taught her, she had only been dancing literally a matter of months. I could see at that time that there was huge potential there, but I hadn't actually envisioned it being not just reached but surpassed. She was very sweet and told me how important I had been to her dance development, that I had opened her eyes to the important things in the dance, in particular the communication with your audience. As her first ever non Chinese teacher she sees me as being very important. It was all very ego boosting indeed. If I have helped this fabulous dancer in even just a little way, never mind to the extent she described, then I am very proud! If you ever come to Shanghai, she dances at 1001 every Monday and Saturday. Go! 

Doudou had other girls join us, her student, and her student's students! So 4 generations of dance tutorage around one table. The Chinese are very respectful to teachers and the teacher's teacher is called your 'teacher mummy'. That made me 'teacher grandmother'!  Not sure I am ready to be a granny! A charming group of girls. We all had fun, photographing everything to add to weshe as they call the app wechat which is used in china like Facebook is in most other countries where it is not banned. You add photos for your friends to see and comment on as well as messaging and sending instant voice messages though it. I have already become addicted! If anyone reading this wants instant updates on my experiences in China, just upload wechat and it's all there!!!! 

Anyway, by the end of the night my jet lag, which had behaved itself well was tapping my shoulder. Actually it was sitting like a lead weight on my eyelids to be honest, never mind a tap! I suddenly understood why those hundreds of Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists who had come to my show in Cairo at the Nile Pharoah over the years were all sitting with their heads in their arms. I had always been a little upset that they couldn't make the effort to watch my dance, thinking they didn't enjoy my show. Now I know what jet lag is and I realise that I could have been dancing naked and they would have barely registered the fact! 

Doudou saw me home in a taxi and we talked all the way about dance and music and Egypt. It's so lovely to come to the other side of the world and connect with people so well. So interesting to see all the differences, and to note the similarities. I feel honoured that I have this opportunity. That sounds 'awfully proper' when I read it back to myself, but it is true, I feel honoured. 

In fact, I just had a wee laugh to myself at the idea of how the young girl that I was, would have reacted to the news that one day she would fly from her home in Egypt (!) to teach Bellydance(!) to the Chinese in Shanghai (!) ! My young brain could never ever have imagined such a thing. I don't think I could have told you where Shanghai was in the world, or even what Bellydance was for that matter either. Growing up in Inverness, Scotland I don't even recall having a single Chinese child in our school. An amazing life story and I'm only half way though (or at least I hope I am!!) 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 3 - Teaching Belly Dance in China

Originally written Friday 15th November:

Today was the first of my classes, so also the first time to meet my new students. The studio is a 5 minute walk from the hotel, which is perfect, so no stress about getting there and back. The dance studio has 2 medium sized studios and one larger one. We were in the larger one today, but not sure if we will be there everyday or not. It's a lovely place with areas outside the studios with cushions on the floor etc to relax between class. 

The only thing that is weird, or weird for me anyway, is the toilet. It's the 'put your feet here and squat over this hole' type of thing... I chose to teach an hour of camels with a full bladder rather than use it today! Those of you reading this who dance will know just how uncomfortable that is, not to mention unbecoming.... It is bad enough that everyone in the class, and I mean everyone, has a super flat tummy so I look obese standing next to them, but with a full bladder too?!!!! One girl was asking advice on her belly roll, and kindly said,or at least I think she meant it kindly,  "but you have big belly, so it looks very good, my belly is too flat, no?!". What can you say to that exactly?! Ah the honesty of the Chinese! 

That however is my only complaint so far. Which is pretty good I think! 

It is interesting working with a translator. Everything takes not twice as long, but nearly that. As my goal is to get the dancers to think for themselves about how to make up their own combinations etc a lot of my class is talking to explain what to do and how to, rather than demonstrating.  I am sure as the weeks progress we will speed up in understanding of each other... And I am sure they are going to learn more Arabic than I will learn Chinese! It's is hard also remembering names, and I am not even at the point of asking names yet since I know my brain won't retain them! 

So far my Chinese has progressed from hello, to hello and thank you. A word a day, not even that actually is this is day3. Not exactly the top linguist! In my defense, I do now recognize a lot of typical food dishes that I didn't know before. A more important survival skill I think!

The dancers are very quick to learn though and patient too. I was worried that advanced dancers would feel bored, or worried they were wasting their money since we started with 4 hours of the basics today, figures of 8's and circles etc... But they were all ok. They all really took on board what I was teaching about the different ways to do these basics, and the silence from all that concentration in one room was deafening! 

I have been sampling lots of the local foods. Too much in fact. It is strange having a full meal for breakfast... Then being taken out for both lunch and dinner! I am a one meal a day type of girl usually! The food is gorgeous, and Leon and Mai have been trying to get me to try all the local meals... So, try as I might, a 'light' meal ends up being meat, rice, veg, and lots of fried stuff. This is not a complaint, I am loving the food, but a little too much!

Now for the sweets! Even the sweets are made with tofu and rice (with lots of fruit and sugar and jelly added) I have been amazed to learn that Chinese never seem to use chocolate in their desserts! We went to a restaurant that was 100% desserts! and not a single mention of chocolate on the huge menu at all! They pulverize rice grains and make dumpling type things with the flour, it is everywhere, for every meal. Sweet and savoury. Today I got to try the weird looking fruit that looks like a prickly coconut, a dorian ( or dorain maybe!?). Seemingly these fruit have such a strong smell that in Malaysia, it is actually illegal to take them onto public transport and planes according to Mai! She said they confiscate your luggage if they discover it! It was wrapped in a green sticky rice blanket and stuffed with fresh cream. Wow. 

The Chinese also use beans in places I would never think to, as a dessert. Mai today has a pudding which looked like chocolate, but that disappointed was a brown bean curd, with a black sesame paste and a tofu paste on top. All with some sugar, but not a lot. It was as strange tasting as you can imagine. Foul (ful) as a dessert essentially! 

I am going to be huge by the time I get back! I already warned them that tomorrow I will not have lunch at all, maybe only a banana! I cannot dance straight after all of this! Tonight I am skipping dinner too, just having fruit and lots of herbal tea and just a couple of the peanut butter filled sticky rice dumplings in ginger sauce that Leon gave me to take to hotel because he was worried I would starve without dinner! Which of course I have to try, to be polite. But mainly I am trying to help repair a little damage my diet has already done to me!!! I bought some unsweetened chilled jasmine tea, thinking that would be good for me too... But it's like taking medicine! Yuck! Think I will buy myself some flowers tomorrow... The sell all the teas in their whole form so you can buy little rose buds, or chamomile flowers that you just steep as is. They are very pretty , although I don't know yet what they will taste like! I bought the licorice root to do that with, but the taste is very bitter... Need to buy some sugar (or lift some at breakfast!) which kinda defeats the health incentive! 

Oh... At breakfast, they play all the karaoke favourites ... And on my first morning I couldn't believe it when I heard, and I kid you not, " ye banks and braes" .... Really! I felt like it was fate, welcoming the Scots lass to her new home for the month! I came over all emotional! That will be the jet lag! 

Tonight I was in bed by 5.30pm. Woke at 9.30pm and now awake until I don't's is not linked, but at least though I am finally online! I now have a device you plug into the wall which gives me unlimited wifi! Yippee!!! So I am writing all these blog posts and emailing them to Ellie (of London, in Cairo!) to post on my blog for me since I have hotmail, but that is about it. Facebook, twitter and blogger are all unavailable, and I know you can get round this with a VPN, but I have only just managed in 3 days to get online at all... So this will have to do. The frustrating thing is that my notifications from both twitter and Facebook flash up on my iPad... So I can see I have 104 notifications, but I cannot access them! That is worse than nothing at all! I have to say though. I suspect a month off Facebook isn't such a bad thing for my mental health ! Although I do miss being able to contact my friends regularly! 

Talking of friends, tomorrow I am hopefully seeing one of 'my' Chinese girls, the ones who came to stay with me in Cairo in the 1st revolution. The girls who all call me 'mummy Lorna!' because I looked after them while they were in Egypt. Now it is her turn, 'Dou Dou' ( dance name Corrine) can play at mummy instead! She is dancing at a restaurant called 1001... I am hoping we can go see her show. That would be mad. Going to an Arabic restaurant in Shanghai to see a professional bellydancer that I have trained, perform! Hope the jet lag allows me!!! 

I think it's interesting how most of the Chinese people I have met all have nicknames, like dou dou, which is not their given name, as well as their 'non Chinese' name, Todd, Leon, Corrine, Sophie to name but a few so far! One of my students' name is 'Sisi'. I told her I would never forget her name because it was the name of the most important man in Egypt just now! She was very pleased at this idea (the being linked to a top man in Egypt, although perhaps at me remembering her name too!)

Enough. I hope my waffling on about all this is of interest to you! Please do feel free to make comments. Although I can't see the actual blog, I get an email for every comment notification, so at least I can read those there!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 2 - Part 2

Originally written Thursday 14th November:

Leon and I 'did' Shanghai this afternoon. He drove me into the main city centre and took me to a mall, since I had said I wanted to shop while I was here. However, this was designer brand mall, and not the fake stuff either... So no shopping for me! Instead we bought big Chou pastry buns that are piped full of fresh cream, hailed a taxi and at my request went somewhere 'other foreigners' liked.

We ended up in the old part of Shanghai, little two stores buildings, in narrow alleyways with every sort of souvenir shops below that you can think of, silk scarves, to pocket watches, to hello kitty glasses to local food stuffs. Basically, the Shanghai version of Khan el Khalili, without the hassle! 

I ate a soup which had pork dumplings floating about in it. Nicer than it sounds. It also had duck skin floating in it, but I couldn't bring myself to eat that. We didn't however eat or drink in the toilet restaurant. All seats made out of loo seats and urinals hanging from the walls. Mad!

Nor did we go into the cat cafe. You have your coffee in there and the cats sit on your table while you do. Purr therapy or some such thing. I have never seen drugged cats before but that's what these surely were. They hardly moved, even when a kid was yanking a tail, and they were dressed up in pet costumes... I felt really sorry for them. It reminded me of the first time I ever went to sharia haram to a cabaret and, before and after the dancer performed, they had a line of girls come onto stage and just stand there, basically advertise their wares. The glassed over eyes were the same.

We talked about the course, seemingly 23 students every day and a few who are only coming for a few days... So a good core of 23, which I am happy about and looking forward to meeting them tomorrow! After the 'SH Khan' (as I will from now on refer to that area unless I discover it's actual name!) we went round the food market where I was able to get Leon to identify some of those fruit and veg I hadn't recognized earlier in the day when I was in the supermarket, I also managed to get some nice pics too since I felt less intimidated by having a local by my side. 

We took the subway, which has 22 lines and is clean and fast and cheap, to another massive 'city stars style' mall (they are all starting to blur into one in my head now !) to meet with his sister for a dumpling dinner. Pork and vegetable dumplings dipped in vinegar with ginger. Yummy! I feel I have done nothing but eat continually since I arrived. That is not a complaint though, Classes start tomorrow and I suspect these students will make me work it all off! 

Over dinner I was able to quiz the sis on various cultural norms, checking if there were any taboo subjects or manners points I should note... And warning her what we will be doing in class since tomorrow she is doing the translation for me, which is good. I like her and she 'gets' the whole Egypt thing after her time living in Kuwait. We had a great chat about the comparisons between China and Egypt with regards women's rights, attitudes towards sex, marriage, dance, teaching etc etc. it was v interesting. She is not my permanent translator, but I think it will be fun working with her while I can. 

Home (via subway again) and into PJs by 6pm!!!! Me? Jet lagged? Whatever gave you that idea? Night night for now... 

Ps- it is now 6am, I've been awake since 2.30. Wide awake- Working on music playlist for the day's class and listening to more culture of China podcasts (this time attitudes towards sex and in particular the idea that a happy work force is a productive one- wonder if that could be useful information for Egypt to take on board?!) 

So I am wide awake at exactly the times I would be sleeping in Cairo! I suspect though the waking up, as well as being due to jet lag, has something to do with the loud generator noise which I can hear constantly and which sounds like a massive AC unit (not mine since mine is switched off!) I have never been very good with white noise. Ear plugs to be purchased tomorrow! Inshallah.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 2 - Everything is so new!

Originally written Thursday 14th November:

I was so happy to sleep last night that I thought I would be lucky to wake for breakfast. Yeah right. Slept about 1am. Wide awake at 4am! Listened to two podcasts all about 'humour in china' and the 'Egyptian revolution and it's effects in china', read to the end of book 'the Beijing office' and then it was at last time for breakfast, my social research at least complete before the day starts even if the sleep is sorely lacking!

Breakfast was steamed sweet Chinese buns which are far too yummy, pork sausage, cabbage leaves, egg fried rice, a dumpling thing with meat inside, and a yoghurt. All of which I am my proud to say I ate with chopsticks, except for the yoghurt of course! I left the sweet corn because I wasn't sure how to eat that with the chopsticks, but on my way out a spied a local eating that, so I now know how to go about that for breakfast tomorrow!

Heading out I discovered that despite what all the guide books had said, my hotel couldn't in fact change money, but 'no problem there is a bank downstairs'. The bank however told me to go to a different bank because if I was to change my dollars there they would have to change me an exchange fee, but the bank of china doesn't. Seemingly. Was amazed at this advice and thanked the man in the bank who gave it. Later on, I found another bank, still not the right one, and the man there could not tell me the exchange rate at all, so I suspect that maybe only the bank of china is allowed to change dollars, rather than just doing it without an exchange fee! 

So I wandered round my local shaping mall (which is bigger than city stars, for those in Egypt who know that!) without knowing how much money I actually had in my pocket! To get to the supermarket, carrefoure, I had to go through H&M. It's a hard life! 

Wow what a supermarket!

Duck and chicken skinned and flattened hanging from hooks, numerous types of seaweed, live crabs, not to mention all the fruit and vegetables that I hadn't even ever seen before! I spent easily an hour in there gauping at it all. Was tempted to lift my camera out my bag to photograph the weird stuff... But couldn't bring myself to, will try that tomorrow! I know I stand out. I was the only foreigner I saw all morning, but I wasn't quite prepared to single myself out as the tourist too, not quite yet anyway. 

I feel like I have had a cultural and senses overload already and I was only out and about for 2 hours! This afternoon Leon is taking me around town, but that may need a 2nd blog entry !! 

Oh, and the pollution, and traffic and tooting horns is easily rival to Cairo. Nice it should try to make me feel at home, well, until I got rained on anyway!

What I have learned so far today;
- that Chinese don't tend to use irony in humour
- that democracy isn't what the Chinese crave (why would they, they are a successful country in the world for now!) and that freedom of speech is still an issue, but that there isn't a country anywhere that has freedom of speech in a dictatorship, and that many Chinese believe that they already love in a democracy.
- that China has the highest suicide rating in the world, down to high pressure to 'succeed' and also the idea that if you talk about your problems you lose 'face' so people bottle things up until, well, until they don't. Train jumping is the most common method.
- that jet lag is not what I expected.
- that I can only change money at the Bank of China, but that the mall across the road has a working ATM (not to mention H&M and carrefoure)
- that despite being the foreigner, and people looked, they did so cautiously , not wanting to offend. Unlike in Egypt where you are lucky if all they do is stare! Often in shops they would approach me assuming I spoke Chinese. I wish I did.
- that I won't starve just because I have to use chopsticks
- that there is a large group of Australian nurses staying at the same hotel... So may have to befriend them at some point
- that salted peach slices actually are super spicy (and rather nice!) 

Now off to explore some more....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 1 - Arriving at Shanghai

Originally written Wednesday 13th November:

What a journey! I am so glad I thought to take some cold medicine at start of the flight, it helped me to sleep through most of the first flight at least! It was sad to see such an empty plane coming from Egypt, 170 empty seats, however it meant that everyone was able to stretch out to sleep! 

The Chinese air hostesses in Egypt air did not smile once and it worried me! Are all women in china going to be like this? Thankfully, On my china air flight from Beijing to Shanghai I found the opposite to be true, everyone was very smiley and welcoming. Phew!

What struck me most coming in to land in Beijing was the pollution. I live in Cairo. I am used to pollution, but this stuff was dense. The sky was yellowish, like a really heavy sandstorm in Cairo, but worse. As soon as we landed, before the doors were even opened my sinuses started complaining! I am really glad I am not in Beijing for the month, that's for sure! My heart goes out to the millions who have to breathe that stuff on a daily basis! 

At Beijing airport, the domestic flights area was less interesting than I had hoped. I wandered about for the 5 hours, people-watching and trying (and failing) to work the free airport wifi! I figured I could pass time by trying some dumpling or noodles or something, they smelt good, except that I had no Chinese money with me and the only ATM in the place was out of order. Ah well, saved me some pennies I guess. The food on the plane though was lovely, better than any Chinese restaurant in Egypt! I have been eating Egyptair food for so many years that I forget that other airlines do different things, although granted I did have to stifle a laugh because the choice was still chicken or beef! 

On arrival in Shanghai, I was praying that Leon, the course organiser, was going to be at arrivals when I got there since my phone doesn't seem to be working at all here. Will look into that tomorrow! He was not only waiting at arrivals but had his sister, a photographer and his wife there too. A whole welcoming party, which included the paparazzi!!! His sister speaks fluent English and had lived in Kuwait for 2 years, so it was really interesting meeting her and comparing experiences.  I've been stressed about this trip for weeks, but as soon as I had actually met these guys I could feel myself relaxing instantly. I think I will be happy here.

After I had checked in to the hotel that will be home for a month, Leon and Mai (his sister) and I went for food. A restaurant a stone's throw from the hotel served us duck, goose, noodles, veg, and lotus root (which was v sweet and quite tasty).  I didn't want to risk drinking the tap water just yet... Don't want to start the course with a dodgy tummy, so I ordered coke, with a difference: it was served in a tea cup, hot , with ginger and lemon in it. A surprisingly very enjoyable drink! I even managed to eat the meal with chopsticks and didn't disgrace myself too badly with them, another phew! Leon took photos of me doing so too, which I believe are circling around Chinese social media somewhere already!!! 

My hotel room is like a mini studio apartment, complete with kitchen. Seemingly I'll move in a few days to a different room that has a washing machine in it too!!!! I am on floor 30, and looking forward to seeing the view from my huge windows in the daylight! The skyscrapers are huge. Seriously huge. But that's enough for now.. The past 23hours since I left cairo have taken their toll, Mr Sandman here I come...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

At the airport, again!

I feel like I have been living in airports these past few months. That's not a complaint I hasten to add... Just an observation! This time I am on my way to China. 

I am about to teach an intensive Egyptian style Bellydance course, 4 hours per day, 6 days per week, for 4 weeks. Some of the 'beginners' in the group have seemingly been teaching for 5/6 years! I am excited and nervous in possibly equal measures. Apart from the regular weekly classes that I taught for years in Scotland before moving to Cairo 8 years ago, I have never had the privilege of teaching the same group of students over this many hours, and have never ever done something like this before. We will be covering everything, from the different styles of dance and music and rhythms, to technique and how to improvise and performance skills. We, my 20 odd students ( as in around. 20.... Not. That they will be 'odd' - I hope!!) and I will be putting on a show on the last night. That, I am really excited about! 

Of course the timing is just very unfortunate. For the past 3 months there has been a curfew on at night in Egypt. Which means that there has been very little work, given that there has been no tourists at all. So I have been waiting.... And now that the curfew is to be lifted this week... , yes this. Week! And the work queries are flooding in, now, I have to refuse them all because I will be out the country for a month. Bah humbug! Typical! Anyway... 

I am excited about meeting my students. I am looking forward to Chinese food. I am me very excited about shopping. I am hoping to be able to see at least on my way home, my school friend Alicia and her family who live in Beijing (and her new baby due tomorrow!)  I am interested to know what it will be like to work intensively with the same group of students... 4 hours a day, every day. I can see myself getting really involved in it all.... I just hope the translator can keep up with me! 

My main focus will be on trying to create 20 ( or however many there are in the class) completely different, individual styled dancers. Here's to individualism and creativity! My biggest nightmare would be 20 Lorna clones,  and considering how well the Chinese copy... I suspect this will be my biggest struggle over the next month. 

That and going without Facebook and twitter for a month!

Yes, I admit it, I am an addict! The idea of a month without social media scares the hell out of me! I am hoping to be able to at least keep the blog entries happening by emailing entires to a friend to post for me...

 So if you usually follow me on Facebook... Don't panic... I haven't fallen off the end of the world (or at least I hope I won't!) but just make sure you subscribe to this blog to find out about my experiences of teaching Bellydance to the Chinese and fingers crossed I will be able to check in at some point over the month! Please do send messages, just in case I do manage to check in! 

I have lots of books and podcasts downloaded, not to mention about 40 YouTube dance videos to watch, Study and learn from... So in between teaching, shopping, eating, sightseeing and socializing I will have plenty to do. I Suspect I will be praying for some space and peace though, despite my fear just now that I will be lonely too much of the time!!! 

Off to the gate... China.... Here I come. How exciting!