Sunday 2 April 2017

Living in Xi'an


I went for a walk and ended up passing this building project near my apartment. Xi'an is developing at a furious pace and this is a common site throughout the city. Incredible to witness.


Underpinning this rapid development is the emergence of Western effluence like Starbucks. Not quite the China I had in my mind's eye. I prefer the vibe (and prices) at Starbugs.
Train Station

One Saturday I couldn't think of a place to go so I went to the train station. Hordes of rural Chinese with massive bags heading back to the sticks. I saw my first Westerners here heading for a bus to the Terracotta Warriors. Sounded Russian.

After the excitement of Starbugs and trains it was dinner time. What better than a Roger Moore and LiangPi? I can recognise the characters for them now!!
Xi'an Expo Park

If you like big wheels, roller coasters, lakes, art and architecture then this is the place for you. I went with 4 bus loads of local teachers. We walked 5km around this huge green lung in the NE of the city. The trip was in honour of International Women's Day. There's no International Men's Day because of equality. Anyway, I'm walking behind a bunch of teachers in this photo. Mostly International Women Teachers I think. But that's not what the photo's about. It's about every single tree trunk in China being painted white. To keep insects off apparently. Canny job that like.

There's a lot of cool stuff here like replica Buddhist Temples.

And big Chinese Pagodas.

With white trees.

This is the ChangAn Pagoda. It reminded me of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the fact I've still not been to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. So many pagodas ... so little time.

The life of an overseas teacher involves mountains of bullshit paperwork. You have to report to a police station within 24hrs of arrival followed by another medical check. I did a full check in Thailand but they don't accept foreign reports because ..... reasons.

The medical examination happens at a purpose-built 
facility. However, none of the staff speak English. It feels like you're being processed through a medical factory. Scowling nurses shout at bewildered foreigners in Chinese. I never saw a doctor. At least Thailand maintains the facade of it being a caring profession. After 11 years of this bollicks I'm convinced it's nothing but a money making exercise.

One tick box question made me laugh:

Are you of sound mental health?"

Who's gonna tick "No"
 after they've navigated all the other horseshit to get here? Thinking a bit more about it ....... how would you even know if you're not of sound mental health?? Is this something you can self-diagnose?? They may as well ask: "Given that all the atoms in your body have been replaced since your birth ...... are you still you?"

Still HIV negative. Phew.

Armed with the medical report you can then apply for the excellently named Foreign Expert Certificate. I can't believe I'm finally an expert. At being foreign.

After that you can go to the Public Security Bureau (PSB - Chinese Immigration) and apply for a Residence Permit.

The police report is free (wow!), the medical is 400
¥, the FEC is free (wow!) and the RP is 440¥/year. You'll need about 30 passport photos although they'll accept normal ones unlike the Chinese Consulate in Chiang Mai.

Good for a year. Champion.


There's an online shopping craze called TaoBao. I bought this bench complete with barbell and 90kg of weights for 550¥ ($80). Delivered right to the gate of the apartment complex (about 200m and 7 flights of stairs away). Pushing 90kg of weight in a small Tesco trolley over rough ground was a laugh. Glad Kaijin was there to help.

Already up to 70kg after a one month break. However, I've gained weight (75kg) with the food here. So it'll take a bit more effort to bench 100% bodyweight. Nearly there.

I've been going for gargantuan strolls around the southern half of the city. There are wide pavements. I mention this because Thailand doesn't do pavements .... or walking. I'm still in the honeymoon phase of enjoying simple things like this. The spring weather is glorious and there's been very little pollution since I got here. Clear blue skies by day and pinholes of starlight beyond the high rises at night.

I'm starting to get into a routine. On Saturdays I quite enjoy a 3km stroll to McDs for a coffee and to watch the world go by. There's a lot of world to go by in China with
1,382,400,000 people milling around. Everywhere is busy. All the time. I'm quite pleased to live in a quieter suburb.


There's a park just outside the city wall where hundreds of people play table tennis, dance or run like mice on inflatable wheels. Why didn't these exist when I was little?

You'll often see a bloke using a wet-sponge-on-a-stick to write calligraphy. He's being quite optimistic here. He reckons Newcastle will probably stay up if they get promoted.


I started teaching in Taiwan in 2007. It's now 2017. A decade? Woah. This is easily the best place I've worked. The physics teacher got sick so I now teach 14x45min periods. 8 maths and 6 physics. All to 17/18 year old kids on a UNSW foundation program.

I'm really enjoying it after a 5 month break. Great workload, great kids, great apartment, great salary, great city. What's not to like?

I've even got great colleagues. German Jurgen, London Nick and Serbian Ivan. We've been going for posh scran every Friday night. Breath of fresh air compared to the last bunch I worked with. Nick reads/speaks Chinese virtually fluently. Very impressive.

Shame he wasn't there when I tried to dhoby me nicks and socks in the apartment. Simple things can be traumatic here.

Slave to the money then you die

I was listening to The Verve while washing the clothes. It got me thinking about the time I've had off from paid work. The best life experiences have been when free of the shackles of employment. Minimalism allows one to take lengthy breaks from work. Resources can be used for lean times instead of earmarked for pointless shit. It allows you the freedom to bin shit jobs and search for better opportunities. I got paid last week - slightly more than what I spent during the last 6 months. Awesome.

Lucky Man

Another Verve song. Their lyrics are often overlooked:

All the love I have is in my mind - Happiness comes from within

Gotta love that'll never die - Learn to love oneself

Smiling, I feel no disgrace with who I am - It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

Despite losing $250,000 and failing the early retirement goal, I still feel lucky. I've learnt, with help from people like Joe and Armin, that happiness depends on knowing yourself. It doesn't come from external things like money, objects or people. And it certainly doesn't come from what society dictates.

Enjoy the ride folks. We're only here for the blink of a cosmic eye.

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