Monday, May 23, 2011

Today I bought three books which look to be very interesting. I had a little gander but can't wait to properly go through them. They are

Conservatism by Lord Hugh Cecil
Occultism: Its Theory and Practice by Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (I read The Day of the Triffids twice last year - this one is bound to be good)

I'm taking these with me to China in my Carry-On Hemp Bag.

Other books I'm taking with...

The War for South Africa by Bill Nasson
The Boer War: A Bombardiers Memoirs by J.E Mitton
No Charge for Delivery: Telegrams from the Anglo-Boer War compiled by C.W.L de Souza


Watching the Tree by Adeline Yen Mah
Master of the World by Jules Verne
Death in the Bunker by Ian Kershaw
The Green Rain by Paul Tabori
For Whom the Bell Tolls by You know Who
Lost Horizon by James Hamilton
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Enjoyed Dharma Bums but haven't read this one)


The Bosman I like: A personal selection of Herman Charles Bosman by Patrick Mynhardt (which I've read so many times now)

Bag's a little heavy but they're all worth it.

I just hope I can get out of here since planes are being cancelled due toe the Volcanic ash cloud...Yikes...If I don't leave I will become an illegal alien because my UK Visa Expires on thursday.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fort Augustus

After almost 24 hours of sitting, I arrived in Scotland late this afternoon. My dad picked me up from Heathrow this morning and we drove up. We're both rather sick of sitting now. Now I'm sitting here again, sitting, sitting, sitting. I can feel my bones deteriorating.

I love this place, I'm going to miss it once the house is sold.

The weather is rather cold, I'm hoping for some sunny days.

I forced him to pose for this blurry photo earlier.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


My sister's cat Gertjie passed away this morning. He was only a few weeks old. She got him from the RSPCA. Poor thing was very fragile from the start. He'd been having some stomach troubles and yesterday there was blood in his stool. Besides that, he seemed rather chipper and for two days we became quite good friends. He liked to sit on my shoulder like a parrot. He was the sweetest little thing, it breaks me heart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Strawberry flavoured Ice-Cream

Part 2: Strawberry flavoured Ice-Cream (West Street\Zhuhai)

“We can't forbid people to do these thing. We can only ask people do these thing as less as possible”

I am constantly distracted by the thought of Ice-cream. In true addict fashion, I seek my next fix, my eyes pink with a strong fixation. I desire nothing else but Strawberry flavoured Ice-Cream. I love strawberry ice-cream of any kind. No other artificial flavour compares. One of my life goals is to traverse the earth and sample every strawberry flavoured Iced-Cream known to humans. Then I will do it all over again to try the new ones and so on until I die and come back and try new ones again. And so my lives will revolve around Strawberry Ice-Cream, at strategically placed vantage points, ready to take my R10, here, somewhere between mountains in South China, a small region and a town called Yangshuo. People have been in this area for ages, and so has Ice-Cream. An early written record chronicles a kind of frozen yoghurt which was made here for kings during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) (<---- Accuracy is of this is debatable). Somewhere in the late 19th century some Europeans decided to add eggs to the mix and about hundred or so years later that version made its way over here. In a big way.

I take a moment to salute capitalism and continue to indulge in a melting cone.

I see a young boy playing with a balloon. I am tempted to pop it with my cigarette. Instead I buy another ice cream and another pack of 8's from his father. I do a silly kind of bow and feel a little out of place. People don't seem to bow here anymore. Did they ever? People do it in Korea, don't they? I figure I'd help bring it back in south China. I look up from the cone, I see people selling things, some rather aggressively. It makes me a little nervous so I smoke and think about buying more Ice-Cream. Ice-Cream are like cigarettes, they provide a moment of indulgence and a time to think. Two cones are enough. I haven't had breakfast yet. The sugar is good, it keeps me going through this consumer frenzy

I make an escape. I am sitting in 'Cafe Too' and it is quiet. Books everywhere and an impressive Danielle Steel collection to my right. Winter is holding on and it's still cold outside. Rain should fall any minute now, the temperature is moderate to cold. It is usually the same this time of year. No marked difference from last year. Business is quiet. It is the low-end of the tourist cycle but the New Year celebration is approaching which should bring in lots of people. I order the English breakfast. It is a mighty fine heart attack consisting of two brightly fried orange eggs, a decent helping of bacon, two pieces of toast, french fries, an orange juice, and cup of tea ( Earl Gray with milk and sugar please). I grab a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 and read for a while. I smell the burning of charcoal in heated pots. I manage to prop the book so that I can read and eat at the same time. I dip the fries into the yolk and finish it off with a sip of Earl Gray. I ask permission to light a cigarette. OF course, this is China. Everyone smokes. Nobody cares. I love this, sitting here, eating an English Breakfast in China, it makes me feel like a right foreign devil.

Outside the window it is not quite West Street but Xie Jie is more than a street now. It is a state of mind of all people who come to do business in Yangshuo. The government is good to businesses here. And the people are good, they are not greedy rats. Business is run by local people and by people from all over the country and beyond. There is an atmosphere of prosperity here. People come here to make it. People have freedom. The surroundings give them that freedom. People have dreams in their eyes. Everyone is trying to create their own little heaven.

I order a Green Tea and continue to dream further. It rains heavily. Philip plays cards on the computer. I continue to read Fahrenheit 9/11. This is funny information. What do I know? Not much, it seems. It just seems too logical. I want to ignore it but I am compelled by it. I stop reading. I think of Zhuhai – the romantic city. Pretty much as south of China as you can get. The ocean, the hidden villages and the barbeque restaurants. I think of garlic snails. I think of playing dice. Zhuhai is a perfect example of change and adaptability to modern financial climates. It used to be a fishing village, now completely transformed into a large metropolis. I mentioned this to Simon, the vice principle – he laughed at me and said no, this is a small city. Some people say it is the cleanest city in China. This may be so – but I've seen some ugly rivers and dirty streets in Zhuhai.

In a city like Zhuhai, you are immediately tempted to spend all your money beacause at those prices, it feels like you're never going to run out of money. I buy a pack of Marlboro lights for 15¥ roughly R15 of my beloved country's money. I decide to have some MacDonalds. It's quick and easy and after a month of eating only Chinese food, I feel the need to change things up a bit. Surprisingly, the food you receive looks exactly like the food you see on the picture. I squint my eyes and take a mental picture. I then begin to eat so fast I nearly choke. Within minutes I'm done and my stomach feels a little shit. I walk out and see two Western women. I wonder what they must think of me. The sun burns brightly and there are many people. Up goes the umbrella. I wander in the general direction of the bus-stop twisting and turning through different lanes of the grid, basking in the shade. Tempted to buy movies and 16-bit video games. I think about writing down all the kinds of shops I see but I realise I can't figure out what most of them specialise in.

A 40-minute bus ride later and I'm sitting at my favourite stinky bbq restaurant writing this. It really does stink here, like this area is a point of convergence for the village drainage system. I see the ocean and wonder about environmental pollution. I wouldn't be surprised if this sewage was pumped out to sea. But I shouldn't be so cynical. It's okay, if you concentrate hard enough you can pretend it's not there. And it does come in waves. So there are some stinkless moments. Like life in many ways.

I resist the previous train of thought and open a packet of potato chips. Many Chinese people I have met are familiar with the Forrest Gump line, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.” I made up my own version and it goes like this: “Life is like a Chinese wrapper, no matter what picture is displayed on the packet, you are bound to get something completely different.”

They haven't officially opened and I'm waiting for Andy to return from work so we can talk shit and joke around. In meantime the sun is still up and I read “Dharma Bums” - I write down some phrases

“One man practising kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls”

“Light a fire, fight a liar, what's the difference in existence?”

“A watermelon seed, produces a need, large and juicy, such autocracy”

Back in Cafe Too I remember this. I remember waiting in the sun, drinking a cold beer. I remember the dice, the basketball and the chicken. Here I am again, just about ready to leave. Zai Jian. See you later. Wăn fán hěn hăo chi. The dinner was delicious. Come back soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

South China Manifesto

Part 1: Note to Self

I packed as light as I could be. I did not want to be burdened by any luggage. I wanted to be physically and mentally free and conserve as much energy as I could. I went to China with a few books and about 3 changes of clothes. Most important to me were the books. I did not know when I would have access to English language books again, so I packed a few specials and few off-hand.. I put them in one of my mother's eco-friendly hemp shopping bags, together making up about a third of my luggage. I also packed what I thought would be emergency essentials: Berocca, Imodium, Day Nurse, Night Nurse, Anti-sceptic, Pain killers etc etc...What I didn't bring along is of course what I ended up needing the most: mosquito repellant and an umbrella. You don't even need clothes or medicine, as long as you have these two things you will go very far. A comfy pair of shoes helps too. I went in with a new pair of black and blue striped Adidas sneakers. I looked forward to possibly seeing the factory they were made in.

When I arrived I would buy things as I needed them. If it's raining, I buy an umbrella. I want to write stuff down! Where do I find a pocket notebook? I wanted something small. Something I could stick into my pocket. So I bought two notebooks, the pocket one and a bigger one for copying into. Both turned into a massive mess of scribbles and poor pinyin interpretations. Not to mention banal journal entries, saldos, messages, plans, observations, and other sentimental mumbo jumbo. I have always felt a need to write stuff down, but I resist it because I am uncomfortable re-interpreting those signs. I want them to remain positively vague. By going back to it, the feeling changes, for better or worse. I am a sentimental fool and have trouble holding on and letting go. The mind forgets and sometimes all we have left are these incomplete stories.

How did I get here? Is horizon broadening occurring at this very moment? I think so. Am I any wiser? I don't know. What is wisdom? Why do we need to seek it? How can I achieve it? Do I need to achieve it all? What are needs? How do they affect my personal well-being? Am I not better off needing nothing at all? When is no information good information? How is it safe? Is there faith in spitting? What do dogs think about? Is eating a pig okay?

I am bombarded by information. I try not to look too broadly or narrowly at it. I must strike a fine balance. There are too many interconnected structures at work here. I try ignore them. They can only serve to distract me from any immediate concerns. Such as the ceaselessly pouring rain. And the muggy heat, which makes me feel alive because it is in my face and it is tropical. I am now in my Apocalypse Now dream, I am boating down the Nung river. I think, this is good. I am happy in this moment. The rare moment when you are actually aware of it. Happiness is a simple concept to me, I feel it when I am relaxed and able to express myself freely. I slurp down some more of the local soupy noodles. This isn't so bad! Pretty good, actually! Cashews, spring onions. Yum! The soup makes me dreamy. My mind wanders off and I forget about the 6 other people sitting at the table with me. I wonder what Martin Sheen would do? He would want to go back into the jungle. I look around me and I see that I am in a jungle. A mighty jungle with grey skies, narrow streets and steamy alley-ways. I find myself back at the table. I take a good look around me. I see nation states, I see America, England, Sweden and Holland and finally I see China. And then this small southern Chinese city takes center stage all around.

The moment arrives. Complete disillusionment. The good kind. What we've all been waiting for. It's a feeling that makes us grow as humans. I see other people growing. I squint my eyes and take a mental picture. Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? For thousands of years they have been hidden from me; I eat their food, I buy their umbrellas. They are not strange to me, yet they are completely unknown. A feeling similar to déjà vu. I think of my grandmother and I think of the Bold and the Beautiful. She loved loved that soap opera and I can only imagine how many years she must have devoted herself to it but to me all that remained was a Theme Song and a few recognisable faces. Over time I learned to accept and ignore it, occasionally maybe even indulging in it a little; but not quite giving it my all. I never questioned its presence, it's always been on; a staple of my subconscious. But look here they are still, developing their style over and over again, steadily increasing in popularity as the years move on.

I don't like the Bold and the Beautiful but I like China. They are the same in a lot of ways. Both are well dressed, wear fancy make-up and are tailored and presented to the public for consumption. It is easy to be blinded by the differences, of which there are a great many, our common bonds too are just as plain to see. People emphasize difference. Simple details of difference brings much excitement. They want to get to know you and find out what is different about your life compared to theirs. Can I teach you to be different from what you are accustomed to? Empty your cup and you will learn. How different is a drunk man here than he is there? All drunk men stumble and fall. All drunk men spout out ludicrous remarks. All drunk drunk men are silent. All drunk men are sad.

Drinking is friends with time and drunk men are to be found everywhere at all times. People become happy and offended all at once. Lines begin to blur. I see more drunk men. I see a woman standing at the back. I stare at the people around me. I am not afraid to stare, it isn't rude. They are staring at me. This person is as curious as I am. I want to communicate, but I am drunk and I do not know the language. I focus on non-verbal communication, I think out loud. A lot can be said without words. Yes, indeed. Be animated. Look alive! I grab my notebook, I have him write something down for me, even if I do not understand now, I may understand later. I smile. I imagine myself as a twisted representative of my nation. Look good. Be sharp. Lose yourself or pace yourself. Try not to lose face. Smile and remember: you are here to have a good time. Empty your cup. Breath. Challenge your stomach. But also don't be afraid to say 'wŏ bǘ yào, xièxie ' – I don't want that, thank you. But most importantly learn to say wŏ xi huān yào nèigè .I would like that . Point. Stir Lick your lips and Indulge and finally hĕn gāoxing rènshí nĭ – it is nice to know you.