Farseer rereading

Over the last couple of months I've reread the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, plus Fool's Assassin and Fool's Quest. I started because I wanted to experience Nighteyes again now I'm a dog owner, but quickly got wrapped up in Fitz and kept going past Nighteyes' death. Collapse )

The only problem with all this reading is that my body doesn't like it and I end up with a stiff neck and shoulders just as I do if I spend too much time at the computer. I admire anyone who has the discipline to only read in an ergonomically-correct position! I had a professional standards review last month and had to clean my house in preparation, since I work mostly from home and the reviewer would spend the day here. Relocating spiders alone was a long, three-step process – first I moved the big ones, then I realised there were many more medium-sized ones, and once they were all gone I saw the small ones! Tedious as it was, I had to admit that housework agrees with me physically far better than reading.

China: Bashang Grasslands weekend hiking trip

After the Great Wall hiking trip finished, I joined a long weekend trip run by Beijing Hikers to the grasslands near the Mongolian border. It took 5 1/2 hours on a bus to get there, and 8 1/2 hours to get back to Beijing thanks to the longest traffic jam I've ever been in.

The most interesting thing about this trip was the people on it. Hiking is not a popular activity among Chinese people, so Beijing Hikers attracts mostly expats, on this occasion from Germany, England, the Netherlands, Italy, the US, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Some had devoted years of their lives to studying Chinese to allow them to pursue their chosen career there, others worked only in English. Their jobs ranged from teacher's assistant at the British embassy school to a senior Microsoft executive who was close to retirement. Most were living there voluntarily rather than at the request of their employer. A couple in their 50s from England were on their third Chinese posting, and felt China had been a far better place to raise their children than England due to lower levels of personal crime and violence.

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China: Dragons and Temeraire

I was conscious of China being Temeraire's country of origin and I'm sure that added some extra enjoyment to my trip.

I wish I'd started taking dragon pictures earlier, but Collapse )

According to Wikipedia, there are examples of Chinese dragons dating back to 1600BC.

A rec from some Temeraire fanfic reading I did while I was away: Sixteen by quigonejinn, a very short (900 word) story about the first harnessing of Longwings.

The final Temeraire book is apparently still being written and no release date has been set.

China: Great Wall hiking

The Great Wall is one of those places that pictures don't adequately convey. We spent seven days hiking up to and on various parts of it, and I could happily have done much more.

The factors that made being there different to what I'd expected from pictures were 1) the steepness of many sections, 2) the fact that in some parts it goes off in many directions, often to the top of the highest peaks in the area before diving down again and then rising somewhere else, 3) different styles and types of construction, and 4) in places it now ends right next to a highway or road or in a town, then picks up again on the other side. In one village we stayed in, we walked right past part of the wall next to the main street for two days before realising what it was on the third day.

Six of the days were at quiet spots where our little group was either completely alone or there were just a few other people. One day was at Mutianyu, a very touristy, fully restored section near Beijing. We called it the "Disneyland" section. It was complete with a huge ticket office, shuttle buses to drive you from the ticket office to a shop/restaurant area, a choice of chair lifts or gondolas to take you to the top, souvenir sellers on top, and toboggans to get down! It's still a serious walk if you cover the entire open section, though, since it's stairs and more stairs.

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I've just returned from three weeks in China, my present to myself to mark the end of my most recent job.

My trip was made up of three parts:

1. A guided trip organised by a member of my Perth bushwalking club who is originally from Beijing. It included seven days of hiking on various parts of the Great Wall and four days of sightseeing in Beijing.

2. A long weekend hiking trip to the Bashang Grasslands near the Mongolian border with Beijing Hikers. Most Beijing Hikers are expats, since hiking is not a popular activity among the locals.

3. Four days by myself in Xi'an, the city closest to the Terracotta Warriors. I assumed before doing any research that it would be a relatively small place, but it's almost twice as big as Sydney!

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My favourite thing was all the people, especially retired people, using the parks day and night to exercise, dance, and play mahjong and cards. In the park around the Temple of Heaven, a group of maybe 60-75 year old men were doing gymnastics on parallel bars and high bars. Just around the corner from the airport hotel where I stayed on my last night, people of all ages were ballroom dancing in a big paved quadrangle to Chinese popular music. This has to be far healthier, both physically and mentally, than the way many Australians spend their evenings.

Worst thing was without doubt the air pollution. It wasn't an issue the first week, but depressingly bad by my last day – and my "depressingly bad" wasn't actually that bad by local standards (153 or "unhealthy" on this meter). Second-worst thing was the noise pollution caused by incessant honking while driving / riding. It's not the aggressive-but-infrequent Australian style of honking, but rather a constant "I'm here on your left", "I'm here on your right", "I'm moving into your lane", "Coming through!" kind of honking. Driving in Perth seemed blissfully quiet on my way home. 85kms from my mother's house to mine, and not one honk!