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Monday, March 17th, 2014 | Author:

 

We’ve booked flights for a family holiday/research trip to the former Yugoslavia and to China.

After flying out of Sydney on the 24th of May, we’ll have one week visiting our second (or third, in Lazar’s case) ‘hometown’ of Wuyishan in China. Then it’s on to Serbia. From there, we plan to spend about four weeks driving through Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Kosovo before heading back to Serbia for our flight home on June 30th. Along the way, we’ll visit all the major settings featured in my novel — among others, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Priština and Belgrade.

As well as providing an opportunity to undertake further research for my novel, this will also be the first time our children have seen their father’s birthplace. There are so many cousins, aunts and uncles for them to meet. And of course, they’ll get to visit all the special places Lazar remembers from his childhood.

 All in all, we’re looking forward to an exciting and educational trip!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 | Author:

 

My parents, my sister and her husband and kids are currently holidaying here. Last weekend we all visited some of the earth houses, or tulous, of one of southeastern China’s minority groups, the Hakka people. The trip put me way out of my comfort zone: we hired a van and a Chinese driver for 3 days, and so my family was forced to rely on my awful Mandarin to communicate with our driver. I’m still in awe of Mr Jiang’s patience in deciphering my mangled instructions. In a language where using the wrong tone can mean the difference between saying ‘four’ and saying ‘death’, I made mistakes I’m even now shuddering to recall.

Anyway, the tulous are enormous, incredibly impressive structures with outer walls made from a mixture of mud, bamboo strips, glutinous rice and straw. They’re usually circular or square, and feature a single entrance and an interior courtyard equipped with wells — perfect for enduring a long siege! Originally, an entire clan lived inside each tulou. Nowadays many of them are in ruins. Others have been converted into hotels; still others house tea shops, souvenir stalls and little eateries. 

With more than 400 rooms, Chengqi Lou, the ‘king’ of the tulous, is the most awe-inspiring. But my personal favourite is Yuchang Lou, which is kind of like the tulou version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa — all its vertical supports lean in different directions. It looks like it’s been frozen in mid-collapse.

On the last day of our trip, we met a local man in the restaurant of the hotel where we were staying. When he discovered that we teach English at Xiamen University of Technology, he very proudly told us that his daughter was studying there. Then he pulled out his phone, called her and ordered her to speak English to us (I could just imagine his daughter saying ‘Oh Dad, no, please!’). So I started chatting with her and it turned out she’s one of my students! Small world, huh? Once we discovered that, her father invited us to have a couple of drinks with him, Chinese-style. That involves cries of “Ganbei, ganbei!” (‘Cheers’ or literally, ‘empty glass!’), followed by gulping a whole glass of baijiu, followed by holding out your dry glass to show everyone you’ve polished it all off. It was all a lot of fun and, for my family, a great introduction to Chinese hospitality.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 | Author:

 

How cool is my Nana! 86 years old and still globetrotting!

We recently had a visit from Nana, my aunt Alison and her husband Robin. In fact, my intrepid Nana celebrated her 86th birthday here in Wuyishan. After a month of rain, the weather cleared a little during their stay. So we were lucky enough to get to see the ancent village of Xiamei and some of Wuyishan’s gorgeous scenic spots, such as Tian You Feng (Heavenly Tour Peak), Yu Nu Feng, and the Da Hong Pao tea plants. I also took Nana, Alison and Robin to a local teahouse with a beautiful, traditional interior decorated with wood carvings, calligraphy and calligraphy tools. And they were kind enough to come to some of my classes, where they enjoyed superstar status for a day and posed for countless pictures with my wonderful students.

Category: Travel News  | Tags: , ,  | 2 Comments