Archive for October, 2007

Happy Halloween!

31 October 07


I’ve been a Pippi lookalike since birth. In fact, this

is how I usually dress for Halloween. I didn’t win

“Best Pippi Longstocking Impersonation” my senior year of

high school for nothing. Sadly, this year my hair isn’t long enough

and I’m not too sure how well Pippi translates in China.


Have a ghoul day!


How About a Vacation?

30 October 07

Just imagine it is a Sunday morning. You are drinking coffee, reading and preparing to spend the next four days in relative isolation, writing grad school papers. The phone rings. It is your husband.

“Hey Heather, what are you doing?” he asks. You notice he seems strangely upbeat. He is at work on a Sunday, after all, he’s supposed to be bummed.

“Just studying. What’s up?” you reply.

“Don’t stress or anything, okay?” he says. Don’t stress? He knows you’re stressing at the mere mention of the word “don’t…”


“You wanna go to Vietnam?”

“Yeah. We talked about it and I do want to go. Why?”

“We’re leaving this evening.”


“We have two weeks of vacation. I just found out.”

“AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhh……! visas! packing! where to go! guidebook! short notice!!…papers to write! aaarrrggghhh”

24 hours later you are on a plane from Shanghai to Ho Chi Minh City. Two backpacks packed. Rush visas in hand (just barely!). Tickets bought over the phone. A flight into Shanghai during a typhoon survived. Papers written on airplanes, in taxis and on trains.

At 4AM you find yourselves in the Ho Chi Minh City airport. You thought you were unprepared for the trip to Cambodia last year, but now you realize you had everything planned to the last detail. Upon arrival to HCMC (hereafter Saigon, as most people refer to it anyway), you realize you have no guidebook, no phrasebook, no names of any hotels, no map of the city, nothing. All you know is you want to go to Mui Ne beach and there might be a train there.

At 12PM you are having lunch overlooking the ocean.

You have to admit that it was really easy. Maybe there is no need to plan ahead? Maybe you should just throw the guidebooks out the window?

I Need Some Time

26 October 07

This readjustment is difficult.

It is too painful to go from this view:


Jibes – on Mui Ne Beach, Vietnam

To this:


Foggy morning in Linyi, China


At Work Again

22 October 07

How quickly two weeks pass!

I’m back at work today, although my brain is still in Vietnam.

I have another paper due tomorrow, so I won’t be back until all that pesky homework is done.

As for the free wi-fi on vacation, it was indeed great, but I felt more drawn to the beach and the under-palm-tree-lounger than I did to updating the blog!

A New Nobel Prize Winner

12 October 07

Doris Lessing, one of my favorite authors has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I couldn’t be happier.

Now from Vietnam

10 October 07

Aaaaaahhhhh. It is so refreshing to be able to blog freely and surf the Internet without special proxies. It is so amazing to sit under a brilliant blue sky and chug fresh fruit juice. It is so cool to be blogging on the beach…in Vietnam.

We are at Mui Ne beach, close to the small city of Phan Thiet, a few hundred kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City. It is supposed to the kitesurfing capital of Vietnam, but so far the wind has been weak. 😦 No matter. The view is gorgeous. The food is delicious. The people are friendly.

Wish you were here!


Lounge chair view


Full Moon Resort


Room view


More soon… (free wi-fi is a beautiful thing!)

Never a Dull Moment

7 October 07

Let me catch you up to speed on my life:

There have been no updates lately because I am furiously trying to write two papers for two library school classes. Add to that the fact that I am up to here (insert clever cartoon character here with hand indicating eye-balls) with China, and as is par for the course, we have just been informed we have a 10 day vacation starting NOW. (Why plan ahead? Why inform workers sooner so that they may book exotic holiday in the tropics, find airplane tickets and apply for visas?)

So I may be typing up my papers on the beach, or in the mountains, or on an airplane. Not sure yet. The one thing I am sure of is that I am out of here for two weeks!! Halleluja!

More details to come!

Getting the Food You Want

2 October 07

When the DH and I first arrived to China, we lived at the Shijiazhuang airport. Being an airport located in the middle of cornfields, there were not a lot of dining options. We learned to order one dish – yu xiang rou si – and then proceeded to eat it daily. (Both because it was easy to order and we liked it that much.) Our food vocabulary has improved since those early days, but I still feel ridiculously unprepared when entering a restaurant.

How to Order Chinese Food and Like a Local are two lifesavers for the newly-arrived or the Mandarin-challenged.

How to Order Chinese Food will show you tantalizing photos, accompanied by a description and the Chinese name in pinyin and characters. There is information on regional cuisines, ordering guides by type of food and a glossary. Thanks HtOCF! Where were you two years ago?!

Like a Local shares pictures and descriptions of delicious street food around Shanghai (and has the cutest header graphic ever!). I don’t live in Shanghai, but if I did, I would keep a close eye on this site. Still, it is helpful for others in China as some of the food is similar. For example, all summer the DH and I devoured huge quantities of these little guys:


Yumm! Crawfish! Or as some people call them, crayfish. Anywho, from this post, I learned that crawfish are called xiǎo lóng xiā 小龙虾 in Chinese, which translates literally as little dragon shrimp. Something about that makes me happy. I like eating little dragons. I like eating!

**Update** Thanks to Kunzilla for pointing out that lóng xiā actually means lobsters, so crawfish are known as little lobsters. I still like eating little lobsters.

Like a Local also gives advice on how to order in Chinese and what the waitress will possibly say to you. There is also a valuable post on buying fruit from street vendors and how to avoid being cheated.

Scrolling through the Like a Local blog, I have come to realize it is my dream come true. Now, if only I were in Shanghai to enjoy this street food every single day!

Aviation in China – The Market

2 October 07

Wanna fly airplanes in China? Wanna teach people how to fly airplanes in China? Sounds crazy, but it is possible. If you are a commercially rated pilot with a flight instructor license, China needs you!

I’m writing this Aviation in China series to give a little more information to friends, family and potential flight instructors about working for a flight school in China. The first thing you need to understand is the market for airplanes and flight training.

I’m no economist and I visibly recoil at anything to do with stocks, investment, business and economy. Give me ebola, heart attacks, card catalogs and Medline databases any day, (I’m a nurse studying medical librarianship who also happens to work in aviation.) but don’t expect me to authoritatively discuss market strategies. Still, even someone like me can see how China’s economic growth has spurred development left and right, and the growing middle classes increasingly want to fly across China – passengers on Chinese airlines have increased by 16.7% since August 2006. The commercial airline industry in China is doing well, with several new airlines entering the market – some government controlled, some private. Cargo-focused airlines are also growing. Across the board in commercial aviation, revenues are up and more aircraft are being purchased.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Boeing is reporting that China will need 3400 aircraft over the next 20 years to keep up with customer demand. They had previously predicted around 2000 aircraft. This booming commercial airline industry has sparked an entirely new industry in China – flight training. After all, who is going to fly all those new airplanes?

Most commercial pilots in China are either ex-military or graduates of China’s Civil Aviation Flight University (CAFUC), which has several campuses. However, they have been unable to meet the needs of the airlines alone. A recent article in China Economic Review says China needs at least 1200 to 1600 pilots per year to meet demands.

Enter private flight training schools. CAFUC can only supply about 600 pilots per year. Chinese airlines have responded by sending hundreds of students abroad to Europe, Australia, the US and Canada for flight training. Even an economics-challenged person like me can see that at $100,000 per student, that is a lot of money leaving China. PBS’ Nightly Business Report website has a transcript of a short report on the promise of flight training in China, done last year.

In the past few years, there has been great interest in establishing private flight schools in China to serve the commercial airlines training needs and, possibly, creating a new phenomenon – recreational pilots. I personally know of 3 such schools, two of which are operating – Beijing Panam International Aviation Academy and Jiutian International Flight School. I know there are more companies out there looking to make their move into the market.

I currently work for a private flight school, JTFA. I hope that through these postings I can share some of the challenges inherent in flight training, and the challenges of working in an entirely new industry in China – the challenges of ATC, airspace, military, educational practices, language and cultural barriers, and the environment. There are benefits as well as challenges, and I hope to touch on those as well.

As my students would say, it is time to fly to the sky. Thanks to The China Expat for posting about the Boeing report and Pan Asian Biz for posting about passenger and airline growth!

Someday I’ll Go Back to Egypt

1 October 07

Sunset at Pyramids
Found on Flickr by kevin on the road

Isn’t that gorgeous?

I’ve been to Egypt twice, once with my parents and family friends and once with a school group. One of the perks of international schools is when it comes time for competition with other schools, you get to go to other countries. The American School of Kuwait, ASK, my illustrious alma mater, was in the EMAC region – Eastern Mediterranean Activities Conference. So our sports teams and drama group and debate team and choir would travel to Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Syria, UAE, etc. to compete. Very cool.

I wasn’t sporty… let me rephrase that – my clumsy, uncoordinated self couldn’t dribble a basketball or hit a volleyball to save my life – so obviously I wasn’t on any of the sports teams. (Despite an embarrassing attempt to be a cheerleader – what was I thinking? There is not a bubbly bone in my body!) But I did enjoy the art scene. I participated in drama and choir and due to some creative finagling by my art history teacher, I got to go to Cairo as part of the EMAC fine arts festival in the area of art. (Evidently, being a part of the art history class didn’t actually qualify as “art” class, a requirement for participation.) I almost went to Cairo earlier in the year to take part in a yearbook workshop, but due to some pesky terrorist attacks, the school decided it was better if we didn’t go.

That art history class, by the way, was the best class EVER. Nothing could top it, not even Infectious Disease 101.

Ever since those trips to Egypt, I’ve had the travel bug in the worst way. No, not an actual travel bug, like Dengue or Malaria (Dengue epidemic in Latin America & Caribbean – have you heard?), just the need to see the world – especially the developing world. My interest in Egypt has also never waned. There was just something about it – the sand, the amazing mosques, the Khan Al Khalili bazaar, the culture, even the crazy traffic. And, as you can see in the photo above, it is all breathtaking.

I was inspired to write these things after reading on Global Voices about a Canadian woman living and blogging in Egypt, Maryanne Stroud Gabbani. On her blog I read a post about an art center in the countryside outside of Cairo. It is a place where city kids can come and relax and play and make art. I wanna go.