Kick-off meeting in Bali
Beijing, 24th of September
This year, our company had its usual kick-off meeting abroad. Last year they went to Korea, but much to my delight this year the management decided to take us on a four-day 'all expenses paid' trip to Bali island.After stopping briefly at the impressive Singapore airport, we arrived in Bali to be greeted by our tour guide (dao3 you2) and some locals who placed flower wreaths around our necks in a gesture of welcome. We were put up in a luxurious five star hotel in which I shared a room with my boss, Raymond.
The tour guide's rant
The next day after a fantastic buffet breakfast (zi4 zhu4 zao3 can1), we boarded our coach for the beach (hai3 tan1). Our tour guide was a Chinese Indonesian who spoke fluent Mandarin with a heavy accent. During the journey he would not stop talking! I could understand about two-thirds of what he was saying which I was pleased about but what he was saying was not particularly pleasing at all.Instead of giving a balanced historical background for each place of interest, he seemed intent on ranting about how the local Bali people were "lazy" (lan3) and the men "never worked". He insisted they only earned money through renting property to rich foreigners. This was despite the fact that all the drivers, service people at the hotel, shop keepers, road cleaners, waiters and cooks where Bali locals.
Shadows of the past
After a 45-minute drive we were taken to a busy road lined with tourist shops leading to the beach. On the way we passed the infamous site where the Bali bomb (zha4 dan4) went off in 2002. What was left of the 'Sari Club' was still just a burnt out husk, conspicuous in such a bright and lively setting. Sombrely we stopped to take pictures and reflect on why such a beautiful island could be subject to such horror.
The beach was full of surfers and locals selling drinks and renting deckchairs. The water was clear, beautiful and the sun was beaming. Annoyingly we were only given a very short time to enjoy this and were ushered back to the coach to take another 45 minute drive to the restaurant for lunch. Much to my chagrin, the restaurant only served Chinese food and I wondered why we would come all the way from China to eat Chinese food in Bali especially when it was not up to Chinese standards according to my colleagues. And they would certainly know.
That afternoon was the same. We were taken by coach to the wonderful Tanah Lot Temple, which was built overlooking the ocean only to be hurried back to the coach for another hour drive to yet another Chinese restaurant. Why couldn't we choose a restaurant closer to the temple? And why couldn't we sample some Indonesian cuisine? At this point, I and a few others complained mutinously to Raymond. He saw our point and the next day we ditched the tour guide and travelled independently.
I took a trip with Raymond to Turtle Island (hai3 gui1, turtle, dao3, island). Turtle Island was full of not only amazing giant turtles but a menagerie including monkeys (hou2 zi), eagles, a huge python and a giant bat.Bali was a fantastic experience, and I must say that the people of Bali were the most welcoming, friendly and spiritual people I've ever met. I am so privileged for being able to experience this as the only foreigner in a Chinese company.
During the trip I even managed to fulfil a lifelong ambition (wo3 yi1 sheng1 de yuan4 wang4, my life wish) which was to ride an elephant (da4 xiang4). As no-one else shared my enthusiasm for elephants I hired a car to the national park where I had an elephant ride which took me through jungle and local villages.
A big thank you!
The last three years in China, for me have been a priceless experience. Many people questioned my decision to come to Beijing and there were moments after I'd arrived that I did too. I've had many ups and downs since coming here but in China I found myself able to grow incredibly as a person and found myself doing things I would never have imagined before.
Writing this diary has been a great way for me to share some of my experiences in China and I am very grateful for all of the positive comments people have left. I really hope that some people can find these entries useful and I hope they can provide a good and honest insight into living/working and studying in China. Thanks for taking this journey with me.
Editor's note: Chris is writing Chinese words in 'Pinyin', Latin script, using numbers that indicate the tone of the word. Find out more with our course Real Chinese.
Sent by: Chris