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03:23pm 31/05/2016
Sometimes you try all the right things and get rewarded. Other times you do the same and there is no benefit.

Two and as half years ago we moved back to China. There were many reasons. I have a great job doing something I love, we can save more money and the kids get to experience another side of their heritage.

Is it worth admitting at this time my main priority in coming back?

Of course, Tingwen had experienced serious post natal depression after the birth of our first son and looked to be sliding back again after our second. When she suggested it I leapt on the idea, no really because I wanted to come back, but because I thought it would help.

And it did, for a while. She showed more empathy and understanding than at any time in the previous few years and the whole thing went pretty well.

A year ago, it started to slip again. Now we're pretty close to back where we were, plenty of good days but apocalyptic episodes in between.

Two months ago, one outburst prompted a terrifying shift. I pretty much stopped caring. Sure, I still love her and (of course) the kids, but I don't feel close to her any more and each outburst drives that wedge in deeper.

In the midst of this, a local friend has just started to experience what looks like post natal depression from his wife. So here's me trying to help him, whilst worried about being a hypocrite.
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Books & Games  
12:38pm 10/03/2014
Just a couple of things of note.

Firstly, a few months ago I bought a bundle of Science Fiction ebooks from storybundle.com, as there was some work in there from a couple of writers I enjoy. As it turned out, there was a problem with the bundle which I brought to their attention and in return, they gave me a voucher for any future bundle I desired.

This was a while ago and in the interim, there had been nothing of any great interest to me. This week, though, I noticed a new bundle had appeared with a number of fantasy books. Now, those that know me will no that I'm no huge fan of the fantasy genre (which I still attribute to my success at running the Cardiff Uni LARP story for so long), however there were a few authors in there I always have time for, so I cashed in my voucher and downloaded them all.

On Saturday, I started reading Peter David's take on the Arthurian legend, "The Camelot Papers" and although I'm a fan of David's (He has written the only Wolverine comic story I ever enjoyed, plus the best Star Trek and Babylon 5 novels in my opinion) I was intrigued by the idea.

On Sunday afternoon I finished it. It was a difficult novel to put down. It centres around a character who arrives in Camelot as slave, and through a variety of circumstances gets to see a warts-and-all view of the "true" Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot et al prior to their immortalisation in legend.

It was certainly an easy read, unlike some of the arthurian-based work I've seen, with a wry sense of humour and some historical slants on modern-day issues (the unpopularity of "wars-on-terror" with the general public, indulging people's interest in celebrity figures etc). Impressively, my estimation of Peter David as a writer has actually risen and whilst I admit the book isn't the longest (a mere 200-and-odd pages) it has been an absolute blast to read. I know I have friends out there who are bigger fans of the Arthurian legends than I am and for good or ill, I'd suggest they give it a read.

And games, well, as difficult as it may be to imagine, being many many miles from home and immersed in a distinctly foreign culture, I've actually managed to find a gaming group.

What are the odds?
location: Shenyang, China
mood: mellowmellow
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How on Earth...  
06:39pm 05/03/2014
With the classes I am down to teach at present, the school had a couple of contracted hours left to allocate to me and today that reclamation process began and I'm mildly thrilled.

The school apparently has an hour a week set aside for non-scholastic activities and this year, they want to put on a play, so the two are being combined and guess who's been pegged to run this, that's right, me.

So now I'm going to be directing an English language play, performed by Korean pupils, in China. Frankly I consider this to be a good thing, having spent much of the week mulling over an old article I'd read about Shakespeare in the Hong Kong schooling system. Now I don't think I'll invoke the Bard on my unsuspecting students, but I think this could still be a good thing.

Next step though, is to pick out a play when the numbers have been ironed out. There are a few thoughts at present, including Bugsy Malone and Wyrd Sisters, unless I suddenly find their free time to write/adapt something myself (noting that Christmas Carol was an early frontrunner, apart from the fact they want the performance in October).

Any other suggestions.
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Cultural shenanigans  
09:50am 03/03/2014
New post is well underway now and with the other lower-school teachers I've been asked to help come up with ideas for a "cultural day" (name to be reviewed) for the students. It was suggested that British classroom/playground games could be used - but I'm increasingly designed to reach for something a bit more specific to one of the individual cultures of Britain, namely from my own background.

Hence I now find myself wondering about the possibility of a miniature Highland Games and/or Ceilidh. I'm reasonably convinced that (with a little work) I can source a school-safe caber, but am now looking through whatever materials I can lay my hands on to come up with other ideas I can adapt. Seems like the odds are a bit long for finding a piper in Shenyang at present though.
location: Shenyang, China
mood: busybusy
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Speaka da lingo?  
09:04am 27/02/2014
As some of you will know, my attempts to master, or at least get on diplomatic terms, with the Chinese language have been spotty at best, a mess of mispronunciations, tonal errors and seeing the written form as a pretty, but largely unrecognisable, symbols. Well a white knight has appeared on the horizon to rescue me to some extent.

Last year I started browsing Kickstarter, primarily intrigued by some of the board and card games I'd seen coming up through there. On one browsing session I happened upon something a bit different and that something was Chineasy, a learning system for written Chinese that builds on recognisable, pictorial depictions of root words and builds up from there.

Well, I saw some real potential in this, so Chineasy became the first kick starter I supported, buying in at a level that would get me the eBook on release. I was far from the only person that the project appealed to as it handsomely soared past its target.

Well the eBook became available in December and with everything that was going on, remained undownloaded, although always at the back of my mind.

I eventually got around to it this week and although I'm not pretending to have taken it all in through my cursory pass, seeing written Chinese now has metamorphosed from an unrecognisable jumble, to at least a decent handful of building blocks that I'm more confident I can piece together.

More impressively, I sat with Orin and Tingwen's mum yesterday having a browse and he has taken a real shine to it, so much so that on the way home after dinner last night, he was confidently picking individual words out from signs with no prompting.

So if you have any interest in looking at written Chinese at all, check out Chineasy, it will be well worth your while.
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Funny old week  
11:02pm 21/02/2014
It has indeed been a funny old week. We're more or less settled now in terms of the apartment, although the internet connection can be quite erratic from time to time, at least we have somewhere to cook what we want, which helps.

I've started at work, although no students yet so all prep work so far, plus a looming work away-day to discuss the curriculum, which should bed fun.

And now, some short notes...

1: there's a nightclub on the route to work with the slogans outside "Hot Dance Int. Club", which I keep reading in my mind with a Yorkshire accent, "Hot Dance in t'club.".

2: There's also a bar along the route called Cybertron. Now on my list of places to go.

3: My favourite meeting arrangement of the year so far, possibly of all time. Tingwen: "I'll meet you at the goat".

Oh well, back to work.
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Baby its cold outside.  
12:11am 16/02/2014
OK, it has actually been pretty cold since I got here, with the temperature regularly dropping past -17°c, but today it started to snow and as tonight has gone on, its settled. There's not much yet, perhaps an inch from where I'm looking, but its made their place look completely different, as Shenyang is usually pretty dusty at this time of year. All I can say is that I'm very pleased we stocked up on decent winter clothes on our visits to the outlet villages before we left.

The last of the boxes we sent arrived yesterday as well, so we have pretty much everything we need for now in those terms, certainly enough DVDs and games to keep me going, anyway, plus the last of Orin and Connor's Christmas presents.

It's been noticeably quieter tonight than any night we've been here so fast, as the News Year festivities ended yesterday, so there are no more fireworks for now, although sadly this means all the lanterns, etc are coming down too. I have some pictures though, so I'll try to get those up when I have time.
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Flexible educational thingies.  
06:13pm 10/02/2014
Yeah, so, the settling in process continues apace.

We're still not into the new apartment yet as we try to iron out a few things, however at least we're making progress. The boiler appears to be sorted out as it was running a little cool, so that's progress and as for the broadband, well that was quick.

We phoned the company to find out how much it would cost (200 pounds for set up and three-years subscription for a fibre-optic system). Within half an hour the technicians were on-site and within another thirty minutes the cable and wireless-router were installed, with the technicians hanging around long enough to see if my X-Box could connect (which it can, although spottily - which is largely to be expected).

A little more furniture to get and then we should be able to settle in, which will be nice.

Then it was a little time focussing on the work situation. Of course I have my main job lined up, although we have a few more weeks until term starts, however it was time to dig out a second, part-time job to help make a little spending money so we can save my main income. So we got bck in touch with a private school I wused to work with and after an hour I walked out with another 6-12 hours classes each weekend, which should do the job nicely (plus i get to work in one of the coolest looking buildings in town).

So yeah, progress.

I still need to get my mobile unlocked though, which is taking time as the best places to go have only just reopened after New Year, which is what's also holding up things like buying furniture etc (although a visit to IKEA helped a little in that regard).
location: Shenyang, China
mood: hopefulhopeful
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So, here I am again  
05:59pm 06/02/2014
It has taken a while, but here I am again back in China. At Tingwen's family's place at the moment which means the internet is somewhat spotty and no chance of reaching so many of my normal means of communication (Facebook, G+... even my own website is mysteriously blocked) - so I guess I'd better start hanging out around here with a little more frequency.
location: Shenyang, China
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Here and here again  
09:09pm 02/05/2013
This is a little like coming back to an old familiar building, where there are a lot of memories and everything feels the same, but the paint is beginning to peel and there's a strange scent of... something... in the corner.

Still, I wanted to come back for a while and see how the old place is, let the world know what's going on in a way that doesn't feel like a pubic forum, no matter how ostensibly friend-friendly Facebook allegedly is.

So yeah, I'm still here. Fighting on level ground for what feels like the first time in ages and against reasonably impressive odds, having a surprisingly good time.

I'm still struggling to get my creative impulse back at full speed, although it is beginning to crank up again to an extent. I've got a feeling that it won't kick back into gear for a while, but its giving me enough to keep busy. Mostly I have a new project on the boil, a "sequel" of sorts to my podcasting adventures of a few years back. I still need to rope a couple more adventurous people to help out, but a lot of the groundwork in terms of domain names, websites and equipment is now in place.

That said, perhaps this is all a bit optimistic with baby #2 lurking on the horizon, but perhaps I'd rather be a creative and enthusiastic dad than a by-the-numbers father.

So old hobbies which have laid dormant for a while are filtering back in. Camerawork and editing, kite flying, drawing.. all have been a bit neglected but the chances to indulge are coming back.

Learning to drive hasn't hurt either, as it's let me and the Big Yin get out and do what we want, especially as he seems to favour castles, boats and aeroplanes at the moment.

So yeah, Im still here. Hope you are all well.
mood: peacefulpeaceful
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