Justin read my palms today. Surprisingly, for the natural sceptic that I am, it was enticing, challenging. For as much as I didn’t believe, I wanted to. Some of what he said was off, but the things that were on were moving.

It felt comforting that the thoughts and feelings I’m still trying to reconcile could be empathised with by another person, not matter is the source of their advice is God or the stars or your palms.


This is encouraging for me for more than one reason: I used to be baffled by otherwise perfectly rational people dedication some portion of their life to some divine being, but I think we all do it innately, subconsciously, whether our rational minds like it or not. It’s also encouraged me to make the decisions to which I may have struggled to find a solution.

I’ve never felt a relationship with a higher power of God, but I can relate to other people. So I can relate to the words Justin said and the empathy and sincerity he said them with.



Face and Guanxi



Endless bitching got us out of this place, Chan Wu. It was just the beginning but it gathered enough momentum to relocate us downtown in a reasonable hotel.


Saving face took over next. The potential embarrassment over this cultural debacle and military style coup convinced them some action should be taken. ‘Convinced’ might be a euphemism, saving face after all is seldom a matter of choice, it’s a social trust that measures your integrity. It’s not easily restored once lost.


This leads us full circle to Guanxi. Thinking back to our first class seemingly years ago, we learnt of Guanxi: Chinese relationships. It’s the eastern equivalent of it’s not what you know, it’s who.


This is what got us across the line or border or whatever separates reality from this Kung Fu Kingdom. Some ‘officials’, perhaps government or triads, pulled the necessary strings to make the final preparations for the move.


I’m glad I’ve managed to see and participate in real life scenarios of what we learnt in class. The practical experience, however unplanned it was, has taught be the most about doing business in China.


Chan Wu



I’m sitting on a stool, in a hall, listening to a man talk about Qi in Chinese, we’re not allowed to slouch.


What an interesting turn of events. Just two days ago, after our final Chinese, business and Chinese business classes we celebrated, naturally many drinks were had in anticipation of the cultural undertakings the next week contained. A week of semi-leisure, semi-study is just what we needed.


But like a hot iron pressed into our skin between our hairline and our eyebrows, we were welcomed to a boot camp. Lured here under the false pretence of “Dim Sum”, imagine our surprise when we had to bow to our food and forbidden from talking while eating. Curfew is 10:30pm, breakfast at 7:10am, if an unfortunate soul arrives late they must literally “report” and bow to the coach.


This place is actually Chan Wu Kung Fu Academy; supposedly renowned across China, these stern task masters produce either: outstanding martial artists or cause recognised adults to revert to needlessly nonchalant adolescence, such as myself.


My rebellious side has been stirred. Solely, I believe, due to their unnecessary rules and regulations. I’ve learnt respect, don’t tell me how to do it or I’ll through a fucking tantrum. Our coaches (note: not teachers) turn a blind ear; this, in addition to my crap Chinese, creates maximum mutual misunderstanding.


Apparently, a large donation by our organiser to the Guangzhou government has gone astray. Our official welcome was just looking at kung fu equipment.


This doesn’t surprise me about China, but it apparently surprised our organiser; she doesn’t know our location or where our official greeters might be. He surprise may be genuine or it may be her revenge for our repeated truancy of the first fortnight. In which case, she got us good.


So we staged a coup. The guys and girls can’t cross dorm so our meeting were held in the secret candlelit basements below our prison cells, which is what it felt like anyway. It was exciting., I’ve never been a rebel but it is not been too late to start. We are leaving this place one way or another.





The Beast of Sonder, so prevalent in my previous journeys, has returned more majestically and unexpectedly than before; permeating, not through people met on the street, next door or behind some mat laying on the ground of some cold pedestrian tunnel selling goods you never really need, but from the people I know.

‘Know’ is a loose term. I know their names, perhaps their major or favourite sport, but being with them continuously for days at a time creates an unspoken closeness.

The façade, socially superficial if you’d dare not or care not to take a closer look, conceal amazing remarkable people whose stories may run deeper than the light can penetrate the ocean or a richly colourful coral reef of skills, stories, desires and achievements above which you could float and ponder for almost an eternity.

But after three weeks your oxygen is low. You’re fading fast, the experiences of this other reality become blurred like a dream you can barely remember. Suddenly, a fierce reality jerks you back to its boat with a rope around your brain and rationale, but not without tearing a piece of yourself that invariably slips away and falls back into the water.

These China experiences I’ve had, while similar in theme or agenda, are remarkably different with the people who are with you. Each having their own influence you can only pray is not dissolved from your soul in the same way this fairy land will dissolve into a dream you think you’ve had before.






You catch sight of her one day during your regular commute. She’s sitting at the other end of the bus, earphones in, head down in a phone or a book. She gets off the bus before you, but she stays in your mind.

You see her a few times over the next few days. You try to predict where on the bus she will sit, but it’s never next to you. You swear that she smiled at you once.


It’s only a few weeks later you work up the courage to get off the bus at the same stop, but as you approach her, your perspective changes fast. The elegant façade she parades at a distance quickly crumbles away, the crack in the cement and uneven stairs are obvious and irritating.


This is China.

Not Chinese women, of course.


A grand and magnificent establishment consisting of bamboo reinforcement and low-grade cement is obvious to anyone who’d care to look. Elegantly designed buildings by world-class architects are let down by a severe lack of attention to detail.


Street-side, this is represented by low laying power lines, stapled in seemingly random ways along walls, pipes concealed beneath a speed-bump style obstacle in the middle of pedestrian paths. It’s evident it should have been laid below the ground, but wasn’t due to time constraints or the cement truck arriving before the plumber.


Luckily for them, aside from the lack of OHS, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Their expectations of “World Class” cities have been realised, but don’t expect them to be around for long. This infrastructure has the lifespan of the random gadgets and clothes you can find at the local markets.


It won’t be long before the rate of construction is equal to the rate of degradation. As a civil engineer, I’m not sure whether to be pleased or concerned.


Incomplete Separation of States



You’re in your local café, you say hello to the barista, make a little small talk but it’s hard to hear over the loud music.

You can see a few of the other regulars, they’re drinking large ones; you know it’s not there first.

You take a quick glance around at the newcomers, you’ve got your routine, but patience is key.

Some guy comes up to you and asks you for a cigarette, he reeks of coffee. You can tell he’s been drinking for a few hours. You don’t have one to give him.

You take a seat in your favourite corner, some girls by the counter doing espressos, one of them can’t handle their drink and legs it towards the bathroom. The remaining ones chase the shot with some unnecessarily sweet, girly coffee. You’re not even sure they’re eighteen.

You get a call but you know not to answer, instead, you go to where you know the caller will be. The exchange is brief, not formal; this man is not your friend, he does business. You pick up the two small packages. One for now, one for later.

The coffee has made you over-zealous, so you take one immediately.

You feel yours eyes widening. Any thought of work in the next few hours leaves your mind.

You return and the barista serves you another coffee.

On the way back to your seat, your favourite song comes on.

It tugs you from inside to the dance floor.

The music escalates as your heart begins to pulse through your entire body in time with the beat.

You dance like nobody is there, reaching and kicking left and forwards until the lights you see are simultaneously in front and behind your eyelids.

You’re not sure how space exists around you, but it does.

You don’t even drink coffee.


foreign enterprises



“According to the law of foreign-funded enterprises, the establishment of foreign enterprises should benefit the development of our national economy.”


I picked that quote at random, but I only just realised the irony. Someone has paid for me to sit here in this class, perhaps, with the hope I, the metaphor for potential globalisation, will use this experience to perfect my high school business studies theories for the benefit of the Chinese economy.


But I woke up with a lump on my head this morning, I thought it was the liquid leaching hangover on my brain, but that’s only half of it. There’s an actual lump on my head, right in the middle. I’m not sure if I forget how I got it due to alcohol or the blunt force trauma induced amnesia or both.


Either way, it’s unlikely I’ll learn how they expect me to, this pulsating marble of pain between my skin and skull radiates a continuous stream of knowledge into the atmosphere, not in a good way either, it’s like a hole in the ozone layer that grows larger the harder I try to fix it, until it grows so large my brain becomes exposed to the elements, free to leave its homely cranium.


It’s unlikely these ramblings will benefit their national economy, but I’ll come to these classes anyway.