On the plane from Dunhuang to Beijing

It has been a long time since my last post. I’ve decided that instead of aiming to write regularly, a more realistic goal is to write when there is something interesting to blog about. If it takes time to accumulate interesting content then so be it. Over the past few months however, I have certainly accumulated some interesting adventures. Last summer, I went to Thailand and Malaysia before returning to a busy semester at university.

Last Few Months

It has a whirlwind past few months. I took five subjects last semester, (Advanced Legal Research, Law and Social Theory, Business Associations, Litigation 2 and Intellectual Property) and this kept me very busy. In addition to this, I was the marriage celebrant for David Bradleys wedding, and I ran a half-marathon in my best time ever. I trained almost daily as part of a triathlon program with a local group called Top Notch. As soon as exams were finished, I went to the Hunter Valley with Rina where I stayed at beautiful hotels, ate amazing food and tasted the finest Australian wines. It was a great weekend away. As soon as I got back, I had to pack for the trip to China. The China trip involves, firstly, a trip to Lanzhou as part of a Confucius Institute Tour, a couple of months at Beijing Language and Culture University, and then a full semester at Tsinghua University. I am writing this post as I sit on the plane from Dunhuang to Beijing.

University Last Semester

University was interesting last semester. Marks come out next week, and I am anxious to see how I went. Some quick notes on my thoughts for each subject are:

–          Legal Research improved my ability to use the legal databases and will be useful for the rest of my studies and my career when I start as a junior lawyer

–          Law and Social Theory was the most interesting subject I took, perhaps the least practical, but certainly the most interesting. I learnt about the political theories of liberalism, neoliberalism and the ideas of Marx, Engels, and Pashukanis. I also attended several lectures on feminism, which looks at the world in a very different light. Catherine Catharine MacKinnon, a radical feminist had the most unique perspective and although I do not agree with all her writings, I can appreciate her point of view.

–          Business Associations was primarily about the corporations act, and although much of this seemed like revision of things that I had come across in my prior work, studying the purpose and intention of the laws made a lot of sense and put things into perspective.

–          Litigation 2 was all about court process and evidence. Visiting court was the most interesting part of this course, and it helped me understand why there are such stringent rules for when and what evidence can be presented to the court. Much of the course was from a criminal law perspective, which I enjoy reading about for some strange reason.

–          IP was primarily about copyright. This is a relatively new area of law, and it was mostly looking at cases and how the courts have interpreted legislation. I probably put the least amount of effort into this class, the teacher spoon fed us which made things easy, in contrast to the other courses I took, I’m not sure how valuable this class was.

Post Exam Celebrations

After the final exams in June, I had a weekend away with Rina in the Hunter Valley where we had the most amazing food and wine. We stayed at a hotel overlooking a golf course, with a beautiful spa, and champagne on arrival. We arrived the Friday evening after I had handed in my final exam. I was hooked on Breaking Bad, a TV series, and I watched this whilst sipping champagne in the spa. Good times. The first evening we just wanted to relax and we ended up just eating at the hotel restaurant which was simply amazing. The waiter introduced a local red that matched the steak that had been grain fed and reared in Tasmania. The food was superb. Saturday and Sunday followed a similar theme of great food, amazing wine and just driving around the Hunter Valley eating too much and tasting wines.

Leaving for Lanzhou

I got back to Sydney on the Sunday, and the very next morning I was on a plane headed to Shanghai. There were seventeen students in total participating in the trip and I had only really met one of them briefly in my IP class. Although many of them were much younger than me, I found that they were are all very mature, intelligent and interesting people. We were in Shanghai for one evening just in very basic transit accommodation as we waited for the morning flight to Lanzhou. I was initially hoping to meet Sung Woo in Shanghai, but the airport hotel was too remote and by the time we were in our hotel and settled, it was just too late to go out.

We were on the plane early the next morning, and landed before lunch. My first impressions of Lanzhou were that it was in the middle of a whole bunch of sandy hills, dusty, remote and dry. It was very different to the big cities around the world where I have spent most of my time. There was an hour drive to the city of Lanzhou where the university was located.  Lanzhou University had a large campus. We were staying and studying at the masters’ campus where there was lots of construction and development. Apart from this, Lanzhou University, or Lan Da, as it is called here, there were another two campuses, the undergraduate campus as well as the medical campus. The school was very proud of its history and strengths and they are one of the top 38 universities in the country with 100 years of history. It is clear that this university is important to the city as well as the surrounding cities, which rely on this institution for higher education to the region.

The university hotel was very basic and I shared a room with Harry. The days were packed with taichi in the morning, language classes, cultural classes and activities like mountain climbing and museums throughout the day. We played Badmington and table tennis, and met some local students Huo Shan, Wei Wei and Zhun Zhun. Evening activities included a blind massage, karaoke, and one evening filming the Harlem Shake. Local food worth mentioning includes Huang Men Yang Rou, Niu Rou Mian and Niang Pi. On the last night, we met a group of Kazakhstani students, who we spoke with. It was interesting to hear about just how different their lives and upbringing is and their way of life. It sounds like a difficult place to live. From what I was told by Bowral, a Journalism student who had near perfect English, the difficulty in the county was mostly a result of corruption and the political situation. I’d be really interested to visit Kazakhstan and see first-hand what the country is like. I had a really positive impression of the students that I met.

Exploring Gansu

Although Landa was fun, I was ready to leave after a week and a half as was scheduled. The food at the university campus was getting repetitive, and I was keen to explore Dunhuang, which we had been told so much about. Getting from Lanzhou to Dunhuang involved an overnight train. We were in Dunhuang for four days. These four days were a real adventure. I feel really lucky to have been a part of this trip. The highlights included:

–          Jiauguan, which is the part of the great wall that was the border of China and Mongolia

–          Yadan, part of the Gobi desert where nature has created some really unique rock structures

–          Mingsha Mountains and Crescent Springs where we rode camels and slid down the sand dunes in tyres.

Taken at Yadang, Gansu Province, PRC

Taken at Yadang, Gansu Province, PRC

Next Stop Beijing

I’m hopefully getting picked up by Qian Wen who I will be staying with in Beijing. There is a whole bunch of stuff I need to get done over the next few days including completing a Property Law course that I am enrolled in, as well as arranging a student visa and the other bits and pieces that I need to do to start my adventure in Beijing. We are close to landing, and the computer needs to be shut down!