IntroductionThere are so many parallels in our lives that it is best we point these out before starting, else it will seem as if we have cut and paste a large amount of the same text to each description.
Age-wise there's not much to separate us. Alf is 40, Ian 41. Old enough to enjoy the good things in life but still young at heart.
We are both married to local ladies, and had a boy as a first child: Alf to Ming Fang - with James (Zhang Xi Rei); Ian to Zhang Faye - with Luke (Zhang Hang). Alf has taken the lead with the recent addition of a beatiful daughter Chloe.
We both used to be Destination (regional) Manager for the UK tour operator, The Imaginative Traveller. Alf from June 2001 to January 2003, Ian from then until October 2007.In this role we both learnt a great deal about tourism - and making seamless arrangements, as well as dealing with emergencies.
On a superficial level, we both choose to wear what is left of our hair close cropped. The locals use the term guan tou, 'baldy', for us both - when they can tell the difference at all.
The coincidences don't stop in China. We even discovered years back that I (Ian) used to be a regular at the Princess Louise (Holborn, London) and that Alf had been Bar Manager there just shortly before.
Enough of the similarities - here are some of the more interesting differences:
Ian FordIan was born in Plymouth, England.
Before working for The Imaginative Traveller, Ian was a mathematics teacher; before that an accountant.
A lifetime in accountancy was prevented by a fantastic winter's trekking in Nepal. A few months after returning, Ian had quit and made plans to travel.
A large part of the next three years were spent crossing Africa and then working in Australia and New Zealand. It was whilst in the latter that Ian learnt winter climbing.
On his return to the UK Ian then learnt rock climbing. When he changed careers to become a teacher it seemed ideal to make use of these outdoor interests and he therefore qualified as a Summer Mountain Leader and Single Pitch Supervisor.
It was in fact the summer leader award that ultimately lead to tour leading. It first sparked an interest in leading school expeditions each summer for World Challenge. The great pleasure of those gave direction to the next career change.
Bawling at unruly teenagers in sultry Carlisle hardly compares to taking holiday-makers around sunny Turkey. The next change was one way only.
Due to a shortage in China, Ian was soon sent to Beijing for training. He soon fell in love with with the country, and with Yangshuo in particular.
Much of the rest is stated above. Ian lives here now earning a living from internet based activities. Luckily living costs are relatively low and demands on his time are now easing off. That frees up time to be with the family, and for more outdoor activities again. Hiking is one of those, and the one pleasure he most wants to pass on to others.