India, Here We Come!

What on earth have I gotten myself into? This may be the most stressful trip I’ve ever taken. I have spent hours researching India and still am not remotely prepared to leave tomorrow!

I know I’ve kind of disappeared lately. I’ve been super busy with teaching, my side job, and homework for AI. Here’s a link to the site I’ve been working on though; I had to create a portfolio for my photography class.┬áhttps://p531niki.myportfolio.com/work I’m taking a little break now-no classes until March 19th. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all that free time!

I’m sure I have more pictures but I can’t seem to get anything off my phone right now.We’ve been celebrating Chinese New Year’s with the kids; today we had a cooking class and made oodles of dumplings, and then watched a movie. Then I came home and started finalizing plans and I’m about to tear my hair out.

Jess and I got our Indian visas a couple weeks ago which involved completing a 5 page application and forking over $75 USD. They were approved within a couple days though and it’s an e-visa so all we had to do was print them off and carry them with us. Then after much deliberation we narrowed our itinerary down: 2 nights in Delhi, with a day trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, 3 nights in Jodhpur, and 5 nights in Udaipur, then back to fly out of Delhi. The problem is that this is a busy season and everywhere is packed with Chinese tourists traveling for Spring Festival. So when I went to book train tickets tonight…they were gone. I ended up booking a private car to Agra for a sunrise tour. Which is going to be brutal because we’re basically sleeping in the Guangzhou airport during our layover tomorrow night, then the following night we’ll have to wake up at 2am to leave for our Agra tour, come back to Delhi around 3pm, then take a 9pm sleeper train to Jodhpur (the only one still available), arriving at 8am the next morning. Not looking forward to the jet lag… After that, I have no idea what we’re doing for the next two legs of the journey but we’ll just have to figure it out as we go because I’m to exhausted to deal with the world’s most frustrating railway website anymore tonight.

Since I’m not enrolled in a class for once, I’m leaving my computer behind. It will be the longest we’ve been apart in three years, sniff. The withdrawal is going to be bad. I’m trying to pack light so I’m just taking phone/camera/clothes in a backpack. I’m going to do some old-fashioned writing by hand but I’ll take notes and tons of pictures to blog when I get back. I’ll try to put some up on Facebook if I get a chance, so stay tuned!

January 26, 2017

It feels like I just arrived back in Beijing and now I just spent the past 6 hours cleaning and packing so I can leave again. The past three weeks were kind of a blur, back to work as usual. Our last day was yesterday so we celebrated by making some dragon masks and papercutting traditional characters for Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival, with their Chinese teacher, Carol.

Dragon masks 3-pic

I did not neglect our apartment either, cleaning and hanging up traditional decorations. I put the character for Fu, or good fortune, on our front door. Then I stuck smaller versions on every other door in the house.

4-pic

I also put one on ShuaiShuai’s tank for good measure. I’m taking no chances. We need all the luck we can get in this house.

5-pic

That’s all for now, but I’ll be posting very soon from Barcelona. Countdown to take off- 10 hours, 19 minutes!

“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” ~Steven Spielberg

So things have been hectic as usual, but I do finally get a break this week for Chinese New Year. It’s been nice actually; most Chinese people go back to their hometowns for the holiday, or out of town. Beijing is much less crowded than normal. I finished up my classes Friday, the winter camp I was teaching for some kids, and an adult class. I had fun with them all! The kids had lessons on teamwork and we did a bunch of science experiments and games.

IMG_0718

IMG_0743

After my last class Friday I met Jess and went to Wangfujing Street, where she attempted to eat bugs, just because. It was highly entertaining; if you haven’t yet, go check out the YouTube video I made:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8tpacvAkxY

Finally got to put my skills from my video editing class to good use. There’s a huge mall (actually, more than one) in Wangfujing and we walked around. Everything was decked out for Chinese New Year; it’s the Year of the Monkey, if you couldn’t tell:

IMG_0712Firecrackers and monkeys are everywhere, and oranges are traditional gifts for the holiday.

Saturday was about 20 straight hours of homework but I wanted to get everything out of the way so I could have fun Sunday, for New Year’s Eve, which I did. I got up early and Skyped family, ran to the grocery store, and then cleaned, cleaned, cleaned because my apartment was a mess and I didn’t want to clean it today because it’s very unlucky. (If you take out the trash, sweep the floors, or even wash your hair on New Year’s Day Chinese superstition says you’re sweeping away good fortune for the year. So I went along with it because I need all the luck I can get!) Then I decorated my apartment. LiLin brought me a bunch of New Year’s decorations and told me how to hang them up right. There’s a poem on three pieces that goes around the door, and a sign for fu that has to be hung upside down on New Year’s eve.

IMG_0717Last night I met up with Jess near Shichahai. People were setting off chains of firecrackers on the sidewalk as we went by and I stopped for this video. I also temporarily lost my hearing…turn the volume down if you watch it! I love fireworks in China. People buy them by the case and set them off wherever and whenever they feel like it. No rules, no regulations, no timed 20-minute events, and no warning whatsoever. Crowded street? Who cares? They just light the fuse and run. Hopefully bystanders notice and get out of the way before the mayhem starts.

We got dinner at a new place we stumbled across and now it’s one of my favorites. Delicious food!

IMG_0715Then we wandered around being our silly selves. We found a giant ball of cotton candy for dessert, which we subsequently turned into Olaf from Frozen, and a wig for Jess. Also found a giant fish, which is very lucky here.

IMG_0716At eight, we met up with some more friends at a quiet bar on Houhai lake and played dice games. They had live music and big windows upstairs so we could see the fireworks going off all night. Later we went to Temple Bar to hear the Beijing Beetles, who were actually pretty good, then to the lake to see the fireworks at midnight. Well, the big display was at midnight but really they were going off as soon as it was dark. They were going nonstop all night, even when I got back to my apartment. And I could still hear firecrackers when I got up this morning (very late) and all day long. This is the biggest holiday in China and they know how to celebrate!

IMG_0748