I’m loving these blue skies and chilly mornings lately. It’s my favorite time of year.
I made a quick-and I do mean quick-visa run last weekend. Twenty-four hours in Busan, perfect for doing all my favorite relaxing things. I love exploring new places, but sometimes it’s nice to go see old friends:
This past week has been completely draining. Kevin, who’s three and really too young to be in our school, has made it his mission to destroy me I’m pretty sure. Every day, all day, temper tantrums, screaming, hitting, running around ripping everything off the walls. He nearly tore my hair out when I tried to stop him from hitting Siri with a chair one day. I feel so bad for the other kids because they’re being so good (most of the time) and they’re really patient with him. Sometimes he’ll be fine for an hour or two and we can actually get something done though. We’re learning about other cultures and since this month is Latin America we learned to salsa dance. They were so adorable! I don’t salsa dance myself; I just pulled up a how-to on YouTube and we tried to follow along. We’re not very good, but we had fun!
We’re also preparing for Halloween this week, so we had to “carve” some jack-o-lanterns. I love how individual they are:
This weekend Jess and I planned to go up to Fragrant Hills-the mountains on the outskirt of Beijing. This weekend and next are the best time to see the fall leaves. But traffic got horrific as we got closer to the park entrance and we had the cab driver drop us off so we could walk. Even then the street was gridlocked with people walking and tourist buses. So we detoured to the entrance of the Beijing Botanical Gardens instead, which turned out to be a good idea. It was way less crowded than Fragrant Hills would have been. I heard later it sold out about the time we would have arrived anyway. But the botanical gardens were amazing. There’s a huge conservatory in the middle but we skipped it and just enjoyed being outside. It was the perfect fall day. So. Many. COLORS! We had fun running around taking pictures for a few hours.
Hi all! Yes, it’s me, I’m alive. I just haven’t been able to blog for the past couple of months because I had to um, get this kitten out of a tree, and then I, uh, fell and broke both my arms, had to spend weeks in the hospital, until it got hit by an earthquake, so I ran, jumped off a cliff and got kidnapped by pirates. Or maybe I’m just insanely busy with work…yeah, that might be it. I’m actually drowning in projects at the moment. I’m going to finish this last year of school if it kills me, but, you know, it very well might. And don’t even get me started on students. They get worse by the day, and unlike last year’s class, I just don’t like most of these kids. I have a couple that I will really miss but otherwise June 30th can not get here fast enough.
I don’t have anything huge to report at the moment. I think I have finally decided to stay in Beijing one more year. I think. But ONLY one more year. Seriously, if I’m not out of China by July 31st 2019, get a rescue team together and come get me. I’m actually kind of tired of Beijing at the moment; I feel like there’s nothing new to see or do here. I still want to see other places in China and Asia though, and save up some money, so I’m going to try to survive one more year.
Last weekend we had a 4-day holiday for Chinese Labor Day, so I went to Busan for a few days. On the one hand, I’ve already been there twice and I felt like I should go explore somewhere new, but on the other-I just love this city. It’s my happy place-so peaceful and pretty and friendly, plus I really just wanted to hang out on the beach and do nothing for a change. Besides, it’s nice to go someplace a little familiar. I got in late since I left after work Friday, and I didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to navigate a new city. I just went straight to the subway and used the change I saved from my last trip to buy a ticket. I already know all the streets around the Haeundae Beach area, and it was really easy to walk around.
The weather was perfect-warm and sunny, with a nice cool breeze. The water was chilly but not too cold to walk around barefoot in the surf. On Saturday, I spent several hours working on homework in the morning, then went out, had some excellent seafood, read my book, wrote in my journal, and sat on the beach for a while people-watching. It was actually pretty busy for being so early in the season. There was a little boy, probably not even 2 yet, a few yards down, who would toddle up to the waves, just inching closer and closer, but as soon as the water touched his toes, he would run back up the beach screaming “Mama!” He must have done it six or seven times. An older girl, probably 5 or 6, was fascinated by the pigeons pecking around in the sand. She would run up to one group and they would take off, so she’d run over to another group and they’d take off flying and she would just crack up laughing. She did this all up and down the beach until she scared one flock off birds into flying straight at a group of teenage girls taking selfies by the water and her mom dragged her off. (She did them a favor, really, they looked like idiots.) Another woman next to me spread out her towel, sat down, and pulled out a book. Oh, hey, another reader, nice to see people still do that. Nope. She next pulled out her phone and proceeded to take pictures of the book open on her lap. Then, apparently afraid that wouldn’t be convincing enough, she brought out a selfie stick so she could get a picture of her face looking down at the book. She sat there posing for 30 minutes and the only time she actually looked at the book was when she clicked the shutter. This is really getting out of hand, people. Can we not even spend a half hour on the beach without phones?
Sunday, I also spent several hours doing homework in the morning, then finally got out in the mid-afternoon to explore Dongbaek Island, which, interestingly, is not an island. It was once upon a time but now buildup of sand and silt from streams have connected it to the mainland. You can take the subway to Dongbaek, near the Westin, and then there’s a beautiful walking path that goes all around the perimeter of the island and turns into a boardwalk on the far side with steps going down to the rocky shore. From there you can keep walking and end up back on Haeundae Beach, where I did some more beach-sitting and people-watching before strolling down the seafood street for dinner. Most of the places on this street have a set menu. You just pick what kind of fish you want and they’ll pull it out of a tank out front and bring it with all the accompaniments.
Lastly, I’ll just leave you with a fun fact I learned over the weekend. So the Airbnb I stayed at this time was an older, local building. Saturday morning I woke up to some guy’s voice-but it was inside the apartment. I was super groggy since I hadn’t gotten in till 1am the night before, and it took a minute to realize the voice was coming from the ceiling, but I couldn’t figure out how, or what it was saying because the only word of Korean I understood was gamsahamnida (thank you). Then I saw that there was a metal square intercom up above the bed. By the time I was fully awake it had stopped and nothing seemed to be happening so I was just like, that’s weird (and creepy) but I was too tired to care. Then it came on again later that night and I was like “What the hell is this?”! So I started googling “voice in ceiling of Korean apartments”. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had this problem. I stumbled onto a couple of really funny blogs that explained it. All old apartments have these public-service warning systems, that have now evolved to include notices from building managers (like stop playing music late at night, don’t park there), and even advertisements in some areas. Did I mention it’s super-creepy? If I lived in one I’d have to take a page out of this lady’s book and kill the voices.
Get ready to OD on pictures-I have lots today. Also, I’ve said this before, but in case you’re not thoroughly sick of hearing it, Busan is awesome. One of my favorite places so far.
I left Beijing at 2:50 am Thursday morning and with the time difference arrived in Busan about 6:30 am-way too early to check in to my Airbnb apartment, but I took a bus over to the beach area in Haeundae. I hadn’t made any plans for the day but the bus dropped me off in front of the aquarium on the beach. It wasn’t open yet but there was a sign saying that they had discounted admissions for people who purchased the city’s hop-on-hop-off bus tour. And the tour stop was right next to me so I just decided to go for it.
One of the first stops was Haedong Yunggungsa temple. The pictures aren’t great quality because it was really overcast that day but it was still beautiful. It was nice just to be surrounded by nature. Beijing has its share of parks and greenery but they’re all manufactured and transplanted. I’d forgotten what real nature looks like.
I also got to check out the Busan Museum of Art, mostly modern. There were some cool pieces there. Then I went back and toured the aquarium.
After that, I checked into my apartment around 4:30, where the lack of sleep caught up to me and I accidentally took a 5 hour nap. I woke up at 9:30 and decided I didn’t want to waste any more time so I decided to take a moonlit walk on the beach. The Haeundae area is pretty touristy, but it wasn’t peak season yet so it wasn’t very crowded, and it’s still beautiful. I walked down to the end of the beach then strolled around the neighborhood-there are tons of restaurants, bars, street vendors, and little shops to explore. I also realized I was starving so I grabbed some fried ice cream for dinner around 11-the perks of being an adult 😉
I got up early Friday and set out to explore some more. I wanted a hat since I’d already gotten more sunburned than I wanted the day before, so I went to Centum City, a giant mall that contains the largest department store in the world-seriously. The largest department store in the world and I still could not find an affordable hat I liked. Naturally. Still cool though. This place has an ice-skating rink, a golf club, and a park on the roof.
Then I hopped on another bus and cruised around the harbor and out to the Oryukdo Islets, which was a really peaceful, quiet area.
Afterwards I went back to Haeundae Beach and strolled around the fish market there. They had every possible variety of seafood (fish, squid, worms, snails, mussels, eels) swimming around in tanks in front of tiny restaurants. You can pick out your dinner and have it cooked. I kind of lost my appetite after watching the eels though-even after killed and skinned they kept wriggling around on the counter-blech!
I took one last stroll on the beach, where some ingenious person had constructed a glass-walled library with a rooftop deck-seriously, why would anyone ever leave this place?
It was really hard to leave and come back to a smoggy overpopulated Beijing, that’s for sure. Think maybe I need to move again…