October 13, 2015

This is going to be a very long, catch-up post, just warning you all in advance. I simply have not felt like writing lately and my internet is terrible so I have a lot of photos stockpiled here.
For starters, Beijing and I are getting along a little better this week. We still have our problems,the internet is driving me up the wall, but look at that pretty blue sky! (On the right-I don’t know what the hell was going on on the left. It was unpleasant, let’s leave it at that.)

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Last week vs this week

A couple days makes a big difference. I doubt it will last long but the last couple days have been beautiful, breezy, sunny fall days. I got some nice bike rides in too.
I started a new class-first grade level. I love all my preschool kids but I can only teach face/colors/letters/animals so many times before my brain starts to atrophy. It’s a nice break. We have longer classes and get to do math and science classes in addition to language. A couple weeks ago we learned about different tastes in science and I brought in a bunch of stuff for them to do taste test experiments.

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G1 taste tests…Bourne did not like cranberries!

Anyway, it’s cool to actually teach for a change. My other classes are more like babysitting half the time. We usually have fun but it’s exhausting.

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I did get a nice long break though. Mid-Autumn festival fell on the Sunday before National Day here. It’s a sort of harvest festival celebration, held the 15th day of the eighth lunar month every year, at the full moon. I was drowning in moon cakes, which is the traditional food for Mid-Autumn festival-little round pastries filled with all kinds of fillings: red bean, date, green tea, lotus seed, sweet potato, berries. Each province has different styles. There’s an interesting article about them here.

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Several of my kids brought me some, some very elaborately packaged and wrapped.
National Day was the same week, on October 1. This is the anniversary of the founding of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) in 1949. The whole week afterward is one of the Golden Weeks. The other one is in January/February for Chinese New Year’s. Everyone gets the week off and most people travel. I stayed in Beijing since, A) ticket prices were double what they normally are, and B) everything was absurdly overcrowded. Millions of people hit the road during this week. Beijing was not nearly as bad as Hong Kong or Shanghai-there was a 50 lane traffic jam on the expressway between Hong Kong and Beijing when everyone was trying to return from holiday-it was insane! So, anyway, I stayed put and did some sightseeing around the city. Still busy but not too horrible. I finally got to see the Summer Palace:

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Inside the Summer Palace temple. Not the best shots but I was trying to be discreet with my phone as photos are not technically allowed in there. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

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DSC_0043Suzhou Street at the Summer Palace. It’s a narrow ledge walkway around the water, with lots of little shops, people dressed in traditional clothes, and crafts and jewelry.DSC_0019DSC_0029DSC_0034

The Marble Boat on Kunming Lake

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Apparently several thousand other people had the same idea as I did. Fortunately the crowds thinned out a little past the entrance area.

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I went to shop around Solana, a really upscale shopping area. So window shopping only.

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I also got to check out the 798 arts district, a whole neighborhood filled with galleries, artesian craft stores, coffee shops, and bars. Very cool area:

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Above clockwise: traveling with dogs in China, craft stalls, roasted sweet potatoes from a street vendor, and a demonstration by shoemakers. Below: 798 sightseeing.

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IMG_8775When Jess got back from her visit to the States we did some exploring around Nanlouguxiang and Andingmen and fell in love with this little shop. The owners take photos around China and other parts of Asia, then turn them into postcards and sell them. They sell stamps and have a small coffee bar so you can just sit in there and write. They sell all kinds of handmade goods too. It just feels really homey; their cat just roams around the place and dozes where he feels like it.

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My favorite is the lower right; it just is a perfect representation of something you see all over Beijing. Chinese people nap anywhere-park benches, Starbucks, it’s not unusual to see cab drivers snoozing in their cars with their feet dangling out an open window.

I sent out my first batch of postcards and have another stack I need to write. Lick on stamps haven’t arrived in China apparently, let alone self-stick, so we sat down with a bottle of glue.I’m hoping they arrive safely as the mail service in China seems a little dicey, as evidenced by the impromptu mail-sorting facilities I’ve stumbled across on sidewalks and in parking lots:

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Had a relaxing weekend, with Jess, of course, starting with drinks at a little courtyard patio bar Sunday afternoon, then a play at Chaoyang 9 Theater. Well the drinks were not so relaxing as they turned out to be fake alcohol. This is common in China (partly because it’s cheaper, but also because many Asian people can’t handle Western alcohol) but it was the first time I’d come across it. I only had two drinks and half an hour later had a massive headache. But I got off light-some people have worse reactions. The play was great though-The Taming of the Shrew, performed by TNT Theatre Britain. It was pretty funny.

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Then yesterday we did some more exploring, lunch (with some…interesting/disturbing menu options…), where we decided to be adventurous and got a spicy hot pot with quail eggs and bullfrog. It was surprisingly delicious. I’d never tried frog before but it was really tender, with the texture somewhere between chicken and fish. Then spent a few hours working on stuff at my favorite coffee shop.

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Lemon Chrysanthemum tea? Yum. Eel? Beef heart tube? Octopus balls? No thank you!

Slept in today, then cleaned and organized everything around me. Even set up an envelope system and budgeted money so I can save up for my next trip.

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Hong Kong in November for sure, and the Philippines for Chinese New Year. I’d also like to squeeze in a trip to Xi’an if I can. And Chengdu. And Thailand. And I’ve decided I’m definitely going to Spain after China, though I’m not sure when that will be. So I need to get to practicing my Spanish again. So much to do, so little time…

September 25, 2014

Not much to report, it’s been a pretty slow week.  I spent 2 hours this morning just wandering around the neighborhood, down to the bank for some cash, past the Catholic high school and the convent next door.  The nuns here dress all in white and don’t seem nearly as intimidating.  I meandered through the Moravian cemetery, also all white.  The graves are all above ground and covered in white tile and brightly colored flowers, not at all gloomy.

There is the sweetest little dog there, tied outside the office.  All the dogs here are kept tied, you see them outside all sorts of businesses, and kept more as guard dogs than pets.  They aren’t abused, they all look healthy enough, and get food and water, but they don’t get much attention that I can see.  Most of them go crazy when someone walks by, jumping and barking, but this one just looked at me and wagged his tail.  I had to go over and pet him and when I did, he wiggled so hard he fell over, just so excited.  I wonder if he just stays there tied by the graves all day, every day, while his owner is inside working, and if anyone every talks to him or pets him.  The thought depressed me more than the graveyard itself.

Mary has been scrubbing the house and the apartment for two days and doing load after load of laundry to get ready for the other guests arriving tomorrow.  I’ve offered to help but she won’t let me; the most I can do is wash some dishes when she’s not looking.  And she wanted my opinion on some new furnishings for the apartments.  I’m going downtown with her tomorrow to meet the new norteamericanos, as we are called here. They’ll be staying for a month and Mary thought she might need me to help her with English.

Otherwise I’ve been working on homework and my resume.  I sent in two applications today for TEFL teaching jobs in China, where I’m hoping to find a place sometime early next year.  One was with a recruitment company actually, and one with America Town Education, which I really like the sound of.  They have some good benefits, like you get 12 hours of free Chinese lessons every week.  I’d like to learn some of the language while I’m there.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

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