Thursday, November 3, 2011

Xi'an (West Peace) Day Trip and More...

November 1st started out with my alarm clock going off at an ungodly hour (4 am), but James, Valentina, and I were going to fly to Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. We didn't know until a couple of days prior that I would actually have the day off because our boss Miles is out of town, so we literally planned our trip within 24 hours. Valentina, with the help of Yasmin (one of our local teachers), booked our plane tickets and our rooms at the hostel with ease. I would have rather taken the sleeper train, but we go as a group so my vote didn't really matter. I'm okay with that, and plus, I can always find a way to take a sleeper train somewhere else! :)
   After showering and scrambling to pack my backpack (I think I overpacked, but oh well!), I met James at his apartment and walked to meet Valentina at her corner at 5 am. We quickly caught a taxi to take us to the airport and 60 RMB (about $10) later we arrived at Terminal 1. James briefly got carsick upon exiting the cab, but I guess that was just an omen foreboding what was to come next. Because we had our e-tickets, we went to a kiosk to print our boarding passes. Valentina and James had no issues printing theirs; however, through luck of the draw, I chose the one kiosk that was out of paper. We then walked over to a really long line of people checking in to get my boarding pass printed. After about waiting 10-15 minutes, a guy working with Hainan Airlines came over to us and since we weren't checking any luggage (this may be my first flight where I didn't check any luggage!!) escorted us to the Fortune Wing/Gold and Silver Line. After talking to the attendant at the counter and explaining what happened, I had my pass and we were walking to the security line.   That's where our 3rd incident occurred. James and I had no issues going through security; however, Valentina got patted down and her bag searched. It took almost 10 minutes for her to pass security. By the end of our airport experience so far, we were starving so we walked around the terminal to find food (and coffee). We finally decided on a restaurant called PappaRich (we really didn't have much of a selection - only 2 restaurants were open). Valentina and I had baozi (it wasn't really all that exciting - nothing to write home about!) and iced tea while James had water and painkillers.  We departed Beijing around 8:30 as our flight was delayed because of traffic on the tarmac. 
    After arriving in Xi'an, we checked into our hostel and walked around Xi'an. We climbed the city wall (it reminded me a little of Rothelburg, Germany) and also went to the Bell Tower. The stairs in the Xi'an Bell Tower were much easier to climb than the ones at the Beijing Bell Tower. Why does every city I've been to (this marks the 3rd city - Beijing and Tianjin being the other two) have a bell tower? We came back to the hostel around 5:45 and took a short nap before waking up at 7:30 to decide where we were going to eat dinner. Valentina and I decided to eat at the restaurant at the hostel so that we wouldn't have to walk around any more. During dinner we talked with an older gentleman from Florida who is teaching approx. 20 miles southwest of Xi'an. He's only been here a month and works just 2 days a week. I don't know what I would do if I had all that extra time. Anyway, around 11 pm we went to bed. I woke up a couple of times because there was a girl in our bunkroom that sounded like an elephant every time she left the room. Once during the night, I rolled over and stretched out. When I did that I kicked what I thought was the edge of the bed; however, it was a cat that had snuck into our bunkroom and decided that he was going to sleep with me that night. The only way I knew it was a cat was he yelped when I accidentally kicked him. I don't know what it is about China but my cat allergies weren't as bad. 
   Upon waking up in the morning (November 2nd) we packed up our belongings, unmade our beds, and checked out. After check out we ate breakfast at the same restaurant before catching the tour to the Terra Cotta Warriors. We thought that the tour was only for the Terra Cotta warriors (as that was what we paid for); however, we stopped two other places. The Banpo Museum was our first stop. It reminded me of the Sam Noble Museum in Norman because it outlined the actual living and burial places of the Banpo people. Then we stopped at a terra cotta factory. It was a 10 minute tour with a bunch of shopping opportunities. Valentina, James, and I each bought a terra cotta soldier for ourselves with Valentina also buying an embroidered print for a Christmas present for her mom. After that, we had lunch at this restaurant that was literally across the street from the museum of terra cotta soldiers. We ate lunch unenthusiastically because it didn't taste all that great. After lunch, we walked across the street and into the museum. It was 110 kuai for our tickets and we got to see all 3 pits. First stop was pits 2 and 3, as they were smaller and needed less explanation. I wish that the tour guide would have let us just walk around and explore on our own a little bit more. Pit 1 took the longest because that's where you can get the iconic shot! There were thousands of people there trying to fight to get to the rail and take that amazing shot. After we finally did that, we continued walking around the pit until we reached the door we had entered. We walked to the final building (the one that had no terra cotta soldiers in it) in search of a bathroom. We were on our way out of the building when I was stopped by a man who recognized my Oklahoma hoodie I had on. We talked a little bit about why I was in China and I found out that he was from Idabel. Small world. We couldn't talk long as we were going to be late to catch the shuttle back to Xi'an, or so I thought. Little did we know that there was going to be one more stop on our excursion that day. The last stop was the mausoleum of Emperor (or as our tour guide says, Apple) Qin. We couldn't go in because the Chinese restorers have yet to find a way to get rid of the mercury issue. It also had baby (booby) traps to protect it. All we could see was a mountain in the distance or pay 80 kuai ($12.50) to ride the electric tram car up to the hill. We spent probably all of about 10 minutes there before we boarded the shuttle back to Xi'an.   Upon arriving at Xi'an, James, Valentina, and I were dropped off at the train station so that we could catch the airport bus. We briefly stopped at two places, the post office so that Valentina could send some postcards and McDonalds so that we could go to the bathroom and get a snack. I've gotten really good at squatting since many places don't have western toilets. After resting for a little bit, we boarded the shuttle and were on our way to the airport. We were dropped off at Terminal 1 and then walked about 5 minutes to Terminal 2. We checked in (no issues this time! :) ) and went through security. Each of us got patted down this time, and I'm ticklish so I busted out giggling. I really hope that the security people didn't think I was a terrorist just because I laughed while I was getting felt up by the security guard. We found our gate and then found some place to eat. Why is it that it seems like we're always eating? Oh, yeah, we are! :) We ordered sandwiches and drinks and then waited at our gate. James walked around and got some air while Valentina called her mom and I sat at the gate. At 8:15 we started boarding our flight and by 8:55 we were on the runway about to take off. I've realized that Chinese people don't fuss about taking off and landing (not a lot of time between taxiing on the runway and actually taking off.) At 10:30 we arrived home in Beijing and by 10:45 we were on the Airport Express train to Sanyuanqiao subway station. We transferred at Sanyuanqiao and then again at Huixinxijie Nankou before finishing our journey at Lishuiqiao (Standing Water Bridge) South. It was midnight by the time I entered my apartment. I did a load of laundry (because I knew that it would take a while to dry since it's getting colder and colder here in Beijing!) before going to bed at 1:00 this morning.   I slept a really long time last night and woke up this morning wrapped up as a cocoon. I didn't want to leave as it was really warm. Anyway, sorry for the long entry but it's been almost a month since I've last updated.
Before I go, I want to show you what I dressed up as for Halloween. Only in China could I pull this off. Thanks to James for even suggesting that I go as a panda for Halloween. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tianjin - An Epic Adventure

Today we successfully bought tickets to Tianjin, although this morning started off just as rocky as yesterday had. Valentina's alarm hadn't gone off so if James hadn't texted her to see if she was awake she wouldn't have made it and we would have gone back home. At 7:25 (only 25 minutes late - that's a record for her :) ), she arrived at the subway station and we made our trek back to Beijing South Railway Station (BSRS) to purchase our tickets. Luckily we got 3 tickets on an earlier train than we would have been on had we gone yesterday. Our return train departed at 6 pm, so we were going to have almost 8 hours in Tianjin. On the trip there, I was seated by the window, so I got to watch the scenes change outside. I also tried studying for the TKT Exam I have to take in a little over 2 weeks, but on a 35 minute train ride, you can't do much. Once we arrived in Tianjin, we started walking around. We saw several clocks and then kept walking down by the river. Once we crossed the river, we took pictures of a tank and then walked around what we think was either "5 big roads" or the "Culture Section." We walked around there for awhile and then decided to find something to eat. Tianjin is known for their baozi (steamed buns with a filling), so we chose a restaurant that had many people eating there (that's how we judge if it's a decent place to eat) and ordered lunch. We ordered 7 pork baozi and 7 veggie baozi, 2 cokes and a Sprite. The baozi were delicious and the drinks were lukewarm, even though we asked for bingda (cold). After lunch, we walked around some more and went to the China House, a house literally made of porcelain china. There are 4 floors to this house with a staircase right in the middle so Valentina went to the top floor, James to the bottom, and me in the middle and we took a picture so where you can see all of us. After the China House and Little Italy (a section of Tianjin that has a Bavarian biergarden, a Russian food shop, and several Italian-structured buildings), we walked around a main shopping avenue and found a Starbucks, because by then we all wanted to sit down and relax a little. James and I ordered drinks and then the three of us sat and chatted for a little while before walking through the attached mall looking for a bathroom. When we left the mall, we kept walking around Tianjin and back down by the river. It was about an hour and a half before we were even thinking about returning to the station, so we walked around a little bit more and sat in an area by the river and people watched. It was so funny to see the Chinese people take pictures because they would properly pose for them. Think photo shoot for a magazine and that's what you'd get. Since it was by the river, we also were thinking that it would be funny if someone fell in; however, no one did. The water would have been frigid as the high today was only about 20* C. At 5ish, we walked into the station, went through the metal detector (I don't even think it was on), and found our gate. Valentina went and got a snack while James and I waited with her things. On the train back to Beijing, I sat separated from the other two (Valentina did on the trip to Tianjin) and read my book and listened to my iPod. Since it was dark, I couldn't really see much. The return trip wasn't all that fun. I hadn't eaten a proper meal all day so I was already grumpy and to top it off I was in the middle of a major mood swing, so I just wanted to get home and not talk to anyone. On the subway from the BSRS to Lishuiqiao Nan, I blared my music really loud in my ears and tried to avoid anyone and everyone, including Valentina and James (I must really apologize to them). Once I arrived back at the Lishuiqiao Nan station, I quickly left the station and walked home, grabbing dinner at a local restaurant before coming back to the apartment. My roomie is still on holiday so it's been nice to not have to worry about another person. Well, I think she's home now, so I better go. Talk to you later! :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

I hope there's no limit on the length of a post...

September 6th... 
There’s a first for everything!!

Thursday morning, Miranda and I decided to wander around another district of Beijing, so we decided that we needed to find a bookstore and there’s one around Tuanjiehu. We woke up later than normal (we hadn’t come home last night until around 2:30 am!!) and departed from Lishuiqiaonan Subway Station on our way to Tuanjiehu. While in between Lishuiqiaonan and Beiyuanlu (the next station south) the train stopped on the tracks. I mean, full on came to a dead stop!! Miranda and I looked at each other and if either one of us had been alone we would have freaked out.  Since it had rained quite heavily the night before (while we were out at Paddy O’Shea’s quiz night and Mexican food after), I wondered if the amount of water on the tracks was the reason we stopped (but it also sounded like we hit something, so I’m not totally sure). When we arrived at Tuanjiehu, we started walking in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to be going. Thank goodness I wore comfy shoes and had a kind temperament (didn’t mind getting lost), because that’s what happened. We ended walking back to the subway station and following the directions that Miranda had copied down before we left the apartment. Why we didn’t do that in the first place I will never know.  We arrived at the bookstore about lunchtime, so we perused the book section (we bought two books each) before sitting down at a table and ordering lunch. I had a BLT on Panini bread, French fries, a salad, and sangria. Oh my goodness, it was so delicious and so filling!!  We finished our lunch and read for a little before walking to this really cool building that we had seen across the street from the Bookworm bookstore. We walked to the building, not realizing that it was a three-level mall, including an Apple Store!!          

September 27th...
I must, first, apologize for my long absence! I've been so busy and the internet at my apartment apparently hates all things Mac related, so I sit here at work, tethered to the ethernet cable. 

Now that I've been in Beijing now for just over a month, I've settled into my own. My roomie and I have had our differences. She leaves glasses and other dishes around the apartment for several days before she'll wash them. Then, she'll complain if I leave a dish in the sink just for an hour or so. Ugh! I've started going to the gym and swimming at least 10 laps every weekday morning. It's relaxing to be back in the water and not have to worry about aches and pains in my knees. I still walk to work, but since finding the shortcut it only takes me about 20-25 minutes to get to work. Work is stressful - I've had so many parents complain that I'm not a male teacher that I'm flat out tired of hearing about it.  Lessons are becoming easier and easier to plan and I'm finding fun activities to do with my students (Teacher Repeat, Robots Game, Sticky Ball Tic-Tac-Toe). I'd forgotten how much fun it is to play games in class because the U.S. strictly wants us to teach to the test. Our students want to have fun while also learning English! :) 

My Small Star classes are becoming my favorite classes, even the Small Star Blue (3 year olds) that I had a rough time with at the beginning is starting to come together. I just can't wait to see where I am in another month or two. Tomorrow,  Valentina, James, and I are going to Chinese lessons and then going to Tian'anmen Square because the last time we went there we just went to the Forbidden City. Yay for two days off!! Friday, I only have 1 class before having 5 days of holiday because of National Day! I love the Chinese because they celebrate everything, including teachers! The only thing about having a holiday is that they believe in working for your holiday. Thursday and Friday of next week (October 6th and 7th) I have to work, even though many of our classes have been cancelled. Training will then occur on the 8th and 9th. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Today marks the first real vacation that I’ve had since arriving here in China almost 2 months ago!!  It’s National Holiday for the Chinese people, so the EF staff has 5 whole days off. I wanted to get out of the city and see other places around Beijing, so Valentina and I planned a trip to Shidu, last minute of course, because we couldn’t go see the Terra Cotta Warriors at Xi’an because no train tickets were available (apparently everyone in Beijing leaves!!). Caroline, Valentina’s friend that works at the Guomao center where we have our Chinese lessons every week, was planning a trip to Shidu, so we decided to tag along. I woke up this morning at 5:30 because Valentina and I were meeting at the ditie zhan (subway station) at 6 so that we could be at Caroline’s house by 7. It takes 45 minutes at least to get from Lishuiqiao Nan to the Agricultural Exhibition Center where Caroline lives.  About 6:50ish we arrived near Caroline’s house and a car drove up to us and rolled down the window. The two people inside spoke English and seemed to know who we were. We had no clue who they were but quickly realized that they were probably the two that were going to take us to Shidu. J Chester and Lindsey helped us load our stuff into the Nissan and then we (Caroline had just now joined us) went to a baozi (steamed dumplings) place and bought breakfast for the 3-hour car ride. On the car ride out there, music and conversation flowed quickly. Chester has great taste in music because we listened to Linkin Park, rap, and some songs that I had never heard before but really liked. Three hours later, and after stopping several times, we arrived at our destination, Shidu!
            When we arrived in Shidu, we decided that maybe it was best if we found a hotel first before we went to the scenic area. We drove to two different hotels, and the first one was more expensive and didn’t have much to offer. The second one we went to was cheaper (400RMB – which equaled out to less than $15 a person) and included a traditional Chinese breakfast. Chester negotiated the price because if they saw Valentina, Caroline, and I they would raise the price since we’re foreigners. We quickly agreed that the second one would suit our needs and we walked around the hotel to choose our rooms. We chose two rooms side by side, one with what would be comparable to a king size bed and one with double and single beds in it. Chester, Caroline, and Lindsay were in the double/single room while Val and I were in the room with the king size bed. We unloaded our stuff and headed for scenic Shidu. We bought tickets to the area and promptly queued to get into a cable car that would take us up the mountain. First of all, I’m deathly afraid of heights, so that cable car ride was not the greatest experience ever, especially since I was by myself. All of us, except Chester, got out of the cable cars at the first station because that was where the bungee jumping station was. Don’t worry, dear readers, I did not partake in the bungee jumping, although Lindsay and I were there to take pictures of and video the experience for Caroline and Valentina.  After they finished jumping off of a very tiny platform and cabling back up to meet Lindsay and I, we continued up the mountain and hiked around and saw several temples and gorgeous waterfalls. I don’t know how many stairs I climbed altogether, but it was a lot and I didn’t ache afterwards. I guess that I’m getting used to hiking around and taking lots of stairs. Maybe this move to China was a good idea after all. We climbed up the mountain and had a chance to ring a bell, climb up a 99-stair waterfall, and saw some really cool temples. By the time we descended the mountain at about 2:30ish, we were all starving, so we went down the road and ate at a restaurant. Sadly, all of the restaurants in Shidu sell the same things, and the first restaurant was unwilling to concede to our dietary needs (one of us is vegetarian) so we chose the 2nd restaurant. We ordered some mushrooms, green beans, a pork and potato dish, rice, and kung pao chicken. All of the dishes were amazing, so we stuffed ourselves until we couldn’t eat any more.
            After lunch, we went back to Shidu and rented a couple of bamboo rafts. Caroline and Valentina guided our raft while I watched other people as they tried to run into us. Quickly we got tired of bamboo rafting, so we decided to drive around the area of Shidu to see what else we could find. We hopped in the car and drove for about half an hour before we just stopped on the side of the road to take pictures. After doing that a couple of times, we drove back to the hotel and ate dinner. It was as delicious as lunch, since we ordered agaric with eggs, another type of mushroom, corn, rice, and some other dishes. Once we finished dinner, we went back to our rooms and chatted for an hour or so before we said good night and went to bed. The bed was softer than the bed I sleep on at my apartment, so I slept really well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2 of Shidu!

This morning we woke up early (7:00) and ate breakfast at the hotel. It was a very traditional Chinese breakfast – porridge, steamed buns, hard-boiled eggs, and jasmine tea. We ate all that was served to us and packed into the car and left the hotel. Before breakfast; however, I took the shortest and coldest shower I have ever taken in my life. There was very little water pressure and the water took forever to heat up so I ended up having to stand to one side and wash my hair upside down because the water was ice cold. L Driving back to Shidu we decided that today we would walk across the suspension bridge and climb up another section of the mountain. There were so many people on the suspension bridge that it was violently shaking from side to side. When you looked down all you saw was algae-filled water, so there was very little safety. I grabbed onto the sides (thank goodness I have long enough arms to where I could do that) and very slowly made my way across. Thankfully, Lindsay was also a little frightened so we walked together most of the way. Part of me can still feel the swaying of the bridge, even though I crossed the bridge at almost 9:00 this morning.  Honestly, I screamed several times because I thought that I couldn’t do it. However, the temples on the other side and the view from the mountains after we hiked up them were well worth the terrifying journey across the bridge. We hiked around the mountains of Shidu for a while and then decided maybe it was time to go somewhere else. The five of us walked to the Beijing Tourist Center and asked for information on the things we could do around Shidu and they told us about this nifty area called Gushanzhai Canyon. We walked around this canyon and hiked up some more mountains and then walked through a very narrow passage called the Thread of Light before descending the mountain and coming back to Beijing. At about 2:30 pm, we arrived on the outskirts of town and found a McDonald’s to have a late lunch. After lunch we continued our trek back to the inner rings of town to drop Caroline at Sanlitun before going back to Chester’s apartment for a tour. By the time we got back to Beiyuanlu/Lishuiqiao Nan it was getting dark (so approximately 6:30ish), so Val and I had Chester drop us off at Lotus because we’re meeting at our favorite Korean restaurant on Friday evening before going to Valentina’s apartment to swap pictures (Lindsay took over 500 herself!!) I arrived back at my apartment around 7:15 and unpacked my backpack, just to start repacking it for our trip to Tianjin with James, another coworker, tomorrow morning. Good night! Must sleep before going to the train station at 7:00 tomorrow morning to buy tickets (35 min trip). 

October 3rd... 

Today, James, Valentina, and I were supposed to go to the town of Tianjin, which is only about a 1/2 hour train ride from Beijing. We met at the subway station near our house and traveled the hour or so to the Beijing South Railway Station to purchase our tickets to Tianjin. However, once we got there, we quickly realized that James didn't have his passport so we couldn't buy our tickets. Instead, we walked around Xidan (there's another Apple store there), found a Starbucks (saw Johnny Bravo), and boarded the subway home. After I arrived home, I relaxed for awhile before leaving my apartment, ate dinner, bought an external hard drive (for the picture swap on Friday), and then came back home to watch the news and relax. I'm roomie free, so I can do whatever I want. :) Tomorrow, James will have his passport so we can travel to Tianjin. As I reflect back on today, I realize that maybe things happened for a reason. I'm glad that I got to relax today.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wow, I'm tired!!!

Yesterday, Wednesday, August 31st, was my second Chinese lesson at the EF centre in Guomao, and I'm starting to think that I'm picking up bits and phrases that will be useful. After lessons, Valentina and I walked around Guomao with another EF teacher from our lessons and found a Starbucks, a 7-11 (yes, they have them here too - minus the ICEE machine), and a Jenny Lou's. We walked into Jenny Lou's and I seriously thought I was in heaven. They had proper cheese, cereals that looked like they would belong in a American supermarket, and even tampons (wow, I didn't think you could get them here, but apparently if you need them, this is the only place that carries them!!) Finally, after traipsing around Guomao a little longer, Valentina and I hopped on the subway and went to Beixingqiao. 
   After that, Laura, Miles, Valentina, and I met up at a western restaurant in Beixingqiao called Grandma's Kitchen. The waiting staff spoke basic English, so that was a refreshing moment. We all ordered different things, and while we ate talked about what we had planned to do that day. Laura has this deck of flashcards that tell you about everything in Beijing, so Miles and I looked through it and thought that maybe we could go see the Drum and Bell Tower. Some of my pictures are below! I could only walk up to the Drum Tower because by the time I got up there my knees ached - when you see the pictures, you'll understand... But once we got up there, there was an amazing drum performance waiting for us. It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was the best I'd ever heard. Valentina and I compared it to Drumline, the movie. 

Here are some pictures from the Drum Tower performance!! It was really awesome! :) 

After we finished at the Drum and Bell Towers, we went to a cafe' on a nearby street to rest our feet and to refresh our parched bodies. Miles ordered us a couple drinks (lemonade, tea) each, and we stayed there about half an hour before we walked back to the subway station and came home. Once I got home I took a nap for a couple of hours before waking up at 7:30 pm to start preparing for the night out. Wednesday nights are quiz nights at our local Irish Pub, Paddy O'Shea's. Valentina, Miranda (my roomie), and I met at the Lishuiqiao South subway station at 8:30 to trek our way to the pub. We got out of the Dongzhimen subway station and started walking in what we thought was the right direction. Alas, it was not, and we had to ask several people, including a police officer, which direction to go. We were almost on the right path when it started to sprinkle, but by the time we arrived at our location it has started to downpour and we showed up like little drowned rats! :( We had a couple of beers, I'm not much of a drinker, before heading up to Luga's Mexican restaurant. There we met up with some other people and socialized until about 2 am. I couldn't believe that I had stayed out that late, but with friends, it didn't really matter. Once we dispersed, and in the pouring rain - think torrential downpour at this point, Valentina, Miranda, and I hailed a taxi for only a 45 kuai trip. By the time we got home, we were cold, wet, and really tired. A good night in the books, and a tired Chantelle went to bed feeling like I had accomplished something. :) I don't know what today, Sept. 1st, holds in store for me, but I hope I can see more of the city and maybe find a bookstore (or two!)... 

Much love from this side of the world! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bye Bye, Passport! See you in September! : )

This is getting quite ridiculous!! The internet at my apartment is like the weather here... unpredictable. I can never know when it's going to work or when I'm going to have a slow (or fast) connection. Yesterday I had my first day off in a really long time so Miles (my senior teacher until Sept. 1st when he becomes my DoS), Valentina (a coworker) and I met up and walked around the Old Summer Palace. We ended up doing a lot of walking because we mistakenly thought it was smaller than it actually was. After walking around for about 4 hours, we decided that we should have lunch (it was about 2:30), so we exited the park and walked across the street to this little cafe'/bistro. We each ordered a pizza (I had a vegetarian pizza with onion, tomato, mushroom, and green peppers) while Valentina and Miles had home pizzas (I think they were the same as mine except they had ham as well). After sitting at the bistro for about an hour and a half (it was wonderful to be able to sit down and relax), we boarded the subway again and headed home. Miles had to meet his wife so that they could go have dinner with her coworkers (much to Miles' distaste) and Valentina and I went home and took naps. After my nap, I walked around the compound (Americans call them complexes) and bought several bottles of water. We've received our water cooler, just haven't set up water delivery service yet. I had grapes for dinner (it took me forever to take the seeds out of them!!) and read for a little bit before going to bed. 
   This morning I went to the Police Service Bureau near the Lama Temple with Charisma and Emily to relinquish my passport and get my visa situation all settled (what they don't tell you in the States is that once you get here you have to get a resident permit that will allow you to stay as long as you have a job if you're traveling on a Z visa like I am). That only took about half an hour before I boarded the subway again and headed home. I stopped at a restaurant near my apartment for lunch and had an amazing beef and mushroom rice meal. It had started sprinkling when I started to walk home from the subway station, but I needed to find a place to get my eyebrows waxed as they were becoming quite hairy. I found a really nice massage place in our compound, so I went in and paid the 10 kuai (about 2 dollars). That was the most painless eyebrow wax I've ever had because they didn't use wax. They used something completely different - maybe a laser, I'm not sure. I'm glad I came back to the apartment when I did because now (at 3:07 pm) it's pouring outside. :) I don't know what I'm going to do tonight if it stops raining. I may go out the east side of my apartment compound and walk around. Supposedly there's a Wal-Mart around here, but I've yet to see it. I know there's a Carrefour within walking distance, but I'm not willing to get soaked just getting there. I could take a cab; however, but many of the cabbies don't speak English. Well, it's time for me to take a nap (I'm exhausted!!) so that I can go out tonight and walk around (if it's not still raining!)

Much love from the other side of the world!! : )

Friday, August 19, 2011


No longer can I wake up and walk next door for free breakfast. On Wednesday afternoon, Miranda and I moved out of the hotel and into our apartment. The experience is one that I don't want to ever repeat again... Sam, our agent, had to hail a small taxi (think Hyundai!) to deliver us to our place. When we walked out of the hotel, it started raining so that had us speeding up stuffing Miranda's bags in the trunk (which took up the entire space). Where did my bags go, dear readers? On our laps in the backseat. The ride to Lishuiqiao South was extremely uncomfortable, and I could feel my right foot becoming numb. :( Once we got to the apartment though, our complaints were allayed. The apartment was clean and as soon as one of us (eventually, I did) signed the lease (in triplicate - I felt like I was signing my life away) and completed the very detailed check-in form (the landlady was very adamant about us protecting the hardwood floors) it was ours. It took our landlady Ma, our agent Sam, and I almost three hours before Miranda and I were allowed to leave for dinner. We left while Ma and Sam were finishing up the final details. Oh yeah, I guess this would be the perfect time to tell you that we hadn't eaten since breakfast that morning since Sam had told us she would pick us up at 3 pm (she finally arrived around 3:40).  
   Working at EF is wonderful! I love my job, the kids are adorable, my coworkers are still crazy (and I fear they're starting to rub off a little), and the walk to work is relatively painless (about 35-40 minutes). Today we had some computer and other electrical issues (the power kept flickering) so we thought we were going to have to scramble to teach with no resources (almost everything is on the server!). Oh, yeah, yesterday during my training I took a practice TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) and scored a 90%!! I scored higher than Ryan or Valentina, the two trainees that arrived late last month. :) I finally found something that I'm good at, but I do know that I'll have to review the International Phonetic Alphabet before I actually take the TKT Module 1 Test in either September or October (Wow, I can't believe that info I learned in my intro to speech comm class is actually useful now!) 
   I start teaching classes tomorrow morning, so I better turn the computer off (it's almost 10 pm) and go to bed! Good night! :)

Blessings and Be a Blessing!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Still No Regrets!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today have been so busy with me commuting to work, observing classes, completing training discoveries, and trying to plan lessons (teaching ESL is completely different than anything I have ever done before) that I first have to apologize to my readers for being so irresponsible when it comes to blogging. The past couple of nights, including tonight, I have been arriving back at the hotel around 9:30-9:45ish and going straight to bed. I'm so exhausted that I can't even think to type this blog post right now. 
  On Saturday, after training, Miranda and I walked up to our favorite restaurant in Andingmen (the subdistrict of Beijing that our hotel is in) and on the way home stopped at a pharmacy. Because of the smog and the gentlemen (I've yet to see a woman smoke here) that smoke, I've caught quite a cough. When we walked into the pharmacy I wandered around the aisles a little bit, trying to find the cough medicine aisle. One lady came up to me (obviously because I'm mei guo) and I coughed right in front of her. She directed me to the cough/cold aisle and handed me this box. I couldn't understand what it was (because obviously it was in Chinese) so I graciously thanked her and went to the cashier. It was only when we walked back to the hotel that I opened the box and saw what was inside. There were 10 little vials, 10 straws, and a puncture tool used to poke a hole in the lid of the vial. I had to go to the reception desk at the hotel to find out how to even drink the stuff. It doesn't taste bad (I'm only on dose 4 of 10) and I would compare it to Robitussin. 
   Sunday afternoon was full of training, so it was actually quite dull. I watched some classes that I will be taking once Ryan leaves us to go to Beijing 7. Today, I went to work around 2 and had more training. One training session had me watching Teacher Joe videos on the computer. These videos basically explained what not to do in a teaching session and were very dry. I thought they were imbecilic but I can see why we need to watch them before stepping foot in the classroom as the teacher. Tonight I watched 2 Small Star classes and everything was fine until the last class. When the moms dropped their children off (it's a small class of only 4 students) they noticed that I was in the classroom. They complained to my Director of Studies and the Course Representatives that they weren't expecting another teacher change. The moms had quite a lengthy conversation with Ryan after class (in Chinese, so I couldn't understand what they were saying, but the body language yelled loud and clear), and at the end they welcomed me and told Ryan that they were sad to seem him go. For dinner tonight I was on my own since Miranda had eaten earlier, so I went to a restaurant we had never been to before and ordered fried mushrooms. The dish came out and the plate was overflowing with different types of mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, and finely chopped green onions. I was only able to eat about half before I needed to start walking back to the hotel. It was good but a little too much mushroom. Now I'm back in my room, dressed and ready for bed. All I have to do now is brush my teeth and crawl into bed. Tomorrow will be a repeat of today! :) 

Blessings to you and be a blessing to others!