Actual life in Shijiazhuang!

So it took me a while to get up to date on here but I have been living in Shijiazhuang for almost a month now and so far I absolutely love it!!!

There’s a big group of foreign teachers at my school so I’m not alone which is always good. We generally see each other most days and its nice to be able to talk to someone in the same situation and get ideas for lessons.

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The first few days were a bit strange, it took a while to find my feet and because I had a week to settle in before teaching and especially for the first few days just did nothing but lounge in my absolutely huge bed and eat supernoodles. Once the lovely Italian teacher and our unofficial party rep Marta came back from visiting Shanghai she took us to a bar someplace where we met pretty much every other foreigner in Shijiazhuang!

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A couple of days later her lovely chinese friend took us to an amazing restaurant which was all fancy and nice. Really helped me to settle in.

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Teaching started a couple of days later, and for me went really quickly! Everyone else started on Sunday as a make up Friday day, but because I have Friday’s off and don’t start until Monday evenings I had plenty of time to brag to everyone! Unfortunately that means that I have 15 classes over 3 days, and I start Thursday at 7.55am and finish at 7pm. I fully utilise the 2 hour scheduled naptime at lunch!

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The school is huge, 7000 students all wearing purple tracksuits. When they swarm out at lunchtime its hilarious to watch – like an invasion of tracksuited aliens!

In the first week of class I made the students write down what they wanted to learn. Amongst the usual topics of food, history and music were some standout students.

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Best one was a 15 year old girl who is obsessed with cows! Not sure how I’m going to weave that into an English class…..

To celebrate completing a week of work some of us went to the weirdest bar ever. It was called Baby House Bar (not joking) and if you can picture everything relating to international bars and shove them all together, that’s slightly what it looked like….Needless to say we didn’t stay long, and went to another place which had a live band and pour your own beer.

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After seeing a music video being shot of course!

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At Hank’s I magically became amazing at pool and won a game resulting in free beer and a strange night hanging out with a scottish accented chinese guy,  a couple of lesbians who kissed my hands quite a lot, a lovely Filipino guy named Dick and a Chinese lawyer Izzie renamed Sergio.

On the way home, I may have left my phone in the back of the taxi…I absolutely did not have a breakdown and my boss does not bring it up every meeting….

More next time!

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Farewell Beijing!

The last day in Beijing was another long and uncomfortably hot one. We did manage to sneak a sleep in before we visited a museum though which was much appreciated.

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Museums are much easier to navigate and explore when you can read the signs and information! Most of the museum was pottery of various types and films in Chinese so not really my cup of tea.

After a minor photo shoot of around 10 minutes, Charlotte and I found the upstairs which had imitated the hutongs (traditional streets) which was cool to explore and relied less on information in a different language!!

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In the afternoon we explored a Western mall and nearly died of heatstroke at the Temple of Heaven.

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Once we’d cooled down and eaten authentic Peking Duck (tastes just like the ones in Pudsey) a group of us explored the hutongs.

I found some old style postcards, saw some people making sweets and drank in a bar which had popcorn as a snack!! It was a lovely last night with friends in Beijing….

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…until we tried to get home after the metro had shut. We failed to flag a taxi for a good hour, even after sending the only mandarin speaker to argue with drivers! Once we’d finally split into 2 taxis, somehow my room key was abandoned in the taxi (there’s a theme of me leaving things) and the other taxi took twice as long to get back!!

Falling all over the world!!

After our lovely expedition to the zoo (PANDAS!) we had an early morning ahead of us as we tackled the Great Wall of China.

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Let me tell you, it is steep!!! I tackled the ‘easy’ side of the wall and felt ill when I got to the top. Great views though made the journey worth it….until I nearly fell off after climbing back down! But let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be me climbing anything if I didn’t get slightly injured!!

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Taking a well deserved break!

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We made it! This is the better photo-we had a fabulous photo taken by an Australian which had only our legs in it at a kooky angle!

In the afternoon we trekked around the Summer Palace…and I fell down again. This time quite badly – full on decked it. Naturally as I was crying on the stairs being comforted by fellow blondes Sara and Charlotte the Chinese tourists thought it was the perfect time to take pictures!

We didn’t have too long to explore the Summer Palace so me Charlotte,  Annie and Will decided to be smart and get a boat back.

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Tour guide Helen approved!

In the evening a few of us decided to go to a bar in Beijing. We found one approved by Mao himself! 

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After some nifty haggling we got cocktails all night for a happy hour deal. And so drinking commenced,  enhanced by the Australian visitor and a heap of Norwegian/Swedish men bringing shots!

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A fantastic night was had, and I thankfully wasn’t too hungover in the morning!!

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We went to the zoo!!

WE SAW PANDA BEARS AND IT WAS SO GOOD!

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BEST THING EVER!

We said goodbye to camp by doing an insanely long closing ceremony. Me and the class 1 ELA’s sang a lovely rendition of Jason Mraz with Catherine, before nailing a Chinese song and dance routine. Then all of the ELA’s sang ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’ beautifully. So after an emotional goodbye from camp, the next day we were driven back to Beijing and given the afternoon off. Not sure what to do with this unexpected freedom a group of us decided that the zoo and panda’s were screaming our name and we just had to visit them. After surprising ourselves and navigating the Beijing underground, all 11 of us made it safely to the zoo.

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We deciphered the Chinglish and ventured inside, obviously heading straight for the panda’s.

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Selfies and pictures were taken by the thousand before we split into 2 groups and explored the rest of the zoo. Which frankly wasn’t as good because there were no panda’s there. We did nearly die in the heat however, and after exploring off road and being priced out of the aquarium, we sheltered by a lake.

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After reforming as a group of 11 near the elephants, we decided the time was ripe for a lovely boat tour down the river. WORST MISTAKE OF THE DAY. Never have I been on a boat so crowded and sweaty in my life!! Matt was crammed sideways on the seat, for legroom is a luxury here, and I got into a minor war with a child over the window. I wish I could say the view was worth it….but we couldn’t see anything but water!! Handy tip: if you go to Beijing Zoo (which you should because pandas) DO NOT pay and go on the boat. Just no.

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Well deserved beers were drank that night as a reward for surviving the boat and being able to order amazing food in a Chinese restaurant!

Day release

So training camp was intense. We worked solidly Monday to Saturday before we had a day trip to Tanzhe Temple,  which is on a site older than Beijing itself, and a local supermarket.

Naturally we were all raring to go and so excited to leave… until we realised it was an hour and a half on the bus so fell asleep after tour guide Dave’s speech.

Once we got to the temple we took off and explored. We saw really really old trees and huge cooking pots and spun the gold cylinder like everyone else.

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Then we accidentally climbed a mountain. I know I know it sounds ridiculous but myself, Annie, Tom, Conor, Sam and Sam started walking up a steep path which we thought led to something. After sweating more than I have done ever before in my life, being overtaken by a Chinese man who kept yelling into the mountains and having lots of photos taken with Chinese people, we called it quits and headed back down. It was an experience!

After the mountain we looked at some turtles and I threw a bag into an old cooking pot for good luck, but then it was time to head to lunch and the supermarket.

Self serve beer went down well but in the supermarket me and Charlotte were filmed leaving which was slightly creepy. We found oreos though so looking on the bright side! By this point I really needed suncream so we ventured to the Chinese equivalent of Boots, where the entire staff followed us around insisting on helping us. When they brought me a sponge and body lotion I decided to crack out the mandarin and managed to get some nivea. At the check out they gave us free apple juice, so it wasn’t all bad!

Until the flood. Yep, the heavens had opened and outside the mall was a newly formed river standing inbetween us and the bus. Having no other option we all ran like maniacs to the bus and got absolutely soaking wet. My lovely white converse had nice puddles in them and my playsuit was dripping wet. All we could do was laugh, and hope the path home was clear!

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Me and Charlotte looking slightly damp!

Training Camp!

So the first 10 days of my China adventure were spent in an English Language Camp in the Mentougou district of Beijing. As you can see from the view from my classroom, it was properly in the mountains!

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Very inspiring view for the 3hour classes I had in the morning! The schedule was insane: teaching 8.30-11.30, Tefl class 2-5 and activities such as mandarin corner, calligraphy and tea art in the evening until 9pm. Then lesson planning for the next day began!

It was hectic and we really were thrown in the deep end but I learnt so much, and after coming up with lessons for a class of mainly boys at the last minute I really did progress quickly!

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Class 1!

By the end of camp the kids (generally the girls) made me a lovely bracelet to bring luck and a paper lantern to decorate. Happily both made it to Shijiazhuang safely 🙂

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Aside from teaching I really made good friends with the other assistants, and bonded over the excessive playing of communist music (from 6am), the insane schedule and many many games of mafia!

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(See mum I can make friends!)

The last photo we look a little wet because we got caught in a minor flash flood…but thats a story for next time!

Yeah…I blog now.

Hello there!!

As you can tell i’ve started a blog about my life in China, I’m going to aim to post whenever something interesting happens!! This first one is just to let you all know about the blog, and tell you I arrived safely in Shijiazhuang after 2 weeks in Beijing 🙂

I’m going to hopefully post a more detailed entry later when i’ve got access to all my photos, but right now there’s 2 Chinese people in my room doing something internet related I think (they speak no English). So farewell for now!!