Tokyo Drift

Better late than never! 

After a pretty hectic July, I was fortunate in that I received 5 days off. So there was no time to waste before heading off to Japan via Shanghai. 

We (my colleague Cat and I) took the overnight train to Shanghai straight after finishing work as it allowed us a little extra time just incase of any delays or unforeseen problems. My one and only experience of a night train came in Thailand where I couldn’t fault it – and the same can be said for the journey in China. 

The flight departed in the early afternoon and arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport in the early evening local time. I don’t think we realised how far away the actual city centre was from the airport but the overground train was convenient and cheap, albeit taking about an hour and a half to get to the area in which our hostel was located, Asukusa. 

Sensoji Temple

The first evening resulted in finding our hostel which we did more by luck than judgement. Then getting a quick bite to eat before taking a brief stroll around the area to get our bearings. Asukusa is home to the Sensoji temple, so during the day we’d heard the place would be swarming with tourists but during the evening it significantly dies down and it was good to see the temple first without the crowds. 

Waking up the following day in the hostel was strange, due to the significant silence. Of which we later discovered to be usual in Japan. People were almost too courteous of others! Coming from China this seemed surreal. Our first destination was to check out Uneo Park. Where we wandered the grounds before finding the zoo. It was cheap and looked good so we went in. Despite being a small city zoo it was very well maintained and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all; seeing the animals in good, clean and spacious enclosures. We also got hit by a huge rainstorm for about 30 minutes ~ and unfortunately got stuck inside the bird house of all places! This however was the only rain of the trip despite forecasts stating that rain would be prominent all week! 

After a busy morning we jumped back on the subway and crossed the city towards Shinjuku, the busiest district of the city. This is also home to the famous crossing upon which Tokyo is recognised for. We took a few photos and managed to soak up some atmosphere from the Starbucks which is perched perfectly atop of the crossing. Each time the traffic lights changed hundreds of people swarmed across the intersection. We spent the evening in Shibuya, finding a few quirky (and cheaper) bar before heading to Cat’s choice – the Kawaii Monster Cafe. I wouldn’t have picked it but it was a crazy place best summed up by the photos. 

Kawai Monster Cafe and our hosts.

Shibuya crossing.

Uneo Zoo

 

A nice lay in came the following day but then we were up and out ready to make the most of our trip. Apparently no trip to Japan is complete without something Pokemon related so we made our way to ‘The Official World Pokemon Centre’. It’s basically just a big store with all things Pokemon but it definitely did bring back some memories. There were a few games, and interactive things and we even won some Pokemon cards! 

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!


That evening we took a trip up to Tokyo tower. Not the tallest building in the city, but maybe the most recognisable. It was like an orange Eiffel Tower and gave a good view across the city as the sun set, despite a few clouds. No trip to a metropolis city is complete without going up a tall building! 

Tokyo Tower.


Cat and I split up on final full day. We headed back to Shibuya together and visited a famous temple a short walk from the subway station. Which was quite nice to walk away from the city for a few hours. I decided it was my priority to locate a small area called the ‘Golden Gai’. About the size of a football pitch this area squeezes hundreds of closet sized bars in, creating a fantastic atmosphere and great place to meet people. I took a quick subway to Shinjuku and set about my task. I soon found the area but I was too early! Fortunately Shinjuku had a lot to keep me busy with. Loads of flashing lights and bars lined the streets giving it a South East Asia type of feel. More by chance I came across the Samurai museum and decided to check it out. I spent a couple of hours there, learning the way of the warrior and becoming a fully fledged master… Well maybe I just saw a performance and got to hold a fake sword. By the time I’d finished my training it was early evening and so went back to the Golden Gai. I found a tiny bar which with my inclusion was at the full capacity of 6 people. It was a great atmosphere and I was joined by a few other travellers where we chatted and shared stories for several hours. 

The Last Samurai.

Rigorous training with my Master!

Golden Gai session!


And then after a quick Japanese curry for dinner that night and a few croissant-y things for breakfast from a 7/11 it was time to leave! Was such a good trip and I’d not only love to go back to Japan but I’d say there’s still so much more to see and do in Tokyo! 

“Sayonara Tokyo!”

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Up until now…

I’m over 7 months in to my Chinese adventure now. Wow! And sorry, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted something. So where abouts am I at the moment?

(P.s. This is a long one, might be worth saving it for tonight

Perhaps the biggest news, possibly unavoidable to most people in the Burbidge friend circle on social media, the family came to visit (no Dad unfortunately due to work schedule). It was only a week but an amazing and almost surreal week! They arrived at midnight on Saturday 8th April and myself and Jojo (more about her later) greeted them at the airport. I’ll never forget that moment. We checked them in to the Holiday Inn and made arrangements for the next day. I was working so they met at my work after lunch and came into school where all the staff wanted to say hi and say how beautiful they were. My centre manager whisked them off for a tour and to formally introduce everyone. It was lucky as I actually had an open door class so the two Burbs sat in at the back of the class and observed – giving me a full set of 10’s for parent satisfaction! 

The Burbs in front of the Forbidden Palace.

We had a lovely traditional ‘food street’ dinner with a few of the foreign teachers. It was a great start to the week. First thing Monday we set off for Beijing! I’ll talk more about this trip later in this post as i could go on for a while. Anyway we returned Wednesday evening, shattered! Their remaining days were spent in Hefei, with me when I wasn’t working, shopping, dining out and they even had a lovely spa and girls day with Jojo. The week passed so quick and before I knew it, it was time to see them off. Even if it was at 6am (but I did get a free hotel breakfast buffet). And just like that they were gone. 

M & L at Tiananmen Square.

The Great Wall of China.

Team Selfie midway up the Great Wall.

Leigh and I at the top of the Great Wall.

So the next question, who is Jojo?

Ladies day in Hefei.

Well she’s aChinese girl, she’s pretty cool and we get on great, and we have done for about 4 months now. So yeah a travelationship or whatever the Internet calls it. (Gayyyyyy. Don’t even care). Obviously I’m not going to be here in China for too long so who knows what the future holds for us, but right now we’re happy! – and really, the worlds a lot smaller than we think. I’ve experienced how in our generation you can meet someone on one side of the world and yet if you wan, still keep in contact more than a friend of yours that lives a short walk away. So who’s to say what will eventually happen? 

My little mate.

Moving on… Work is great for the best part – I absolutely love being in the classroom and I absolutely love all my classes! The small stars (ages 3-6) are so much fun and if it was possible that my job was purely teaching classes of those little nippers I’d seriously consider staying for good. They’re the highlight of my week! I genuinely think I have as much fun as the kids. I’ve learnt to appreciate that yes they are kids that come to learn but the most important thing is that they ARE KIDS. I’ve figured that yes I could lecture them and drill them on producing sometimes irrelevant grammar which they will learn again in 4th grade OR I could have them shout out the names of fruit, take a basketball shot with the said plastic fruit and then ride my diy spaceship back to their seat (a wash bowl in which the child sits in and I pick up). Imagination eyy. 

What do you do at 4 o’clock?

What do you do at 8 o’clock?

Touch your ears!

Graduation!


The other classes are great too and I have nothing bad to say about that side. However my only concern comes from EF as a business. Unfortunately business comes first in EF. Education comes second. There is far too much emphasis on getting parents to sign up their child for the next course rather than taking time to analyse if the student is actually able to progress. I have found that too many times a child is forced into a class and really struggles. This, cutting a long story short, effects behaviour or attitude and eventually causes the child to resent or quit the class. At EF each class is assigned a Parent Advisor (PA) and it is their advertised job to ensure parents know about their child’s course, progress, topics covered in class, homework, issues or any class information. Yet it seems realistically that the PA’s job (through no fault of their own – because of ridiculous unavoidable bonus schemes employed by senior local management) is purely focused on sales. It’s all sell, sell, sell and I’m actually yet to see any attention paid to the child’s satisfaction. This is a shame and I do wonder if this is a correlation to education as a whole in China or more likely just the notion of a large private education franchise. 

In other news I’ve travelled a shit ton too!

March: Hong Kong (3 days). I did really enjoy the city. We stayed for 2 nights but planned well so we had 3 full days. HK was pretty much as I expected, a busy westernised metropolis dictated by western culture. In short we checked out some great scenic and skyline views over the harbour, the small fishing village of Tai O and the giant Buddah at Lantau Island (via cable car), Tsim Tsa Tsui night and day markets and the wild macaque monkeys of Kowloon reservoir. Well worth the visit but likely I won’t go back. 

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.

Tai O fishing village.

Macaques of Kowloon tried to steal my nuts!


April: Nanjing (1 day). A group of us visited the former capital on a spur of the moment trip. It makes for an ideal day trip being just an hour on the high speed train from Hefei. We had no idea really where to go but we stumbled upon a beautiful garden mausoleum for an ancient emperor (I’m not sure of the dynasty) and then tried to make our way to a large lake we spotted on a cartoon map. It was great. We spent 2 hours on a boat cruising about in the April sun and then the rest of the day playing on amusements and eating street snacks. I’d definitely like to go back if I have the time. 

A perfect 10.

A perfect afternoon relaxing.


April: Beijing (3 days). Finally a trip to the capital and with the best company – my mum and my sister. Beijing wasn’t how I imagined it to be. It surprised me because of it’s flatness. I was expecting an almost infinite amount of 20 something storeys draining the light and covering the city in shadow. But actually it was pretty beautiful! We arrived with 2 main things to see and do Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China. Tiananmen was very impressive, albeit quite thought provoking thinking of the student massacre that took place there not so long ago. Because it was Monday it meant the Forbidden City was actually closed but was were advised to check out the view from behind and over the palace. I feel it may have even been a better experience? The next day was what I’d been waiting for. The Great Wall! It was amazing. The best thing I’ve done in China and probably the best I’ll do. Every step I climbed excited me purely because of the feeling of knowing just exactly where I was standing in that moment. To be there with Mum and Leigh definitely made it one of the most memorable moments of my life. For the rest of our time in Beijing we visited the Olympic Park Stadiums, the small food streets of the city centre and found a beautiful lake to keep us occupied while we waited for our train back. 

Leigh B conquers the Wall!

Team Burb.


April: Xi’an (3 days). I went away with Jojo for the first time and we made a long weekend of it heading to one of China’s former capitals. Xi’an is home to the Terracotta Warriors museum and that was something I’d been really wanted to see since I arrived. After arriving late we slept then headed out early in the morning to visit the museum. It was massive! The dig site was about the size of 3 massive aircraft hangers. I loved seeing all the completely discovered figurines but also seeing the works in progress, for example seeing a limb poking out of the stone and wondering what the story behind that part would be. Our second day was an active one as we hired bikes and cycled around the entire city walls (13.5km). It took about 2 hours and it was a great way to take in the city from the rooftops. I feel had I not lived in China already for 6 months I would have taken more from it but it was still a really enjoyable afternoon. We flew back to Hefei late Tuesday night and got some sleep in ready to go back to work on the Wednesday. 

Xi’an city walls by bike.

The Bell (near) and Drum (far) towers.

The Teracotta Army.


May: Taiwan (3 days). So far this was my most enjoyable trip! We (me, Max and Chris) arrived at midday in Taipei and first stop was to check out the city centre and the best way to do so was from the top of the Taipei 101 tower. A view out of the 89th floor window was a miserly 478m from the ground! Unfortunately the weather was a little iffy so we could have had a better view. We spent the rest of the day checking out the city, the markets and food and few beers before bed. 6am wake up came and we were off to Hsinchu to meet a friend of Chris’ who was in another city about an hours train ride away (a big black guy called Davion). He’s a photographer so we spent the morning strolling about the city making some cool snaps. We were back in Taipei around 1 pm and after some lunch, and nursing my sunburn – temperatures were about 36 degrees and I stupidly wore just a vest! – we hiked up the small city mountain – Elephant mountain. It was the top ranked thinks on trip advisor and it didn’t disappoint as we got an incredible view of the city skyline from late afternoon to sunset. We headed back to the guesthouse where the intention was to go out again for some beers but we were beat! Third and final day consisted of exploring. We went to another city, Keelung, which was right in the coast and there was rumours of a beach. But first we decided to investigate somethings we’d seen online. We had come across pictures of an old abandoned city. However there was no information about it on the Internet nor in the tourist information. All we knew was the rough location of which there was a blank space in the map; all very mysterious. So we took a bus then walked for about an hour (I wore a t-shirt this time) to come across a few shanty buildings at first and then a building city. We tried to ask local people where this mysterious city was or had been but either they didn’t seem to know or they said it wasn’t here. Hmmmm. So we strolled casually through the building sites as if we were just another worker – nobody even batted an eyelid until a sensible chap told us we shouldn’t be there without the correct safety equipment – he himself was wearing flip flops! We decided to cut our loses and head back to the bus stop but a short distance from the site we discovered a dirt track leading up to the top of a hill. So being the daring, courageous explorers we are we snuck off the road and on to his increasingly overgrown unused looking path. After walking 10 minutes or so there was a gate and it was open, it reminded me a little of Jurassic park! As the gate was open we saw fit to continue our mission eventually coming to a massive clearing and dun dun duhhh… About 50 metres away there was a house! A massive house, kind of like the ones seen on Grand Designs. We could see inside through one of the glass walls and could make out a large screen fixed to the wall. Then the front door opened and a man came out to investigate. We decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to hang about and quickly turned to head back, in that time he’d jumped on to his scooter and follow us. I was a little nervous as he encroached on us. Fortunately he was a friendly. And he spoke enough English and could understand enough of my Chinese to tell us what we wanted. The abandoned city had been demolished 3 years ago and the building site was pretty much on the same area. So it wasn’t a wasted journey at all. The man escorted us all the way back to the road before shutting the gates we’d passed through. We began to imagine the reasoning for him having a house in the suburbs of a small city in Taiwan hidden away that no body would even know about. Very mysterious. Anyway the rest of the day we spent at the beach! We found the coast and walked across the cliffs before working our way down to the shore. T-shirts and shorts were off in 3 seconds flat and we were all in the sea for the first time in a long while! Such a nice chill out spot as again we saw the sun go down in beautiful style. A great end to the trip. Our flight back was early the following day but that didn’t stop a few too many beers that night and a 4am McDonalds run. Fortunately and luckily as we were waiting to board the flight a huge torrential tropical storm started which actually caused a fair amount of flights to be delayed and cancelled in the days to come. So yeah as a whole Taiwan was so good and exceeded all expectations. 

Taipei 101 – the highest building I’ve been in.

Davion has his future told.

Taipei 101 from part way up Elephant Mountain.

Keelung – didnt seem at all like Asia.

I’d missed the ocean!

Boys and beers.


So now what?
I’m keeping up with my Chinese classes. So far I’ve had 30 lessons (60 hours!). I’ve never learnt a language this in depth and being fully immersed and able to use more language each day is great. I’ve decided I’ll keep up the lessons even until I leave because of the fact I have a great teacher and I really enjoy the class. I’ve just purchased another text book which I can step up my progress in my own time. 

你好我是Dom。很高興認識你!

Nihao wo shi Dom. Hen gaoxing renshi ni!

(Hello I’m Dom. Nice to meet you!)

As far as travel plans go I actually booked up a trip to Japan yesterday. I’m so excited as Tokyo was the number one place I wanted to visit when I knew I’d be coming to live in China. That will be August 1st – 5th. Ideal because it’s immediately after the hectic summer course here at work. In the mean time I’ll hopefully be able to visit more cities in China. With Chengdu being my main priority to see the pandas. But I’d also like to go to some of the southern provinces and head to the coast especially during this time of year. 

Despite living in Hefei for over 7 months I wouldn’t say I’m bored of the city. There is always somewhere different to go for food and there seems to be more and more bars popping up. However I’ve really cut down on the drinking of late and hit the workouts a lot harder. I bought a TRX system and another heavier kettlebell for my own gym kit as well as some boxing gloves and pads. I’ve been aiming to train at least 4 times a week and my diet has been good too. Along with my own training I’ve actually picked up a couple of private personal training clients. So, for a couple hours a week I have fitness classes in my apartment with Teeny and Weishi. They’re both Chinese but have enough English to understand most things. And I have enough Chinese if necessary!

Teeny ready to train!

My little gym – definitely does the job.


Phew. There we go! That was meant to be a brief summary of my life since March! Hope you enjoyed reading. I do enjoy chatting with everyone back home so feel free to drop me a message if you ever have a free 5 minutes!

Zai jian! 在剪!

Dom

A Korean Holiday!

So as I mentioned in the previous post, during the Spring Festival a group consisting of myself and 7 of the other foreign teacher at EF would take a short 5 night holiday to the capital of South Korea, Seoul! 

We departed from Hefei airport at mid morning on Sunday 7th Feb. I think the flight only about 2 hours, so we were in Korea before we realised. My first impression was that the country was extremely efficient, clean, affordable and very easily accessible. I’d imagine it is the way China would like to become within the next 20/30 years. Having left the airport we took a straight 45 minute train to a region called Hongdae where our hostel was located. It was interesting as coming from the giant tower block jungle in China, this part of Seoul was busy but not at all overpowering in size. The highest building was no more than 3 storeys and the region seemed to have a very English influence. 

After checking in to the hostel we headed out for some authentic Korean BBQ – even if it was a little too spicy! Then on to a bar for a fair few drinks. 

The Monday was our first full day, so after some lunch (the food was spot on all week!) we went to Myeong Dong, where we planned to check out the N Seoul Tower. It was at the top of a small mountain which the old city walls ran up alongside. So we had a bit of history to pay a little attention to. Unfortunately it was bloody cold and the weather wasn’t the best, so our view from the top of the tower definitely could’ve been a bit clearer another day. But it was worth the trip nonetheless. 

The following day, we headed to Itaewon via the tube. We stayed in this part of the city for most of the day, visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, taking a walk through the ground and learning about some Korean history. It was intended to be a quiet night in as the following day we had planned to trek up to Mount Bukhansen. However it was anything but!

The mountain was a short tube and bus journey from Hongdae. Turned out to be a quality day and the view from the top was completely unexpected! We were able to see across the entirety of Seoul! 

We headed back to Hongdae for some more Korean food and a few  drinks. 

Our last day in Korea was spent in Myeong Dong, a busy part shopping of Seoul. Inevitably had to buy some Korean fashion before we left! That evening was our most lively, we went one of the biggest clubs Octagon in Gangnam. Bloody good night. Was a change going to an actual club for a change. Didn’t approve of having to pay for entry and no free drinks however though! 

We flew back to Hefei on the Friday. Just a two hour flight and we were back ‘home’ before we knew it. A really good trip, a great city with so much to do. Would probably not go back as I always like to go to different countries and cities. But if definitely recommend anyone else to check it out!     

View from the top of the N Seoul Tower

  

N Seoul Tower by night

  

N Seoul Tower by day

 

Seoul squad selfie

  

Outside Gyeongbokgung Palace entrance

  

Inside the palace grounds

 

A big Buddah in Bukhansen national park

  

On top of Seoul

  

View from the top

   

A selfie from the summit of Bukhansen

  

Streets of Myeongdong

  

Traditional Korean BBQ

  

It’s been a while! 

Where has the time gone? I can’t even remember the date the last time I posted!

What’s new here in Hefei? Well I’ve been here over 3 months now and we’re literally just coming up to the Chinese New Year festival. I’m winding down at work and despite having two days left before I break up for the holiday, I have absolutely nothing left to do – the easy life. As we speak the game, Age of Empires is downloading so I might keep my inner nerd occupied for a few hours at least. 

Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye. We celebrated in true western style on Christmas Eve, with a house party followed by a night clubbing. Although Christmas Day was extremely subdued. Partly due to extreme hangovers but also the fact 99% of the population were simply going about their own business! 

A week later, and it was NYE! A great night, but not quite the same as last year in Sydney unfortunately! We went to a popular western bar, and celebrated the countdown with our friends from near and far  – and to be honest that’s pretty much all I can remember! 

January brought a change in our office. Caleb left to go back home to Australia, being replaced by two new American teachers John and Paul. My timetable has been stable for a few months now and I feel I’m building a good rapport with all my students, who I can see making amazing progress, while I’m learning more and more every day – and still absolutely loving the job. 

We had a big event in the EF calendar during the middle of January. The Annual Conference was a good excuse to dress up smart and drink a lot for us foreigners. Was a really enjoyable day spent with local and foreign staff where many speeches were made, awards presented and some good/different/quirky performances were made by the staff. 

January was cold! I’d been fairly comfortable with the climate up until then but the cold weather soon came. We had a little snow and then it seemed to warm up a little, but unfortunately at the end of the month we had the coldest week of the year. It felt Arctic! Bad news followed for mine and Stevens apartment too. Because of the temperature, an outside tap had froze and burst while we were at work, flooding our whole apartment! My laptop was on the floor and as a result became a swimming pool float. Ruined. The water actually came out of our door, and down the elevator shaft destroying one of the lifts. Shit! The whole block was wet, and during the night froze. 

Fortunately EF put us up in a hotel for the night, before helping us to find somewhere else to stay for a few weeks while our flat is repaired. I’ve no idea how long it’ll be, but the whole floor needs redoing. 

I’m so excited for the weekend as 8 of us foreign EF teachers are heading off to Seoul, South Korea for 5 nights! Another country to check off the list, but will be really strange going on holiday and then coming back to my ‘normal’ Chinese life. I’ll definitely take as many photos as I can, and try to update the blog soon after I get back. 

By the sounds of it, if you aren’t Chinese or married into a Chinese family then the New Year celebrations can be pretty diluted, especially if you’re in a non-international city such as Hefei. Everyone tends to head home to their families, and eats and eats and eats! But having no Chinese family and just a few foreign counterparts; we decided the best idea was to jet off somewhere! 

I will be sure to post again once I’m back for Seoul. Sure it’ll be a great trip, with great people. 

 

EF School 1 with our lucky draw tickets!

  

Office work…

  

Hefei 1 looking smart at the conference!

  

Danni & I at the conference

  

Teaching my FR4 class is always fun!

  

Joking around with my HFG class!

  

Test time for HFG!

  

Jojo and I at the conference .

  

Hanging out with JD after helping him with his news report.

  

Charles & Steven in preparation for their Kung Fu performance!

 

Go Karts for Calebs leaving gig.

 

  

 
 

What’s new in Hefei?

  
Well it’s been a while since I’ve last posted! A lot has happened and I’ve been seriously busy I can’t believe where the time has gone. The Christmas decorations are up at school and our flat is looking very festive! 

    
  
So for the last few weeks I’ve been teaching a lot more classes, been busy in the office and also participating in one too many social events perhaps. I have about 6 of my own classes now which is being added to each week as new classes start up while other classes are being passed on by a couple of teachers who will be due to leave in the new year. 

Every day is different and I am so grateful that I’ve been given this amazing opportunity. My Chinese is coming along nicely now too. I had my third lesson yesterday and each day I try to use what I know as much as I can. It’s difficult but I’m really relishing it. It seems strange for me to be learning again after years out of education but because I know it is really going to benefit my life I can’t wait to challenge myself each time. 

We had planned to take a trip to Shanghai on the weekend just passed however my friend Cat, who’s idea it was to take the trip, unfortunately got sick and so we decided to postpone. Steven and I did have a productive day cleaning the flat from top to bottom though!

However a potential trip to Hong Kong has been pencilled in to coincide with the release of the new Star Wars! Incredibly the only country to not release it on the 17th Dec is China. We’d have to wait an extra 6 weeks! Plus I’m sure a Christmas trip to HK will be rather enjoyable. 

I’ve also began thinking about my spring break holiday. At present I’m thinking about taking about 5 days in Seoul, South Korea. My plan while being here in China is to use my 4 weeks holiday to see Japan, the Koreas and Taiwan. Then heading home travelling through the rest of South and South East Asia. Exciting times! 

Today I had a mixture of classes. Some tiny ‘Small Stars’ aged 3-4, a ‘High Flyer’ class aged 7-9 and a ‘Frontrunner’ class with students as old as 14. The old students’ class was an Open Door, where the parents are invited in to observe!

     

Tomorrow I have a similar day with a mixture of age groups.  I’m fortunate also in that I have an early finish before we meet with all the foreign teachers to welcome 3 new teachers to Hefei. We go again…

(Left this as a draft and posted it a few days later!)

Over the last few days I’ve been out and about in the city. Visiting the main pedestrian area of the city and also checking out the Tower of Lord Bao. 

   
    
 

At school we are busy preparing for all the Christmas festivities and have just finished making the decorations! 

   
   

A fortnightly update…

2 weeks down in Hefei! I’m definitely feeling settled now and I’ve got myself into a good routine.  I work Weds to Sunday, with Monday and Tuesday being my weekends now. Weds-Fri I work 2-7ish and this time is set for office work planning and organising lessons for the busy 10 hour days at the weekends. 

At the moment I’m being weened in and I’ve co-taught but this Saturday I have my first class of my own. So I very much look forward to that! Everyone in the office is great. We have about 10 foreign teachers such as myself, alongside 10 or so local (Chinese) teachers, many teaching assistants and other local staff to help the school run in a truly efficient Chinese way. Everyone has been amazingly friendly and very chatty, wanting to know about me and how I am settling in. I couldn’t ask for anything more!   

Co-teaching a class with Travis, a foreign teacher from Vietnam

 So other than working I’ve been pretty busy on the social side of things. Steven, my roommate is a great guy and we’ve hit it off well. Most evenings I’ve  been either out for dinner or having a few drinks, or both with the teachers. I’ve become fond of an area known as Ningualu, which is essentially the clubbing street of Hefei. It’s 99% Chinese and a foreigner in the bar generally turns a few heads. I struggle to think of a time where I’ve had to buy a drink. Either a friendly local offers or they have table drinks which the bar people are constantly topping up! All round deals.   

 

An EF gathering before going to party at Ningualu

 
Away from evenings entertainment I’m playing football for a foreign team, admittedly representing team USA! I’ve also been doing a little bit of yoga and also working out every day. I bought a kettlebell which I’m going to use in the apartment to keep myself in shape. I’m even thinking about advertising my Personal Training on the Hefei foreigners Facebook page to maybe earn a little bit more Ningualu spending money! 

Team USA vs Portugal

 
I’m trying to see as much of the city I can asap as currently I can’t travel out of the country because my residency hasn’t come through just yet. I’m also on a pretty tight leash as the school currently needs my passport and being a foreigner you need to show your passport to take a train or internal flight. Nevertheless Hefei has its own attractions, none smaller than Mt. Dashu of which I trekked up several days ago. It’s not the highest but it has a great view out across the city.  

The view from the base of Mt. Dashu

 

I wouldn’t say I’m missing anything about home just yet. I thought coming out here I would be bothered about missing out on sports and films etc, but now I’m not even that fussed. I can check the sport news on my phone but I have so many other things to keep entertained I often forget. Everything is accessible it’s just different. Tonight in fact I am going to a midnight showing of the new James Bond film as its released in English today. I’m also starting Mandarin lessons next week and I’m really looking forward to being able to communicate properly with the people of my city rather than pointing and playing charades.  

 

Enjoying a night with some fellow foreigners

 
 That’s all from me, hope you are enjoying the updates! Feel free to give me a message as sometimes I do have a little free time to connect with home!

Dom 

8 Things I’ve Learned from a Week living in China…

  
1. The saying “It’s okay because you speak English” is not always true: In Hefei, other than my Chinese colleagues I can only recall speaking English to a handful of locals, and it has never been more than a few broken sentences. There is a real language barrier. Not even taxi drivers can say the usual English chat because us foreigners are so rare here. I’m at a stage now where I can baby talk in Chinese to order something and be polite.  

2. White people are an absolute rareity: I think while I have been out in the city (apart from being at the expat bar) I have seen less than 5 other white people going about their daily business. It’s common for Chinese people to be intrigued and for younger generations to shout out the English words they know. A friendly “Hello!” in reply is always warmly welcomed. 

3. Public transport is so cheap and easily accessible: There are thousands of taxis in the city. It takes me approximately 15 minutes to get from my flat to my work. Back home I wouldn’t dream of taking a cab for a 10 min journey. Here I either take the bus costing 1 Kuai (10p) or take a taxi which costs 8 Kuai (80p). The most I’ve paid for a taxi has been 20 Kuai, and that was about a 40 minute journey. 

4. Chinese people aren’t actually always on their phones or tablets: I thought coming here I would see local people with their head looking down at their phone all the time. But it’s the opposite. They actually seem so social. Every night on the way home I seen hundreds of people dancing or practicing Thai Chi together in groups. Wifi is actually quite poor. 

5. Chinese people want to make friends with foreigners: They want to learn from different types of people. They want to speak English and find out what we do in our culture. I had 4 traffic policemen come up to me and they were absolutely intrigued when I showed them my driving licence. When we go to bars they love to introduce themselves and share a drink or two! 

6. China is a BIG place: The city I’m living in seems absolutely massive. But compared to the other cities in China it’s relatively small! 7 million people live here yet it’s considered small! 

7. Teenagers don’t exist outside of school: Because Chinese students have so much pressure to succeed and do well in school once they have finished studying at their schools they are straight home to revise and do their ridiculous amount of homework. You would never see teenagers hanging out in the park in the evening for instance. 

8. There are absolutely no rules regarding traffic: Anything goes. Absolutely anything. Red lights mean relatively little. Mopeds are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if your making a call while driving your moped. Getting a bus is quite an experience as the driver is constantly swerving or braking to avoid a crazy moped rider. Taxis 3-point turn on highways. People walk where they want. It goes on…

Settling In…

I’m almost 4 days down now and I feel like I’m beginning to find my feet. As planned when I arrived in Hefei (everything went to plan) I was picked up by a couple of the senior staff and taken to my apartment. My new flatmate had waited up late to greet me. We chatted for a while getting to know one another before getting some much needed rest. 

The first morning I was met by Willene, a South African teacher who’s been in Hefei for 5 years nearly. She took me for a quick tour of the local area and introducing me to a few finalist Chinese sights. One of the first things I noticed was how there wasn’t actually a single foreigner in sight nor did many of the local people speak much English at all. In the afternoon I was met by Michelle, the human resource person. She helped me to register myself with the local authority and sort some paperwork. The intention for that evening was to go for dinner and meet more of the teachers from all 4 EF schools in Hefei. Oh how it escalated! Plates upon plates of my first authentic Chinese meal were followed by many crates of beers. We then took taxis to a local bar where more drinks flowed. It’s a regulation that new members of staff do not have to pay for anything for their first week or so. So a constant conveyor belt of ‘Stifler’s Mum’ cocktails was formed. With a regular edition of beer being donated by the Chinese drunk cohort in the bar! Dancing at a club followed and the rest of the night is rather hazy to put it lightly! 

I was met by Michelle early again the next morning. I had a health check to attend. The Chinese do things slightly different in the hospitals. It was like a competition. How many rooms and different body checks you could complete in a time. Michelle was literally making me run around the hospital, once even with a test tube of my on pee…

She treated me to some breakfast for being so well behaved. A bowl of soupy noodles with a chicken leg floating about. Ever such a proper Chinese breakfast.  

  

I went into school afterwards, where I was introduced to the rest of the staff members I hadn’t met already. A good mix of foreign and local Chinese teachers. Everyone was very friendly. My day consisted of observing a few lesson plans then helping a Halloween party to run in the evening. Steven and I grabbed some dinner and a much needed early night! 

Saturday was to be my first full day in work. However for the first few weeks it’s very relaxed and I won’t be teaching, just observing classes while I wait for my intake. So a very easy day but to be honest I’d rather be chucked straight in. 

The plan for the evening was to get pizza of which we didn’t, but similarly to Thursday we ended up out. My first expat bar experience. It was good to meet many new people who recognized (or didn’t recognize me) that I was a new white person and wanted to get to know me. I even managed to get involved with a football team and my first game is tomorrow. It was a late one and my flatemate/child minder Steven heard the phrase ‘just one more’ too many times. 

Today is very much of the same, observing lessons and generally trying to look busy when I literally have nothing to do. I’m looking forward to my official welcome dinner tonight of which I have heardthe aim will be to get me as drunk as possible on an infamous Chinese drink called Bi Jou…

Here goes nothing!

The day has arrived! I’m all packed, and plan to leave the Island within the next couple of hours. My Mum and Dad are joining me on the journey up to Heathrow, where my flight leaves at 9.00pm. Mother wants to allow for any delays hence why we’re leaving ridiculously early!

 

The Burbs before I left the house this morning.

 
It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m planning to go to live and work in CHINA for a whole year. I have no idea what to expect other than an insane cultural learning experience. What do I want to achieve? I definitely want to learn some Mandarin (the most common language in China) and I plan to take proper classes while I’m there. I also would like to experience a new form of sport or exercise native to China, perhaps a martial art or something similar. Finally I want to travel, and use my apartment in China as a base. Hopefully my working hours and holiday will allow me to take short trips around many of the neighbouring countries (Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam are high on the list!) and also to be able to see much of the vastness of China!

So the plan for when I arrive is as follows: I arrive in Hefei at 11pm local time on Wednesday 28th (3pm GMT) where I am to be picked up and taken to my apartment. All I know is that a few of my new EF colleagues are going to be waiting for me and they will have everything sorted for my arrival. I’ll meet my roommate (All I know so far is that he’s an American chap called Steven) then get some sleep. The following day I’m going to be taking around the city and have all my paperwork and working requirements sorted. This sounds quite straight forward, gaining my Chinese residency, sorting bank accounts and phone SIM cards. I’ll hopefully be able to meet many of my colleagues that I’ll be spending much of the next however many months with!

I will hopefully have time, and a working internet connection, to keep my blog updated as regularly as I can, with my experiences, stories and pictures from working and living in the busiest country in the world!.

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