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!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. So the next question, who is Jojo? 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? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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！