A Travellerspoint blog

April 2018

Beijing Blog : Back to School

The trials and tribulations of TEFL-ing

So this is an incredibly overdue update about what has been happening since I arrived back in China’s capital after an incredible six weeks travelling. Coming ‘home’ has been tricky, to say the least. Writing this, I am halfway through week 6 (!!!) of the semester and honestly, I think it has taken until now to really find my groove again.

Going back to school was harder than I ever remember it being when I was younger! I think this was partially because for the entire first semester, I had been focussed on saving for and planning Spring Festival travels, and suddenly, that was done and dusted; the only thing I had in front of me was the prospect of 17 weeks of uninterrupted teaching… Having recently had the epiphany that I do not want to be a teacher, this therefore seemed (and still seems sometimes) completely overwhelming and like a colossal task. I had also completely forgotten how to lesson plan, and to top it all off, my timetable for this semester is busier and less condensed than last, meaning that my work days are longer and I spend a lot more time hanging around at school between lessons doing, well, nothing.

Restarting my Chinese lessons was initially a bit of a burden too. After a month of not using my ‘conversational’ mandarin, it felt like I was back to basics and my homework was taking me a lot longer than usual. And I was back to living in my school's accommodation, complete with its daily 6.30am communal alarm. So all in all, I was not in a particularly good mood at the beginning of the semester and was well in need of the mini getaway that was Nanjing.

The last couple of weeks have started to feel smoother, Chinese is becoming easier, it’s warming up, the morning alarm has been disabled and I’ve taken to being and incredibly strict, no-nonsense-taking teacher in most lessons, which makes my life much easier! I’ve also explored a few new parts of Beijing, namely Yuanming Yuan or The Old Summer Palace, which these days is more or less a park with some rather inauthentic ruins of the old palace structures. However, it is Cherry Blossom Season and so the brilliantly pink blossoms that lined the paths and reflected in the lakes around the park were definitely worth the trip.

Last week, I also took part in a Chinese Calligraphy lesson with my friends Lou and Rosanna. I had assumed that this would be a fun and creative activity but the first half of the lesson left me feeling horrendously inadequate in the world of calligraphy. We were tasked with writing the calligraphic version of the character 福 or fu meaning ‘fortune’ or 'good luck'. Simple. Not. Our teacher was a professor from a university in Hubei province and has been studying calligraphy for a few decades and so we were given a brief tutorial (which we videoed in slow motion so we could try to make out what on earth we were supposed to be drawing) in Chinglish and set to work. After several failed attempts - too much ink, not enough ink, absolutely illegible, “what do I do next?!”, “that’s um… wrong” - we finally achieved somewhat OK versions of the 福, put our brushes down and made a swift retreat. In the end it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the lesson but I’m not sure I will ever be able to describe myself as a calligrapher.

So my first six weeks back have been a bit hit and miss, but I’m starting to feel settled in Beijing again and it’s almost time to start planning the next lot of travelling! The weeks have started to pick up speed and I’ve begun to realise that before I know it I’m going to be halfway through and then nearly at the end of this semester, which I’m both looking forward to and also dreading. So in the meantime, I’ll be here, trying to make the most of this fantastic - albeit taxing - experience!

Posted by amysblog 05:45 Archived in China Tagged parks culture travel city china beijing spring chinese teaching tefl sakura caligraphy Comments (0)

Beijing Blog: Qing Ming

National Holiday in the Capital

rain 10 °C

With the arrival of April, Beijing has finally started to melt and after a week of HOT weather, the long weekend brought with it a relapse in the weather resulting in a very wet and cold few days. Not exactly the glorious holiday weekend I had been hoping for but after starting the long "weekend" with the crisis of a missing passport and a very wet journey to the hostel, by Wednesday we were ready to hit the ground running.

After a distinctly average breakfast at out hostel, our first destination was the Temple of Heaven. It was my first time visiting and i was really surprised by the size of the temple’s gardens and all the different parts of it. Unfortunately, a lot of the English descriptions were a little hard to follow and so I wasn’t really sure of the significance of all of the buildings on the complex. Nevertheless it is an impressive and very beautiful piece of architecture that we spent a good few hours exploring. When we left, we realised we were very close to Beijing’s ‘Pearl Market” - or fake market - and curiosity got the better of us. Although I had no intention of bargaining or buying, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and modern it was, especially compared to Shanghai’s underground fake market (aka maze).

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As it headed towards sunset, we crossed the city up to Beijing’s Olympic Park. It’s the second time I’ve been, but on the previous occasion it was freezing cold and the stadium was not lit up. This time, determined to see the Bird’s Nest in all its glory, I mustered up my best Chinese to try and find out what time it would be lit up. The first person I asked said “soon” the second person gave us the more accurate time of 7.30pm and sure enough, at 7.30pm there was light. We took a long walk all around the stadium and found some quieter spots with the stadium reflecting in the lake. It was very beautiful indeed.

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Day two was also packed full of tourist activities. I had managed to reserve Forbidden City tickets for the afternoon online so to fill the morning we went for a stroll around Beijing’s CBD, Guomao and saw the CCTV headquarters, a distinctive building which looks like a pair of trousers. We spent the afternoon getting cold and lost in the Forbidden City. The skies started to clear as we got to the exit gate and we decided to go into Jingshan Park, which has a big hill in it that over looks the entire Forbidden City - perfect for photos. We fought our way through the crowds to get some snaps but by this time we were in desperate need of food.

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Next stop was Wangfujing Street and we decided to try our luck at a Sichuanese restaurant which turned out to be a fantastic choice. The food was good value and delicious. It was already quite late in the day and we were supposed to be meeting some of my friends for some drinks in Sanlitun which was a fair distance from where we were. So we jumped on the bus back to the hostel for a quick refresh and then headed out to the bars.

We didn’t get back to late, but having been reunited with REAL BEER, the next morning, Will was feeling a little worse for the wear. The weather was much better so we sat on the rooftop of our hostel in the sun, nursing our heads before we went to explore Sanlitun by day. We took the bus and got dropped of in an unfamiliar part of the district which worked out quite well; we found a little shop selling delicious fruit selections and found some warm sun to enjoy while we ate them. We had a wander around the Tai Koo Li centre, which is like an outdoor mall - very new, very glam and very big before settling for some brunch in one of my favourite coffee shops, Baker and Spice. Unfortunately, due to the distance between Beijing and Shanghai, Will’s train was booked for the early afternoon, so it wasn’t long before it was time for us to get on the subway back to the station.

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I really enjoyed exploring Beijing’s touristy side. Having lived here for over six months now (?!) I feel more of a resident and less of a tourist, meaning that it’s too easy to tread the same path and feel like i’ve seen all the sights. Being a tourist for the weekend was a bit of a tonic and left me feeling refreshed and grateful for the opportunity I am living.

Posted by amysblog 02:09 Archived in China Tagged temples china olympics beijing sightseeing asia nightlife forbidden_city sanlitun Comments (0)

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