A big catch up!!
Trip Start Unknown
89Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
I'm sat outside a café at the moment during my lunch break, having woken up to a grotty smoggy day, cycling to work feeling grey, big winds have swept in and blown it all away, so the sky is blue again and it's pretty warm, around 23 degrees. We've just had 2 holidays, mid autumn festival and National day, so it's quite predictable that the weather will change now and get noticeably cooler. Can't complain though, 10th October sitting in the sun!!
School has been great, tiring but in a nice way (I think!) although I got up this morning feeling like an old woman, at 6.30am wondering if I'm built for this more energetic life!
A typical day starts at 6.30am when I get up, then I cycle to work (around 15 mins) and I arrive at school by 8am and start with cleaning some of the classroom, my English corner. At 8.30am we go downstairs to greet the parents and children. When the children arrive, they do morning exercise, led by other teachers - basically 3 different songs & dances, all of them join in as & when they arrive. At 8.50am, we take them up to the classroom, for us a long climb up to the 4th floor, quite tough on the little ones (and me.... my legs become quite weary by the end of the day!). There is a quiet time when they first arrive, then they have snacks & water and begin their work. It's a Montessori school, so the children choose what to play with, and everything in the classroom is Montessori based, so they learn by playing with certain things. During the first 90 minutes I sit in my English corner, and the children can choose to come and work with me in small groups, or some 1:1 if need be. A lot of them are keen to come over, however there are some that need some encouragement and some won't come over at all which is being addressed. There is still one girl who has barely said anything to me yet!
After that, snack & water time before going outside to play (weather / smog permitting, today it was too windy, not quite sure how that affects things but hey...!)
I'm still finding my feet with it all and trying to find ways of developing all the children as they are at vastly different levels of English, but it's fun and there are worse ways to spend a day! Some days I think I've got it, and have a really good English circle where they are all interested and attentative, then days like yesterday where I wanted to throw the towel in as half of them were badly behaved yesterday.....
Finally my visa paperwork is ready from the school, it's taken so long - so I can now book my trip to Hong Kong to change my current visa to what I need.
I'm revisiting this blog a week later, and will probably take me a while to finish! Same café, but chillier - my morning rides to work now involve 2 layers (no coat yet, just fleeces) and gloves as it's around 4 degrees first thing but still pleasant during the day.
Last Saturday I experienced my first field trip with the school, literally.... to a field....!!! We went to pick peanuts and sweet potatoes which was fun, and chaotic!! 5 classes on buses, about an hour out of the city to the fields, and first stop was to pick peanuts, growing in the ground, by pulling out the plant then picking the nuts off them, like a monkey nut really. Bought loads home not realising that they needed roasting, and we don't have an oven.... (they don't come out of the ground roasted & salty, dowh!!) One attempt in a wok, we gave up!!! More success with the sweet potatoes in the microwave
So onto other stuff, staying partly with the education theme, I have been put onto the board of Directors for the Migrant Children's Foundation charity that we volunteer with, so I'm really proud to have been asked by Helen the founder, and good friend. Andy has been made marketing and events manager which is great too and is busy launching a new website platform to advertise on, and planning some events for before the end of the year. It's nice helping in different ways at the moment, as to be honest, the last thing I feel like doing on a Saturday morning is getting up early to go & volunteer at a Migrant school! I will again though when things settle down a bit. I did my first presentation this weekend on behalf of MCF, only 10 minutes, with 9 other charities explaining what they do, what they need etc, it went well but a bit nervewracking
Sadly we've seen more friends leave, Alec & Ainhoa to Switzerland, and Craig (my twin, born on exactly the same day!) back to the US. It's horrible having to say goodbye all the time. But it is an excuse for leaving do's, these two were on 2 extremes, one a Azerbaijanin BBQ with all you could drink outside on a lovely terrace, and the other wine tasting at Carrefour, followed by bread, cheese & olives at our local 'Bob's wines', basically a small off licence where you can buy cheap wine and then sit outside and drink it, and eat anything you bring!!!
Another fine Beijing Beatles performance lured us out into the Hutongs, for pre-gig dumplings and beer. Andy organised another paintballing trip out to the countryside, I declined this time as it's not really my thing, and I had lots of school work I wanted to do and prepare for. We headed to the Shunyi suburbs for an Aussie BBQ, the Aussie's played cricket against the Brits and won....! Lots of good food & beer, and a perfect sunny blue sky day made it very enjoyable.
During the first holiday, for Autumn festival we had 3 days off, and went to Tianjin for the day with friends Robert & Myra from Australia, a really lovely couple who we've got to know over the last few months
Anyway, back to Tianjin, you'll remember we went over Christmas where the river was all frozen, and we enjoyed the more European feel about the place, the river, the architecture so we thought a return visit in the milder weather in order. An enjoyable day wandering around, and relaxing outside in the Italian concession, finished off with dinner at Brasserie Flo with friends Chris & Jing who live in Tianjin, it was great to catch up with them. Whilst heading for the train home, by the station people were letting off beautiful red paper lanterns into the sky, we hadn't seen it here in Beijing before, later we found out they are banned, as it's too densely populated with lots of trees which in years gone by caught fire easily is a lantern landed on them. Anyway, in Tianjin they were letting them off above the river, we managed to buy one and with some help, lit it - a red heart, and let it off high into the sky, one of those romantic unforgettable moments, with something so simple
The following 2 days, our good friend Matthew invited us to go away with him & his girlfriend to Cuandixia, she has a car and offered to drive, it was a couple of hours out of the city (around 90 kms), once we got out of the city the scenery was stunning, mountains and greenery. Cuandixia is set deep into the mountains, and is a village dating from the Ming Dynasty (1403-1424) and consists of 76 courtyard houses, mostly built with stones. Most of these houses have been turned into simple courtyard B&B's, serving as restaurants too. We arrived and had a great lunch overlooking the mountains and the village, then found a courtyard to stay in. The weather was great, and we enjoyed just wandering around, looking inside all the old houses and admiring the view, as well as plenty of food & drink over the 2 days. Our courtyard had a great roof terrace sit at, perfect for the evening and the following morning, and in the morning we got up early and climbed the mountain which the village is at the foot of, a clear sunny day made for great views and the hike was well worth it. A well deserved coffee / beer once we climbed back down, watching all the tourists arrive. The nice thing about staying overnight was that it was a lot quieter, and a chance to see village life. Before setting off we had an amazing lunch, Andy & Matthew literally devoured a whole leg of lamb, that had been slow cooked in a massive drum for hours, Min Min & I stuck to other stuff, not being a lamb lover
Our week off for National day was a mixture of chilling and exploring. I headed with 2 friends, one of which, Chrissie, has a driver, so makes getting out much easier! There was me and Chrissie from New Zealand, and Mel from Australia. We went to Jinshanling, a part of the Great Wall in Hebei province, a couple of hours drive away. It was stunning, and I know I keep mentioning blue sky days but they really are special, and a day like this - the views were incredible. It was by far the best part of the Great Wall I've seen. We hiked for just over 4 hours along the wall, up & down, up & down, the final hour or so was an unrestored section, so interesting to see, and some steep scary climbs! We had a good girlie gossip along the way too. Andy, having an aversion to the Great Wall (see Karl Pilkington, an Idiot Abroad!!!) preferred the option of staying in the city to go to one of the breweries for an all you can drink offer! We both enjoyed ourselves, that's the main thing!
Now you know we do well for free things, this week was no exception, the magazines have been a little void of competitions for a while, but on Tuesday lunchtime of this week, a friend messaged us who had to go away suddenly, and offered us his 2 tickets to go & see The Killers in concert that night, oh yes please!!!
Another freebie on the Friday, a friend who works at the Fairmont Hotel, gave us tickets to the LPGA, the Ladies Professional Golf Association competition at a Golf & Country Club just outside the city, so a few of us went to see that. It was really good, now some of you may think that watching live golf is like watching paint dry, but during my travel career days I worked for Longshot Golf and sold golf holidays, as well as went on the odd educational, learnt to play golf with some pro's, and played on courses such as La Manga in Spain, and some in the Algarve too
All mixed in with the usual networking events, wine tastings, lunches here & there, football & F1 watching, the norm really for our lives in Beijing! Can't believe we've been here 18 months now, time has gone so quickly.
One more week gone by, and I'm determined to finish & post the blog this time!!! Just wanted to tell you about an amazing day that we had last weekend at the British Polo match in Beijing. We'd seen the event in one of the magazines and enquired how much tickets were, we were told that it was a free event sponsored by the Chinese government. How many people did we want to bring?! Ok, so we looked at the timetable of events, noticing a champagne reception, polo match and afternoon tea... Andy did a great job of asking a few friends and arranging a minibus, and before we knew it - 17 of us met for breakfast at the Big Smoke for scrambled eggs on toast, bacon, mushrooms and a bloody Mary before getting on the bus for the Polo
Anyway, that's where I'm going to end this epic blog, otherwise it will go on forever!!!
Thanks for reading, hope you haven't fallen asleep!!!
Tracy & Andy