Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Want Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere

Last Saturday marked exactly one year that I have been in China. Last Sunday was my last day of classes. Last Monday was my last day of work, and everyone's last day at our center. We're relocating (finally) due to the construction in our building. We finished packing and had a rice fight. Today I moved out of my apartment and head off for a week on my last big in-China trip. Soon I will leave China for the Trans-Mongolian Railway and the United States. It has been a challenging adventure of a year. I feel good about it. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me

A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit Guangzhou, which is the city where I was supposed to be placed but the opening was delayed. It is now open and I stayed with a friend of mine who is working there. We saw temples, Shamian Island (which is where the embassies used to be), and went up Banyan Mountain. It was beautiful and very green. I had a lovely time. 

Then, 2 of the awesomest people in the world came to visit! SP and Lisa arrived in Beijing last Saturday, and I took off work and surprised them at their hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel wouldn't let me stay with them (even though there was plenty of room) since I didn't have my passport (I had dropped it off to get a visa for another trip), so I stayed with another friend. Saturday night was very laid back - we had dinner and wandered around Tiananmen Square and the local food and snack street and caught up and talked about how exciting it was that they were here. 

Sunday morning we journeyed to Jinshanling, an un-renovated part of the Great Wall of China. We walked up, climbed past 18 towers and thousands of stairs, took lots of pictures, and had an awesome day. The weather was great - a little hazy but mostly sunny and no rain. Since it was un-renovated, there were many parts that were sandy, pebbly, or otherwise in crumbles, which made the walk very interesting. But we survived, tired with minor blisters, but with great memories. We had a noodle dinner and off to bed. 

The next day we took the train to Tianjin, a smaller city 30 minutes outside of Beijing. My new boss had worked there for a year and given me a scoop of the cool things to do there, so we spent the day exploring. First, after lunch, we went to find the house of the last emperor of China. When we finally found it, it was closed for lunch, so we wandered, and SP and Lisa wrote some postcards at the local post office. Back at the emperor's house, we watched a biographical video of his life with English subtitles and saw a group of people filming a documentary, which was odd and unexpected but still neat. Then we went in search of the tall building to get a view of the city, as it was too cloudy to spend money to go on the Tianjin Eye (like the London Eye but built on a bridge in China). Instead of the hotel we were looking for, we arrived at the Tianjin Financial Center and took some pictures from halfway up that building. Then we backtracked and went to the Dabei Monastery (Compassion Temple). Some parts were under construction, but we did see a Buddhist service and a monk gave Lisa his bottle of water. Then we did some souvenir shopping on the Ancient Culture Street, picked up our bags and went to the train station to catch our train to Nanjing. 

Tuesday was pretty laid back. The weather was muggy. We slept in. I sent SP and Lisa to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum while I ran some errands, then we visited my center, and went to finish souvenir shopping and SP and Lisa went to the Confucius Temple. We had a nice dinner of Nanjingese food, went to KTV where Lisa serenaded us for an hour, and met up with my coworkers at a local bar. 

The next day was busier. We started our morning with a Chinese breakfast - pizza bread, sesame bun things, steamed dumplings, and Congee (rice porridge - not a big hit) - and then went to Xuanwu Lake where we went paddle boating for an hour. When we finished boating we walked around the lake to where we could get on the city wall (and SP gave us a tour of the mini-museum inside), and we walked along that until we reached Purple Mountain. We were going to climb to the top, but couldn't find the right direction but we wandered in the shade through the trees for an hour or so. We found a girl practicing the Pipa (Chinese Lute), and a monument to someone, and as soon as we left, it started to rain, so that was good timing. Then it was back to the apartment to pack and rest before Kungfu. One of my co-workers studies with a teacher who studied at Shaolin Temple (the place to study martial arts in China), so we tagged along for a free hour lesson. Great fun. Sadly, after the lesson, it was time to take SP and Lisa to the train station for their overnight train back to Beijing and their flight home. 

I can't wait to see them again soon!