A Travellerspoint blog

Chinese school and a cheeky photo of me and Mish

sunny 24 °C

Chinese school days are looooong!

The kids start at 7:10 and don't finish until 9pm!

Today I had a morning session and I have an afternoon and evening session! Luckily for me there is a 3-4 hour gap between each so I can come back to the apartment and nap!

I had my first evening session with them last night and hadn't done anything work with them previously so had nothing to go over, so essentially, we played games for 2 hours...!

Best. Teacher. Ever!

Started the morning session today with a ball game as half the kids were asleep - they were confused at first then excited to be playing a game before class!
Then I hit them with the Past Simple.
Boosh.

It's annoying though, because there are triers and achievers in my class.
The triers answer questions, incorrectly most of the time, but they still try and the achievers do the written work but then there's a smaller group of students who just aren't at the same level because they just aren't. It's not their fault; they are simply not as advanced as the others.

But having marked the work they did this morning, I can see a lot more attention is needed before we can move on to the next thing.

We shall see what this afternoon brings!

Anyway, as requested by my Yiayia - here is a picture of me and Mish at the Great Wall :)

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Posted by Lady Mantle 19:52 Archived in China Tagged students teaching lessons tefl chinese_school Comments (2)

Arrival at new home, Chinese school and new friends

sunny 25 °C

So I have finally arrived in Xinxiang!

Been super busy so haven't had time to update anything on here yet!

It's currently 00:19 and I don't have school tomorrow so don't need to worry about getting up early, which is nice.

I can't really sleep anyway as I'm still sick and the beds are so hard it's like sleeping on a park bench! :(
I think the aircon, the air pollution, and just the fact that everything is so dusty here, really isn't help me get any better, but just have to carry on!

The apartment is great, big living room and spacious kitchen - will upload pics when I take them!
We've got good sized rooms and a spare room for any crap we have no where to put!
I've emptied my suitcase and done my washing and I even managed to put the TV menu into English so wins all round!
We (Michelle and I!) live opposite the other English guys on the 5th floor of our apartment block.
From the outside it looks horrendous and the stairwell is dusty as sin, but inside everything is peachy.
At least it is now, as Michelle and I went to the supermarket and bought cleaning products and went to town on this place!
The guys say it smells clean and girly, which I hope and presume is a good thing!
It inspired them to tidy their own places so I guess it must be good!

We've got a massive sofa and a 42 inch flatscreen TV so movie nights tend to happen a lot - today after Michelle's class we snuggled up on the sofa under a blanket and watched Monster's Inc. with Ricky, one of the other English teachers and another homo to add to my ever expanding collection!

Still haven't met the class yet as Michelle and I are splitting them at the minute and she's has them for the first half of the week and I have them for the second half :)

We've been hard at the books today though, planning lessons and schedules for the students, just need to get everything down on paper and put some work sheets together - they're not the brightest bunch so everything is pretty simple at this point, it's just the case of trying to get some kind of structure together.

We were judges at the talent contest put on by the students this evening, and Ricky even got coersed into getting up in front of everyone to perform the dance to Gangnam Style! It was priceless and luckily Matt filmed it on his phone so we have a treasured memory of the moment for the future!

Everything is just a bit bare in here at the minute so need to put some personal homeliness into the place but it's already feeling very much like home and we have our multitude of overpriced tea on the now clean counter by the kettle!

Lesson planning tomorrow then another movie afternoon with Michelle when she gets back from school!

Ahh the life of foreign teachers who only have 10 hours teaching time a week at the minute!

When there's more to tell, you'll be the first to know!

Night all xxx

Posted by Lady Mantle 09:18 Archived in China Tagged work school chinese_students teachers foreigners tefl Comments (3)

The Forbidden City and the Great Wall...

sunny 25 °C

Today was our second excursion around China and we started off in the main town around the corner from us to look at the Forbidden City.

It is HUGE! It genuinely is a city inside the city. There is some beautiful architecture and statues and the rooftops have such intricate detail on them that signifies different things. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable and patient with us when we needed to stop for some unplanned breakfast and just generally wandering off to look at stuff close-up!

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  • So after walking around the beautiful garden and outside of all the different buildings inside the city, we then headed out towards the Great Wall.

We stopped at a Silk Factory and saw how the silk quilts and gorgeous duvet covers are made right from the silk worm life cycle up to the actual production itself - it was really educational, and obviously then lead to a selling environment. The quilts were amazing and soft but without knowing the size of my bed at school, I didn't really want to buy anything, which was a shame as some of the covers were stunning. So instead I bought a little silk coin purse as I've been using a pocket in my bag so far which is getting a tad annoying!

After the Silk Factory we moved on, further towards the Wall, only to stop at a Jade manufacturer - granted they had some lovely pieces, but not being a massive Jade fan, I wasn't won over by the whole experience. However, this was also where we had lunch! Typical Chinese lunch, the same as the tour yesterday, but a bit nicer today. Instead of sharing the tour with 2 Australians, we had the genuine delight of a middle-aged German couple who kept buying us drinks!

We moved on from lunch to the Great Wall and finally arrived. Holy hell, that was a lot of steps!

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Advice to anyone going to the Great Wall:

  • take a good pair of shoes as the steps can be quite slippery and worn down and you can't always rely on the handrail.
  • old Chinese people will overtake you with such finesse and speed, it can be quite disheartening!
  • do some stretches before you embark on the incline as your legs give out half way, even against your will.
  • take bug spray, or apply bug repellent as they are hundreds of midgies and flying things that kept nose-diving into my cleavage and hair!
  • take it slow, if you thinking going up fast will help, it definitely doesn't and you want to die a lot faster than if you just take your time and half little stops every 10 or 20 steps.
  • of course, this advice may only be applicable to unfit, overweight individuals, such as myself!

But hey, I still did it, and here's proof:

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In your face Great Wall!

Plus I definitely left my mark for anyone else that may happen upon the same bit of wall I did:

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And of course, the Duck made an appearance at the Wall, how could he not!?

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Also saw these guys just chilling out with some Chinese Checkers!

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So tomorrow we leave for the school and a new adventure begins!
I'm still super sick, but the Chinese keep plying me with medicine and tea so hopefully I'll be feeling a bit better before school starts on Monday!
I'll update this with information about my apartment and put some pictures up, but probably not until Sunday as our train isn't until 17:41 and it takes at least 4 hours so I will be hanging on by a thread tomorrow night!

  • I really hope I can still walk tomorrow, I feel ok right now, but those steps really put a cross-trainer to shame!

Posted by Lady Mantle 06:51 Archived in China Tagged insects great_wall forbidden_city cold silk jade chinese_medicine chinese_games Comments (4)

Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Pandas and a Tea Ceremony...

sunny 25 °C

Today was day one of our two-day excursions to end our week here in Beijing.

We were disappointed at first as the Pandas we were so excited to go and see were the ones we saw at the zoo on Tuesday.

  1. sadpanda.

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However, I discovered the evil monkey from before isn't evil, he's racist - in so much as he only attacks white girls. Mainly me.
We passed his enclosure on the way to the Pandas and he saw me from across the other side and actually took a run-up towards me and threw himself at the glass - when that much monkey is hurling itself towards you, you genuinely doubt the effectiveness of the glass!

So yeah, same Pandas, no reserve = not very happy so far.

We did a bit of shopping, no more than 10 minutes, in this cute little street with tiny shops that had amazing jewellery, and I am now the owner of this:

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So yeah, I'm pretty gangster now by Chinese standards...! :P

Then we moved on to the Summer Palace...

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I think it would be better going there on your own/with whoever you're in China with as the tour itself, although interesting and informative, didn't allow much time for personal exploration, i.e. there were people climbing the mass of steps up to the palace itself and we weren't able to do so due to time constraints for other activities.
Michelle and I have weekends off from school so we're thinking we may come back to Beijing to do the Summer Palace properly when it isn't a Chinese holiday and there aren't hundreds of people milling about where you're trying to walk!

Then we got taken to this pearl place that basically manufactures natural fresh water pearls, like the water at the Summer Palace - they basically take an oyster/clam/some kind of shellfish(!) and cut out the membrane really carefully, then they cut the membrane into tiny squares and put them back into the shell which the fish naturally rejects but by doing so it secretes something that builds on the membrane and the end result is basically a living shellfish that when you cut it open, instead of having 1 maybe 2 pearls, it has between 20-30 and depending on which minerals it has come into contact with in the water, determines the colour of the pearl.
It was pretty interesting but then you had the whole "come upstairs and look at our fine jewellery..." bit - so to be polite we went and did the window-shopper thing then went and used the toilets (western ones!!) and left for lunch.

We had some weird ass Chinese food for lunch as part of the tour in this out of the way restaurant - it was me and Michelle (my housemate) and two Australian Chinese girls who were on the tour with us.
To say it was odd would be an understatement, the girls were lovely but the whole tour felt a bit odd!

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We then went to this really cute little tea house called Dr. Tea and we were shown different types of tea and told about their medicinal qualities which appealed to me as there is specific tea to help with colds and coughs! (Winning!) we got to try them all as part of a proper tea ceremony in tiny cups for tasting and how to drink it and the correct way to hold it etc and we learnt about why some tea is more expensive than others etc... we then spent, what we now realise, was an extortionate amount of money on said tea but we got cute tea cups with strainers in them and little pee-pee boys who pee when the water is the right temperature to make good tea, but they don't pee when it's too cold, and the women were nice and we got a great bag and we wanted good tea for the apartment and.... we got ripped off basically! We got back to town and realised we'd paid at least double what we needed to have paid but whatever, it was all good.

After the tea house we went to the Lama Temple..... Wow.

That place is stunning and simple all at the same time. There were people praying with incense, there were Buddhist Monks walking around, people were throwing coins into really old sculptures for good luck and the statues were absolutely stunning.

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We learnt all about why there are different types of Buddha and what each individual one symbolises. I had a few silent words with the Buddha of Health and Well-being (obviously) and then we asked to be dropped off at the Wang Fu Jing Market where we found these little critters:

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The small scorpions were still alive and kept wiggling around - it was really unpleasant - the other bugs, starfish and seahorses were definitely no longer with us! The whole birds looked a bit too much as well! As brave as Michelle and I are, that just wasn't going to happen!

Everything here is served on a stick! Except the dumplings, which Mish and I are a little addicted to!

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Tianamen Square, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City tomorrow then off to my new home Saturday and starting my new career Monday!
Exciting times!!

Posted by Lady Mantle 04:32 Archived in China Tagged pandas peacock jewellery lama_temple summer_palace wang_fu_jing_food_market eating_bugs chinese_tea evil_monkey Comments (2)

Train Stations, the Zoo, old China town and a stupid cold!

sunny 27 °C

Today has been long but eventful! Prepare yourself, this is going to be a long one!

I got the subway (again - I'm a pro now!) to meet up with Mish and we headed to Beijing North Train Station to get my ticket to go to the school on Saturday in XinXiang.

This would be fine accept we got out of the subway and couldn't find the main train station, so we're stood there looking at a map when a friendly Chinese face pops over the map and says, with a slightly American twang "You guys need some help?" - THANK GOODNESS!

So she directs us to the train station and advises us that we need to actually get there which is daunting as there is an assortment of highways twisting and looping about themselves right between us and the train station. I almost wanted us to be in a movie and as the camera pans out to show the mass of road we needed to cross there would be a kind of "duh, duh, duuuuuuuuh!" musical moment as our task was laid before us!

However, we eventually found an underground root which cut out the overpass completely - very useful!

The next 2 hours were border line psychotic...!

We waited in not one, not two, but four queues, upstairs, downstairs, outside, inside, everywhere, only to end up at the same window we started at, frazzled and confused and no further in our quest to get me a train ticket.
I noticed a Chinese girl in front of us, probably no older than 15, maybe 16 who had hand written English on her backpack - I tapped her on the shoulder, refusing to be beaten by a sodding train station and showed her a simple message I had translated on my phone simply saying, in Chinese, "Do you speak English?".
By some glory of Darwin, she replied, "Yes, a little" - we showed her Mish's ticket and explained, as simply as possible and with a lot of non-verbal communication (AKA, a lot of hand motions and raised eyebrows) that we needed another ticket, like hers only for me, but it needed to be the same day, same time, same train!
A few quick words of Chinese later, my passport and the equivalent of £18, I had my ticket for the 5 hour train journey to the school and mine and Mish's home for the next year.

It's now 1pm.

We go to the subway to head back into town, then decide to go the zoo as it's the next stop on the subway anyway.
The Beijing Zoo subway stop was between where we were and the National Library. However, the Beijing Zoo subway stop was out of service, so we ended up on the other side of it at the National Library - we then walked. And walked. And walked some more. Found a park with an elaborate entrance, but no zoo.
We showed a passer-by the map and pointed to the zoo, they directed us around the corner; we walked some more.
Eventually, after several offers of Rikshaw rides and some of the most pungent street foods ever created, we found the zoo!
Yay!
So for what was essentially £13 we got a ticket for the main zoo, the Panda enclosure and the aquarium.
Beijing Zoo is bloody enormous.
They had lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) and a giraffe and birds and eagles and reptiles, you name it, they had it.
They also had this little guy:
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I hand-fed him bamboo and when I noticed there wasn't any water for him, at all, I took out my bottle of water and covered the bamboo leaves with water, next thing I know there is a huge trunk snuffling it's way towards me, and in one curl of its muscular nose, the wet bamboo was swept straight out of my hand!
Then he starts sniffing around the bottle, so I pour some water into my hand, and there he goes again, sucking up the water through his nose with a force that can give a Dyson a run for it's money on suction power.
Well needless to say, that entire water bottle went to that little guy and then everyone around me started joining in - there were people with their hands thrust through the gate pouring water, tea, anything they had on them onto the floor and the leaves and apparently elephants like Starbucks.... but they don't very much enjoy eating the cups!

My good deed done for the day helping the animals, we ventured into the Aquarium.
Oh. My. Jeeves.
Best Aquarium ever. The zoo was ok, about from some of the animals were clearly distressed and were beating their heads against their enclosures which was really upsetting. But the aquarium. Wowzers.
We were greeted by the obvious choice for a Chinese Zoo:
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Koi fish!
We then walked across a little bridge over the Koi pond to find this beast!
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Holy Hell-Fish, Batman!

We continue on through the aquarium and find these exquisite Jellyfish, dancing through the water (safely behind a thick wall of glass!)
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Then we moved on to these:
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Back in the zoo, and this angry little fella LAUNCHED himself at me:
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Almost embarrassed myself in public - luckily, I'd used the toilet in the aquarium!
I say toilet....:
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Yep - that's the toilet, a hole in the floor with foot grips so you don't fall in your own wee!

Then we went to see the Pandas!
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When we couldn't walk around the zoo anymore, we got a taxi back to Mish's hostel so she could change her shoes that had begun eating into her feet :( then headed to the older part of town that has the best food and shops!
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After gorging on some amazing dumplings and undisclosed meat on a stick:
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we met these guys: IMG_2253.jpg then ended the evening ordering bottles of booze through Mr. Wong, a wholesaler who spoke brilliant English and discussed our futures here in China whilst his colleague whipped me up a hot tea with honey and lemon for my increasingly annoying cold and apparent cough now as well.
Walked Mish to her hostel then on my way back to the subway to head home I noticed a Chinese Medicine store and popped in to see if there was anything I recognised to help with fix my broken body.
The woman behind the counter had a book with symptoms written in Chinese and English - I pointed out cough and sore throat and she put some elixirs and potions on the counter:
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Best stuff I've ever bought, within an hour the cough syrup had sorted me right out!

I think that will do, don't you!?

  • Sleeps*

Posted by Lady Mantle 08:18 Archived in China Tagged trains chinese_food subways language_barrier questionable_meat beijing_zoo Comments (5)

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