Monday, October 21, 2013

Paddy Murphy, Mustang Sally, and a Wagon Wheel.

Sometimes you just need a little taste of good ol', hometown, country fun! However, that is hard to come by when you are living in Beijing, China. I mean, not many local people here can tell me what a "hick" is or what a "barn dance" is. I usually get a good head tilt to the side and a "ShĂ©nme? (What?)". I'm not gonna lie - I miss those times where I say something and someone replies "Oh, you are most definitely from Carleton County." It's always going to be a part of me. Home. 

This past Friday (October 18th) my friend Craig, who is an intern at BCCSC, was singing with a band at a bar called the "Hot Cat Club" in the Fangjia Hutongs. When he explained what kind of a set list they would be playing, I was easily convinced that this was the place I needed to be on that Friday. So off Erin, Brittany, and I went on a search for this little "hole in the wall" I guess you could call it. It's not the fanciest bar, and it is definitely worn out in some areas (like the squatters...I leave that to your own imagination). However, the atmosphere was perfect. Absolutely perfect! 

How can you go wrong when you mix a small bar filled with Canadians, an ice cold beer, plaid shirts, a few french men, an acoustic guitar, a fiddle, and amazing live music featuring tunes like "Wonderwall" "Wagon Wheel" "Chicken Fried" and "Paddy Murphy." Mind you, I was slightly disappointed that the three of us girls seemed to be the only Canadians who knew the song "Paddy Murphy." Guess it's just an East Coast thing maybe? 

I danced, I laughed, I sang at the top of my lungs. And I smiled like a little goof ball the whole way home. My heart swelled. For just a couple of hours I forgot where I was and genuinely felt like I was home again. It's always good to be home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Are You Thankful For?

Yes, I realize this is a day late. I'll just go ahead and point that out now and get it over with. So, today I taught my students about Canadian Thanksgiving. On Monday, I told them about how I got up early to Skype with my family back home while they enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. Today, I taught them some new vocabulary surrounding the holiday and we talked a lot about what it means to be thankful. I told them that I am thankful for four things this year. This is what I said to them: 

"I am thankful for four things this year. I am thankful for my family back home in Canada because they always love me. I am thankful for my friends because they always make me laugh. I am thankful for the opportunity to come to China because I have always wanted to see another part of the world. And I am thankful for my amazing students because they make me love my job as a teacher!" They clapped and said that what I said made them very happy! I smiled.

Afterwords, I had them write in their journals answering the question "What are you thankful for?" You know what touched me most about their answers - that every single one of them, all 23 students in that class today, wrote that they were thankful for their parents and families!

"I am thankful for my parents...They gave me a chance to live in this world and I love them very much." - N

"I am thankful for my family because they give me warm and love." - A 

"I am thankful for that I can go to BCCSC, because it makes me confident and happy." - T

"I am thankful to be living in this magnificent world because there are many great things in the world that are waiting for me to discover." - J

"I am thankful for Melissa because she inspires* my passion for English (and I love games!)" - K

I love my job! 

*A little background story: In my fourth year at STU I purchased my T-Ring and had the word "inspire" engraved on the inside of it. I wear this ring every day. As a teacher, I hope that I can inspire even just one student to strive to do better, to follow their dreams, and to be the best them they can possible be. There is one teacher in my public school days that did just that for me. Mrs. Kelley - thank you!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My First "Staycation" in China.

Last week was National Holiday here in China. This is a week long holiday in China where everyone and their sister are on vacation and are doing the "tourist thing." Hundreds (and I'm sure that is an understatement) of people swarmed to hot spots like Beijing to take in the sights and get away for a week. Check THIS out. After weighing out different options, many of us teachers here decided to stay in Beijing and make it a "staycation" vacation. I have been living in Beijing for 6 weeks now and prior to the National Holiday it had been a solid month. I was itching to finally see the city I was living in and will be living in for the next 10 months or more. There is so much history packed in to this enormous city and many scenic areas to take in. My agenda for the week didn't take long to fill up. On the menu: Tiananmen Square, National Museum, Nanluoguxiang Hutongs, Houhai Lake, Wangfujing Street, Forbidden City, Beihai Park, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, and Olympic Park where the Bird's Nest and Water Cube are from the 2008 Olympic Games. How does that saying go? "Places to go, people to see, things to do!" 

Soooo, maybe I over thought the amount of time I had during the week long break. And maybe I didn't take in to consideration that others would be on vacation too and that the population of Beijing would grow exponentially for one week. Oopsie! Yeah, so, I didn't get to do everything on my list for the week but I was reminded that I am living here for a year or more and have LOTS of time to see things. Lots of time! 

The Great Hall of the People at Tiananmen Square.

Proof that I stood in Tiananmen Square.

But what I did see was magnificent! Just amazing. Guys, I was at Tiananmen Square! The history, the stories, the things that took place. And I was there! My friend Amanda can vouch for me on this one: I remember having a conversation with her sometime in the spring after she went to visit Tiananmen Square herself. I said very strongly to her (ALERT: family & friends - sorry for the bad language) "DUDE! You were at fucking Tiananmen Square. That's a big deal!" Yup, that's pretty much how I felt as I stood in the square looking around at the Great Hall of the People, Chariman Mao's tomb, and the Chinese flag waving in the wind high above the activity. 

Similar feelings were present when I went to visit Summer Palace and Forbidden City. The architecture at these places is just phenomenal, and the colours are gorgeous. The numerous amounts of people I could have easily done without, but I tried my hardest not to let them drive me too crazy. Shoulder to shoulder people trekking on walkways around a lake that isn't more than 2-3 feet wide saw my anxiety levels rise. Nevertheless, I took it all in (or as much of it as I could or had time for!) 

Standing in front of the Imperial Ancestral Temple at Forbidden City.

A beautiful view of "The Temple of the Fragrant Buddha."
I had my name painted by a Chinese artist at Summer Palace where each letter of my name is a drawing representing different Chinese fortunes. I took a boat ride around Kunming Lake at Summer Palace where I saw a huge inflatable rubber duck and got a beautiful view of "The Temple of the Fragrant Buddha."

I saw pieces of art at Forbidden City in one of the buildings that had been changed in to an art gallery. I saw three different couples getting their wedding pictures taken around the outside of the "Imperial Ancestral Temple" at Forbidden City. I climbed up the side of a mountain at Summer Palace in my Toms. It was all amazing! And I still pinch myself today in disbelief that I'm really here. That I am finally traveling and doing the things I've always imagined I could do.  

We even spent a day at the Beijing Zoo. My friends who know me the best know that I LOVE a good zoo. And this zoo made me extra excited because it has pandas at it. Before going to the Beijing Zoo I had never seen a panda in real life. I know that it's in an enclosure and that they aren't wild or anything, but what are the chances I'd EVER see a panda out in the wild here in Asia. Pretty slim if you ask me! And they were adorable! The first enclosure we went to the panda wasn't home. Which made Brittany, Erin, and I quite upset (see below). 

But as we moved on we saw a crowd gathering in front of another enclosure, and there he was. The most adorable, regal, and calm panda bear sauntering around his enclosure. He was beautiful, and I fell in love instantly. The Beijing Zoo is an enormous place! We didn't get to see it in it's entirety, but we did see all of our favourite animals. Tigers (my personal favourite), elephants, dolphins, polar bears, lemurs, lions, and so many more. The zoo is well kept and is very green! I'll be making another visit sometime during my stay in Beijing. 

Remember watching the Olympics in the summer of 2008? I do! They were in Beijing and as I feel about all Olympic games, they were epic! So, when Brittany expressed in extreme interest in going to see the Olympic park where the Bird's Nest and Water Cube are, I was totally on board! One common theme I am running in to here in Beijing is the gorgeous and unique architecture. And that's just how I'll describe these buildings where the Olympics took place. The Bird's Nest building where the track and field is, and where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies took place is unlike any other building I have ever seen. Clearly they named it the Bird's Nest for a reason - because it looks just like that. It looks like sticks and twigs (or in this case, pieces of metal) woven together like a nest. It is a very open concept, and you can see through the intersections of the metal. And the Water Cube is just as interesting! The outside of the building has a very liquified and bubbly look about it. I know that this building in particular has a whole new look about it at night as it lights up several shades of blue. This is something I will also be returning to see during my stay in Beijing!

Standing outside the Bird's Nest at Olympic Park.

Looking through the Bird's Nest to the Water Cube (and smog!).
So, I didn't get to Beihai Park or to the National Museum. I didn't get to eat something funky on a stick at Wangfujing Street. BUT! I did get to see everything else on my list during my "staycation." And, I'm living here for a year or more. There is lots of time. By Thursday afternoon, we all agreed that we needed to slow down and do some relaxing. And we did just that! I feel like I'm just rambling in this post and that my thoughts are spewed all over the page! Maybe I should have blogged each night to keep my thoughts organized and concise. Oh well! I know I'm forgetting some things, and there are specific moments during my vacation that I'll remember forever. But I have the pictures, I have the memories, and I have this blog! There is no way I'm going to forget my first "staycation" vacation in Beijing! 

The group before climbing up to the "Temple of the Fragrant Buddha"

Taking a boat ride on Houhai Lake at night.

Outside Forbidden City.

The Temple of the Fragrant Buddha at Summer Palace.

The view of Beijing and Kunming Lake from the Temple at Summer Palace.