Tag Archives: Shanghai

Beijing Trip Part 3: The Great Wall, A Trip to Heaven and Oh Yeah Some Animal Slaughter

18 Mar

No trip to Beijing would be complete without a day-trip to the Great Wall. You heard me: it’s a clean 3-hour bus ride there, in the best of times. I was really lucky because I got to see the reconstructed wall, complete with handrail (you know, for the Mongolian invaders who were differently abled) as well as the epic, crumbling old Wall. Contrary to popular misconception, the Great Wall mostly dates from the Ming period. It’s also not visible from space. There’s also no Santa Claus. But there are probably hundreds of skeletons within the foundations and environs of the Great Wall, because of all the workers who died building it. Cheery, no?

This enterprising lady sold me a t-shirt, and promptly invited me in for tea! She had no idea who I was, and she didn’t speak a word of English, but she made sure I felt darn welcome in Beijing. I’ll never forget her hospitality. 🙂

That’s Tiantan–the Temple of Heaven. Actually literally it’s the “altar” of heaven, I believe. Translation is a tricky thing. This is the same park/temple complex that had “pavilion of animal slaughtering,” at one end. Not animal killing, or execution. Slaughter. Doesn’t that make you feel all Zen? Wait no, that’s more a Japanese branch of Buddhism. But “feeling all Dao,” or “feeling all Taoist” doesn’t really have quite the same ring in English…

Just give me a few years more Chinese language study, and I’ll be all like, “Hold on guys, let me go get my I Ching on.”

Roof detail from the Temple of Heaven. China does roofs differently from the West, but it does them well.

Overall I actually enjoyed Beijing way more than Shanghai (don’t tell my Shanghainese friends!). Shanghai seemed very much about shopping and clubbing and status, whereas in Beijing I saw way more people just chilling and playing majong in the street. Suits were older but well taken care of.  There was more history. Plus I sort of just like wheat in my food.

Next post: Hangzhou, the Paris of the East (heavy on the Haussman)


Teaching English in China with CIEE

7 Mar

CIEE sent us to some cool events, including an acrobatics show (above). See that big hollow metal ball? They rode MOTORCYCLES in it. Like, straight up. Well not straight…you know what I mean.

Overall CIEE was a pretty decent placement agency. I wound up with a workweek of around 8 hours/week, paid the equivalent of $6,000 for the whole year, which was enough to live pretty large in that area. Plus, when I was stranded in the Middle of @#$king nowhere, Yunnan Province (a very scenic area), the lead Shanghai staffperson totally wired me $50 to get my sorry butt back to civilization (also known as Kunming).

That said, they did technically place me in an “extralegal” position. You know, like every teaching position in Changsha.  I didn’t figure this out until about 7 months in; apparently you are technically supposed to have two years post-graduation work experience before teaching English ANYWHERE in China, for visa reasons I guess. Except…nobody with two years experience is going to accept a position in Changsha! They’re going for Beijing or Shanghai or someplace else with milkshakes and peanut butter on every corner. So the one year they enforced this rule, Changsha had no English teachers.

That’s mainland China for you–existing on the creative side of the law.

China the Indescribable

6 Mar


This is a scholar’s desk at the museum of Old Shanghai at the Xintiandi shopping mall in–you guessed it, downtown Shanghai. Nearby was a Haagen-dazs that served the most ornate ice cream plates I’ve ever seen. (I spent the rest of that day wondering if Haagen-dazs was secretly a restaurant in America, too. It isn’t.)

Last year, for those of you who don’t know, I spent 10 months (September through June) living in China. I did orientation in Shanghai (no orientation jokes, please…ha, ha), then I was placed by CIEE in Changsha, Hunan Province. Described by neighboring Chinese provinces as a city with “Nothing to do, nothing to see, and nothing to eat,” it wasn’t…the best place to be for a year of my life. But I made some awesome friends.


(Guess which one I am?)


The above were my students. Yep, that’s right–they were 18 and 19-year-old college students! Right after I’d graduated, myself…it was very intimidating teaching a group of such intelligent young women and men, but they were gentle with me. 😉

Plus these excellent non-student friends:


The above are: my tutor xiao Sarah, my China mentor lao Sarah, my fellow writer CJ, me, Hong Kong friend Dora, random baker friend Ede, and my sitemate Faye.

I’m really starting to miss these folks. My current coping mechanism is Chinese class…which doesn’t work very well because Chinese is really hard, despite the fact that I spent a year immersed in it. I started Nine Circles in that city, and I have been terrible at keeping up with my students. It’s extra hard since Facebook is blocked there. But I miss them all…

Happy Spring Festival, y’all, on the off-chance wordpress.com isn’t blocked! ❤