Sunday, September 4, 2011

My China Trip--- Long Overdue..

Well it has been over a month since I arrived home from China. I figured it may be time to blog about it.  Since there are so many pictures and so much information, I am going to break this into 3 different sections (even doing this will not begin to show you all the pictures I have!):
  1. Beijing- We were in Beijing the first few days of the trip for more tourist type activities
  2. Chongqing-This will include all the information about our trip to Chongqing, including our teaching, and our dinners with the students.
  3. Weird China Culture things- There were so many interesting signs in China, I will include a few here

Although, many of you who helped me with this trip (and you know how you helped), will love to hear details. I don’t want to share too much publicly. I will not be sharing the name of the school, or personal information. Additionally, as much as I would want to, I do not feel comfortable sharing photos of the students we met. If you wish to know more, I will be happy to share with you over email.

Section 1: Beijing

Day 1 in Beijing) Beijing Arrival
We began our journey to China at 4:45am at the Houston International airport on Friday, July 15th. Our flights went from Houston to LA, from LA to San Francisco, then from San Francisco to Beijing. Due to an alarm clock incident, one of our teammates, Serey, almost didn’t make it to Beijing. However, we were able to get him on an alternate flight to San Francisco.

We arrived in China on Saturday afternoon, July 16th. When we arrived at the airport in Beijing, we went through customs. The line was long and disorganized, but it only took about 30 minutes to walk through. They had these interesting sensors that you walked through that would determine if you were running a fever. We got our bags, and changed the money. Next up, transportation...

Getting cabs to take us to the hotel was a challenge. Philip had to haggle with them constantly until they finally reduced the price. Once the price was settled, we were on our way. The hotel was definitely “interesting”. People were smoking in the lobby, the elevators, and the rooms. The shower did not have floor, only a drain in the floor with a curtain. It was definitely a cultural experience.

Here are some pictures of the city from the hotel room. That night we took cabs to Wangfujing street and ate wonderful dumplings for dinner. We fed 7 people for the equivalent of $35.

Day 2 in Beijing) Great Wall
We started by waking up early and eating energy bars for breakfast. It was a rough first morning since the beds were very hard and we all were suffering from jet lag. There wasn’t much anyone could do on the computers since everything was blocked except gmail. One of our students called it the “Great Firewall of China”. I just had to laugh at that term.

We had “team time” in the room everyday. Sometimes we sang songs acapella or with iTunes tracks. During this time, each of us also got a chance to share our “personal stories”.  We always spent time  “lifting things up” before starting the day.

This day we were taking a tour to the Great Wall. The tour bus/van driver was great! He picked us up at the hotel.  We were the only ones on the tour.  Our first stop was this place where they make Cloisonne. Cloisonne is made in different stages; we were able to see it being made. They start the process by gluing bronze pieces to another piece of bronze to make a specific design. Then they fill the bronze with a color stone mixture.  They bake it & buff it out to a shiny finish. We even found a Cloisonne Texas ornament!  They also had a Cloisonne store. I purchased an ornament, a pair of chopsticks, and a small bracelet.

During the drive to the great wall, the tour guide filled us with Chinese history; it was really amazing. After shopping, we stopped to eat at this place at the base of the wall.  It was a family owned restaurant, and the food was excellent. Then we began our tour of the Great Wall.....

We took the cable car up to the top on the Great Wall. The view was incredible. It was so difficult to pick pictures for this blog. It seems as if you cannot take a bad picture of the Great Wall. It was just fabulous! It was quite the hike up and down the wall. There were so many stairs and slopes. It was also super hot! But it was so worth it.

We met these cute little kids that wanted to take a picture with us!  They said “Good Day, welcome to Beijing!”

On the walk to the cable cars, some vendor was selling these Obama bags...haha (our communist leader)!!!

These were the toboggans that we rode on the way down the mountain. Philip turned around and got a picture of us. 

 (Ok, please note that I have like a MILLION pictures of the Great Wall....but I didn't want to put too many pictures on this blog... probably too late for that though!)

After the Great Wall, we went to a teahouse for an official Chinese tea ceremony. It was amazing. This was one of my favorite tourism events. We tried four different types of tea. We also learned about “pee pee boy”. This ceramic doll pees when you pour hot water on his head.

That night, we ate at a peking duck restaurant for dinner. They cut up the duck right at the table. Then you make these fajita-type things. They were good. They also had the duck head & tongue. Some of the team tried the tongue and brain...!!

Day 3 in Beijing) Shopping and Flight
This day started out fairly similar to the previous day. We had our team time. Afterwards, we took cabs to the Forbidden city. They had really done a lot of restoration to the buildings for the Olympics. Most of the building trim was repainted. Surrounding the Forbidden city were government buildings. We saw a lot of soldiers marching around this area.

After the tour, we visited the silk & pearl market. The cabs actually took us to the wrong shopping area at first. Since we didn’t know Chinese, we figured we would never get to the correct location. Thankfully, we found an official Apple store and were able to look up the location on an iPad. When we finally got to the correct location, we only had an hour to shop.

The market was overwhelming. Venders were constantly shouting “lady lady” and there were hundreds of pearls. The bargaining was crazy. Caron even got a pearl necklace and earrings for $20!!! I bought a cherry blossom painting for about $20 as well. I would love to go back there some day. It was so much to take in.  From there, we picked up our luggage at the hotel and headed for the airport... off to Chongqing!

We arrived at the airport,  and our flight had been delayed 2 hours. We ate a KFC and Flavor Tang (Chinese fast food). We finally boarded the flight, and safely arrived in Chongqing.


Section 2: Chongqing
Day 1 in Chongqing)
Our first day in Chongqing was mostly spent touring around the city. The plan was to tour during the day, and then go to the school to teach. Our classes were to be from 6-9pm. I say “were” because nothing ever goes exactly to plan, as we soon found out.

Our hotel in Jie Fang Bei was fabulous. They had free breakfast every morning as well. Chinese breakfast is interesting. There was such a variety of things to eat; most of the foods you would also find in a lunch or dinner meal, such as fried noodles, rice, etc. Although the food was good, I found myself eating toast with butter the last couple of days, just to clean myself of all the “fried”. The one thing that was amazing was the apple juice. It was literally the juice of apples and nothing else. It was great!!

After eating, we took cabs over to a shopping area called Ciqikou. It was definitely fun!

See all those buildings? Those are NEW condo/apartment buildings. These buildings are so close together. Over a million people can live within a few blocks of each other.

Philip also found a great coffee shop! We had a great lunch (fish head and all). We all shopped a lot. I bought a lot of Chinese art.

Then, we returned to teach. Sadly, due to lost emails, the school did not know we were planning on teaching that night. The first night we could teach was Thursday. Therefore, we could only teach 3 of the 5 days planned. We met up with some friends we met last year. It was a great time to catch up.

Day 2 in Chongqing)
This day we spent in Shapingba (a district of Chongqing).  We spent some time with some like-minded friends. We went to lunch at this awesome place where they make la mein (basically hand pulled noodles). See the video below… it will blow your mind! This was the best meal of the trip!.

Days 3-5 in Chongqing)
The next couple days honestly blurred together. We ate at multiple places and hung out with so many students. Below are some photos of our activities. As mentioned above, I have not included any recognizable pictures of the students (for their safety). I am not going to write much about these days due to the public nature of a blog. However, feel free to email me and I will share.

Our last day, we went to lunch at this hot-pot place.  It was one of the most interesting places to eat. It is basically like fondue, but with meat strips and chopsticks. The weird part was that they brought out raw shrimp on skewers, and by raw, I mean still alive. You basically boiled them alive. A massacre of shrimp occurred here.

After eating, we went bowling with the students. It was super fun. It is amazing how bowling is an international sport. After bowling, we taught our lessons at the school and went out to dinner one last time. The next day we went to the airport super early, and flew back to the US.

Two of the students that we spoke with even came to the airport with “books”… they had enjoyed meeting us and wanted to be their right up until we had to go through security...We still keep in contact with many of the students we met. 

One thing that interested me: I hope to go again next year. J I was stunned at how much of a heart I have for China. Honestly, I never could see myself as living internationally to “teach” full time… however, after this trip I definitely could. I have even been to Paris, and I NEVER could see myself living there… but China… I could. Although I can see myself doing it, I don’t feel a calling to (mainly because of my health). However, I am no longer completely closed to the idea (which I am assume was part of the Father’s purpose in sending me).

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