Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zhuhai and #tbt

Last Saturday we (my group + the Changsha group) took a trip to a city called Zhuhai. We wanted to go to the beach there, so we purchased our bus ticket (less than $5!) and got ready for a day in the sun!

Upon arriving, we walked out of the bus station and asked which direction the beach was, and after a little bit of walking came upon it and found big rocks, no sand, and dirty water. Out in the distance you could see some sort of industrial equipment. Not exactly a picturesque place to relax. ;) We knew that there was a more popular area of the beach a little ways away, so we flagged down a taxi and pointed at a picture of where we wanted to go.

A few minutes later we were at a different area of the beach, where a big mermaid statue is set out in the water. There's tons of Chinese people taking photos there, and let me tell you...the number of times we posed for pictures were not few.

The beach was dirty, and not exactly what we expected, but it was still nice to relax on the sand. We also went across the street and walked a nice park where there was street musicians, paddleboats, wedding photos being taken, and a small amusement park. After a few hours at the beach and park, we got a taxi and pointed at a picture of where we wanted to go (back to the bus station.) I think it's awesome that we pointed at a measly photo and somehow end up at our planned destination.

We had real authentic dinner at KFC, then afterwards half our group decided to leave back to Zhongshan (including me) and half of the group decided to stay for a bit longer to do some shopping. We hadn't purchased our bus tickets back home, and we didn't exactly know where the ticket counter was inside the bus station, so I was a bit more on the eager side to do that early on. After running circles in the huge bus/railway station, we finally found the right ticket counter, bought our tickets, and it was smooth sailing home from that point on.

For the other girls, not so much. We were all under the impression that the buses ran until 10:10pm, but apparently not, and they missed all the buses home. So the next option for them was to take a train but only my girls had their passports on them, so three of them took the train, and two ended up having to stay the night in Zhuhai! Needless to say, I was very glad when everyone was safe and sound at home. :)

Two important travel tips: 1. Always be early to the bus/train station. 2. Always bring your passport when traveling outside your city.

Kelita and I
Also! #tbt (Throw-back-Thursday)
I believe this selfie was taken August 28, a day
after I arrived in St Pete's

I never knew that a year later from that day I'd be in Asia! Wonder where I'll end up in another year?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Sun Yatsen Park, the market, and family photos

Across the street from our kindergarten, there is a really cool looking area with lots of stairs and a statue. We decided to finally pay a visit and check the place out, and were pleasantly surprised that it was actually quite a large park! The Sun Yatsen park, named after a revolutionary Chinese leader.

It was our luck to have it start raining right as we entered the park, but nonetheless we enjoyed being able to explore this beautiful area. First we climbed up a bunch of stairs and walked around the huge statue of Dr. Sun Yatsen. Then we walked through a big grassy area, and climbed more stairs to really cool paths intertwined with lots of trees. It was adventure-time and we walked thru some small "caves" and then we climbed to a pagoda. :) Here, of course, are some pics!

Entering the park

Looking up

View of the city

Allie heading towards the grassy area


Exploring the jungle

The pagoda

Our group!
After seeing this park, we hopped on the bus and went to a market. On normal days it's just a regular market, but on "lunar" days it turns into the Lunar Market (a.k.a., a little more spectacular.) When we went it wasn't a lunar day--we just wanted to check it out, and know exactly what it is/how to get there.
It was an interesting place with lots of vendors and tent-shops. You could buy anything from rugs, to pots, to clothing. We passed by one place that had turtles and exotic fish that I've never seen before. Another place had birds.....birds, birds, birds, everywhere (it smelled great.) Then we passed by one alley which stuck out in a peculiar way. Let's call it, "Meat alley."
-- graphic content;) --

It was probably one of the most unsanitary places I've ever been. There were long tables of people chopping up meat. Above dangling warehouse-style lights, a guy pulled a big fish out of a tank and chopped it up right in front of you. I stood there watching the fish's heart still pumping, as its head sat a few feet away. Look to the other side and you'll see a woman skinning a duck, bowls of blood at her side. There was a wall of chickens locked up in cages, awaiting their turn. Fish, ducks, chickens, cow, pig...all of it available for purchase, and fresh too!

When we talked with our coordinator Brina about this, she was kind of shocked and thought it was gross! Maybe "meat alley" is more unique than we originally thought, a.k.a, not all meat is prepared this way in China. We can only hope!

On a happier note, we finally got around to buying supplies for our pet goldfish, Space Cowboy. When we went to the Guangzhou zoo, Allie went fishing for goldfish. We came home with about 9 and during the space of two days all but one, shockingly, survived...Space Cowboy, the miracle fish. For the past two weeks, he's been living in a small, empty tank and surviving on the only thing we could find for him to eat: spinach and zucchini slices. Finally we were able to find a place that sold fish supplies. Allie and I bought him brightly colored rocks, three plastic plants, and some real fish food! He is now living a life of luxury---a life he's never known.

On another good note, our group decided that we want to do "family" photos every month on the 15th (since we left for China on July 15.) If any of you are familiar with "awkward family photos", we have made that a goal to be a reoccurring theme. This month, our style was 90's jean fashion and 70's split-down-the-middle hair. We had fun dressing up and posing. :) Below is my favorite snapshot.

Shiqi family, August 2014
Hope everyone is doing well! Can't believe it's almost September.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life as of late

Life as of late:

After our trip in Yangshuo, we hopped right back into teaching! Classes have been going well and my teachers have been improving. We will be adding seven more girls to our group in a few weeks, on August 28. My hands will be full then, since I will have to work through "training month" with a whole new batch of newbies!

Last weekend was a pretty lazy one. We watched movies, played games (Scum & Charades, to be exact), and enjoyed the lovely A/C in our apartment. But do not let this fool you--we also like to get out and explore! Yesterday we decided to hop on random buses and see where they take us. The first bus took us to an area we've never seen before, then we took another bus that has a route close to Walking Street. We hopped off and discovered a cool museum to go to, as well as stumbled upon a Buddhist temple. At first we didn't know what it was...we just started climbing stairs and it looked like a neat area with gardens and big trees. Then we heard chanting and we knew that it must be a religious place.

A gate that led to the temple was closed, but then three women walked thru and left it open, so of course what do I do? Go peek. :) It was an enclosed area with incense burning, and golden statues, and the women were praying/bowing. It looked neat, so I bet you can guess what I did. :) Respectfully we started looking around, and entered into the main building after asking permission from someone if it was alright. It was a beautifully decorated place with lots of color, and gold, and incense, and Buddhas. The monks were all dressed in light orange robes, and they were chanting for a service which I believe was a service just for one family (since there were only 6-8 people there.)

It brought back memories from when we accidently stumbled upon a Buddhist service in St Petersburg. The only difference was that service (I believe) was a public one and was very loud with drums and other sweet instruments! It was an absolutely thrilling thing to experience.

After seeing the temple, we walked around and found a place to eat. Eating out in China has been fun. Most restaurants seem to be family owned and operated, and most would not meet America's standard that restaurants are held to. :) These restaurants are just big enough to fit 4 or 5 tables, with the kitchen visible from the dining area. But these places often have very good food, and for a very good price! I can get a big bowl of noodles or rice for around 15 Yuan, which is a little less than $3. But we do have a selection of different restaurants, and there are nicer/more expensive ones we could go to if we wanted.

This past Sunday we had our first "church skype" experience. It took 2 hours of figuring out/downloading the software, a few phone calls, a test skype, and then we finally could enjoy having a meeting (sacrament.) We connected to a branch in the city of Shenzhen. Sometime soon we want to make a trip there to actually attend church in person. :)

Today was a neat day. We had our usual day of school, but afterwards at 3pm we went and volunteered for 2 hours at a foster home. Past Zhongshan teachers have gone to this foster home, which is located about 2 minutes from our apartment. It is ran by an American couple, and most of the kids there have special needs. Their ages range from small babies to 9 years old. I loved being able to hold those cute little babies and watch the kids play. We are planning on volunteering there on a regular weekly basis. What a great opportunity!

Tonight we celebrated not one, but two birthdays! It is the other Head Teacher (Stacy) and one of our Chinese coordinators (Debbie) birthday! So all of us girls, and a few of our coordinators, went out to eat. We chose an American-style restaurant that played American music, that sort of made me miss America. :') I ordered an 8" pizza and ate it all myself (I've had to make up for all the pizza I've missed from Bella Marie's.) After eating we headed back to our apartments where we ate cake and played really funny games. :) Needless to say, it was a successful night.

Well, I've just about written a novel. But I did, after all, want to update you on life as of late. I hope you enjoy hearing about my experiences. I'm sure having a great time here, and I know this is a good place for me to be. :)

Love you all,

Monday, August 4, 2014


From August 1-4 was our first vacation! We were surprised but happy to have a vacation so early into the semester! Originally we wanted to go to an island, Hainan. But a typhoon hit that area, so we had to figure out Plan B (we're still planning on going to Hainan in a couple months though!:)

Plan B was Yangshuo, a small area located North of here in a city called Guilin. Yangshuo has an old history and rich landscape. And it's beautiful! It was a perfect first getaway.

Our group of 5 girls, and the 6 girls from the Changsha group, left Thursday night. Our coordinator purchased the bus tickets for us, and she told us that we were going on a sleeper bus. We were glad that we'd have beds, since it's a 10 hour drive. But come to find out, as we boarded the big bus, we'd be sitting in seats. Flexibility is a virtue!

A couple hours into our journey, the bus made a stop somewhere along the road. It was a small place with a restaurant, chickens in a pen, bathrooms, and lots of trash everywhere on the ground (aka, not the nicest of places.) A few of us had to go to the bathroom, and we had a feeling what we were in for. Squatters. Except these weren't just regular squatter potties. It resembled an animal trough: one long ditch, with no stalls, just a few dividing walls about 3 feet high. Classic China. :)

We finally made it into Yangshuo around 3am. After figuring out the direction of our hostel, we set off. We kept getting lost (it's hard to find things in the dark at 4am), so our group sleepily hunkered down in some random hotels lobby to steal wifi and try to get better directions from Google Maps. :) Eventually around 6:30am we finally came upon our hostel!

Our hostel was located just off of West street (or the "tourist street") and up a somewhat-sketchy alley. :) West street is lined with old buildings that have different shops and restaurants, and there are also lots of street vendors and booths with everything you can imagine! At night though, it turns into party central with clubs/bars blasting music.

Here are some pictures of the highlights of our trip!

Walking to our hostel

Me in front of West Street

On our way to the Mud Caves

Inside the caves
Here we are in the pool of mud! Also, something strange
occurred: we could literally float with no effort---a.k.a., sinking
was impossible. Anyone know why this is?
Posing outside of the mud caves 
Shiqi represent!
West Street at night---so crowded!

The alley to get to our hostel, lol.
Ladies trying to sell water and other merchandise
on top of Moon Hill
Ally, me, Kelita, & Clara (+ Regan) hiked
 to "Moon Hill"
The view! 

Fish pedicures!

 Bamboo rafting down the Yulong river

Kelita & I after rafting
Another thing I didn't get any pictures of (but was a blast) was biking! We rented bikes for 15 Yuan and rode them to where the bamboo rafting was located. Traffic was backed up and crazy and we were swerving in and out it, dodging buses and mopeds and the like! But biking was my favorite because we were able to ride thru the beautiful countryside and admire the mountains while the (humid) wind whistled thru our hair.
Yangshuo was hot, humid, crazy, beautiful, and awesome--all wrapped into one! Such a fun trip and I'm so glad we were able to go. :)
That's all the reporting I can do now,