China, Tianjin

Moving…in Chinese

The last four weeks have been so busy and have absolutely flown by! It’s unbelievable that just two weeks ago we finished our first year teaching at Wellington. It has been a year of adventures, in and out of the classroom, and we have loved our experiences in China.

This is our first summer holiday not traveling home and around the world (sometimes literally). Sarah’s visit got the summer going and we have been non-stop since she has left. On Tuesday we got the keys to our new apartment, moved all our belongings on Wednesday, waited for new furniture to arrive Thursday and spent Friday and Saturday finishing all the unpacking.

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Moving day

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Becoming a home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our decision to move is one that has come from a lot of discussions and contemplation. One of the greatest perks of being an international teacher is that accommodation is provided as a part of the package. Choosing to move away from an apartment that was given to us with no cost attached, as well as no responsibility for managing the utilities is something that not many people would do. Taking this step was a big risk on our part, but we are sure the rewards will out weigh the risks.

We began thinking about moving midway through the year as we realised a career in boarding was not for us. As we lived in the boarding house we knew that at anytime we may be asked to move to make room for boarding students or staff. Additionally as we have begun to explore Tianjin and are finding places we enjoy going to and wanted to be a bit closer to the action.

So we started our search in the heart of the city, Nanjing Lu. An agent (with very limited English) showed us a range of apartments. One Saturday afternoon we saw what was our original ideal place. It was a two bedroom spacious apartment, five minute walk from our favourite restaurants and near a metro station. At the other end of the spectrum we looked at apartments and communities we would never consider living in as they were in very remote areas of Tianjin. It was a long afternoon, we were ready to call it quits but Wang insisted we see one more place and we are so glad we did!

The last apartment was not in the location we had hoped for but it has great potential. It is part of a project that includes a Shang-ri-la hotel, shopping centre and three towers of residences. We have two bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a kitchen with an oven (very rare in China).

It was a bit of a mission to accomplish everything with our limited Chinese language. With the help of friends (Ying, Vicky and Sylvia), the Tianjin Kerry Centre staff, and very patient agent and landlords we have been able to accomplish so much (contracts, payments, internet service, furniture delivery, utility payments). There have been a lot of conversations had via WeChat, which allows both sides to type in our own language then translate, and my SayHi translator has been working over time.

All the hard work is finished (we hope) and now we can focus on making our new house a home!

-Mrs T

(Still working on our VPN and posting from the iPad, more pictures coming soon!)

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China, Tianjin

From Winky to China: Day 9

It is hard to believe it but Sarah’s visit has come to an end. It has been a lovely time and we spent the last day having a lie in, relaxing with another favourite movie (Pitch Perfect) and continuing with the packing.

Our last bit of adventure was finalising our new apartment. We met with our agent and the owners to make our final payment and get our keys. We were lucky enough to have some members of the property management staff there to help us with translation. After a few hours contracts were signed, money was counted and the keys were in our hands. It is still hard to believe we are really moving.

To celebrate we first stopped at Cholito for a jug of sangria in the summer sun and then it was off to Oscar House for dinner. This was our first proper meal there and we enjoyed every bit of it. As always we were greeted with a warm welcome and Tong, the owner, even surprised us with a complimentary bottle of bubbly as a farewell to Sarah. The dinner was fantastic from start to finish, especially the chocolate molten cake.

We had a bit of rest before heading off at 3 am to get to Beijing airport. We really enjoyed being able to share a bit of our life with Sarah and getting to spend some time together. We look forward to our next visitor, who ever it may be!!

-Mrs T

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China, Travels

From Winky to China : Day 8

Another adventurous day! We made it on our train this time and arrived in Shan Hai Guan mid-morning. Our first stop was Ancient Shanhaiguan and we were immediately persuaded to try the 3 person tandem bike, 30 RMB ($4.82/£2.82) for 2 hours. We made it down the main street and back again and were done with that!! It was so funny and really challenging, we returned it after five minutes and kept to our own two feet for the rest of the day.

We had hoped to visit the museum first, but it was closed on Mondays, a bit of a disappointment but there were lots of other things to keep us busy for the day.

We headed out to The Jiumenkou Great Wall, this is the part of the wall that goes over a river. It was a gorgeous day but very, very hot! We took in the views but didn’t do too much climbing. We settled down in the shaded park for our packed lunch and had a lovely conversation with 3 Chinese teenagers. They were working as tour guides and they were keen just to practise their English by chatting with us. I think they would have kept us there talking all day but we had to move along to our next attraction.

The Dragon’s Head is the bit of The Great Wall that extends into the sea, the end, or beginning if you like.It was quite an experience visiting the seaside in China, different but also quite similar to the seaside back home in England and America.  It was lovely to be there seeing and hearing the sea splashing on the rocks. There were ice creams and amusements, I had a go on a giant slingshot and won on my last shot! Something so silly but felt so exciting, we gave the teddy bear to a woman nearby who had been watching. We sat for a bit in the Sea Watching Pavillion and had a wander around the grounds. The gardens were beautiful and lots of history to be seen.

After this we went back to Ancient Shanhaiguan to visit The First Pass Under Heaven, we wandered along the wall and through the Drum Tower area. We had tickets for the 20:53 train and had a go at trying to get on an earlier train but with no luck. So we found a shop for some noodles, interestingly named California Beef Noodle King of the U.S.A., though it had no connection at all with California!! At this point we had about 3 hours to wait for our train and we were completely exhausted and feeling sweaty and sticky; we were done sightseeing for the day. As we wandered around the station we were lucky to stumble upon a KTV and all our problems were solved. An air-conditioned room, cold beers and loads of great songs to entertain us. Some high points were: the video for, ‘Help!’ by the Beatles was of the Tianjin food street, Mr T’s rendition of ‘Words’ by the Bee Gees, the fact that the staff were standing outside the door for the entire duration of our stay, and the look on the attendants face as he came in whilst Mr T sang Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’. We could have stayed for hours but actually had to pull ourselves away to catch our train!

A fab ending to a wonderful day!

-Mrs T

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China, Tianjin

From Winky to China: Day 7

We had a leisurely start to the day as Mr T popped over to school for his weekly football match (6 goals in 3 games by the way). We gave Sarah the Wellington tour and I was reminded what a mess I left my classroom! I’m sure next week I will be ready to get back in and get organised.

Next up was a bit of pampering with pedicures for Sarah and I.

And the main event for the day was visiting Drum Tower to watch a traditional Beijing Opera. It was a bargain for only 40 RMB ($6.44/£3.76). It was my second visit and I found it just as enchanting as the first time. We had no idea what was going on but enjoyed it anyways. The venue itself was quite a surprise as we walked into a stone building to find a massive room with the walls and ceilings covered with intricate woodwork, and the seats were tables surrounded by chairs. A lovely pot of jasmine tea, and robust crowd of older Chinese, which I can only assume are weekly regulars to the show. Both the music and singing are quite different than anything I have experienced but very interesting and some would say a bit hypnotic. It surely won’t be my last visit to the opera.

A quick visit to Joy City to get a few items for a packed lunch for tomorrows Great Wall excursion and off to the St Regis for a buffet dinner. As always we received a warm welcome from the staff and the food was delicious. We ended the meal with a glass of wine out on the terrace enjoying the beautiful blue sky and sunset by the river.

One last stop to collect some dry cleaning and we stopped in our local tea house. We managed to get some of the delicious teas we tried whilst in Beijing for a fraction of the cost. Early to bed today, as it is a 3 am wake up to watch the World Cup final.

-Mrs T

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China, Tianjin

From Winky to China: Day 6

Today took an unexpected turn, when at 9:32 we arrived at Tianjin West Train station for a train we thought was departing at 9:45. Now this was pushing it a bit, but we didn’t think much of it, in our minds we were still ‘on time.’ It turned out that the 9:45 on our ticket was for Tianjin South! I had bought the ticket at Tianjin West and had taken the train from there a few weeks earlier so I expected the same. Only in the moment when a kind English speaker translated what the information desk had explained did I remember the last time I took this journey the train departed ‘early’ which we found quite odd.

So we were at the station all set for a trip to the Great Wall faced with the prospect of having to try to negotiate in a foreign language to get them to change all of our tickets to another day! This was not how I had intended on spending my Saturday morning. After a lot of queue hopping and Google translate we were able to get the same tickets for Monday, and with no additional fees!

A disappointing start, but a bit of relief as we were all exhausted after two very busy days. Instead we spent the day relaxing and packing. We put some of our favourite movies on (A Place Beyond the Pines and Bad Words) and got to work. We made a good start but still have a bit of work to do.

We did venture out in the evening, to Kitchen Igosso for dinner. It was delicious as usual and we followed this with a walk along Nanjing Lu, to the Tangla hotel. We stopped in there to visit China Blue, a cocktail lounge on the 49th floor with stunning views of the city.

What started as a bit of a disaster turned into a highly productive, peaceful and enjoyable day.

-Mrs T

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Beijing, China

From Winky to China: Day 5

Our second day in Beijing we headed out on a mini tour, we had booked a bus to see three major sights. We were pleasantly surprised when we were collected by a mini bus and told it would be just the three of us on the tour!   Our guide Gary was energetic, knowledgeable and spoke great English. Summer Palace was our first stop and I think for all of us it was the highlight of the day. Having no prior knowledge of what we would be seeing, it really surprised and impressed us. The beautiful lake, tons of greenery and lots of history were great to see. It is a place we will surely visit again, but perhaps not in 34 degree heat!

Next up, the not so great part of orgainsed tours, a mandatory stop at a ‘silk factory.’ Although I had my ‘I’m not going to buy any of this rubbish’ face on I did really enjoy the presentation on silk worms and how silk is formed, as I had no idea. It did make me appreciate the higher cost of silk. And as much as I didn’t want to ‘give in’ I did buy a small silk cushion that unfolds into a small blanket.

From there it was on to The Forbidden City, a visit that has intimidated us on several trips to Beijing. It was busy as ever but we were so thankful to have Gary to guide us, as without him I think it would have been a lot of aimless wandering. Again, a beautiful, fascinating place that I am sure we will visit again. Following here we stopped at a pearl shop, no purchases this time! Then we were on to a humble Chinese lunch of noodles before going to the Temple of Heaven.

This was another location that we didn’t know much about and were pleasantly surprised. It was less busy than the first two sights, and it felt much calmer and peaceful. By this point we were feeling a bit fatigued and didn’t spend as much time as we could have. Our final stop was a Tea House, which was really interesting and tasty but the salesgirl was not impressed when we weren’t willing to buy any tea!

Gary delivered stories, facts and history, which have really peaked my interest in learning more about Chinese culture. The pictures below will really speak for themselves; we were so lucky for a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine!

We were lucky to get the first available train back to Tianjin. We popped into the St Regis for a quick dinner and then home to recharge after our long day. (We needed it after 23,000+ steps, that is over 15.4km walking in one day!)

-Mrs T

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Beijing, China

From Winky to China: Day 4

Today we were back up to Beijing for two days of adventure. Our first stop was the 798 Art district. Although it took us over an hour to drive 10 miles to get there, it was one of our nicest days of sightseeing. 798 is already one of our favourite parts of Beijing, this visit we were able to see a bit more and found a delicious Japanese restaurant for lunch.

We took a short rest in our hotel and were out for our first meal of Peking Duck. We dined at Duck de Chine and were overwhelmingly impressed. The atmosphere and the service were top notch and of course the duck, was fantastic. They carved the duck tableside and along with a delicious lemon chicken dish and a few others, we were pleasantly full. We even tried the complementary red bean ice, it is a traditional Chinese pudding that we have seen on menus many times but never have been brave enough to try. It tasted good, just a bit strange on our Western palate to be eating beans for desert.

After dinner we were off to Sanlitun to visit one of our favourite cocktail bars Janes and Hooch. We were just out of the taxi when Mr T’s trusty Havaiana decided to break! We thought, ‘lucky for us, we are directly across from YaShow!’ Unfortunately it had closed just a short ten minutes before. He was forced to buy a pair of flip flops off the street (that were too small!), for more money than they were worth, and then after some convincing got some trainers from the Puma shop. An unexpected part of our evening but something I am sure we will laugh about for a long time. As always the drinks and atmosphere at Janes and Hooch was great but we kept it to one drink as we had an early start and a long day ahead of us on Friday.

-Mrs T

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