Teach English in China - Andrew Cooper

Street BBQs in Beijing, by Andrew Cooper

Honey glazed chicken on a stick! Cumin spiced lamb on a stick! Bread. On a stick! These are some of the delights available to you at one of Beijing’s millions of street food carts that occupy pavements and block cycle lanes at this time of year. Whether it’s a backstreet or a major junction, anywhere is liable to become a hotbed of bustling bodies and incredible smells: traffic flow be damned!

Some hardy species of street food can be found out and about at all times of the year. The humble jian bing (an egg pancake fried with sesame seeds, coriander and spring onion, artistically painted with a smear of thick soy sauce) is an ever-present even during the depths of winter. Lettuce and a crispy cracker (called bao cui) add bulk to this delicious, decadent wrap. You can also add one of the alarmingly sweet sausages that are unaccountably popular here if your taste buds are beyond saving.
Baked sweet potatoes are also a year-round feature of the Beijing streetscape. There are few things more comforting than struggling through a bitingly cold morning and getting a noseful of the warm, earthy smell of a wood stoked brazier stacked with a dozen sweet, sweet potatoes.

As for the summer arrivals, those fair-weather BBQs that can’t offer the reassuring stodge required in winter, the most common type of fare offered is chuan. These are like a typical shish kebab: skewered pieces of generously flavoured meat flame grilled to perfection. Vegetarian options are available too in the form of sweetcorn and, less interestingly, bread. Chuan are extremely addictive. It’s dangerously easy to stop for just one or two and end up requiring a taxi to take you home, weighed down by the 2kg of grilled meat sitting in your stomach and the crushing weight of your food shame. I’m an optimist though, and I always reason that this extra weight must be partially offset by my lack of self-control.

As with all street food it is wise to indulge in moderation, although I tend to do so twice in one sitting.

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Making Chinese friends, by Peter Campion

As an immigrant in China, it is often easier to gravitate towards peers who find themselves equally new to this land. The immigrant community in Beijing is vast and vibrant, and there are frequently events allowing you to meet new people. However, there is one significant issue with this network – it’s transient. The immigrant community is in constant flux and if you are looking at spending longer than a year in China, it is wise to make some Chinese friends.

Prior to coming to China, I had a number of Chinese friends from when I studied abroad. I am lucky that some of these are based in Beijing and we meet frequently. Through this network, I have met some new people, who have helped me to settle into life here.

Chinese people are in general very warm and friendly towards outsiders. While some pessimists will say they are merely interested in either improving their English or having a “token” foreign friend for those all important WeChat moments, you will face this dilemma wherever you meet new people.

Food and conversation
Food is key. The Chinese love nothing better than to sit around a hot pot and complain about the cost of living in Beijing. Cost of living, food and sport are safe topics of conversation. The sharing of political or economic views is best avoided.

KTV
While this is something that I tend to avoid, the Chinese have a great affinity for singing and giving their best rendition of “小苹果”. You will inevitably be forced to perform a cheesy 2000s song by some artist who should have long been forgotten.

Basketball
Chinese guys love everything basketball. I had little interest in basketball before coming to China, and while I still don’t care too much for it, I have to acknowledge its existence and importance. An affinity for basketball will go a long way towards making local friends.

While it is certainly easier to gravitate towards the immigrant community, I would encourage anyone who is hoping to spend longer than a year in China to challenge yourself to make Chinese friends. I promise you, you will be glad of it in the long term.

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Parks in Beijing, by Haley Muth

It’s early in the morning and already the park next to my apartment is filled with old folks practicing Tai Chi and stretching. There are tens of them, all moving in time with each other, as I am making my short commute to the area where I take Chinese classes.

Around lunchtime I go to sit and work at my favorite coffee shop, and through the window there’s another larger park and the people in it are now dancing. The songs they dance to range from old Chinese folk songs to upbeat western pop music. I once saw a group of old folks dancing to a remix of Fergie’s ‘My Humps’. They know all the moves to all the songs. There are also young children playing on bikes, scooters or with jump ropes. Some people are playing Chinese Hacky-Sack, including workers on their lunch break, even a woman wearing a tight skirt and high heels.

Later, after work when it’s already dark, I go to sit in the park by my apartment. People are still dancing, but the mood has changed and now they are in pairs, waltzing or swinging or tangoing to the music. Some of them are quite good and some of them not at all, but no one is bothered to care- they are just enjoying themselves. I walk to the far side of the park where a woman is singing sweetly in Chinese, accompanied by a man playing a classical Chinese instrument. This is my favorite time of the day.

To me, parks are the heartbeat of Beijing life, and park culture is my favorite thing about China. By going to parks and watching the people there you can see the values of the Chinese people- community, family and harmony with one another. These people will welcome you if want to join them (and have the courage to dance), but if you prefer, simply take a Chinese textbook to the park and begin studying and in no time you will meet many people excited to share their language and culture with you.

This is the China that I’ve fallen in love with.

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How big is Beijing?, by Patrick Watters

Before I moved to Beijing eight months ago, I was told that you could live in this city for many years without experiencing or seeing all that the city has to offer. After living here for some time now I firmly believe this to be true. When friends and family ask me what Beijing is like, the first word that comes to mind is big. Any synonym of that I can think of follows thereafter. This city is massive! However, it isn’t that difficult to navigate once you give yourself some time to settle in and get your bearings. I am a big fan of the subway system that crisscrosses its way all over Beijing. It is convenient, cheap and gets you anywhere in this bustling city. Here’s a fact for you: Beijing is ten times bigger than London. I have been to London and New York City but Beijing surely trumps both in size. You will definitely feel the intensity here when you experience the amount of people, cars, bikes, and scooters that are ever present around you. It can be quite daunting at first to venture around the city because of its size but what I would like to tell newcomers who are trying to find their way is to locate landmarks such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace and Sanlitun district so you can get an idea of how far your apartment is from places and for those times you get completely lost. This way you can justify if it is worth it to travel to that pizza joint, but trust me most of the time the craving will outweigh the travel time. A game I played in the beginning was to hop on the subway and get off at a random spot to explore and navigate my way around. It was fun and challenging and yet somehow I’d find my way home feeling accomplished. By now I personally feel that if I can live in one of the largest cities in the world, I can live anywhere!

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Easter in China, by Sorcha M. Smith

I’m not a very religious person and in the last few years (especially living in China) my sweet tooth has dwindled. At home, religious holidays were used more of an excuse to cook at dish and bring it to the rotating household that we used as a little family gathering. Our family has members worldwide so this is more precious to me than anything else. And as this is my second Easter in China, it was sorely missed.

Thankfully this year my parents and little sister were able to visit and were here for the Easter weekend. This made work a lot more fun as I brought my sister into the centre with me, she’s twelve, and basically used her as a prop in classes. Chinese people can be shocked and awed by seeing just a normal white westerner, just imagine their reactions to a mini white westerner… Priceless! A few girls in one particular class became extremely fond of her and she was dragged from one thing to another while they all practiced speaking English with her. The odd Chinese word was used as my sister had just done a Chinese language class with my tutor and wanted to do some practicing of her own!

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The remainder of the next two days were about the Easter activities and as most of my younger family members had grown out of playing games such as The Easter Egg Hunt, or the notorious Egg and Spoon Race, thankfully these guys hadn’t! Watching four year olds destroy each other to find the most eggs shouldn’t be as funny as it actually is and watching nine year olds try to outsmart their Chinese Teacher to win the egg and spoon race? Genius!

But there’s nothing quite as good as after days of exploring Beijing to areas such as: The Botanical Gardens, Badachu, 798 Art district, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo, Forbidden City, the Great Wall, etc. to simply come home, put your feet up and be surprised with an Easter Bunny that your parents had wrapped in bubble wrap and brought across the world so that on Easter Day, you would have a little bit of home.

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Laoshi Life, by Rachel Reger

Every so often, a bad “Beijing day” happens to every foreigner in Beijing. It’s on these days that I have to remind myself why I’m in Beijing. While there’s many amazing reasons why I’ve stayed two years so far, two reasons usually stay at the top of the list – quality of life on an English teacher’s income, and the fascinating mix of people I meet in Beijing.

I work far fewer hours than I would at home (which for me is the US) on an income that stretches far beyond what it would in the US. No matter where you live, it’s up to you to manage your income, but I find I’m able to live comfortably—I don’t splurge but I have a nice two-bedroom apartment shared with one other person, I go out for dinner and drinks very regularly, and I’m still able to keep some money at the end of the month for traveling and savings. I’ve also had numerous opportunities to travel internationally and within China: for me, that’s included adventures like snorkeling off the island of Koh Chang; meeting up for local Chinese food and beers at “beer jug” place after work (when you can’t read Chinese, you might as well give things your own names!); motorbiking to hidden beaches in Bali with a South African friend; sipping tea shared by a tea master in a seaside hostel in Dalian; getting local food for dinner at a hawker center in Singapore (with a local Singaporean I met on a short solo trip to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia); getting foot massages at the place across the road from my Beijing apartment and talking about life’s drama (your masseuse is also a great person to practice Chinese with!); finding a restaurant still serving fried chicken at 3am in Seoul (don’t ask!); being fed fresh cucumbers and invited to small Chinese hometowns on a 12-hour crowded standing train (with absolutely no other foreigners anywhere for miles – pro tips: don’t stand near the bathrooms and buy the tiny stools—they’re worth it!); staying with a Muslim family in a tiny Indonesian village in Lombok; Sunday brunches with church friends (followed by anything from water fights in Chaoyang Park to deep conversations over craft beer at 京A—the sky’s the limit!); a luxurious stay at a 5-star resort with a rooftop pool in Shanghai; numerous late night hangouts at our apartment; floating down a quiet canal in Suzhou; singing Mongolian songs around a campfire next to a yurt on the grasslands; watching the sunset from a watchtower after a night of camping on the Great Wall; days of exploring Beijing’s old hutong streets; and the list goes on. (The previous sentence is ridiculously long for my writing-trained brain, but yet doesn’t include half of the adventures I’d love to mention.) All of those opportunities would not have been possible without Beijing, without the people I’ve met and ways I’ve been challenged here, without being an 英语老师 .

Secondly, Beijing is a multicultural city like no other. Most, nearly all, of the foreigners you meet are not tourists—they are people who live and study or work abroad and often have fascinating stories and backgrounds to share. When I’ve traveled and worked in other locations, you tend to meet three types of people: the locals who will generally live and work in one place for the rest of their lives, the foreigners who are in and out the next week or the next month (generally people taking a break from school or work in Europe or the US to travel), and the few who actually plan to live there (but still usually not for more than a few months). In Beijing, most of the people you meet are here for a year or longer, usually as an English teacher, as a student (over 100,000 students from every continent study in Beijing), in international business, or working for an embassy. People come from all classes and backgrounds. They are not (necessarily) privileged—a good number of students in Beijing study here because it’s more affordable than other study abroad locations. There are four foreign teachers (including me) at our smaller center, and we come from four different countries; it’s not uncommon for me to look around a get-together in Beijing and realized that a dozen or more countries are gathered. Last night, I met a group of friends for quiz night at QMex—our group of seven friends represented five different countries and three continents, gathered in China to eat Mexican food. I’m involved in an international church where our small group’s Thanksgiving dinner this year was attended by friends from the US, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and China—and this nowhere touches on the number of nationalities represented in the church as a whole. It doesn’t get much more multicultural than that, especially for a girl who grew up where anyone who doesn’t speak English as their native (or only) language is unusual.

Living in Beijing is a challenge like no other. It teaches you problem solving, how to interact with people who think and act differently than you, and how to stay sane in the midst of it all. But at the end of the day, the challenge will bring so many new opportunities.


And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants…
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure where you step. Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just
never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up
your right foot with your left…
So…
be your name Buxhaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!

(Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go”)

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The Beijing music scene, By Gareth Wandless

Being a musician and music fan, living in Manchester and London over the last 12 years, how was Beijing going to live up to my hunger for music?

I had researched on the internet after deciding to take up the position at Aihua but I could not see a great deal of prospect in the music world. Oh well I thought, I will have a break from the music scene and concentrate on my teaching. How will I have any time with a teaching schedule to even continue playing in any band or going to watch any great gigs? However, I was wrong. I have enough time and there are enough places to go, but mainly in the East of Beijing.

After a month of finding my way around this busy bustling city I became aware of some great little venues like Temple Bar, 4 Corners, Modernista and The Dirty Duck. Good amateur bands were playing and I soon discovered there was actually a strong need and want for western music as well as the Chinese actually loving indie and punk rock. They’ve even formed their own scenes. Within several months I organized a gig at The Dirty Duck and I put on an open mic. Now I have contacts with a small scene in which some of the members are from Aihua or friends of friends.

On a few occasions I have been walking along a Beijing street or Hutong and came across a busker or a group of locals playing Guitar and singing away. The locals are very happy for you to sit and have a drink with them and have a jam using there guitar. Once or twice after a few bai jiu (mental rice based spirit, drink with caution!) I sat and exchanged songs and did my best to explain the band name or a certain song in the few Chinese words I know, mainly in a game of charades, but music is a world language so they say.

For you fans of live bands there are some good venues to watch famous bands in Beijing like at the performing arts centre and the workers stadium or Houhai Park who have hosted bands from The Killers to The Backstreet Boys. If you have a thirst for your X-factor type musicians you can even watch all the Chinese X-factor failures, who all seem to play around Houhai Lake in dozens of bars with a big video of the show in the background showing the highs and lows of the show. It is quite amusing to watch the small crowds outside the venue who can’t get in peering through the big window.

There is also a great Jazz bar around the Houhai Lake and the great 4corners who host open mic nights every Thursday as well as comedy nights is also around that area. Any clubbers who want to dance the night away there is small club called Dada which is downstairs from Temple bar and frequently hosts DJs from Europe and the US, it is a very cheap (even free sometimes) and a favorite with Aihua teachers.

If you want the whole Western feel then the bars and clubs around Sanlitun have everything you desire, there is a cool rooftop bar with swings at the bar–need I say more? You can have from cheesy to cool to outrageous in Sanlitun, however it is quite a pricey area! Also around the workers stadium I once went to a club who let us in for free just because we were Western and supplied us free drinks! (Be careful because I do not think the alcohol is really what it says on the bottle, so again! drink with caution). You will not remember half of the clubs’ names or won’t even be able to pronounce them but with a very cheap subway system to get you anywhere and a cheap taxi home who cares! You’ll never have any problem living in the west part of Beijing and getting to and from these venues. On almost every street you will see KTV’s “Karaoke TV” where you can hire a room and sing until your hearts content 24/7, on a couple of occasions we have gone from Aihua for work events and birthdays. All in all Beijing is cool and there is music to be found!

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My Experiences in Beijing, by Shauna Giblin

Beijing, where do I begin. I came to you looking for something that was missing in my life instead I found the real me or a version of me that I didn’t realize existed. My friend told me that the city has a way of making you grow up. I mean I’m 25 years old I really should already grown up, but where’s the fun in that.

One of the most common experiences I have had is staring. Its a very common thing and it can be unsettling when you first arrive. The reason they stare is because for most Chinese people this is the first time they are seeing a westerner. After a while you don’t tend to notice it. But it this staring that has made me braver and stronger.

See I have birthmark on my face. At home, you would never see me outside going shopping or to the gym without make up. It was something I didn’t like because of the staring. When I came here and people were staring anyway, it didn’t bother at me. Don’t get me wrong it was weird and hard but they would stare at me anyways. After a while I actually didn’t know whether they were looking at how pale and pasty white I am are my birthmark.

This experience is something I am grateful for. It is something that has made me stronger without me even realizing it. When you are so far away from home, it is always good to find a silver lining and in Beijing there is plenty.

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Beijing’s many gems and the unfamiliar hidden gems, by Lucille Van Niekerk

I have now been in Beijing for almost 8 months and still haven’t fully seen all this wonderful city has to offer. I will list some wonderful places to wet your appetite but indulge me and allow me to offer you my own personal version of gems I discovered in Beijing. The following will probably be the 10 tourist sites that you must see when in Beijing it will transform you with it’s rich culture and beauty.

1. Forbidden City- one of the worlds greatest palaces
2. Summer Palace
3. Temple of heaven
4. Tiananmen Square – largest city in the world
5. Beihai Park – Central Beijing. You can ice skate on the lake in winter and stroll around it in spring.
6. Lama Temple – one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world built by the Chinese.
7. Nanluoguxiang is Beijing’s yuppie street. The nightlife and trendy bars and restaurants are great.
8. Art District
9. Golou and Zhonglou – official timekeepers during the Yuan and Ming dynasties.
10. Badaling – easiest access to the Great wall of China

In all fairness the above is probably not unheard of to most of you flirting with the idea of coming to China. If you anything like I was I googled and read about all that China especially Beijing had to offer. However, what this didn’t show me that my experience here has, is that added to it’s rich culture and beauty day to day life as well has many hidden gems.

Allow me to extrapolate. In my day to day life perusing Beijing and living here these are what I would call hidden gems in my opinion.

1. Dancing in the park and any available space
You will find Old Chinese people dancing and they take it very seriously. It is very beautiful. You will see Chinese dancing, Arabic dancing, Salsa dancing, however with a small catch. They interpret all these various dances with Chinese music. They are very welcoming and enjoy foreigners watching them. I on the other hand have a great affinity for dancing and couldn’t resist joining. It was salsa music accompanied by yes you guessed it Chinese music. This was a first for me as I am used to salsa music. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the instructor politely took me under her wing supervising me and instructing me. She was very pleased but admonished me for too much hip movement. I now fearfully salsa with less hip action as her disapproving face is etched in my mind and I don’t want to disappoint her.

2. Scooters
You can buy a scooter for next to nothing without a license. It is wonderful. Many of the foreign teachers have scooters and it is so much fun. I, myself haven’t yet procured one but have been fortunate enough to be a passenger on numerous occasions. It truly is so much fun and although the Chinese loosely interpret traffic rules owning a scooter almost makes you immune to any traffic rules. It truly is pure joy and I have noticed that most of the owners with scooters walk with a confidence that speaks volumes because if you can drive in this traffic you have gained an important skill – great defense driving skills.

3. Foreigner magic
Truly been a foreigner in China especially Beijing comes with many perks. The Chinese are more kind, forgiving and accepting of our foibles and mistakes than with their own countrymen. I think they put all our mistakes down to just been a foreigner. They will go out of their way to assist you. My transport card wouldn’t work because I forgot to swipe when I got out of the bus and this can lead to a fine or other problems. When I took the subway it wouldn’t let me enter due to this mistake. To cut a long story short when they found someone who spoke English and explained to me the mistake I was willing to pay but the foreigner magic worked and they swiped some things smiled at me and kindly sent me on my way. Rachel, a colleague of mine had a flat tire on her scooter. A resident in her block refused to leave her alone until it was sorted. They paid for the tire, found a person to fix it, stayed with her and offered to take her to lunch.

I have many more personal instances of day to day gems but I am afraid instead of a blog piece it will turn into a mini dissertation. If you have stayed with me thus far I would like you know that no amount of research and reading prior to coming will aptly give you a sense of China. An open mind, a child like joy for learning new things and realizing that you are in a different country so it will not be like home.

It is interesting. It is unique. I am glad I came.

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Busy in Beijing, by Rory McGillycuddy

Arrival
There I sat on a crowded, stuffy plane flying over Dubai and I thought to myself “What am I doing flying to Beijing” “Will I enjoy it?”, What if something goes wrong? What do I do then? Blah blah blah blah.

Naturally, these are some of the questions you`ll find yourself mulling over during your long journey to parts unknown. There`s no question about it, it`s a big step to pack up your life and move to a country where you don`t speak the language, have never been to and are expected to work, live and survive. Let me assure you that Aihua has your back, allow me to explain.

Once I stepped off the plane and arrived in the intimidatingly huge Beijing airport, I was greeted with a smile by the foreign headmaster Fredrik who immediately made me feel at peace once the nerves had subsided. From there, I met a handful of newly arrived English teachers who were experiencing the same jittery nerves as I so naturally, we all got on like a house on fire. After meeting the other new foreign teachers, I knew that my China experience would one to remember. Each of them came from different backgrounds with varied reasons for coming to China so it was fascinating to listen to their stories. We were all then escorted back to our apartments where we would be staying for the year. After being dropped off and given a welcome package, we were given a guide to our living area and a timetable for the next few weeks, it was packed with things to do so we were advised to get some rest and prepare for the next 2 weeks.

The following morning, the sun rose and I heard a knock on my apartment door, I was greeted by the school’s foreign affairs officers, Luke and Summer. Words cannot describe how giving these two were during the first two weeks and still are incredibly helpful. Any issue I had, a quick message to Luke or Summer and the problem would be sorted within minutes. If I was to think of a buzzword to describe Aihua, it would have to be “support”. A word I shall keep reiterating throughout this post. Over the next few days, we sorted out all of the necessary tasks with incredible efficiency and speed, setting up a bank account, purchasing a phone, finding out how to pay for utilities, getting a medical etc etc. Already, I was starting to feel comfortable, a testament to Aihuas work ethic and commitment to ensuring the newly arrived teachers are at ease with the new surroundings and are ready to work hard. During this frantic period, we still had time to explore, have meals together and discuss the experiences so far. What followed next was extensive training, receiving our work timetable and voila… go make us proud!!

Introductory training
During our first two weeks, the newly arrived teachers undergo an extensive, detailed training course with the school’s Training Managers, Aoife, Andrew and Francis. Although I had a small bit of teaching experience back in Ireland, I found this to be incredibly useful and necessary in order to deliver good lessons. My advice for this period would be to get plenty of rest and stay focused as it`s a lot of information being thrust onto you. That being said, help is ALWAYS there which brings me back to my buzzword, “support”, not only with Luke and Summer, the FCSs (Foreign Centre Supervisors) are there to help you if you need anything at all, that`s what they are they for so don`t be shy to send a message now and then if something is bothering you, be it with lesson planning, classroom issues etc.

During this training, we were given example lesson plans, demo lessons and plenty of tips and advice on how to better manage your classroom and your hyper students. To finish the training off, we had classes to plan our first lessons at Aihua which was greatly appreciated.

Chinese staff
The Chinese staff and teachers known as CT’s were very hospitable and kind. They work incredibly hard so showing respect and friendliness is welcome, some of the CTs will become your very good friends as you work so close with them which is great. It will make your life so much easier to work well with them and take comments constructively, you’re in this together so it`s a team effort. Additionally, the CTs will help with lots of extra issues you may have such as the where the fun bars and restaurants are located, useful apps for your phone and figuring out the subway system (Once figured out, you can go ANYWHERE in Beijing, it`s very simple and easy to use). I`ve had great fun with my CTs thus far and may it continue.

“But I don`t speak Chinese”
A very common phrase I`ve uttered and have heard from many FTs(Foreign teachers), this is not a problem at all. I was incredibly uncomfortable walking into a local coffee shop pondering the prospect that I would have to actually ask for a coffee from the Chinese staff….with NO Chinese. But it was needless worrying, simple gestures can take you a long way here and if you keep hear ears open, you`ll begin to pick up commonly used phrases as you make your way to work. Another great “support” factor is that you get free Chinese lessons provided by Aihua. These are taught by April, a very experienced teacher who will go out of her way to help her students.

Allure of Beijing
As I gazed out over the high rising buildings from my apartment window, I couldn’t help but be excited about the prospect of exploring this beautiful city. Getting lost in any foreign country I find is an adventure. I have had many great (and funny) experiences whilst wandering the populated streets of Beijing….and it`s only been one month! Something as simple as walking home after work and seeing 20 + old men and women dancing in sequence together to old traditional Chinese music in a local park is lovely experience. I have visited serene temples, beautiful gardens, eaten at delicious restaurants, haggled at lots of markets and meandered my way through the amazing Hutongs. All of this in such a short space of time and still so much more to see and do. You`ll never complain of boredom here.

The city is drenched in History and culture so for all the History buffs out there, you`ve come to the right place. If you`re into sports and fitness, there`s plenty of clubs to join from the Beijing G.A.A club, Beijing Celtics soccer team and the Beijing Aardvarks Rugby team, all within reasonable distances from your living area. The gyms are well priced too, ranging from 700 Yuan to 2000 yuan for a yearly membership.
Bumps along the way

You`re in a completely different than back home so admittedly, you`re going to run into a few hardships along the way. If you come in with an open mind and are willing for change then your time here will be unforgettable.
The traffic and cars on the roads are very unpredictable so be wary when crossing a road, the rules of a green light and a red light don`t seem to register with the Chinese so if you want to survive the year, keep your eyes and ears open!!
Be prepared to haggle at the markets and some street shops, some sellers may notice your pale, white complexion and charge a ridiculous price so be wary of prices, learn the numbers and be reasonable whilst haggling. (It`s great fun haggling, you`ll have plenty of laughs)

Yes, yes, most of the toilets here are Eastern style squatting toilets but it`s not a big issue, well at least for me it isn’t. That being said, when you find a Western style toilet, you can`t help but smile.
In my view, if you decide to come to China, you`re an open minded person so you’re already willing to experience and try new things such as food, using chopsticks etc BUT if you`re not that type of person, you`ll be fine here, there are plenty of western style shops and restaurants such as KFC, McDonalds and Carrefour so nothing to worry about.

I heard so many negatives about the pollution here but I`ve yet to experience a really bad day, some days the visibility will low but nothing that causes a sore throat etc.

Keep moving
Beijing is an exciting, beautiful city. There`s so much to do and see, it`s dizzying. I could keep on writing about the first month and things I`ve experienced and seen but that would be pointless. I feel as though you have to come here first to experience it, you can watch videos and read articles online all day, you have to really be here to understand the work culture, the way of life and general quirkiness of the place. I already feel at home in a country where I don`t speak the language which boggles my mind. Truthfully, I think that`s a testament to Aihuas support network they provide for the new teachers and the people I`m surrounded by, from my housemate to all of the Aihua teachers. So take the leap, come on over and have an experience you will never forget.