10 January 2009

Finally Back Home

So I have finally arrived home after having spent 4 months in China teaching Oral English. I can honestly say that this will be an experience I will never forget. The flight took just over 10 hours even though it was delayed from Beijing.

On the plane I was able to watch a few movies, some of which turned out to be pretty good. It felt like the plane journey went by really quickly, but maybe it helped that I was watching movies. It was really difficult for me to sleep on the plane, I probably only got about 1 - 2 hours worth of sleep.

Once I had arrived at the airport there were many foreigners queuing up at border control where as the line for UK/European passport holders was very short. I felt sorry for the other guys because they would have to que up for a long time to get into the country.

Once I got out to the part of the airport where you are met/picked up by your friends/family I saw my mum waiting for me. It was nice to see my mum again after so long, but it felt as if I had just been gone for maybe a few weeks rather than a few months.

Its strange to be back in London because I notice more how expensive things are compared to China. I'm mainly talking about food rather than anything else since in Xi'An/Beijing everything is expensive especially clothes.

Well its nice to be back home however I will miss my students. I can hopefully connect with them via QQ or email. This will be the last entry for a while unless I update older post with pictures.

It was nice to write down my experiences on here!

8 January 2009

The day before my last.

Yesterday was my last day in the town of Zhen'an. When I was being driven to the airport I started to realise that this trip has been an emotional journey for me. I have had days where I would be happy and days where I would be sad. However I would say that there were more good days than bad.

I started to remember all the people, teachers and students who have made my time in China that more special. I came here knowing no one and having no friends but I am going back with many new friends. It was hard at first when I could not speak any Chinese and had no one to talk to but that all changed however when the four VSO teachers and their four translators came to Zhen'an. These eight people became my family during my time in China.

During the last meal I had with them on Tuesday we exchanged gifts with one another. It wasn't until I gave them my card that I started to feel sad mainly because I knew that I would never see them again or not at least for a long time. I had said in the card that I had appreciated what they had done for me, since this was my first time to go anywhere by myself and they made my time that more enjoyable and interesting.

So like I was saying as I was in the car with Mr. Chen I began to cry because I knew I would not see them again. But I tried not to think about this and only the happy times. I can honestly say that I will miss them.

The flight from Xi'An to Beijing only took one and a half hours. I was surprised it took such a short amount of time. When I got to Beijing I was told by VIP to meet at the office by myself. So I got the shuttle bus and when to the office. I was able to meet Ryan again which was nice. It was nice to have someone I knew in Beijing to talk and hang out with.

The next day Ryan, Jon (the person wo invited me to China) and I went to the Birds Nest Stadium. I was also able to meet their new Indian friend Sam (I forgot how to spell his Indian name), it turned out that he was a pretty cool guy and very friendly. Once we arrived at the Stadium I took many pictures, it was funny because just like when I went to Tiananmen Square some people wanted to take pictures with us.

While we were in the stadium the 6 Olympic Mascots came out and began to dance a strange choreographed routine. The music was slightly childish however the more I watched the more I thought to myself this is kinda cute. The performance went on for quite a while maybe 15 - 20 minutes.

Once the performance had finished the guys and I proceeded to the gift shop. I have to say I was slightly disappointed by what was on offer at the shop. I was expecting to see memorabilia representing each of the countries that took part in the games. I was interested in buying something related to Usain Bolt since he had performed so well and in turn made me feel proud to be Jamaican. All the shop had to offer was memorabilia of the stadium and some small nick-naks related to the 6 Olympic Mascots.

Later we went to a buffet where we ate pizza and other western food. It was nice to have something different to eat before I go back to England.

3 January 2009

Finished the Trip!!!

The trip is now officially over. I was able to see a few interesting sights in Xi'An such as the Tang Paradise, Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Terracotta Warriors.

When Mr. Li and I arrived in Xi'An we needed to get a taxi from the bus station to the centre of the city. Once we left the bus station we were approached by a taxi driver who told us he can take us to the centre of the city. The taxi driver grabbed my bag and then proceeded to put it inside the boot (trunk) of his car. I asked Mr. Li how much he said it would be and Mr. Li said 15RMB and I thought that wasn't too bad.

After about 20 minutes we arrived at our destination or so I thought at the time. Originally I had shown the taxi driver the way to the Hostel that I/we wanted to stay at. The driver acted as if he knew where it was and the way to get there. Before we got out of the taxi Mr. Li gave the driver 50RMB for the fare, I then asked Mr. Li where is your change and he said that's how much it cost, 50RMB. I thought to myself "what the hell we have been ripped off big time!". I told him that I thought he had said it was 15RMB not 50RMB, If I had known it was this much I would have told the taxi driver no thanks.

Standing on the street I started to look around and thought...where is the Hostel? Mr. Li didn't seem to know either, so we asked one of the local people at one of the stores. They told us that we were not where we wanted to be, it appears that the driver just dropped us at any old place. I was even more annoyed because we gave him 50RMB and he couldn't even take us to our destination.

We then began to walk around asking different shops where our Hostel was and how we could get there. Eventually we managed to reach the Hostel but after all that hassle it turned out that they had no rooms available for the two of us. This day was just not going great for us. The Hostel that I had suggested to Mr. Li had been recommended to me by 3 of the VSO teachers I lived with in Zhen'an.

Mr. Li and I then went on a search for another place to stay. It seemed that everywhere we decided to try was either not up to standard or way too expensive. I then remembered the hotel that I had stayed at before the last time I visited Xi'An. Once we arrived there we were in luck that there was a room avaliable for 3 nights. However they only had just that one room. Mr. Li checked out one of the other Hotels around the corner and they had a room. So I stayed in one Hotel and Mr. Li stayed in another.

That afternoon I met with Mr. Li at his Hotel and he asked me what I would like to have for lunch. I said I definitely do not want noodles or rice, Mr. Li laughed and said ok then what do you want? I thought for a second and then decided I would have some pizza from Pizza Hut. I knew that Pizza Hut was pretty expensive by Zhen'An terms but I thought If the school wants me to have a good time this is what I want to eat.

Luckily the Pizza Hut I wanted to go to was just around the corner from our Hotels. When I was inside I started to think to myself that it seems very similar to how the restaurants are arranged in London. I pretty much ordered what I would normally get in Pizza Hut but Mr. Li was not feeling adventurous and decided to buy something he knew which was rice. Once my food arrived I asked Mr. Li if he wanted some but he said he didn't like pizza. I then asked him if he had ever eaten pizza before and he said no, so I thought how can you say you don't like it if you have never eaten it before. I think Mr. Li just did not want to try anything new or maybe he is too stuck in his routine/old ways.

After we had finished our meal Mr. Li told me that we were going to go to a famous park in Xi'An. The park Mr. Li was referring to was in fact Tang Paradise but it didn't really matter because I had never heard of Tang Paradise before that day anyway. After a short taxi ride we arrived at Tang Paradise the entrance was quite beautiful to see (especially at night). We walked around the massive park and I also got a chance to see some Lion Dancers performing on poles. When we were about to leave it was night so all the lights had come on. I have to say that the park looked that much better with all the lights turned on.

Mr. Li decided we should go to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda after we had exited Tang Paradise. Unfortunately something had happened inside the area where he Pagoda was and the officials closed it until further notice. Mr. Li asked one of the attendants there what was going on but they didn't want to tell him anything except that the park would re-open at 9:30pm. At the time it was around 6:30pm and I didn't want to wait around that long to go to the Pagoda since it was freezing that night.

The next day we pretty much did the same thing again, we visited a few parks but I also got the chance to do a little shopping for my family. I got the chance to visit the Drum Tower of Xi'An but once we were inside there wasn't really that much to do or see. However I was able to take some nice photos. This was the first day that I had Mac Donald's since I have been in Xi'An. I have to say it tasted pretty normal to me considering I have read things on the net telling people to stay away from Mac Donald's in China.

The last day was the day Mr. Li and I visited quite a few places. The first place we visited was an ancient Hot Spring that I think was used by the Emperor's associates at the time. The bath was quite a nice place to see. I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet one of the four men who discovered the Terracotta Warriors which was quite interesting. After that Mr. Li and I went up the mountain in a cable car then went on a guided tour around the mountain top.

The next stop on the trip was a visit to the First Emperors Mausoleum. At the Mausoleum there were these steps which led to a spot that is directly above the First Emperors resting place. While we were at the top this old lady came up to me trying to get me to buy this old rusty coin. Mr. Li jumped in and started to say to the women "...oh no, he doesn't want that!", it seemed however the old women did not appreciate this and then started to call Mr. Li "bakayaro" which is Japanese for stupid fool. I started to laugh and the women started to laugh too but Mr. Li seemed unaware as to why we were all laughing because he was too busy reading information at the Mausoleum on a notice board.

While up there I noticed this girl being a guide to some other foreigners. I thought to myself wow she is quite nice, she was one of those brown skin Chinese. Anyway I wanted her to take us around and tell use about the Mausoleum so we waited around for her to finish with the other foreigners. I told her that I wanted her to be our tour guide because she was a Meinv (pronounced May New and it means pretty girl) and she laughed and agreed but she wanted 30RMB. Mr. Li and I both thought that this was way too much money and told her it was too expensive, so we finally agreed on a price of 20RMB but she would not take us up the steps to the top of the Mausoleum.

When she was explaining things about the Mausoleum Mr. Li had to translate everything she said into English for me to understand however I wasn't that interested in what she was saying I was more interested in how she looked, I know dumb right. Well after she finished the tour we gave her the money and she seemed happy to be receiving some attention but kept saying she wasn't a Meinv but she really was.

The next stop for the day was the Terracotta Warriors. When we first entered the place this woman approached us and started to explain to us that she is the official English tour guide for the site. We asked how much it would be and she said 100RMB and Mr. Li and I both said "...too expensive" in Chinese and walked off. Mr. Li then said to me "...I'm not going to pay 100RMB for that ugly woman." when he said that I couldn't stop laughing.

After a short walk we arrived at the main site for the Terracotta Warriors. In one of the buildings there was a giant puppet representing one of the Terracotta Warriors who was holding a small girls hand. In total there were four buildings three of which had the Terracotta Warriors in them. Once I saw the Warriors I felt slightly disappointed I was expecting a more exciting feeling when I saw them.

Next place we went was the gift shop. I started to look around a bit then a shop assistant came up to me and asked me if I was alright, I said "...yes I'm fine." so the woman was about to walk off however Mr. Li wanted me to talk to her some more in English. I ended up befriending the woman and was able to get her QQ number as well as her email address.

On our way out this man tried tried to sell us small replica figures of the Terracotta Warriors but I wasn't really interested. Mr. Li told the man "..oh no, he doesn't want any of those." then the man simply said to Mr. Li "Fuck You!" it was funny because Mr. Li seemed a little surprised that he said that but I wasn't, I just told the man thank you in Chinese and walked off.

We walked around this guided path which was filled with all these memorabilia shops selling things about the Terracotta Warriors. It was funny because these ladies came up to us as we were walking trying to sell us some stuff and I said in Chinese "...I don't like this". Then the ladies asked me "...what do you like?" and I said to them in Chinese "...I like Meinv" so the ladies (there must have been 4 or 5 of them in the area) all started to laugh even Mr. Li.

After we had finished at the Terracotta Warriors we were finished with the trip in Xi'An. But I have to say I did enjoy have something to eat other than rice or noodles even if it was that poison KFC and Mac Donald's haha. I also liked eating the Dumplings on the Islamic Street in Xi'An near the Drum Tower.

I actually did have a funny time with Mr. Li as my guide. It seemed as if every other person we came into contact with they all had a problem with Mr. Lee. Even when I tried to buy something for myself in the market, it seemed Mr. Li wanted the price to low and the boss of the store did not like that and said he will not go any lower on the price because he didn't like Mr. Li.

But overall I had a nice time and it was a nice little break from Zhen'An. On the bus ride back I began to think that it wont be long until I have to go back to England. Well this day had to come sooner or later.