Ravin’ in Reykjavik

Here it is, the much anticipated part two.

Yes, I am still buzzing from a holiday that was almost two months ago. Allow me to re-set the scene…

You find me enjoying a cosy night in after much Golden Circle touristing and the snow piled up outside, booking a cheeky Whale Watching trip for the next day and sipping on red wine with the bath running. Why not make full on use of your delightful Air BnB, I say?

I was already feeling ‘not so good’ about ever having to leave the snowy winter wonderland that was Iceland (and since coming back and seeing photos) I realise we were super lucky to see it in all of its white and fluffy glory.

Saturday morning consisted of sleeping in and STILL enjoying watching the sun come up at 10am from under the duvet with a coffee. Could I ever tire of these purple skies?

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Reykjavik Views

Feeling ultimately relaxed and ready for anything(/everything) Iceland could offer, we wandered through the snow once more into sunny Reykjavik to the old Harbour to catch a boat.

Step one: take a sea sickness tablet. Step two: don a very sexual all-in-one thermal suit (very important you don’t skip step two). Step three: pitch up at the front of the top deck and keep your eyes peeled. We’re whale watching people.

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Sailin’

Okay, I’ll come clean… I was expecting the David Attenborough style massive fin in the air, slow motion whale jumping out of the sea. Turns out a dolphin is actually also considered a whale (who knew?), so whilst we didn’t bump into Free Willy we were accompanied by beautiful dolphins playing alongside the boat and got to take in Reykjavik from the sea. Need I go on about the beauty of this place again…

Back on dry land at sunset, I snapped away on my camera by the harbour before stumbling on an Icelandic flea market and eventually getting sucked in by Happy Hour at a delightful spanish-run bar. Perfect time to sip on red wine and reflect on an incredible few days.  After a few wines, the barman directed us in español to a French place, where we spent a ludicrous amount of money on a couple of steaks and half a bottle of vino… Eating out in Reykjavik is no joke.

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Reykjavik Harbour

Now, I don’t have any photo evidence of the rest of the night (which is probably best) but I can with 100% confidence confirm that Icelanders like to party. Hard. Must give a shout out to our Whale Watching guide Mike who not only tipped us off on an amazing loft-style nightclub – Paloma in case you fancy it, but also bought most of our drinks when we got there. Thanks hon.

Keen not to dwell too much on the last beautiful morning trekking through the snow to the airport bus. Turns out I hate leaving Iceland.

I’ve never been so sure that I’ll travel somewhere again – next time equipped with jeep, trousers that are warmer than skinny jeans and brimming with excitement!!

I cannot even put into words how much I fell in love with this country, so I’ll just leave my favourite picture here…

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…until next time!

 

 

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Iceland is green, Greenland is Icy. Wait…

24 hours since I got back from Iceland – I’m almost fully defrosted!!

I feel like I want to write about it but also like it left me speechless which is a conundrum (WOTD?), but here goes.

I can break this trip down into some amazing stand out experiences, peppered with strolls through a snowy Reykjavik and red noses, me repeatedly losing my mind that it constantly looked like sunset and just generally enjoying that cosy ‘baby, it’s cold outside’ feeling – gin in hand.

First thing’s first – bucket list about to be ticked. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, are probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen (see blurry photo). We drove away from the city lights, hopped out into the snow in the dark and after a few minutes of staring up at the stars the sky turned green. GREEN.

What started as a strip of green along the horizon became this beautiful, magical, breathtaking show of streaks of light that appeared to drop into the sky from above and danced across the sky.  I won’t lie…those windows player visualisations popped into my head whilst I was watching. Did they remind anyone else of those? No…? Just me then… But as I said – bucket list stuff.

Northern Lights 1

Day two – Golden Circle time. Saw my first 10am sunrise and as someone who is obsessed with sunrise/sunset but also sleep, I feel me and Iceland understand each other. We turned off the ring road mid-morning and the sun was just about peeking over the horizon shining red and purple onto the table top mountains that surround Reykyavik. Perfect.

Stepping my morning coffee location game right up, I sipped black coffee and looked over my kingdom for the weekend. Apparently Pingvellir is a GOT location but that’s obviously lost on me… Beautiful wandering through the rocks and taking in the snowy scenery. There was a huge storm the week before, which covered Iceland in a thick blanket of snow and meant we had clear blue skies all weekend. Thumbs up.

Pingvellir Coffee 1

We’d opted for a stop-off at Laugarvatn Fontana spa so mid-way through the day jumped into our swimsuits and cheers’d to an already amazing trip 24 hours in as we floated around in thermal pools on the edge of a lake. That feeling when all of life’s stresses slip away…bliss.

Suited and snow-booted up, we checked out Geysir which shoots boiling water 80 feet into the air every 10 minutes. (Still looked like sunset in case you were wondering, this time plus steam.) Difficult not to feel like a 90s pop icon walking through a smokey music video if I’m honest, but got through it. Definitely a sight to see and a prime example of the Icelandic landscape flexing its muscles.

Geysir Sunset 1

Could we possibly fit any more natural beauty into day two? See below… One epic, ice-covered, straight-outta-Narnia waterfall coming up. Gullfoss at sunset. Wah. I don’t know what it is about a waterfall but I could have watched it all day – if I could feel my face.  Gullfoss is so so beautiful and at the right time of day and in the right light turns into an actual rainbow waterfall. I can’t even.

Gullfoss 1

Home time.

Music on. Red wine poured. Dinner served. Bath running.

Day three plans I hear you ask? Whale Watching. Did we see any? Tbc…

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Flying solo

I’m in Vietnam! A cheeky (second) last hurrah before the much anticipated return to the UK. I can honestly say I have never loved a country quite this fast before. I arrived in Hanoi, a city that was a lot smaller and quieter than I was expecting, eager to see what all this solo travelling malarky is all about. Turns out its pretty awesome. People had told me in my last hostel in Chengdu that I’d probably be run down by a motorbike, that the beeping would drive me insane and that the whole city was just nonstop, but when I arrived I found the streets to be narrower than I thought they’d be, the beeping no worse than Shanghai (and definitely more logical) and in fact a few opportunities to find some calm in between all the hustle and bustle. The road opposite St Joseph’s church, for example, where we stopped in the furthest thing you could possibly imagine away from a Starbucks for the first of many delicious vietnamese iced coffees, complete with condensed milk – naughty.

The first night I settled into my bunk, grabbed my notebook and lonely planet and wandered downstairs to the hostel bar with a roommate. I instantly met a bunch of new people and within an hour had a new travel buddy – sup gurl. I listened to everyone talk about their journeys so far and told them about mine, as well as noting down everyone’s advice about the must-see trips, best routes and general tales from their own countries and around the world. Yet to try a Bia Hoi – the hostel was serving up Tiger beer for $1 – I hit the hay. 

I had a lot to plan on my first day but before diving into the guidebooks we tagged along on another hostel’s walking tour to see a bit of the city and get our bearings, which felt like it would be almost impossible with the street names changing after every block not to mention ressembling each other. We saw the Church, a market that gave Shanghai’s fake market a run for its money, fruit shake street (yup), strolled around Hoan Kiem lake, stopped for vietnamese coffee and homemade ice lollies and generally wandered around the old quarter looking up at the french architecture. The heat was real, no messing about there. Took shelter in Vietnam Backpackers and chatted to a guy who had just hitchhiked through Laos (lad) before tucking into my first Pho – pronounced ‘furh’, argument settled. My appetite for noodle soup well and truly established we booked up Sapa and Halong Bay securing ourselves six days of activities for the bargain price of $180. Excited.

Naturally, went for another iced coffee. My ability to drink copious amounts of caffeine is really becoming something to be marvelled at (sorry Rosie). Agonized a little over our route for the coming fortnight and stressed about how to get to Phong Nga caves, a nice dilemma to be faced with in the grand scheme of dilemmas. One hour this went on for, and our question was answered in less than five seconds by the guy at hostel. $14, 9 hour nightbus. Huh. The amount of nighttime travel makes it so easy to go on long journeys without wasting a day! I had my fingers crossed the nightbuses would be decent.

The next decision we made was a slightly insane one. Bearing in mind I hadn’t done any exercise since before leaving for Bali over three weeks ago and it was 34 degrees outside, I agreed to go for a run. Got lost trying to get back to the lake so ran around the streets of Hanoi (without stopping thank you very much) for a while before making it to the water’s edge and lapping it twice, then walking aroung it twice more to try and curb the streams of sweat running down my face. The struggle was real, however I was impressed with my stamina. All the hiking in China must have paid off!

The main aim of the run was to make it to the water puppet show that had been recommended highly to me before 7pm. In my Lonely Planet I’d read about the show, the paragraph ending ‘Great for children’. I knew I’d love it. NEVER in a million years back home would I walk into a theatre looking how we looked. Think post-gym, triple it and there we were. Finding it more than slightly amuzing we grabbed a ticket and sat down. I was deeply concerned after the first couple of minutes that I was about to sit through a couple of hours of little puppet dolls bouncing around in the water with little or no rythmn at all. How wrong I was, it was so entertaining! There was a little group of musicians sat next to a gorgeous eaved-roof backdrop playing along to a very well-coordinated puppet show consisting of slapstick, stage fire, leaping puppet fish, puppet dragons and all different kinds of beautiful vietnamese characters dancing to a soundtrack of soft vietnamese commentary and gorgeous music. Definitely worth a watch if you’re in Hanoi, but I love stuff like that.

Strolled home, buying a couple of essentials for the trip to Halong Bay the next day and stopping for a vietnamese pizza on the way. Yes I had a pizza on my first day but it was vietnamese!! The base was lightly fried rice paper (so calorie-free…right?) and there was just all kinds of deliciousness on top. Any food based around the concept of pizza is apparently a winner with me…

It was a busy old time my first 36 hours in Vietnam! Headed back to Hanoi for another full day in between nightbuses after Sapa and have sworn to see some of the many sights before rolling out of there to head south!

More gushing about Vietnam to come. Xin chào for now!

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Things what make you sick in China

I’m not one for negativity and this is NOT me bitching and whining about China because – and I’ll say this loud and clear – I love living in here. Perhaps I’ll write a negative blog post one day about the time I’ve spent (wasted) listening to expats who have nothing good to say about this country whilst thinking to myself, “why are you here then?”.

To get back to the point…there are a few life essentials that can unfortunately have a negative effect on your health here. I’ll start with the big one…

Number 1: THE AIR

It’s no secret that pollution in China is a monumental problem, as it is all over the world. In China, though, you find yourself checking the Air Quality Index and feeling relieved, yes relieved, if the PM2.5 level is at a mere unhealthy. For those who aren’t aware, the PM 2.5 index measures the intensity of PM 2.5 particles in the air and these are the ones that permeate your lungs the easiest. I found myself failing to reassure my mum about the air quality the other day by saying “don’t worry, breathing outside is only equivalent to smoking about five cigarettes a month, or something like that!”

Number 2: THE WATER

You shouldn’t drink from the tap in a lot of countries and in China it’s no different. Living in a city that, mere months prior to my arrival, is on a river that the government was pulling dead pigs out of would make anyone sure to stock up on bottled water. That said, I drink the ice, I use it to make tea, boil food etc. You get lazy. I read an article recently about things all foreigners living in China have thought at least once and the list included: “is washing this making it cleaner or dirtier?” Truth.
One thing I have invested in is a filter for my shower as the water made my hair a weird sticky texture when I first got here (combine that with the 40 degree heat last August and you can begin to picture just how stunning I looked). Not only that but I was also told that minerals and toxins soak into your skin whilst you shower making washing with the water even more hazardous than drinking it. Huh.

Number 3: THE FOOD

I think this is a general adjustment that foreign tummies inevitably go through when moving to China. The bacteria is different in every country no matter how careful you are about what you eat – ask my two girl friends who elected to eat fruit over meat in Morocco and ended up with stomach infections from the bacteria in the fruit rinds. If you eat whatever kind of street food you see (barking beef, as I’ve heard it referred to) you kind of have it coming to you. All I can recommend is a daily dose of probiotic drinks, coming equipped with stomach tablets and eating in busy/recommended restaurants when you first arrive. Once you’re over the adjustment phase your stomach will be equipped to tackle any foreign bacteria no matter where you travel. Except perhaps India, I’ll let you know.

NUMBER 4: THE BRAISEN SNEEZE

I’d say you’re lucky if you see someone cover their mouth when they sneeze over here. Instead it seems to be the norm to project your sneeze as far as it will go in whichever direction you’re facing. I’ve never been directly sneezed on, but I am certain I’ve walked through a sneeze before. IN FACT (this post is starting to feel paranoid) a man sneezed in the street the other day and YOU COULD ACTUALLY SEE IT. Despite my best efforts to walk around said sneeze, I broke out in sneezing fits later that night. I stand by that being the reason for my week long flu. Yeah I’ll say flu.

NUMBER 5: YOUR STUDENTS

Occupational hazard that comes hand in hand with a teaching job. I loved them so so much, but they did make me ill. Everytime I had time off and then went back to school I got ill. If you’re doing your job right, the kids are so happy that they want to run up to you and shout (spit) all the answers in your face/jump on you/kiss you/give you sweaty palm food, etc., etc. A while ago a kindergarten student licked every side of my fluffy dice for ‘good luck’ before I had time to stop him. Oh Tony. Can’t remember if it worked. Best defence? Lots of antibacterial gel between classes.

I must point out that I’m smiling whilst writing this. The first few months of living here is an adjustment on so many levels and it’s fun to look back on them. Nowadays – seeing as I’m no longer teaching, I’ve got my street BBQ selection down to a tee, I am an expert at walking round sneezers and I’m armed with an air purifier and bottled water supplier – the thing that makes me the most ill is probably the free alcohol you get from club promoters just for being Western. Best defence? Easy on the free vodka. 

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Cambodia in rainy season

I CAN’T BELIEVE CATHERINE LEFT ME THIS MORNING. I thought we were just joking about her leaving. Damn.

Regardless, rainy season must go on and it certainly is today. I’m just now realising how lucky we were with the weather over the last twelve days. After a wonderful week in Shanghai we left (separately) for Siem Reap and reunited at arrivals. We kicked off the trip with four days in Siem Reap. I’d read that it was a travesty to blast through the temples in one day – not to mention impossible – and I agree! We started small(ish) with a tour of four temples and thanks to our trusty tuk tuk driver we were back at the pool before midday. The heat was so intense and we were sweltering by 9am – you know how I love to overheat. I accepted on day one that it was going to be a sweaty old week. Mmm. Feeling proud after our productive first day, we went into Siem Reap for a spot of lunch, quickly identified Pub Street and after a nap and a dip we hit the night market and a lovely Bosnian man cooked us some pizza and explained to us how easy it is to set up a business in Cambodia right now (none of these pesky business licenses or anything needed).  Well behaved so far in anticipation of our 5:30am pick up the following morning to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Only slightly ressembling zombies after the bumpy ride to the temple, we sat down by the ‘big pond’ to watch the sun come up. A 5-deep line of people had gathered at the waters edge to get ‘that’ photo of the 5 towers reflected in the water at sunrise. It wasn’t as crowded as I’d expected and I enjoyed the communal ‘ahhh’ as the sun rose from behind the magnificent temple. There were some notably ignorant (unfortunately young) people turning up, or maybe they were just tired. One girl literally stood in front of me and Catherine and a gathering of people as if she thought we’d all woken up at 5am just to get a good look at her backside at sunrise. One American had assigned himself as crowd policement and looked like he sort of enjoyed reminded people that they were in EVERYONE’s way. There was also a Spanish man in the crowd of people who had their tripods ready who freaked out and yelled as two sets of people tried to turn up and sit in front of everyone’s cameras just as the sun was coming up. I’d be cranky too but I had to laugh when he yelled “Nnnnnnno! Nnnno! OUT!” at a dippy girl who plonked herself down in front of everyone’s shot. Oh babe. Anyway, it was more peaceful than I’m making out, and the temple was awesome! I feel slightly dazed about how many we walked around but I have more than enough photos to remind myself how cool they were. We headed to Banteay Srai next which was my favourite, and on the way back did the girliest thing ever and went to see a butterfly farm. You can’t not love it when a guy opens a cupboard and 20 new born butterflies fly out in your face, you just can’t.

We napped…for about four hours…we ate too much mexican food in town and we enjoyed some cheap beer. I’m not entirely sure if we napped again but we eventually made it to Pub Street for a ‘night out’. Mission complete. We hit the red piano for food and wine, Charlies for mojitos and something called Muscle Wine (disgusting) and finally we were drunk enough to check out Angkor Wat. There was definitely something wierd on one of the buckets of alcohol we drank as I was very much worse for wear by the end of the night. We did our usual amount of dancing and generally running around and met the funniest Cambodian girls who shared our passion for dancing to everything. I forget their names along with everyone elses name I talked to that night. It wouldn’t even be worth writing about Tuesday had we not got ourselves together to try Cambodian BBQ and have ANOTHER foot massage and a wander. We sat in the cutest cafe called Babushka in the Lane and chilled out. It was our last night in Siem Reap and we really managed to comeback from the hangover well. 

We squeezed in a cheeky trip to Ta Prohm (the one off of Tomb Raider) before catching our bus to Phnom Penh.

Ohhhhhh the tension. An Australian travel agent told us that Spider village was en route from Siem Reap to PP. I was terrified. Shanghai friends had informed me of this place so I mentally prepared myself to have a tarantula thrown at me all night before. We got away with it. Phew. I expected to see more fried spiders in Cambodia but only spotted the one tray on a street near the night market. I read later that eating fried spiders is the result of a survival technique used by villagers during food shortages prompted by the Khmer Rouge. Apparently the body is sweet and the legs just taste fried. I won’t be finding out.

My shining moment in Siem Reap: biting into a lump of pork fat that was on the top of the BBQ because it looked like fish. The waiter politely came over and told me what it was and then they explicitly explained to every other table around me all night what it was. 

Catherine’s hangover quote: I’d rather have a massage than a beer.

Phnom Penh was so different. Being the capital city it was much less touristy and we didn’t think it was as friendly as Siem Reap. Perhaps because when we first arrived at the hostel and told them we were going out for the evening to have a wander they couldn’t tell us enough that our bags might be snatched. Slightly on edge we found the strip of restaurants on the river and had a pretty nice meal followed by the sleep of our lives in our hostel. To continue the trend of being uncharacteristically productive on holiday, we got up early and met Cat’s uni friend and her boyfriend who happened to be in Phnom Penh that morning too! SO many english breakfasts to be scoffed down in Cambodia…I really enjoyed the cheap western food everywhere as some of it is so inaccessible to me in Shanghai! Don’t get me wrong, there are some Khmer dishes that I’ve really enjoyed, like Lok Lak Beef and Amok ANYTHING. A failed attempt to visit the Royal Palace meant that we had to switch our schedule around and visit S21, a Khmer Rouge prison, in the morning. Before deciding to come to Cambodia I had little or no idea about its history or how much tradegy occured here not so long ago. I definitely know a fair bit now and the prison was harrowing. Given how recently the Khmer Rouge was in power, it shouldn’t have shocked me that our own tour guide was himself marched out of Phnom Penh to the countryside when it was ‘liberated’. There were only seven survivors of S21 when it was freed and two of them were at the museum, too. They had very different stories and reasons for coming back to the camp and it was surreal to see them in black and white photographs as prisoners and then shake their hand.

We visited the Royal Palace in the afternoon after lounging around in a thai restaurant and deciding that we want to dine on cushions on the floor forever. It was awesome and beautiful and decadent. I liked it a lot, we were just so hot and Cat had to wear a very sexual large white T-shirt over her clothes to cover her shoulders, so I feel as though we were thorough but fast. We headed back to the hostel and had a drink before heading out for a pizza ‘no happy’. There were quite a few expats in the restaurant, mostly middle aged western guys with decidably younger looking Cambodian women, munching on their Happy Herb Pizzas, ‘extra happy’.

We got up early to visit the killing fields before catching the bus to Sihanoukville. After the Genocide museum the day before we didn’t particularly want to go, but we knew we had to. I’d recommend the tour. You get a free head set that walks you round the site and tells you everything you need to know, along with some accounts from survivors of the Khmer Rouge and even Khmer Rouge soldiers themselves. I can’t say it was enjoyable…but I’m glad we went.

I don’t think I embarrassed myself noticeably in Phnom Penh…but I don’t know, ask Catherine.

To Sihanoukville!!!!! We were SO ready to relax. It took five hours to get there by bus and I did what I’d been doing all week – sat passing the time doing absolutely nothing just staring out the window. After our first long beach day Cat asked what I’d been doing to amuse myself and neither of us had really noticed me move all day. I’ve discovered there is no end to my people watching. We stayed on Otres Beach at Wish You Were Here, a cute wooden beach hostel with the loveliest staff. I can’t recommend it enough. The next couple of days involved tanning, sunsets and eating. I’m not sure we did anything else. We went on a snorkelling trip on the third day, which was okaayyyy until the final snorkelling session which was awesome. Geeked out staring at coral for a long while. For our last night on Otres we walked along the beach at sunset and sat under a little straw pagoda and ordered a bottle of wine. Then the rain came down. We had a beach view to a tropical electric storm at sunset. As the torrential rain didn’t stop for about two hours we had no choice but to sit in our little hut and drink a second bottle and share the most delicious pizza ever. It was one of my favourite nights just sitting having the craic! I enjoyed rainy season!! Everyday when the shower comes you have no choice but to haul up some where and have a drink, read your book or just watch the rain come down.

Cat’s last full day was a complete save. The weather sucked and we managed to go horseriding in the morning through the countryside (we liked it but the horses freaked out when the rain got heavy so so did we), move our stuff over to Serendipity and grab lunch, have an hour long massage, go across the street and have an hour long facial, drive down the coastal roads on a motorbike for a while, check out the night market and then go to Cat’s favourite restaurant so far: Grand Kampuchea. $3.50 gets you BBQ meat or fish and a big plate of veggies/sides. It just delicious and so so cheap! Yum. I fancied dessert…so we walked into town and found a little cafe with an ENTIRE MENU OF BANANA SPLITS!!! (If you dont know me, banana split is one of my favourite things ever). We had a martini and a peanut banana split. It was cute, they gave you your own cocktail shaker and you poured your martini out yourself. I love a gimic. Before heading back we went across to Led Zephyr as they had some live music that night. A very smooth Cambodian man sang some covers. Some well…some not so well. 

My shining moment in Sihanoukville: falling asleep during my facial and snoring a little bit…

We headed to our hostel, fell ashleep and got up to have a nice breakfast downstairs before Cat’s bus arrived. I’ve had the best time in Cambodia so far. Feeling extremely lonely today now that my partner in crime has gone home but looking forward to the next stages of the journey! Going to a Cambodian cooking class tomorrow (it’s just all about the food) and then it’s onto Bangkok on Friday for two days! You read about the Cambodians being the friendliest people on Earth and we definitely agree. Shout out to Lin, Lucky the tuk tuk driver and everyone else who gave us a smile (so everyone).

I have to go shopping now because the hole in the crotch of my denim shorts is just getting unreasonable.

Have a lovely Wednesday!

L

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Kites on the brain

About ten minutes ago I finished The Kite Runner. What an emotional read. When I turned the last page I found myself feeling as though I could burst into tears. I love it when a book can make you feel that way. When I first sat down in sunny Fuxing Park I was worried the Chinese guy belting out a ballad or ten might put me off. Luckily his microphone wasn’t turned up all the way.

I adore people watching in Fuxing Park, one of the few parks in the city centre where you can lie out on the grass AND 60 seconds from my apartment. Earlier a western girl was lying out in her bikini top (not me) and what an attraction that proved to be. Chinese men would wander past and stare, not in a letchy way but in a ‘foreigner are crazy’ sort of way. I, too, had a fan – just the one mind, no bikini top – who lingered and stared at me reading my book for a good twenty minutes. Who can blame him? At about 4pm when schools let out the kiddies turn up as well as the kite enthusiasts whose demographic is without fail middle aged men. These kites are a serious business. Anyone who is anyone has a big industrial looking spool and their kite strings go up into the sky for miles. We’ve seen kites with lights on at night before. Apparently here its a team and/or spectator activity too, so fun for everyone!

A while ago a very old Chinese man hobbled across the green at about 1mph limping on a stool he was carrying. Despite labouring just to walk across the green, he went out of his way to help launch a strangers kite. The guy on the end of the spool had to wait a good while for the old boy to perfect the launching technique (guessing at kite terms) but they succeeded in the end! It was a lovely moment. Everyone’s an expert. Spenny bought a kite here a few weeks ago to get in on the action. Bit embarassing really, it only cost two pounds and was about 30cm wide. Amateurs. 

Summer is almost here. I say almost..for Shanghai it’s just warming up. This week we are up to a borderline friendly, borderline uncomfortable 33 degrees celsius. We’re being teased by hot humid days and rainy weekends as the temperature creeps up to forty again. I don’t know whats worse…being dropped into forty degree heat straight from England or being here during the warm up. Or the fact that my classrooms are still being heated to 23 degrees and the kids are still wearing about 3 sweaters. Sweaty laowai. 

Anyways, its almost 5pm and it’s a Tuesday so I should hunt out the nearest available Happy Hour and, well, get all happy and stuff. 

 

TTFN!

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我好忙

Or…I’m so busy! Currently sat in a western style bakery listening to french songs…bloody expat. Go and get some noodles. 

Only four months after my last post…but life has been busy! Good busy! Since I last wrote I’ve been to Thailand over Chinese New Year and last week I went to Hong Kong over labour day. I also made it through being  Copy Editor for a car company during the Beijing Auto Show, which was interesting, had three jobs going at one point, and have of course been teaching. 

Last week was incredible. Let’s start with that. I went to Hong Kong with three friends from Kid Castle for four glorious days! Hong Kong is an amazing city, built up, busy and concrete, but beautiful, surrounded by nature and still manages to make you feel like theres more that 5 squared feet of space per person. I love living in Shanghai, but the fresh air and greenery made for a very welcome respite from the pollution and high rise madness of Shanghai. Before and after the trip people kept telling me that the reason you go to Hong Kong is for the shopping…if that’s all you do there you’re missing out. 

On our first day, after an extremely comfy bus ride past the multi-coloured docks and dumping our stuff in the hostel, we took the old tram from Central up to Victoria’s peak. I hadn’t done as much reading up on HK as I usually do when I go away but the view from the top told me that this definitely wasn’t an ordinary city break. HK is made up mostly of Islands. Green, jungly, mountain-like islands. It’s really gorgeous, and the water is SO blue. Later in the week we did the Dragon’s Back hiking trail which was also picturesque and ended at a small beach where we kicked off our trainers and drank a beer stood in the sea. We also spent a little while being fascinated by barnicles…at least I did. Other activities included the Big Buddha, a walk in the woods, the Wisdom trail on Lantau, the Star Ferry, the light show (at which we were all deeply disappointed but realised on the last day we may have been watching the wrong bit), Temple Market, Ladies Market and the obligatory Dim Sum meal which must be had when in Hong Kong. I loved how British everything looked, it felt like a bit of home, in particular the road markings and signage which made some streets look like Suffolk – if you ignored the fact that everyone was Asian. 

Hong Kong is a world away from mainland China and although it’s expensive I imagine it would be a very easy place to live. We had more than a few discussions about moving there…but I’m glad I’ve lived in Shanghai. It’s not always easy here, you have to learn the language and there’s lots more tendencies and cultural differences that you have to adapt to which is challenging at times but overall I think I’m better for it.

Still getting on with Chinese having upped my lessons to 4 hours per week. Sumi, my teacher, is going at lightning speed with me and I’m aiming for the HSK exam before I leave! It would be so much easier if I didn’t feel like I’d lost any ability I ever had to sit down and study for something like I did at uni. I speak to my Chinese teachers at work a lot more and even though they giggle at me when I try and say things it’s fun. I can’t even describe to you the sense of pride that washed over me when a Chinese grandmother asked if I had a pen and I said yes the other week. Ah dear. 

Teaching is going well though, after months I’ve mastered acting out emotions in the classroom. I look like I’m angry that you just punched the boy next to you but inside I’m laughing. My face can transition perfectly from “bye bye star!!” to “let’s play the best game ever!!!”. It’s been nice to get to know the kids more and more, and to understand their Chinese a little more helps too. I have some real cuties and some very funny senior classes who I love to talk to. All of these kids are at the start of a long journey in terms of education. At three or four years old they are already coming in for English and maths classes on the evenings and weekends and the workload only increases at they grow up. I don’t know how they do it, but the competition in China is fiercer than I could ever have imagined. At least Kid Castle is designed around having fun in the classroom, I have to play as many games as possible so that they are smiling when they leave the classroom. 

Maybe I caught the fever too as I got a second job as a Copy Editor and Copy Writer for a PR company to keep me busy when I’m not at school. It can be hectic and I was lugging my laptop around with me for weeks incase the dreaded email alert went off on my phone, but I quite enjoy it. I wrote an article that appeared in the Shanghai Daily newspaper the other week and I often have to write speeches for executives. I like the writing part and I like being able to work anywhere so it’s been good experience! Being a native English speaker opens so many doors for you here. 

That’s about all for now. Photo’s to follow.

Much love,

下午好

 

 

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