Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feb 15; I’m on the edge of glooory! Well not really, more like the edge of a deathtrap

Day 10
My calendar told me to deal with what’s important right now, not urgent. What was important at the moment? Lady Gaga and lesson planning. What a killer combo.

On another note, canteen food 3 times a day can kill you. Seriously. What I have shown below tastes really good. The only thing I worry about is the sodium intake. 
Tofu, broccoli, and mi fan (rice)
We headed out for dinner at a Muslim restaurant with some of the other foreign teachers. Getting there was...interesting. The route consisted of bumpy roads and strolling along the edge of a deathtrap-highway in the dark. Yee, they do things differently here.
Also, we met another English speaker/foreign teacher! Tom is an American egg (white on the outside, asian on the inside) who watches Community (yay!), can beat box and rap, and say pickles with a Southern accent. We’ve met some pretty interesting people thus far. I wonder who else will come our way. 

Feb 14; Happy Valentine's Day!

Day 9
When I opened the door to get hot water from the boiler room like I do every morning, I noticed two hearts on the door and two things on the ground. What I originally thought was crap on the floor was actually a Valentine’s Day gifts from Kristie! Aww, what a pleasant surprise. =)
I gave out my valentine’s to the girlies (which I prepared yesterday since I had time) and spent the rest of the day eating chocolates, sending virtual valentine’s day cards, and lesson planning.
Hope you had a lovely V-Day where ever you maybe or who ever you may be spending it with <3

Feb 13; family ties in China

Day 8
As two of the girls started teaching today and the other two started their lesson planning, I went off to meet my aunt whom I haven’t seen for more than 10-ish years.
All I can say is it was lovely meeting up with her and my uncle whom I had never met before. Despite the long distance in time and place, there were plenty of things to say, especially since she spoke English fluently (she used to be grammar professor at the university).
They took my out to dinner at this fancy Chinese restaurant and it was deliciouuuuuus. The most full I’ve been thus far during my stay in China.

Yes, things are certainly looking better.

Feb 12; The Key to our Sanctuary

Day 7
We met up with Professor/Teacher Geng today to talk about our literature course we’ll be taking, our stay in Beijing thus far, and the special room that belongs to us. It was our first time meeting him and it was a very pleasant meeting. He is such a nice, wise man and I'm glad that he's our go to guy. Oh, and he came with gifts: the key to our special room, apples, and hope.
After he left, my ocd kicked in and I had to start cleaning (actually, I started cleaning before he left…). Once Kristie and I organized and cleaned everything  the previous CTEP cohort left from their stay (thank you for leaving stuff for the future Beijing goers!), we coined the room as our Sanctuary.

 Welcome to our Sanctuary
 Kristie cleaning, Catherine-babushka lesson planning, and Tanjin-babushka resting
Our Sanctuary doubles as a library.
On the journey to open Cat’s tupperware, we met another foreign teacher. Heys, who’s originally from Britain, is super friendly and has a love for Korea just as big as our love for Korea. Yay more English speakers!

Yes, things are getting better.
(Alsoo thought I should mention that I found out that I will be teaching grade 3 today. excitiiing) 

Feb 11; english! wal-mart! paris baguette! Today is the day things get brighter.

Day 6
We started off our day with a 2 hour-ish welcome meeting with all the other teachers. In those 2 hours, the head administrative VIP talked about goals for this year in terms of teaching, policy, canteen food, etc… All the teachers in the room were off doing their own little things: reading, chatting with their colleagues beside them, writing notes… Yes it was quite the experience. Especially for us foreign teachers because the meeting was all in putonghua (Mandarin).

Back at the dorm, we had an unexpected knock on our room door. It couldn’t have been the Canadian girls because they were already in our room…We didn’t know anyone yet. Were we already in trouble? We opened the door to see an unfamiliar face: a tall asian dude who spoke perfect English. And that’s how we met Jeff. A fellow Torontonian and one of the foreign teachers at the school. He took around to:
Wal-Mart - Not comparable to the one's back in Toronto, but it was so comforting
 Papa John's in Wudaokuo for dinner.
Dessert at Paris Baguette. 

Today was the day that things started to look brighter:
1)      Yay! another person who speaks English
2)      Yay! Wal-Mart – a little piece of home (Canada)
3)      Unexpectedly finding a Paris Baguette – best day ever! I now have a little piece of home (Korea) where the cakes and stuff are actually cheaper in Beijing than they were in Korea!
4)      Italian food – something I haven’t had in a reaaally long time.
5)      Wudaoko – a foreigners area that reminded me of Hongdae.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feb 9; Capital Museum and Hutongs

Day 4

Fact: Chinese people have great time management skills. When they say meet at 9:00am, they mean on the dot.

We went to the Capital Museum today. I wish I knew more about the culture and rich history to really appreciate all that was inside this massive museum.  
Special exhibition for the auspicious year of the dragon.
 We had lunch at this fancy restaurant in the hutongs (supposed to be one of the best in Beijing). 
They were selling these massive white balls of fluff (cotton candy) outside the restaurant.
They were bigger than my head!
Hutongs are alleyways or narrow streets filled with a variety of stores. Historically, hutongs used to be residential neighbourhoods. Due to gentrification (got this word from my second year Urban Sociology class) the hutongs turned into a place with more practical uses. Along the streets of the hutongs you can find cafes, places that sell stuff like scorpions, accessories stores, and a whole bunch of other specialty stores. 
This is a man made river
Chinese people sitting-skating on the frozen lake.
After a nice day out, they sent us back to the dorms to rest where most of us had our dinner at the teacher’s cafeteria.
Food from the canteen, take II:
cabbage and noodles

Feb 8; Canada in China

Day 3
Fact: You need to get your bags checked every time you go in the subway.

We went to the two main touristy places in Beijing today: Tienanmen Square and The Forbidden City. It wasn’t full of foreigners surprisingly, a lot more locals.
Canada, is that you?!
Yes. Yes it is. Apparently, the prime minister flew into China today.
CTEP and Mao at Tienanmen Square
Inside the Forbidden City
The buildings inside the Forbidden City. They were all beautiful, intricate, and had a throne in each of them.
This is a Chinese man who really loves Harry Potter.
We went to a restaurant that supposedly has the best noodles in Beijing.
I thought it was delicious and it reminded me of a salty version of what I would have at home.
We had our first look at shopping district called Wanfugin with high end stuff and cheap stuff. And there was wi-fi. I love wi-fi. I miss wi-fi. (Korea, I miss you)
In the olden days, one of these gems could buy a city. 
We had dinner back at the residence. It was our first time at the canteen. The first cohort of Vic students said the food was good, so that's what I expected.  Right off the bat, there were two things not so good: 1) grease  2) salt - both were in abundance. But at least there were veggie options. Here's a first look at the cafe food:
Cabbage with fungi and cabbage with green peppers, and egg rice – all for 5.5 RMB (less than 1 CND)  
I'm not normally a picky eater - I'll eat anything that falls under the category of pescetarian... however I do wish some of Canada's healthier eating habits would transfer over to the cafeteria here in China...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feb 7; homestay at Carol's

Day 2
Catherine and I went to Carol’s house with Angela (who will be coming to Toronto) to enjoy Carol’s home cooking. Oh how I’ve missed home cooking.
She later took us to the supermarket where my first purchase in China was a pillow because last night’s beanie pillow was not cutting it…at all. There was a plants market too which sold different things like:
Pretty flowers:

And lots of fish:

We met up with Carol’s husband for dinner. He helped us fix our internet! Yay, Internet!
This is Carol and her husband at the juk (congee/rice porridge) restaurant. Carol’s husband loves Carol very much. =)
On a final note: Chinese dramas are very… screened.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feb 6; Anyeonghekesayo Korea, Ni Hao China!

Day 1 in China

The ride: 
It was a sort 2 hour flight compared to the first 14 hour one – thank goodness.
The lunch sucked. It was pork and there were no alternatives (what kind of service is this??). Lucky for me my wonderful friends, Catherine and Kristie, gave me their tofu and I gave them my meat.
tofuuuuu! <3
my amazing travel buddies.
Catherine's Korean Playlist.... Korea has definitely changed our personal preference ;)
First impressions: El Camino (the road)
As we were on the van going towards the place we would be calling home for the next 5 months, I couldn’t help but notice how familiar the scene looked. No, it didn’t look like Spadina. It looked like we were cruising down the DVP….

Our new dorm:
Here’s a little look at the new space. I wish you could experience the room with your senses…touch the dirt, smell the funkyness, feel the cool air… It’s going to be quite the experience. (myungjae I miss you)
the windows. which are barred. and has a view of something that looks like north korea.
The bars will come in handy when drying clothes though!
the beds and bean bag pillow
Our empty desks

First meal:
The Chinese teachers treated us all to a warm welcome dinner at a restaurant close by the residence.
There was a mix of new things, like corn juice, and familiar things like shrimp and VEGETABLES (I’ve missed my veggies). It did remind me a bit of my dad’s home cooking…
Today was also the lantern festival day. Unfortunately, we live too far from the bustling civilization of the actual city to see the lanterns. We did however see and hear fireworks...Oh yees, he definitely heard fireworks... all through the night…

3 shirts, 2 pants, 1 hat later... I was all bundled up for my first night in China.

"I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Feb 5; last day in Seoul

Day 26

This is it, our final day in Seoul.
Reloading our T-Money cards for the last time
We started our last day by visiting the National Museum of Korea.
The museum was hugeeee, but it was organized so well. 
We headed to back to Sookdae to say our farewells to another Korean buddy. The university was such an appropriate way to end our journey here in Korea since it was where we it all started.  
Zoo Coffee =)
Finally, Korean waffles. Worth the wait. 
Last dinner at one of my favourite restaurants: OJAK in Hongdae.
Congratulations to Catherine for learning to use chopsticks like an asian person!
jjampong. Highly recommended if you like spicy and seafood. 
Look who we saw on the way out!! Lee Min Ho!
We made our way to the airport with the subway. It was really convenient, cost efficient, and took 45 minutes from Hongik to Incheon. The only thing that went terribly wrong was the scary dude on the subway that shouted randomness in the middle of his slumber…
We had to go through these moshisoyo (cool) guys while checking out.
(Taeyang and T.O.P)
At the airport, we made a luggage fort and called it our crib for the next 12 hours.
I was able to sleep really well until I was woken up by the sound of loud Chinese women. I guess that was my wake up call. No more relaxing time in Korea. The next morning, I’d wake up in China. Hopefully not by loud Chinese women though.