Beijing: My Forbidden City

IMG_1500.jpgRecently, I had the pleasure of getting to spend four beautiful, perfect days in Beijing — which enabled me to get some experience with china’s transportation system as well as check off some must-sees on my travel bucket list.

First off, there was the train ride TO Beijing. My travel partner, Jeani, and I made the mistake of taking the slow train to Beijing. Though a fourteen hour trip on any mode of transportation would be grueling, we also had to spend it with street beggars. We had to take turns sleeping, because if we both slept, we would have woken up with no belongings. Smoking is also allowed inside the slow trains, so we were breathing in extremely filthy air.

IMG_1516.jpgFinally we arrived in Beijing and it is breathtaking. We are so excited to be in a new city for a change. We navigate through the train station, where we are greeted by the bluest, clearest sky I’ve seen in months. People told me horror stories about Beijing — that there’s so many people you’ll never get anywhere, that the pollution is so bad you won’t be able to breathe at all, the people are rude, there’s hardly anything to see… They were wrong.

Albeit, I haven’t seen much of China, but I feel confident that I can deem Beijing to be the Paris of China. I love the diversity in the people, the neighborhoods, the food. Instead of castles, Beijing has palaces; in lieu of cathedrals, they have temples. Beijing has both historical and modernized districts. People are sophisticated, they don’t stare at you, they care about their city and don’t litter all over the place. Beijing is an extraordinarily safe city and the police officers seem to really enjoy their job.

IMG_1573.jpgNow, I will admit that I came to Beijing in the perfect circumstances (by accident actually!) –> there was no pollution because they just cleansed the air after some big delegate meetings, it was right before high season started so I got all the low season prices for the same weather and circumstances, and there were less people because it was the week before a Chinese holiday.But all that aside, there were still some simply basic things I liked more about Beijing:

  1. Based on the numbers recorded over the past few years, Beijing’s pollution isn’t much worse than Changsha, despite what people seem to tell me. And Beijing acknowledges that pollution exists, whereas Changsharen refuse to see it as anything other than “fog”. The first step in recovery is seeing the problem, so I appreciated that Beijing was taking that first step in moving forward.
  2. Beijing follows more western rules: no smoking inside, no littering, etc. And because tourists are common, they don’t stare at you as much.
  3. Beijing is the same pricing if not cheaper than Changsha. When you’re shopping, the prices are listed about the same, but in Beijing, they barter with foreigners, and they throw stuff at you for free if you’re a foreigner who speaks Chinese… 😉
  4. More variety. Western food, better coffee, neighborhood styles. Whatever you want, it’s there.
  5. THEY UNDERSTAND ME WHEN I SPEAK CHINESE. (exception: taxi drivers).
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School Schedule

20151208_093022.jpgWhen I got here, the whole school situation seemed rather chaotic and lacking structure. However, after a few weeks, I’m beginning to get into the swing of things and catch on to how things work around the kindergarten. To start off with, there are 4 teachers in each classroom (ideally). There’s a ‘life teacher’, who does the food and cleaning tasks. there’s a head teacher and a TA. The TA pretty much always speaks more English than the head teacher in every classroom, and the TA and the head teacher alternate weeks teaching the Chinese class.

And then there’s (theoretically) a foreign teacher in each classroom. Everyone asked me “how is it that they’re taking you in the middle of the school year?” Because foreign teachers end contracts, ditch off, get fired during all times of the  year. Currently there are two classrooms that need English teachers in the school.

Now, the daily schedule goes as follows:

8:30 – The kids come in, get dropped off by their parents and they eat breakfast (which consists of some combination of cake-ish bread with some seeds on it, a roll, some quail eggs, or really soppy looking oatmeal).

20151215_0926119:00 – Classes. There are two 30 minute classes, with a short fruit eating break in between them. Typically, English class comes first at 9am, but sometimes if there is a kid that’s always coming in late, they ask us to switch to the second period (9:45/9:50 to 10:15/10:20).

10:30 – Dancing! The kids go outside (unless it’s raining or really really cold) and dance these interesting hand waving and jumping concoctions of movements. Then they run a few laps, and the teachers might do some other activity or let them play on the playground for a bit before bringing them in for lunch.

11/11:30 – Lunch. This time seems kind of class dependent. Usually my class eats lunch at 11, but that is certainly very flexible — others eat at 11:15 or 11:30. It’s all about how long you let them play outside for. After lunch, every class usually goes on a little walk around the preschool. We sing songs, and do walking games. A little last bit of exercise before naptime. (!!!!!)

12:30 – NAPTIME NAPTIME NAPTIME NAPTIME NAPTIME NAPTIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Favorite time of the day 😉 Teachers eat lunch and then we either take a nap, hang out quietly doing stuff, or we can leave the preschool and go out for coffee or something.

2:30 – Wake up the little rascals and make them put on their clothes and drink some milk (full cream) or some watery soup.

3:00 – In the afternoons, they have activities. And it varies from day to day what they’re doing. Mine go out and run for a bit before going to their first activity (recreation, art, music, library). Then a couple days a week, they spend time in the classroom doing some activity that the head teacher has planned.

4:00/4:30 – Dinner. Again, not exactly set in stone, but closer to 4 for my class. After dinner, my head teacher organizes them and she reads them a book or has them do some sort of activity until their parents come and get them.

5:30 – Kids go home, dinner time for the staff (or we can go home if we want).

Hurrah! And that’s my day. Every single day. Monday through Friday.
Yahoooooo. Sometimes we have half days on Saturday for special Parent Student game days. 20151128_105125.jpgThe Chinese don’t take very many days off and they have school all year round. They get two weeks off in the spring, National day (in the fall), Christmas day, New Years Day, and that’s essentially it. f you want to be at the top of  your game, you don’t take 3 months off in the summer to lounge around and let your mind forget everything you’ve  learned!

Où Tu Veux

I discovered these guys a couple months ago and I totally fell in love with their catchy French melody and their cute little boy-band.

Even if you can’t quite understand what it says, it’s still adorable! 🙂

It made me even more excited than I already was to go to Paris next spring!  I talked to the study abroad center at my college today and they told me about my options in France and I am so excited!

So Cute!

I’ve been on a country playlist lately (not an actual one, just a list of about five country songs that I consistently play over and over and over again). Anyway, one of the songs that Jacey introduced me to has now become one of my favorite songs ever.


Why do I like this song?  Well, first of all, it’s just plain adorable.  Second…she travels around with a really cute guy taking pictures and having a grand ol’ time!  Sounds like my ideal life! 🙂  Heh.  Not to mention that the lyrics have some pretty decent messages in them 😮  So put all those things together and you get an awesome song!

Enjoy! (I certainly did!)

Seeing and Singing

I was introduced to this new Matt Redman song through my First Year Seminar teacher–Dr. Curry.  While listening to it, I instantly was drawn to both the lyrics and the music.  The only downfall I could see was the fact that it was nearly seven minutes long. I particularly like the beginning of the song (probably because it has my full attention…whereas I begin to get a little more impatient as the song continues).  The lyrics go as such:

This is a time for seeing and singing
This is a time for breathing You in
And breathing out Your praise
Our hearts respond to Your revelation
All you are showing, all we have seen
Commands a life of praise

I just absolutely like that concept written directly in the song–the concept of God’s revelation of who He inspiring a response of praise and worship on our part.