A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011


sunny 37 °C

What a whirlwind! After Shanghai, 6 of us headed to Beijing. We found our hostel no problem and went straight to see Tianamen Square since it was a 10 minute walk from our hostel. We ended up going the wrong way at first, and while I'm usually pretty good with directions, getting disoriented the first night screwed me up for the whole of our time in Beijing. I could never tell where we were or what direction anything was, and there were plenty of good jokes made about it! That being said, by the end of our 6 days there, I got my sense of direction back.

Beijing was very much a check list city for me. There were lots of things you had to see, such as the great wall, Tianamen square, the forbiden city, but I didn't enjoy the city its self. It was very very very smoggy, and busy. Lots of pushing, more staring at the white girls than normal, and lots of pushy people trying to sell you stuff. I can handle a lot of that after being in India, but I found Beijing to be too much.

The first day, we went to a few parks close to our hostel, and while we were walking, we noticed we were sweating waywayway more than normal. I've never had my arms and legs sweat like that, as I'm not usually a sweaty person. This was like nothing I've ever experienced. Once we got back to have some cool off time, there was a complete downpour and thunder and lightning storm. Kristen and I went out to go shoe shopping (I badly needed some walking sandals after getting rid of my birkenstocks) and we were wading through ankle deep puddles the whole time. It rained until the next morning, and the smog was all gone! Our day visiting the forbidden city the next day was beautiful and we all actually burned by accident. The forbiden city was stunning to visit, but it was draining because of the crowds. I would have like to have been able to just wander, but because there are so many people that visit, and because it's China, everything is very guided and controlled. You couldn't just wander. That night we had peking duck - what everyone says you MUST eat in Beijing. We went to a very popular one, and they came around with a big trolley of cooked ducks that they cut up in front of you. It was actually quite delicious!!

The next daywas our great wall adventure! We booked it with our hostel and went on a tour bus with a bunch of other white people to a part of the wall called Jinshaling. We lucked out because the rain had washed away all the smog and it was bright blue sky and smoking hot! It was about a 3 hour drive outside of Beijing and isn't super touristy. There were actualy points where it felt like it was only me on the wall because I couldn't see anyone else! Parts of the wall where we hiked have been restored, but most of it is pretty old and crumbly. We definitely pretended to be soldiers patrolling the wall, keeping the Mongolians out. I was actually quite shocked by how steep parts of the wall were! i was definitely climbing of hands and feet at some points, and got quite the vertigo going down some places. I didn't resort to going down on my behind, but I was pretty close! I really never thought I would be on the great wall. It was definitely an unforgettable experience. I found myself not hiking that far, partly because it was so hot, partly because I kept stopping to look around and just be amazed at the fact that I was standing on the great wall. Crazy.

The next day, we said goodbye to 3 travel mates, and then went to go see more of Tianamen square. We also went to go see a Lama temple, that is 'advertised' as a Tibetan Temple, but it was like nothing Tibetan I've seen in my travels. I don't want to write a lot here, but after my experience in India (these posts from when I was in Dharamsala, India give a bit of a taste, but I've since done much more reflecting on the situation with that ethnic group http://jchapelski.travellerspoint.com/8/ http://jchapelski.travellerspoint.com/10/), I found it broke my heart more than anything.

Our last night in Beijing was spent at the night market, and on the main shopping street browsing - I of course spent a big chunk of time in the foreign languages book store, while I found Chinese folk tales in French that I bought for my class next year). Our last night with Kristen ended with me and her enjoying a nice cold pijo (beer) in a street cafe. I left Beijing with a much better taste in my mouth than when I arrived, but I can't say it is a city I would hurry back to.

Next, Chelsea and I are off to Xi'an (in fact we are already here)...and believe me, I have a good story from our first night!

Posted by jchapelski 04:41 Archived in China Comments (0)


I've fallen in love with Shanghai. I don't know why, or what it is I like about the city, I just really enjoyed it. The first day and a half I was there we were still with the group. We went to a few markets, and wandered the bund, the strip along the river. The skyline of Shanghai is stunning. One of the buildings that we affectionately named the bottle opener, is the third tallest building in the world. The rest of the architecture is stunningly modern. We went to the top of one of the second tallest building in Shanghai at night, then went back down a few floors to a bar for our last night together as a group. Really, we were paying a mighty high price for the view. I'll admit that I am missing some of the people from the group. I really enjoyed the people I was teaching with!

After being in a 'small town' of 600 000 it was quite the change being in an international city. Also, with all the traveling I've done, I've never been to a big international city. Never been to London, or Tokyo, or Toronto. I really liked being in such a big city. It's fascinating to be in a city of 23 million. What surprised me was how safe I felt. There were many times that I (mom, don't read this) walked alone at night back to the hostel and felt 100% safe. Same on the metro too. In fact, I like to consider myself a bit of a Shanghai metro expert, except for the fact that every time I go back to east Nanjing rd station where my hostel was, I came out a different exit. I was usually momentarily lost on my way back, but with a little wandering could fix the problem!

One of the things we saw was the Communist propaganda poster museum. To find it, we had to wander behind an apartment complex, and into the basement of an apartment but it was well worth it. Fascinating to see the progression.

While we were in Shanghai there was always diving and water polo on tv. It turns out the FINA world championship were there. I chose to take one of my days to go see some diving. I saw women's 3m springboard prelims and semi finals and men's 3 m springboard finals. The venue was absolutely stunning! If you google 'oriental aquatic center' you can see the venue. Absolutely stunning! It was so nice to have a day to myself and not to have to talk to anyone. Traveling with a group that got get along with can result in lots of talking.

Next stop...Beijing!

Posted by jchapelski 19:14 Comments (0)

One journey ends...another begins

sunny 35 °C

That's it! I'm officially on summer vacation. I'm done teaching until September. Friday was my last day teaching, and while the second week was tougher, a lot of the kids said thank you many times at the end, and said they really enjoyed English class that week. I'll admit that the last day wasn't a HUGE amount of English (we did an egg drop where I gave them certain materials and their goal was to drop an eg from the second, third, or fourth floor without it breaking. One egg actually survived a drop from the 6th floor!! I was impressed) but we were basically the entertainment at summer camp for these kids. At the end of it, I realize how much I learned in the teaching aspect (high school isn't exactly my specialty - infact I've only ever taught it internationally) and from the students. Their emotion and curiosity was raw and honest. Beautiful. I found it quite refreshing. Tonight (Saturday night) was their talent show. Tres cute!

On a side note, I didn't have to teach today so I went in to Hangzhou with 2 other girls who didn't have to teach and we rode bikes. I am still alive! That is something to be proud of!! They have great bike lanes separated from traffic for most of the way.

I spent the evening packing up my backpack as we are off to adventure. As a group we are heading to suzhou then shanghai. From there, I am adventuring with some friends around shanghai a bit more, then to Beijing, Xi'an, Yangshuo and the surrounding area, then hong kong and home! I thought I was going to need to be home for interviews, but after I checked my shook board email for the first time since I left, I found out I've web placed already. I'll be teaching grade 4 French immersion. I'll have my own class!!!!! No more table and filing cabinet, but I'll keep my picnic basket with me just because I've used it in my positions the last 2 years and would feel naked without it!

Posted by jchapelski 09:46 Archived in China Comments (0)

The second week begins

semi-overcast 30 °C

The second week of teaching has definitely been much harder. I miss my first week's class. They come visit me in my new class during the break. They are so sweet! A few of them brought me gifts on Monday, one of which was from a girl who we met in the grocery store on the Saturday. Her mom made a scarf for me after I met her. SO lovely! My new class and I dont quite get along as well. I don't think they enjoyed English class last week, and I am taking it as my job to crack them. It's hard. I got a good portion of the class, but there are some boys who are too cool for school and can be quite rude. I wish it had been the other way around - where I had the hard class then the lovely one, but I am lucky to have had the lovely one at all.

On another note, I've had the most indulgent day! Slept in until 8 this morning, then after breakfast a few of us went to the salon everyone had been talking and got a shampoo and blowdry. It was a 45 min shampoo/head, shoulder, neck, and arm massage. So indulgent and only $5. We then got actual coffee. I have a feeling that will happen again before we leave Fuyang.

Posted by jchapelski 06:26 Archived in China Comments (0)

How could I forget...?!

Saturday night was so much fun! We grabbed a quick dinner then headed to a basketball game. Earlier in the week, we met one of the other 5 white people in Fuyang. He plays on the local basketball team. He gave us info about to game so a few of us went on Saturday night. It was hilarious. We didn't actually know where our seats were so we just took 5 in a row and hoped we didn't get kicked out. Everyone was very orderly, except when the other team had the ball. They the whole gum filled with a 'defense' chant. Something seemed funny about it and after a few minutes we realized it was a recording that they played. If the other team scored it would just stop mid word! We got a good giggle about that, and also being able to yell whatever we wanted since no one would understand anyways. The next game is after we leave Fuyang. Too bad!

Posted by jchapelski 21:24 Comments (0)

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