RSS

Category Archives: Travel

Day 291: Farewell, China!

Well, it’s here – our last day in China. How did this happen? Simultaneously, it feels like we’ve been here for a lifetime and that we arrived just a couple of days ago. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that by tomorrow evening, we’ll be back in the States, among friends and family and will stay there for the foreseeable future. But before we say our final farewells to China, we’ve done a little more exploring the past couple of days.

Yesterday was the smoggiest day of the year so far in Hong Kong (with a whopping AQI in the 100s compared to Baoding’s 400s…) so, naturally, we went to the mountains to go sightseeing (not the best planning on our part). We woke up early, headed to the subway, and (after bypassing Disneyland) we ended up on Lantau Island, in a cable car, and headed towards the giant Buddha.

From the cable car:
IMG_4060

Below, is the Dragon’s Back Hike:
IMG_4061

Climbing the steps:
IMG_4063

High five!
IMG_4080

IMG_4067

View of Lantau Island on the way back:
IMG_4070

It was a very hot day and the smog disrupted some of the beauty, but we had a good time walking around and seeing the giant Buddha and looking out over the mountains.

Today we tried to make the most of our China time by wandering through the city for a couple of hours, eating in the #2 best restaurant in Hong Kong (with the friendliest staff in the world, in our opinion), and visiting the Ladies’ Market (in the neighborhood with the highest population density in the world).

Cool building we passed by in our wanderings:
IMG_4085

Dumplings:
IMG_4088

Ladies’ Market:
IMG_4091
IMG_4093
IMG_4094

We’ll be checking out early in the morning and taking the subway to the airport, so I’ll make a post after we arrive and make note of all the culture shock we’re going through. It’s sure to be a whole other adventure just getting used to life in the States.

This year has been the most life-changing year of my life and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I’m so glad and so grateful that we took the chance and decided to spend a year living and teaching in China. We’ve seen so many amazing places, eaten so much good food, and learned so much (about the world and ourselves) that it’s impossible to wrap up the entire year in a few words. I’m so proud of the experiences we’ve had and the people we have become.

Thank you very much for following along and supporting and joining in on our adventure with us!

Best wishes,

Alyssa

Advertisements
 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Day 289: Victoria Peak and International Style

Hello!

We had two really great days yesterday and today. Both were laid back and filled with our basking in the culture transition and this amazing city.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to go to Victoria’s Peak instead of the escalators and I’m so glad that we did.

From the top of the peak:
IMG_3981

It’s almost like there’s a whole other city on top of the peak!
IMG_3990

For dinner we stopped by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and I fan-girled Lieutenant Dan:
IMG_3982

From the top of the Sky Terrace:
IMG_4015
IMG_4016
IMG_4018

Today, we went to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and spent a couple of hours wandering around, enjoying being outside, and watching all the monkeys and birds.

I found Zaboomafoo!
IMG_4049

And signs of “civilized” life:
IMG_4050

After wandering around there, we headed to the mid-levels (the giant escalator system) and grabbed a good Mexican dinner before heading over to a Caribbean bar where we people-watched for a couple of hours.

Look at all the different cuisine types on this one road:
IMG_4052

One of the things that makes Hong Kong so fascinating is how international it is. Everywhere we go, we see people from all over the world, hear so many different languages, and you can find about any cuisine type you could ever want. It’s so much fun and so interesting (not to mention delicious)!

Tomorrow we are making a day trip out of going to see the giant Buddha on Lantau Island and in the evening we might go check out a ferry or a night market.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Day 288: A Whole New (Hong Kong) World

Alright, the bug has bitten me too – I’m quickly falling in love with Hong Kong. Everywhere you go there is something to do or see or hear. It really is amazing here.

Wednesday we woke up, grabbed some food (I found a muffin!) and coffee and set out on our day’s wanderings. Most of the day was just spent wandering around on Hong Kong Island taking in the sites and sounds.

IMG_3197
IMG_3919
A wet market we stumbled into while wandering:
IMG_3186

In the evening, we went to Times Square (a giant, really expensive shopping mall) and saw Maleficent (very good). Outside of the mall was a Tiananmen Square tribute that served to remind us just how much we’re not in Mainland China anymore.

This is the Apple store across the street from Times Square:
IMG_3928

Though our day was great, I had a sad realization – my Chinese speaking days are over. No more feeling accomplished because I ordered my food in Chinese and no more surprising my students when I respond to their questions. Now, I’m back in the world where I don’t feel accomplished for just saying everyday phrases and courtesies. When I go to the grocery store and can pay for my food without any linguistic barriers, no one is going to pat me on the back and say “great job! You really understood what that cashier was saying to you!” But hey, it was a ton of (often times embarrassing) fun and I’m proud of what I did accomplish throughout the year and at least I went out with a linguistic bang when I had a conversation with our bread people letting them know when we were leaving, that we wouldn’t be back, and we’ll miss them.

IMG_3144

I also realized no more special friend prices and no more rides around town on kuai long. I’ve been out of Mainland China for three days now and I’m already missing all of it. But on the up side, we’re enjoying no one staring at us or calling out “laowai”, the shower has water pressure, it took only five minutes to completely update my phone and laptop (compared to the 24+ hours it took in Baoding), and we’ve rediscovered beauty in the world again (compared to smoggy Baoding). We spent an hour yesterday just staring at the clouds rolling over the harbor and we keep stopping to stare at the sky and marvel at how big and blue it is. I’m excited to do more of that when we get to our home in the States.

Thursday, we woke up and (after a pancake breakfast!) went on a jaunt through the city to Victoria Park and along Causeway Bay. Though it was in the 90s and quite humid, we had a really wonderful time strolling around and taking in the scenery. When we were a block from our hostel, on our way back, without any warning the sky just opened up and started pouring. I’ve never seen a rainstorm start and stop so suddenly. We also went to Ikea (my first time) and had a really fun time wandering around and looking at all the Hong Kong living space sized room set-ups. The Ikea set-ups kind of made me want to live in Hong Kong just so I could decorate my tiny space like that.

IMG_3942

Since Hong Kong boasts over 11,000 restaurants, we decided just to take a stroll and see what popped out at us to try for lunch. Without realizing it until we’d sat down and ordered, we picked a Northern China restaurant a couple of blocks from our hostel. Though it was just a little hole in the wall restaurant, it tasted like home (our Northern China home) and was exquisite. It was so good and satisfying we might have to go there again despite the plethora of culinary options.

In the evening we made our way over to Kowloon Island to explore the Avenue of Stars and see the Hong Kong skyline (supposedly the best in the world tied with the NYC skyline). It certainly didn’t let us down.

IMG_3951
IMG_3965

As we continued to wander around on Kowloon, we stumbled upon a German restaurant we just couldn’t pass up. It was the perfect way to end a really good day – sitting waterfront, looking at the Hong Kong skyline, while we drank German beer and had a true German feast. It’s tempting to go back there again too.

IMG_3959
IMG_3958

Today we had a late start so we are going to save our big touring sites for the evening when we go to Victoria Peak and then go neon sign watching on the largest escalator system in the world!

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 286: Welcome to Hong Kong

Hello!

After a really long day yesterday, we’ve arrived in Hong Kong and have found ourselves in a completely different world. Since we finished packing Monday night, when we woke up yesterday morning, all we had to do was have our final coffee in Baoding, fold the sheets, and drag our luggage down the four flights of stairs one last time. The school sent a car to pick us up and take us to the train station and with that, along with the company of Li Laoshi, we were on our way. We had no problems getting our tickets or into the train station (other than they stopped us to look at the pocket knife Duncan had in the bag we intend to check at the airport – but they didn’t take it) and soon enough we were in our first class (super comfy) seats on a fast train down the East coast of the country, one final time. We were thrilled to discover that we got complimentary snacks and Cokes as soon as we boarded the train but other than that, the ten-hour ride was uneventful (but very comfortable and quiet). We passed the time by reading, talking, sleeping, and (most interestingly) observing the changing scenery the farther South we traveled. Once again, I was reminded of how gorgeous South China can be, especially compared to the North (and Baoding).

IMG_3904
IMG_3899
IMG_3896
IMG_3895

Traveling the length of the country through the countryside was a fitting (and very enjoyable) way for us to say goodbye to Mainland China.

The problems started when we got off the train and began the long traverse to our hostel. We arrived in Shenzhen at 6:16 but didn’t make it to our hostel until 9:30. What with several money exchanges, multiple checkpoints through customs (twice we had to get out of line to fill out papers we didn’t know we were supposed to have when we got in the line), ten million escalators, metal bars at every entrance and exit spaced about two feet apart (making lugging our six bags of our life in China stuff quite frustrating), and four subway line transfers that resulted in one stubbed toe, one scraped knee, and (today) very sore shoulders, necks, arms, and backs we were pretty grumpy when we got to the hostel. Once we did find the hostel we climbed four flights of stairs to check-in only to discover that they don’t (even though they said they would) accept RMB and we had to use my credit card to check-in (and hope that it didn’t get declined since we’re in a new country). The card went through and we got checked in but then we had move all our luggage back down the four flights of stairs, across the street, and up five more flights of stairs to get into the tiniest room I’ve ever been in (that’s not a closet). Hong Kong is known for having ridiculously tiny housing for ridiculously high prices and considering how much we paid for our “room” at the hostel, I totally believe it. We may be at the second highest rated hostel in Hong Kong but on top of the tiny rooms it also can’t boast a restaurant or a bar – something we were looking forward to after our ten-hour ride on the train and difficult trek through the subway (called the Mass Transit Railway – MTR – in Hong Kong). By the time we’d settled into the hostel and were ready to head out, it was 10pm so the restaurants we’d eyed on the way in were closed. This ended up being just fine because we went to the 24-hour McDonald’s across the street and found “real” Western food – chicken nuggets, French fries, sweet and sour sauce, and an iced coffee have never tasted so good!

Fed, clean, settled, and caffeinated we were much happier and went on a mini-wander around our block to see what Hong Kong was all about and we’ve concluded that Hong Kong and Mainland China are truly different places. We feel like we are more in the west (I think it feels just like NYC) than any part of the world we’ve been in for the past ten months. And the things we are noticing (culture shock) are so fascinating and kind of hilarious to us. First off, Hong Kong is definitely an international city. In a five-minute walk down the block we heard Mandarin, Cantonese, English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. Everything is written in English and in Chinese (traditional characters) and (a big deal for us) everything we’ve done (ordering food, exchanging money, going through customs) has been done in spoken English. We were so taken aback by the process of ordering our food in English that Duncan and I both (separately) misunderstood what the people behind the counter were saying to us because we were expecting Chinese instead of English (Duncan kept thinking the guy behind the counter was saying “what’s that” so he kept repeating his order and I responded with “Alyssa” when the lady asked me if I wanted whipped cream and I thought she asked me for my name on the order). Another thing that has really shocked us is the nudity in advertising – it seems like there are naked women everywhere! We’ve also been shocked by the Internet (fastest Internet in the world and no more firewall of China!), flushing toilet paper (instead of throwing it away), people wearing baseball hats, and “civilized” behaviour. People wait for lights to change, no one is hawking loogies, people say “sorry” and “excuse me” when they bump into you, they clean up after themselves in restaurants, there’s no honking (and people drive on the “wrong” side of the road), there’s no burning plastic, and people smell like perfume and cologne. The hardest thing we have to deal with right now is the fact that almost everyone speaks English so when we talk to each other, other people are likely to understand us. We’ve developed a bad habit of just talking to each other about anything and everything around us (since it’s pretty likely that people wouldn’t understand us in Baoding) and we’re making a conscious effort to end that here in Hong Kong.

Overall, I think it was a good idea for us to come to Hong Kong before arriving in the US because it will serve as a culture-shock transition period. I’m really enjoying taking note of all the similarities and differences between our life in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and the US.

We found clouds!
IMG_3914

The hustle and bustle of a 24-hour, international city:
IMG_3909

Hong Kong is more vertical and horizontal:
IMG_3908

View from our hostel room (I see the ocean!):
IMG_3915

The rest of today will be spent wandering around and getting our bearings and tomorrow we will begin exploring and touring. As a side note, today is the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, and international media has said that there are massive protests going on all over Hong Kong. We have not seen nor heard anything about protests since we’ve been here and the only thing we know about is a candlelight vigil scheduled for tonight. We are staying safe and all is well!

Thanks for following along and until next time,

Alyssa

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Day 229: Is She Beautiful?

Hello!

We’re back from a wonderful weekend in Beijing and another day of teaching has already passed. Friday afternoon after Duncan’s classes ended, we set out on a bullet train and were in Beijing by 2 pm. We decided to stay in a different hostel this weekend (partly for adventure and partly out of booking necessity) and so we wandered our way through the chaos of the Beijing subway system and found ourselves amidst the mazing hutong alleyways of Ancient China. It turns out our hostel (Kelly’s Courtyard) is hidden away down own of these narrow streets and (without even a sign to let you know you’re ringing the correct doorbell to the door you’re warily standing in front of) is a traditional Chinese house converted into a small but comfortable hostel. The hostel advertises itself as a “family” but how it should be advertising is as a home away from home. They let you take what you want from a snacks counter and a refrigerator stocked with drinks of all sorts (so long as you go by the honor system and write it down); the internet is fast and consistent; the rooms and the accompanying private bathrooms are the cleanest places we’ve seen in China (we truly felt clean for the first time in months); and the rooftop terrace is an excellent place for reading (Game of Thrones, at the moment) while sun bathing (though I’m sure my paleness did more reflecting than absorbing).
My favorite thing about the hostel though was the silence. As soon as you enter the hutongs the sounds of various motors and their horns quickly dies away and as you delve deeper and deeper into the alleyways, you begin to be able to hear your own thoughts again along with each step taking you deeper into the maze. Once we were in the hostel, however, we actually felt compelled to whisper so as not to disturb other people or, more likely, be overheard (such a conundrum is a rare find, indeed, in a country exploding with people and lacking in privacy). But the quiet was magnificent and desperately needed.

We spent the majority of our weekend either basking in the sun on the hostel’s roof terrace or traversing the city either on the subway or through our wanderings. We also sated our appetite for Western food by enjoying burgers, Papa John’s Pizza, and even some German food in the embassy district (a truly amazing part of the city and one that I would gladly revisit). We even hate some nicer Chinese cuisine than we usually do on the roof of a restaurant near Nanluoguxiang. All in all, the weekend was exceptionally relaxing and just what we needed for a weekend away.

Hutong:
IMG_3136

Have you ever seen a better feast? Behold, Excalibur! (That’s really what it’s called:)
IMG_3142

Today, I taught seventh grade and began my classes by letting them know about the schedule change their about to “endure”. Two seniors from Western Kentucky University are coming to the Baoding Bilingual school next week to spend a month getting teaching hours before they graduate while experiencing life abroad. From what we understand (because we’ve been told very little), these new teachers will be in our classes with us and will be our assistants/co-teachers for the next month. In almost every class I said, “next week there will be a new teacher from America”, the kids responded with “where are you going?!” After I explained to them that I will still be here and I don’t go home until June (their confessions that they’ll miss me warmed my heart for sure), it went about like this:

Student: Boy or girl?
Me: Girl
Student: Is she beautiful?
Me: I don’t know.
Student: Is she your friend?
Me: No.

Student: Where is she from again?
Me: America.
Student: Where are you from?
Me: Meiguo (America in Chinese)
Student: What’s her name?
Me: I don’t know.

[Here they scoffed a bit at how little information I have and they seemed perplexed that we don’t know each other since we’re both from the US. Some students wanted me to go into detail about where we’re both from within the US but in general the conversation continued like this…]

Student: TEACHER! I want a boy teacher!
Me: Why?
Student: We like boy teachers.
Me: You don’t like me?
Students: No!! We like you very much. You’re very beautiful. Boy teachers are fun!
Me: Am I not fun?
Students: NO! You are fun. We want boy teacher. Why does the other boy teacher here not teach us?
Me: He teaches the little children.
Students: Who is the other boy teacher here?
Me: That’s my boyfriend.
Students: GOOD JOB, TEACHER! GOOD JOB! (with winks and thumbs up)
Me: Why do you want a boy teacher?
Students: Boy teachers are handsome and good looking.

So there you have it. Male foreign teachers are handsome no matter what they look like and girl teachers are good if they are beautiful. Welcome to teaching in China.

Other than my lesson in students’ teacher preference based on physical appearances, I had a proud moment regarding my Chinese. I was helping one of my (historically rowdiest) classes with their English homework when one boy didn’t understand what “without” meant and why that was the answer to the question instead of “with”. I was able to explain in Chinese that “with” is “有/you” in Chinese and “without” is “没有/meiyou”. He understood immediately and I was able to demonstrate some useful Chinese under my belt. Happy day!

As for the rest of April, I’m calling it no work April. We didn’t work yesterday and Duncan doesn’t work next Tuesday. Next week the two foreign teachers come in and they’ll be in/half-teaching our classes so they can get their degree-required teaching hours and they’ll be here until mid-May. The week after the teachers get here I work one day out of the entire week and the last few days of April and the first few days of May might also be exams for the students/holidays for us. Combine all of this and it looks like I won’t be teaching full weeks of classes by myself again until the last two weeks of our contract in which we’ll have to administer tests and then we plan on spending the last class partying and hanging out with the students to wrap up the year. It’s a silly schedule but as I’m enjoying my students more and more with every class I’m beginning to be sad I’ll have to leave them. It’s hard to believe this year of adventure is quickly drawing to a close.

But it’s not over yet so thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

A picture of Duncan from one of his students:
IMG_3128

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 220: Western Qing Tombs

Hello!

Reluctant to wake up early over the weekend, we nevertheless did so that we could go on a grand mini-adventure! Greeted by a choking wall of white smog that made it difficult to even see the next door building, Enkui and his wife picked us up early yesterday morning and we headed to the Western Qing tombs about an hour outside of Baoding.

It was quite an interesting adventure because of how different it was from the seven months we’ve been here. First of all, we were traveling by private car and got to take the highways (all toll roads), we experienced filling up at a gas station (where the attendants fill up your tank and gas is measured in liters per 100 kilometers), and we had Chinese caretakers that ushered us around the tourist site. We were essentially Chinese tourists  (rather than laowai) for a day. And it was great!

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the mausoleum complex is remarkably big and really can only be explored by car and with the help of a local guide.  In all there are 78 royal member buried on the grounds comprised of four emperors of the Qing dynasty and their respective royal households including family members and concubines. We didn’t see all there was to see but after several hours of exploring and wandering, I’d begun to lost count of how many tombs we did see. One of the most striking things to me is that there are farmers and other villagers living basically in the complex. The tourist sites (such as the tombs and the temple) are all guarded and you can only get in with a ticket, but immediately outside the walls there are families living in old servants buildings and their own homes. Even the building the emperor used to change his clothes in at the entrance of the mausoleum grounds is now home to a farmer (a fact I found astounding since I got fussed at for walking on the middle path of the road where historically only the emperor was allowed to walk).

You can definitely see the resemblance to the Forbidden City in Beijing:
IMG_3102

Look at the remaining original paint! Also notice the three languages on this stele – traditional Mandarin, Manchurian, and Mongolian:
IMG_3103 

Inside one of the emperor’s tombs (the only opened tomb). I felt like an archaeologist in this. Definitely in both of our top three best things about the day:
IMG_3108

A tomb surrounded by a remarkable echo wall. It was so much fun listening to our friends whisper hello to each other from across the courtyard thanks to these phenomenal acoustics:
IMG_3112

The day was filled with speaking in Chinglish, laughing, and hanging out with our friends and it was absolutely magnificent. Even though we originally hadn’t wanted to get up and go, I’m so glad that we did. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday and welcome in the spring.

Today, we woke up and the smog was all gone. The weather has actually the best we’ve seen this year and we celebrated by going outside in short sleeve shirts without jackets, eating pizza and ice cream, getting coffee, wandering around a park and then going shopping in a new grocery store where we found peanut butter, fruit and M&Ms!

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through this semester and we’ll be on a flight headed back home in only 71 days. But as the weather gets nicer and nicer, we get more excited about what’s left to come during this grand adventure in the Orient.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Day 206: Laowai at the Longmen Grottoes

Nimenhao!

We’ve returned after our trip to Luoyang and – I never thought I’d say this – we are happy to be back in Baoding.

We arrived in Luoyang on Friday with high expectations after a four-hour bullet train ride only to have them crushed pretty much as soon as we stepped off the train. First, there was no hostel ride at the train station to take us to the hostel (a free service advertised on their website and on Hostelworld and despite two emails requesting a pick-up) and so with both of our phones with dying batteries, no clue on how to say or write the hostel’s name or address in Chinese (we discovered there’s very little English in Luoyang), and relying on the bus information we read online (we didn’t know whether it would be correct or not), we found the bus stop and waited in the pushing crowds. Then, to make things worse, while we were waiting in line to get on the bus we thought was correct, an old lady (it’s always them!) repeatedly hit Duncan’s bag, tried to push him out of the way, and called us “stupid white ghosts” (which is a really terrible cuss word in Chinese meant to be as derogatory as possible towards white foreigners). So within the first fifteen minutes of our time in Luoyang we had discovered that we were in a completely different world than anything we had expected.

Turns out we did get on the right bus and we were dropped off right in front of our hostel after only a fifteen minute bus ride (thought it was a bus ride that was either in pedal-to the floor acceleration or foot on the floor braking). The hostel, clean and certainly suitable, was the most “Chinese” hostel we’ve stayed in. Though advertised as an international youth hostel, it’s clearly a place most frequently visited by Chinese tourists and not laowai. The girls behind the desk didn’t speak the greatest English which, though normally wouldn’t be an issue for us at all, was frustrating when she let us know that they had over-booked our room and we weren’t going to have the double room we paid for. After a bit of linguistic charades, we finally made it to our new room (a very comfortable double twin bed room) and decided to get some dinner in the hostel. We spent the rest of the evening adjusting our expectations and hanging out in the common loft area and figured out our plans for Saturday.

Saturday morning we woke up, had a good (American) breakfast and hopped on a bus to get to the famous Longmen Grottoes. We knew we needed bus 81 (which stopped right outside our hostel door) but since I assumed that the hostel people saying “cross the street” meant cross the bike lane rather than the actual street, we ended up on bus 81 going the opposite direction from the Longmen Grottoes. After taking it to its terminal station on one end of town, we realized “hey, this isn’t the grottoes! This is a train station!” and hopped on the correct bus and took it to the other terminal station. This ended up being just fine though because we got to see the city (not a city conducive for exploring by foot like we’re used to) and the weather was absolutely beautiful with blue skies, no smog, and a refreshing breeze.

We did make it to the Grottoes after not too long and instantly loved it. The Longmen Grottoes is a UNESCO World Heritage site where there are more than 100,000 stone carvings of the Buddha and his disciples within 1400 caves dating back as early as 493 A.D. Many of the statues were decapitated or otherwise destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in an attempt to get “rid of Old China” but they are still stunning nonetheless. Almost all of the bigger statues (some up to 57 feet high) are in good condition and provided an amazing example of ancient Chinese history, art, and culture. Probably one of my favorite parts of the Grottoes, however, was the thousands of teeny tiny buddhas covering entire walls and doorways. The most fascinating thing to me, though, was probably the fact that you can still see traces of some of the original paint. Just like the Greek and Roman historical sites (I’m thinking of the Parthenon, in particular) it’s hard to imagine statues we are accustomed to seeing in 50 shades of beige instead in reds and yellows as they were originally painted.

Buddha-filled holes in the hill:
IMG_3017

Walls with tiny buddhas and original paint:
IMG_3048

Teeny tiny buddhas:
IMG_3041

Panorama of the giant statues:
IMG_3061

While we were there, it was confirmed, once again, that Luoyang is not used to foreigners and so Duncan and I were asked pretty much every 100 meters if we could take a picture with someone (as usual, boys wanted pictures with Duncan and girls wanted pictures with me). At one point, there was a group of eleven girls queued up to take a picture with me and I just gathered them round for a group picture and had Duncan act as the photographer so that we could get the process over with faster. People asking for pictures has happened all over the place in China but never with as much concentration as we experienced at the Longmen Grottoes.
Though certainly very strange and something that takes a bit of getting used to at first, if people ask we typically don’t mind (though I do wonder what they are going to do with the picture of me later). But the friendliness and excitement of meeting a foreigner didn’t last long as people started trying to “sneak” pictures. This included standing right next to me (regardless of whether I was looking in the direction of the camera or not), taking pictures of us with the camera shutter noise and flash on (as if we don’t notice), and, for one girl, literally running in front of us turning and taking a picture of us as we walked and frowned at her and then running back behind us to where her friend was giggling (I considered chucking her phone in the river at that point since we would have obliged had she just asked).

After wandering the grottoes (and finding ice cream cones), we headed back to the hostel for some relaxing (by that point we wished we were invisible because the picture taking had gotten in the way of our site seeing and we’d experienced some blatantly racist reactions). But even at the hostel there was no escape. A college student from Xi’an, even after talking to me in English for a while, decided she was going to start “sneaking” pictures of me and when I held my hand in front of my face and shook my head she said “oh, but you’re so beautiful” (as if that’s an excuse for not asking) and I just said “please don’t” and we went upstairs to our room for a while. Later, once we decided it was safe to return downstairs again (and we were wanting the internet), we were sitting on the couch when another lady with a giant fancy camera lens came in and was just staring us down across the room. Even after we both shook our heads no and tried to wave her off, she kept staring at us and taking dozens of pictures. Finally, I yelled at her to stop (much like punishing a misbehaving dog) even though we were in the middle of the common room and made a motion to get up towards her. She waved at us and left soon after that (of course after pretending it was the wall she really wanted a picture of). It may sound harmless enough, but after repeatedly dealing with the rudeness of people I just want to scream “I AM NOT AN ADORABLE ANIMAL OR PLAYTHING!” If people want a picture with me I will comply if they ask, but the sneaking, giggling, and blatant treatment as if I am sub-human because I am not Han Chinese is exhausting and infuriating. Once again I am reminded that it would be awful to be a celebrity and to have no escape from paparazzi or crazy people invading your personal privacy.

Overall, our trip to the Longmen Grottoes (our purpose for visiting Luoyang) was good and I’m glad we did it even despite the frustrations of Luoyang people. Now that we’re back in Baoding and the weather is clearly becoming spring, we have been reminded that we do appreciate and enjoy this place we’ve been calling home for the past six months even if it is filled with trash and smog. We’re looking forward to the rest of our time here even more now that winter is finally coming to a close.

The next trip we make will probably be in a couple of weeks to the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi Province. This week I hope to buy our train tickets to Hong Kong for our final big adventure before we leave the country and to get caught up on pictures and other housekeeping (online and in-home). We have a normal week of teaching ahead of us (except I don’t teach Tuesday this week) and I’m planning on reviewing this semester’s lessons before beginning more new material.

Thank you for reading and until next time,

Alyssa

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
Lewis and Clark and Mark

Travel. Photography. People. Stories.

CARDBOARD BOX OFFICE

A world of film, a house of stuff.

Alyssa in China

Ramblings on Life in China

backpackerlee

Backpacking (and eating) my way around the world!

TIME

Current & Breaking News | National & World Updates

中国 Jaunt

One girl's quest to teach some kids and eat a lot of rice

Asheville NC Mountain Travel Tips

Go to www.RomanticAsheville.com for the most up-to-date info!

Brevard Tiny House

Tiny Houses, Big Dreams!

THE WORD

Where one word inspires many.

My Hong Kong Husband

Third culture wife: Polish girl married to a Hongkonger, fresh off the airplane in Ireland. AMWF, lifestyle, culture, food, Asian fashion and a little bit of Cantonese

xballerina's Blog

Inspiration for the artist and athlete in everyone: the art of being human.

Duncan's Year in Pictures

A 365 Photo Challenge

Pointe Shoe Brands

Pointe Shoe Brands From All Over The World

Life in Russia

The Bridge between two countries

waltzing on water

dancing through life while sailing the high seas

Globe Drifting

Global issues, travel, photography & fashion. Drifting across the globe; the world is my oyster, my oyster through a lens.

The SWC Chronicles

Living, Laughing, and loving writing down the moments life is full of

JourneyBird

Whet your wanderlust.

%d bloggers like this: