A street near our campus in Hechuan (I promise people actually live here)
I ended my last post saying Anthony and I needed to lesson plan for the coming week because we finally started teaching. I forgot to mention that we would really only be teaching our Monday morning classes and then we were off to Chongqing city for a 3-day orientation with CIEE (the company we used to come to China).
Our first day teaching was, of course, eye-opening. But more on that subject a little later.
Tongliang, the freshman campus, where we work
After our classes, Anthony and I boarded the bus back to Hechuan. In the mid-afternoon, we were carted off to Chongqing for orientation. We were all given rooms in a nice hotel in the Yubei district of Chongqing. The five of us from Hechuan met the other participants in the Chongqing municipality.
There was a small flower shop in our hotel, and I can’t tell you how much I wanted this.
We went to dinner at, what I assume would be, a “bougie” Chinese restaurant. The restaurant had a general dining area, but there were also giant private rooms which is where we were located. We had three waitresses that attended to us in this room – they brought us food, filled our drinks, got us whatever we wanted. The room itself was made up to look like 18th century French luxury – gold trim, fleur-de-lis, giant fake murals of men in powdered wigs and women in huge dresses. It was such a strange choice – we couldn’t figure out why they did this, expect for that this is what they thought “fancy” and “luxury” were.
After dinner, DaBoyz and I ventured off to explore the city. We went to one of the biggest malls in Chongqing, Shin Kong Place. The mall was gigantic – it had every shop and luxury store you could ever want. It also features a full-size ice rink on the 5th floor, a basketball court and a rock-climbing wall (Take that, MOA).
The ice rink in Shin Kong Place, Chongqing
The next day (Tuesday, 9/26), we had meetings and presentations from CIEE, our hosting company and other agencies. Nothing interesting to report – it is exactly what you would expect to receive from an orientation to a foreign country. It felt like the course I needed to take before studying abroad.
Before coming to Chongqing, Anthony and I were actually offered different positions than the ones we accepted in Hechuan. We were offered positions in a Montessori School for preschoolers. We had emailed the CIEE participants that are currently there, and they told us about their duties (which ultimately led us to decline the jobs). Anyway, funnily enough, the two Irish girls we had emailed came to our orientation to give us a presentation about their life thus far in Chongqing.
That evening, we were all taken out for, you guessed it, hotpot. Chongqing is famous for this traditional dish and its other spicy food. We were split into two tables, each with a giant pot in the center of it. There was a spicy and non-spicy side that we could cook our food in (you are brought a bunch of uncooked food, like meats, veggies and dumplings to cook in your hotpot). Everything is delicious, but I prefer the non-spicy side because the spicy side makes my mouth feel numb (not my favorite feeling). We were also introduced to a yummy dessert called nánguabĭng (南瓜饼) which are little, round pumpkin, deep fried cake things in a sugary sauce. The owner of the restaurant came up to meet us all and told us if we want anything, just tell him and he will make sure we get it. Oh, and wine and beer were on the house (he da real MVP).
After dinner, the Irish girls offered to take us out and see Chongqing a bit more. We quickly stopped in the hotel to drop things off and then we got in cabs and were off. Taxis in China are as frightening as they sound. The drivers are not paid by time and distance driven, like in the US. They are only paid by distance driven, so they actually can make more money if they can quickly complete multiple trips in a small amount of time. Given that information, we flew through the streets and weaved through traffic (also, there are rarely seat-belts in cabs. #yaysafety).
We found ourselves at Hóngyádòng (洪崖洞). It is located along the Yangtze and Jialing rivers and is in the big business area of Jiefangbei. Hongyadong is a celebration of traditional Ba-yu architecture (stilted building) that is common to Chongqing. And wowzers, it is beautiful at night.
Hongyadong at night, #DemViewsDoe
We went to an “Irish” pub (that also has Mexican food) called The Harp to have some drinks and enjoy the views of Chongqing. Weirdly enough, it’s easier to find bars that serve mojitos in China than in the US.
The gang at The Harp.
On Wednesday (9/27), after we completed our morning meetings, we were whisked off to Cíqìkŏu (磁器口). Ciqikou is an ancient town in the Shapingba disctrict of Chongqing. In the middle of Ciqikou, there is also a 1500-year-old Buddhist Temple (宝轮寺) that you can visit. Today, it is a big tourist destination; there are tons of shops that sell local handmade items and local foods. The sidewalks get very narrow as you weave through the little shops – and it was packed! There were people everywhere shopping and getting snacks. To escape the herd, we went up to the Buddhist Temple and enjoyed the views of the river and city. I ended up only purchasing jasmine tea, but you could have bought all the souvenirs you’d ever need here.
Wandering around Ciqikou
In and around the Buddhist Temple in Ciqikou
After dinner, some of us went off to explore the other giant mall – the Evergrande CC Plaza. This mall, was again, huge. Unlike Shin Kong Place, this mall had more Japanese brands and kawaii stores. We shopped around a little bit and enjoyed the views from the roof of the building. (Also, we got delicious donuts here. Dessert is hard to find in Hechuan ☹)
Thursday, 9/28, was our last day of CIEE Orientation. We had one last meeting and then went to a private calligraphy class. We were told about the tradition and history of calligraphy, famous calligraphers, and different styles of calligraphy. Then paint brush and ink were put in our hands to try! I hadn’t written Chinese characters by hand for so long, that I was shaky as I wrote. It was a lot of fun to watch our teacher show his artful skill to everyone, and he invited us all back for more classes.
“Prom” pictures with Brad and Peter after calligraphy class
After lunch, we said our goodbyes and were gathered by our schools. Our school needed to take some of the teachers to the police station to work on resident permits and the rest of us went to Ikea. Nothing to report on Ikea – it’s like the United States, just with a larger chopstick selection.
Fountain by the outlet malls around Ikea in Chongqing
Overall, the CIEE Orientation was exactly what you would expect from an orientation abroad. The best part about coming to the orientation was not the event itself, but rather the opportunity to get to know and explore our mother-city. If we ever miss Western food or need a Starbucks fix, we can always make the venture out to Chongqing.
P.S. The VPN issue is better, but there are still days that are very difficult. Watch out for my post next week (ish. Maybe.)