(Remember when I said I would post more regularly? Well between the VPN and my school filling my schedule, it hasn’t really been possible! But here I am. C’est la vie, amiright?)
After returning back from Chongqing, Anthony and I both had to teach Friday and Saturday classes. We typically do not have Saturday classes, but because of how holidays were lining up this semester, our Monday class would be missed later on, and the school chose to make it up now. I pinky-swear I’ll write about how teaching is going at some point, but this is sadly not that blog post.
Starting on Saturday evening, we suddenly had off for a whole week because of National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Which sounds sweet, but our waiban (babysitter) told us that usually these two holidays do not fall on the same week. For National Day, we would for sure get a week off and for the Mid-Autumn Festival, we would have at least gotten an extra long weekend. I wasn’t super disappointed though, because I didn’t even think I would see time off until January.
National Day commemorates the day that Mao Zedong & co. defeated the Nationalist Party of China and started the whole Communist thing. It is essentially the Independence Day of China. Yes, I am grossly oversimplifying things. (Reminder: I’m not a history teacher; I’m (hardly) an English teacher)
Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates exactly what it sounds like. During this time, you’re supposed to look at the moon and how big it is. You’re also supposed to eat Moon Cakes, which, generally, are these little flaky-crusted cakes with red bean curd in them. I think they’re yummy – but red bean curd isn’t everyone’s jam.
During National Day holiday, it seems as though all of China is moving. Many people choose this as their time to travel and sight-see around their own country, so we were advised to stay close to home to avoid the chaos. DaBoyz and I decided to go to Beibei and go explore Chongqing some more with our free-time.
During our vacation, Anthony and I simultaneously experienced our worst bout of culture-shock together. On the night of October 2nd, after coming home from dinner, we were greeted in our apartments by three new house-guests. I know what you’re thinking; “What bug or animal was it?” You are correct, comrade. We were greeted by 3 GIGANTIC STUPID COCKROACHES. They were the biggest ones I have ever seen in my life (except for all the dead, pinned-to-foam ones at the zoo). After exterminating them to the best of our ability (they were mega-dead) and accepting that we needed to get spray or traps, we went to bed. The next morning, I had a nightmare that woke us both up. As we laid there, trying to go back to sleep before we had to get ready to leave for Beibei, we heard a loud snap and then a continuous hissing noise. Being responsible adults, we got out of bed to investigate. On our way to investigate, Anthony suddenly yells, “Amanda come back. Giant spider, giant spider!” And out came our next houseguest, Aragog the f****** giant spider from Harry Potter. After giving each other the, “What have we done, why did we come here?” look, we finally woke up enough to try and either kill him or get him out. After some struggles and by using our broom hockey-style, we were able to slap-shot him out of the apartment front door. Our alma mater would be so proud. Finally, we were able to move onto the problem that got us out of bed. We walked into our kitchen and it was just utterly soaked. There was water dripping from the ceiling like we had our own personal rain cloud. It was not just normal water coming from the ceiling either – it was boiling water. You could hear it hissing and see the steam coming off the ceiling, floor and counters. After we unplugged everything, we called our babysitter who had maintenance come to fix it all up. It only took 30 minutes to fix the burst pipe in the ceiling and the two men were on their way. This span of 12 hours was definitely the lowest of my trip so far – my why-am-I-here-I-should-have-stayed-home-or-gone-to-Italy-Italy-has-never-done-anything-like-this-to-me moment. But hey, I continue to survive.
After dealing with that whole fiasco, we had to prepare ourselves for the fun part of vacation – travelling. We were taken by a student to the bus station and sent on our way that morning. Beibei is about a 45 min-1 hr bus ride away from Hechuan and is where our waiban, Peter, lives. Peter and his wife got us all settled in our hotels and took us out for lunch.
That afternoon we went to the Chongqing Natural History Museum with some of Peter’s family. We learned about traditional architecture for the area and how rich China is in dinosaur fossils. After wandering around there for a while, we went to a mall nearby to get our caffeine fix at Starbucks. Peter and his wife took us out to eat a traditional Chongqing dish (that I can’t remember the name of, whoops). It had all the parts of a chicken in a large pot on the table with ginger and taro. Of course, it had the famous numbing pepper in it.
The bottom-right photo is of that famous Chongqing dish.
The next day, we went to the Jinyun Mountain in Beibei for a hike. We were going to hike a taller and steeper mountain, but the weather was rainy and foggy which made that hike too dangerous. To get up to the top, we needed to get into taxis that wove up the side of the mountain at crazy speeds.
On the mountain, we visited the Jinyun Temple which was built around 423 AD. You don’t have to be Buddhist to visit these temples – non-Buddhists come all the time to wish for good luck or pray. People will especially come to pray for their children and the test scores that essentially determine their life quality. Jinyun Mountain has a large trail system with a million stairs. We decided to hike to the tallest point – Lion Peak. However, you could not see the view of Beibei or the famous pagoda on the mountain because the fog was so thick!
No views to be had this day, the fog was too thick.
After hiking around and visiting more of the tourist spots on the mountain, we took the cable-car down the mountain instead of another heart-stopping taxi ride. The cable-car wasn’t that peaceful though! It was a 20-minute ride down the mountain in a tiny box we actually had to run on to board. After a proper lunch, we made our way back to Hechuan until our next adventure.
On Thursday, I woke up to the worst stomachache I’ve had since being in China. There is a bit of adjusting that comes with a whole new food type, but I must have had minor food poisoning or something. Luckily, it was only for 24 hours and I felt better the next day.
On Friday, October 6th, we made our way to Chongqing to have some fun in the city center. We ended up taking a bus to Beibei and then taking the metro line into the city. The metro here is extremely clean and modern and it was a nice ride into the city, even if we had to stand the entire hour. Once arriving at our metro stop, we taxied over to the Irish girls’ apartment (shout out to Róisín and Beth for hosting us and being awesome humans yet again).
That evening, we just walked around Chongqing a bit and got some coffee at Starbucks (we go any chance we get because real coffee/espresso is nonexistent in Hechuan). Chongqing is great because it has a lot of bars and Western food options. We went to Blue Frog for drinks before making our way to Blue Olive for dinner (just coincidence that they both have ‘Blue’ in the title). Blue Frog is said to have great burgers, but that night they had BOGO drinks (again, mojitos were consumed). At Blue Olive, we were able to get Mediterranean/Italian food. Anthony had the veggie lasagna and I had fettuccine with red sauce. It was so good and comforting. The girls and I also shared a bottle of white wine, which was also delicious! Wine is expensive here and you’re not sure what kind of quality you will get or if the wine is expired.
After dinner, we took another heart-stopping taxi to Helen’s, an expat bar with a small dance floor, cigarette haze and “bucket” drinks.
Da buckets at Helen’s and more views of CQ at night.
Fast forward to the next afternoon. We wake up and feel 100% (not). In the afternoon, Brad, Anthony and I got into our yellow chariot and had a lovely Brunch/Lunch at The Harp. I talked a little about The Harp in my previous posts, but it’s an “Irish” bar that serves American and Mexican food (*shrug*). Since it was the national holiday, Hongyadong was filled with more people than ever because it’s a tourist site for everyone, not just foreigners. And man, this was the most foreign I have felt. We were eating on the patio of the bar, and people were just constantly staring at as, talking to us or just running up and taking our photos without saying anything. I felt like we were a zoo exhibit. But hey, if this is the worst thing that has to happen to me in China, then I am fortunate.
After Brunch/Lunch, we found the People’s Liberation Monument that commemorates the day that Chongqing was liberated from the Nationalists. Monuments in giant cities are funny in a way because you could walk by them and not even notice them. The rest of the city has sprung up skyscrapers and huge residential districts while this tiny little clock-tower monument has remained the same since 1945.
The People’s Liberation Monument and the Art (Irish) Center.
After walking around for a while in Jiefangbei (the Times Square of Chongqing), we made our way back to the Irish. We decided to go to a new-ish restaurant called Lazy Dog. The dinner and drinks were all very good and the restaurant itself was very well decorated. However, you could tell the staff and management were still trying to figure things out. All in all, it was a nice place to spend the evening, chatting and laughing over delicious food (#IMissMac&Cheese #AmandaIsHavingDairyWithdrawal). That night, since we were still recovering, we had a low-key evening and watched Get Out.
In the morning, Brad, Anthony and I made our pilgrimage back to Hechuan (not without a goodbye visit to Starbucks first, however). We finished out our exciting Sunday with lesson planning and talking to the parents.
TLDR; I had a week off and did some things. If you want to keep up with my life, but not read all the words, you should go to my Instagram instead. I actually am able to access that more than Facebook and WordPress. 😊 OKAY BYE.
P.S. VPN is good now, but school is packing my days with meetings, presentations, and classes. I’m alive and doing well, I miss American food, all of you, and my dog.