Monday we had to be at the center of Star Outlook at 7:30am because we were taking a two and a half hour drive to Shuo Chou City, where we would be teaching and visiting some locals. When we arrived at the school,, we got paired up and put with a class. Nita and I got the opportunity to teach kindergartners, and they literally were the cutest. When we first walked into the classroom we had two kids start bawling their eyes out, while the rest of them just looked at us confusingly. We tried to communicate but the only English they knew were some numbers and their ABC’s. We didn’t know what to do at first so we had them sit in a circle and we sang some church girl’s camp songs, and to be exact it was “little shark”, “milk”, and “Mormon Boy”. After an hour of singing it was lunch time, the kids got picked up by their parents, and Nita and I were taken to this ladies house, which was a one room home. She had a little boy that was two years old. Fun fact, the kids here don’t have diapers, they just have a big slit from the back side to the front side that’s just wide open so they can go anywhere and by saying “go anywhere” I mean using the bathroom anywhere. We had some apple slices and water with them. We were then taken to what I believe was the kitchen for the community, and we had a very nice lunch.
After lunch we headed to the school that Katy and Megan were at and had a small meeting of how the classes went basically an evaluation of our teaching. Then we were taken back to the kindergarten class and taught the kids “duck duck goose” and “musical chairs” and then…class was over. We were taken to some of the villagers houses. The first house we went to was very small and they had three kids and they were trying to get their kids to college but didn’t have the money to do so. The second house we went to belonged to this older lady who had two kids, a boy and a girl that were twins who had lost their father a few years back. They were struggling to get by and they had an aunt that was working in the city and sending money to them to live. The last house we went to was with this boy named George, he’s a 16 year old living in an 8 year old body. His family didn’t have money to buy the hormones needed because it cost too much money. He was very sweet and very humble; he literally has the biggest heart. His teacher was telling us some stories about him and how he has always been picked on because he looks like a little kid. His teacher was also telling us how George has become his friend and while he was telling us he started to cry and he couldn’t even get his words out, and everyone else was very moved and had tears in their eyes. After talking with George, we started our trek home. Once we arrived in town, we ate dinner and headed home.
Tuesday I woke up really early (6am) because I was going to go teach at a middle school but I got a text saying that school was cancelled because of the weather. I decided to take a look outside, and to my surprise…. it was snowing!!! I was so stoked that it was actually snowing that I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I stayed up watching the snow fall and then around 9am everyone headed to the center, the Star Outlook building (it’s more like our headquarters for the program), and we did some small jobs to help out the center. We organized the books, stamped them, and put them away in the library. We also did a worksheet about our trip on Monday and prepared a speech to create examples for kids that participate in English competitions. Overall, we did a lot of thinking and sitting. For lunch we went to our favorite noodle place, I got tomato and egg noodles, they remind me of spaghetti. We then went back to the apartment and watched “Monsters Inc.”. Around 2pm we headed back to work to record our speeches. After work we watched some movies, like “La La Land” and “Taken”, and I received news that school would also be canceled the following day again, so all I had to do was be at the center at 9am on Wednesday.
Wednesday was a lot like Tuesday, we really didn’t do anything, and I colored and drew a little, but hardly did anything; didn’t feel completely productive. For lunch we ate at this one restaurant that we normally go to, and then we headed home. Arianna and I decided to go to the roof of our building, which is 30 stories high and built a snowman with the snow up there. The snow was sticking perfectly together, we also decided to throw snowballs off the roof …don’t worry we were being safe and made sure no humans were around to be hit. After all the snowball fun, we went back to work and sat around again. After work we went home to fix ourselves, meaning hair makeup and clothing, and then we headed back to Food Street to eat and had a small party with some of the coworkers at KTV, it was really fun but I had a huge headache the whole time. On our way home I was told that Caitlyn and I were to go to the college the next day to teach, so we needed to be at the South Gate of the complex at 7am. When I got home, I took a shower and headed straight to bed knowing full well Thursday would be a big day.
So teaching college kids was OK. We teach out of this English 101 book and we have like an hour and a half of time to fill. It’s always funny to walk into a class of Chinese students because when a white American walks through the door they always gasp and whisper to each other and try to take pictures of us, and it was exceptionally a little crazy because it was three American blond girls walking into their class, the expressions were priceless. There are two classes for one teacher. Alex is from Oxford England and has an extremely strong English accent, teaches one set of classes and we came to the conclusion that Alex would teach one set and Caitlyn would teach the other, and I would be the sub if anything happened to either of them. After teaching Megan took us out for pizza, and it totally hit the spot. Oh, and a funny thing about pizza here, they eat it with a glove, like a plastic glove so that your hand doesn’t get greasy. It’s a smart idea, just a little different from what I’m used to seeing. When we arrived back to the apartments Megan said I didn’t have to come back to work, so I went home to sleep. I slept a little but I ended up going back to the center to do gifts. In china it is a custom to give gifts, so we received a shirt, a bracelet, and a good luck charm. We then gave a gift to some people. After that I headed back to my apartment to grab my dirty laundry and go over to Megan’s to use her washing machine. After that Arianna, who had come for the key to our apartment, and I went back. I hung my clothes (they don’t have drying machines, you have to hang them up to dry) and then we sat down to watch “Austinland”. When the movie ended we packed a bag for Beijing in the morning. Megan, Katy and Arianna packed everything because on Monday they are heading back to America and so the next few days were going to be spent in and around Beijing before they leave. Nita, Caitlyn and I only packed a little because we will be heading back to Taiyuan Sunday night after dropping them off for the airport.
Friday we work up, headed to the car and James took us to the train station. He wanted to make sure we got everything we needed, so he came in and helped us get our tickets, the train system can be overwhelming. We kinda got special treatment because this girl (ticket agent) lead us through the train station to our terminal, and then we got to go on first…literally cutting off like a hundred people in line. I felt really bad, but no one seemed to mind. It was a two almost three hour ride to Beijing on the fast train. I slept most of the way and colored a little. Once we got off the train we made our way to the subway. Katy took me, since I can speak a little Chinese, and we went to go buy a re-loadable subway card. It took a while because everyone we spoke to didn’t speak English and they didn’t understand English, eventually they called a guy over and he helped us get to the right place and we got to cut everyone in line and get the tickets…again. We got on the subway and started the trek to our hostel…yes, hostel. We ended up getting some help to find out where to go, on our way we stopped at a restaurant to grab some food and then Katy left it up to me to help find the hostel location since I had been there two years ago and would have a better idea of how to get there. I got to the right road, after I accidentally passed it but we went back and found it. Whew. The funniest part is that I’m staying in the same room I stayed in two years ago, it was like déjà vu. So we dropped off our stuff and headed to the Pearl Market. HongQiao or Pearl Market is situated close to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It’s a huge building about a block long with three floors of items to sell like pearls and jewelry, clothing electronics, watches, art, porcelain, toys, etc… I love the Pearl Market, because there is no tax and you can bargain or haggle with everyone for everything. For example, I got Beats wireless headphones (not a knock-off, the real deal), the lady wanted me to pay 800 yuan (Chinese currency), but then she said she’d give us a discount and we would only have to pay 675 yuan. With some haggling or bargaining back and forth, I was able to get her down to 300 yuan, which is a little less the $40 American money, we were able to test them out and make sure the quality was perfect. Here’s another example, so Kylie Jenner has this lipstick that is really expensive in America, we were able to get it down to 20 yuan, which is like $3. Also pearls there are super cheap; I got some pearl earring and literally paid $2.60 for each set. I bought a lot more stuff and the haggling over pricing was so much fun… but I won’t bore you with that. So the Pearl Market closed at 7pm, so we gathered what we got and headed back to our hostel. It’s so weird being in Beijing because there are so many other people from different countries here, so when we see a foreigner we all kind of freak out (like the Chinese do when they see us) because in Taiyuan we are usually the only ones that are foreign. It’s nice not being the only one who is different from the rest. So it was really fun see other people. We walked around the streets for a little bit, somehow the time flew by and it ended up being around 10 pm so we went back to our hostel and went to bed because we definitely needed to sleep and rest for our next adventures.
Saturday we met in the front of the hostel at 8:30am and we met Kevin who was going to be our guide to the Great Wall…yes, The Great Wall!! As we were walking over to the car that was to be our transportation, he asked us if we knew why they put a wooden square panels over the tires, of course none of us knew, and he said that the dogs like to pee on the tires so they put that on them so the dogs can’t pee on the tires, he explained it way better and it was really funny. The Great Wall was fantastic, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go again. The sad part about this trip was at the end of the rebuilt section of the wall, there was this part I went through two years ago that lead to the non-rebuilt section of the original wall and it was bricked up without access for entry, luckily I was able to find a way to the non-rebuilt section anyway. There was this guy, who’s from Milwaukee. He was with his mom and his Chinese friend, had climbed out of this old window in the wall which was a little sketchy, but then they helped me out of the window as well to get to the old non-rebuild part as well, they were super nice. This guys Chinese friend made a comment about my eyes in Chinese so I responded back in Chinese and surprised all three of them, it was pretty funny. The non-rebuilt section was so cool, it was crumbling all over the place, old and probably completely unstable but oh so cool. To get down or off The Great Wall you either take a toboggan down a slide or you hike all the way down, we took the toboggan route. The slide was super fun, except for the part that Arianna kept running into me with her cart multiple times, and I couldn’t go faster because Katy was right in front of me on her toboggan and I definitely didn’t want to run into her which made for an interesting adventure. We headed down and ate a late lunch, bought some items from the local vendors; I bought a Beijing tee-shirt and a sweatshirt. By the time we got back into the city we didn’t have much time to do much so we went back to the Pearl Market and then to Wangfujing street and ate some food. There were some really drunk Australian guys and one of them grabbed a stick of live skewered scorpions and ate them, it was really gross. By the time we started walking back it was 10pm, so when we arrived at our apartment I packed up all my thing up and went to bed.
Sunday was our last day in Beijing, our adventures included going to the Bell and Drum Tower, Lama Temple, and The Forbidden City. The drum tower was really neat; we were able to see a performance of them playing the drums. The Lama Temple was so packed with people, literally the most packed I’ve seen a place before, there was hardly any free space to stand or breathe. It was cool because they gave us free incense to burn, and each room the Buddha’s got bigger and bigger. The largest one was this wooden Buddha that was like 3 or 4 stories tall. The Forbidden City was rushed because we got there an hour before it was going to close, I’m glad I was able to return to the city and see it all over again, it brought back a lot of really good memories. After the Forbidden City we had to book-it back to our hostel because Nita, Caitlyn, and I had to catch a train and we only had an hour to grab our stuff, get on the subway, get our train tickets, and get onto the train to head back to Taiyuan. We made it with ten minutes to spare! The entire train ride back to Taiyuan I slept, when we got back to Taiyuan and found James; it was 11pm. We had fun on the way home, making jokes and teasing James as he always makes fun of us. Once home I threw down my stuff and called my mother. She was at church and so I was actually able to listen to church with my family and say hi to people back home, and by the time I got in bed and fell asleep it was past 2am. Talk about exhausting.