After a solid month of teaching, I was ready for break and of course, perfect timing: China’s National holiday! October 1st is the anniversary of the PRC and the whole country has a week off to celebrate. As much as I love living in Xintang, I wanted to experience city living, so I decided to go to the capital of China: Beijing. But the night before I left, Shane, Signe, and I met up with our friend, Carlos and he drove us to Hengyang. Hengyang is a big city about an hour away from Xintang, with a population of 2 million people. The 3 of us, not having left rural China in the past month, were staring out the windows saying, “Oh my god! City! Lights! People!” Carlos has a few expat friends living in Hengyang, so we met them for dinner and went out dancing to a club called, “39 degrees” (Celsius, obvi). They played some top 40 from America, Europe, and Asia and my current jam, “Gangnam style” by Psy. Good tune! All in all, good night all around.
The next morning, I woke up early to make my fast train to Changsha. I was pretty nervous because this was the first time I would be traveling by myself in China. I took the fast train to Changsha, took a cab to the Changsha airport, and voila, finally made it to Beijing! My friends, Kaj and Ida (also with VIA) are posted at the University of Science and Technology and teach English to college freshman and intern with NGO’s. I became good friends with them during training in Xining, so I was excited to be reunited. I was a little culture shocked when I landed at the airport; Beijing is pretty developed, urban, and filled with expats. I wasn’t used to seeing so many foreigners at once, but I got over it quickly and was excited to be back in a city again. I caught up with both of them over dinner/drinks and they discussed their lives at USTB and how they liked teaching English to university students. Their job is very different from my job but while their curriculum is more complex, we still have the same end goal: working to engage students to the English language, which is not easy. While in Beijing, I visited the Temple of Heaven, walked around both USTB and Peking University, ate a delicious jianbing, which is a Chinese-style tortilla, filled with eggs and scallions, bargained at the silk market, visited Tiananmen square, visited hutongs, and spent time with good friends. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle that week, so a visit to the Great Wall and many other sites, such as the Forbidden City and the art district were out of the question but there is ALWAYS next time. The following Saturday, I made my way back to Hunan feeling happy, refreshed and ready to teach!