Tag Archives: China

Top 5 – China

While I did not go to many of the top tourist destinations in China during my year there, I did do some traveling and discovered various places that I would recommend for anyone heading to the Northeast part of China.

  1. Nanhu Park
    Nanhu Park is in the centre of Changchun. I was stunned by the beauty of this park, in the middle of an industrial city. The park was huge – it had several play areas for children, a lovely lake in the middle of the park, an amusement park for smaller kids, and several places to get food.

It was clean, well maintained, and a lovely place to go when I needed to get away from the crowds of people wherever I went in the city. As there are not that many tourist destinations in Changchun, I would definitely recommend coming here. It’s beautiful in the summer and winter!

  • Harbin
    I went to Harbin specifically to see the Ice and Snow Festival and when I got there, I was surprised to find such a beautiful city! I wasn’t sure what to expect except it being very cold during the day and even colder at night, but to my delight, there was so much to see! A shopping centre close by to get warmer mittens than I had was my first stop.

As I was walking that first day I was there, I saw this church across from my hotel and decided to see what exactly it was. It was surprising to see a church and not a temple. It was formerly a Russian Orthodox Church. The Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom of God in Harbin, China was built in 1907 and expanded from 1923-32, it was closed during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution periods, and turned into a museum in 1997.  I waited for Kiki to arrive, and this was one of our stops during our couple of days in Harbin. It was worth the money to go in and see the beautiful church.

There were so many restaurants to choose from and all were fantastic. Dumplings everywhere! My teacher friends recommended that I try the ice cream in Harbin as it is the best in China, and I would have to agree! It was delicious! Even in -40-degree weather!

  • Shenyang Imperial Palace
    Of all the places I went to, which weren’t many, Shenyang was my favourite. I did my research before going and my main thing I wanted to do was see the Imperial Palace.

My first day in Shenyang, I headed out early to the palace so I could make sure I got in to see it and to see if there were English speaking people at the ticket booth to help me. To my surprise and absolute delight, as I was waiting in line, a young lady came up behind me and started chatting with me in perfect English. She was a student at the University of Beijing and was taking law. We immediately connected and she ended up being my own personal guide for the day.

She took me through the palace and explained everything about the history of the palace and explained the historical significance of the palace. It was fascinating and I was incredibly lucky to have my own personal guide.

  • Former Residence of Zhang Zuolin and Zhang Xueliang.

My tour guide from the palace also included a trip in Shenyang to the residence of Zuolin.She wanted to make sure I saw everything and understood the history of Shenyang. She told me that this was her hometown, and she was excited that she could share all the history with me.

The residence was a beautiful palace with everything being restored to serve as a museum. It was originally built in the 1600’s and was the residence of the famous Zuolin. A top place for my time in China.

  • Livon School – Changchun

It may seem strange that I’ve included the place where I taught, however, it’s more than just a school. It’s a cultural experience and look into the future of the Chinese education system.

The school is massive, and it’s only for grades 1 to 8. There were four floors, and two separate sides. The first floor consisted of the cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium, and the musical and dance classrooms. On the primary side where I taught, there was an open area where the classrooms are located where they had their weekly celebration of the raising of the flag. I was honoured to watch the ceremony each week and to see the pride that all the Chinese students and teachers had for their country. There was no animosity between any of them. Each one showed their pride to their flag and their country.

I realize it is a communist country but at the same time, I believe more countries should show their pride as the Chinese people do. It was a pleasure to have been part of this school. I was treated as an equal at the school and I became a much stronger teacher because of them.

Memories of my travelling days

I know one day I will be able to get back out into this world and travel. But tonight, it has been a night of looking back at where I’ve gone, what I’ve done and what I miss the most. As a single mom, I was able to take my kids, each alone, on some pretty awesome trips. And of course, my travels on my own. I wanted to share some of my favourite memories from over the years.

My daughter and I had a special memory of going to New York City in 2008. It was one of the first places on my bucket list and was so excited to go!
My son and I did a road trip down to Nashville and some of the southern States in 2009. I love Nashville!
I moved to Calgary in 2011 and one of the highlights in my 3 years there was to go snowshoeing in Banff. Truly amazing views!
Calgary
My daughter and I headed to Italy in April of 2014, this is Florence.
In 2014, I made a huge move and headed to Prague to get my certificate to teach English. My absolute favourite city in the entire world!! (so far anyway….)
Zizkov, the area that I lived in Prague
After 2 years in Prague, I headed to Changchun China to teach English for a year. While I was not particularly fond of China, these kids took my heart.
The Ice and Snow Festival (biggest in the world) in Harbin, China
Shenyang, China
Before I headed back to Canada from China, I made a 7 week stop in Chile, starting in Santiago
From Santiago, I headed to the ocean, to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar
I headed north to La Serena, and then to Antofagasta
I could not visit Chile without heading to the Atacama desert. Pukara de Quitor, just outside of San Pedro
I ended my 7 week adventure in Arica, Chile, on the southern border of Peru. What a perfect place to end my trip to Chile!
In January 2019, after a year and a half of working, I decided I needed a three week vacation and headed to Spain, Morocco and Portugal on a Trafalgar bus tour. Amazing Seville!
Castle in Spain
My travelling buddy Trip came with me to visit the sites in Spain
Costa del Sol
The last trip I went on was to Canada’s Capital city – Ottawa.

I do miss travelling but I know that, soon, I will be heading out for another adventure. I am hoping to get to Turkey and Greece for a few weeks in the next year. These boots have gone through China and Chile – they will be coming with me wherever I head to next!

Seeing this picture, the song “a Horse with No Name” runs through my head – that was the song that they played on our way back to San Pedro after our tour of Valle de la Luna.

​Staying healthy in China

Since being in China, I have had numerous colds, walking pneumonia and recently another chest cough. Between the dirty hands and nobody covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, I am more surprised that I haven’t been sicker!

In the earlier winter, I made the smart choice of taking a multi-vitamin every morning.  I know that this helped me stay relatively healthy.


Then pneumonia hit me in April.   Thankfully the school has a very good doctor who got me on the right meds and I felt better after a week or so.
Last week, another chest cough started.  I think it was partially allergies and partially a cold. In any event, I headed to my friendly pharmacy in search of cough medicine.  And I have discovered a whole new world of medical treatment!


The pharmacist/nurse gave me Chuanbei qingfei tangjiang – a natural remedy for dry coughs and chest problems.  I have to say that, while it is sweeter than I expected, it has almost gotten rid of the cough!  I have a couple more doses but I am so impressed with it!!


Combined with me making ginger “tea” (get ginger root, peel and chop up pieces into water, boil for 20 minutes then let steep ~ and drink hot) and drinking hot water with honey before bed ~ I can’t believe how much better I feel!!   And the ginger tea has done wonders for my IBS issues too!!


I have turned over a new Chinese leaf ~ as much as I can, natural methods are the way I am going now.

The teachers of Livon

I have written a lot about the students I have taught over the past year, but not much has been said about the teachers who have helped me.

The primary teachers at Livon have been incredible. They have been helpful, generous and so very sweet. From assisting me in my classes, to helping me translate Chinese, and so much more ~ they have made my teaching experience very memorable.  I will miss them but I know that I have made some lifelong friends.


George ~ my Saturday assistant

Michael ~ an amazing young man and a lifelong friend

Mark ~ grade 3 and 4 assistant

Summer ~ grade 3 and 4 English teacher

Cassie ~ grade 1 English teacher

Winnie ~ grade 1 English teacher

Emily ~ an occasional assistant

Peter ~ my official liaison

Pamela ~ an occasional assistant

Ariel ~ an occasional assistant

Emma ~ grade 2 assistant

Lily ~ the head teacher of primary and one of the sweetest women I have met here

Sherry ~ grade 1 English teacher

Tesia ~ grade 1 English teacher

Naomi ~ grade 2 English Teacher ~ she was like a daughter ~ same age as my daughter!  Note the teary eyes…

Nancy ~ grade 1 English teacher and an amazing young woman!

Rainbow~ grade 2 English teacher and so much fun!  She always was so involved in my lessons!

I will miss them all!!

Chopsticks

Forks and knives are not easy commodities to find in China. If you go to a Western restaurant, then they will provide you with them (ex. Pizza Hut).

But usually you are given chopsticks. Wooden ones, disposable ones ~ I have even used metal ones!  Only once though ~ they are NOT easy to use!

When I first arrived, I was very self-conscious about using them. Was I holding them right? No I wasn’t haha.  Were people staring at my ineptness? Yes and taking pictures too!  That doesn’t make one more self-conscious at all!  One day I will ask why they insist on taking pictures of foreigners eating.  It is very disconcerting!

After a few weeks of eating at the school with only chopsticks available, I became much more comfortable with them.

So now, 10 months after arriving in China, I can say that I can eat everything with chopsticks!  Except soup… haha.  I can pick up a single piece of rice with my chopsticks!  I can pick up a piece of chicken and easily eat it. 

One more thing I have succeeded at while in China ~ eating with chopsticks!!

​More adventures in food…

I will miss some things about China ~ the children, the teaching and the FOOD!!  Today I ventured over to a new restaurant that opened close to me. I presumed, correctly, that the owners were parents of one of the kids I taught and I was right! Two of my favourite Grade 1 students!  


It was a new style of restaurant for me.  You have a “buffet” where you can add whatever you want in a bowl. You then take it to the counter, they weigh it, cook it in hot water and serve it with a side of rice (good thing I love rice haha).


I made the choices of tofu, glass noodles, mushrooms, mystery meat (it looked like bacon), corn, crab meat and some greens (it was a mixture of unknown greens). It was delicious!!!  They added some peanuts to it after it was cooked.  All of this for the equivalent of $2 Canadian!

I have broken through the fear of the unknown food and I am really enjoying discovering new food!! Now if only I could get used to the loud eating..

​Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me!!

Awww the sun.  It’s a glorious thing.  It gives you a bronzed look, necessary Vitamin D, a sunny spirit and an overall great feeling.  Sunny days, anytime of the year, always put me in a great mood. 


But at 5am??  I am trying to get used to the very early sunrise here in Northeast China.  I just need to adjust my evening routine to accommodate my early waking hours.

With the early sunrise also comes sounds like birds chirping and some that are not, what I consider, normal sounds for these hours.  Children’s voices outside at 5:30am, people walking and talking (loudly), the cars honking (why???), and the sounds of spitting outside my window.   If only I could sleep with my window closed! 

Awww yes, the glorious sounds of spring and summer are upon us.  Its time for me to start walking early in the morning and take advantage of the early sunshine!

​Grade 4 ~ Monday morning madness


There is only one Grade 4 class at the school. They were my first class to teach each week ~ Mondays at 8:55am.  The class never started on time, my time was always short with them, and that was disappointing for us.  Despite the time constraints, we always managed to have a fun class. 

There is so much potential for the brilliant minds that are in this class.  I could have actual conversations with some of the kids and they were able to understand me and communicate with me.


They were a class of chatters but I still was able to connect with them.  They were a tough class to teach some days. Tough in that they were the most distracted of all the classes. Their classroom was in a corner away from the others due to renovations in the school.  Their interaction was mostly with each other so it was understandable that they chatted.


They were engaging when I had an interesting game or activity to do, they liked asking me questions about Canada and they also liked giving me a hard time about my minimal Chinese. I did manage to surprise them on occasion with some new Chinese words though!  They were very intent on teaching me Chinese!


Some of my favourite lessons with them were Scattegories, Scrambled Sentences, and Charades.  The charades was a very rambunctious game that came at a price of a broken ruler (not on one of them ~ on a desk~ oops!!)


I enjoyed the time with them and I can sense that there are going to be a lot of very successful students in that class.

As with all the students I have met and taught at Livon, I will miss these kids very much!!  It has been such an amazing experience teaching all these kids.

Grade 3 ~ the reasons why I love this career

If someone asked me what my favourite grade was to teach in China, this was it. Grade 3 without a doubt. These kids were awesome.

They were fun to teach, they were funny, they understood a lot, I could be silly with them but they also knew when they had to listen. One loud bang of the giant yellow ruler and they knew it was time to stop and listen.

Playing with them at lunch time (what time is it Mr. Wolf!), eating lunch with them every day, bonding with them outside of school at the playground ~ these are the kids that I will miss the  most. 

There are only two Grade 3 classes, each with 36 students, so it was much easier to get closer to them.  These kids ~ oh these kids ~ I will miss their laughter, their questions, their smiles, and their generous nature.   The snacks they would feed me, the high fives in the hallway, and lots of hugs.  

Albert, Frog, Yoyo, Sun, Sam, Terry, Derek, Nick, Coco, Cici, Angel ~ these are the names that immediately come to my mind but I will remember every single one of them.  (I wish I was just making those names up….but I’m not. Those are their English names!)

The Grade 2 students may have made me a better teacher, but the Grade 3 students showed me how much I truly love this career I have.  

Shine on kids, be the stars you are all destined for and know that I am going to miss you all so much!!

​Grade 2 ~ oh the challenges!!


Grade 2 kids ~ these kids are so smart, they are gaining confidence with their English, and are very inquisitive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how old are you (answer is always older than you), are you okay, where do you live, what’s your phone number, and the list goes on.


They love games ~ Teacher Says is their favourite.  Its been challenging to keep them interested and motivated but I have succeeded.  


I definitely have favourite students ~ I would be lying if I said I didn’t. Leo, Tom, Hardy, Ang Lee, Lucy and Ella are the ones that I love seeing every day.  


Seven grade 2 classes, average of 40 students in a class ~ a lot of inquisitive children who are always excited to see me!  They love feeding me their snacks too (usually with their hands right into my mouth ~ no wonder I had so many colds!).  

The unabashed hugs, taking my hand and leading me into class, the excited faces when I stand at the front of class and say “Teacher says stand up!” ~ those are the moments I will miss the most.


These kids have made me a better teacher with their questions and their eyes lighting up when they realize they can understand what I am saying.  Their quick minds, short attention spans and endless fidgeting made it challenging, but I can say that I came, I saw, I conquered!!