Tag Archives: China

Camping on the Great Wall of China

2016-10-15_0020When I was little, my favorite movie was “Big Bird Goes to China.” I must have watched it several dozen times, because I can still recite a song the giant yellow bird sings about learning Chinese. Serious props to my parents for dealing with that.

I loved the movie not only because of my obsession with Sesame Street, but because of the curiosity it evoked. Everything seemed so foreign, so different. I couldn’t believe that those landscapes, the buildings and the people belonged to the same planet where I lived. And, like most children, I dreamt about digging a tunnel and winding up on the Great Wall of China.

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Harbin Ice Festival: A Photo Essay

2016-03-09_0023First, I apologize for posting an article about an ice festival just one week before April, but I’ve been busy. Actually, I’m still busy. So this is why you’re getting a photo essay.

But before I dump my SD card on you, here’s some background: The Harbin Ice Festival has been going on annually for about 17 years, and is now one of the biggest in the world. It’s made up of three snow and ice sculpture parks, and goes from the end of December through February.

Where is Harbin, you ask? It’s in China. More specifically, Northeast China. It was once a sleepy fishing village, until 1897 when Russians settled and built what is now known as the Trans-Siberian Railway. So besides being a place to see cool ice sculptures, it’s also a way to soak up some Russian culture in China.  Continue reading

A Shanghai Photo Essay: Culture Shock Bike Tours

2015-09-06_0019Last weekend, new bike tour company Culture Shock invited me for a four-hour morning ride around Shanghai.  Officially open for business later this week, the long-term French expats have been running special media tours in order to work out its kinks.

As of now, the company runs two tours: one in the morning (9am-12:30pm) and one in the afternoon (1pm-5:30pm). Both begin at the Eclair Cafe in the Xintiandi Andaz Hotel, where you receive a complimentary croissant or pain au chocolat and coffee/tea, and end at the same place. The tour gives a pretty good feel for the surrounding area ( approx. 10km), as well as some insight into Chinese culture. Here’s a look at my experience:

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What’s Cookin’?

IMG_3273A cool new site, dedicated to bringing Shanghai food-lovers together, is up and running. And they chose to interview me for one of their first blogger spotlights. I feel so honored. Below is the interview and link to their site. Even if you don’t live in Shanghai, it’s worth checking out. And if you do live in Shanghai, jump on the Kate & Kimi/What’s Cookin’ bandwagon!

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Xi’an-Style Persimmon Cakes

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Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The air is crisp, the leaves are changing, boots and scarves are for sale. But now that I live in China, there’s another reason to look forward to the season: persimmons.

Starting a few weeks ago, the fruit began popping up all over the markets—showcased as the prized product by every vendor. They are being sold on street corners, in grocery stores. The woman I kindly refer to as “the fruit lady” behind my apartment complex has been shoving bags full of them into my hands, demanding that I buy them. I tell you, the Chinese have a certain charm.

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The Pollution Problem

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A photo taken from America.aljazeera.com, displaying a record-setting pollution day last December in Shanghai.

I never expected to live in China. In fact, China wasn’t even on my radar when considering international teaching jobs. This wasn’t because of the long plane ride home (although that does suck), or the strange food and customs (let’s be honest, this is what intrigued me). My aversion was strictly environmental: I was scared to death of the pollution.

But, as I’ve learned during my time abroad, nothing is what it seems, and you really have no idea about the reality of a place until you actually live there.

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Welcome to Shanghai

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It’s been five days since I landed in Shanghai; and let me tell you, it’s been a whirlwind.

Living abroad isn’t easy. You’re forced to pack your entire life’s possessions into a few suitcases, learn a new language, a new culture, and make new friends to combat the inevitable homesickness. And while you’re busy doing all these things, Facebook reminds you of everything you’re missing back home. At times it can get lonely, but most of the time, it’s incredibly exciting.

Last night, the administrators took all the new teachers out to dinner. It was a casual affair, since the night before we went to some fancy shindig downtown. After a few bites of a sandwich and a glass of wine, my eyes were heavy. Jet lag is a bitch.

I headed home, and as I was walking up to my building, a security guard started talking to be in Mandarin while pointing to my building. “Yes, this is my building,” I said, apologizing for not speaking the language. But he was obviously trying to tell me something. “I don’t understand,” I replied–a phrase I have uttered way too many times since arriving.

The man followed me to the 7th floor, and when the elevator doors opened, I was greeted by three more security guards. My apartment door was open, and their faces carried looks of concern. Again, I was peppered with questions I didn’t understand. Did someone break into my apartment? Was I so jet-lagged that I forgot to close the door? 

Thankfully, the door across the hall opened, and out came my English-speaking neighbor. He informed me that my open door had triggered an alarm and I needed to survey my apartment to make sure nothing was missing. And after a once-over, I attested that everything was fine. However, this did not appease the guards. In fact, several moments later, the elevator opened for two police officers.

And now here we were: four security guards, two policemen, my translating neighbor, and one very confused blonde, all packed in a space smaller than a preschool sandbox.

I assured everyone again that things were fine, and that I probably left the door open by mistake. The men looked back at me inquisitively, then my neighbor said, “They think someone definitely broke into your apartment.” And when I asked why, he looked to the floor, shuffled his feet, and said, “Because your place is trashed.”

My face felt hot and I knew I was turning red with embarrassment. I looked back into my apartment–at the clothes scattered on the floor, the piles of shampoo and conditioner bottles, the electric cords and converters strung over the couch. I begged my neighbor to explain that I had just moved in and was still unpacking.

After a lengthy exchange between the men, my neighbor turned to me and said, “They understand. No robbery, this is just normal for you.”

The heat found its way back to my face as I stared into the wide eyes of the police officers. But I knew there was no use explaining. I would forever be the unkempt foreigner in building 34.