28 July 2016

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen: Wuhan, Guangzhou & Nanjing

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was the first president of China, taking the Middle Kingdom away from it's Dynasties to a modern country of its time. I knew nothing about that revolutionist before moving to Wuhan, China in June 2015. From causing an uprising in Wuhan during 1911, Dr. Zhongshan played his part part to find the foundations of the People's Republic of China! Yes, Dr. Sun!

Looking for something special to see during my first sightseeing days in Wuhan, China I came across the Wuchang Uprising Memorial 1911. I will admit that I have never heard of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen before that day of discovery, stopping by the legendary Yellow Crane Tower I made it my mission to see what was up during 1911! Getting a clearer picture of what Dr. Sun Yat-Sen contributed to the forming of the People's Republic of China. Pushing for change there was a whole lot of shady business going down with specific things that I wasn't sure of. Essentially, the succession of a new Dynasty wasn't going to be a welcomed idea! Paving the way with careful negotiation Dr. Sun Yat-Sen became the first president of the newly established Republic of China. It was quite difficult to piece together what the exhibits said at the Uprising Memorial museum because were predominately in Chinese. Oh, Wuhan!

On the 11th of October 1911 Huang Xing, a fellow revolutionary managed the logistics of the Wuchang Uprising whilst Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was exiled in the United States. The revolution was successfully fought to over-throw 2000 years of Imperial Chinese rule part of such Dynasties like the Qing and Ming, the Emperors and their Empresses would not rule over China ever again. Sun returned from the United States of America after he learned the result had been in the favour of the Republic. Making my way around the final installments of the museum to find the style revolution that was taking place in China after Imperial rule had vanished, women were wearing new fashion forward trends and they were working new permed hairstyles. Aside from the politics of that business I know those Empresses would have looked on-point during those former Dynasties! I had done good considering I previously knew nothing about that time! Wuhan was and still is schooling me about China's history!

Choosing Guangzhou as the final stop on my 2016 Spring Festival holiday I was aware Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had a Memorial Hall that conveniently had it's own underground station. Opened in 1931, this Memorial Hall had much to show me, like the Wuchang 1911 Uprising site the vast majority of the exhibits were only in Chinese, unfortunately I can't read those characters! Catching the still atmosphere during that Chinese New Year's Day I appreciated the well manicured gardens that shone in that winter sunshine during one of Chinese busiest festival's. Admission was free for that day only, I had definitely chose the right time and location for that Guangzhou visit! The grand auditorium impressed me much, I could just imagine important meetings taking place with many influential people from Zhongshan's delegation. Guangzhou's former Presidential Palace once stood on the foundations of this colorful memorial hall, let's get it!

After digging a little deeper I uncovered some shade from 1922, Guangzhou's former Presidential Palace was under-fire by Ye-Ju's attack, so Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was sent to the SS Yongfeng along with Chiang Kai-Shek, a former leader of the Republic of China. Sun's wife got away from the perils of the yet to be Memorial Hall, of course I do my research when I craft my blog posts! During my February 2016 visit to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, I got the feeling that Zhongshan could of had the same level as respect as maybe former British Prime Minster, Winston Churchill? Nevertheless, getting to know the Memorial Hall and it's quirks was well worth it! These sights from Wuhan and Guangzhou had opened up a whole new Chinese icon that I never knew existed. I didn't realise Macau had it's own Zhongshan Park until I had crossed the borderline back into China! Wuhan has a Zhongshan Park, I have already been there so I'm over that one! I wouldn't think twice about a park in England!

Nanjing held the key to the third slice of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's legacy, finding the resting place of this Chinese visionary and revolutionist had to be done. I had seen about Zhongshan Mausoleum prior to my move to China and had put it on my travel list. Choosing the Dragon Boat Festival to visit the city of Nanjing, it was like opening a new can of worms for the events after the Uprising of 1911 put the spotlight on this former Southern Capital of China. No, Beijing wasn't always the capital city of China, as far as Nanjing I learned at Chaotian Gong that Nanjing was handed the torch to be the first capital city of the newly formed Republic of China. As I get better with the Chinese characters for the cities I now understand the symbols for Nanjing and Beijing, 'Nan' for 'South' and 'Bei for  'North' for that I could try to understand. Beijing is on my sights but Nanjing had me pretty caught up! Oh, China is amazing!

Making way through a maze of paths as the crowds grew more and more hectic it felt like I was entering a place that had the same hype as Walt Disney World, Florida possesses! On the 1st, June 1929 the Doctor was buried at his very own Mausoleum in Nanjing. Known as the 'Father of Modern China' Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had been hailed for his victories to move China forward, away from the Qing Imperialist rulers to a new frontier for China and Taiwan. From what I saw at the Zhongshan Mausoleum was remarkable, I even had to get real with one lady because she was trying to take a photo inside the Mausoleum! The whole experience of seeing the Mausoleum had made my reason for Nanjing worth it! Looking back on that Dragon Boat Festival occasion it felt like people had made a pilgrimage of some sorts to visit the resting place of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen? I know that investing time into finding more about Zhongshan has shaped a part of my experience in China! Yes, Zhongshan served!

Dynasty Denied!

Joseph Harrison 

20 July 2016

How Travelling Can Improve Your Job Prospects...

It's fair to say that being a teacher out here in Wuhan, China my own future job prospects are being expanded on a daily basis. With each additional day of experience under my belt I’ve got more meat to my CV which I can rightly be proud of and this should serve me well in my career as well as in my personal life. Life is an exciting thing, let's embrace every moment!

I have chosen a path with a very obviously beneficial trajectory whilst many young people on travels round the world, whether short term, long term or just a gap year, will find this time doesn’t lend itself quite so well to that resume you’ll be firing off with job applications later down the line. But does that mean that travelers need to seek out paid work when on overseas adventures to make the most of the experience? When detailing your relevant experience on a CV it tends to follow the tried and tested format of listing past jobs in a logical order and then summarising a few “extracurricular” experiences you’d like to draw upon to help pad things out beyond the strictly professional. You can’t really just jam in “went travelling” between that checkout job in Sainsbury’s and temping for a financial services company but at the same time it would be a mistake not to reference your time as a traveller. Just think!

Some experiences abroad naturally fit into a job application quite nicely so if you’ve been partaking in voluntary conservation work or working at a summer camp in America, these can be neatly presented alongside the 9-5 jobs you’ve worked back home. But for every easy to summarise overseas work placement there are thousands of travellers taking less well trodden paths that can’t be easily parachuted into that “work experience” section of your CV. Fear not however, as all this means is that you’ll need to be a little more creative with the way in which you summarise the skills you’ve picked up. I worked at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, USA during one summer whilst I was at University College Birmingham, it may have only been a retail role but I broaden my horizons as I met people from around the world! I know that having work experience from working at Disney helped me secure another work placement in the USA! Maybe a summer camp in America?

While it may seem like something that requires minimal effort, travelling around the world actually requires you possess excellent communication skills; this is amplified if you manage to learn a foreign language along the way and will set you apart from other candidates in your home country. Admittedly six weeks in Peru won’t see you coming back fluent in Spanish but you could definitely make the most of your time to get to grips with at least the basics. After all communicating effectively with people is much more than simply sharing a common language! Applying this situation to teaching English, my students range from the ages of two to six years old so their English skills and my Chinese skills don't mix, but with the fun and energetic games we play and the colourful language material I use we find a way to make learning a lot of fun! Communication skills are required for every instance in life!

The ability to communicate with speakers of other languages, even if only to a fairly rudimentary degree, will make you a far more attractive candidate to prospective employers. Certainly there is evidence to suggest that those who are genuinely multilingual possess greater earning potential compared to those who only speak one language. Of course even without being able to speak, write and understand a foreign language there are still plenty of communication skills you can develop whilst adventuring, not least of which pertains to your own confidence levels. The more confident you are speaking to those with whom you’ve no common tongue the greater your preparedness for situations and circumstances that may be alien to you. That’s a skill that cannot be underestimated in the world of work! I can speak a smattering of Spanish and French but my Chinese reading skills are improving, it definitely makes getting the high speed trains easier from Wuhan Railway Station!

As you can probably tell this one’s a subject close to my heart. As someone who loves to write, both as a means to document my experiences and by way of having an outlet for my creative endeavours, blogging is a fantastic form of therapy. But far beyond its simple therapeutic qualities that dedication to writing shows potential employers you can stick to a routine, that you’re not a quitter and that you’re able to engage with an audience. There’s really no excuse for poor spelling, grammar and punctuation in this day and age so hone your skills by committing to writing on a regular basis. It’s great for getting the creative juices flowing and with each post you can enjoy the satisfaction of having created something meaningful. As a blogger in my spare time I know that having a limited budget can alter my initial plan but with a check on my finances and some flexibility, I make it happen. 

Going back to the time when I was interviewing for teaching jobs in China, I turned countless opportunities down because I was continuously carrying out research on the industry. Being completely honest, diving in head first to another country and culture is one of the greatest blind leaps of faith you can make in life but doing your homework beforehand will make life a hell of a lot easier. Possessing a modern digital camera can help you capture those moments that really do count, but professional photography equipment won't cost you the earth nowadays! Planning your itinerary, managing your budget, organising travel plans for each leg of the journey and putting time in to research cultural nuances and other useful information to aid you on arrival all fits under the blanket term of “organisation skills”, being a life skill that once you’ve mastered can sit proudly at the top of any list of strengths. Being organised is key, oh it's definitely a quality to be adopted!

Whilst all of the above skills should stand you in good stead, there are of course the vital life skills that just don’t fit into any one particular category of black and white boxes to be ticked. Travelling and experiencing new cultures helps to make you a better developed and happier person. It can also help you to learn more about yourself as a person, including your own strengths and weaknesses. Travelling keeps me sane, seeing new places and learning things about cultures allows me to increase my travel footprint. You’ll gain valuable insight into other cultures, but also learn more about your own country and its culture by way of comparison. You might very well find yourself missing little things about your own country enabling you to develop a whole new level of appreciation for your homeland. I can't run back to England when the first thing goes wrong, but I want a home-cooked Sunday Roast Dinner!  

Finally, you should find the experience of travelling helps to open your mind to better understand others. Anyone can preach tolerance as a virtue but to truly experience it one needs to develop it as a skill and you won’t do that by staying put! Taking one element from each section of this post might well change your life? Life isn't all about work but unfortunately it takes the most part of our time up, turning that necessary evil on its head could well make your travel odyssey a lot more fruitful because working abroad allows certain spots of travelling to be done whilst a steady income finances life. We don't need to all have first class university degrees or be bilingual but with a smattering of common sense and a love for seeing new places around the world could this be a breeze for you? For me teaching English enables me to travel and my blogging keeps it alive! There's a big world out there that won't wait for us, we need to get our live in check! 

Travel Can Be Your Remedy! 

Joseph Harrison 

14 July 2016

2016: A Brand New Secret!

So, I have been so busy recently that I haven't been able to blog, that's quite frankly not on but I'm back to serve some of my Spring/Summer collection. The fashion of my life has recently been very colourful, for living in China there's never a dull moment! From May to June and then July it's been hectic to say the least! Oh yes, I have a few brand new secrets to debut! 

A free day out?! I get paid well but if there's anything going for nothing I'm there! The teaching agency that I'm associated with decided to organise a scenic day out for us away from the smog and concrete of Wuhan city. I was skeptical about this day out for several reasons but my best one told me to get a grip because we had both got our lives and priorities in check! Leaving with a coachload of English teachers and the administrative staff from the agency we made a run from the craziness of the city without any hesitation. Reuniting with some familiar faces was nice, we may be affiliated with the same teaching agency but our Wuhan circles have certainly being decided for us. Fiona made the journey from Xianning the evening before, staying at my Guanggu flat made the early wake up call much easy for her. I'm on a different hype as new teachers had arrived, it made me feel like I had been here for ages!

Getting to grips with the scenic area that we were spending the day at I was impressed with the 90RMB ticket admission that had been waived for us. I can't remember the name of the place but it had a sense of Oriental Realness with the halfpenny style bridge that spanned the lily-pad filled lake. Weaving in and out of several different social groups it was nice to be a social butterfly of some sorts, the weather was blessed and the mood was relaxed so there was no shade to be thrown! Making our way for lunch we dined on some interesting Chinese delacascies, I threw all caution to the wind by eating some frog! In actual fact that frog meat tasted really nice, not like chicken but really good nonetheless. I bumped into one of my students and her family as they were on a day like we were ourselves. I got some great snaps and I really enjoyed that scenic day our with my fellow English teachers! I recognised that some new groups had morphed, I'm with exceptional company, Fi!

One week before my Nanjing Dragon Boat Festival trip it was time for the 2016 Etonkids Children's Day Show! I played my part as one of the hosts alongside four students from the oldest class and my teaching colleague and friend, Miki, The children had rehearsed quite a lot and the stage had been set for the annual performance. Being from England it was the first time I was exposed to such a celebration that even allowed most children to have the day off school! I only had a few lines to say but they were all in Chinese, with the help from Miki who had the sentences typed into the Pinyin written form of Chinese, I had no problem reading my lines after that alteration. One class were dressed as mini Tarzan's with their leopard print costumes, whereas some of the girls from Casa Two looked like mini majorettes for their high energy dance routine! I loved the applause from the parents and grandparents!

Yes, a lot of preparation had gone into our Children's Day show, lessons had to be rescheduled as rehearsals took the priority. A selection of the teachers performed an amazing Tibetan style dance, I really do hope to visit that Autonomous Region in the future but for now it's not going to be feasible for my first stint in China! The whole experience of the Children's Day show was great, I appreciated the time that I spent with the four from the eldest class as their final semester at Etonkids was almost over, signifying their transition to primary school. Following the show it was going to be a full packed June at school, classes slowed down throughout the rehearsal period so the children had lost their focus in the classroom, that was challenging to restore as the summer heat was slowly returning. The first throws of my second Wuhan summer had been great throughout that period because my second semester served some different tones compared to my very first term! Go!

July 1st soon came back around, one year on from my first meeting with Wuhan I had already made it my one year mark since arriving into Mainland China from England but I called the day that I arrived in Wuhan as another landmark moment. I have to pinch myself even to this day, I'm approaching my thirteenth month of living in China and I feel blessed that I made it through that moment of uncertainty! Guanggu is home, it gets on my nerves but it's become a part of me. It's a student's paradise and a shopping mecca, most of all I love having my own apartment, I negotiated the handover of a new contract in the same apartment that I moved into on the 3rd of July 2015, the previous landlord wanted to sell and I didn't want to pack my things up and go just yet, I listened carefully and made sure I managed the finer parts of that new rental contract. Some of the central areas look tactic but I can deal with that!

July has been a good month so far, it's been very busy and more things are being implemented from management with a new regional manager for the city. I honestly cannot wait for my holiday period as I'm working an extra week into August but I battled for that paid two week break, I intend to enjoy the fruits of of my labour. Friends come and go, groups changed too but I know that my friendship with Fiona is made of the strong stuff as we have just clicked, I live for our boozy nights out and our belly busting meals because we love all the good things in life, there's no false pretenses or basicness whatsoever! Life and work has got in the way of my blog but I know that I'll still be publishing my four posts per month as usual. I hope to be in Guanggu for at least another eleven months as I have another year's worth of teaching that I have committed to! I'm not good with secrets but not being off my blog game was like sitting on something that hadn't been told! No more secrets!

I'm Back! 

Joseph Harrison 

16 June 2016

One Year In China...

Should I be freaking out?! Yes, I have made it to my one year milestone of living in China! Twelve months ago seems like a world away, I have settled into my Kindergarten job and my mission to see China isn't going too badly! Six months on since checking-in around this time in December 2015, I want to reflect on my second installment of China life! 2016, stay blessed!

Kicking off 2016 I boarded another China Southern flight from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, trading those neon lights for Xi'an, Shaanxi to see the Terracotta Warriors. I had finally got my passport back, setting me free to travel when the opportunity arose. Xi'an fueled the fire for my travel expectations for the year ahead. I had passed the six month mark, work was getting easier and I was really enjoying the flow of Kindergarten life. Sticking within Wuhan after my Xi'an New Year trip had to be done. I had Spring Festival coming up in February and I had some travelling to do within that winter break. Wuhan life then and now has become normal to me, I still get riled by the differences of China and England, I know I'm here for a reason. The temperature was at rock bottom during that winter time. Xi'an was the perfect kick-starter that got 2016 fired, I was ready for this chapter to unfold! Those Warriors, Xi!!

Sticking within Wuhan I was shown the build up to 2016's Chinese New Year celebrations, something had been missing during last Christmas because all of that tinsel was just for show. Famous songs could be heard blaring in the street, something told me that I was going to enjoy my second New Year celebration of 2016 a lot more than the previous Christmas. Wuhan may have had an immense chill going down but I was still out to see the city, one weekend before Spring Festival I revisited Hankou's Jiang'an District to find the Gude Temple, Dazhimen Station and a healthy serving of Urban Decay! Was I missing home during my seventh month living in China, I wasn't because I was and I'm still living a dream! Would I be getting another tattoo during that month? No, I wasn't sure on a design that was right for me at that point but I was on the look out! January 2016 served as the perfect introduction to my second installment of my first year in China. I wanted to cross the borderline!

Saying goodbye to my students for their winter holiday, I was ready for my Spring Festival trip but I would miss those kids at the same time! Boarding my 'high speed train' to Shenzhen North, I zoomed down to the LoWu border checkpoint to leave Mainland China for the former British Overseas Territory of Hong Kong. It had been a dream of mine to visit HK, that very dream came true on the 1st of February 2016 for real! Spending three full days in Kowloon with my friend, Kelly who I had studied with at University in Birmingham I was afforded a real Hong Kong treat. Viewing a million lights from Victoria Peak to then taking a boat over to Tai O Fishing Village on Lantau Island, I felt truly blessed! Those Hong Kongers knew what to do, it was so clean and tidy! A definite feeling of order and clarity was felt within their modern society. I may have been close to the Chinese border but HK felt just like home to me!

Leaving HK I skimmed over to Macau on the hydrofoil to continue my 2016 Spring Festival holiday. Macau was once a Portuguese Colony until 1999, it was amicably handed back to China after the agreement with Portugal had finished. I was looking for some good Portuguese fusion food and a glimpse of the UNESCO protected old town that sure oozed Colonial Realness! The Ruins of St. Paul's were definitely crowded but it made my Macau trip feel complete. Back on another train but back over the border in China I headed to Guangzhou for three days. Guangzhou showed me the towering rainbow lit Canton Tower, the nighttime showed off GZ's stunning futuristic skyline! Going back to another Colonial time I loved Shamian Island, it showed me how the British made their connections in GZ all those years ago was fascinating. Guangzhou showed me how Spring Festival is done, I adored the feeling at the Hualin Temple! When I arrived back to Wuhan I was in need of a nice rest! 

Getting back to work was something to get used to after the month break I enjoyed in February, nevertheless I was ready for the challenge of my second semester of teaching English in Wuhan, China. The heat had been turned up several notches but I knew I could handle the pressures of that time because it was all happening for a reason. March was predominately about work, so when April arrived I was excited to leave Hubei Province for a weekend in Changsha, Hunan Province. I stayed with my friend Andy and had a great time getting to know what Changsha had to show me. Boarding my fifth 'high speed train' of the year during April 2016 I spent one weekend in Xianning, Hubei Province with my fellow teaching friend, Fiona. My Scottish friend gave me a weekend to remember, it was great to see a smaller city within Hubei Province for Wuhan's manic vibe got me crazy during that time! Drama!

Changsha and Xianning got me through April, things had been mixed up for the better so May had some much needed chill to offer! Flying for a change I touched down in my first Chinese Autonomous Region for my Guilin May Day Holiday. Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region allowed me to spend three days in Guilin, exploring the compact city centre allowed me to see the Sun and Moon Pagodas and catch a glimpse of the Li River. Trusting my China Highlights tour I had an amazing time seeing the Long-Haired Ladies of the Huangluo Village, those ladies knew how to serve their long jet-black locks! Keeping it together I made my way around the Longji Rice Terraces at heights that took my breath away, the view was sensational with the mist making the vista look quite mystical! Casting my mind back to climbing Mount Snowdon, I saw navigating my way around the Rice Terraces a lot easier compared to that Welsh pursuit. So, March was stressful but April and May both slayed!

My twelfth month living in China saw me getting into the groove teaching at work, I never rest on my laurels because China loves change but things have become easier. Ten months a Kindergarten teacher I feel settled but I know that there's room for growth. Arriving into Shanghai just after Dragon Boat Festival 2015 it was time for me to experience Nanjing, Jiangsu Province for 2016's Dragon Boat Festival. After seeing sights in Wuhan and Guangzhou dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen I was not going to miss out my opportunity to see the Zhongshan Mausoleum! Accessed in less than four hours by 'high speed train' from Wuhan Railway Station, I haven't spent any time to relax during my holidays since arriving in China. Nanjing had me in circles, I will admit that my sense of direction was called up more than once. The Qinhaui River looked lovely during that June eve, I felt centred during that one year milestone trip.

June also saw me get over to Hankou's Bund and Riverside District as I hadn't discovered that area properly until that one year point. I enjoyed staying close to Guanggu for that day of sightseeing and I even found ASDA milk in a Wal-Mart that was near to my Hankou location that day! The weekend of my one year anniversary of living and in China was spent getting very boozy indeed, I had been cultured in Nanjing and had taken note in Hankou, so I wanted to enjoy that special milestone with my friend, Fiona out on the tiles in Guanggu, Wuhan! I'm planning to spend another year teaching English in Wuhan, China, so I have every confidence the next year will be filled with as much travel and will see me learn valuable experience at work as a Kindergarten teacher. From Xi'an to Macau then to my recent stop in Nanjing, I feel extremely blessed to have travelled so much! My professional life continues to help me move forward with my goal to teach for two years. Oh my life!

One Year Done! 

Joseph Harrison 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...