19 November 2018

28: Work, Reunions & The Great Wall

I welcomed my 28th birthday with a whole new outlook, it had been a crazy year leading up to that moment, I was feeling rather blessed during that recent celebration. Working on my birthday wasn't a chore, the children wished me a happy birthday at least one hundred times! The weekend brought many shenanigans, no I was not ready for Jinshanling's Great Wall! 

My 28th birthday had fallen on a Wednesday, being a day of work I wanted to make it special for the children. The morning was really fun, the work period was really busy with my English Corner filled with children learning and exploring, using the English language materials that I had made for them to learn from. One of the children also celebrated their birthday, celebrating together we all enjoyed songs and as a class we wished each other happy birthday in both Chinese and English. To my surprise, my lead teacher had bought me a lovely chocolate cake! I shared the cake with some of my colleagues but if truth be told I wanted to enjoy it by myself! I had a relaxed morning after the work period, observing my fellow foreign colleagues class was something that I needed to do. My birthday at work was nice, it felt lovely to receive some nice gifts from some of the parents! Not another announcement from the UK?

During the nap time I went to the local supermarket to pick up somethings for the afternoons cooking lesson, well food orientated learning that I try and do with the children once a week. Getting some bananas, cakes, peanut butter and some apple jam incase any children had a nut allergy, my shopping was complete. It was a very rare visit to Wumei because I use an app that arranges delivery to my door, its much more convenient and quite frankly I can't stand food shopping! The food lesson went down a storm, the cakes with peanut butter and bananas went down very well with the children, they sat down with their treats, it was strangely silent as they devoured their snacks! The day itself was really nice, my after school class came around like it usually did, things flowed well and the kids seemed to pick up on the happy vibes. As much as working on my birthday wasn't a bad thing that day it would be nice if 2019 could bring a weekend birthdate! The universe needs to listen! 

Friday brought me back together with my two Montessori besties, we had gone through the spring and summer weekend course together and it was an experience to say the very least! The days professional development took place away from our usual campuses, meaning I got a taxi into town because the early alarm call made getting the metro sound like a bad idea. I was tired! Learning about 'peace education', 'sports' and 'health and hygiene of the classroom' took us out of the classroom for one day. Myself and Chanel went to QMex for a saucy lunch with a beverage or two, keeping it professional we were back on time, no fingers could be pointed at us! The social afterwards was good, a nice selection of beers were available, staying away from the mixed drinks I wanted to carry on the party, the last month had been mad busy at work! Kelly spent time with her Zimbabwe compadres, she's going to show me her country soon! 

My birthday week so far had been great, work had been smooth with only a few small issues. My birthday itself was nice and being a Wednesday I didn't touch a drop of drink because I can be professional when I have to be! Friday allowed me to get a little bit crazy, being aware of my semi-professional setting I enjoyed the beverages but kept things cute. Branching away from the social I went to Destination to see if it was going to throw shade or not, it wasn't the best if I am completely honest. I picked the pace up the following weekend at Kai with a more simple and less snooty crowd. Getting a huge McDonalds had to be done, I hadn't had much to eat at all during the social. A few crazy developments occurred on the Friday night but I'll keep those confidential, I had been exploring a new adventure of sorts, with that experience terminated I resumed life as normal because I have always have options. Let's just say it was kind of a complicated 'love scenario' so I'm like a cat with nine lives.

Being in Beijing just over the one year mark I knew I needed to start visiting the key landmarks that represent the city and the country. It was somewhere I wanted to visit before my Beijing journey had even started, choosing the lesser visited Hebei branch of the Great Wall had to be done. The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall gave me a quieter panorama of Beijing and Hebei's mountainous border regions, away from the craze of Badaling and Mutianyu, no I wasn't going to put my money into the commercialism of Simatai's side of the wall at Gubei Water Town! Going up to the top in the cable car wasn't bad, making my way to the nearest access to the wall started to the fear into me, I don't do heights but wanted to experience the wall for myself at least once. The views were unstoppable, the photos online really don't do the actual vista any justice, I walked slowly as the walls path hugged the mountain top. 

Knowing it was time to turn around I gathered all the courage I had, made it down the stairs and by the grace of whatever god exists I managed to get the cable car back down to the car park. I want to reinforce that my visit to the wall was well worth it, one of the wonders of the world has been bossed and I can say I have been to two iconic Beijing/Hebei landmarks. The views were out of this world but the height and the twisting turning nature of the walls path really knocked me sick, its a mixed feeling because the views were just indescribable but I felt terrified at the very same time. My birthday week concluded with such an epic event, things had panned out just fine and it was time to begin my first new week of work as a 28 year old, with each year I feel extremely blessed by the path my life has taken. I hope to have another packed year that's filled with travelling, hard work and drama because you know I love it all! Beijing, you better pull it out of the bag in 2019! 

Another Year Fierce! 

Joseph Harrison 

7 November 2018

One Year in Beijing, China!

The fact I have now been in Beijing, China for one year absolutely blows my mind! Looking at the second six months during my Beijing journey won't be difficult, that summer/autumn period had me very busy indeed! Getting on a jet plane to see my first niece was the best, I have been getting into town more! Keeping it real, that Beijing has not wasted my time! 2018, yes! 

The grind of my training course had me exhausted, holding on for one more day it brought my weekend break to Datong, Shanxi. Taking off before it was barely morning was a relief, to be out of the city that was getting me crazy felt great! I loved my time in Datong, the tour allowed me to see all the relevant sites within the two day limit. I was unknowingly on the verge of a big change. I had been at my ever-changing campus for almost seven months, from the first class as an English teacher got me questioning things but that lead position got me reevaluating things. Datong took me out of this chaotic space, finding solace in a city that was less than international was the tonic. The 'Hanging Temple' showed me something that I had seen on a documentary about China a few years previous, to see it in real time motion was ace! Being in the present moment has took a lot, Beijing has kept me alert! B!

Datong lifted me a little, I was about to embark on a one month summer training that would take me out of my current class onto another adventure or challenge if I wanted to see the situation from a different slant. That month was insane, travelling for four hours per day to and from the training had me and my two Montessori besties dog tired and then some! The training was berserk in that moment but its all paid off, I made peace with that situation because I had to see what was really important to me. Looking towards a rainbow, would I find a shiny pot of gold sitting at the other side? Quite possibly, yes! Datong's delights seemed like a million miles away during those crazy long days but August brought a blessed beginning. That rainbow produced the goods, I found myself surrounded by a nice vibe. The summer had so been mad, a learning experience nonetheless, getting my bags packed it was time to fly England bound! That mammoth journey had me flying and then some! 

Home was short but very sweet indeed, seeing family was great but to meet a little lady called Orla Rose was the icing on the cake! Having the call on my 27th birthday sealed the fate, I was going to become an uncle for the first time but due to my China location I missed the birth. Jetting home at the next possible date had to be done, my Cathay Pacific flights took me from Beijing to Manchester via Hong Kong, the flights were long but the journey was well worth it! Getting back to Beijing ushered a new start, embracing the rainbow gave me the chance to put my new found experience and knowledge into actual practice. Things had been given to me at the end of that July situation, those things weren't going to get me down, restructuring things for the final time I said goodbye to the thing that had occupied so much of my spring and summer, it had been worth the madness! I finally had the time to apply the knowledge. Get it now!

Getting into the city centre of Beijing became a lot easier during September, I had my weekends back and with that freedom I was able to get back to my nightlife antics at the weekend on a more regular notion. I knew more places to shake it down at, a certain place called 'Kai' took me into more craziness but it was all beautiful to me! Houhai and Beihai Park showed me another side to Beijing, it was modernised history with a Hutong thrown into the mix, it turned a lovely autumn weekend into something very memorable indeed. I felt that the month flew past, it was a chance for me to work hard to improve the English Corner that I had adopted in that new rainbow coloured classroom. Getting my head into the game allowed me to enjoy things a lot more, it was sure with life's dramas but things were more manageable, those weekend free felt so good! I needed my new visa renewed because an Indian holiday had been booked, getting it back before Yinchuan was the one! SK, J! 

Yinchuan brought some western charm, it had only been a hot minute since I had got back from my Wuhan/UK holiday! Wuhan was a dream, it was a weekend that allowed me to destress and be appreciative of the journey I had worked so hard to experience, even if it had been mad I felt blessed to go back to the beginning after getting to Beijing! Yes, I got myself to Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Seeking something Halal gave me life, the Xixia Tombs had a backdrop to die for! That Hui Muslim City impressed me much, giving me some amazing food to sample was one of the many things that I loved about that trip! The Nanguan Mosque restored some calm in my life, it was the place that gave me the inspiration for my first Montessori dress up works. I knew that from that moment it was time to turn the stakes up! September was full of blessings but I was ready for Seoul, South Korea B! 

Booked well in advance, it felt correct to be taking off during China's National Day holiday! I had missed the previous years holiday due to visa shenanigans but I was pulling out all the stops during 2018s 'Golden Week!' Going International I booked up my flights in April before the prices went sky-high! Touching down into Seoul felt liberating, I had left China for the first time since my return and it was right! Seoul took me under its wing, it had me crazy in the best way because the Soju was dirt cheap and damn right strong! Itaewon had me doing bad things once the sun went down, seeing the city with a hangover for the most part was hard work, those nights and mornings had all my energy! Seoul took me by the hand, it forced me to get rid of the baggage from the previous months and to embrace that moment, things were all coming good and in actual fact it was all a lesson! The autumn needed to be present, I had work to do before turning 28 years old! Oh, Montessori was the only way!

I had to find a new place to live, a certain landlord wanted to raise the rent to an amount that I wasn't prepared to pay! Finding a place closer to my new campus had all that I needed, cheaper and outside of the McDonald's delivery radius was just fine for me. The move wasn't stressful in the sense I was moving a few miles down the road, it was the communication with the first removals guy, not today! Living in Houshayu has so far pushed me to speak even more Chinese, my language skills have been pushed to the limit! I am ordering more and more on Taobao for my English Corner, having to communicate with the delivery workers isn't easy at the best of times but its given me the chance to practice that Pinyin! November crept in, being on the flight path gave a Birdseye view that reminded me that I had only touched down one year previous! Work wasn't without those everyday challenges but I had my materials!

I would be a liar to say that the second half of my first year in Beijing was easy, it pushed me to my limits but with those hurdles I found one way or another to cross the finish line! I am in a place that I will negotiate a new figure, the kids are adorable in my current class, my English Corner is on fire! Datong was like a dose of medicine during a tough time, the motivation to reach Orla Rose gave me life for certain! Beijing has become a lot more familiar to me and with those Chinese language skills stepping up a few levels I am slaying in the areas I need them! A new chapter is on the horizon, leaving my boozy week in South Korea behind me I look back on my memorable reunion with Wuhan back in August 2018, it was soberingly out of control! Let's get it together, India and the DPRK are in my sights and I am slaying the competition with my next level approach to work! Beijing has pushed me in the right direction this year, getting me ready for 2019 in the capital! 

I'm All About B! 

Joseph Harrison 


29 October 2018

Seoul, South Korea: Gangnam, JYP & Olympic Parks!

Keeping my hands on the ride was that my Korean holiday was getting on and then! Catching some 'Gangnam Style' and Samsung, I wasn't ready for my final instalment of Seoul sightseeing. A Strong coffee and a sense of getting on with it would be needed that day, the night before had gotten me bad! I was looking for the Olympic Park and the JYP Entertainment thing!

The morning time was filled with drama but thanks to Seoul's vast Subway I eventually crossed the Han River, I was on the lookout for some Gangnam Style! Taking an age in my hungover state it was such a relief to be amongst the towering glass structures that made Seoul's financial district. Home to many cosmetic hospitals it was easy to see the widened eyes upon the models posing on the billboards in the street and on the adverts for the surgeries. It didn't necessarily feel like I was going to see PSY trot down the busy streets of Gangnam but it did have a certain feel about it. Turning the corner I found the gargantuan SamSung Center, one of Korea's most famous brands for electronics. I could have been in New York City or London because it was truly an international setting with all the noise, glass and modernity. The day had seen a rocky start but I was taking my final afternoon in Seoul with all I had! Itaewon was bad for me!

Made famous for the chart-topping K-POP hit 'Gangnam Style' by PSY, representing Seoul with its larger than life music video, it showcased a once far off East Asian City that I knew I needed to visit! In all honesty, I should have spent one night out in Gangnam but the hill near my Itaewon hostel had too many devilish delights to enjoy, Gangnam had to be shelved for the day time! Would I be getting any fillers or cosmetic work done during my Gangnam stop? No, it was just too expensive for me to pay those prices, but in the future I'd be down for a lip filler or botox consolation for sure! Getting things together I lived for the next level nature of Gangnam's energy, from a Chinese perspective it reminded me of Shanghai's futuristic riverside with its modern towers, Gangnam's skyscrapers didn't have conversations with the clouds like Shanghai's do but they impressed me much all the same. When I return to Seoul, I might go back down to Gangnam for a night out but Itaewon had big shoes to fill!

For me the beat of Seoul had to be the K-POP music! Behind the machine that manages the practically perfect pop groups and solo acts of South Korea, there's one company that screamed out to me! 'JYP Entertainment' rules the roost along with a few other leaders in the K-Pop music industry. I was first introduced to K-POP music when I lived in Wuhan. JYP's 'Wonder Girls' captivated with their sexily crafted choreography and their sultry whispered lyrics, from that moment on I was captivated by that powerhouse of South Korean music! Where were the guys at? Yes, the guys who make up such bands within K-POP biz like 'Got 7', 'BigBang' and my favourite who have to be 'IKON'. Now, I would gladly fall into a 'Love Scenario' with one of those delectable guys! Fast-forward to the cafe at JYP Entertainment, it looked like swish demo lounge with a screen displaying K-POP videos and a stage for promos? It was so bizarre!

No, I didn't see any K-POP stars but the whole style can be found on the streets of Seoul, I had never seen so many guys with such flawless skin, perfectly cut 90's bowl hairstyles who were all rocking the latest K-POP styles! The Korean women were definitely looking pretty but 'Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus' those gentlemen slayed the competition hands down, leaving the scenes of 'JYP's' cute promo cafe I passed through the Duty Free at Seoul's Incheon Airport, the views were phenomenal, such beautifully presented gentlemen stood poised to assist passengers who were looking for cosmetics, truth be told those guys might have used them all up? Safe to say the K-POP phenomenon manipulated me for those few days whilst in Seoul with those flawlessly looking gentlemen folk! Seoul served all of that and more with its K-POP niche, yes the cocoa dusted hot chocolate tasted like heaven as I watched the music videos at 'JYP's' own 'Soul Cup Cafe'. My trip in Seoul was nearly over! Yes to K-POP!

The final segment of my final sightseeing day in Seoul was a brief encounter with the park at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Park, conveniently located across the road from 'JYP's' 'Soul Cup Cafe' meant I didn't have to walk too far because by that time I was ready to sleep for a week! The peace and quiet that surrounded the park made me feel like I was a million miles away from the noise and chaos of Gangnam. I didn't spend much time at the Olympic Park but it was a nice scenic place to conclude my final full day in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Things seemed very subdued, I wanted things to stay that way because I wasn't feeling good, the night before had been insane and it was almost time to go back to Beijing, I really needed my bed! The calming nature of that Olympic Park wrapped my Seoul adventures into one big journey, the previous four days had been mental and right there didn't regret a single thing! No SK!

The Olympic Park subway station was my finish line, boarding one of three trains I made it back to that magical 'foreigner corner' in need of a kebab! The day had started off quite extraordinarily but I made sure it counted for something, the subway system had my back, helping me get to and from Itaewon. Gangnam showed me everything I needed to see, from cosmetic surgery billboards to the towering SamSung Center I was impressed within my hazy state. Bringing some K-POP vibes into the mix I was able to have a nice hot drink at the 'Soul Cup Cafe' at the headquarters of 'JYP Entertainment' because I wanted to incorporate something K-POP into my day if possible. Meeting with the finishing point of my final day in Seoul at the Olympic Park felt like such a relief, I had done what I needed to do in the state I was in! Seoul had me pretty crazy but I never allowed the hangover to stop me from seeing the things I saw! Back to the hostel it was for some good food and I didn't expect to meet such a cutie in the coffee room! Accomplishing lots during my five days in Seoul was my plan, trip fulfilled it was back to BJ!

Seoul's Scenarios!

Joseph Harrison 

28 October 2018

Seoul, South Korea: Palaces, Rivers & TV Towers!

Waking up feeling fresh on a glorious Wednesday healed my hangover, making the most of the G's free breakfast I headed out for the day. The previous day I wasn't very present, Gyeongbokgung Palace didn't happen, I needed to change that situation! Seoul's Nam Sam Tower was on my list without a doubt! Getting my life together, only Seoul held the key to a full-bodied day! 

Gyeongbukgong Palace helped me seize that Seoul morning, paying the small fee to access the palace grounds made perfect sense to me. Originally constructed around 1394 during the Joseon Dynasty I had a sneaking suspicious that some parts of the palace had been rebuilt, but saying that it all looked so authentic I paid that thought no mind. It was busy but it wasn't anywhere near crazy China would had of been during that Golden Week holiday. Ladies from all nationalities were adorned in the national Korean dress, those Hanbok's looked beautiful and the guys were dressed in the male equivalent. The Guenjeongjeon Hall stood right before me, shining with a rich red and green imperial Korean design that impressed me much! Keeping my manners in check I refrained from taking any interior photos, inside the Guenjeongjeon Hall looked very nice with an equally regal style. Seoul was looking just fine once again! 

Going international is the key, people took their photos and moved on swiftly, not like the usual hullabaloo in China. In my next life I'd want to be an imperial Korean Hanbok wearing princess! Leaving the royal courtyard behind me, I walked a little further into the ground to find the gardens that surrounded the National Folk Museum of Korea. I paid no attention to the museum, the mornings raise felt too good to miss out on, getting a drink from a nearby vending machine I took some time to chill out. I absolutely adored Gyeongbokgung and its many regal structures and the feel of the gardens put me at ease. The air was clear and tasted fresh, when you've lived in China for sometime its always a blessing to breath in air that feels fresh! Nevertheless, I felt good and had saved some time seeing the palace and its grounds earlier on in the day. I had found the palace the previous day but that Soju induced state forced me to turnaround and try again the next day. Seoul slayed again! 

Getting to the Han River took an absolute age, the Seoul Subway system almost had me in circles. Finding somewhere to sit was appreciated, the cityscape along the Han River set the mid-afternoon just right, I had only just got over one hangover and I was already thinking of the next Soju! Thinking forward to my forthcoming trip to Pyongyang, North Korea, how different the Taedong River would look compared to its southern sister. The bikers energetically sped pass but my speed was practically zero, on reflection the view wasn't swanky or luxurious because I hadn't gone to that location by accident, accidents are the best to make to find the best things in a city! Seoul had me under its spell, I didn't care about the understated view, in fact its what I was living for! Seoul kept me living for its Korean cool. The subway had taken the Michael but I had made my destination nonetheless! Honestly, Seoul's riverside was just right for me!

Ditching the map, I was on the hunt for Seoul's N Tower the wrong way around. Finding a random shop I scrapped my pennies together to buy the first bottle of Soju of the day, getting on the right track I managed to find the vista of the tower in my sights. I was in such a great place, not just geographically, it was amazing to be out of a place that I had seen so much of. China is my heart but I was living for Korea's nonstop vibe, the signs are something that I loved the most. Seeing the first Korean signs in Shenyang, Liaoning had me looking at something different. Going down some stairs then climbing a hill led me to a rather hipster sight, that alternative hipster Korean hill gave me something different. Those Korean gentlemen looked amazing, sipping their booze during the dusk hour they looked lovely. I already had the night ahead in my head, the holiday was becoming something of an adventure and then some more! Yes, day three slayed, Nan Sam Tower grew closer and closer!

After biggest hill ever I reached a respectable height, but even that climb was enough to reach the Nam Sam Tower. Things got pretty flashy, a well known Hyatt hotel brand came into view. Half remembering the directions given by one of the managers at G Hostel in Itaewon, I trusted those details, climbing higher and higher had me in this snooty area with hilltop restaurants and Beverly Hills style houses. Entering some kind of wilderness pushed me to my limits, getting over that initial burn I pushed forwards. It was something I needed to do! Making it to a viewpoint was enough for me, getting amazing panoramic views of the city had me captivated by Seoul's charm. Going down back to the city, I was living with the views, I captured my best shot of the tower with a bottle of Soju in hand, in Asia its acceptable to drink beverage outside a local shop that has its own chairs and table. Yes, for those simple reasons I loved Korea! 

Satisfied with the views from my convenience store scene, I made it back to Itaewon. Finding a second hand bookshop impressed me much, getting a sports car book for the boys in my classroom had to be the one. I had gone batshit crazy the previous night out on the town, my money wasn't being budgeted well because I had only bought the bare minimum, Korea had me mad! Getting some funds sorted, I needed food! That hill needed revisiting, getting that sorted was a done thing, getting back to my tricks wasn't the right thing but I needed to be bad that night! Seoul had me slaying epically, I had to be on my game and then some in some venues because those drinks had got me bad! Did someone say something familiar and outright mad? Falling into the grey is where I leave that business, for the night took a turn I not prepared to mention, it wasn't bad or dangerous but for readers discretion and my Nan, I'll leave it to your imagination! Seoul had on form, I was living for...?

It Started...

Joseph Harrison