16 June 2016

1 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 

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