Something To Remember? ... Chinese New Year, Teaching English & China's Tibet!

I can say for certain it has been two years since my Sri Lankan Airlines flight took off from London Heathrow Airport! This year so far remains young, the man trouble has been real but all of the drama is life experience. China is currently showing me the way forward, I never say no to an opportunity! 2017, now I can't remember the start because I was inebriated! I've been busy!

Fresh from my Christmas holiday to Yunnan Province, it was back to work for the whole of January 2017. That first initial month flew past as the Chinese Spring Festival approached. I had chose the milder climbs of Southern China the previous year but I had planned to head to the far Northeast of China for 2017's festivities. Cruising over what could have been Jilin or Heilongjiang Province? Mid-flight, I marvelled at the grand firework displays from my window seat. A hint of drama shaded me after I had arrived at my Harbin hostel but I wasn't fazed by that joker! Nice try! Harbin's Russian history gave me life, the majority of the historical buildings still remained! Was I in the Moscow of the Far East? Yes! Trusting China Highlights for the second time I was shown an amazing day trip to the Siberian Tiger Park, Snow Sculpture Expo and the world renowned Harbin Ice Festival, the only trouble was the freezing temperatures dipped to minus 25 degrees! Straight up, Harbin had me feeling icy cold! 太冷了! 

So, I saved Changchun for another time, speeding past that West Railway Station in favour of a weekend in Shenyang, Liaoning. My second 'off the radar' city, I had only seen about the Korean connection that had motivated my visit. Grabbing some Hui Chinese food on the first evening, I bumped into an icy food side-street specialising in Hui style Muslim food. That first meal was delicious! Getting up before the birds, I concurred Shenyang's Beiling Park before 09:00 a.m! Seeking a sense of Mother England, a familiar sight found me, I experienced a Chinese TESCO for the first time! Through the familiar supermarket layout and signage I found some 'Everyday Value' chocolate wafers. Shenyang showed me a great night out on the tiles, so much so I felt extremely tender the next day during my sightseeing mission. North Korea just got a little closer, dining at the Pyongyang Rainbow restaurant was an experience with state run media playing and Kim Chi for dinner. Feeling very blessed February had the best start! To Pyongyang next?

By March 2017, it was time to start thinking about the months ahead. I would be finishing my final semester at my current Etonkids campus in Wuhan, so I wanted to give my best classes. Three months had almost passed, I had a new after-school program to teach and the beginning of that transition period was madness! After a few weeks into April that English interactive class became a lot easier to navigate even if the kids were crazier than a box of frogs. I was waiting for my new colleague at that point but being China a whole lot of confusion and crazy would delay that arrival. It was mad to see the Bridging children as they had grown up so much in such a short space of time. Scarily, it would soon be time for us to practice the graduation song but we were keeping busy, learning new things each week was the perfect distraction. Yes, Spring Festival honestly seemed like a world away, as ever I was ready for the next trip! Of course, in order for me to travel I would need to earn money! Work kept me busy, I was fine with that, W! 

April slipped into view, with the semester almost half way through, it was nice to have a small break during the first weekend of that month. Hangzhou called me for that long weekend trip, I pride myself for my independence when travelling but when time is limited I see private tours as the answer. Checking out the Lingyin Temple had to be done, battling the spring weekend crowd wasn't fun but the temple was worth the drama! Along with some cool looking caves and an evenings visit to Wulin Square, the day ended well! My China Highlights tour guided me to four places in one day, beginning at the magnificent West Lake I was able to witness its true beauty. Grabbing some lunch at Hangzhou's Chenghuang Pavilion was nice, it was a chilled sight that allowed me to see Hangzhou from a higher point. Museums aren't my thing but I got some Chinese tea at the Museum of Chinese Medicine. Lastly, I visited a tea plantation and had the chance to pick some green tea leaves! Hangzhou was a treat, Zhejiang Province served beauty! 

Securing two extra days off from work, I made 2017's May Day holiday one to remember! It had been stressful planning but I was about to take a once in a lifetime trip to Lhasa, Tibet. Flying up to Lanzhou, Gansu Province the night before, I then took my first sleeper train ever! To capture those vistas along the Tibetan Plateau was something else! It wasn't without a shaky start but the train journey was fine, the hard sleeper cabin was much better than the soft compartment, I would find that out the next month. Sure, the air grew thinner but I was living my dream! Lhasa's Old Town was like nothing that I had ever seen before! Tibetan food never tasted so good, tracking down a small tea house by myself I had my first taste of Tibetan Butter Tea. Getting into the tour I just loved both Drepung and Sera monasteries, both serving the right measure of Tibetan Realness! Jokhang Temple showed me the most captivating figures of the Dalai's, like a prayer I was there! Making those memories, Lhasa had me breathing fresh air! Oh!

Altitude sickness had a hold on me but with a cocktail of unknown tables and a bottle of oxygen I never missed a beat, those moments couldn't be recreated! Pilgrims from far and wide had descended upon Lhasa to make their prayers and to perform their religious rituals. No, I wasn't on a religious hype but the atmosphere was indescribable. Wrapping up the experience I climbed those steps to the top chambers of the grand Potala Palace, decorated in such splendour I was mesmerised by the colours, features and grandeur of the former quarters of the revered previous Dalai's. Sure, I would've made those reservations if that Potala residence was a hotel! Chengdu, we didn't make a deal to delay my flight back to Wuhan! Let's just say my final arrival into Wuhan Airport didn't impress me much at all! Thrown back into work the next day it was time to get back to teaching my Kindergarten kids, the clock was ticking before my arrival home! Nearing the two year mark, Wuhan had me making decisions! I needed that Tibet calm! Alright!

Wuhan has thrown a scorcher of a summer in our lives, I do not appreciate the clammy and uncomfortable weather that has been dished out to us at this moment! Not today! My time in Wuhan is drawing to a close, so to keep me going at work I decided to switch things up! After a visit to a lesser known city for Dragon Boat Festival, I was motivated to see Enshi during a normal June weekend. The wet weather definitely had something to do with my train being delayed, the soft sleeper compartment was a change to adjust into, I pledge to return to the hard sleeper cabin for that next overnight train in China. Yes! Back to Enshi, that Hubei city showed me something more lush than Wuhan would be capable of! That overnight trip wasn't without such drama but seeing a chilled city environment was good for my soul. The change of scenery had me seeing new things, seeing some snatched sights during that Saturday was ace! Why hadn't I got my weekend travel hype on before? Right, the rain poured down on me! Soaked, E!

A weekend trip to Jiangxi's provincial city had to be done! I boarded another night train after work on another Friday during 2017. Nanchang fared to be a nice city, it was compact and well served by buses. It was nice to see a place that was low key, it didn't have the big city energy that both Shanghai or Beijing possess. As July grows nearer, I have one more weekend trip before I fly home, that final trip will be to Yichang, Hubei Province. It will be from a Friday to Sunday to see the Three Gorges Dam. Since January to this very moment, I can safely say these final six months in China have been amazing! Things have been very busy but that's just the way I like it! Hopefully in the next six months I'll be in Beijing continuing my journey with Etonkids, trading Wuhan for the Capital City! Wuhan has been great, it has allowed me to find my feet in China and for that I have made many memories. Of course, 2017 so far has been everything and more! It is almost home time, my hiatus in England will allow me the chance to catch-up with family. 

Mother England Calls!

Joseph Harrison 


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