Escape from the East
Just a short(ish) one this time to get everybody I haven't spoken to recently up to date on the 6 weeks since my last blog post.
Late June and early July in China were filled with last lessons, a couple of trips to Beijing, and final farewells. In true end of term style, I played lots of games / organised some fun activities to do with the students in my classes, and I feel like my experience of teaching ended on a real high, which is great. I'm not sure if I'll ever do teaching again, but it's nice to have the experience behind my belt if I should ever choose to teach abroad again.
We celebrated the end of our time in Xingtai with a farewell meal at a really nice local restaurant with our colleagues and our boss. We had a posh private room to ourselves with a circular revolving table (am a bit of a revolving table enthusiast) and tried various Chinese delicacies, some of which were more palatable than others! Saying goodbye to the teachers on our final day was quite sad, perhaps especially because it is quite likely we will never see them again. Cathy, my teaching assistant, cried, which was quite touching I suppose - but true to form I managed to hold back on the tears front… I'm not much of a crier really.
After a mammoth cleaning session which left our apartment looking only very slightly cleaner than before we started, Sarah and I bid forever farewell to Xingtai and set off for Beijing, where both of our onward flights departed from. We had time for a last night out with our other English teacher friends, which was super fun and involved a scrumptious meal, rooftop cocktails, and a particularly heart rendering version of 'My Heart Will Go On' in a Chinese karaoke booth - not to blow my own trumpet but I think I gave old Celine a run for her money.
I spent my last day in China recovering from the previous night's festivities: a leisurely breakfast, mooching in an amazing English Language bookshop come coffee shop, and a rooftop meal at Ganges (a delectable Indian restaurant in Beijing). Then it was time to bid farewell to Sarah (sniff) and get the taxi to the airport for my long flight to Western lands.
I arrived in Vancouver on the evening of Saturday 17th July and was greeted in the arrivals lounge by Lucy and Danny (my friends from Manchester Uni) wearing moose hats and waving England flags - excellent!
My first few days consisted of getting over my jet lag and getting to know the city a little bit, but I've been here for a week and a half now and I must say I feel absolutely at home already. Vancouver is such a pretty place, its cityscape an eclectic mix of mountains, skyscrapers and the seaside, and there is so much to do. Highlights so far include cycling round Stanley Park (a huge leafy park in the City Centre), an eye opening/ eye popping trip to Wreck beach (clothing optional), sipping ice cold coronas on outdoor patios in the sunshine, various nights of fun with Danny and Lucy's friends (Watching fireworks on Jericho Beach, Tranny Tuesday, Wild Wild West Wednesday), and of course driving Roxy - our beautiful Chrysler 1990 Plymouth Voyager road trip vehicle - who is now fully insured and raring to go. (On another note - why does anyone bother driving manual cars?! Automatics are so much easier/nicer/generally better!).
So: we have 3 days left in Vancouver before we set off on our West Coast road trip. First stop = Seattle, then we're swinging by Portland, driving down the Oregon Coastline until we hit Northern California, where we're going to spend a few days exploring the Redwoods and then on to San Francisco, Yosemite, Santa Barbara, LA, The OC, San Diego and Tijuana before looping back up through Arizona to the Grand Canyon, and finally Las Vegas, where the road trip ends. From there I will part ways with my road trip chums and fly off for a week in Wisconsin (weddings, wine tasting, and the much anticipated reunion with the Doran clan), followed by a few days in Chicago, Boston and then New York City - where my 7 month travels come to a close. It certainly looks set to be an amazing summer!
As always, hope life is lovely back home.