Teaching English

While we were in China, we were invited to teach English to grade 1 high school students. Before we could go, we had to go to the police station to register that we were in the city. First, they made copies of our passports and visas. Then, they had to write all our information down on paper in Chinese because they didn’t’ have a computer system.

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The process didn’t take long and we were on our way! The high school was another three hour bus ride and this one was just as unique as the last. Most people in China ship things through the bus system. They will pack on their items and the bus driver will deliver it wherever they ask for a certain price. On our ride, someone stacked 8 metal boxes of tofu, a box of fish, and several bags of vegetables. This is completely normal.

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You can smoke wherever and whenever you want in China. Clean air is something we were taking for granted here in America because every time we got on a bus, several people would smoke. At one point, everyone on our bus started smoking and it was awful.

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We were spending the night in this town, so we took our stuff to an apartment and had a quick snack before heading to the school.

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Most students don’t live close enough to the school to commute everyday so they live on the campus. Classes start early in the morning and do not end until 11:30pm. Chinese students can only continue their education if they excel at school and make certain grades. They all attend elementary school, but once they hit middle school, they have to succeed. Most students do not make it past middle school and are forced to find a job or attend a technical school. The same process applies to high school students. If a student does not succeed academically, the only way they can continue their education is if they are athletically inclined.

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The english class we were teaching was only for the students who had the best english. We spent the hour teaching them all about Christmas by giving them vocabulary words and fun games.

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They were all super sweet and really welcoming! We all had the best time learning about Christmas!

The following day, we came back to the school to take some students to lunch for their break. There is usually around 10 kids that come, but this day there were around 20.

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We took up 2 of these large tables and ate so much food while making great friends!

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Then began another journey back to Caitlyn’s apartment.

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First Day in China

For our first full day in China, we decided to go visit the hometown of one of Caitlyn’s close friends. While riding the bus, we quickly realized that this was no ordinary bus ride. First off, the bus system is very different than something you would find in America. For instance, in America there would be a large bus company that hires drivers to drive to-and-from certain locations. In China, anyone can own a bus and then decide upon their own bus schedule and rules. This means that the driver makes most of the profit, which means they will let anyone willing to pay onto the bus. Now, there are several checkpoints where the bus is “inspected” (I use this term very loosely) to make sure the limit of passengers does not exceed regulated amount. If there are too many passengers on the bus, the driver will stop and everyone standing will have to get off. The bus will proceed to drive through the checkpoint while the passengers will need to walk past the checkpoint and then get back on. Officials turn their heads on this one 🙂

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This trip required us to go up an entire mountain and then down again. The “roads” were one-way, all dirt, with no railings. This may have been scarier than playing with unchained tigers. However, the views were unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. We were surrounded by mountains and rice fields. Most tourists don’t venture out to this part of China because they stick to the large cities and attractions, but this was quite the experience. The bus driver even started playing Asian tunes on the radio to top off the journey.

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Being in the minority, when you arrive at any bus station there will be several people waiting to harass you into taking their moped or car as a taxi. It’s really annoying, but just ignore them and they’ll go away. I imagine this is what a celebrity feels like 🙂

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The first thing we did when arriving was thank Jesus that we arrived safely because we came pretty dang close to those edges of the mountain. 😉 Actually, we went to eat lunch. In these parts of China, anyone can have a restaurant…and by restaurant I mean a room for serving food out of their home. They typically have a large cooler with their fresh vegetable and meats where you pick out what you want and how you want it cooked. In America, these places would be huge code violations with massive sanitary issues, but in the mountains of China this is fine dining. Ha!

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Restaurants only use food that is in season so everything is very fresh. Thankfully, our bodies adjusted well to the food.

When visiting the home of Caitlyn’s friend, we were able to meet a lot of the local people from the village. They even persuaded me to try on their traditional attire.

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It’s customary upon visiting friends and family in China to bring a small gift. Most of the time it’s food. Before leaving the city, someone gave us an entire bag of bananas and cucumbers that Taylor had to carry. We took the bus back to Caitlyn’s apartment and called it a night.

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Arriving in China

We were so sad to leave Thailand, but very excited to explore China! The night before we left, we asked the front desk at our hotel to schedule us a taxi ride for 5:30am the next morning. It took us 30 minutes to get to the DMK airport in Bangkok, which was 500 baht. This is equal to $13.83. For only a few cents, we could have taken the sky train a few stops to save us some money on a taxi, but we didn’t want the hassle that early.

We flew directly from the DMK airport to Kunming, China with Air Asia. This is a low cost carrier that will charge you for everything they can. Both checked and carry-on bags can only weigh a little amount and they will charge you for water, snacks, etc. while on the plane. They pack the aircraft with seats that are super tight, so we wouldn’t recommend this airline for any long flights. Also, when we received our luggage in China, our suitcase was broken. The handle was jammed and wouldn’t move up or down and there was a huge chunk missing from the top. We asked to be reimbursed for the damage, but they said no.

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Before leaving the DMK airport, we had some extra time to spare so we did the most American thing we could. We got Starbucks and Krispy Kreme. Also, Taylor found a yummy smoothie shop!

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Thailand doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so we were very impressed with their selection of festive donuts.

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It didn’t take us long to get through the Kunming airport because there were no crowds and customs went smoothly.

Once we landed in China, we found our good friend Caitlyn, our driver, and headed into the city to find lunch! Surprise, surprise, we found a pizza place. It was called Brooklyn Pizza and was very modern and westernized. We ordered fresh mozzarella sticks (which were some of the best we’ve ever tasted), parmesan chicken pizza, and buffalo chicken pizza. We also ordered water, but in China they believe that in the colder months you are only supposed to drink hot beverages like tea and water. I couldn’t adjust to the hot water so I ordered bottled water the remainder of the trip and received the strangest looks.

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We highly recommend this place if you’re looking for the comfort of American food and craving pizza!

Following lunch we headed to the train station for our 3-hour train ride into Jianshui.

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The train ride was filled with incredible views, funny stares from locals, and a really cute child sitting beside us. We are so glad that we took the train because we were able to see a ton of the countryside.

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Upon arriving in the city, we took our bags back to the apartment then hopped on mopeds and went for a ride to dinner at a restaurant in Old Town. The architecture was all from Chinese dynasty times and absolutely stunning. We ordered several family style dishes that were amazing!! We were too hungry to take pictures of the food, but it was all great.

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After dinner we hopped aboard the moped again to tour Old Town under the lights. Taylor really enjoyed driving the moped around and was soon acclimated to driving in Asia. We wrapped up our scenic ride home and settled in for the night.

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