Summer course was a feat for us teachers. We pushed hard to make it through and our bosses knew it. To thank us for all of our hard work, my boss planned an all inclusive weekend trip for all of the employees of EF Shijiazhuang. The plan was to head to the train station early on Monday morning and head to Taiyuan, Shanxi. We would visit old cities and estates, take a break from work, and get to know all of the staff members on a different level. It was a very generous gesture and we all accepted it graciously.
Monday morning, we headed to the train station for the adventure. There were 130 people in our group and we took up three different cars on the train. It was quite exciting; it reminded me of school field trips back in the day. We played cards and jabbered like excited little school kids the whole way there. This was the first time I had headed west of Shijiazhuang and it was beautiful. Our train went through many mountains and valleys and provided us with awesome views. It was such a relief to be taking a break from work.
Tours of Taiyuan
We arrived in Taiyuan around midday and immediately headed to a tourist destination. We jumped on three separate buses and went to tour a huge estate. I was told by one of the Chinese staff that the family that had owned the estate was very rich and they built a mansion. Unfortunately, the tour was in Chinese so none of the foreign teachers really knew what was going on. If we wanted to know anything about what we were looking at, we had to go and ask the Chinese staff to translate for us. This is the reason for my lack of knowledge pertaining to the true history of the mansion or even the name of the family that resided there. Nonetheless, it was still quite nice to be together with all of the other teachers and experience this new, unchartered territory.
The Beef City
After a complimentary lunch, we headed to Pingyao, an ancient city in the Shanxi Province. We went straight to the hotel to drop off all of our baggage and get situated. The hotel was magnificent! It looked like a very traditional Chinese building with court yards and gates. After a short rest, we were back out there experiencing all that we could. The rest of the day was spent walking around and seeing the old city. This region is known for their beef production and we had the opportunity to go to one of the many beef markets. I have never seen people go so crazy over meat in my life! Most of the Chinese staff and some of the foreign teachers were buying dried beef sold in bags. I tried a piece at one of the counters and I have to admit, it was delicious. However, I was unwilling to spend hundreds of Yuan for bags of meat, so I just walked around and admired the atmosphere. That night, many of the teachers and staff went out to some of the local bars. Hanging out and dancing was a nice way to end an action packed day in Shanxi.
The Great Outdoors
The next day was even better than the first. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing traditional buildings and cities but not more than I enjoy nature. The next stop on our itinerary was one of the peaks of the Taihang Mountain Range. The bus ride up the mountain was gorgeous and we were presented with multiple views of the mountain and the valley below. At the top, we went on a trail that took us through the forest and past waterfalls. It was a nice change from the previous day of being around masses of people. We had lunch at the top of the mountain and then visited a Taoist temple on the way down. It was very interesting to learn and see a true Taoist temple in the middle of China. After we got down from the mountain, we made the three hour trek back to the train station to head back to Shijiazhuang. It was an exhausting day and by the time that we made it back home, everyone was dead tired.
The staff trip was an interesting time and we really learned a lot about the people we worked with. It was quite different to see these people out of the office and in a friendly and casual setting. I think that this trip brought people closer together and gave us more of an understanding of our coworkers. It was nice to be rewarded for all of our hard work during the summer course.