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English First – Shijiazhuang China

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Making the most of our time off

I have had quite a unique experience living and working abroad in China. The celebration of the holidays was nothing short of a “once in a lifetime” experience. It was the first holiday season that I have spent away from my family, friends and America. Leading up to the holidays, I was slightly saddened by the fact that I was so far away from my family. I rationalized with myself and realized that though I will not be with them this year, I am sure that I will be with them during future holidays. I told myself not to focus on being away but rather focus on the stories I will be making. When anybody ever asks me how I spent Christmas and the New Year in 2012, I can say that I was traveling throughout China with friends and teaching English. I think only a handful of people can admit this.

We were told that we had around four days off for Christmas in late November, and my mind instantly started going to work on travel plans. While working with my fellow teachers, we worked out a plan to travel to Shanghai and Hangzhou for the short but sweet holiday. Some of the other teachers were going to stay here but I figured that I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity I had to travel. We bought tickets, booked hostels, and made plans to visit old friends. We were to stay in Shanghai for two nights and Hangzhou for two nights.

First stop…Shanghai

Together Christmas Eve came around and the next thing I knew I was on a plane flying high with four other teachers. We landed in Shanghai and the first thing we did was ate Western food. I am a big fan of Chinese food but after going so long with only McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut to satisfy my homely cravings, I was starving for the West. While in Shanghai I feasted on sandwiches, burritos, nachos, hamburgers, pizza, Middle-Eastern food, Turkish food, good coffee, and great beer. It was a glorious, food-filled Christmas.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with one of my friends from back home. He is from Saudi Arabia and had been studying English at my University back home. We used to be conversation partners while I was doing my TEFL and we became great friends. Now, he is studying Chinese in Suzhou so he hopped on a train and met me in Shanghai. We spent Christmas reminiscing and making new friends. It was quite the experience.

Then on to Hangzhou

IMG_4341After a few days we jumped on a train and went to experience one of the more beautiful cities of China, Hangzhou. While Shanghai was very enjoyable, modern, and fast-paced, I more prefer nature and beautiful sceneries. Hangzhou really fed my appetite for beauty and nature. We visited the famous West Lake and the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, which happens to be on the back of the one Yuan. We took a traditional Chinese boat out to the middle of the lake to get a better view of the statues. It was so relaxing, yet exciting, to be out on the lake and seeing such rich history.

All in all, celebrating Christmas in China was quite an awesome experience. I have never been so engulfed with culture during such a special time. Though I really missed my parents, brother, and sisters, I made the most of my time and saw a really developed and beautiful part of the country that I reside in. I am very fortunate to have such opportunities to see the world. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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English First – Shijiazhuang China

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About the Author:

Andrew Ho-Lung
Andrew Ho-Lung is an English Teacher at EF Shijiazhuang.
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