Travel booking #blogjune 7

hanok house
Traditional Korean ‘hanok’ house

Can’t talk, booking. Or trying to. Couldn’t book last week as waiting on some paperwork to be finalised before we could decide where to go, so now (of course) the flights are all $500 more expensive *cry cry cry*

 

I’ve not only got multiple tabs open, but multiple browsers. There must be a magical combination of flights out there somewhere. I rely heavily on  expedia, skyscanner & local Chinese travel booking site/app Ctrip. Expedia are very good for multi-city flights. They give nicer combinations (and often cheaper prices) than booking directly with airlines (which is my preferred option). I only started using skyscanner and Ctrip when I got to China. Ctrip is frequently cheaper for booking things in China – sometimes the difference in price is substantial.

Colleagues use the hopper app, which is really cool and will send you notification when the price drops, but I can’t get it to work in China.

Anyway, enough. None of them are working for me right now anyway! And now we must pack. Mr Chen is picking us up directly from school to take us to the airport tomorrow. It is the Duan Wu (Dragon Boat) and we have a long weekend. We are going to South Korea for the first time – only 4 days, so we’ll stay in Seoul. We’ll be staying in a traditional hanok house, visiting paper and art shops, eating awesome food and going to a baseball match.

tteokbokki

 

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Love, hate and a bowl of jiaozi 

I’m almost into my last 3 months in China. Blogging my life here has not happened as regularly as I’d have liked. Mostly due to concerns early on when the school I work for discovered the blog and told me I couldn’t write it. It doesn’t help that the site I use is blocked either, as it means I have to connect to my VPN to load, which takes forever depending on the whim of the government in Beijing at the time, and makes WordPress sluggish and prone to crashing.

To make up for my ineptitude as a blogger, I’m challenging myself in my last 3 months to try to reveal a little of life in China as an expat. I’m going to frame it as a love/hate series, where I post one thing that I dislike, or that is difficult, about living China with something that is great. I’m going to come right out and say that after almost 2 years the first list feels much longer. So this challenge will also be cathartic, and force me to look at China and my experiences here through a heavy dose of rose tint.

I’m going to start with a Love, and no surprises, it’s a food:

Jiaozi – Chinese dumplings, or 饺子 (can I just say, I typed that character by drawing it onto the keypad & identifying the characters!)

I discovered these little lumps of goodness last time I was in China. Long freezers full of them line every local supermarket. The local food hall has various counters where you can wait ages (comparatively speaking) for them, or if you’re starving (as we usually are) the fried variety (guotie) are already made, although of varying degrees of freshness and warmth!

Our local food hall jiaozi masters

Jiaozi are traditionally eaten at lunar new year, and the making of them is a family affair. Their ‘gold nugget’ shape is said to represent wealth and prosperity. Other historical accounts say the original name was jiao’er (tender ears) as they were used to treat frost bitten ears. More historical info here

Likeness to ears aside, they’re amazing dipped in vinegar and chilli or soy. They are also really easy to make – especially as most western countries sell the wrappers in stores nowadays. For easy recipe ideas and excellent video/photo instructions for jiaozi, guotie AND the pastry, check out meat loves salt,

While my daughter and I often made these at home in Australia, there’s no chance we’d bother here. Not when we can buy a massive plate of them for about 20 Kwai (£2 or $4). Here is our local food hall dumpling counter. There’s always a very long line, and it’s a ‘first to fight your way to the counter, first served’ basis.

Food hall with highly appropriate lighting.

 

Gives you a clue to the numbers they have through the food hall. I dont want to think anout how thoroughly these bowls are (not) cleaned

 

Things I’d never eat at home

Late finishing work trying to export our library database and upload it so we can get confirmation our data will convert to the new system. Stopped at Korean Bbq – one of our faves. They bring you a little bucket of coal for the table and you cook the meat yourself.

They also bring an array of random Korean side dishes, and I’ve notices the longer I live here, the more of these weird platters I’m willing to try.

Tonight looked like something that was dragged out of a pond. Tasted okay.

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School and one week down

We have survived our first week.  Luckily we ran into someone from school’s HR as we were walking out the gate to the beach yesterday as turns out she had all the other new teachers on a bus to take us for phone and bank setup.  Heads up would’ve been good!!

Feeling a lot more connected now I have a Chinese mobile, but apparently the one the school have arranged for us has really crap data (we checked, it does) but we have to wait a month before we can get another SIM.  Mine seems to text and slooooowwwlly surf the web, but it won’t call certain numbers.

New staff induction for the second half of the week.  The school has been here since 2006 but this building was only constructed in 2011.  The school has gone “up a level” each year – this year we are up to level 4 and there are 2 more above that.

School playground, looking down to local school
School playground, looking down to local school

Got my first glimpse of my library, and me my new assistant, who it turns out is not my assistant (although she would fit this description in Australia) but is actually the “Senior Librarian” while I am the “School Librarian” or “Teacher Librarian”.  A little…interesting, but we shall just roll with that for the time being.

3 new expat teachers and their groceries
3 new expat teachers and their groceries

Have had dinner out a lot so far as we still haven’t quite got all we need to cook at home, despite the nearest supermarkets being a lot better than what we had access to locally in Ningbo.

So glad we don’t have to sit on a bus for an hour to get to a decent shop, although it sounds like a lot of the clothing stores are on the Qingdao side.

Had street BBQ with a few of the teachers the other night – great food and nobody got sick, hooray!

Street BBQ - amazing
Street BBQ – amazing
Street BBQ - literally in the street
Street BBQ – literally in the street
Street BBQ - the hot fridge
Street BBQ – the hot fridge

 

Prague by night (at last)

It took us so long to find somewhere to eat in the city tonight that it was actually dark when we started making our way home. It was lovely to see Prague in a different hue after the relentless heat we’ve experienced this past week.

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We ended up at what appeared to be a beer garden serving drinks & cheese platters. It’s drawcard was the location under Charles Bridge. This turned out to be a hazard as some pleasant person’s smouldering cigarette landed on us just as we took our seats…ah, Europe. The sun may not kill you bit the cancer sticks will. Ghastly habit!

Meanwhile, there was one Bavarian sausage on the menu, which we (and everyone else) in the place had. In hindsight perhaps they are waiting on their food licence as the sausages were cooked in a George Foreman style grill in the seating area…

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But cider was 59kc (actually cheaper elsewhere too!) so we weren’t arguing.

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And we found Kafka’s museum, a plague of swans and a tram stop we realised we’d already been to, without realising where we were.

Loving Prague a little more tonight. It’s been a struggle as we really should’ve headed back to Australia by now to start preparations for China, but I wasn’t able to change our flights without considerable expense, leading me to once again vow that I will never, ever fly QANTAS…

I could eat a horse…

So, getting pretty hungry.  I simply cannot find any meat.  Have been to downstairs supermarket, to La Miaow (no idea how to spell but that’s how they say it), to supermarket near Le Miaow, to Tesco and Carrefour.

Okay, there is meat, but you have to kill it yourself.  In the bottom of the supermarkets is the fresh produce section – veges, fruit…and what I would call a pet shop but what is actually the deli.  So far we have seen small and large crabs, yabbies, prawns, mussel type things, eels, GIANT eels, more crabs (different colour), TURTLES (the shop assistant thought we would find it hilarious if she stacked all the baby turtles up on top of each other then watched them tumble down…), fish – oodles of fish, swimming gaily around in big red plastic tubs.

The strangest by far have been the bull frogs.  As big as a large cane toad, with lumpier, wartier looking skin.  Very black.

Some of the livestock are covered by nets or lying on crushed ice.  Some are dead, still floating around the tank for your gastronomical pleasure.

In the supermarket near Le Miaow we leapt upon a fridge of normal-ish looking meat (i.e. plastic wrapped and on a styrofoam tray) only to discover that the butcher had already eaten the meat of the cow and had only wrapped up the offal for sale.

I suppose we could make Haggis…

Nearby there was a very enthusiastic guy with half a cow/sheep and a meat cleaver, but the flies put us off a wee bit.

We are living on cherry tomatoes.  They taste divine and go with everything – pasta, salad, couscous, egg…

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