China Once, China Twice

What I had never planned to do

WECL in Qingdao March 25, 2010

Filed under: China — Ginny @ 1:21 pm
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WECL stands for World Exchange College of Language.

I think it was a stroke of luck for Sam to be quickly (and unknowingly) placed to teach in Qingdao.

WECL Qingdao , will give you some background on the school in this location.  His students do speak English, Sam’s job is to teach them to speak English properly.

If you never travel outside your own country, it is natural to have preconceived ideas about people and places from other countries.

The biggest misconception (or maybe it’s not!) that the Chinese people had about me as Sam’s mother, was how I physically looked.   They expected me to look old and fat.  At age 56, genetics has still been kind to me.  You won’t find me in a fitness center or gym.  In general, I also only eat when I am hungry.

What surprised me most about Qingdao was its topography.  I had just left inland Beijing, and hey, that’s BIG.  Qingdao, on a peninsula, felt more like San Francisco.  There were hilly streets, and cooler temperatures.  I had to buy some warmer clothes for this location.

I was impressed too, with the camaraderie of friends Sam had, built over a relatively short amount of time.  Each night we had dinner with a different group.  A going away dinner was the first planned event, a few students were leaving.  Their employers had placed in them in WECL to learn English, but a change in their job assignment was sending them to Russia.  There was true emotion felt in their departure, a strong bond between students and teachers had been built.

These photos are from the school, the going away dinner party, and it started my focus to capture images of different foods and signs as I traveled.  Qingdao and Tsingtao are pronounced the same, but are very different.  Qingdao is the home for Tsingtao.

The school


Students, faculty and guest (me) with Sam

They cared...

Great group

Great students

Funny group




tsingtao beer

Fruit flavor something

This was good too!

Great, great group


From Beijing to Qingdao March 9, 2010

I chose to travel by train to reach Qingdao.  Sam was teaching,  my arrival time would coincide when his work day ended.  A train gave me the opportunity to view parts of China inaccessible by car.  What a comfortable train too!  In the first photo, you might be able to pick out and see Vicky again.  She picked up my ticket, then escorted me to my reserved seat on the train.

Every guide from China Highlights, they have all been very good.  Vicky though, was that extra special guide.

There are many photos I took during this 5 hour  “moving train” experience.  What struck me, as I reviewed my photos, was the change in scenery and climate.  Beijing is inland,  a BIG city in a BIG country.  I was now heading east towards a peninsula on the Yellow Sea.  I was heading towards Qingdao, heading towards my son. It was May 9, 2008 , I would be here for five days.

The photos are in sequence, and  “A Bend In The Road”  is where I felt the dramatic change in scenery.


Before I Leave Beijing March 5, 2010

If you recall, my son was heading to teach English in Beijing, but ended up in Qingdao.  Let me clarify now, what happened.  There are many private schools in China that teach the English language.  In our terms, the word franchise would be appropriate to use.  While en route, Sam was indeed scheduled to teach in Beijing.  On land, the school management faced an interesting challenge.  They had an immediate need for a teacher in their Qingdao location.  The new teacher, still on an airplane, was selected to teach in Qingdao.

Before I move on to my next post and travel location, I want to share a few other photos in Beijing.  The Olympic buildings were still being readied for the upcoming games.  We could not tour these; I did capture a few pictures from the car, and other points of interest, and difference.

In public restrooms, the toilets are separated “men” and “women”, but they share a common washroom.  Where I had lunch one day, I found a most unusual shared washroom, it was quite comical.


The Summer Palace February 21, 2010

The Summer Palace

It is very hot in Beijing during the summer months.  A short ride away, The Summer Palace is the respite from heat and humidity.  It is the largest preserved imperial garden in China, and truly magnificent.   A long roofed corridor borders the Kunming Lake, perfect for a relaxing stroll and then onto a dragon boat to catch some extra cool breezes.

For the full history of  The Summer Palace, visit

One advantage of traveling alone is, I didn’t need to “keep pace” with a group.  I could spend as much time as I wanted along the way.  Recall from an earlier post, “support hose” was on my refrigerator list of the important “do not forget”  items to bring.  Without those, long walks would tire my legs out quickly.  I still rested as needed, and Vicky was so charming.  She walked with me, kept her arm linked with mine.

Where I live in New Jersey, I am close to the Delaware River and its towpath.  It might be cooler on the towpath, but it sure is not The Summer Palace.  This would be the summer home of my dreams!

So just pretend, this actually is my summer home and you are invited over as a guest.  Certainly, you may click on the images for a larger view.


Temple of Heaven January 31, 2010

Filed under: China — Ginny @ 9:05 am
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Temple of Heaven

Here in the mornings, retired adults gather daily.

They meet with their friends to dance, exercise, play board games, relax and chat.  It happens every day, it is a social outlet.  Women retire at age 55, men at age 60 and it all depends on your profession.  A physician will not retire until later in life.  When your talent is in high demand, you have to wait a little longer before you become a regular at The Temple of Heaven.

I tried the rhythmic moves using what looks like a badminton racquet and ball.  It isn’t as easy at it seems.  What I enjoyed most was the music and the dancing couples.  What a great way to start each morning!

gentle exercise

play games

I tried

not so easy


and keep on dancing


A Day Off In Beijing January 30, 2010

Filed under: China — Ginny @ 9:23 am
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My Hotel

I was cautious on my day off, my fear was getting lost walking around.  Streets that I crossed, had names in both Chinese Characters and letters.  The names all seemed to begin with Q, with at least 15 other letters.  I would never remember which street to crossover if I ventured too far out.  In general, I walked in a straight line going in one direction, or a big square block around my hotel.

I was daring once, though.  The battery in my “20th year from work” watch died.  I carefully made one turn and shopped for a new watch.  That was easier than trying to explain I needed a new watch battery.  I purchased a cheap one for $25 and safely found the correct crossover to return to the Days Inn.

Evening meals were on my own.  They were very easy, the hotel was one source.  Other places were simple too, they had menus with pictures.  I would point at what I wanted to eat.  My Chinese to English dictionary had common phrases, and again I only had to point at the correct phrase to ask for a fork or my dinner bill.

These pictures are what I saw while walking in a straight line.

lots of bikes

a rather empty street

in the middle of the street

brick building on the streets

street cleaning


Tiananmen Square January 25, 2010

Filed under: China — Ginny @ 11:40 am
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Tiananmen Square

You feel Beijing as you visit the world’s largest public square. The red flags are the reminder that China’s government is a Communist Party.  That was hard for me at first.  I had believed my son was now living in a country that was the extreme polar opposite of the one   he grew up in.

I had to apply for, and be granted a 30 day travel visa to visit my son.  I couldn’t just catch the next flight out to China.  What I knew as freedom, felt restricted.  It is one of many cultural differences that I experienced.

Across from Tiananmen Square were the gardens close to my hotel.  In the early morning, I found part of my past.  Sam would not recall that I had once practiced these soft flowing movements of Tai Chi.  He wasn’t born.  My years spent in the martial arts came back into my spirit naturally.  I did stand out as looking different, people were now taking pictures of me.

me with I-Tunes

Across the street

more gardens

the real one