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Reisverslag Suzhou 2
30 december 2019
Hereby the second and final chapter of our stories of our life in China. Spoiler: we have left China a while ago, but I didn’t have time to share these stories yet. If you read on, you will find out why!
In January 2019 I came back to China after a great visit to my home country and started working in a school. I started working with young Chinese children, one group was 2-3 years old (Pre K) and the other 3-4 years old (K1). It’s a little bit tiring of course but very fun! The children are very sweet. It’s not always easy to communicate since they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese, but we definitely build a nice relationship and we ended up loving each other. My co workers are very friendly, helpful and nice, so that’s great. There are other foreign colleagues and I share the classroom with Chinese teachers. The expat teachers I worked with where from England, US, and Colombia. Something that is convenient for me, but also funny, is that children have an English name beside their “real” Chinese name. The adults do as well. Usually the names are common, ‘normal’ English names, like Peter, but sometimes they have very funny names, like Laughing or Haha. Little Black and Peter Pan also exist. When I started working I had to get used to the new job for a bit, since I’m quite new to the teaching profession. I had to find my balance in planning lessons, teaching, and studying. Besides this, the school was organising an open day where the parents would come and observe my class, in my second week, which would mean I would get observed by 10 co workers on my fourth and fifth working day. A little bit scary of course, as a new teacher, but it all worked out fine. Also, the staff was performing a little act for the staff party in February. I was invited to join and we had to practice almost every day. It was a pretty intense start of employment, but I really enjoyed it. The staff party for Chinese New Year was really fun. It was a big party in a very fancy hotel and we all had to come in suits and nice dresses. The only suit I own is my wedding suit, so I wore that. It was a great party and a fun way to get to know my new work environment.
The school organised several activities for their staff. Once, we did a ‘getting to know each other activity’ and got served a special kind of porridge, which supposedly brings good luck and money, according to the Chinese. Many Chinese traditions are related to luck and prosperity. For Chinese New Year, children and some adults receive a ‘huang bao’, which is a little red envelope containing money. Another fun trade I heard about, is that the Chinese eat a really long noodle for their birthday, which also brings good luck. Another cool activity we did in the school, was a Chinese calligraphy workshop, where the masters taught us how to write some special and traditional Chinese characters for good luck in the new year, the year of the pig. During all this, a big adventure around my visa arrangements was taking place. Apparently I had to hand in my passport because I was now getting a working visa, and it could take around 25 working days to get it back. This was a problem, because I had a flight to Amsterdam for the Chinese New Year holiday, which would leave me with only 15 working days. I had already booked this flight and would visit Gambia with my parents. We already arranged that flight and hotel as well. We were worried my passport would not be finished on time and the whole trip would be falling apart, but I did my best to speed up the process, which was not easy. In the end, after many negotiations, we were able to get it handled quicker and I received my passport back on Thursday afternoon. Saturday morning I flew.
My trip to Holland went smoothly. A guy tried to sell me an iPhone again on the airport in Shanghai. I had a stop in Moscow, where there was snow. The transfer was very busy and some angry Russian instructions were given to people during the transfer, but everything went well and before I knew it, I was back home again. After a few days my parents and I left to Gambia.
The first impressions are pretty shocking, the landscape is very empty, dusty and there were a lot of broken cars and trash on the road. We had to get used to the environment a little bit, but we stayed in a very nice hotel at the beach and the local people were very friendly. It didn’t take long before we made a lot of friends. On one of the first days we met our guide Ansumana aka Best boy. He was a very nice guy and he knew a lot about birds, which was especially nice for my father, who loves birds. We also met our favourite driver Steven and the funny controller who arranged the transport and who I thought looked like Snoop dog. All the people in the hotel were very friendly. My mother became friends with Badou, a kind man who ended up giving us fruits and on our last day some nice Gambian clothes. We did a few nice tours with Ansumana. We went to Makasutu were we saw many beautiful birds and a big group of baboons. A fortune teller read my future and offered me some juju for good luck.
Another day we visited Fathala. A busy ferry (very nice experience) took us to Senegal and after a drive we arrived in the park. Here we saw many animals: a rhino, the biggest antelope in the world, monkeys, zebras, and of course birds and more.
We also did a four wheel drive in which we saw a lot of the country and the culture. We visited some local villages and bought a big bag of rice, which we gave to the people. My parents brought a lot of candy and balloons as well which we gave to children on the way, they were very happy. We visited a
school and here we donated some pencils and notebooks, which they also really appreciated. Besides this we visited the big Serekunda market, where they sold many things. We also visited a wood, goat and fish market. All were interesting to see. We had a break at Paradise beach were we ate lunch: I had the yummy local dish; Chicken Yassa.
The last trip we took with Ansumana was a bird watching tour, something especially my dad loved since he really likes bird watching. We saw many nice birds and the highlight was the special, beautiful Green Touraco.
Besides this we relaxed at the beach or the pool, had some massages, got amused by the monkeys who ran around in the garden of the hotel, and we visited the ‘strip’, which had many restaurants and bars. We really enjoyed our time in Gambia. We did notice there is a lot of trash, plastic etc, unfortunately. Most people are very poor, they could use everything, so if you ever visit it’s nice to bring some things to give. The people really appreciate it. One day I met a nice guy on the beach. He told me some things about his life and said that everything we could miss would be helpful. I told him I could give him some of my t-shirts, and he would really like that. He was very happy with the shirts and gave me a orange and banana in return, very kind. The people we met were all very friendly and helpful with big smiles. Sometimes they would like you to help them with a donation or to buy something, fruit or other products, but they usually were not super pushy, which is a good thing. We really liked the people and the friends we made and had a very nice holiday.
In the mean time, Yaiza was having a great time as well. She visited Malaysia with her mother.
After our good time in Gambia we flew back to Holland where I spend the last days of my holiday. I met up with my friends and we did many fun things together. Then it was time to go back to China. The flight went well but when I arrived I unfortunately found out my suitcase was missing. Luckily it didn’t take too long before they found it and a few days later they brought it to our house in Suzhou.
Some fun random little facts which I noticed during my life in China:
The bus to my work costs 1 yuan (0,12 cent). People always seem to think the bus is full and try to rush in, but it almost never is full. I saw a guy cutting his nails in the bus. I’ve done a field trip with Little black & observations by Peter Pan. No hand is put for the mouth when coughing, spitting sounds and picking nose in public are acceptable. I saw a child sneezed and ate it.
People stand in the middle of the street, motorbikes drive fast, also on pedestrian path, nobody reacts. Cars can turn right or left even if the light is green for crossing.
Our cleaning lady took down our Christmas tree without speaking to us. In her defence, it was a while after Christmas. Traffic could annoy me sometimes, people don’t seem to think about others. I’ve often been cut off on the zebra path while I had green light, even if the car couldn’t drive further and then had to block my path. People stare at foreigners a lot.
If you take the metro and you have a bottle of water with you, they ask you to take a sip. The children of my class were very sweet. At the end of the class they ran to me and give a group hug. Parents stop their car in the middle of the road and park / leave it there when they pick up their children. Most people didn’t speak English. If you ask a question they try to help. There is a friendly attitude towards foreigners.
Friday April 5th we took the train to the capital, Beijing. Around 12:00 we arrived and we took 3 different fully packed metro’s to our hostel; Lucky Family Hostel. It was not the nicest place we ever stayed in, but we could not complain. Initially we wanted to go see the Forbidden City, but the staff told us the tickets were most likely sold out, so we took a nap instead, since we were so tired of the long journey. After that we walked around and visited the Lama Temple. We heard a guide explain that apparently the Lama monks, opposite to Buddhist monks are allowed to eat meat and to get married. It was a beautiful temple with many big statues. After this, we visited another area, with a lot of shops, restaurants and bars. It was a fun area, but it was extremely busy. After eating the famous Peking Duck, which was very tasty, we went back to our hotel, since Yaiza had a Skype job interview, which went really well! She got the job.
The next day we woke up early and visited The Great Wall! We booked a tour through our hostel to the Jinshanling section of the Wall. A bus picked us up and after about 4 hours we arrived. The Great Wall at Jinshanling is half restored and half wild. We walked for about 3,5 hours. It was very impressive, you could see the wall going up and down like a snake in the distance, really an epic sight. The walk was quite tiring, with many stairs and slippery steep paths, but we really enjoyed it. An unforgettable experience! Our guide was a funny man called Chan and he gave us some information on the way in the bus. After arriving we feared we had unknowingly became part of a typical Chinese tour group when we had to follow the guide with his flag, but luckily we were free and independent after the entrance. We met up again at the end and had a very tasty Chinese lunch together, many different dishes served on a table that could spin. On the way back we rested and Chan told some more jokes about the bus driver, which he called Panda. He also said there are 40 million more men than women in China and that’s why there are many single men. Like Panda. He even sang a song at the end.
Thursday April 11th we left to Hong Kong. It took really long in the airport, there were so many waiting lines and check points to cross. We arrived and took the bus to our hostel in the north point area. We checked in to our tiniest room ever and started exploring Hong Kong.. We had a great time there!
We ate amazing food here: dim sum, burgers, brunch, and even once dim sum in a restaurant with a michelain star.
We visited Avenue of the stars with a nice view, light show and a night market.
There was a lot of street art. We also took the longest escalator in the world, and had drinks in a rooftop bar, the view was great.
Finally, we visited Time square, where we did some shopping and watched a movie. On Sunday we went back to Suzhou
In April my parents, Lambert and Marion visited us in China. It was very fun and we had a special time together.
We spend a week in Suzhou and I showed them around our new Chinese home. We visited some nice places like gardens, fun streets, the mudu area, my school and many yummy restaurants. After the first week in Suzhou Yaiza left on a trip in the Philippines and we took a train to Beijing. When we arrived there was the longest que we have ever seen, for the official taxi. We decided to go back in and overpay for a taxi which could leave straight away. The first day it rained a lot, but we still visited the Forbidden city. The rain was a pity, but it was still impressive and fun. The next day we visited the Great wall. Here the weather was also not on our side, it was very foggy. The amazing view of the wall like a snake on the horizon was covered in grey mist. Still, it was a great experience. The fog gave the wall a mysterious atmosphere and that was special as well.
After Beijing we took the train to Xi’an. This was a really cool city as well. We visited the Small Goose Pagoda and the Drum and Bell tower, which had beautiful lights at night. We also walked around the Muslim market, which was a very busy but fun place. We tried some yummy local snacks here.
The second day we visited the Terracotta warriors, which was very impressive, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in China. There were so many soldiers, all with their own detailed characteristics. There were also horses and carts. It’s unbelievable, but this army was actually made to protect the emperor in the afterlife. The soldiers were even placed in strategic ways, like a real army would be. A very special experience.
In the afternoon we had some time left, so my dad and I cycled a little bit on the city wall, which was fun as well. We ended the day at the light show at the Giant Goose Pagoda.
After Xi’An we went back to Suzhou where we spent the last fun days together. We went by my favourite bars and the owner of Nine Degrees even gave us a few free beers to take home. My parents really enjoyed their time China.
We also really enjoyed our time in China, but we had decided it would be better for us to go back to the Netherlands. We would like to have a baby and the air pollution and difficulties with communication were two things we didn’t love, especially when we would like to have a baby. Yaiza had some troubles with the air and we think health is the most important.
After we decided to resign, we were busy packing and arranging the last things for shipping all our belongings. We also planned our last trips: there were things we still really wanted to see before leaving.
Now we knew we would leave China, one thing we really wanted to see was Chengdu, where you can see the national animal of China: Pandas!
Because of the Dragon boat festival, we had long weekend to visit Chengdu.
The taxi ride of 40 minutes to the airport became almost two hours. We still made it on time. We were waiting at the gate and they announced there would be a delay. They didn’t say how long the delay would be. It ended up being a 4 hour delay, the flight was planned to leave at 21:45 but left around 01:45. We arrived in our hotel around 5.30 and were very tired.
The first day we explored a bit, we visited People’s Park, some alleys and opera. The opera was very impressive, a cool experience. In this typical opera the special thing they do is ‘Face changing’. The star of the show magically changes masks, it’s very impressive and unique to see.
On the Saturday we woke up early and visited the pandas! It was really great. So fun to see these amazing animals in real life. They are very cute. You could also hug a panda, but this costed a couple of hundred euros, so we decided watching them was enough. We loved it. Then it was time to go back to Suzhou.
Some other random things I’ve noticed during our life in China:
Sometimes people are talking so loud on the phone that is seems like they need the other person to hear them over the whole distance.
I saw an old lady crossing the road with a child, a scooter driving and honking, almost hits her, old lady keeps walking with a smile like nothing is happening. One moment later a girl walks on the pedestrian street (it’s still red) and just stands there in the middle of the road. Bikes honk, have to manoeuvre to get around her. Girl stays there with no reaction. Boy is peeing in the bushes right next to the streets. These are just some examples of a random morning on my way to work. I also saw a child pee in little bucket in a book store.
In June we celebrated a fun birthday weekend for my 32nd birthday. On Friday we left to the Marriott hotel. Here we drank some vodka. The next day we visited Disneyland Shanghai! It was very nice, busy but ok. Some rides had 100 min wait. Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron were highlights for me. Beautifully made attractions. We ended the weekend with a few mojitos on Sunday during a nice brunch in Shanghai.
And then it was already time to say goodbye!
Our Goodbye party very fun, we celebrated it with all our friends in our favourite hang out: Nine Degrees. We even received some nice presents from our Chinese friends, a tea and wine set with beautiful decorations and the owners of nine degrees gave us a beautiful traditional art piece with pandas on it. It was a super fun last night and we ended the party on a rooftop bar.
The next day they came to pick up our boxes for shipping: it was a strange guy. He didn’t speak English and started “throwing “ boxes and suitcases. He asked for water and then threw the cup in the hallway. I had to lift and hand him the boxes into the van, he didn’t help with carrying the heavy last suitcase, and then still threw the boxes on their said, so we had to ask him to be careful and were worried if they would arrive in one piece.
The end was coming near now!
On the last day of school we did a
Goodbye school performance and had lunch together. We said goodbye and then we left, for Japan!
Our flight was at 2 in the morning. Arrived in Tokyo at 6.30. We were greeted by a little cool robot. It took a while to get to our hotel by bus and metro. Luckily they let us check in earlier. We slept for a bit and started exploring. It was quite an adventure finding our way with the metros, it took us a few missteps and help from some friendly locals to find our way. It took us almost 2 hours to reach our destination. Tokyo is big!
We saw nice temple and many fun streets. One night we visited the famous Robot show: very cool and funny, one of the highlights of Tokyo. It was very strange but impressive. People were dressed in really cool, fun and creative outfits. There were very cool costumes, lights, mechanical floats, robots and other creations. After a great time in Tokyo, we left to our next destination: Fujinomiya.
When we arrived it very cloudy, unfortunately during our whole stay the clouds blocked the view of the famous sight here: Mount Fuji. We still had a good time and saw the Spider-Man movie, visited a fun mall, had yummy food, and also saw a temple and museum. In this place we made a very special discovery: Yaiza is pregnant! We were super excited and happy. We tried several tests to make sure and told our parents via Skype. Everybody was very excited with this special news. It still felt unreal, but we felt very lucky and happy. Wow! A dream is coming true.
Next we took the train to Kyoto. We stayed in a really fun area. A little place near our hotel had great cheese cake. There was also a little bar with nice beers like La choufe and others on tap. We visited a beautiful garden, bamboo forest, markets, the impressive 1000 shrines, and the Kyoto tower, which was nice but busy. We also went to a temple with beautiful dragon painting on the ceiling, which took about 2 years to make. We saw a special show which integrated many different Japanese arts; tea, flower arrangements, dance, puppets.
Another really cool experience was visiting the Samurai & ninja museum, where we learned more about these warriors and got to wear a samurai costume.
On the last day we visited the Nijo castle with nightingale floor: a floor that was supposed to warn the owner by squeaking if ninjas tried to enter.
Last we visited Osaka. Here it was a bit rainy. We still visited some nice streets, a beautiful castle and some more fun streets. Last day we took it easy. Some special things we noticed were that people read comics on phones, are polite and structured (everybody waits in line) and their English was pretty good compared to China. The toilets were all very special (a seat with many options) and clean. The food was very tasty. We really enjoyed our time in Japan a lot!
Next, we left to our next destination:
On the 14th of July we flew from Osaka to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. On the airport we ate a nice typical Korean meal, kimchi included.
We stayed in a small hotel in a fun area called Insa-dong. There were a lot of shops, stalls and restaurants. Often people were making music in the streets as well. We explored the area and saw some nice typical and old Korean houses. The next day we visited Hongdae, another fun area with many things to see. The streets were busy and filled with little market stalls and shops. There was also an area with many performances, young people dancing and singing. Definitely nice and entertaining to see. We also visited the TrickEye museum, which was a fun experience. There were a lot of paintings that came to life and started to move when you looked through the app on the phone. There was also a VR ride included where we had to sit in a little cart with a sort of helmet which made it look and feel like you really were in another world! Last but not least there was an ice museum with sculptures, which was (literally) very cool!
Because of the pregnancy, Yaiza somehow didn’t love the Korean food so much. She usually likes it a lot, but the pregnancy made her not like the smells.
On our last day we visited the Gyeongbokgung palace. It was beautiful and had a nice garden surrounding it, but it was a hot day so we couldn’t walk around in the heat forever.
After our stay in Seoul we took a comfortable train for about 2,5 hours to Busan.
Here it was quite rainy, so we couldn’t do a lot. We had a comfortable room and watched the Lion king in the cinema. We also ate super yummy burgers in a place called Shackmeister. They were so good that we ordered a second one, even though we were pretty full.
After Busan we went to Jeju Island. Unfortunately the flight was delayed and arrived 3 hours later. We heard great things about Jeju. We enjoyed it but it wasn’t as awesome as we expected. The weather was not amazing, only on the day of arrival and departure there was sun, but it was still ok, not too much rain. The rain and the inability to have a car made the Jeju experience a little less special than it could have been, but we still had a very good time.
We stayed 4 days in the Winstory hotel in the Seogwipo area.
We did a walk to the cliffs, visited a market, the ripely believe it or not museum, seashell museum, and myself a beautiful waterfall on a day Yaiza was tired and had to rest.
After this we stayed 3 days in Libentia. We had a nice room, and a pool on the roof. One day we walked to the beach, where it was busy but nice.
On the last day we celebrated our anniversary, we were two years married! We chilled at the pool and ate in yummy pizza in a nice Italian restaurant, it was very nice. We had a good time in South Korea, the weather wasn’t the best but we still enjoyed ourselves.
On Sunday the 28th of July we flew back to China. Everything went smoothly and we took the bus back to Suzhou.
We spend the last four days in our apartment in Suzhou and arranged the final things for our departure. We went to the bank to send our money to Holland, which was quite a hassle, but it all worked out. We also met up with a nice French couple who I met in Malaysia when I was traveling in 2011: Julian and Elodie. I have met them a few times after that, in Lyon, Amsterdam and now in China. It was very nice to see them again. The last time I saw them, they stayed in our house in Amsterdam and were pregnant. This time they had their two year old son with them. They are making a one year trip as a family, which sounds really great! Who knows, maybe we can do the same in the future one day! It was fun catching up.
During the last days in Suzhou, our temporary home abroad, we ate in our favourite restaurants and soaked it all in. Then we left on one last Chinese adventure, to beautiful Yangshuo.
We stayed four nights in Sudder street hostel, which was very nice. We had a beautiful view of the mountains, which this area is famous for, and a little pool. The price was cheap as well. We hired an electric bike, but this bike only allowed you to ride for 30 km. we visited the Fuli bridge, and another time I went alone moon hill. It was not an easy hike but it had an amazing view. To finish our time in style we decided to stay in Bamboo leaf hotel the last two nights, which was a bit more luxurious. The hotel had a nice pool and restaurant with good food.
We took a taxi to Xingping, here you could see the mountains that are also printed on the 20 yuan bill. Unfortunately it was raining a lot in this area. We left in the sun but arrived in the rain. We still quickly saw the view but it was not as nice as it would have been on a sunny day. Luckily it was sunny back in our hotel. We had a great time in Yangzhou, the nature was beautiful and it was a nice way to end our time in China. We flew back to Shanghai where we stayed for two nights in a nice hotel and from here we flew back to Amsterdam.
We arrived and it was good to be back! It’s strange how quickly it’s normal to be here again. We spend a few days in the south, in my parents house, and spend time with my family and friends. It was very nice to be reunited. Layer my friend Richard brought us back to Amsterdam where we stayed 10 days in a nice hotel which Yaiza’s new job had provided. Here we had time to focus on finding a new place to stay. We looked on many websites and visited several houses and quite soon (sooner than expected!) we found a beautiful house to rent in Amsterdam north. Just in time, before we started working. Yaiza got a job at a nice school in Amsterdam and I started again at my old job, which I really enjoyed, only this time in a new team, which turned out to be a great team. We both really enjoy our job and we are extremely happy to be back!
We decided it would be great if we could buy a house before the baby would arrive, so we immediately started looking after we started renting. We knew it could take too long, but we wanted to give it a shot. We hired an agent and mortgage advisor and looked at many houses. At some point, we found a really beautiful house in Zaandam. We even described it as our dream house. It’s located in a very pretty area, with nature and water. We made an offer and a little later we got the great news: we got the house! We are very happy, of course. Everything has worked out really great and even though we enjoyed our time in China, it was a special, unforgettable experience and fun adventure, we are also very happy to be back and we feel lucky everything has worked out so well for us. We feel blessed to be here again, to have nice jobs, and a beautiful house. The pregnancy is going well, although it’s not always easy for Yaiza, but all is good. We can’t wait to meet him. Now, we are looking forward to the next big adventure... Parenthood!
Foto's bij verslag (14)
30 december 2019 23:38 | Door: Ad
Joerie, bedankt dat je ons nog liet meegenieten van die heel bijzondere laatste periode in China, en ons ook liet meekijken in Japan, Zuid-Korea en natuurlijk ook nog Gambia. Het komende jaar zal ongetwijfeld ook weer heel apart worden, maar toch wel op een andere manier. We wensen jullie dan ook een vloeiende start toe in 2020! Ad
31 december 2019 11:39 | Door: Nico
Joerie, Een uitgebreid maar mooi verslag. Enkele dingen had ik al van je gehoord of in je eerdere berichten gelezen. Maar de meeste dingen waren toch nieuw voor me. Fijn dat jullie dat allemaal hebben mogen meemaken. En nu inderdaad het volgende avontuur: Het ouderschap. Succes alvast ermee en we zien elkaar binnenkort! Nico
31 december 2019 12:53 | Door: Lambert en Marion
Joerie, Een mooi lang verhaal. De meeste dingen hebben we zelf meegemaakt. Gambia was een hele mooie vakantie. Het was een fantastische tijd in China. We hebben er genoten, meer dan we van tevoren hadden gedacht. Wij vinden het wel geweldig dat jullie nu weer terug zijn in Nederland. Zeker nu ons eerste kleinkind eraan komt. Nu eerst even klussen in jullie nieuwe, mooie huis in Zaandam. Dan even wachten totdat de kleine er aan komt. 2020 zal een speciaal jaar worden voor jullie. We wensen jullie alle geluk toe. Lambert en Marion Xxxx