• About Julie

    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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    Feel free to drop me a message: juliekhull at gmail

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We’ve been busy!

Jenny and Amanda are here until Monday, and we’ve been busy going everywhere and seeing everything.

Old Summer Palace

Temple of Heaven

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iTourguide

Jenny and Amanda arrived on Friday afternoon and we’ve been busy seeing most everything Beijing has to offer a curious tourist. I kept them up as late as I could on Friday night and they’re handling the jetlag okay.  I showed them youku.com and Google music on their second night, and they kept themselves awake streaming free television shows and downloading free (and legal!) music.

We hit the Beijing Zoo on Saturday with the main purpose of visiting the pandas.  If you’re going to come to China, you need to see the pandas, right? Here’s what a popular Beijing guidebook says about the zoo:

The inhabitants of the Beijing Zoo are saddled with grimly dated design features – concrete and glass cells – but the crowd-pulling pandas have plusher living quarters for good behavior.  The polar bears pin all their hopes on graduating from their concrete hell to the more impressive Beijing Aquarium in the northeast corner of the zoo.

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An eggstraveganza

Each year we, the foreign teachers, have a huge Easter egg hunt.  We got all the eggs ready on Wednesday for hiding some time next week.  There are several thousand of them, and each contains a slip of paper saying, “Return this egg to the foreign teacher’s office and you could win 100 yuan!”  (100 yuan is about $14.50.)  Only one egg gets the 100 yuan prize and some get other prizes, but everyone gets candy.  We usually lose a lot of eggs each year because the kids would rather keep the plastic egg than give it back to us and get some candy.  They all say things like, “Teacher, the egg is so small and cute!  I want to keep it!”  (The Chinese have a propensity for small cute things that I can’t quite figure out, like college students loving Hello Kitty.  But that’s another post for another time.)  Continue reading

More sand

We had another sandstorm on Monday, and this one was the worst I’ve seen since moving to Beijing in 2007.  As I was leaving the main academic building after a class I watched a huge gust of wind come along, pick up a bike, and slam it to the ground four feet away.  And then I ran to my apartment building and tried to stay inside all day!  This student has the right idea with his mask:

Student in the sandstorm

It’s always nice when March is over, and the weather seriously starts warming up.  The government turns the heat on around November 15th each year (as I talked about here) and it goes off around March 15th.  Since it snowed during the week of the 15th we were all glad that the heat stayed on a little past the usual cutoff this spring!

Take a look out my window

Very little pollution in Beijing on a good day:

The likes of this hasn't been seen since the Olympics two years ago, although sometimes it's close just after it rains

But then there are the bad days, like Friday.  Visibility is about 1/4 mile and it looks like a thick cloud has descended upon the city: Continue reading

Orange sky blankets Beijing

I really enjoyed seeing the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia back in 2008.  Inner Mongolia is a province of China, not a part of the country of Mongolia, and it’s home to grasslands and lots of sand.  I had no idea that those kind of sand dunes existed outside northern Africa or the Middle East, let alone within a day’s bus ride from Beijing.  I got to do some fun things on that trip, like sleep in a yurt, go horseback riding and four-wheeling, and roll around the desert inside a giant inflated ball.  I steered clear of the camels but some of my friends went for a ride.

11 of us on the trip

The Chinese flag flies high over the Gobi

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Things I’ll miss about Beijing

In case you forgot, or never knew in the first place, 同一个世界 同一个梦想 (tong yige shijie, tong yige mengxiang) or “One World, One Dream” was the motto of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  I won’t miss seeing and hearing that all the time, but this post is about things I will miss.  “Things I’ll miss least about Beijing” will have to be another post for another day.  I will have lived in Beijing for three years in July when I planning on leaving, and here are some of the things I’m going to miss.

  • Cheap food. An expensive Chinese meal is 25-30RMB, which is $3.60-$4.40.  A really cheap meal is street food, like a bunch of chuanr, grilled meat on a stick, for 1-2RMB each ($0.15-$0.30), or a quarter of a pineapple on a stick, also 1-2RMB.  Or practice your chopstick wielding skills on a bowl of niu rou mian, beef noodle soup, for 10RMB ($1.46).  A meal at the school cafeteria is 9RMB ($1.32) for rice and two sides.  I can cook something with chicken and vegetables to last me for two meals for 6RMB ($0.88).  I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve lived in China for 31 months now and I’ve never had food poisoning.
  • Transportation. Beijing has buses (4 mao to 2RMB, $0.06-$0.30) that go everywhere and the new subway lines (with more on the way to make it the most expansive subway system in the world sometime within the next five years) can take you to most corners of the city for only 2RMB ($0.30).  It’s flat so you can bike or walk most places around your residence.  The most expensive taxi ride I ever take is to the airport for about 100RMB ($14.64).  Getting around without a car is super easy and convenient.
  • Travel. Like its food, travel in China is also cheap and easy.  The country itself has a massive railroad designed to move millions, Continue reading