Archive for Friday’s foreigner

Friday’s foreigner: Preston

After a couple weeks off, we’re back with our Friday’s foreigner series. This week, meet Preston!

**I’m editing this post to include a link to the guest post Preston submitted for us some time back about buying a car in Hohhot.**

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Preston Decker, and I’m from the Greater Boston area in the USA. I’m here in Hohhot because my wife is a Hohohotite, or Hohhotian, or Hohhotanese, or whatever you call someone from Hohhot. We came back here together in 2014 after working in Xiamen the two years previous to that.

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If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When Linda (my wife) and I first came here, I had just stopped teaching English at a high school in Xiamen, and was preparing to set up a translation service in the States (I already had several years of translation experience at the time). The translation service is going strong, and so I now have a translation business in the States. We’re only in China for a few months a year at most, so I don’t need to look for a job in Hohhot when we’re back.

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I’ve been studying the Uyghur language for the last four years, which I became interested in during my year of teaching English in Xinjiang. Progress has been very slow, but that’s my main personal project at the moment. Other than that, exercise, preferably off in the Da Qing Mountains, or up on the plateau, but most often at the gym at Hailiang.
You’re recently returned to Hohhot after some time away. What, if any, differences or changes did you observe upon your return?

The Second Ring Road! My wife’s family’s home is right next to the south Second Ring Road (南二环). Last year this whole area was an absolute hellhole (sorry for the language, but it’s true), with tons of dust spewing into the air from construction, and roads that looked like they came right out of a Texas horror movie (potholes galore). We left to go back to America in June 2015, and just got back here a month ago—what a difference! The second ring road is beautiful, and we’ve saved hours already off our driving times (I have a driver’s license and my wife and I bought a car here two years ago). It used to take me over an hour to fight through city traffic up to the Da Qing Mountains to go hiking, but it now takes only 25 minutes via the Second Ring Road. Only 20 minutes to get to Jinchuan, whereas it used to be 45. 15 minutes to my wife’s driving school, down from 30. Good job by Hohhot on this one!

You’ve also lived in other parts of China, what comparisons and contrasts can you make about Hohhot in relation to other places?

I’ve lived in Tianjin, Beijing, Xiamen and Kuitun (Xinjiang). The easiest comparison is with Xinjiang, especially in terms of the terrain and cuisine—lots of open space and mutton. I still contend that there’s no better place in the world than Xinjiang because of its wonderful mix of deserts, alpine forests, grasslands, history and culture, but Inner Mongolia comes in a pretty close second of the places I’ve lived.

All of the cities I’ve lived in Northern China (Beijing, Hohhot, Kuitun) have been pretty bad in winter in terms of pollution, and Xiamen definitely comes out a cut ahead in that regard, although I’ve heard things are getting a bit worse there too.

Hohhot is definitely the most free-wheeling of these cities. I’m pretty sure some of the more gentle inhabitants of Xiamen would go running back home if asked to take an e-bike out into Hohhot traffic. I’d also say, oddly enough, that people in Hohhot are more parochial and conservative in their attitudes towards outsiders (and foreigners), even if they’re more boisterous with friends and relatives.

Surprisingly enough, Xinjiang has the most easily understandable Mandarin of these four cities. I think it’s because the Han people there mostly move out there in scattered groups, or as part of more diverse movements (the bingtuan 兵团, etc.) ,and so were forced to drop their local accents in favor of one with which they could communicate with each other more easily. Beijing has that great hamburger gurgle, while Xiamen residents struggle between being made fun of for their Mandarin (fu instead of hu, etc.) and trying to maintain their local language which is in danger of dying out. Xiamen Minnanhua really is a completely different language from Mandarin—I’ll never forget going to a church there filled with old Minnanhua speakers and listening to an interpreter translate the priest’s Mandarin into Minnanhua sentence by sentence.

What’s surprised me is how different the Mandarin accent is here: even after 15 years of Chinese study and 5 years in China, I still struggle to pick up Hohhot’s local Cidihua accent, especially when spoken by my wife’s family who live up near Bailingmiao (百灵庙)。

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

Definitely Shao Mai and mutton of all kinds.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

How about a road that runs a circuit around the city at 80 km per hour and has no traffic lights? Oh wait…

Jokes aside, probably better trash collection. We live in the old part of the city, about a mile and a half south of Dazhao temple, and while it’s fun to wash the local dogs play amidst 10 feet high piles of trash, it would be nice to see those piles get cut down in size a bit.

If you had a friend visiting and could take them to only one place in Hohhot, where would it be?

The Da Qing Mountains or anywhere on the Inner Mongolia Plateau. I really like the country near Xilinhot, though that’s a long car trip away.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

Last year I developed a bit of an obsession for a little place on the Mongolian border north of Bailingmiao called Mandula (满都拉). It’s a secondary border crossing with Mongolia, only open during certain periods of the year, and I had the fantastic idea that it would be fun to go up there for a visit. So I drove up there last June. It was a beautiful drive, and I drove up past Zhaohe, before continuing through Bailingmiao and heading off towards Mandula.

Mandula is about 120 km past Bailingmiao (which itself is about 150km from Hohhot). There were no signs to warn away foreigners (I had been worried about that), and the country was beautiful, with alternating grasslands and hills. I even saw a couple of herds of camels.

I got up to Mandula and found it to be a one road town with a few earth houses and shops hugging the road. A cow lounged in the street. The border crossing had just closed two days before, and so the town was nearly deserted, although there was plenty of foreign goods (and I’m sure fake foreign goods as well) like alcohol and chocolate in the few stores that were open. If you’ve been to Erlian, you know the type, as all these goods come over the border from Mongolia.

I was having a grand time walking up and down the street, when a soldier in army fatigues spotted me and came over. He was clearly suspicious, and quickly called in his superior officer, who took me back to the base. They kept me there for four hours, questioning me about why I would ever come alone to see a place as remote as Mandula.

In fairness to them, the soldiers were quite nice and polite, and all border areas in China are rather sensitive, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience. As it turned out, part of the reason it took them so long to let me go is that none of their superior officers wanted to take responsibility for my situation, meaning my case got passed up a long line of officers, and then, as one of the soldiers said “we’ll have to wait a long time for the final decision to get passed back down that line.”

Luckily, the final decision was to let me go, which is why it’s a funny, not alarming, story.

So I guess the moral of the story is that although the surrounding area is beautiful, and although there’s no sign prohibiting a foreigner from driving a car up there, it’s probably best to stay away from Mandula.

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

Marrying me!

 

 

Friday’s foreigner: Fabio

Well, another week has come and gone. That means it’s time for our next edition of Friday’s foreigner. A few weeks ago you met Pedro. This week, meet his coworker and fellow countryman, Fabio.

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

 

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Fábio Castro, I’m from Portugal and I arrived in Hohhot on the 19th of October to work as football coach for the Luís Figo Football Academy. For those who don’t know him, Figo is a famous ex-football player from Portugal and won the “Ballon d’Or” in 2000 and was considered the best player in the world by the FIFA in 2001.

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If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When I arrived in China I passed one month working in Beijing for the same academy, we have centers in different cities of the country.

 

What have been some of your professional successes in your industry?

I played as a amateur level football player and soon I realized I would like to become a football coach. Because of that, I decided to go to the university to prepare myself for this role. I made my graduation in Sport, one master degree in Physical Education and another one in High Performance Training, with football option. Besides that, I made my coach’s licenses to be able to work.

Until now, I worked with all the age groups and I had a short experience working in India. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

 

Share with us some of the moments you were proudest of your students/players.

I don’t have specific moments, what I have are many memories from all the places I worked, the words from some of my players, special moments that only the football can give us. Those who have had the experience to share time with a team can understand my words.

 

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I like to do different things during my free time, however, once I still don’t know very well the city I’m going to the cinema, I’m eating at some occidental/Asiatic restaurants, exploring the city, meeting some cultural places and I’m going to the gym.

 

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

As I told, before come to China I worked in India. Before India, I was working in Portugal as Physical Education Teacher and as football coach.

 

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

As local food, I tried the lamb and I really have to admit that the leg is good. Besides that, I like to try different kinds of food as the noodles, the barbecue, the hot pot, the dumplings… I also ate Japanese food here and was really good too. The names of the restaurants I don’t know them and I like to try different ones.

 

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

I would like that the Chinese could respect more the traffic rules and especially the places for the bikes, once I drive one electric bike and most of the times the cars don’t care about anything. But what I really would like to have here it was a beach, even if it was artificial! I like to walk near of the beach and relax at some bar in there too. I’m missing that from my country!

 

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

I knew a little bit about the Chinese culture and their traditions, however I wasn’t expecting as much cold as I felt here. I never passed by situations with these temperatures in my life and getting used to that was surprising for me.

 

What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

One day I was on the taxi and I saw one person burn some money on the streets. After some time, I understood that wasn’t just one person but many people doing that and I asked what meant and the reason for many people have done small fires in the streets. The answer was that they were sending money for the dead people, usually for family and the money was fake. I never saw something like that…

 

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

If the person knows another cities of China I would say to be prepared for a more quiet place and consequently, maybe a quiet routine too. And of course I would advise to bring warm clothes!!

 

Where do you go to “escape?”

Once I’m here for four months and once the weather is cold, I didn’t find yet that place. If I had a beach, definitely I would go there. As I don’t have I will try to find it for sure and until there, a ride on my bike with good weather should be good and enough for me.

 

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

Certainly memoirs, new experiences, funny moments and once that I will start to learn Chinese language I want take that with me.

 

You can connect with Fabio in any of the following ways:

Email: castro.fabio5@gmail.com

LinkedIn: pt.linkedin.com/in/castrofabio5

WeChat: fabiocastro5

 

If you’re interested in more information about Winning League Football Academy call 13171090089 or 13304712425.

Friday’s Foreigner: Steven

Hello, Hohhotians. (A scholarly book I read about Hohhot used that word, so I’m going with it) What’s with the air here today?? pollution or sandstorm? I hope you are inside with your air filters on.

Here’s some reading for you if you’re passing the time

This week I’d like to introduce you to Steven, the voice behind the podcast The Culture Bum. Check out his site and subscribe to listen. He’s also guest posted for us here before, so check out his review of the Wanda area here. 

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

I moved to China in 2014 to be a teacher and just kind of see the world. I landed in Beijing and hated it immediately. The pollution left me sick all the time and I hated the massive amount of Westerners using Beijing as their own personal bragging right. I met a beautiful woman while there and she was moving back to her home city, Hohhot, and suggested I go with her. I found a lot of job opportunities and figured why not. I am still a teacher but I have bounced my title around.
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Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life we may not already know.
Before moving to Hohhot I was a teacher of several years in the US so I don’t feel like I fall into the “couldn’t find a real job” camp that often plagues ESL teachers. HOWEVER, the year and a half before moving to China I was a taxi driver. Budget cuts had led to a lot of my teaching opportunities drying up and what was supposed to be a 3 month ordeal turned into a full time job. I don’t hate my time driving A taxi, it was actually one of the more fun jobs I’ve ever held, but it is a go nowhere type of situation.
Favorite local food and where you like to get it:
I wish I had better answers but my favorite Chinese dishes fall into 2 categories: Something so simple I can make it at home (rice with mu er and spring onion) or horrible greasy unhealthy messes (chow mian or malatang).
It’s impossible to live in Hohhot and not go out to Hot Pot at least once a month.
I recently spent time in Datong which is famous for its noodles and I did get a little hooked on rice noodles with vinegar for a while.
If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?
Compared to most foreigners I don’t have that many complaints about Hohhot. I do wish there were clean places to do outdoor swimming.
I’m surprised there aren’t easier ways to get to the airport on public transportation.
Most foreigners will complain about a lack of cultural events compared to bigger cities but I chalk that up to just not a lot of foreigners in the city so when we do a “foreigner” themed event your lucky if 12 people show up.
What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Being able to slow down. In America I was very used to 60-80 hours a week and in Beijing you usually have 30-60 minute commutes to work each way. Hohhot provides me a comparable salary to Beijing but so much more free time. I work 30 hours a week, every week, never a minute more and my commute is less than 20 minutes by bus or bike. I am able to relax, walk around and take my time without ever feeling I’m in a rush.
What makes Hohhot more appealing than other cities?
Some foreigners in Hohhot tend to act like they’re in purgatory, but these are the people who complain no matter what. There are a lot of people who see Hohhot as a slower, more manageable pace of life, much larger opportunities to save money, a more Asian cultural experience away from being over run by Western food on every corner and a chance to see the Mongolian culture that is usually out of peoples minds.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?
Donkeys pulling carts next to the traffic is a bit odd even after everything else I’ve seen.
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donkey cart and Audi dealership

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
When I first got here I did not work for about 2 weeks so I sat at home very bored while my future wife went to work. I eventually demanded to go outside and do something. She would set me up like a kindergartner with notes and maps to get to various places in town like a super market. On my first trip I had to make one turn to the super market and I managed to screw that up but the first person I asked for help, a very elderly woman on her way home with a large bag of groceries, walked about at least 1 Km out of her way to walk me to the super market and make sure I got there. This was a very big change of pace from Beijing.
 
Where do you go to “escape?”
 
I have a few Western friends who are very close and we like to go to 7 Pizza Bar or Yummy Box and disappear. In the Summer I took a few hikes to the mountains where it was easy to pretend you were in Michigan. Right now with the NFL starting me and a few friends download the games and beer makes the rest of the world go dark.
When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
I would take back the idea that you don’t have to work yourself to death and live in constant jealousy. I enjoy my lazy life so much in Asia. I am not hung up on material things and I value the experiences and comfort afforded here not to mention my very high proportional salary.
I’m here for the long haul! I see Hohhot as an opportunity and not a curse. Every day there are more people and in the coming years I see Hohhot as a cultural hot bed of foreign students, grassland people moving in to occupy the hundreds of apartment complexes being built and I’ll be here for years to come.

Friday’s Foreigner: Pedro

Hello, lovely readers. This week I’d like to introduce you to someone who is relatively new to the Blue City, Pedro Rodrigues!

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

 

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Pedro Rodrigues and I am from Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. I am a football coach and I arrived here in the last days of October 2015 to teach football.

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What have been some of your professional successes in your industry?

Of course, before being a football coach I was a football player! As a player I won three times the District Championship of Porto in U9, U10 and U12, one time the International Pontinha Tournament in U12 and I was series Champion in U16 of the District Championship of Porto. As a Football Coach I was two consecutive times series champion in U18 of the District Championship of Porto and I won the São João de Ver Tournament in U11.

 

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

Yes, I have free time and I enjoy it a lot. I like to see movies on the cinema, read books, go to the gym and stroll into town…

 

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

My life before Hohhot was particularly linked to teaching physical education and football. I was giving physical education classes in a public school and I was football coach of the first team of Lamas Union Football Club.

 

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

I am a person who likes very much to eat and unfortunately I cannot say the names of Chinese restaurants which I usually go, because for me is hard to pronounce the name and is difficult to write in English. I don´t know the name, but I can tell that I like to eat a kind of bread with vegetables and meat inside. However, I usually go to restaurants with international food and of course I know the name of them, it is the Fanier and the Seven Pizza Bar.

 

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

For sure, I would like to have a subway in the city.

 

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

For me this is the first time in China, so of course it was the traffic on the streets and the way the Chinese people drive the cars.

 

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

I think you will laugh a lot. The funniest thing that I have experienced here was after a dinner in a barbecue restaurant. I try to speak in Chinese and I call the waiter, but instead of saying that I want the bill I said that she was sexy, I confuse the Chinese words. You know, it was embarrassing, my friend was laughing, I turn red in seconds, I understood my mistake and I made what I need to do, I apologized to her. After I said the correct word to ask the bill, me and my friend laughed a lot.

 

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

I cannot specify a moment or a local, everyone has been nice, welcoming and polite with me.

 

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

Come to Hohhot and bring warm clothes.

 

Where do you go to “escape?”

I enjoy a lot two things to put my mind where no one can disturb me, when I´m running in the gym or listening music and walking in the city.

 

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

I want to take all the good and bad memories that can make me better and more competent and professional. I hope with this experience, in another country with a different culture, I can become a better football coach.

 

If someone is interested in your program, who can they contact? 

 The people who want more information about Winning League Football Academy can call to this number 13171090089 or 13304712425.

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Friday’s foreigner: KC

Welcome to the next installment of Friday’s Foreigner. This week meet KC!

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 

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My name is KC Higley, I’m from Atwood, Kansas. I came to Hohhot to work in late 2010, after spending 9 months working in Beijing.

If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

Well I’m cooking more now than when I first came. I used to eat out and eat a lot of fast food, but after 5 years or living in China I finally started cooking more American food at my house.

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

What’s free time? I have a two year old daughter a lot of my free time is spent with her, but I also do a lot of reading and I build and paint models.

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

My favorite local food is Beef Noodle Soup and my favorite restaurant for it is about a three minute walk north of City Mall.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

Hmm, I’m not sure. Perhaps a subway or people just following the traffic laws.

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

How fast the city has changed in the last 5 years. I was talking to friends about this recently, about how Hawkers at one time was the pinnacle  of restaurants in the city. Now it seems like there are 100,000 options.

What is the funniest thing a local has ever done for/to you?

One time my neighbor made me dumplings for spring festival but didn’t tell me about the coin in one of them. So when I was eating them, I bit the coin and chipped my tooth.

What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

Everyday? I am a big guy so I get a lot of looks, but I remember one time when I was in a village outside Beijing an older woman was riding her bike towards me. She saw me and we locked eyes, and she never broke eye connect, until she road her bike into a ditch and corn fields.

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

Dress warm and enjoy it. I like Hohhot, it’s a small and quiet city which is different than other cities in China. I think it is easy to complain about it, but it’s grown on me and feels like a second home.

Where do you go to “escape?”

Depends how long of an escape I need. If only for a few hours I like going up to the mountain, but if I need a few days then I love DaLi.

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

Umm, my wife and daughter…but I think I want to take back all the memories. I’m not a big physical possessions guy, so memories are enough.

 

KC started a weekly quiz bowl gathering, which has kind of quieted down, but he’d like to get it started again. If you have an interest in participating, serving as quiz master, or want more information, you can connect with him on wechat: phox53.

 

Friday’s foreigner: Yannis

Today is our fifth post in our “Firday’s foreigner” series.

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 

Read more below to become acquainted with Yannis.

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What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Yannis. I’m a citizen of the United States Washington, D.C. Like most I arrived here to teach English at local schools.

 

If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that.

I love to teach so teaching whenever I can. Other than that writing and working on the projects I have in mind.

 

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I really do not know what is free time. I’m engaged in life all the time.

 

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

My story was just a man trying to do something with his life while dealing with what life gives. Studying communications and writing poetry was what I was doing. I was a skincare and fragrance expert working at a store called Sephora.
Where in Hohhot do you find inspiration for any of your artistic pursuits?

I find it in the same places as I always do…in smiles, people playing, music, and just life itself inspires me.
Do you have any upcoming performances our readers should check out?

At the moment no however you can sometimes find me at a random bar spittin. lol

 

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

Wish I knew how to type it in Chinese right now. I just know it starts with the letter “B”. Its a wrap bread with spices and your choice of selections inside. It’s pretty nice and cool for eating breakfast on the go.

 

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

This city to me should have it’s own holiday. It’s such a good vibe you get when being in Hohhot, at least that’s how I feel.

 

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

Connecting definitely. The people I’ve met especially the ones I call my family and friends. I’m in a band here and my band is my family. The fact that I have a family here is wicked. I’ve grown majorly attached to them and their culture as they have the same for mine. We have such a unique bond and I love them. BD2H!

 

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

Maybe the time when I played basketball outside at a school. I slammed dunk the ball and the rim broke. I was yelled at by a elder guy however the kids and other people calmed him down.

 

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

I like to call him my little bro (Weiles) always helping me when it comes to searching for something I need. Too many things to list unfortunately.

 

What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

Sadly but reality that many people would deny or treat me different because my skin tone is dark. Many schools won’t even consider me though I’m a native speaker.

 

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

No advice really. Just don’t be so close minded when meeting new people. Anything else I believe they would want to control on their own.

 

Where do you go to “escape?”

Inside my earphones. No one knows where I am.

 

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

I’m in a relationship now so hopefully a family.

 

You can hear and see more of Yannis by subscribing to SUMBIDY on YouTube.

 

 

 

Friday’s foreigner: Anastasiya

Today is our fourth post in a series I hope we’ll do most Fridays.

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 

 

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Anastasiya.

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What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Anastasiya. I’m from Donetsk, Ukraine and arrived in Hohhot in October 2014. My desire to keep working as a dance teacher brought me here. Whereas in my home, the situation was very tense and critical and I received a proposition to come to Hohhot to teach ballet. My parents were insisting I accept this position and leave home for some time and knowing the positive experience of my ballet teachers who used to work in China I decided to try.

 

What have been some of your professional successes in your industry?

Sometimes it feels like every little step forward is already success. Teaching without language knowledge is quiet challenging. But even though most of my ballerinas are completely beginners we were able to get 5th place in our first competition in August 2015. And 2nd place in a recent competition in December 2015.

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Share with us some of the moments you were proudest of your students

Honestly I am proud of every student in my groups and grateful to the parents who trust me to educate their kids. My students are very different and aged from 4 to over 50 years old. All of them have big desires to learn from me, but also understand me despite language difficulties. I have to admit working with them is one of my best experiences of being here. I have girls who come to my classes since I just arrived. Seeing them growing and changing physically under ballet training during this time is my inspiration.
I am proud of them every lesson when they learn something new or after a few attempts when they could do movements that they couldn’t at the beginning, I am proud of them when they trying new costumes, perform, smile and I can see signs of happiness on their faces. And I am especially grateful to them and their attentive work when I have to lead classes without voice (this winter I lost it almost twice because of catching cold).

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If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I like doing morning stretching or yoga, reading, shopping, meeting with friends and going to theater.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

I read your blog, Jill;) so, I would be agree with Agnes: please plant more trees!!! It will look completely different with more green around. And I would add signs in English for public transport maybe. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get around without knowing Chinese, especially at the beginning and therefore city doesn’t look friendly to foreigners in my opinion.

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Well, there are quiet few things coming to my mind. But first price will win Chinese siesta with people sleeping even on the ground and this very special underpants/trousers with hole between legs for small kids. Never seen anything like that anywhere else!

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
There are so many incidents of my friends from Hohhot helping me that it’s very difficult to point to only one. I can’t imagine my life here without their help and definitely I couldn’t stay here for so long without their support.
Where do you go to “escape?”

I love traveling and feel like an obligation to discover China and Chinese culture while I’m here. I’m escaping to other cities and every trip makes the picture of China more colorful for me. And of course I escape back home to get love and energy from my family.

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
I would love to take my students with me…but because I am realist and know is not possible I would take my best memories about work with them and my experience from teaching them.

 

If anyone is interested in learning ballet from Anastasiya, you can contact Ulanova International Children’s Art Education Center at 04712356611.

no Friday’s Foreigner

Alternately titled: a stream of unfortunate events

No interview today for a number of reasons.

  1. We just got back from Hong Kong last night and I didn’t plan ahead to have one prepared in advance.
  2. A few people I’ve sent the questions to haven’t sent their answers back yet.
  3. When we came home last night, we came home to no gas. Everything I had planned to have ready for our dinner, I couldn’t cook and we didn’t have heat. (Aside: we apparently need some serious help in regulating our self-regulating floor heating. We blew through about 400 kuai with the temp set really low while we were gone!) ugh.
  4. We also hadn’t realized that we were down to just a few sips of water in our big bottles of water. It was too late to call for new ones so Helpful Husband went outo buy some water. He poured it into the big bottle so it would fit nicely on our dispenser. He placed it nicely on the dispenser and we went to bed. I woke up this morning to the sound of water dripping, and quickly discovered a dining room covered in water. (And discovered with sock-clad feet, of course) ugh. ugh.
  5. This afternoon my oldest yelled from the bathroom, “Mom, the floor is all wet in here!” It was. And the hallway. And the spare bedroom. And into the dining room. The drain for the washing machine had clogged and each cycle was just spilling more water onto the floor while I unknowingly fed a baby in the other room. ugh. ugh. ugh. Interestingly enough, the load of laundry that was in the washer was all my towels so we essentially had nothing to clean up the gallons (liters) of water on the floor. Also interestingly, the last time our water dispenser broke, our washer overflowed on the same day.
  6. After spending most spare moments of the day prepping the first ten week session of homeschool for my daughter, my computer crashed and I lost a good portion of the work.

Here’s the crazy thing: This is not even close to our worst day in China. But, it is one I’m ready to put to rest and start again tomorrow.

 

 

Friday’s foreigner: Alberto

Today is our third post in a series I hope we’ll do every Friday, but I make no promises. I can promise at least some Fridays I’ll post an interview with a foreigner here in Hohhot.

 

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 

 

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Alberto.

alberto

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

I’m Alberto. I was born in Cuba,  but when I was 2 years old our family went back to Spain so my nationality is Spanish, and since 12 years ago we are living in a small town in Illinois, US.  I wanted to study Chinese since I was a child, after I finish my bachelor in Applied Mathematics, I decided to come, one of my best Chinese friends back home is Chinese ethnic Mongolian, so he recommended Hohhot as a nice place to study.

 

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

During the time I was in college, I did some part time work as a freelancer software designer and programmer, because the intensity of our academic program we didn’t have too much spare time, but my friends and I used to go swimming, play football, parties, etc. like most of the people of my age.

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

My favorite local food is ShouPaRou 手扒肉, I like to get it at my friend’s.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

Is probably time for the subway, the traffic gets really bad sometimes.

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

Before Hohhot, I lived two months in Beijing and in Sichuan, when I came here, I was surprised how kind and nice are people here. I have never had a problem with locals here. They always say “halou” to me on the street, they try to talk with me, offer me food or water, It’s very nice.

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

My first day in Hohhot I lost my bag in a taxi with my bank cards, laptop, passport, cash, and other valuables inside. I talked to the receptionist in the hotel where I spent the night, she call the police, and made them help to find the taxi driver, after 3 hours of calling people, she finally got the driver’s phone and the guy brought my bag to the hotel, I was so grateful to her, I only wish my Chinese in that time were better to express how grateful I was that day.

What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

There is one time my Chinese friends took me out for dinner, then when the bill came, two of my friends wanted to pay the bill. They started arguing about who should pay, both of them wanted to pay, I thought they were going to fight, so I took my friend apart to avoid the fight. After that he got really angry, because in China it’s very impolite not to offer to pay yourself. That was funny, I could never forget that day.

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

Learn Chinese and don’t complain.

Where do you go to “escape?”

I think Hohhot is a very quiet and nice city, when I travel is mostly to see my friends in other cities, after one week I start missing Hohhot. After all these years living in big cities I find Hohhot a nice place to stay.

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

Besides a lot of good memories, probably my girlfriend. 😉

 

 

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Friday’s Foreigner: Agnes

Today is our second post in a series I hope we’ll do every Friday, but I make no promises. I can promise at least some Fridays I’ll post an interview with a foreigner here in Hohhot.

 

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 

Today we’ll meet Agnes from Poland.

ja.apple

What’s your name, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

Hi, my name is Agnieszka (Agnes) and I moved to Hohhot more than four years ago, in 2011. I came here to continue my education. I started my PhD in grassland science in 2012, preceded with a one-year Chinese language course at Inner Mongolia University. It wasn’t my original intention, but not long after my arrival I started a part-time English teaching job.

Now, I teach much less, still work on my research and most of all I try to focus more on different projects, like helping with a family business or improving my Chinese language skills.

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

Before coming to Inner Mongolia I was working for a EU project at my Alma Mater, after a while I felt like I need a change of scenery and applied for what occurred to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

That’s a difficult one! Chinese food is so diverse! But I find myself saying “Let’s go for hot pot” a lot, so I guess that would be my favorite type of food. As a special treat I would choose donkey meat hot pot. There are plenty of restaurants in town, I often refer to Meituan(美团) app to find one with a good deal.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

My first thought was to plant more trees, but on a more practical level an improvement of traffic and enforcement of traffic rules would do us all a favor. Bike lanes for bikes!

 

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

I think a lot of funny situations may come from a language barrier between you and the locals. When I first came to China, without any Chinese language skills, I took a cab to a place that was 100m away from where I was. I’m not sure who was more dumbfounded me or the taxi driver…

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

I don’t want to pinpoint any particular situation, cause I believe I wouldn’t have survived one day without the kindness and help of local people, especially at the very beginning. I just admire the patience of the locals, both strangers encountered on a street and friends, have for us foreigners. We can really be a handful!

Where do you go to “escape?”

Living in a Chinese city can be really overwhelming, some quiet time, getting your thoughts together can save you many headaches down the road. I usually choose the coziness of my apartment or a nice café. During longer breaks I simply go abroad to recharge.

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

My plans are to stay here, or somewhere in Asia for a bit longer. But if I was going home, I would take back a lot of gratitude, good memories and an open mind.

 

 

See our other interviews here. 

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