Winter break traveling around East Asia: Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Guilin, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Well I’m back at site. Its been a while since my last post. Just getting back into the swing of things at school and beginning teaching my last semester at Southwest University. But this post is about what I did before that. Following the last semester of class, which ended in January, I was traveling for more than a month. It was a great experience, however I would have like to spend a bit more time in some of the places especially Taiwan and Japan.

Prior to traveling I spend a week in Chengdu with  the rest of the Peace Corp China 22 and 23 volunteers for a Mid Service Training. It was good to see everyone and go back to visit with my host family too.

First I went to Taiwan with my friend Skip who is serves in the province of Guizhou. We only had time to spend a few days in Taipei, but it was great. First the dialect of Mandarin is closer to what we learn than what the people at my site in Chongqing speak. The food was great and the people were friendly. Also the slight cultural differences from the mainland were very interesting. It was almost like a mixture of China and Japan in terms of the sights and sounds. People were more quiet than the mainland but not as quiet as Japan. People wait in lines that was nice. It is of coarse more economically developed than most of the mainland and noticing the differences in how people interact there to where I live was fascinating. Overall I really enjoyed what I saw of Taiwan though I hope return and see more of it in the future. Next Skip and I went to Japan. We spent most of our time around Tokyo.

The first thing I noticed after touching down in Japan is just how quiet and reserved everyone is compared to China. You can walk down the street in one of the biggest cities in the world and not hear a sound! Also the food was amazing, I even saw a Taco Bell, one of my guilty pleasures that I have not seen in almost 2 years. Though we had also no language ability in Japanese all the people were great and helpful. We even got to see our friend JJ a previous PCV who now lives in Japan. I wish I could have seen more of Japan too, but I will be back. Next Skip went to South Korea to go the Winter Olympics, and I went to Hong Kong, then back into southern China.

All the people in Hong Kong. They are everywhere haha. It was nice to have some non spicy Chinese food again. The food in the south especially the Cantonese is less spicy than the food where I live in Chongqing. However, being a volunteer it was a little too expensive as was Tokyo. I was now traveling by myself which I like to do because it forces you to use the language. The mixture of English, Chinese, and Cantonese was pretty cool to see. I was only there 3 days then I took a train to town of Guilin.


I thought Guilin was pretty cool especially the rock formations which are on the back of I believe the 20$ Chinese note. I should just note that everywhere I have been and probably everywhere in the world you can find good food, and Guilin is not exception. However, one of the main reasons I went there was to see the rice terraces that have been farmed for hundred of years by minority ethnic groups in China. They really are a sight to see.


I would recommend if you are in southern China to stop in the Guilin area for at least a few days there really is a lot of interesting things to see and do. After a few days there I headed into the southern most province in China Yunnan. The first stop was the capital city of Kunming. I must say that the weather in Yunnan was one of my favorite things about it, other than the food and people. I don’t see blue sky often in Chongqing due both smog and fog so it was a nice change of pace. Also I was able to meet up with a former student who is from Kunming and we enjoyed a nice meal and chat. There are not many places for site seeing in Kunming but it seems like a nice place to live. It was good to see some friends then head on to next leg of my journey.


After Kunming I headed a bit north to Dali which has a famous ancient town and large lake, as well a big population of minority groups. It is worth a stop for a couple days. However, my ultimate destination was hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge so I made a stop in the city of Lijiang before beginning my trek. Luckily my friend Jojo was finishing the hike as a arrived so we spent a day exploring the old town of Lijiang too.

Having a few days rest before I began my trek up the mountain was the right call. The hike from the bottom to top took the better part of two days. We stayed on night at a hostel on the top of the mountain. I went by myself by I made some friends with some folks who I did the hike with. If you are up for the activity I say do it! You don’t have to do the whole thing you can just do the bottom part which is easier, but actually still quite strenuous. The views are amazing! Tiger Leaping Gorge…


So there it is in photos a month and then some of traveling. Would I do it again? Yes, though I may go to a few less places. Sadly the Peace Corps only lets us travel during school brakes and I wanted to see a lot of things so I had to cram it all in. Hopefully I will Post a few more times before I COS (close of service). I’m just now sure what other exciting things I will do, if i’m lucky a few short trips on some weekends. I will surely be doing a lot of teaching and meeting with students, working with my students has really been the highlight of my service. I recently found out I will be leaving China in July around maybe the 11th, so I got that going for me which is nice. Thanks for reading.


Rise of the Secondary Projects

Apart from my primary duties an English teacher at Southwest University I am apart of a few secondary projects to help my students improve their English in different ways. One way this year I am helping study is through the English broadcasting club. I am helping with the scripts and some on-air activities as well. The students due most of the post and pre production work. It’s been going great so far. Look for us on the campus radio 94.1 if you’re in southwest China.

The English broadcasting club of southwest university 2017-2018

We broadcast from the top of the tallest building on campus. The 19th floor of the 25th teaching building.

I also help with the Utalk English corner put on by the college of international studies on Sunday afternoons.

One other project I am involved with is I help the student volunteer and charity associations. The are groups that often help children and senior citizens.

Now time for some pictures of hot pot. The favorite meal of many of the residents of southwest China primarily Sichuan and Chongqing. It really is as spicy and oily as it looks.

Thanks for reading and viewing!

Culture Shock Since Coming to China

As I write this post I first want to point out that I have had an overwhelmingly good time so far in China. Also, most of the people I have met have been kind and helpful. This kind of stream of consciousness post so sorry for the bad grammar and spelling. I will post some of the many things I like about China and why I will return to this country in the future. Now that that’s out-of-the-way let me list some things that may annoy you or make you curious as you first set foot in the Middle Kingdom. I just make a list and comment on each as I go. I may make a later post edit this post as things come back into my mind.

  1. The noise. Given the country has over a billion people this make sense, but still it can wear on you sometimes. Only a few moments in my well over a year living in China have what felt like a peaceful time to think and relax. Something is always being built or rebuilt. Someone is always yelling, they are actual just talking in a normal Chinese voice, but is sound like yelling. Even in the middle of the night you can hear something cars, people, and animals. I wonder if the sounds would be different if I didn’t live in Chongqing but I have talked to other in Guizhou, Gansu, and Sichuan, and they often feel the same, it’s a loud place. The noise leads into number two.
  2. Who you texting? Lack of personal space and privacy. Given the kind of country I was coming to I accepting this but it’s still worth mentioning. Someone is always watching you or trying to see what you’re doing on your phone, or what you have in your shopping bag. There are so many people so the idea of personal space just hasn’t been a thing here for so long, people bumping into you are sitting right next you it is often unavoidable.
  3. Look at the foreigner. Given Chinese strict visa and immigration laws. Foreigners are still an oddity to most Chinese, so anytime you go somewhere people will stare at you like you are from some far away land, because you probably are. Even to some of my students I will be the first foreigner they have seen, and for most the first to teach them.
  4. Lines we don’t need no stinking lines. People don’t really stand in line here. I mean they will occasionaly if they are forced to buy generally lines are not a common occurance in everyday life. people just rush forward mob style to get most things done. I think this will change with time but until then doing most things seem take longer and are less efficient than they could be like: traveling on the train or metro, buying things at stores, walking somewhere, and others everyday activities.
  5. You should lose weight. How forward the people can be. Once you get past the language barriers be ready for some cultural difference in how people talk to each other. They will tell you need to lose weight, or to eat more, or put on more clothes. They are just trying to be helpful, but still cultural awareness matters. Anytime a student in English tells me I have lost weight or I look a little fat today I’m not sure if what to say, but it will happen to you.
  6. Random poop and pee. I think this will become less of a thing as the country continues to develop, but let me tell you a couple of stories to show you what I mean. The first or second day I stayed with my host family in Chengdu I went running with my host dad at a park near our apartment. About halfway through our jog I saw a little boy pop a squat and drop a log right on the side-walk, and nobody batted an eye. Letting children practice squatting apparently helps potty train them. I have since seen countless children pop and pee on streets and in bushes. I also see many drunk or just lazy men pee on the side of buildings or in bushes.
  7. Better out than in. This is more of a culture thing that I quickly accepting just like there are different eating habits. One notion of Chinese medicine is that you should get out the bad things in you body. So, as a result spitting, hacking up phlegm, burping, farting, coughing, other presently forgotten bodily functions are done loudly and often by everyone. So, just be ready for when to old man next you at the cross walk hocks up some phlegm and spits it right in front of you, or your Chinese friend burping at the dinner table. It’s not better or worse its just different
  8. Nobody knows anything. I think this comes down to mainly not wanting to lose “face” or give people the wrong information, but most people will not tell you about anything you need to do or should do until the last-minute. Either they think you already know, it’s not their job to tell you, they themselves just found out, or they don’t want to give you the wrong information. Just ask a lot of questions until you get the answers you want, or if you are a teacher ask students to help you.
  9. Chinese time. If some is supposed to start at 7 it wont. If your lucky it will only be a few minutes late, but could be much longer. Banquets and meals can be notorious for this because you often don’t start eating until the most important person arrives and you have a toast, and the most important person is always the last to arrive. Buses, trains, planes, and even the subway can run behind schedule. Any activity that involves more than a few people will most likely run way behind the time they told you it would start and end.
  10. Selfie time. Because you’re a foreigner people will want to take a picture with you or of you. This can often be without your permission. I’m not sure why they care that much but it is what it is. Chinese also like taking many selfies of themselves, with different apps and filters to get the best picture. Just beware if you go to any tourist spots photos will be taken by everyone, and of probably everything.
  11. Can you use chopsticks? That is just a common question not really what I want to discuss, but people will ask you that and often. I want to say that since you are a foreigner people will think you are unable to do anything really. They will try to show you how to do things or stare at you as you do common menial task that you have probably done thousands of times in you life. They just haven’t seen a foreigner do these things so they may want be helpful or are just curious.
  12. The air quality. Lets be honest its bad, its bad where I live but its worse in other places in China like Chengdu, and the major cities out east. I see some people wearing masks, but its hard to tell if its someone who has a cold or they don’t want to breathe the air. When I first came I had an air quality app on my phone but the air quality was never good or even decent so I stopped using it. I hope all these air particles and chemicals I am breathing haven’t harmed me to bad. I know China wants to improve the air and know its a problem, but it will take time especially near the more heavily populated areas.
  13. Traffic. Its bad everywhere and given the amount of people in china and the lack of following the rules of the road, I thought I would give you a warning traversing the roadways of china can be a harrowing experience. Also, watch out for the silent killers (electric mopeds and motorcycles) they drive them on the sidewalks and can run into you if you are not careful. Everyone uses the care horn which adds to the 1st thing in this list the noise.

I’m sure I forgot somethings, but these are some things that came to mind. Many are just to give you and idea of some of the culture differences, it isn’t better or worse than where your are from it’s just different. Also I plan to post another post about some of the things I really like about China soon. I hope the whole post wont be about the food and my students. Spoiler alert the food in China and my students are two of my favorite things about my time here so far. Thank you for reading.


Southwest University’s Minority Student Celebration

While the vast majority of China’s more than 1 billion people are ethnically Han Chinese, more than 90%, millions of others are not. I have a few students in each class that come from one of China’s 55 recognized minority groups. Many of these groups have and will continue to struggle to maintain their unique culture and history. These students come from less affluent and often impoverished backgrounds compared to their classmates. I spent most of last weekend with students learning about and celebrating my minority students. I atteneded multiple performances and a festival. Good times and fun was had by all. Below are some pictures from the weekend.

Thank you for reading and viewing the pictures.

Foreign language song competition 

For the past two years I have been a judge for Southwest University’s foreign language song competition. I am both a little happy and sad that it is over. Some of the skill and abilities of the students was great to see. However, I don’t miss some of the singers from the first round. Below are some pictures of this years finale. 12 singers out of around 200 made the finale. First some after party pictures.

Now some pictures from the competition and the venue.

One weekend  when I had some free time I visited the Longtanzi reservoir near my schools campus. It was a good chance to enjoys some unusually not rainy or humid weather in Chongqing.

I also went for a walk along the Jialing river, not far from Southwest University 

I hope to do some more exploring around Chongqing in the next few weeks. If I am able to I will upload some more pictures soon. Thanks for reading.

Summer Travels

Following summer project I went to Chengdu for a few days for Mid Service Training (MST) mainly medical checkups and some administrative meetings, but it was good to see all the other China 22 volunteers again. Afterwards, I waited for my dad, aunt Ann, and her husband Rob to arrive in Chengdu, we tracked China together for about a week. First stop was Chengdu to visit my host family. The Chinese family I lived with for three months during training and also to see the pandas!

Then we went to Chongqing for a couple days. This is the mega city where my University is located, because my dad and aunt wanted to see my apartment and school. For more pictures on Chongqing please look at earlier posts. After Chongqing we went to Xi’an see the Terracotta Warriors, drum tower, pagodas, and city wall. They say there is over 5 thousand years of history in Xi’an. 

Because he could afford it my dad paid for us to travel via business class fast/bullet trains. Here’s some photos of us traveling in luxury. 

Following Xi’an we went to Beijing to hike the Great Wall, go to the great palace or forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, and more.

The Great Wall truly is a site to see. 

The pictures don’t really do the forbidden city justice, the size and scope was massive. The amount of people at Tiananmen Square was also massive.

After Beijing my family returned to America. I went to the seaside and Olympic sailing venue of Qingdao to visit some students. Peace Corps gives us cultural leave that doesn’t count against vacation time if we learn about Chinese culture and visit with local Chinese. I just happened to have some students from the former German colony, with a very unique architecture, culture, history, and nice weather! Thanks to my students Echo and Vita for being my tour guides. d

A wonderful trip now time to get ready for the fall semester teaching. Thanks for visiting.

Summer Project

This summer the Chongqing Peace Corps volunteers conducted a two training project to help primary and secondary English teachers alter and improving thier communicative and interacting teaching techniques. Below are some pictures of the experience.