Friday, March 31, 2017

From England to New England

Hello Boston!

As I explained in the last post, I've decided to accept a position teaching in China next, which will be starting soon. However, the visa process for China is turning out to be longer and more complicated than any other country I've worked in thus far. So I decided to use the extra free time while I wait for my work visa to visit family in the U.S.

I just got back stateside a couple weeks ago and I'm having a great time staying with my sister and nephew James at their new apartment in Massachusetts. I've been keeping busy here helping home school James and working on my Mandarin. I'm also really enjoying exploring Boston and New England, a part of the U.S. I've never been to before.

Although, I have to say, I'm not enjoying the weather much. The week I arrived there were actual blizzard conditions here, with on and off again power outages that are really not good for my nephew, who has special medical needs. And people say that England has bad weather! Luckily things are finally warming up now.

I was welcomed to Massachusetts by a blizzard and power outages... 

I have at least one more post about my time in the U.K. I'd like to catch up on, and then as I do more sight-seeing here I will do some posts about that. I'll also post more about the China job hunting and visa process, in case anyone reading is considering working there.

I already miss the U.K. and Anna and her family. It was really fun staying there and getting to know Bristol, and I can't wait to get back there again soon. Also really looking forward to seeing Anna again in China!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Getting ready for China

Beautiful Guangxi, China (amazing photo from Trey Ratcliff at

Well, it's official now - I've accepted a new job at an international college in Nanning, China. It's located in the Guangxi region, which is in the southwest near the border with Vietnam. From the photos I've seen of Guangxi so far, it looks beautiful and tropical with some of the most incredible landscapes in all of China, especially in the Guilin area.

Terraced rice fields near Guilin in Guangxi (photo credit)

I'll be teaching English to first and second year university students, as well as potentially doing some subject classes. One subject I may do is teacher training for those students who plan to teach English in the future. Teacher training is definitely something I'm interested in doing someday, so it's really exciting to have the opportunity to do that with this job.

Monday, March 20, 2017

U.K. Visit: Oxford

University of Oxford

Oscar Wilde, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, Jeanette Winterson, Aung San Suu Kyi, Prince Naruhito from Japan, C S Lewis, T E Lawrence, Stephen Hawking, Gandhi, T S Eliot, and a long list of many more influential people, all share something in common: they studied at the University of Oxford.

I'm an avid reader so following the footsteps of some of my literary heroes during my U.K. travels has been really exciting. Just walking the streets around Oxford, surrounded by old stone buildings and narrow alleys, you have the feeling that you could turn a corner and run into one of the greatest writers, leaders, scientists, human beings of recent history.

I only spent a day in Oxford so this will be a brief description, but the beauty of the architecture in and around the university really impressed me. We started off just walking through the university grounds, which were a mix of gardens and tiny paths that cut past warm stone halls and libraries. 

Beautiful gardens on the Oxford campus

Friday, March 17, 2017

U.K. Visit: Countryside walk from Bradford to Bath

The city of Bath in southwest England

Since arriving in the U.K. in October, I've been staying in Bristol in the southwestern part of England near Wales. Very close to Bristol is Bath, one of the most picturesque cities I've ever visited. 

Although a lot of the current city of Bath was only built fairly recently, the presence of humans in the area goes back an incredibly long time, all the way to the Mesolithic period (10,000-5,000 BCE.) Romans were attracted by the hot springs in the area and built baths there in AD 60, giving the place the Latin name Aquae Sulis which means the Waters of Sulis.

The Arthurian legend nerd in me got excited when I learned that Bath might have been the location where King Arthur supposedly defeated the Anglo-Saxxons around AD 500. At any rate, a monastery was built there possibly in the 7th century and the place continued to be known for its natural hot water. This quote from Nennius, a 9th century historian, is kind of funny: "It is surrounded by a wall, made of brick and stone, and men may go there to bathe at any time, and every man can have the kind of bath he likes. If he wants, it will be a cold bath; and if he wants a hot bath, it will be hot." (Wikipedia)

Map of Bath from 1610 (photo credit)

Monday, March 13, 2017

A very British mystery

I've been pretty intimately acquainted with British English for a while now, thanks to Anna and my many friends from the U.K. over the years and all the British TV I've watched. I've read a lot of books by authors from the U.K. as well, not to mention I've been staying here since October.

Despite all that, I still occasionally come across words or phrases that I don't understand. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Mingin' (adjective.) "I think we should get rid of that sofa, it's a bit mingin."  (American English tranlsation: "it's a bit gross".)
  • Bob's Your Uncle (exclamation?). You've just managed to fix a broken bicycle and you exclaim, "Bob's your uncle!" (or something like that.) (American English translation: "there you go".) The origin of the phrase is pretty funny, read about it here.
  • Naff (adjective.) "That gold clock is so naff." (American English translation: "so tacky.")

Friday, March 10, 2017

U.K. Visit: Stratford Upon Avon

At the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon

Just after the holidays, we took a little day trip to Stratford Upon Avon, a small town that's famous for being the birthplace of Shakespeare. We got tickets to see a performance of his play, The Tempest, at the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

The town is small but charming, with lots of Tudor architecture (the buildings that are mostly white with dark timber support beams) and a river running through the center. Even if you're not there for a show, it's a nice place to walk around and you can see some famous sites, like the location of Shakespeare's home as a child, as well as the homes of some of his family and the cemetery where he was buried.

A Tudor building in Stratford

Monday, March 6, 2017

5 of My Favorite British Pubs

Pubs - possibly (probably) the best way to enjoy the U.K. 

So far one of my favorite forms of sightseeing in the U.K. is visiting old or unusual pubs, and we've definitely stopped in a few great ones during our visit the past few months. Here are some of my favorites from my travels so far.

Friday, March 3, 2017

U.K. Visit: London

Fun times in London

Like Tokyo, London is the kind of place you could spend years exploring and still just scratch the surface of things to see and do there. I've only spent about 4 days there total so far, so I'm far from being very knowledgeable, but here are some of the highlights from my recent trips there.

First some of the big touristy ones:

Buckingham Palace is sort of the quintessential London tourist hot spot, but it is undeniably impressive, especially when it's lit up at night. We visited just before Christmas so the guards were wearing different colors than you'd expect to see, and there were Christmas trees all over.

Buckingham Palace at Christmastime