Famed Whitianga and digging your own spa. New Zealand Part 7

From Auckland we went to the Coromandel Peninsula for two nights before heading to Rotorua.  Had we not made this detour, we may have considered going further south than Rotorua, but this had been a recommendation from two people; one of our NZ colleagues, Lara, and Sian my Welsh friend in Suzhou – who so far had come good on all recommendations (Mitre Peak Cruises and the Jet speed boat, and previously Cape Tribulation in Australia). We had high hopes. “Wh” in Maori is pronounced “F”. Whitianga is on the coast. The road from Auckland started off straight, but once … Continue reading Famed Whitianga and digging your own spa. New Zealand Part 7

“It’s a Small World” New Zealand Part 2

Anyone who knows me really well, will know that this Disney tune is my pet hate. The sedate paced boat ride on the “seven seas” at Disneyland Paris which takes you through different countries with the song being sung by 289 nationally dressed-up dolls in 5 languages – French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English, (info supplied by disneyquestions.com – I have not verified this, and actually can’t believe I googled that information) is the worst ride for me but it is still strangely fascinating. THANK GOODNESS they do not have that ride at Disney Shanghai. Anyway, I digress, Despite New Zealand … Continue reading “It’s a Small World” New Zealand Part 2

Weekend Adventures in China March and April 2017

Having not blogged since Christmas, and having updated the blog from our American holiday completed in February 2017, I have decided to combine a couple of adventures while making an agreement with myself to get back on the blog more often! I have had more than one comment asking about the blog, so I apologise to my readers! After Chinese New Year, Martin, Eleanor and I escorted 14 or so students to Beijing to ISCMS X (International Schools Choral Music Society) http://www.iscms.net/  Hosted by Dulwich College Beijing for the 10th Anniversary, our students either sang in the choir, played in the … Continue reading Weekend Adventures in China March and April 2017

The American Dream (just 7 months delayed)

Chinese New Year is a lunar holiday and so this year it was extremely early. We had three weeks for Christmas and then Eleanor was back at school for only 2 weeks in January before our two week Chinese New Year holiday. (Eleanor actually had 4 weeks off as our school broke up a week earlier than the College and then returned to school a week before the college.  Some families didn’t come back for the two weeks of school, other families stayed in Suzhou having been away at Christmas. We decided to travel half way round the world. Shortly … Continue reading The American Dream (just 7 months delayed)

Two Eyes to See

We all know, or should know, that laser pens are dangerous. But sometimes, adults can forget that children don’t know. In November Eleanor and I went to the “fake” market in Shanghai just in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum metro station. “Uggs” and “Converse” obtained, we went to a technology shop to buy some Christmas presents. Here Eleanor found a laser pen and proceeded to shine it on the floor.  I more or less freaked out, and told her never to shine it near anyone, particularly in people’s faces specially not near their eyes as it could cause damage … Continue reading Two Eyes to See

Hanging Around

Mid Autumn Festival according to the Chinese lunar calendar (and traditional solar calendar), is celebrated in the 8th month which is the second month of autumn. As the four seasons each have three (about-30-day) months on the traditional calendars, day 15 of month 8 is “the middle of autumn”. On the 15th of the lunar calendar, each month, the moon is at its roundest and brightest, symbolising togetherness and reunion in Chinese culture. Families get together eat dinner together, appreciate the moon and eat mooncakes. The harvest moon is traditionally believed to be the brightest of the year. As a … Continue reading Hanging Around

Farewell to Nomadic Life and onto the Desert (Part 9)

Having woken up and gone to toilet surrounded by an audience of yaks, it was sad to be leaving this very peaceful existence. I thought about family, thinking that anything could have happened and here I was in the middle of nowhere, with no means of communication. It was amazingly refreshing. We packed up and said farewell. I was offered a bowl of what looked to be milk.  Of course it was milk, just not milk as I know it to be… It wasn’t offered to the children as it was Airag, the traditional national beverage of Mongolia. Alcoholic and … Continue reading Farewell to Nomadic Life and onto the Desert (Part 9)

Mongolian Barbeque; Nomadic Lifestyle (Part 8)

Friday 5th August was our last full day in the camp.  Eleanor woke up, took a bit of water, and then promptly brought it back up again. All the kids at one point during our stay had upset stomachs. Sadly there was no fried dough for breakfast, only bread that whilst supposedly fresh was stale. I had a breakfast bar. Eleanor went back to sleep, I was able to wake her up for permission to go on the penultimate ride. All changed ready for a 2 hour ride, this time we went to the east. On the first night’s ride we … Continue reading Mongolian Barbeque; Nomadic Lifestyle (Part 8)

Long Drops and Ancient Capital of Mongolia (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky) Part 4

When you aren’t looking at your phone, or computer, days just pass. The only reason I knew what day we were on was when I sat down with my diary and the travel schedule to work out that the 1st of August was a Monday. It didn’t matter what day it was. At 8.15am we departed, onto the sandy road heading north until we hit the main road where we turned left and kept going.  In the UK we have a phrase about the Romans having been there when a road is particularly straight. Every so often Yondo would slow down and we … Continue reading Long Drops and Ancient Capital of Mongolia (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky) Part 4

Ulaan Baatar (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky Part 2)

Ulan Batar, Ulan Bator, take your pick with the spelling. Be warned though, this is not a spell bindingly beautiful city.  It is utilitarian, functional, and whilst we saw it at its best on the first day (blue skie and very little traffic), we then saw it on our penultimate day when we were stuck in traffic and on our last day, it rained and there was certainly nothing pretty about it.  Its roads are concreted, not tarmaced and full of pot holes and they are bumpy (though not as bumpy as what we would experience in the forthcoming days). … Continue reading Ulaan Baatar (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky Part 2)

Land of the Eternal Blue Sky – Part 1

“Mongolia? As in Inner Mongolia? On your own- with Eleanor?” “No, Mongolia as in the separate country between China and Russia. Yes on our own, Martin is teaching in a summer school organised by DHSZ.” “Wow, you are…brave… That’s amazing… Why?” Just some of the conversations I had with people when discussing our summer plans. The Why question was the easiest… a country with horses, riding across a wide open space… well why not? I also wanted to give Eleanor a different perspective on life. No iPads, phones, television, internet, shopping malls, hotels with swimming pools, just green space, blue … Continue reading Land of the Eternal Blue Sky – Part 1

Summer has come

On 7th June my first year at school ended, Eleanor’s time in DUCKS ended and we boarded a flight back to the UK. Term had not officially ended but I was on my way to the UCAS conference and Eleanor was going to spend a couple of weeks with my parents. Mum and Dad had come out with us after the wedding and spent a month with us before going back to Northern Ireland, recover from jetlag and then fly back to Heathrow to collect Eleanor and take her back.  The end of Year 2 for Eleanor has meant that … Continue reading Summer has come

The Gobbins

Composed back in May I have only just updated this… What are you doing for the May Day holiday was a popular question over the kettle at work…um “going back to Northern Ireland” says I. For the weekend? Yup…and a few days extra I visited Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin whilst Eleanor did a tour of Dublin with my parents.  The wedding was of my Mum’s cousin’s son, Jonathan to his lovely fiancé Claire. The wedding in Belfast was followed by a reception in the Dunadry. A hotel which has seen many of our family’s wedding receptions.  The … Continue reading The Gobbins

There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing

Whether Katie Melua was right when she sung the song I couldn’t possibly comment but bicycles have been replaced in the main with cars. Something which I noticed the last time I was in Beijing in May 2015.  The weekend just gone was QingMing. The 4th April was the actual day of Tomb Sweeping but it was preceded by a 2 day public holiday. We get a week off and so we were delighted that our friends, The Scotts, decided to spend their hard earned cash in coming to China to see us and of course the country in which … Continue reading There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing

To the Bat Cave – Borneo Part 3 

A quick swim at the hotel swimming pool, collection of a packed snack, water and poncho from the hotel and then back on the bus to be reversed over the hotel bridge to go to Mulu National Park.  Our guide was still Phillipie but this time we were joined by a Japanese Couple who clearly were not interested in staying with us to be walked through the park to the next set of caves. We also picked up midway to the caves the 4 Japanese tourists from the morning tour who had, in-between times gone on a canopy walk and … Continue reading To the Bat Cave – Borneo Part 3 

Rain, Rain Go Away- Borneo Part 2. 

Beware this is a long blog… Grab yourself a cup of tea.  Eleanor is in danger of growing up getting used to 5 star accommodation. We don’t particularly want her to just good accommodation doesn’t come at such a premium in this part of the world.  And so it was on this leg that I considered homestay or staying in a Long House. Just to give us some local flavour.  However, I chickened out and opted for the Mulu Marriott instead. It had a small swimming pool, air conditioning and comfortable beds. (Though that didn’t mean we got uninterrupted sleep…)  … Continue reading Rain, Rain Go Away- Borneo Part 2. 

Wild man of Borneo: Borneo Part 1

  Whether Borneo is the largest island or the third largest island in the world-  it doesn’t matter.(hotel staff said the largest, guide book said third) This island has plenty to offer and when you are on a kind of a budget, timescale and have a “handicap” of a 7 year old there are certain things we were never going to attempt and climbing Mt Kinabalu and seeing the Pinnacles or doing the famed Headhunters Trail was never going to be on our itinerary…this time.   Is Eleanor really a handicap? Of course she isn’t. We find age appropriate activities for … Continue reading Wild man of Borneo: Borneo Part 1

Girls weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Having left Martin in China at an Asian schools Orchestra rehearsal and concerts in Zhuhai (on the mainland but close to Macau and Hong Kong) on Friday 29th Jan Eleanor and I took a flight to KL via Kota Kinabalu (in Borneo and where we would fly back to on Tuesday 2nd Feb). It was cheaper to fly to KL via KK rather than stop and leave at KK. KK wasn’t a big airport to do a stopover though we did go through immigration in about 2 minutes and it is where I had a meltdown. Having left China with … Continue reading Girls weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Year of the Monkey

They say that the world’s largest migration happens during Chinese New Year and they aren’t wrong. This year was no exception and many people were stranded due to the exceptional cold weather we had at the end of January.   (standing on our frozen compound pond) So it was lucky really that we escaped to the heat. What better way to celebrate the incoming year than to go see some relatives of the Monkey.      During the last week of school Martin and I, along with all the other tutors in school had lunch with our tutor groups. A pre cursor … Continue reading Year of the Monkey

Creating Memories

 In our lives BC (Before China) our main holiday was 2 weeks (and sometimes if lucky) 3 weeks Eurocamping in France, and in 2013 France and Switzerland. We went to France a couple of times in between and once before Eleanor we went to Sweden and South Africa. We even managed skiing with friends in Austria, but Europe was really as far as we ever got. But now that we are in China there are endless possibilities. Australia in the summer was somewhere we had thought we would never be able to visit, certainly not altogether because of a)the cost and … Continue reading Creating Memories

Frequent Flyer

In June 2015 I read Bill Bryson’s “One Summer, 1927” it focused on an American summer and whilst it was very focused on baseball and Babe Ruth, another thread was the beginning of the American Aviation Industry and in particular the first transatlantic flight. Bryson commented that the Europeans were well ahead of the game in aircraft engineering and based on recent experience I would say that that is probably still the case.  Today we take flying for granted and up until yesterday I had taken for granted a standard of planes for great distances. We had flown QATAR on … Continue reading Frequent Flyer

Festive Fun

Christmas arrived in mid November when Eleanor performed with the DUCKS Piccolo Choir at the switching on of the Christmas Tree Lights at the Crowne Plaza, Suzhou.  The hotel likes to boast it is the first hotel to switch the lights on. Is it too early? We pondered this last year and again this year but I don’t think it is. (Probably if in the UK definitely but as an expat I think it can be early!)   The theme is Harry Potter and the castle is made out of Gingerbread!    She and her friend Sophie duetted the naming of the … Continue reading Festive Fun

Theft

E-bike batteries are heavy and usually there are about 4-5 of the things in an ebike. One night someone struck lucky and raided the basement of our apartment block and got 5 ebikes worth of batteries.  Next morning Martin found his ebike devoid of batteries and whilst he had texted me I hadn’t picked up his text.  Eleanor and I made our way down to the basement, helmets on and then Martin appeared. We thought mine hadn’t been touched. The saddle was in place but when I went to turn the key I too was a victim.  What fascinated me … Continue reading Theft

Mysterious Mountain Malarky

So, if someone says to you “fancy a weekend away without kids and husband in a mountainous area with some walking” what do you say? I originally said no, as a good friend was coming out to China for work and I was going to meet her on the Saturday. I was then asked again by a colleague on the Thursday before the trip on the Friday to go as she was unable to go and didn’t want to leave Angela  to go on her own. Again I said I couldn’t because of Lucy coming. At that stage I was … Continue reading Mysterious Mountain Malarky

Work Hard: Play Hard

Martin and I have certainly been working hard. The UCAS applications are nearly completed, and Martin was teaching practically a double timetable due to sickness within his department. Thailand, was therefore a well deserved break.  But we decided that every month we would try to visit somewhere different close to Suzhou.  Hangzhou has been on our list since Martin came here in long before we knew we would be coming to live in China. Hangzhou is home to West Lake, and thankfully we visited here before Thailand and the Moon Festival during Golden week at the end of September/beginning of October. West … Continue reading Work Hard: Play Hard

E-bike is fixed and Sun, Sea and Sand

Believe it or not, I started this blog a long time ago, but the internet was so being slow that it took me three hours to get onto the home page last week.  Then I started typing and it appears I didn’t save it. Darn it. So the last blog, two months ago, saw me without an e-bike.  Eleanor and I took the metro to the end of the line, raced off it and up the escalator to bag the only taxi waiting by the exit for three times that week. By the end of the week, I had asked … Continue reading E-bike is fixed and Sun, Sea and Sand

A working woman once more

Impressive? Dulwich International High School, Suzhou.  It is one of 7 Dulwich schools across Asia and it is where Martin and I now work.  The building is new and now houses over 400 students.  We also have a boarding facility, capacity for up to a 1000 students and most importantly we are now just across the road from Eleanor’s school, DUCKS.  The clock tower in the distance is reminiscent of Dulwich College London, and is part of the International School, Dulwich College. So how I am getting on? I am really enjoying it, but I am shattered.   Since starting … Continue reading A working woman once more

Our Antipodean Adventure

And so here we have a blog not directly related to our life in China and therefore I was unsure about whether to post it. But given that we would not have had this opportunity to go to Australia had we remained in the UK and given that this is an online diary and someday Eleanor will read this I wanted to record it.  Some of you may switch off entirely at this, but for those of you who want to read further, go and get a wee cup of tea. My Great Uncle Hugh in the 1930’s bought a … Continue reading Our Antipodean Adventure

Happy 1 Year Chinaversary

On the 3rd August 2014 we made the leap of faith and took the plunge and made our way to Suzhou for our new adventure.  On the 3rd August 2015 I was sitting in a classroom type environment introducing myself to my new colleagues at Dulwich International High School, Suzhou. What a difference a year makes. Last year we arrived with 4 full to the brim suitcases from the UK into Pudong airport filled with trepidation after an 11 ish hour flight.  It was a grey day, (like most days here), hot, there was a long queue for immigration and then a … Continue reading Happy 1 Year Chinaversary

UK Travels

   On the 3rd June Eleanor and I set foot on British soil.  Her last day of Year 1 at Dulwich was Tuesday 2nd.  Escaping early has had its advantages in a selfish way to me in that we have not had to say goodbyes and go to other people’s leaving parties.  I know that is terribly selfish view but goodbyes are hard enough and what we have learnt from leaving the UK is that people do keep in touch.  The people who have left this year who I am friendly with are on facebook, and the little girl who … Continue reading UK Travels

Happy 100th Day Celebration

An invitation came from Mark and Yi Lin to celebrate their son’s, Louis’s, 100th day birthday.  Louis was born on 5th February 2015, and so was 100 days old today (16th May) but it was his 101st day….There is apparently a mathematical difference  in what that sentence says…but no matter. ( I can say that with confidence as I am neither a parent of Louis, nor a mathematician. In Mark’s household last night it created a heated debate!) A number of friends and family gathered at the Kempenski Hotel, Suzhou for a BBQ Brunch to celebrate Louis being alive for 100 … Continue reading Happy 100th Day Celebration

Gainfully employed once more

From August, I will no longer be a “TaiTai” or “trailing spouse”. I will have my own Z visa and no longer be classed as a dependent. Better declare that then to the Student Loans Company! I applied for, and was successful in getting a post at Dulwich International High School, Suzhou as a College/Universities Counsellor. I have a specific remit to help students with UCAS. I have been enjoying my time not working, I have been lunching, having coffees, helping with Eleanor’s class, window shopping, planning holidays, getting my nails done, learning Mandarin and generally enjoying myself…From August I … Continue reading Gainfully employed once more

School Days are the best

Eleanor’s school days I hope will hold happy memories, whether they are from Leweston Junior Department, or DUCKS (Dulwich College Kindergarten School) or whatever school she may end up at over the years.  In DUCKS though, each term, 2 consecutive days have been assigned to Art. I have been an active parent, and have been to at least one of the days each term (well maybe only half a day on each occasion!) The first set of days in November 2014 featured Japanese Pottery and Babushka Dolls.  The Teacher chose two cultures that Eleanor has in her class.  I went … Continue reading School Days are the best

Extra Curricular Activities

There are certain advantages to being a “trailing spouse”….the main one is you can go to and do things when people are at work.  My recent escapade was the 2015 Suzhou World Table Tennis Championships, sponsored by Qoros.  The 53rd,week-long, Championships came to Suzhou for the first time, but it was the 5th time they have been hosted in China.  Traffic around the Culture and Expo centre became a nightmare, we had dedicated traffic lanes, Zumba was cancelled because of the Championships in the nearby building and one metro carriage per train (I think) was emblazoned in the green logo. I … Continue reading Extra Curricular Activities

Moving on up

We arrived in August 2014, and had a pretty horrendous 5 days coping with a new city, new country, jet lag and of course finding somewhere to live.  The apartment we chose back then has suited us well.  We knew what we were dealing with when we chose it as the apartment had no underfloor heating, no double glazing and hard beds, but it was well located. 10 minutes from the tube (metro/subway), 15 minutes on the ebike to Eleanor’s school, on a bus route to Martin’s school (though he gets a lift in each morning and takes the tube … Continue reading Moving on up

Huangshan aka Yellow Mountains

The Chinese last year started a competition to give Chinese names to places in the UK.  And almost all of them have literal meanings eg Hadrian’s Wall – Wall of Eternity and the Royal Mile – A beautiful street with long history and profound culture.  So where the Yellow Mountains going to be yellow? Well, we don’t actually know.   With my parents being here and then travelling to Hong Kong, we didn’t actually research this trip as well as we/I could have done.  Infact, we asked friends where they stayed, got the answer, looked at trains, booked them and … Continue reading Huangshan aka Yellow Mountains

Till death us do part…

Don’t worry, everyone is still alive!  On Saturday 4th April, Martin, Eleanor and I went to Changzhou for the nuptials of Jake and Barbara.  Both are colleagues of Martin’s and  teach English.  Jake is British, Babara, Chinese.  Changzhou is about 90 or so minutes from Suzhou, but sadly not on a public holiday where all the toll roads are free and subsequently jam packed.  In about a space of a  couple of miles we saw 10 rear end shunts – a reminder that driving in China is hazardous.  There is no lane discipline here, cars weaving in and out of … Continue reading Till death us do part…

Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Having spent a night on the sleeper, we met Mum and Dad and the Guide at Xi’an train station.  Martin was greeted with a McDonald’s Coffee, and whilst probably not the best coffee on the market, it was the only one on offer! Into the minibus for the 5 of us and off we went to a museum of some archaeological value.  To be fair I just wanted to go and see the Warriors, but, the Guide clearly had her own plan of things to do and see that day, and so, I followed without complaint.   It was really … Continue reading Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Will the “sleeper” live up to its name?

When my parents suggested that they come to China and go travelling when they came, we asked them what they wanted to see.  They have a list of places, but for this visit it was Xi’an and Shanghai.  I was cheeky and told them we would be coming to Xi’an with them as it is home to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses.  When we looked into travelling there, the options were flying or taking the sleeper train. Issues with flying were that >Xi’an airport, like most airports is not just next door to the City or the Warriors. >Martin can’t … Continue reading Will the “sleeper” live up to its name?