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On my last weekend in Tangshan before moving, I went to Beidaihe beach in Qinhuangdao. Beidaihe is a popular beach destination for many Chinese and, surprisingly, Russians. Many parts of the town have more Russian than Chinese signs, and there are Russians everywhere. I have heard this is because of the proximity and value of the beach, as most take the train to the beach town. About an hour away is also the Laolongtou (Old Dragon’s Head) section of the Great Wall, which is the Easternmost point of the wall and leads into the ocean. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see the wall on my trip, buy I would like to go back. My loyal tour guides Liu, Ada, Milly and Johnboy lead the way, while David had to travel to the US Embassy in Beijing for work. The trip started out a little rough, as I was really tired and we didn’t have seats on the 2-hour train ride there. We snuck in some sitting as people went for bathroom breaks, but I practically fell asleep standing up.

Upon first arriving we got some fresh seafood for lunch, and headed to a local beach park. The water mostly didn’t smell great and definitely did not entice me to swim, but the park was pretty and I did get to lay in the sun for a while. However, none of my travel mates wore bathing suits, so a lounging day at the beach wasn’t in the picture. In true Chinese form, both couples took photos of each other about every 5 ft we walked. The white house you see in the park was actually a huge piegeon house, which you could take photos of for 1 kuai. Luckily I snapped a free shot, but you can’t see all the pigeons out front. After the park we headed to a downtown area, which was really European looking and felt more like Russia than China! The streets and buildings were very quaint, and I could see why this was a popular summer spot. After looking at some souvenirs and drinking suan nai (sweet yogurt that comes in a little clay cup you must drink on the spot, one of my favorites) it was time to head home. Luckily…we got seats this time!

*Inspiring article about retired Chinese backpackers: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/china_national_day/article150702.ece

*Also, TripAdvisor just started a new program for discounts on luxury hotels around the world: http://www.sniqueaway.com/invite/ErinHen

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We left Jinan today, to head for the place where we will be living for the next year; Tangshan.  It is a little sad to leave Jinan, because I (David) liked the city, people, and other teachers that we had met, and started to have a pretty good feeling for the city.  Oh well, it only took about a week, so it shouldn’t be hard to do again!  We said bye to our best friend in Jinan, John McClymont, hopped on the bullet train to Tangshan, and were off.

There have been a couple new developments in our life since my last post.  We met our manager, Eddie Diaz, a big, loud Puerto Rican New Yorker, two days ago.  He is a pretty typical New Yorker, which means he is one of the most controversial people in all of China!  He met us wearing a Harley Davidson biker Jacket, and a USA flag hat, which I found hilarious, and seems like the kind of guy that would do just about anything for you if he likes you, which is good for Erin and I (I think).  We also met the other teacher who will be in Tangshan, who also happens to be named David.  He is an American from Spain, who studied and lives in London.  He claims to be American, but has a British accent, so the students will be very confused by the differing accents.  He has three passports and seems like quite the world traveler, a nice guy, and laid back enough to not lose his mind over the past few days.  So that is our little Tangshan teaching group.

Another little tidbit we have noticed about Chinese culture.  They are OBSESSED with luck, and bad omens and stuff like that.  One thing in particular that we have noticed is how certain numbers are considered lucky or unlucky.  The number 4 is the most avoided number by far.  It is considered unlucky because the word for 4, si, is also the word for death.  So that makes some sense.  However, telephone numbers, license plates, even hotel or apartment prices will be lower if they contain lots of 4s!  The converse of this is the number 8, which is the luckiest of the numbers.  Again, prices for things containing lots of 8s, or adding up to 8, literally cost more.  A telephone number of 888-8888 would probably cost several thousand US dollars, whereas a telephone number of 444-4444 would be just about free.  I found this suprising because so much of the culture is based on logic and reasoning, yet they do other things that have no logical basis whatsoever.  As a logic loving American, I find it pretty annoying to have to be cautious of using the number 4, but hey, put me on the 4th floor of every hotel from now on please!

Alrighty, I think this is about it for now.  We move into our new apartment today.  Have a lot to do and learn about Tangshan, but we also start teaching tomorrow (Friday).  We really have no idea what we are going to teach, because we haven’t been told, but it will be interesting to say the least.

This is a post I wrote yesterday, so another one will be coming soon…

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