Today is my last real “teaching” day of the semester, and it couldn’t have come fast enough. It seems that being a teacher in front of the classroom has not changed the attitude that regularly took hold of me as a student at this time of year. I need a break. In some ways I need the break simply in order to get out of Qufu. I love it here, I really do, but having not left Qufu for 3 months I am going a little stir crazy. I also need the break to get excited about teaching again. I need to relax, regroup and then instill my teaching with some energy once again.
As you may tell, I am eager to get out of Qufu, and I have already begun planning what I will do for my 2 months of vacation—it has not been an easy process. Travel in China, and the process of arranging travel in China, is like nothing I have ever experienced before. In America, even in Europe, it is easy to arrange round trip tickets and to buy tickets for multiple destinations on a trip. Not so in China. You purchase train and bus tickets usually just a day or two before you wish to travel, and you can only buy one way tickets. You can also only buy tickets in the city of your departure. So I will go to Shanghai, then Zhuhai, then Guangzhou, then Macau, then Guangzhou, and then Hainan. But at this point, if I hope to travel only by train and bus, I can only purchase my ticket from Qufu to Shanghai. You really have no choice but to “fly by the seat of your pants” and hope that tickets will match hotel reservations (if you have been bold enough to book them).
At this point it seem that I will be traveling for about 7 weeks straight, and I’m sure my vacation will not be that relaxing, but I am excited to see more of China. The first week of January I will take a 23 hour train north to Harbin. This Russian-influenced city is home to a spectacular snow and ice festival each winter. I will admit, however, that I am a little worried about the cold. My weather widget tells me that this Sunday’s low is -19F. Yes, you read correctly, I did not mistake an F for a C. -19 Fahrenheit. Wish me luck.