Thursday, 30 August 2012

Wide Angle: Vol. 03

Pin It Confession: Other than the one attached to my phone, my camera has not seen the light of day since landing in China. The last couple of weeks have been a blur. Attempting to find my way to and through the grocery store was a daunting task. Pair that with the plan and prep for my new role as a teacher and well, I've essentially been in a daze of new-ness for the last while.  I'm trying to fix that. I'm trying to build photo time alongside my prep time so I actually have something other than my boring thoughts to share. I'm working on it... 

Also, I miss cooking, a lot. And baking, even more. I'm also trying to fix that. Currently we have a toaster, a microwave and a coffee pot. The plan in the next week is to also acquire a hot plate and a rice cooker ... I can hardly wait! (Typing that just made me realize how different life is here ... I'm excited for a hot plate and rice cooker - gone are the days of Western sized ovens and cooktops)

But enough of my jibber-jabber ... on with the photos! Here is a selection of Chinese delights for you to ponder.


1. My new favorite tree - yet to be identified.
2. The outrageous Sichuan restaurant around the corner
3. KFC. Egg Tarts. Get into it. Seriously.
4. Let's go shopping! A sign that is guiding the way, in the most unhelpful manner possible.

1 & 2. Dim Sum! The ability to speak mandarin is crucial in most restaurants, at least here you could point.
3. These contraptions (head massagers? space age computers? brain use improvers?) are all over the place in Coastal City (Mall) ... I cannot imagine why.
4. Angry Birds. Also everywhere. EVERYWHERE. This was a clock display. If you choose, you can also get dishes, clothing, notebooks, toys, chopsticks and more all emblazoned with our old friends, The Angry Birds.

And that my friends, is another installment of Wide Angle. In the coming days I hope to do both cooking and exploring ... let's hope that makes it here as well!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

First Impressions: Shenzhen, China

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 I didn’t come to China with much idea of what to expect.  I had attempted some research, but the majority was fairly sparse, and so early on I had adopted the wait-and-see attitude knowing that whatever I read would probably seem different through my eyes anyway … and it was.

For a little background, Shenzhen is a very new city. It was China’s first Special Economic Zone and started as a sleepy fishing village of a couple hundred thousand and has blossomed into a mega-city of 15 million – all in 30 years. It sits on the south coast of mainland China and is a stones throw from Hong Kong.  Though the province is purely Cantonese, the city itself is largely Mandarin speaking due to the fact that almost everyone who lives in Shenzhen is from somewhere else entirely (remember, it’s only 30 years old). This mixture means that while historical culture may be lacking, personal culture is in abundance!

The main expat neighbourhood (not where we live)
with a view of Nanshan Mountain in the background

The following are some first impressions I’ve had - keep in mind I’ve been here five days.

Biggest Surprise: how green the city is. Knowing the city was so new, and how quickly it grew, I expected a lot of concrete, a lot of high-rises, a lot of people, and not much else. There are definitely all of those things, but there are also a lot of (big) parks, tree lined streets, and public gardens. All of the highways are lined with planters and flowers and vines (even the overpasses), giving the effect that a jungle has decided to make it’s home here too.  And best of all, there are a few small mountains dotted around the city that provide an extra dose of awe.

some blurry dinner of spicy green beans, pork/mushroom something and noodle omelette something ... something something.

The Food: Awesome. Whether we've just been lucky, or it really is all this good, I'm not sure but I'm happy.  As a lover of food I've been in heaven for the last few days. Yes there have been some surprises (like the deep-fried chicken feet at lunch today), and you basically order by pointing at pictures on the menu and hope you get something vaguely similar to what you thought, but that's all part of the adventure. So far, so awesome. 

Cool & Refreshing - Cucumber flavour

The Weather: Hot! They weren't joking when they warned us it would be hot because it totally is. Luckily it is a bit better than anticipated due to the fact that southern Ontario is plagued by intense humidity, so I'm at least used to the feeling of always being a little bit sticky (too much information?). Additionally it's a whole lot less rainy than expected as well, which is obviously awesome.  Living in a tropical climate, they have the typical rainy and dry seasons, we are in the rainy season at the moment and have yet to see too much of it.  Naturally, as soon as I post this mother nature will cackle and show me what she's got.

Yes, there is IKEA. Yes, we went.

The People: Smily, and often staring (red, curly hair is not an everyday occurrence here). I haven't interacted with a lot of people (other than other teachers), but so far they are willing to try just as hard at sign language and everything else in order to communicate as I am, so that's a plus. 

All in all it's been awesome so far - we're settling in fairly nicely, we've thoroughly investigated our closest grocery store, we've been to Ikea and we're getting into the swing of daily life (sort of ... classes start next week - eek!).

Until next time!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Wide Angle: Vol. 02

Pin It I thought it was about time for another issue of Wide Angle, where I replace the more formal posts and photos with an informal look at my everyday.

A compilation of summer snaps that include:

1 - city walks (in Toronto)
2 - puppies!
3 - a treasure map to my favourite restaurant
4 - one of the greatest views I know (in Turkey)
5 - roosters that hang out at castles (in Bodrum)
6 - sponge for sale (in Bodrum)

Clearly, this summer has been a great one. We leave for China tomorrow, and even though it feels like it's been one giant whirlwind, all I need to do is look at these photos and remember all the great times I had with family and friends, and I can relive those moments of relaxation again - even if only for a few blissful seconds. 

How has your summer been?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Bodrum Peninsula: Something for Everyone

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Well hello there! Has it been a while? I'm not quite sure. I sort of lost track of time while I was maxing and relaxing in Turkey, and I haven't quite snapped back into it since returning.

The Bodrum Peninsula attracts thousands of tourists every year (of the Turkish and foreign variety) and is ideal for anyone looking to set anchor to their multi-million dollar yacht for a few days, or someone who is looking to spend the entire summer on a shoestring budget.

The delights this area has to offer are seemingly endless, and while I feel like I say this a lot, there is something for just about everyone.

If you're a foodie: The cuisine here is fresh and simple. Kebabs, soups, and pides (sort of like a long, narrow pizza) dominate the scene (it's what the locals eat), but the seafood is plentiful and almost always eaten the day it was caught. Mezes are common for crowds, and sweets like baklava can be found everywhere. One of my favourite meals when in the area is the ever simple Turkish breakfast. Though it can change a bit here and there if you purchase it out, it will always consist of extraordinarily fresh bread, a local white cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, butter, jam, and hard-boiled eggs. I eat this literally every day I'm there, and it's awesome.

If you're hiker: Trails are available, and generally not very busy. But be warned, it's hot. So early morning starts are recommended if travelling during the summer months.  While In the region this time around, we started in Gumusluk Harbor and circled around and up a hill that provided a secluded walk, a good climb, and a panorama of the harbor on one side, and the sea (pleasantly dotted with greek islands) on the other.  If you do this route, be sure to seek out the secluded cove on the far side of the hill that offers a perfect entry into the sea for a very private and luxurious swim. 

Other trails are discussed here, which include walks through tangerine and olive groves, past ancient windmills, and along deserted fields, but I have yet to try them.

If you're a sun-seeker: Look no further. This area is a sun-seekers paradise. The peninsula sits at the very south-west corner of Turkey, where the Mediterranean sea meets the Aegean sea - which basically translates to high temperatures, no clouds, and crystal clear turqouise water (in the summer months).  Most hotels will have their own beach, or access to a semi-private one, but there are public ones available as well - or if you're so inclined, you can just hop in wherever you please as I saw a few people do in various harbors. 

It's local law that no building be more than 2 stories high, which means you need not fret about lurking in the shadows if high buildings, the sun is everywhere (but wickered umbrellas are abound for respite when needed). 

If you're all about the glamour: You're in luck, because as laid back and simple as life can be in this area, there is also a strong presence of the glitz and glam.  You only have to look at the sea for about 5 second before seeing at least one super-yacht, a luxury sailing yacht, and a gulet. Fine restaurants, luxury resorts (of the all inclusive, and not so all inclusive variety), and upscale shopping can all be found here as well. 

If you're a culturist: The entire country is soaked in history, and this region is no different. Perhaps most famously, modern day Bodrum was once known as Halicarnassus, which was home to the tomb of Mausolus, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world (and the origin of our word, mausoleum). In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great was known to rule the fortress along with Ada of Caria, until the famous seige of Halicarnassus. 

Today, the peninsula offers a variety of sites and festivals to visit including the Castle of St. Peter, several ruins, an annual ballet festival, an Underwater Archeology Museum, and in an overnight trip you can get to Ephesus and back.

This really does just touch the edge of all this region has to offer, and it is an absolute guarantee that a few days here and you'll forget you ever had a worry in the world.

For more detailed information, or specific questions, just ask!


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