So off we went on our travels at the start of half term, stopping off for the night at the City Garden Grand Hotel in Manila before catching our second flight to The Philippine Island of Palawan on Sunday afternoon. We were due to meet up with Matt's friend Kuni who is from Manila however he was out of the country this weekend (typical)! So we did our own bit of exploring after our night stay in the hotel. The hotel had a lovely rooftop cocktail bar and pool area - with the view above over the city.
With only the morning to occupy before our next flight, we took to trip advisor in the absence of Kuni to look at the best places to visit in Manila. With Rizal Park being the top hit and only being 7km from the hotel we stretched our legs to find it. The walk there was not something I was prepared for, we took the back streets away from the glittering lights of the city and walked amongst the worst poverty I have ever scene. There were houses which reminded me of a tin version of The Burrow in Harry Potter, adding on levels all higgldypiggildy out of scraps of metal and waste. People looked at us like they had never seen a western person before and I felt very out of my comfort zone. A reminder that there is always more to a city than meets the eye and people are doing whatever they can to provide for their families. Nonetheless, children were happy and playing on the streets, some had made a basketball hoop from a tv aerial and ply board.
If you like a park and you perhaps know the history of Manila better than me, then this is the place for you. Personally it does not compare to the parks I have been to in London but it was interesting to go and have a wander around to appreciate Manila's heritage. There is a Chinese garden which looked pretty but with minimal time after our long walk we did not look around. I think we can find some of those back in GZ!!
I cannot actually believe we have been in China since the 6th August; started school INSETs on 7th August; started teaching the students 16th August and now after 6 and a half weeks teaching we are on the brink of half term. For me school half terms have always gone so quickly and this is no different, even more so due to the busy day to day life of the school and also exploring our new home. To finish off the half term we had our swimming galas for Primary on Wednesday and then last day of term Thursday, was Secondary. I was put in charge of the Secondary one and I am pleased to say it went really well and we had two days of glorious sunshine; although being poolside for the entire day had its challenges in 40 degree heat!!
A highlight was our staff house race; I was pipped at the post in the final leg of the front crawl, you can see my hand is so close haha (I am putting it down to his height advantage getting to touch the wall quicker)!
A great, if exhausting, first half term at BSG and ready to relax on the beach for a while now.
Celebrating the end of the half term and Matthew's birthday we went into the City to the Happy Monk for their themed night (last Thursday of the month). We couldn't quite work out the theme this time, but the drinks were free and flowing and there quite a few cocks about as you can see!!! Fun night had by all but half day INSET the next day was a struggle....but it was manageable as we were off to the Philippines!!
Matt has just realised that he has just got another year older, not the fact that he loves a selfie!!
Given that Matt's birthday is coming up, that we were already at The Westin, we were out in the city Saturday night and we were free Sunday to do whatever, I booked us into the hotel for the night - WOO! It is such a lovely hotel, we were in an executive room which meant we had access to the club lounge, which had a free happy hour that evening with a massive buffet and then an incredible breakfast the next day. Saturday night was a friends birthday so we went to The Happy Monk for drinks which was a lot of fun and loads of people were out which was great.
Sunday we went to the gym and just sat by the pool in the sunshine, enjoying life. For the first time since we arrived back at the start of August (has is been that long already?!) we have not had a day where we have not gone somewhere/worked or had to sort something out. So to just chill and enjoy the sun (rather than sweating profusely) was SUCH a treat. Great views from the hot tub inside as well; with that feeling of wow I actually live here?! A definite staycation convert and it will not be the last one! Finishing off the weekend with a birthday dinner for John at Social & Co was perfect before coming back to the apartment to start our penultimate week of term. 2 weeks until our first half term and THE PHILIPPINES!!!!
For 2 days, 15 of us (new and current staff) were on a course to develop leadership skills and learning about how to implement change in a school environment. We had all come up with a 'Change Project' for the school which we wanted to carry out and after a letter of application and interview process here we were: at The Westin hotel in Guangzhou. Mine is to make the use of iPads an integral part in PE lessons at BSG; a friend on mine's was to introduce the 'Growth Mindset' merit as part of the reward process at school, so there was a huge variety of ideas. It was a great 2 days (albeit busy and full on!) but well worth it; especially with a 3 course lunch, a view of the city ohhh and Prosecco when we finished!
The rogue kitten by school that some staff decide to feed!
Whoever said you cannot find nice toilets in China is lying...
And sometimes it gets too much for the locals and they just need to sleep.
After an hour and a half run at 7am this morning with some of the ladies at Lakefront, Matt and I got the bus all the way into the city to explore some of the cities best malls. Shopping again I hear you cry... well, in my first post I was so impressed with how little i managed to bring with me. And now I live in regret, knowing how many clothes are at home and the school would have paid for an extra bag - livid!! Anyway - first world problems and all that... but basically did not bring out enough 'business dress' and we have a 2 day course in town at a posh hotel which requires this at the end of next week!!
Parc Central mall was easily reached on the bus from us and we met a lovely lady on there who just wanted to practise her English and spoke to us the whole way there!! This mall was the nicest out of the 2 in this area; a bit more high end but still had Hollister, H&M, Zara etc. And was a lot less crowded than Grand View Mall.
This one was HUGE and has a aquarium in and to be honest, was a bit too much to handle!! You should not be queuing for an escalator for more than a minute, no matter how good the clothes! Had a lovely little offer of a drink and a mini burger at a cute restaurant on the way out though which was a nice cheap (Western) treat! Ended up getting all our smart things ready for the course next week though - so all in all a success and nice to explore more of what the city has to offer!!
After our first Saturday swimming meet at school Matt and I and our friends ventured down into the city to find the outlet mall. This has a lot of big sport brands shops and as we are going through clothes like no tomorrow with this heat, it is a perfect excuse to up the supply of sporting numbers! Oh and new running trainers as my last pair are now 5 years old (AHHH!) So this Mall is about 40mins on the metro (which cost us about 90p there and back) and we timed it just right as we got into the mall, the heavens opened. When it rains here - it absolutely belts it down and I was not dressed for this!
So it looks like any other outlet mall I have ever been to - besides the different restaurant names! And I did purchase quite a few bits and pieces - shock, but they were bargains honest! We ate at a Korean Barbecue restaurant, which was super cool. You have a grill plate in the middle of your table and you order meat and veg and cook it to your liking in front of you!! A lot of fun and you can pick from a range of marinades as well, which was a lucky dip for us not being able to read the label!!
Matt got his Gaungzhou Evergrande football shirt so that kept him happy after all that shopping!
The quest to run better and faster in 30-40 degree heat continues, especially as I have entered my first half marathon here in December AHHH!
So, the prospect of an after school run to the Pagoda (which we can see from school, in the distance, on top of a MASSIVE hill), was actually more enjoyable than I first thought. As my 3rd run since being here the 8km was a challenge, but made more do able with the people around and the views at the top from the Pagoda after the intensely steep zig zag climb.
The Pagoda itself is a sight to be hold. However, the views from the top, back across the lake towards school or towards the city are beautiful and fully worth all that sweat and pain. Next time it will have to be the morning run at sunrise...