5 Beautiful Bridges to See in China

All around the world there are millions, maybe billions of bridges, most sensible and functional in shape and size. But every so often you’ll come across a bridge that stops you, a bridge that wasn’t created by an architect but an artist.

Dehang, Hunan

Yuquan Stream

Yuquan Stream

Though it’s decked out for domestic tourism, this Miao village can seduce any seasoned traveler with picturesque countryside, terraced fields, clear streams and showering waterfalls. Get here by bus from Jishou, a central hub for Zhangjiajie, Dehang and Fenghuang travelers.

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Plan an English Speech Contest

When learning to speak a second language, you can read and write all day long, but at the end of the day if you haven’t practiced out loud it won’t do you any good. As an ESL teacher this is great to remember but hard to enforce. Though my Chinese college students had studied English since grade school, very few of them were confident enough to answer a question aloud, let alone carry on a conversation.

This put me in quite the predicament since the course I taught was titled “Oral English.”

In order to encourage speaking and yet accommodate varying levels of speakers, I decided to host a three-part English Speech Contest. Designed for a 90-minute class of 25-40 students, my lesson plan looked something like this:

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Packing: What to Take (and Not Take) to China

When it came to packing for China, I was one of those “better safe than sorry” over packers and brought my whole life with me. And when I say life, I’m referring to the toiletries and clothing accessories a woman thinks she needs that a man thinks are stupid.


When we arrived in Xinxiang, there were some items I was grateful I packed and others I found at every market for nickels. So in an attempt to help future HIST teachers, here’s my list of packing do’s and don’ts:

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The Good, The Bad and The Willies of Qikou

Imagine you are asleep — almost. You’ve been trying to sleep for more than an hour, but it’s really cold and the “bed” you are on literally feels like a wooden board. Because it is. Finally you doze off, but only for an instant, because you are suddenly snapped back into a comatose consciousness by the shrieking noise coming from your wife:

“It’s crawling on my leg!”

Your eyes dart to where she ripped off the sheets to reveal a black fluttering roach with hair legs. Instinctively you backhand the bugger into the concrete wall and end its nasty existence. This all happens within the space of a few foggy seconds, but those seconds end up costing you a few hours of sleep. You wake up in the morning, phased. Welcome to Qikou.

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How to Play ESL Jeopardy!

At the Henan Institute of Science and Technology, our classrooms had individual monitors for each student. While this was horrible for trying to get them to look up and make eye contact, it was great for activities that required instructions I would’ve usually written on the board. Plus, then everyone who had poor eyesight or listening comprehension could always read what I was saying.

I found the best way to teach Chinese college students ESL was to make it fun so they’d forget to be nervous. Most of them had had English training since they were children, but still weren’t confident enough to speak. While brainstorming ways to help them practice their oral English, I came up with this.

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Beijing on a Budget

Caught between its ancient imperial grandeur and lust for modern acclamation, the country’s capital breathes confidence and lacks but little. Boasting the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, you can check off many of the heavy hitters in only a weekend. But, if time is on your side but money isn’t, hitting only the major highlights will leave you dry in a matter of minutes. If you’re OK to leave out the favored few, experience the city instead on this budget-friendly itinerary:

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Not As I Had Planned

This morning I was reading through my China journal, trying to remember a detail for a blog post I was writing about visiting Beijing on a Budget. Of course this led to lots of reminiscing, and then, naturally, tears when I read this:

On the bike ride back I just rode silently, humbled, as I accepted the realization that sometimes things honestly have to go wrong just so we’ll be in a certain place at a certain time. That the Lord knows me very personally—He knows what I don’t— and will bless me despite my bad attitude. That with a better attitude, that [bad] day with a great ending could’ve been a great day with a great ending. I’m learning.

After a long day of everything going the wrong way, I was just about done. It was nearly nightfall and Lance and I were finally on the bikes we’d searched for all day, only realizing we had to turn around to return them before it got too dark. My plans, oh my wonderful, detailed plans, had been dashed. Frustrated, tired and achingly aware of my inability to change the situation, I remember even feeling annoyed that I was so annoyed. We rode on, and took an unplanned route back to the bike rental station. On this new rode we spotted a few recognizable sights from months before, when we’d walked the same street with the China Horizons tour group we came to China with. Then, there, several yards in front of us stood two friends — American teachers from a group we trained in Hong Kong.

Beijing, American friends

I doubt they knew how meaningful that hour-long reunion was for me. Not only was I distracted from the problems of our day, but I was renewed in a way I hadn’t been in a long time. I think it’s natural to be affected by a bad day, or a bad situation. I think it’s normal to mourn unmet expectations and feel the natural emotions that come from life’s trials, large or small. But, I want to remember the feelings I had after that chance meeting, the ones of recognition that sometimes things go differently than planned, and yet life still works out in the end.