Discover Beijing’s Surrounding Valleys

Not to long ago, I started this extra job as an English teacher since I got my work visa. I teach English in a kindergarten to 3 years old. Really?! Are you mental? Maybe. But it’s surprisingly easier then one would think. I will talk more about it once I get experience in it and get to make up my mind. I will make an article about the whole “teaching” experience. I never new much about kids and it was always a big question in my life, kids or no kids? No answer.

But for now, I will only talk about the mom of one of my kids.20170917021731_IMG_2215

I’m a bit of a runner and whenever it’s nice outside (note here, not polluted), I try to go for a run at the Olympic Parc which is close to my place. It happens that the mother of one of my kids is also a runner and so we started to run together. Only ran twice with her and we decided to make it a weekly habit. She’s quite good. And she’s 40 years old. Impressive I would say even. She started to run two years ago when she decided to get into shape. That means she lost close to 60 pounds by training and eating healthy. I get her since I lost 46 pounds the same way. Only difference is 10 years. I think it’s a lot more impressive for her than for me. There’s no age to get back in shape. Provided you do it for the only reason that matters. Yourself.

Anyway, last week-end, she invited me with her little family to a valley. I got to spend the Sunday with one of my kids, the mom and the dad. 20170917034148_IMG_2230And man… it was one of those perfect days. It’s a good thing I like also that kid. Smart, learns fast, well mannered. Every parent’s dream. And he’s only 3 years. He will probably become a serial killer later, but for now, he’s just a nice happy kid. I’m joking. He will be a fine young man. So the mom invited me and I said yes. Getting a ride to visit a valley outside of Beijing? Yes please! Turns out it was more then that. We arrived, met with another family (friends of theirs). Made new friends. Had an amazing lunch with a succulent BBQ rainbow trout with spices. Had a beer or two. 20170917_122017Perfect weather, no pollution. Charming and almost magical little place. This little family was so nice. First thing they did is tell me to feel like home. Like family. Are you surprised? We all say that. But they actually did it. Please note, only the mom speaks a bit of English. I used my phone’s translator to chat with them quite often. And it was all right.

After eating, we headed into the valley. Did I tell you the valley is also along the Great Wall? No? Well it is. Nice backdrop of the Great Wall around us. To get in the valley, you need a boat ride. Damn! Really?! Yup, boat ride.20170917020701_IMG_2206 So we took the boat, roamed through the valley, played with the kids, had fun on the suspended bridges and the most amazing part through all of this is that I didn’t see the parents act like parents. They became, for that short little while, kids. So did I. We had fun, explored, found bugs and fished a frog and other little creatures in the pounds. It was a very peaceful day. A refreshing day away from the city, daily life and all. I was not a teacher either. I was more like an uncle. The mom, Yan, calls me younger brother and wants me to call her elder sister. Hilarious!

I took some time to also think about a lot of things. It’s a great day to meditate a little about life, choices, why I got here, in China. mmexport1505651944469What’s the next step? I don’t really have answers for all of those. I have some answers. But having the questions means you are at least trying to understand. Which is more than your average Joe. I still think I need to grow up from all the recent life events I had. But slowly and surely, I feel like each step is bringing me closer to the mountain I want to climb. Big, solid, high and with a very nice view of the world where I can just smile at the sunrise or sunset. Maybe some of you understand, maybe you don’t. It doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day, we do our own thing and we can all be satisfied when we see those we love do well and feel better. So I hope you are also doing well and you have a nice view from your mountain.


Thanks to Joe, Yan and Hang Hang for the amazing day!

Dragos out!

Today’s item on the list :

  • Go for a hiking day in Beijing’s countryside.

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How to Find an Apartment in Beijing

As part of the life of a real expat, you sometimes need to look for a new apartment. It’s a bit my situation. I currently do live in an apartment, but as you might know, I share it with roommates and cockroaches (Or Tommys as one of my roommates so affectionately calls them). Am I moving because of the cockroaches? No. Having your everyday friendly Tommy saying, “Good morning!” and “Have a nice day!” is the closest thing to a girlfriend I can have now. I don’t mind them all that much. 20170715_161752I just wished they also did the dishes or moped the floor… But Tommy only likes to eat and have sex. Almost like a cat, but without the cuteness. Hence the cat picture instead of a close up of Tommy.

Why am I moving if I’m in such a close relationship with Tommy? Well, the landlady is selling the place. I doubt she will sell it anytime soon given that most of the people visiting the apartment tend to try running as soon as they open the door. (It’s a hell hole…). I will not talk about the permanent pool we have in the bathroom and the little black worms playing “Marco Polo” in it. I won’t talk about it!  Regardless of all that, she’s still trying to sell the place for the whooping total of 7 million. RMB. You heard me right kids. 7 million… That’s two million $CAN. You should see the potential beyond the layer of horror! That sh*thole is still $CAN 2 M…IMG_0899 “Good luck!” I would say. But instead of gambling on it, I decided to start looking for a new place. At least, to prevent the worse and who knows how long my relationship with Tommy will work out?

So how does the hunt for an apartment work here? Well, you can use website, the foreigner “go to” for everything from work to finding an apartment. Or you can use the many groups on WeChat that publish new apartments. There are a lot of places. Where’s the problem? Well, you need to try to find an apartment without agent fees. Agent fees?! Yes, I said the same thing. You have all these agency that manage apartments / rooms. The agent fee is usually the price of a month. Then, you have to pay a deposit (usually a whole month) and then, a lot of places want you to pay every 3 months. If you’ve passed your elementary math class, that’s 5 months worth of rent you have to pay the day you move in. Insane! IMG_0816Completely mad! Some pay it. But a lot are looking for those apartments rented directly by the owners and where you only pay the deposit and, with some luck, monthly rent.

Isn’t rent cheap in Beijing? Nope! That’s where everyone can get f*cked quite well. Rent for a room goes anywhere between 2000rmb (that’s $CAN400) up to 5000RMB (that’s $CAN1000) for a room. A ROOM! Then, for a whole apartment like I used to have back in Montreal, in another life, it can go up to 15000RMB a month. That’s sick! But given that Beijing is the city with the highest salaries in the country, it’s also an opportunity for those that own a place to make money and pay for their own place. Everything else can be very cheap. Transport, food, restaurants, bars. But apartments are like a battlefield. Therefore, it’s in that context that I must think about finding a new place. Time to put my helmet on and go to war! “I WANT ONE THAT’S TOMMY FREE!!!” 4k… damn… maybe I’ll settle with some Tommy’s after all.

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Eat some awesome ramen! (When your kitchen scares you, you go out to eat!)

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Scooting Around

Hey guys,

My name is Dragriffin and welcome to today’s topic:

Scooting Around

As some of you might know, I got myself a scooter. Nothing prestigious of course. Your regular electric scooter with the cliché stickers all over it. I look like a genuine hipster riding this little guy (or girl. I don’t know if my scooter has a sex, don’t care either). Why did I get a scooter? Not because I’m lazy. Maybe a bit. Coffee shopBut mainly, because it’s really nice to explore a city by bike and/or scooter and get to nice coffee shop like the one I’m in right now. I’ve been biking quite a bit through Beijing on one of the many different available bike companies all over the place.

Beijing is the first city that feels to me like an actual biking city. You can go anywhere by bike and the city was nice enough to put as many bike lanes as there are roads available. You heard me right. Beijing is a city that actually thought and invested in their “biking” infrastructure. Yet why is it still so polluted? Well, if they didn’t invest in it, I can only imagine how much worse the traffic would be, as would the pollution be. But I got tired of biking. Simply because regardless of my shape, covering enough distance in one day was not enough for me. I wanted more. Aren’t I an ambitious little man. Wanting to explore the city more… Big dreams here!

So I bought a scooter from my leaving roommate for the huge amount of 500RMB. She’s a girl. Why do I mention this? Simply because she was the one to put on all those stickers including a “No fat chicks” sticker…


Therefore, I’m clearing my name from any potential sexist accusations. Don’t worry, I’ll take it off eventually. When I think about it… But here’s the thing. Most people here just don’t know what it means… And THAT makes the sticker funny. Because here, no one will ever read it, understand it and do something about it. My friend sent me a picture of a girl (kid) with a t-shirt saying something along the lines of “You Fuck’n Asswhole” in huge letters. HUGE! Don’t believe me? Pictures don’t lie.

Moving on from the “lost in translation” funny jokes. I now scoot around (is scooting a verb? It is?! But it doesn’t mean what I thought it did…I’ll use it anyway. You get it.). And while I scoot around, I also get to experience the life of drivers… Oh God… Whenever I get on my scooter, I feel like a daredevil. Risking my life and doing all kinds of tricks to avoid cyclists, other scooters, cars, buses, trucks that basically all drive in their own little world. Chinese people are excellent drivers because they drive slowly. 20170725_185014My motorcycle classes back in Canada have never been so useful. Hard breaking and avoiding surprise obstacles are a common thing here. You don’t need a license for an electric scooter here. They can still go up to 60km/h. It’s dangerous, yet exciting. I understood so much about drivers here. Lights are a suggestion. You go when you. If not, you can wait as much as 8 minutes at light. I’ve experienced it. Have you ever seen those documentary about ants where there’s a gazillion in a colony walking over each other? Well, that’s Beijing driving life. I get to cover a lot more distance, visit nice places and sit down in a nice café and work on articles such as this one. But yeah, it comes at a price. (Don’t worry mom, I’m careful! Kisses! What helmet?)

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Get a motorcycle and explore with it(I know, it’s a scooter, but close enough)!

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