No, Not Just Anyone Can Do It! (Get Hired in Japan, That Is).

Ominous Warnings…

Okay, first, I gotta say…  I really, really don’t suggest working in Japan. Just my two cents: I have the worst time of my life there. I don’t even remember the month of February from the second year because I was so depressed, and though I tried hard to make it work (again, I stayed for two years), I could never adjust. Is this a reflection on me? You know what- maybe so! But certainly not because of it being a different culture. I do FINE in Taiwan. I actively like it here, much more than the states. There are so many reasons why I feel that way about Japan that I will be making a separate post about them. Of course people do happily teach there, but I literally feel I’d rather die. And unlike some people, I know the meaning of literally.

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Okay Rae, Shut Up and Talk About the Thing

That said, let’s move on. When I was in high school and college, everyone’s (read: people over 50 years of age) reply to a lifelong dream of mine was “Oh, anyone could teach English in Japan! You don’t even need a degree for that!” While I certainly think there are countries in Asia where pretty much anyone over the age of 18 can be an English teacher, Japan is definitely not one of them! Japanese companies look for several things while they are hiring, and you can’t even get a visa without a few specific documents. Unlike some places, Japanese are VERY strict about visas. If you are interested in teaching in Japan, you should certainly shoot for having the following items at your fingertips.

Most Companies Are Looking For:

A degree from a four year university. Basically, a Bachelor’s. An Associate’s degree is NOT acceptable. Where your Bachelor’s came from doesn’t matter. You have to prove you have a piece of paper that says you graduated, though.

A TEFL, TOFL, or equivalent teaching abroad degree. BUT don’t work too hard on this. Go to Groupon and grab a coupon for a whole lot off of the next online TEFL degree you see. Trust me they do not care where it came from as long as you have one.

Japanese Language skills or lack thereof. This varies massively; some people want you to pass a Japanese proficiency test at the highest level (very unusual), and some people want no experience at all (though if you have some I’ve never heard of them not hiring you based on this). Some want “conversational Japanese,” and this even varies per employer, with some claiming conversational as actually having a conversation, and others wanting basic niceties likes “osukaresamadeshita” (you must be so tired, sorry for leaving) and “summimasen” (excuse me).

A recent photo. Does this seem strange to you? Japanese society is heavily based on “face,” and in some ways it extends to your actual face! If you don’t have a professional looking photo with a nice background and a smile on your face, there are plenty of companies here that won’t consider you. You don’t have to have it professionally done, but use a decent camera and make sure the background is good. Wear conservative and unrevealing, plain clothing. Smile a little. Make sure you look like you mean business, but not too much business. Many of you will teach young children. They want someone with both character and business sense!

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Some Companies Also Want 

A driver’s license. A license is important if you live in the middle of nowhere. I believe there are two ways to get one. You can take the Japanese test, or you can use your license from your country. If you want to use your license, you must prove that you have been driving for, don’t quote me, six months. If your license just expired and you got a new one, you will need to bring documentation from home. So if your job requires one, please ask in your interview how they want you to obtain a driver’s license. Note that the tests for one seater motorbikes, two seater motorbikes, and for cars are all different, so know what you are driving, too.

A visa. You must have a visa before you arrive, and not for tourists! So how will you get one if they already require it? Unfortunately, that means this job is not for you. It’s for the people already living here who have a visa, and are switching jobs. Maybe that company can sponsor in the future, but currently wants to test your passion and teaching style, or they need someone immediately.  However, sometimes they can’t sponsor at all. By the way, I did hear a story once where someone took a sponsored job and then left the company in the dust with their new visa upon arrival to get a job that previously said they couldn’t sponsor them. I think it’s safe to say that this is a low move in any society, not just Japan. Please consider that when a company sponsors you they spend a very large amount of money doing so, and do you a great favor. If things are seriously unsavory, I understand leaving, but if you can tough it out for the remainder of your contract, that is clearly the best move! (Sexual harassment doesn’t count: I ended up doing the same thing after I got my sponsored visa because of this problem, after no one would help me).

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During Your Interview:

Play Up Your Passion. For me, this was easy, because I honestly do have a passion for teaching! But for many people, this job will not be what they want to do for the rest of their life. Many employers are perfectly aware that you are here to explore Japan for your own reasons, and your job is a way to finance your adventure. It’s a truth that is both evident and a little inconvenient for them. Naturally, hiring you is very expensive and they would much rather keep you on at least two years, and longer is better!  This means you need to talk about how much you want to teach, love to teach, love children, etc. It’s fine to include you have an interest in the food, culture, or media, and they certainly feel a sense of pride in being Japanese and having the things you are so curious about, but that is not your selling point!

Use proper grammar and be VERY polite. The former goes without saying (so why did I expend the energy to type it?), but the latter is a bit more complex than interviews back in my country. Remember that your employer may have some experience with foreigners or may not! Don’t make eye contract. Instead look at their tie or necklace. On an online interview, look at their picture, not that camera. Looking someone this high up in the eyes is considered offensive to many Japanese, so play it safe. Look up the proper etiquette- Google is your friend, friend!

2. You want to bow during your interview, or if they can see you at all. Just incline the entire chest and head area down slightly, even if you are sitting. Bowing twice quickly before logging off and saying “Osukare sama deshita” should earn you a few brownie points.

3. Sit up very straight and smile constantly. For some reason, this is now in your job description. Many Japanese really do seem to believe foreigners always smile!

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If you’re dead set on Japan, I hope you have a great time! Good luck and remember, you’re dead in the water without a sponsorship! Happy job hunting!

Have you ever worked abroad? Did you feel that you needed to meet a lot of qualifications to find your ESL job? 

Some Stuff About Versailles (That Most Reviewers Leave Out)

I found a lot of stuff about this trip online, but the usual tips are about where to go and the like so I want to blog about tips I didn’t find elsewhere. You can always go to the end to check out the TLDR.

1. Don’t purchase fountain tickets for any days but Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday because it’s not running. So obviously, you will waste your money. Most places won’t refund it even if they aren’t running, and they will totally let you buy it.

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2. Audio guides are worth it if you care to listen to art and history lessons. If not, don’t purchase it. If the guide doesn’t work in the first room, go back immediately and say the Bluetooth is damaged and you’d like a new one. I had to do that twice. You payed for that product, so get your moneys’ worth. The downstairs runs on a bluetooth that should activate with each room, and there are three rooms. They explain how Versailles was built and why, and are quite interesting. The top floor starts with guide number 201, and each subsequent room goes to the next number. Some rooms might be closed.

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3. The inside is only worth looking at if you’re super into French art and/or history.

4. Follow the throng, then out to the gardens (some people say gardens first. I present to them this counterpoint: no. Because that day it was 12 degrees in the morning and 19 in the afternoon, so which do you want to walk around in? Also because I never heard of it being less crowded any other time. Almost all the reviews have stated it was “still” crowded. Just mosey and enjoy the art). The only upside to doing that first would be skipping the entrance line.

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5. If you aren’t going inside at all (I don’t suggest the inside) then you don’t need to wait in the same line.

6. My favorite part was hands down Apollo’s grove. It’s in the first garden on the right after you go down the steps and before you hit grand canal. There’s a series of gardens with fountains hidden in various parts of the trees.

7. There are many options for transportation around the gardens. You can rent a tiny car (fits 4 people), but I never found the station so I don’t know the price. A bike can be rented for six euros fifty for an hour. A boat, too, but I forgot to ask the price. Not too helpful, I know.

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8. I walked and I regret that, because I would have seen more and been less exhausted at the Louvre the next day if I had simply rented a bike to do most of my tour. I did see a lot of less tried areas, though, because I didn’t go down the main stairs to start. Unfortunately all the queens areas and Marie Anttonett’s area were closed for renovations.

9. Unless you like long, long walks in the forest (mine was 2 hours) don’t stray far down the grand canal. I tired myself out really fast doing this and thus was too exhausted and short on time to visit all the parts of the garden. Still, the gardens made it worth the effort (even the dark forest parts, which will inspire my fantasy stories) when the chateau itself failed to deliver for me. I’m just not that into French art. I think most people will enjoy the inside more than I did, and probably the gardens are much better on peek days.

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10. Risk going on a peek day. I regret not seeing the fountains.

11. The snacks there are really excellent! I had two ice creams. I personally recommend the ice cream stand next to Little Venice, the Italian restaurant, because they have a wonderful lilac. Their pistachio doesn’t shine, so instead opt for an orange/lemon sorbet (I’m a fan of pistachio and not of lemon, and yet…) I also ate a pie and had some tea at the little restaurant between the bike rental and the restrooms. The tea is like 6 euros for a teabag! But they will refill, so if you are as desperate for some warmth as I was…

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FAQ/tldr

Would you go again? Yes, definitely, absolutely. But only to the gardens.

Would you buy an audio guide? Nah.

A bike? Yes.

A car thingy? Yes, if I wasn’t alone.

A boat? If you want that experience, but it wasn’t important to me.

Should I go on a popular day? After seeing how many fountains weren’t on, yes. Even crowded, I’m sure it’s spectacular.

Bring food or buy food? Both, the snacks there are good, but meals are too expensive.

How much time would you take? All day, for several days, if I really wanted to see it.

Palace or gardens? Gardens.

Best garden? Apollo’s grove.

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Shrimp Heaven (Not for the Shrimp, Though. For You).

Apparently shrimping is so culturally interesting there’s been tons of information about it everywhere, but I had personally never heard of it until my dad, who lived in Taiwan for a year to learn Chinese, took my brother and I to a place outside the city for the night. By then I’d already been living in Taiwan for six months. Shrimping is an incredible experience, but it’s much like fishing in the way that you sit for a long time and might not catch anything.

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Typical Shrimping Place

The experience

My first experience shrimping was in a larger place outside of town, or rather on the fringe of Taipei. Shrimping is 24/7 there, so when we finished with Shilin night market (not on my list of favorite places), we simply took a taxi.

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So you just sit there. Like fishing.

For me, the shrimping experience needs bait, friends or family, and a Taiwan beer (no other brand will do it for me despite the fact that I usually don’t drink beer at all, and Taiwan beer is the cheapest beer in, well, Taiwan). Chips, sweets and snacks are also good to have, especially for long-term shrimping. My favorite is to simply buy that sweet Taiwan sausage from the nearest vendor, or snacks from the place itself, though 7-11 is almost always an option.

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Check out the unhappy little fella hanging there.

From there, I pretty much sit. Since I’ve caught at least one shrimp before that part of the experience is finished for me. (I was very serious the first time, you should have seen it). I don’t care if I catch any, and I’d even say I’m terrible at it. Then we cook what we (didn’t) catch and eat it, smothered with sea salt.

When my dad went shrimping with friends, he claims they didn’t catch anything, but the manager gave them sixteen free shrimp! One time when I was out with friends, we caught about four, and were given about three as a present from what I assume was an employee. He told my friend that the manager asked him to give us shrimp when he caught one. I guess he just liked shrimping! But it’s also possible to buy the shrimp if you don’t catch much. Hint: groups of foreigners are more likely to get free stuff. It’s a discrimination we actually enjoy.

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How to hold a shrimp without loosing a finger

Tips

Snacks are available to purchase, usually, and drinks and beer, too. Some places serve food as well. Sometimes vendors will be outside, and other times there will be actual meals served inside like a restaurant. We went to one place that was playing (bad) live music, and wished we hadn’t. Another place, on the outskirts of Xindian, outside Bito, also had lobster fishing (and buying).

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Unlike crabs, they don’t sabotage others. Also unlike crabs, they don’t even try escaping.

Everyone says that the trick to shrimping is to watch the bob on your pole and then if it starts to dip down or float gently to the side, a shrimp is on it. Now, these are veined, shell-on shrimp, so be prepared to work for your food. When you see the bob acting funny, pull up as fast as you possibly can. You want to snap it so the shrimp gets caught. Me? They don’t even bite. The bait just sits in the water for two hours! (You should change your bait if none are biting, since it gets a lot less succulent sitting in dirty shrimp water).

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Kill it with salt first.

When you catch one, get it off the water as soon as you can in case it drops. Then snag it in the middle so the claws can’t get you and toss it into the basket provided. There are little nets you hand there so your shrimp stays in the water as you continue.

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Then kill it with fire. 

After you shrimp, you’ll probably be expected to cook it for yourself. That means handling live shrimp and cooking them alive as well, so if you’re sensitive I suppose it’s not a great activity. First you stick the shrimp in a bucket in a big sink and wash them with water. Pop them in a grate (provided) and sprinkle the sat nearby onto them, to taste. Then you close the grate and stick them in the fire, claws, head, and all. Alive.

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“I love killing things!”

Make sure you turn your shrimp! Usually you can do so by simply taking the grate out, flipping it, and sticking it back in. They are double sided.

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Me too, because then the things are delicious. 

 

When your shrimp are ready, you can eat them with some refreshing cold Taiwan beer at a nearby table!

The Story of My Feral Cat

Adopting a dog or cat in Taiwan

After more than a year in Taipei, and more than three living outside of the states, and more than six without a pet, I can safely say that the severe lack of cats in my life was slowly driving me insane. However, adopting a pet at a shelter in Taipei appears to be very different than going to the local Pets Mart in my own country, so I wanted to share some of the highlights. THERE IS ALSO THE MATTER OF AN IMPORTANT NEW RULE IMPLEMENTED IN DECEMBER OF 2016 (See: returning a pet).

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Feral Cats and Stray Dogs (My Experience with Shelters)

First of all, I honestly believe there are pets in these shelters that should never be adopted at all. Feral Cats, if they can be adopted, will only ever trust the human they were adopted by. And of course dogs and cats can both be dangerous if they feel threatened. Now I’ve never been to a shelter in America, but brief research on the topic online tells me that feral cats are not adopted out in the states. And I’m almost positive it would have to be a very special case indeed for anyone to let you adopt a dog or cat that would be dangerous for you.

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I had a coworker living here who adopted a dog that had quiet clearly been abused, which I think is common for shelters. Dogs in Taiwan, on the whole, are calmer and lazier than other countries I’ve been to (I’m not sure why but that fact that many shy away from humans makes me think it has to do with treatment). This dog was afraid of sudden movements, especially of the hands, and had frequent nightmares. I’m talking about the whining was so bad, it was like screaming. You had to call his name gently for a while until he woke up.

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Mei Lee, Day One (Picture quality of most of the following is due to the fact that she was terrified of me, so I was always at a distance).

The cats are a little different. All I got in the Taiwanese shelter I adopted the first cat at was “Oh, do you know this cat is nervous and has attacked people?” Of course I’m thinking “Pfft! I can handle any old cat! I get stays to come to me on the street all the time!”

Nope! The shelter may have named her Mei Lee (Beautiful), but on the inside she was terrified and hostile to humans. Of course this was partially my fault for thinking I was an all-powerful cat magnet, but my apartment is very small, and while I may have considered owning a previously feral cat if I’d had the space to give HER space (bathrooms in Taiwan are very wet, and out of the question), I didn’t. I made a cat fort for her and attempted within one week to see if she warmed up. She was litter box trained, but very suspicious and tried to hide from me all the time. Also, since I accept couch surfers, and I wanted to adopt one more cat, I didn’t feel this would be a good environment for her. I was NOT informed of the new rule, and I was told I could keep the cat for one week. Of course, these may have been language barrier communication issues, but I felt a little cheated when I went to return Mei Lee.

Which leads me to…

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January

The New Taiwanese Law About Returning Pets

You have one month to try that pet in your home after adopting, and if it isn’t working out, you can bring them bak to the shelter at the end of six days with no charge. However, if you go over that amount of days, you need to pay a little over 2,000 NTD ($60). So it was one month, or not at all, as far as I was concerned. I don’t mind paying money to support and care for the cat, but beyond that, it’s not happening.

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February

There is another, more serious problem with returning an animal, though. According to the shelter I went to, a new law in Taiwan prohibits you not only adopting, but even buying another pet in Taiwan if the animal is abandoned or if you return an adopted animal to a shelter! Another acquaintance of mine, who volunteers at the Tayoun Shelter, confirmed that this was true for all of Taiwan. This law was implemented in December 2016. 

I wasn’t informed of this before, but they insisted they told me, and thus, I had to take Mei Lee back to the apartment that she was terrified to live in.

So What of Mei Lee?

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March

The shelter gave me a cage to keep her in, but I decked it out and then gave her the bathroom, moving my portable bath tub and giving up showers in lieu of wash-cloth baths and the hair in the sink method. She felt decently hidden under her blanket covering her open-door cage.

Later I moved her into the general room, but moved the furniture away from the wall so she could easily hide. I didn’t see her for three weeks, but she was eating, so I was happy enough. When I got the second cat, I moved Mei Lee to the balcony, which I had cat-proofed and turned into a playground.

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April

Introducing the two took a long time, but around three months into her life here, she was alright with coming out while I was in the room, though she and Damian didn’t get on. After six months, she meows at me, plays with toys in the room and with me, if the string is long enough, and lets me feed her and cross by her area by about two feet, but I’ve still never touched her, and I’m not sure I ever will. She does hiss and she’s never been out of the apartment, but when I can I leave the balcony door open so both cats can cross unhindered. They like each other well enough, now.

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May

If I could go back, would I adopt Mei Lee? Knowing she could learn to at least not live in so much fear, yes. But would I adopt another feral cat? Probably not. Those are best left tagged and released back onto the streets of Taipei, and there are many friendly cats who need adopting!

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Playing with Damian, today (after teasing my tissues to pieces).

Elephant #9, Karon Beach, Review

Like many of the places in this area of Phunket, this restaurant was Trip Advisor suggested. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should go there, but in my opinion, this place was safe. I got sick on the food a lot in Thailand, but never here. I tried the pineapple stuffed with seafood and the lobster. The drink pictured below is a kiwi smoothie, though I can’t remember what my travel partner ordered. Something with coffee, I’m sure. I think the smoothie glass is pretty humorous. It even had a navel.

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The lobster was very rich, and the seafood glaze was to die for! I really loved these dishes. But the place was deserted almost all the time. To be fair, there was only one place that was packed most of the time, and everything else did fairly unsteady business. Also, this was quite a bit up the street, and past the temple and day market. Much fewer tourists ventured out this way.

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Could you find this food elsewhere nearer the boardwalk? I don’t remember seeing these exact dishes anywhere else, but I’m sure you could find it, or something similar. There’s tons of restaurants all serving Thai and  Western food in equal measure, all competing with one another.

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As for service, it was just like everywhere else. They know that you are the lifeblood of the restaurant, so they cater to your needs and serve you strong drinks. They are friendly, and they speak some English- enough to take your order. They are not helicopters that wait around for you all the time, so don’t be shy to call the waiter or waitress over anytime you want anything. I would say the service here was maybe slightly above par to other restaurants.

Where to Care for Your Hair (Taipei Edition)

Introduction

“Wow, Other Foreign Expat, where’d you get that rockin’ hairdo?”

“Oh, I go to Eddie.”

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Eddie and I after one of my many haircuts

Real conversation from around the time where I moved to Taiwan, though Other Foreign Friend can be replaced with many names. At least three of my gal friends would get their hair done at Eddie’s Picahair salon, and though now all but one has moved away. I also frequent Eddie’s salon.

Eddie and I after my most recent haircut

Picahair is a great place because for a little around 1,000 NTD (30 USD), you can get a nice shampoo with scalp massage, fantastic English conversation, and of course, a haircut. Eddie speaks great English and loves to chat. I’ve always been satisfied with his work, even though his shop is a little pricy compared to what I payed in the states. Ah, well. You make a lot of money as an English teacher, after all!

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Hair shampooing station in the shop

Information

Eddie is located near the intersection of the brown and blue lines, Zhongxiao Fuxing, almost across from the big white Sogo (not the green one). Go out of exit three if you take the MRT. It may take you a bit to find him because he’s on the third floor, so look at the different signs hanging from the shops. Look for Picahair Salon. His shop opens at 10am every day except Sunday. Saturdays are busy.

3F, No 76, Sec 4, Zhongziao E rd, Daan District, Taipei 106

Phone: 0932-322-843. You can text him as well.

Eddie only does hair by appointment, so make sure you make one before you go!

Chinese Opera, or That Time I Overdressed for a Show Where People Were Legit Eating Oranges

Welcome to the Opera

Everyone who went on this trip with me found we spent more money than we intended. This happens, I think, because the money is worth so little compared to your own country (7 to 1 in my case) that you actually overspend while you shop. That isn’t the case at the opera, though, as it is one of the few big ticket items we bought in China. So if it’s fairly expensive, is this a must-see event? At first the grating sound of high-pitched and drawn-out Chinese may be irritating, but I promise, you get accustomed to it. It may not have been the best thing I did in China, but it’s all worth it for the ending acrobatics.

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 You never notice how far your personal technology has come until you make a blog post about something that happened near on 10 years ago.

The Show

Before you make a decision, you should think about how important it is to you that the show be understandable. I faced the same thing while visiting a Belgian Puppet Theatre, and an Italian Opera, and I will surely have this problem again in the future. I love to watch shows, and I don’t really care if they are in English (the only language I really speak). I digress- everything will be in Chinese, so is that a problem for you? That question wasn’t rhetorical. Really ask yourself that.

“But Rae… I think maybe I will understand the plot anyway,” you say? Well… My dad was with me at the time and thought he had figured it out- a very simple theory, as I recall. This was before he learned any Chinese, and, after the show, we met an English speaker that promptly told us the whole thing. It was a long explanation. It involved a cross-dressing woman (note: this show was not Mulan, I swear). It was not at all what we thought.

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 We used to have some equally old video of this, but it was lost in “the incident”

On the upside, as you can see, they don’t really bust you for taking photos. People were eating inside as well, despite it being “forbidden.” I don’t think it was well looked-upon, but if you are a little discrete… we weren’t even the only people filming, and most of the others were Chinese! Oh, and don’t worry about dressing up, unless you really want to. Jeans were present and in fact common in the theatre, and I was the only person dressed to the nines.

The Choices

When you select your show, be aware that China has two kinds of Opera. One is the traditional, with the acrobatics and the elaborate costumes and make-up. The second called “Revolutionary Opera,” which means it’s about the rise of communism in China. I requested our guide to book a more traditional show this time, but when I go back, I’d like to see a Revolutionary Opera. You can make your own choice. Or see both! I would have, were my trip longer, just for the experience.

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Dad and I arriving at the Beijing airport

TL;DR

I do suggest you top off your trip to China with a little Opera.

If you worry about not understanding it and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll have to decide if that’s okay with you.

There’s more than one kind of Chinese Opera, Revolutionary and Traditional, so know what you are seeing.

 

My Sherlock Holmes Walk (It Could Be Yours, Too)

This month I figured it was time to explore to the beautiful world of culture media, mostly because I miss it. Of course. But even if you aren’t a connoisseur of Sherlockian shows and movies (ahem, like me), or you watched a few movies but never read the books (but you should), I would still suggest a Sherlock Walk in London. Naturally, this is a must for any fan of the super sleuth (meaning Sir Author Conan Doyle would have hated this walk). I’ll give you some tips on three places worth seeing and where to see them, and naturally it starts on Baker’s Street. (I apologise in advance for picture quality).

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It might interest “ordinary” fans (read: not Sherlock weeaboos) that 221B Baker’s Street is not an actual address. Honestly, this is probably a good thing, considering people have the tendency to Take Things Too Far (try googling the reason American films use 555 numbers instead of real phone numbers). Could you imagine the slew of people showing up looking for “Sherlock Holmes” when the first books came out? Anarchy.

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 This is the wall of the Baker’s Street station, and the statue can be found right outside of it.

The station itself is a stop on your walk, so arrive by train rather than magical red bus. Take a look at the walls, and of course don’t miss the iconic Sherlock Holmes statue out front.

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Oh I really miss that Slytherin sweater I’m wearing. That thing was so soft! 

What’s at 221B? Nothing. At the closest address, though, you will find a fantastic gift-shop, and an apparently less-than-worthy museum.

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 Deerstalkers are available  A few DVD’s as well, and generally Sherlock memorabilia

It was here that I picked up a fantastic “Watson’s Casebook,” with a fun scrapbook-like feel and including several of Holmes’ best stories’ notes.The museum is overpriced, from what I heard. Everyone who ever did this suggested I not waste my pounds, so I didn’t. Incidentally, I believe the Beatle’s museum is next door to this… I didn’t pick up the trail until the next day, but if you have the whole day to do this, I suggest next taking a peak at The Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant.

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Go into a pub, then head upstairs immediately. Arrive for lunch; they open late because it’s essentially a pub. I suggest not ordering the food, maybe just a drink, because it is overpriced for “meh, okay,” but the inside is really amazing if you request a seat by 221B.I ate the Shepherd’s Pie, by the way. Not so hot about it. On the walls is a lot of cool stuff, though, so overall I definitely recommend it for your walk! Unfortunately the glass around the display prevents really good pictures, but the details in the room are fabulous.

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 This is one of the best and most famous stories.

 

What really gets me are the VR (Queen Victoria- in the books Holmes did the same thing, as he was a big patriot. In the newer BBC version, this is turned into a smily face, but the RDJ version featured this) and the pictures of the code from the Dancing Men.

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 By this account Holmes is an excellent shot. 
Also included, the lifelike bust Sebastian Moran takes a shot of from across the street in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”

That concludes this spot, and my personal adventure, but two years after my trip, a new “Sherlock” appeared on BBC. When I return to England, I definitely plan to give the BBC version a continued walk. Some I’ve been to already, but without the Holmes Connection. I’ll let you know how that goes.

A Peruvian Rescue Opp!

Gadventures

If you are planning a tour to Machu Picchu, I really suggest Gadventures. Part of my praise of Gadventures comes not only from the fact that they do excellent tours, but also that they truly care about sustainable or eco tourism. This is demonstrated by their use of locals as porters, guides, and cooks on the Inca Trail, and their graduation program, which allows these locals to move up to the next rung if they fit the bill, becoming guides for the rest of your Peru trip, and even leading sections of the company from comfy desk jobs (this is according to our guide for most of Peru, called a CEO). Not to mention the support of the Weaving Women and the Floating Islands of Lake Titticacca exchange program. Basically, they try to really get the tourists in there, but in a way that even those who are novices at such things feel comfortable and safe, while benefitting people who live in the country. This is another such program they have, which I hope will further convince you.  (THE FOLLOWING PICTURES MAY BE DISTURBING FOR THOSE SENSITIVE TO ANIMAL INJURIES).

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 I’m not affiliated with Gadventures:
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I just respect them a lot

A Rescue Operation

This rescue is for animals that were injured by hunters, or were captured by poachers and the like, which were subsequently caught smuggling or hunting endangered animals. The parrots were apparently rescued when someone tried to illegally export them from the country.

The vicuña’s eye was badly hurt and is now missing entirely. As a result, he is very aggressive to humans and will run up to you just to be rude. Beware, and don’t try to touch it. We don’t know how this one got injured, but Vicuña fur is very soft, even more than alpaca fur, and they are often killed simply to make them incredibly rare, though you clearly don’t have to kill this animal just to get the fur.  Vicuñas are a relative of the alpaca.

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They also had some alpacas and hamsters, because those are intrinsic to life in Peru, but they are not endangered. The best thing about this place was the size of the enclosures. The condor enclosure was absolutely massive, and you get to go inside. We walked right past the condor as it was sitting on a little bridge you have to cross. He seemed friendly enough. I got a picture of half of an enclosure for Llamas, and some of the vicuña enclosure, as you can see in the first pictures.

The Pumas are behind bars, of course. Big cats are naturally pretty lazy, because they expend a lot of energy due to their size, and because, well, they are cats! The fact that you can’t touch them tells me they are most likely not sedated (don’t let Thailand fool you: If you can touch a big cat, it’s probably sedated. Otherwise they couldn’t feel safe that you sat next to it, for insurance reasons).

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 They had three pumas

A really amazing thing to see here is the wingspan on the condors, which are given a reward to fly from one end of the enclosure to another. The keeper there seemed extremely comfortable with the animals. He never prodded or hit any of them. It was like going to a rescue in America, which is the only country I’ve ever been satisfied with zoo enclosures, though of course there are zoos and parks I would never support due to their treatment of the animals. I think you can feel safe going here, because they take care of the animals.

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Condors are predators, so in order to make them fly the team shoos them gently to the top of the enclosure, then puts a tempting piece of meat at the bottom.

I’ll let the condors give you a little farewell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6i871rYv_M&feature=youtu.be 

TLDR: Travel with Gadventures to go to Machu Picchu, and definitely make sure the rescue opp is on the list! You can request it from your CEO at the start of your journey.

 

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