Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival, February 2010. My visit to Harbin’s incredible Ice Festival still stands as a major if not definitive highlight of all my travels around China. Anyone in the market for a trip during February’s Chinese New Year break would struggle to come up with a better plan than checking out this awe-inspiring winter wonderland.
Zhongyang Street, February 2010. I clearly remember my boss’ reaction when I told her I was going to Harbin for Chinese New Year. “Oh, really? You shouldn’t go there, it’s very cold!” Of course I told her all about the city’s stupendous Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival, its gorgeous Russian church and grisly Siberian Tiger Camp. But it all fell on deaf ears; after all the place was “cold” by all accounts. And so it proved! After a disastrous night at one of Planet Earth’s most miserable hostels (Little Fir Hostel), I relocated to a four-star hotel on the main street where daily temperatures hovered around minus fifteen.
After a happy, prolonged period of stabilization and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in grey, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.
Waiting for the hangman’s noose to be tied around our necks was driving S and I crazy. After our showdown with Tracy, all we could do was get on with our classes and wait for EE to make contact. We had no idea what Maggie was gonna do. Would she summon us all for a god-awful meeting? Would we perhaps be relocated to another school? Or maybe we’d just get straight out fired!? I had no idea in which direction the pendulum would swing and the suspense was killing me. We hadn’t seen much of Tracy in the week since the shitstorm. Keeping a low profile, she seemed to be consciously minimizing her dealings with us. If only Water, the school Judas, had followed suit. I was so disgusted with her I could hardly make eye contact, but of course she continued to sit in on my lessons, stinking the place out with the stench of betrayal.