Although I don't celebrate the Chinese New Year, I very much enjoy the time off it brings me. Many weekends, I just want to curl up with a book and some coffee and not do anything. The Chinese New Year, however, is long enough that I have time to curl up with a book and get out of the house.
The Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival. The weather was bearing that up the last few days of February. While I was looking forward to the spring as much as anyone, I've never lived anywhere that does winter as well as Harbin. It's called the Ice City for a reason, and some of my fellow teachers and I decided to say goodbye to winter at Harbin's annual Bīngxuě dà shìjiè, the Ice and Snow World.
The Ice and Snow Festival is a huge park filled with buildings made of ice blocks, ice slides, ice and snow sculptures. There are also several coffee shops to warm up in when you stop feeling your toes. All of the ice has lights on the inside, and it makes for an incredible view at night. I highly recommend that you visit the festival at least once in your life!
Harbin may still be cold enough to have ice sculptures on the streets, but it's never too cold for ice-cream! While teaching a food unit in one of my intermediate classes, many of the girls told me they loved “ice-cream hot pot.” At first, I was a bit confused. Hotpot is a Chinese dish that I can best describe as a fondue with broth instead of cheese. Who puts ice-cream in hotpot? They soon explained that “ice-cream hot pot” has a pot of melted chocolate, not broth. This was something I had to try. I rounded up about five fellow teachers, and we spent a nice afternoon during the holiday stuffing ourselves with chocolate-covered ice-cream.
Also during the Spring Festival, many of us teachers decided we needed a girl's day. One of the teachers invited us all over, and we took turns baking cookies in her oven and doing our nails. It's great to spend some time relaxing with the teachers outside of work. Especially since the holiday is one of the few times all of us are off on the same day.
Part of the fun of working at EF is getting to meet some really fun an exciting people. Whether we're going to trivia night at an expat bar. Hosting a game night at home. Or just going to see Star Wars after work (there are English showings). I really enjoy spending time with the other teachers on my free days.