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Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

The 11th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

After a prolonged period of stability, I finally bid Belgium farewell in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in grey, uneventful Brussels, I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and traveling.


Waiting for the hangman’s noose to be tied around our necks was driving me crazy! After our showdown with Trudy, all S and I could do was get on with our classes and wait for the agency to make contact. We simply had no idea how Maggie was going to react.

Would she summon us all for another godawful meeting?

Perhaps move us to another school?

Or maybe we’d just get straight out fired!?

Leighton's teaching schedule Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

My teaching schedule. About to be emptied?

I had no idea in which direction the pendulum would swing. Moreover, the suspense was killing me. We hadn’t seen much of Trudy in the week since the shit storm broke. Keeping a low profile, she seemed to be actively minimising 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 her betrayal. 

Teaching Max Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

Max: unaware of the political unrest surging through the school.

Determined not to let recent events destroy our Beijing experience, S and I kicked off 2010 with a steely resolve to enjoy our free time to the max. Hence we set about exploring as much of the city as we could. With freezing temperatures and a record snowfall that year, China’s capital had become a veritable winter wonderland.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

A Beijing winter wonderland Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

A snowy evening in Beijing.

One day we hopped onto the subway at Shangdi and zoomed off towards the shiny new Olympic Line. Our destination was The National Stadium, affectionately called The Bird’s Nest due to its twisting, interlocked sections of exposed steel. Shrouded in thick, evil smog, the structure looked thoroughly menacing as it came into view. Literally like a reimagined Death Star grounded on some poisoned planet.

The Bird's Nest National Stadium in Beijing

At The Bird’s Nest, January 2010.

Happily, the atmosphere in and around the stadium proved anything but sinister. In fact, the entire place was positively joyous as people frolicked around in the snow.

Inside the stadium, on the pitch, was an amazing winter-themed fun park. Keen to soak up the atmosphere, we grabbed two spectator tickets at the turnstiles and climbed the stairs to one of the highest stands. Below, kids built snowmen as daredevil teens whooshed down hair-raising slopes on their sledges. Elsewhere, there were snowball fights, ice-skating, snow tubing and a maze. 

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Winter Wonderland park Bird's Nest Stadium Beijing

Inside The Bird’s Nest.

A few days later we hooked up with Richard, Marisa, Marc and Amy for an afternoon at Behai Park. On arrival, we saw that the lake had frozen over. It was utter madness, with hundreds of people skating, tottering around and falling on their asses.

Behai Lake in Beijing frozen over.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

I found myself fascinated by a popular contraption best described as the Chair Sled. This rusty, homemade curiosity was little more than an old chair fitted with a couple of poles for propelling yourself forward. Whoever invented this bizarre vehicle was clearly making a killing, as the chair sled was everywhere.

Homemade chair sled Beijing.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

The highlight of these wintry Beijing wonders came with an unforgettable morning at The Summer Palace. In actual fact we had already visited the palace the previous July. Back then we’d experienced the place in the company of what I can only describe as a tidal wave of tourists. 

In contrast, that crisp January morning proved incredibly peaceful. The entire lake had frozen over and there was hardly anyone around. Just a few scattered locals and the occasional fisherman cutting holes in the ice.

Kunming Lake frozen over Summer Palace Beijing

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

The views across the lake were so calming. Thus we were truly able to forget about our troubles for a while and lose ourselves for a couple of hours. On the way back down to the entrance gates, we came across an impromptu gathering of middle-aged women. They were passionately singing traditional Chinese songs and seemed proud to have the chance to perform in front of two shivering foreigners. 

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Traditional Chinese singing at The Summer Palace in Beijing

At The Summer Palace, Beijing.

“Leighton, we need talk,” announced Trudy one morning. She was standing at my classroom door nervously, the weight of the world on her shoulders. Hesitantly, I made my way to her desk, with absolutely no idea what she was about to say. “I have talked with Maggie” she said, clearing her throat. And then she just blurted it out. 

“Can we make a new start? I don’t want you leave!”

What a pleasing and surprising development. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during Trudy and Maggie’s conversation. Even now, over twenty years later, I would love to know what led to her dramatic change of heart. I remember feeling so relieved I was barely listening as she assured me how I’d now have “full control” in the classroom. And that she wanted to create an atmosphere of “clear and open communication”.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Unfortunately, there was an almighty flip side to Tracy’s good news. I still don’t have enough students” she explained. “And the money I pay the agency is so much. You know, I really can’t continue with two teachers”. There was a deafening silence as the implications of this revelation sank in.

“I’m so sorry!” said Trudy, leaning forward. 

“But Maggie says she will find S a new school. “Please, don’t worry!”

Putting on a brave face Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

Putting on a brave face in class.

Within a few days S left the school. For a few weeks she found herself stuck in limbo while the agency worked on finding her a new position. Although she put on a brave face, I knew S felt disappointed. After all, it had been fun working together, not to mention highly convenient with the school right on out doorstep.

In the end she was placed at a language institute called Easy English in the nearby neighbourhood of Wudaokou. The school was just one subway stop from Shangdi. All things considered, the outcome could have been much worse. 

Short stories from China

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

While S got to grips with her new teaching job, my schedule was heating up with what Trudy called The Winter Intensive. Chinese New Year was coming, which meant a ten day holiday. But first, my normally light afternoon schedule was about to transform into a gruelling eight hours a day for ten days straight. With a vacation waiting at the end of it all, I knew I just needed to get my head down and push on through.

Trudy pulled out all the stops to pile as many students into the winter intensive as possible. In the mornings, I had a reading class with seven year old Max. He loved the books we read, especially a collection of Creepy Tales. There was one in particular called Strange House that had him howling with laughter.

“Leighton, look! Twenty dinosaurs dancing! Ha ha ha!” 

The joy of English language learning in Beijing February 2010

Max having the time of his life.

“Oh!!! Sixteen sharks shouting!! Haaaaaa!!! Fourteen crocodiles creeping!!! Wahaaaaaa!!! I’d never seen anything like it. Max was literally lying on his back clutching his ribs. Tears of laughter pouring down his face as he chatted away to himself. 

Max's reading class Sub Zero Adventures a short story from Beijing.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

My favourite winter camp class saw me teach Trudy’s son Happy, his friend Tom and a teddy bear of a boy known as Monster Frank. Balancing out the boyishness was Becky, a cute, timid girl who spoke so softly I could barely hear what she was saying. I gave them basic geography lessons in which they learned some astonishing facts. Such as what Europe is. How long it takes to fly from Beijing to London and the names of the U.S. states.

Pass Trinity English language geography class in Beijing

Geography time.

We also played phonics games and learned how to tell the time. In a bid to get them to memorise body parts, I had them each create a giant poster. Then label the legs, arms, feet, eyes, ears and so on. The boys all drew hideous drooling monstrosities. Becky meanwhile produced an endearing self-portrait that she was clearly very proud of.

Becky's body parts poster Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Towards the end of the camp, Trudy started badgering me about clothing vocabulary. “Happy’s knowledge of the wardrobe very poor!” she grumbled. “Please, can you help?” The next day I wheeled in a suitcase from home and we had a dress up session. It was fun to see them enjoy it so much. Particularly Tom, whose outfit appeared to have been inspired by The Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Tom's take on The Artful Dodger Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

“Consider yourself… at home!”

My most challenging winter intensive class was a one-on-one course with Trudy’s nephew, James. Before we met, Trudy told me that he was an eighteen year old boy who “really dislikes English”. Despite the fact that James could hardly string two words together, Trudy insisted we work from an upper intermediate Trinity course book. From lesson one it was obvious that he was completely out of his depth.

“What’s your name?”

“I fi thank you”.

“No, your NAME. I’m Leighton… and you?”

“Me nay is James Bond”. 

Ridiculous English names in China are par for the course. Over the years I’ve had students called Banana, Planet, Chocolate, Spiderman, Kissy, Gawain and Nemo, to name but a few. Often, I tried to convince their parents that in native English speaking countries this would make their kids targets for ridicule and even bullying. But they rarely listened.

Teaching James Bond Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

With Beijing’s very own James Bond.

Over that nine day stretch, James and I spent two hours a day together. While I did enjoy the experience, in truth it nearly killed me. There were so many misunderstandings, even with the most basic of questions and exercises. His pronunciation was so problematic that at times it rendered him incomprehensible.

It was, I imagined, how I might sound if the shoe were on the other foot and I was trying to learn Chinese. As such, I knew I needed to remain as supportive, patient and empathetic as humanly possible.

Chinese James Bond.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

On so many occasions I had to resist the urge to greet him with “We meet again Mr. Bond”. Or to say that page 35 was “for your eyes only”. In any case, he wouldn’t have had a clue what I was taking about.

Making little to no progress was exhausting, but slowly we did build up a camaraderie of sorts. Through long, painfully confusing fragmented conversations, I learned that James was a fan of Kung Fu movies and that he wanted to be a policeman. 

“I love Orry Hebber!” he told me one afternoon.

Photograph of Audrey Hepburn.

Orry Hebber.

It took us ten minutes of farting around on Google for me to realise he was talking about Audrey Hepburn. Another afternoon, I discovered that James’ greatest passion was art and that he had a special talent for Japanese manga. Each day he brought me a selection of his sketches which, to me at least, were really impressive.

He also revealed how his mother was forcing him to learn English. And that she disapproved of his artistic side, calling it “a waste of time”. I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. In our final lesson together, he gifted me a drawing he’d made especially for me. It was a manga version of himself looking sharp in a tailored suit. He even signed it James Bond in his squiggly handwriting.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

James Bond manga sketch.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

I was so relieved when winter camp finally finished. In keeping with the season, S and I booked a four-night stay in Harbin, a city in China’s bitterly cold northeast. We’d timed our stay for Harbin’s world famous International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

The flight from Beijing was a brisk one hour and forty minutes. When we stepped out of the airport into the late afternoon air, it was minus twenty degrees! Thankfully we were fully prepared, with woollen socks, gloves, scarves, sweaters, hats and long johns.

Icy bus window in Harbin Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

The icy window of the airport shuttle bus into Harbin.

We stayed at Little Fir Youth Hostel that first night. But oh lord what a horrible, horrible place it was. We knew it was going to be crap the moment we saw the filth-ridden welcome mat outside the entrance. Then, we had the displeasure of meeting the dreadful prison-warden-woman at reception. Neglecting to even say hello, she proceeded to rudely demand my ID, before bitterly arguing with S about the nightly rate.

Little Fir Youth Hostel in Harbin.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Our worst fears were subsequently confirmed when we opened the door to our shitty room. The radiator was broken, needless to say, and the floor was thick with dust. And then there was the bed, with its plastic sheet for a mattress, under which sat a layer of soggy cardboard. Wordlessly, we checked out the following morning and booked ourselves into a four-star hotel on Zhongyang Street, Harbin’s main drag.

Little Fir Youth Hostel.

The worst hostel bed ever Harbin China.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Switching accommodation proved to be a fantastic decision! Following smiles at reception, a brief but wonderful nap and a hot shower, we set off on foot for the Ice Festival. Making our way down Zhongyang Street, we eventually found ourselves at The Songhua River. And… surprise surprise… the entire thing was frozen!

Having become quite the specialists in navigating frozen waters, I thought what the heck, let’s add one more to the scrapbook. Freezing cold, but with a touch of warmth on our faces from the afternoon sun, it took us thirty minutes to reach the other side of the river. 

Perfectly frozen Songhua River in Harbin.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Soon, we spotted a sign pointing us in the direction of Sun Island, a huge recreational zone that housed the Ice Festival. Following the route, we crossed a bridge, passed some cute penguin topiaries and stopped at a photogenic copper piano sculpture. 

Copper piano sculpture in Harbin.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

After a while, the road straightened out, treating us to some amazing views of Harbin glittering away in the distance across the river. It seemed like we’d been walking for ages and there was nothing to suggest we were getting closer.

Turning onto what looked like an infinite one-way road of hanging red lanterns and fluttering Chinese flags, we pushed on as the sun sank into the horizon. Before long a sheet of gloom rapidly descended. And then the red lanterns flickered into life and we could see the humongous form of a garish pink neon archway ahead.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

Follow the red lanterns Harbin China.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

I’ll never forget that evening. It was like being back at Disney World as a kid. We ran through the pink ice maze, stumbling upon several dead-ends home to snarling ice tigers. Coming out through the other side, we headed straight for the enormous ice-sculpted chessboard, moving tentatively between glacial kings and arctic queens. Elsewhere, there were horse and cart rides, a huge skating rink, snow slides and a five-a-side football pitch with ice-block goalposts.

Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.

And then there were the remarkable sculptures themselves. A breathtaking array of intricately carved formations lit up by multicoloured lasers and lanterns. Designed by local engineering students and carved by around fifteen thousand workers, they really were a sight to behold.

Among the best sculptures, I recall a tightly-knit pack of galloping horses and a replica of The Empire State Building. I also remember a line of Chinese pagodas and a colossal fairy-tale palace guarded by mythical dragons.

Sculpted ice horses Harbin China.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

It was all so fascinating we were actually able to forget about the piercing cold for a while. At some point though, the cutting wind became too much and we took refuge in one of the heated cafe tents. Settling down with coffee and pastries, it was great to refuel and feel the blood pumping back into my toes.

Sub Zero Adventures, a short story from China.

The 11th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.

Huddled around an industrial heater, we reflected on what a tough couple of months we’d had. And how at times it’d been hard for us to justify what it was we were actually doing in China.

But for all of Tom’s bad behaviour, Water’s deception, Trudy’s unpredictability and S’s unforeseen ejection, we knew that it was moments like these that made it all worth it. Downing the last mouthfuls of gloriously hot coffee, S and I rose, made for the padded tent doors and disappeared back out into the Harbin night.

Sub Zero Adventures a short story from China

Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.

‘Sub Zero Adventures’ is the fourteenth tale of my short story series Challenged in China.

I’ve also written hundreds of travel reports from all across China.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Toonsarah

    What a turnaround from Trudy, and what a relief! Despite S having to find a new position, things could have been much worse. The Summer Palace must have looked fantastic in the snow and the Harbin ice sculptures are magnificent!

    August 27, 2023 - 3:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes, the end result was ok compared to how we thought things might go. The Summer Palace is such an amazing place to explore and I definitely preferred it in winter mode minus the thousands and thousands of people. Harbin was a spectacular experience, I shall have to cover the city itself in more detail further down the line. I only wish I had better photos. Thanks for kicking off the comment thread, Sarah.

      August 27, 2023 - 4:08 pm Reply
  • Memo

    What a sight those Harbin ice sculptures make. I assume they do this every year. And then just let them melt in the spring? I remember when the Mongolian Express blew its freezing temps down to Zhongshan. We hadn’t brought enough cold weather clothes and nobody carried my size. To make it worse, our apartment had no heat so we lived a lot in the kitchen around the stove. We laugh about it now but it wasn’t fun then.

    August 27, 2023 - 4:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      That does NOT sound like fun. No heating in Chinese apartments is really common. When I lived in Rui’an most folk just walked around in their apartments dressed in numerous layers of clothes. Jackets on top of sweaters on top of shirts on top of vests. Multiple layers of socks, boots, gloves. Madness. Yes, the Harbin Ice Festival is an annual thing. As to what happens to all the artwork after the season has passed I guess you’re right.

      August 27, 2023 - 6:57 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Well, you can not say you were not challenged in this job Leighton. You must have had incredible patience to deal with so many obstacles and then take them all on full steam ahead. Glad S was able to find another posting in the area. As to Harbin, magical winter place for sure. Harbin, China and Edmonton, Alberta are sister cities and one winter, their ice carvers came here and made a winter wonderland. What do Harbin and Edmonton have in common? Cold and snowy winters! Perhaps that explains Canada’s icy relationship with China best. Have a great Sunday. Allan

    August 27, 2023 - 4:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, “icy” relations indeed. I had no idea Harbin was Edmonton’s sister city, kinda cool. I need to write up Harbin itself one of these years as a location report. Awful temps aside, I kinda liked the place. Thanks for dropping in, Allan.

      August 27, 2023 - 6:53 pm Reply
  • christinenovalarue


    August 27, 2023 - 5:01 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    I was glad to hear that “passive-aggressive Trudy” wanted you to stay, but it must have been a bit uncomfortable wondering when the next shoe would drop with her. That said, I have to say you look extremely happy in the photos, and the kids are adorable! The Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival looks utterly enchanting, as I’ve never seen anything like it. Now, I’m freezing and am off to find a coat. 😁

    August 27, 2023 - 7:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It was very much an awkward situation that took months for me to feel comfortable again. And by then, my contract was nearing an end. Thanks for keeping up with the series Kellye, I wouldn’t mind just a touch of that Harbin vibe injected into this sticky summer.

      August 27, 2023 - 7:45 pm Reply

    Oh nice hotel (NOT) reminds me of a couple of places in India where you just don’t want to lay down and go to sleep. Maggie was obviously on your side, thankfully. And the ice experience in Harbin really does sound amazing, little wonder you think you will never forget it.

    August 27, 2023 - 9:14 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes that hotel was a bit India-esque. Maggie was a good sort. I think she liked us from the beginning, but still we were surprised by just how much she seemingly had our backs. Thanks for reading!

      August 27, 2023 - 10:04 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    I just realized that you were in China (especially Beijing) around the time I was visiting Beijing (July/August 2009). What a coincidence! Although I was only there for sightseeing, it’s interesting about the timing of events with travelers like yourself. Never visited China in the winter, but wow, it’s a HUGE difference from the sweltering, humid temperatures in the summer. Harbin is high up on my list of places to visit in China, especially for the Ice Festival! Despite the ups-and-downs in the first few months of teaching, you and S certainly persevered and made the most of it! Looking forward to the next adventure.

    August 27, 2023 - 10:24 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Harbin is the coldest place I’ve ever been to. I remember loving the adventure but thinking: imagine living HERE as an English teacher. Tough gig. I think I remember you saying you visited Beijing in the summer of 2009. Small world and all that, you must have been really young, no? Thanks for the encouraging words Rebeca, I will return for the last batch of these China 2009-2010 stories later in the year.

      August 27, 2023 - 10:48 pm Reply
      • Rebecca

        I was a teenager when I went to China for the first time in 2009. Time flies!

        August 27, 2023 - 11:26 pm
  • wetanddustyroads

    Thank goodness for someone like Maggie. What happened to Water … or was it ‘water under a bridge’! When I saw that photo, I immediately wondered what the people on the frozen lake were sitting on – a chair sled (genius)! Ha, James Bond (and Banana and Nemo) … I would have instantly taught Mr Bond to introduce himself as ‘Bond, James Bond’ 😄. Great photo of the frozen Songhua River and wow, those sculpture of the horses – it sounds like such a lovely evening (but I doubt I would forget about the cold)! Thanks Leighton, great read to end the weekend with!

    August 27, 2023 - 11:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Corna. Water stayed around, just quieter than usual and now in the background thank god. I suppose it is something to have on my CV to say that I once taught James Bond. Heaven knows that after each of those classes I could have done with “a shaken Martini”. Thanks for following along with these troubled Beijing times and my amazing trip to Harbin.

      August 27, 2023 - 11:26 pm Reply
  • thomasstigwikman

    That girl “Water” really gave you a hard time. The Chair Sled reminds me of the Swedish/Scandinavian kicking sleds. One person stands and kicks the ground so you propel forward and one person sit on the seat, or you can put groceries on the seat. Kids love it. The photos from the Harbin ice sculpture festival are gorgeous.

    August 28, 2023 - 1:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Why am I not surprised to read that this simple but clever contraption could have Scandinavian roots. Makes perfect sense. Cheers Thomas.

      August 28, 2023 - 8:15 am Reply
  • bronlima

    This was a trudy amazing experience!

    August 28, 2023 - 11:40 am Reply
    • Leighton


      August 28, 2023 - 1:11 pm Reply
  • Anna

    Well that wasnt what i was expecting from Trudy! Glad it all kind of worked out in the end! Those ice carvings look great but no way id go visit such a cold place!

    August 28, 2023 - 12:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think Harbin is one the most magical places I’ve visited in China. Outside of the ice festival it has some quirky sights and Russian flavours throughout. One day I’ll get around to writing up the city itself. Too many articles to do, not enough time.

      August 28, 2023 - 1:51 pm Reply
      • Anna

        It does look really interesting that’s for sure! I would only go in summer though – I don’t think I could handle the winter time there!

        August 28, 2023 - 2:58 pm
  • travelling_han

    Well I didn’t see that coming with Trudy after the last post. James Bond made me laugh out loud, and that ice sculpture festival looks absolutely amazing!!

    August 28, 2023 - 3:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Hannah.

      August 28, 2023 - 4:25 pm Reply
  • Diana

    Wow, what a roller coaster. The work story had a happier ending than I expected but then that hostel looked and sounded just awful. Glad you were able to find a nicer place to say and enjoy the chilly winter days!

    August 28, 2023 - 5:07 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It really was a rollercoaster Diana, thanks for checking into the series!

      August 28, 2023 - 6:34 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    The Harbin Ice and Snow festival looks delightful. It’s good that we seem to see more ice sculptures over here nowadays too.

    August 28, 2023 - 7:33 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s an amazing festival, thanks for your comment Marion.

      August 28, 2023 - 8:42 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    What a relief that Trudy came to her senses, although it would have been hard to trust her again. Luckily, S’s new position was close by. I was glad to read that you enjoyed some much needed down time. I laughed when I saw the chair sleds, but they’re quite ingenious. Beautiful photos too!

    August 28, 2023 - 9:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tricia! As relieved as I was, I definitely didn’t let my guard down for the rest of the year. Hope all is well in sunny France.

      August 28, 2023 - 11:40 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    I’m not sure I would have wanted to stay, but you’re right being close to those amazing sites makes it worth it. Sounds like Maggie is still on your side 😊 I’m glad they’re still using Bird’s Nest. It is a great structure. Is the Water Cube still there? The swimming venue? It was next door to Bird’s Nest. Maggie

    August 29, 2023 - 10:13 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes the Water Cube is still there. I’ll be including that in some future articles about Beijing. Cheers Maggie.

      August 29, 2023 - 11:19 am Reply
  • qprgary

    I applaud your resolve by staying not sure I could. We had similar chairs at the ice hotel totally uncontrolable but a good laugh. China was freezing when we were there but thanks for the ice sculptures amazing.

    August 29, 2023 - 11:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Gary, it was the best of times it was the worst of times. And then it was the coldest of times. Hope you and the missus are well and that Operation Spain is coming along.

      August 29, 2023 - 11:39 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Seems like quite the emotional whiplash from Trudy…Im hoping her story doesnt whip back to her previous self. But what a delight to read about the blooming friendship between you and James Bond. I would have had a hard time not quoting movie lines with him too. But wow wow wow for the ice sculptures! Absolutely incredible ice skills that would put superman and Elsa’s frozen places to shame 🙂

    August 29, 2023 - 8:49 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Despite the cold weather, glad you found some time to explore more of the city. I’ve never heard or seen one of these “chair sleds” before, but they look hilarious! Sorry to hear that your first night stay in Harbin was less than ideal. Good call on staying somewhere else! The Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival looks amaaazing. And wow, I was NOT expecting that from Trudy about making a new start. But that’s too bad that S was relocated to a different school.

    September 1, 2023 - 6:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think that shitty hostel is still going. I looked at the reviews a while back and there were still unsuspecting travellers checking in, barely able to believe the horror. Thanks for keeping up with this middle section of the series. I’ll be finishing off this period with a final batch of stories from on the road in China later this year.

      September 1, 2023 - 10:18 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    It sounds like this was a really busy time, but filled with adventures as well! It always seems to be that teaching gets to be the busiest right before a holiday. A great way to celebrate though with the festival!

    September 2, 2023 - 12:02 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the catch up Allie, appreciate it.

      September 2, 2023 - 8:08 am Reply

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