Tag: Yangshuo

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Many children with special needs in China are denied educational opportunities because China’s public schools are literally inaccessible to children with physical disabilities and they don’t have the resources to support children with mental disabilities. It is an unfortunate fact that many Chinese families view their children as their support network as they age. If a child has any disadvantage that would hamper their ability to provide for their parents when they are adults, parents often have to make the heartwrenching decision to put the child up for adoption and try again. While many children with disabilities could still be productive adults capable or caring for their parents, that possibility becomes nearly impossible without access to education.

Back to school fun!

As an aside, this is a problem not just in China but worldwide, that people with disabilities earn less money than their able-bodied counterparts. In America, disabled people earn on average 68 cents for every dollar their non-disabled counterparts earn, while in the UK, disabled persons often earn as little a 40 cents on the dollar compared to non-disabled workers. Of course, in those countries, that is an employment issue. When it comes to education, both countries are much better at making sure all children – no matter their disability – have access to schooling. In China, when a child does not have access to education, the chance that the child will then be able to have a productive career is almost non-existent.

But there are even more hurdles for families in China trying to access education for their children. When the public schools are not an option, some families with the means will turn to private schools. These schools are usually much smaller with many more resources than public schools. And since they are for-profit, they generally will do whatever they can to accommodate families with special requests.

But sometimes those “special requests” clash when it comes to children with special needs – and there is significant prejudice and ignorance when it comes to children with special needs.

Our daughter has unique challenges, but we found a fantastic kindergarten in Yangshuo for her. The school’s principal used to work in the adoption field, so she really understands our daughter’s needs. The teachers are very kind and patient and go out of their way to make sure our daughter gets the most out of her classes. The classes are also very small, which has given our daughter the chance to improve her social skills in a way that is not overwhelming for her. It has been a wonderful experience and in the six months she has been going to school, she has made remarkable improvements.

But apparently, things were not going so smoothly behind the scenes.

Our daughter’s principal is a secret badass.

The school’s principal told me yesterday that there is another mother with a daughter with special needs who would like to attend the school. Some of the other mothers found out about this and have vehemently objected to admitting the child, even going so far as to say that they will remove their children from the school if she is admitted. These mothers believe that the child with special needs will have a “negative effect” on their own children.

I was very surprised because our daughter has been attending for several months. The other mothers must see this and know that having a special needs child in a class does not hurt the other children. It is usually the other way around. The children who are more able are able to help the children who need the extra attention. I asked her if there was anything we could do to help. But that was when she dropped the bombshell.

“The other mothers don’t want your daughter to attend school here either.”

I am sure the shock and anger showed on my face because she was quick to tell me that we didn’t need to worry about it. She could handle the other mothers. The implication was that since we are foreigners, our daughter’s enrollment in the school is not up for debate. Even in a country where we are a significant minority, our white privilege is strong. But since the other mother is Chinese, the other mothers feel they have the right to bully her and her daughter out of the school.

I share stories like this to better exemplify the challenges parents in China face when their children have disabilities. Many times, even money cannot overcome prejudice and ignorance. It will take a drastic overhaul in both policy and attitudes before parents in China will be able to access quality education for their very special children.

Hostel Review – Mountain Escape Yangshuo

Hostel Review – Mountain Escape Yangshuo

My family was recently invited to stay the night at Mountain Escape Yangshuo. The property was amazing and we would highly recommend staying here.

big tub mountain escape yangshuo
Z-Baby immediately claimed the huge bathtub as her personal swimming pool

Mountain Escape is a refurbished countryside house about 20 minutes by car outside of Yangshuo town. The family who owns it (Gary and Fiona) spared no expense in the renovations, but they were also careful to preserve as much of the original buildings as possible. “We want this place to be not just a hostel, but a museum,” Fiona told me. The original buildings are about 100 years old, and much of the furniture and decorations are refurbished antiques as well.

The hostel is rather new and we stayed on a Tuesday night, so we were the only guests. But even if the hostel was “full,” it only has 4 rooms, so it will never be crowded. The village is quiet and pitch black at night. You can actually see the stars out here, which is something you can’t do in Yangshuo town because of all the light pollution.

beautiful bedroom mountain escape yangshuo
The beds are super comfy

The hostel is built up on the hillside, and they built a deck even higher above the buildings. The view from the deck is stunning.

The hostel was designed with expats and foreign tourists in mind. All of the staff speak English, the beds are soft, and the food is fantastic! They even made sure the fish didn’t have any bones because they know that Westerners hate bones in their food. The food was so good I didn’t have a chance to take a picture before it was gone.

beautiful ruins mountain escape yangshuo
A Qing Dynasty-era house near the hostel

If you are looking to get away from the city, this is the place to be! I always recommend staying outside of Yangshuo in a countryside hostel or villa because Yangshuo is so loud and crowded. The real beauty, peace, and charm of coming to this area can’t be found in town. The hostel is only a 10-minute walk from Yulong River, but they also have bikes you can rent to explore the surrounding area. There are many other ancient houses in the area and breathtaking views. Even though we now live here and see the mountains every day, they never get old.

If you are coming to Yangshuo and are looking for a place to “get away from it all,” I would highly recommend Mountain Escape Yangshuo. You can learn more about them and book a room on their website. MountainEscapeYangshuo.com. 

 

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

I mentioned in a previous post that big changes were coming (as if bringing our daughter home only six months ago wasn’t a big enough change!). So today I can finally announce that…

We are moving to Yangshuo!

 

Our China journey began nearly seven years ago in Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We came to China with Buckland Education Group, which was headquartered in the tiny town. We loved Yangshuo and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even though we have traveled extensively since then, our opinion on that front hasn’t changed much.

In April, my husband’s job at a game company came to an end, and instead of looking for another grinding office job, he decided to take a job working from home. It is a lot less money, but he is spending a lot more time with our daughter. In fact, he is transitioning to being her primary caregiver so I can focus more on my work.

Last year, I rage quit my job at the Shenzhen Daily (which I just now realized I haven’t written about on here, so I’ll share that story soon). I also decided to work from home instead of looking for another office job. I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since then, but I’m transitioning to full-time writer.

So since we both now work from home, it didn’t make financial sense to stay in Shenzhen, a city where just our rent is more than we were paying back in the US, not to mention the high cost of living for everything else.

This week we went back to Yangshuo and found an apartment. We found something that was twice the size of our current place with three (huge) bedrooms and all new decor and appliances for about a third of the price. It was so cheap, in fact, that we were able to prepay the rent for the whole year. Talk about eliminating stress!

My husband is so in love with the new apartment he couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so he took a video. Feel free to check it out if you want to know what you can rent in a small town in China for only US$365 a month, or about $4,400 a year.

 

But check out that view!

Of course, being Yangshuo, that was not the most beautiful view we saw all weekend. Check out this shot from a house in the countryside we looked at that our friend Cherith took.

It feels as though our life in China has come full-circle, and we are back to the beginning, but a lot has changed as well. Not every part of our China journey has been easy, but it has all been amazing, and our baby girl makes every hardship worth it. One of the things we are most excited about is raising our daughter(s) in the country, with good people, fresh air, and an easy life.

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A Weekend in Yangshuo!

A Weekend in Yangshuo!

This last weekend we went to Yangshuo in Guangxi Province. For longtime readers of this blog, you might recall that we began our China journey in Yangshuo almost seven years ago. Yangshuo was where we went for our TESOL training before we were sent to Lixian for our first teaching assignment. We have been in love with YS ever since that first visit. We went back in 2012 for an anniversary trip, but that was five years ago!

So much had changed in that time!

Sadly, many of the traditional artisans are gone. It looked like West Street had been majorly updated, so it is missing a lot of the authenticity it had before. There are still some artisans, but not nearly as many as before and there are no antique dealers, which was sad. However, I have heard that there are still some traditional villages outside of YS, so I am hoping to visit some of those places in the future.

There was also a whole new addition to West Street that wasn’t there before. Along with a ton of new Western and international restaurants! When we were there before, there was only one Western restaurant, and it was expensive and not very good. Now, there are tons of Western restaurants and cafes. There are German, Italian, Thai, and Indian restaurants – and they are all AMAZING! The food was so good, and so affordable. The Indian restaurant was about half the price of the Indian restaurants here in Shenzhen and the German restaurant was quite affordable as well. The restaurants also had surprisingly good cocktail menus, with cocktails for only 35RMB. They are also getting a Starbucks!

The mountains are still beautiful, but there is so much light pollution from West Street, you can’t see them very well at night.

All in all, it was a really nice weekend away and because Yangshuo is now accessible by the fast train, we will probably be visiting there with a bit more regularity.

Have you been to Yangshuo? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Throwback Thursday – On the Li River

Throwback Thursday – On the Li River

Yangshuo, Guangxi Autonomous Region, about an hour from Guilin, is one of the most beautiful towns in China. We spent about a week there when we first came to China since that is where the Buckland Training Center is located. We’ve been there twice since. There are so many beautiful and interesting places to visit in China, but we lost our hearts in Yangshuo, so we love going back there.

CIMG3631Yangshuo is a great blend of old and new, East and West, country and comfort. It’s a small town with lots of expats, so many people speak English and there are lots of local and international restaurants. The countryside is gorgeous and there are lots of outdoor activities. The hostels are really affordable and are typically just outside of town in renovated village houses. If you haven’t been, I would highly recomend it.

The only problem with Yangshuo is that it is a bit out of the way. It was about a 14-hour train ride from both Changsha and Shenzhen, so we haven’t been back in a while. The last time we went, we took a train for 14 hours, stayed in Guilin for a night, and the next day took a river boat down the Li River to Yangshuo. That was a lot of fun.

But as of December, there is now a fast train going directly from Shenzhen to Yangshuo, cutting the trip down to about 4 hours. After our America trip, we are hoping to be able to take some weekend trips to this beautiful town.

What about you? What are some of your favorite places in China to visit?