Life in Dongguan

It’s been 8 months (already!) since I moved to China. Time flies when you’re having fun they say! I’ll definitely won’t disagree with this one.

Even though Dongguan is a “small” city of 8 millions, it feels way too often like a small town. Dongcheng, the neighborhood where I live, is also the home of almost every other expat in the city. It’s now a normal thing for me to walk into a pub on a Friday night and know half of the people. Who knew living in China could feel like Hearst, my small hometown in northern Ontario?! 😆

Western restaurants, bars and shops are also found at every corner in Dongcheng. Believe it or not, I did find myself drinking Moosehead and eating poutine! Ok, it wasn’t real squeaky St-Albert cheese curds, but still! It’s almost impossible to feel homesick when you can find (almost) everything you want at your doorstep! And if you can’t, it’s definitely on Taobao (one of the world’s largest shopping websites).

Apart from teaching and drinking, I do still take the time to stay fit! 😝 I’m very grateful to have the Qifeng Park 5 minutes away from my apartment. It quickly became my running paradise where I can easily escape in the nature, away from the city buzz. I also cycle to work every single day, rain or shine (or flood!) averaging around 100km a week. Ok, it’s not Ironman training, but I’m enjoying my daily commute and my traffic riding skills are quite the shit by now! 👊🏻 Finally, last October, one of my colleague hooked me up with the Dongguan Bulldogs rugby team. Perfect occasion to try something new and meet people. Since then, well, I’ve learned how to catch, throw, tackle, score tries, and drink from the left hand! (Google: Buffalo Club)

And lastly, how’s my Chinese? Well, it’s slowly, slowly getting there. Wǒ huì shuō yīdiǎn zhōngwén (I can speak a little Chinese). I’ve learned over 70 characters by now (thanks to!). I can also order píjiǔ (beer), jiǎozi (dumplings) and jīròu chǎofàn (chicken fried rice) at a restaurant and I can get home safely in a taxi after a late night out…. what else do you need? 😛

My life in Dongguan has been good to me so far. Of course I had my ups and downs, including a few trips at the hospital, but I’m still happy with my decision of renewing my contract at ISD for a second year. Oh, and I also met this cute French guy, another good reason to stay! 😊

Bienvenue au Sénégal!

Before pursuing my journey on the east coast of the continent, I decided to spend a few days in Senegal. I thought it would be nice to pay a visit to the big country surrounding the little Gambia. Although there is a lot that links the two countries, Senegal is a rich country with its very own culture, and I loved everything about it! The hospitality of the people, the diversity of the sceneries (from beaches to deserts to mangroves), the café Touba (coffee spiced with pepper), the non-stop nightlife, and of course, their national language! Enfin je peux parler français! 🙂

My first pit stop was Ginack Island, located at the border of The Gambia and Senegal. The island is actually a national park divided between the two countries. There is no electricity, no running water, no cars, and (almost) no tourist! It was just me, the ocean and the beach. What a great way to start my first solo backpacking trip! The next day I took a ‘sept-place’ (small vehicle that squeezes seven passengers) to the beach town of Saly-Portudal. I spent two days wandering around, relaxing on the beach, reading, sipping cold Flag (their national beer), la vie dure quoi! 🙂 And one morning, while I was running (it’s my favorite way of discovering a new place!), Gallo, the marathoner of the village, came up to me and asked me if I wanted to join him the next morning for a long sunrise beach run. Euh, of course!! We had an excellent workout while exchanging on our culture and love for running. It was great! This is one thing I’m enjoying a lot about traveling solo, the encounters and opportunities that spontaneously show up! And I’m not the one to refuse a cool invitation!

My highlight of Senegal was definitely my trip to the Desert de Lompoul! It was the first time I was seeing a desert. Oh. My. God. Perfect sand dunes, perfect blue sky, perfect sunset, perfect quietness, and let’s not forget the perfect sky full of stars at night. I enjoyed every moment of this escapade! I even had my own Mauritanian tent with a real toilet and running water! What a luxury! Then, on my way to Dakar, I made a day-trip to Lac Rose. Yup, I confirm, the lake is really pink! The color of the water is caused by the high level of salt (10x higher than the ocean) which, of course, makes you float like a boat! I tried to swim a few laps…Impossible!!

Finally, I finished my trip in Dakar, the national capital. Dakar is a large city (1 million) full of attractions, markets, restaurants, nightlife, but big city also means lots of traffic, lots of people, lots of noise, and it’s VERY hot! Thank you to my two Senegalese friends, Guillaume & Ouss, who were my private tour guides, driving me all around. We made sure not to miss l’Île de Gorée, an island used by Europeans for trade slave during the 18th and 19th century. Although Gorée has a difficult history, it is now a very peaceful (no roads or cars!), colorful and really artsy village!

It was a very short trip, but I think I made the most of my time in Senegal. I really hope to be back one day to explore more about this beautiful country. Merci et à bientôt peut-être! 🙂

En route vers le Kenya!