Insta catch-up

Recent instagrams since being home.

 

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Reunited with my pup

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Hot chocolate at home

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Autumn confetti

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Fall walks in Virginia Water

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Geographical baking. Facilitated by M&S

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Roses

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South Bank performers

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The twinkling lights of Harrods

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Liberty Christmas shop

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The arrival of red cups at Starbucks!

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Burberry window displays

 

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An afternoon at the RGS

A few weeks ago I was invited to a celebration of the Learning and Leading programme.

An afternoon to meet others who had been on or who were planning to go on gap years, had undertaken fieldwork apprenticeships, or who had been to summer schools put on by the RGS.

We were also able to meet some of the key people behind the programme, including Amber Sorrell, Catherine Souch, Shane Winser and Steve Brace, and were given presentations by previous students and by the very animated polar explorer Paul Rose.

 

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All these schemes really are brilliant, allowing people who have not had the chance before to travel and get out into the world! Talking to Paul Rose, his face lights up talking about the schemes, and it’s always worth applying. You can also check out the other grants they offer here.

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China survival guide

Now that I’m settled back home, I thought I’d share a few tips if you ever get the chance to visit China, or thinking of doing a fieldwork apprenticeship.  

- Decide if it’s right for you.

Doing a fieldwork apprenticeship is that it is a big commitment and may not be for everyone, mine was a month long and we had many long, full days. Be prepared for hard work but that it is certainly worth it, and that I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I will always remember.

Embracing the opportunity will help you to get the best out of it- fieldwork is something that requires full immersion every day, which is hard to sustain for very long periods. 

 

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- Get some local expertise.

I was able to see so many sights that would never be seen by tourists without the help and knowledge of Chinese collaborators in the project. When travelling in the remote parts, we really relied on our Chinese students to help us get by; we wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. When I went on to Beijing, I was surprised at how much was only in Chinese, even after hearing that Beijing was a little more westernised.

 

- Home comforts.

What to pack depends greatly on where you visit; on the whole we had brilliant accommodation, with internet and power, hot water and clean towels, meaning we could take laptops and other technology bits and pieces.

 

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- Leave your preconceptions at home.

My view of China has changed considerably from being a country which I had never really considered visiting to one which I would definitely visit again, and from thinking that the country is repressed, to learning otherwise through talking to Chinese students and experiencing the culture first hand.

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-Nearly any fieldwork can be done here.

China is an incredible and vast country and the landscape is just so varied and contrasting. Not many places have deserts, forests, mountains and grasslands, as well as high rise cities and rural villages, often in relatively close proximity. If you’re interested in tectonics, rivers, drylands- it’s all there.

 

- Get a good guidebook.

I used the National Geographic travel guide, and it was brilliant with extra tips and suggestions, perfect for in-between days.

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- Beware of the toilets.

I won’t expose you to the photographs I took (message me if you DO want to see them!), but have low expectations. Also watch out for raw meat begin sold in the streets, hanging up in shops, outdoors (picture above) and of course, my favourite; yaks being skinned by the road… 

 

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Tom’s tip: “Prepare to be bewildered… but remember they will be equally bewildered by your behaviour!”

…And he’s absolutely right; things you see may be out of the ordinary for you, but they are part of many people’s daily life. Many people we met were curious about us- many in the rural areas had never seen anyone with light hair.

 

Anna’s tip: The food is spicy- the rice helps!

 

I’d also like to thank Tom and Anna and our Chinese collaborators for everything they did in preparation for and on the trip, every member of the team were crucial to our group dynamics!

 

Again I’d like to thank the Royal Geographical Society (With the Institute of British Geographers) and their fantastic Learning and Leading Fieldwork Apprentice scheme, without it I would have had a much duller summer in our very lovely Great Britain and would have never made the relationships I have.

 

And a thank you to my readers, those who have popped in once or twice, and those who have been following me the whole way.  

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Highlights of the trip

With everyone whom I have spoken to since returning, their first question is always “So what was your highlight?!”

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For the first part collecting samples in the north-western deserts, my highlight was the first time I saw enormous sand dunes. I found this beyond explanation, it was the incredible ‘sand sea’ I had expected, extending for hundreds of miles.

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For the second part, in the northern Tibetan plateau, we were lucky enough to visit a Tibetan family in their home, which was a highlight due to the pure spontaneity of the situation. We drank tea and ate lunch with this genuine Tibetan family, which was truly surreal- I couldn’t believe it was happening at the time.

 

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Lastly, in Beijing, one of my highlights was my visit to the Great Wall. After climbing to the top and reaching a part closed to visitors, I stopped for a second and thought of how larger than life it was, making me feel so small on this incredible, epic structure.

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My other highlight in Beijing was where one of the nights four of us staying in the hostel took a guitar up to the roof garden, overlooking hutong roofs, where we sang songs under the stars. I really considered this as the essence of travelling, people from all different countries coming together in a foreign place and bonding over common interests.

Insta-blog post: Beijing

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If you thought London Underground was bad, try Beijing subway, and it was like this all the time.

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Military soldiers in the subway tunnels underneath Tiananmen Square.

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Beautiful but blustery summer palace canal.

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At the Forbidden City you too cold buy your very own Chairman Mao bust. 

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Decorative roofs at the Forbidden City.

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Gold dragon on the side of a huge water drum.

Beijing: Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is a collection of halls and temples surrounding Kunming Lake, once an imperial sanctuary.

I walked the whole way around Kunming Lake, but there are boats that can take you across to skip out quite a bit of a walk.

 

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The marble boat.

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Longevity hill had views across the city, and for one the sun was out with only wispy white clouds in the sky.

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These bridges were so bizarre! And near impossible to walk over!

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Beijing: Temple of Heaven

 

Temple of heaven is set in an expanse of grounds with various temples and halls. In ancient China, Earth was represented by a square and Heaven by a circle, and the temple roof and building being round, and the park walls being rectangular symbolise the connection.

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The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests- determined by fengshui masters as the point where heaven and Earth meet, and where rituals and prayers for fruitful harvests took place.

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This was another one of those booths where you can dress up like royalty and get photographed.

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Scattered around the grounds were people playing instruments and singing.

 

…And these women dancing were amazing. I have videos.

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