​English teacher enjoys Hebei countryside on his bike

Robert and his son ride on a countryside road in Baoding, Hebei province on Saturday.[Photo by Yao Lin/For chinadaily.com.cn]

An English teacher from New Zealand recently explored the beautiful countryside of Baoding in North China’s Hebei province by cycling with his family.

Along with more than 100 cycling enthusiasts, Robert John Murray and his family participated in the “Riding in Baoding” event on Saturday, experiencing the natural beauty, rich culture and prosperity of rural areas in Baoding located about 150 kilometers southwest of downtown Beijing.

They also visited scenic places such as Ranzhuang Cultural and Tourism Town, Haomeng Linshui Holiday Resort and Jiahe Farm, all featuring countryside scenery and folk arts.

“I’ve been in Baoding for almost 10 years and have witnessed the rapid development here, especially in the rural areas where people are kind and happily living a well-off life,” said the 56-year-old Robert.

Robert came to Baoding in 2015 and has worked at Hebei Finance University as an English teacher. He also married a Chinese woman and the couple has two children, a boy and a girl.

During his time in Baoding, he has enjoyed participating in various activities to immerse himself in Chinese culture, such as exploring traditional Chinese medicine, celebrating a special Mid-Autumn Festival, and discovering the innovative progress of China’s textile industry.

For this time, Robert and his family rode along the countryside roads, making stops along the way from time to time and enjoying magnificent views over the open countryside. “After experiencing this, I hope to share the stories of the countryside and its people with the world,” he said.

The “Riding in Baoding” event to explore the beautiful countryside will be conducted from March to July, visiting over 70 picturesque villages in 20 counties or districts of Baoding, according to the local government.

The activities include exploring the countryside’s natural beauty, visiting historical sites, uncovering village stories and sampling local delicacies, showcasing the unique features and charm of the beautiful countryside and achievements of rural vitalization.

Compassion and care make the impossible possible in China

Editor’s noteWe have asked expats living in China to share their stories about the cities they work and live in. Janaka Jayawickrama is from Sri Lanka and he is now professor of social anthropology at Shanghai University.

Janaka Jayawickrama from Sri Lanka is now professor of social anthropology at Shanghai University. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Moving from the United Kingdom after 20 years to China is an exciting decision our family had to make. However, we did not know what to expect. We kept our minds open.

We are a family of three. My wife is a designer, my son is an artist, and I am an academic.

We were thrilled when I received the opportunity to join the College of Liberal Arts of Shanghai University. We wanted to learn from new experiences, culture and society.

My campus story is also a collective story of my wife, my son and I.

If I had to pick three words to describe this story, they would be: compassion, care, and collaboration.

Based on my experiences of traveling across many continents over the past 30 years, moving to a new country always comes with challenges.

Language, social structures and expectations are the most difficult ones. When we first arrived in China in November 2022, everything seemed difficult. We did not understand the language. We were not familiar with social structures. We did not know what to expect and what was expected of us.

It soon became clear that what we thought was difficult could be overcome with compassion and the care we received from everyone.

My colleagues at all levels of the Shanghai University were compassionate and caring towards me and my family.

Difficulties of language, social structures and expectations became less difficult as through compassion and care.

I remember a young student once took time to explain to me how to use a new application on the phone. A colleague also took time to accompany me to the bank to open an account. A security guard also once helped me to access the QR code to enter into the campus. An old woman once spoke to us even though we did not understand the language. These are all examples of comfort and the warmth we have experienced in Shanghai.