It has been a hectic year for us all, but the Christmas and holiday season is here! Since we can’t do much about our wanderlust this year, here is a blog from Pagoda Projects intern Cara Wilson, who writes about her time in Zhuhai, China during Christmas 2019.
Christmas has not long passed, however to me it feels like it was months ago. This is probably due to the fact spending Christmas in China is extremely different from the usual celebrations I partake in at home in Scotland. Although this wasn’t my first Christmas spent abroad, it was still a new experience for me. Spending Christmas away from family and friends is always a strange sensation. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad experience, just a different one.
This year, I was in Zhuhai for Christmas. However, the small southern Chinese city didn’t make a big deal out of the celebration. This is due to the fact that Christmas is generally not celebrated in China, or in many countries across Asia. The 25th of December is not a national holiday, and Chinese companies don’t have any time off. Luckily for me I had Christmas day off, therefore, I had the chance to celebrate in my own fashion and at least relax a little and call my family back home.
If you were in Zhuhai in December but had no idea what month it was, you probably would never have guessed it was nearing Christmas. Although I knew that this Christian festival was not widely celebrated in China, I still thought there may have been some sort of commercial decorations or markets set up around the city. However, there were very few signs that pointed to the existence of Christmas, and the hot weather and lack of decorations really made it easy to forget about the festival altogether. During the last few days leading up to Christmas I even started forcing myself to listen to some classic Christmas songs to make sure I remembered it was almost time to celebrate.
As much as I found the lack of celebration surprising and new, it was also a good reminder of the cultural differences that exist between the UK and China. Yes, I would have loved to be able to visit a cheesy Christmas market, but in some ways, I viewed the lack of celebration interesting as it really put my small world into perspective. While so many countries celebrate Christmas each year, there are still millions of people who don’t treat the month of December any differently. For many, other festivals hold much more importance, for example Lunar New Year. Although I missed my usual Christmas activities, I could also view it as another chance to learn and experience a new culture, the number one reason why I chose to move to China.
It’s important to have some support, especially when you are so far from home or if you feel homesick. If it wasn’t for the people I spent my time with around Christmas, I would have felt even further from home.
Something else that I learned from celebrating Christmas abroad is the importance of the circle of friends you surround yourself with when abroad. It’s important to have some support, especially when you are so far from home or if you feel homesick. If it wasn’t for the people I spent my time with around Christmas, I would have felt even further from home. So, in some ways, it was not only a chance to experience a different aspect of Chinese culture but also an opportunity to spend time with new friends and make sure we all felt like we had a family thousands of miles from home. Although my Christmas was different in many ways, the homemade carbonara I enjoyed in my small apartment with friends tasted just as delicious as the turkey and potatoes I am used to sharing with my family. The experience gave me new memories and let me appreciate the new friendships I’ve made during my time here.
Although I may have missed my family on Christmas day, I still enjoyed the relaxing day off I had. And at the end of the day, it is just 24 hours. I think this is important to remember, especially for those homesick over the festive period. Try and give yourself something to look forward to in order to distract you from missing the celebration. The day will come and go, and you will be able to experience Christmas as the local people wherever you may be spending the day. It will also let you appreciate your next Christmas at home even more, and you’ll be able to entertain the table with tales of your travels abroad!
Are you getting everything ready for your Pagoda Projects programme and counting down the days until you jump on the plane? Are your friends and family asking you loads of questions about your upcoming experience and even you aren’t sure what to expect?
We hope that our watchlist will get you excited to explore the sights and sounds of what is going to be your new home for a months. Why not download a couple of our suggestions to pass the time on your flight out…
Netflix // IMDb
A 10-part documentary series chronicling the Vietnam war featuring the soldiers, protesters, politicians and families who lived it.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An in-depth documentary about on refugee family’s attempts to face its divided past and heal the motional wounds of the Vietnam War.IMDb
Separated at the end of the Vietnam war, an “Americanized” woman and her Vietnamese mother are reunited after 22 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony returns to one of his favourite places on Earth, journeying to the centre of the country, near the coast and to a city he has never been to, Hue.Netflix // IMDb
Snail and broken rice are staples of Ho Chi Minh City’s Outdoorsy street food culture which has been shaped by both history and family memory.YouTube // IMDb
Luke Nguyen, acclaimed owner and chef of the Sydney restaurant ‘The Red Lantern’, returns to the country of his heritage to take a culinary journey through the northern regions of Vietnam.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An old British reporter vies with a young U.S. doctor for the affections of a beautiful Vietnamese woman.IMDb
Two plain clothed U.S. military policemen on duty in war-time Saigon investigating serial killings when their job becomes even harder.Amazon Prime // IMDb
In the mid 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his foreign-policy team debate the decision to withdraw from or escalate the war in Vietnam.BBC // IMDb
Sue Perkins embarks on a life-changing, 3,000-mile journey up the Mekong, South East Asia’s greatest river, exploring lives and landscapes on the point of dramatic change.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A vicarious thrill ride as Tony discovers Vietnam from the buzzing streets of Hanoi to the rural beauty of the Montagnards, and the mysterious Island of Mr. Sang. This episode shows exactly why Tony has been completely seduced by Vietnam and its people.
Amazon Prime // IMDb
An American finds refuge during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking in a church with a group of women. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety.Netflix // IMDb
A boy and his mother move to California for a new job. He struggles to fit in, as a group of karate students starts to bully him for dating a rich girl from their clique. It’s up to the Japanese landlord, Miyagi, to teach him karate.Netflix // IMDb
Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades DaiAmazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony travels to Shanghai. Forget all the antiquated views your might hold about a communist-run, creativity-devoid bunch of state-controlled androids. The modern China is a vibrant, dynamic monument to capitalism. And nowhere is that more glaringly obvious than in Shanghai, a city housing 116,000 billionaires and multimillionaires who modestly call themselves the ‘bao fa hu’ or ‘explosive rich’.Netflix // IMDb
Tofu pudding. Fish head soup. Goat stew. The family-owned street stalls of Chiayi are bastions of Taiwan’s culinary traditions.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Pull up a stool and get your chopsticks ready – A Bite of China is the quintessential TV series on all things Chinese cuisine – from its rich history to the rarest dishes and wildest ingredients. Shot in more than 60 locations and featuring top chefs of the culinary world – it will surprise even the most jaded foodies around.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Channel 4
With unique access to the Forbidden City, this documentary reveals the spectacular history of the world’s largest palace, and the secrets of its astonishing design.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.Amazon Prime // IMDb
The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
This Oscar-winning biopic traces the life of Pu Yi, the last of the great emperors of China, from his ascent to the throne at the age of three, in 1908, to the time he was imprisoned in the Forbidden City, witnessing decased of cultural and political upheaval.Amazon Prime // IMDb
True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.YouTube
Reggie discovers contemporary China, diving deep into four megacities in search of the new generations transforming their future.BBC // IMDb
A cookery show focusing on Chinese food, with demonstrations of how to make various Chinese dishes.Channel 4 // IMDb
Guy martin’s love of industry and endeavour leads him to china, where he reveals the unseen side of its innovation, technological development and gigantic manufacturing.Netflix // IMDb
In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
Netflix // IMDb
At the forefront of transforming Mexican cuisine, Enrique Olvera champions traditional ingredients under a haute perspective as he delves into the roots of Mexico to create award-winning dishes at his restaurant, Pujol.Netflix // IMDb
A look at the life of notorious drug kingpin, El Chapo, from his early days in the 1980s working for the Guadalajara Cartel, to his rise to power of during the ’90s and his ultimate downfall in 2016.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life’s harsh realities, all in the name of love.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Bourdain travels to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Cuernavaca to commune with local residents who express their passion through food, art, and the struggle for an improved quality of life. Bourdain talks with journalist Anabel Hernández on the impact of the area’s drug trade-related violence and how it affects local quality of life.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A documentary on some of contemporary Mexico’s most iconic artists and performers.IMDb
A documentary feature about the life of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tomas is too much for his lone mother so she sends him to live with his older brother Federico, aka Sombra, in Mexico City.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Netflix // IMDb
A journey through the colorful and varied world of Tacos.BBC // IMDb
In 1968 the young Rick travelled down the Pacific Coast Highway to the Mexican border and beyond. 50 years later he retraces his steps from San Francisco to Mexico enjoying unique dishes and meeting chefs. Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tony heads to Mexico with Carlos,who took over Tony’s old job.IMDb
Two young Mexican attorneys attempt to exonerate a wrongly convicted man by making a documentary. In the process, they expose the contradictions of a judicial system that presumes suspects guilty until proven innocent.
Please refer back to this blog post for regular updates on the effect of Covid-19 on our partners and partcipants, and everything we are doing at Pagoda Projects to continue to bring you extraordinary and safe work experience.
If you’re a student signed up to one of our programmes or are thinking about enrolling and have any questions, feel free to give us a call on 0161 818 8824 or send Ali an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, stay safe everyone!
PAGODA NEWS: COVID-19
Monday 19th October
We had a little success story last week as Paul Yeandle, Director of Programmes, made it back into China after nearly 7 months in Vietnam.
A few negative COVID-19 Tests and, 14 days of quarantine in Guangzhou later – Paul was back in Chengdu. Keeping a routine, home exercise, Netflix and, of course, some work and engaging Pagoda team meetings kept boredom at bay!
Paul is now back in Chengdu where he’s linked up again with the Chengdu office and remarked at the way China has gone back to business following tough lockdowns and strict measures on the borders. It’s a price worth paying, according to Paul, to return to his wife, cat, and, an open economy!Thursday 24th September
This week marked the start of our #Funded50 Remote Internship Programme where 50 recent grads or placement students have been given the opportunity to intern remotely with companies in Greater China, Vietnam and Mexico.
Pagoda Projects secured a grant from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to develop our online internship programme as well as a tech platform here interns can access all aspects of the programme; internship management & support, online events and the cultural mentorship. Throughout the internship, the interns will not only gain valuable international business insight from their day to day roles but also through workshops and events with industry leaders including LinkedIn Learning.Friday 18th September
It is safe to travel to Taipei for our year-long placement programme! Our participant completed his 2-week quarantine and today completed his first day at his company, Winnoz!
Quentin had the following tips for quarantine: proactively do some remote work for your host company, keep active in your room with bodyweight exercises and commit to a couple of series on Netflix!
In Vietnam, the second wave has been well controlled and Danang, the centre of the outbreak, has eased its lockdown. The borders have become to open foreigners, but still focusing on business experts, which is similar to the situation in China. Life goes pretty much as usual in the new normal – with masks and hand sanitiser.Thursday 30th July
Unfortunately after 100 days, Vietnam has recorded it’s first community transmissions of COVID-19 in Danang City. This has come as quite a shock to the community given how successful they had been at controlling the spread. Nevertheless, as usual, the government and people have reacted quickly by implementing social distancing, isolating those who may have been at risk of infection and contact tracing all those with possible connections.
Whilst it is a bit of a damper on the success so far, we remain confident in the measures being taken to effectively tackle this new wave of infections.Wednesday 22nd July
Somehow we are almost at August – where has this year gone? We were delighted a couple of weeks ago to host our first public webinar ‘Failures: The Secret to Success’ in conjunction with our Remote Internship Programme. We were joined with three great panelists from Zhuhai, Taipei and HCMC who shared on the challenges that they have faced to get where they are today.
As remote working / WFH has now become somewhat the norm, we enjoyed hosting a Remote Working Workshop yesterday as part of our Remote Internship Programme. As University of Dundee students come to the end of their internship after 8 great weeks, we are now joined by students from universities across Wales, England and Australia working for organisations all around the world for the next 8!
With August around the corner our UK team are looking forward to potentially heading back into their new office in Manchester. Fingers crossed!Thursday 2nd July
Vietnam has now gone 77 days without any community transmissions of COVID-19. Whilst the borders are still closed except for ‘experts’ working on projects of national significance and repatriated Vietnamese with mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, business very much goes on as usual within the country (as does the traffic!).
All facilities, shops and services have now reopned, and since many have vacation at this time, domestic tourism is restarting with hotels, resorts and tourist attractions reopening up for business. Temperature checks and face coverings are only required in notably crowded places and there is certainly a sense of ease amogst the population towards the lower threat of the virus.
Vietnam has fantastically recorded no deaths, with the most serious patient making a remarkable recovery from the virus over the last couple of weeks.
Monday 29th June
Taiwan Celebrating NO NEW LOCAL CASES in over 88 days!
Only a few cases have been imported but contained.
Status report on daily life in Taiwan – Face masks are still required to be worn on entering public transport (metro and buses) but masks can be removed on the metro if a safe distance of 1.5 m can be maintained… Which is unlikely during rush hours!
All shops, offices, restaurants, cinemas (showing old western movies and new Taiwanese movies), parks etc are still fully open to the public. Large malls and some restaurants are still performing temperature checks upon entrance with alcohol spray for the hands.
Weather is sunny and hooooot as per usual 🙂Tuesday 2nd June
As lockdowns and restrictions have been eased slightly around Europe we have been very excited to onboard over 70 students onto our first Remote Internship programme. As interns have remotely settled into their new workday and host company throughout the week, we have held an Employability Skills Webinar and Virtual Fireside Chat with Louise Nicol, Founder and Director of Asia Careers Group.
Alongside their internship, interns have been paired with a Cultural Mentor to exchange stories and knowledge about the intern’s home country culture and their Host Company country’s culture. It’s been great to see their cultural journals, hear about their conversations and witness development of intercultural awareness. Even the Pagoda Projects team are learning new things!Thursday 7th May
Vietnam is Back! Of course with cautious optimism, but over the last two weeks shops, restaurants, cafes and sports facilities are back open for business, with care taken to the numbers inside and the ability to safely distance. Schools are slowly going back and as Vietnam celebrated Reunification Day last week; 45 years after the end of the Vietnamese War, the country has supported each other and worked together to keep the virus at bay.
The picture is the view from famous Nguyen Hue towards the Saigon Opera house as people enjoy the cool city evenings. We haven’t been able to see this view for several years because of construction work to the Saigon metro, but this station is now finished!
Friday 24th April
A quick Vlog from our Vietnam Branch manager Vicki Offland today, chatting about the situation in Ho Chi Minh city at the moment regarding Corona Virus as successful government measures have helped keep the virus at bay which is leading to a phased relaxation of social distancing.
Vicki also reveals what Pagoda Projects has been doing to keep morale up 🙂
Tuesday 14th April
A couple of rays of good news from Taipei today!
Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced today that there are no new cases of Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19) to report for the first time in 36 days!
It appears the CECC’s efforts at quickly identifying, isolating, and tracing confirmed cases have held the virus at bay, for now…
Another trick up Taiwan’s sleeve is their new ‘Mask Vending Machine‘ which is being deployed across the city.
To help alleviate the queues at 7/11’s and pharmacies, the government have set up vending machines which can dispense up to 2000 masks per day! Costing only 45NTD for a pack of 3 ($1.5 / £1).
Thursday 2nd April
Our InternVietnam team are now working on developping our Remote Internship Programme for the University of Dundee from home! They are also planning for the arrival of our scheduled employability programmes in August/September 2020.
Vietnam has entered day two of a 15-day country wide voluntarily lock-down in order to prevent community transmission of COVID-19. Many of the population were already maintaining good social distancing and following government health advice. All non essential business are closed except in cases of delivery which maintain as normal and is making less inconveniences for the population.
As of today 62 out of 222 cases recorded have recovered and many business and organisations are adapting to this new way of working online through online webinar and workshops.
Friday 27th March
We are EXTREMELY excited to announce the imminent launch of a remote internship programme for our partners at the University of Dundee! The University of Dundee programme will be taking place this summer in a slightly different format. Take a look below to find out more. We will be expanding our remote internship opportunities to our other valued partners in the near future. Watch this space for announcements!
Company? – click here to find out more
University? – click here to find out more
Tuesday 31st March
Well, we have entered the second week of lockdown in the UK and seemingly more uncertain times lay ahead. All of us at Pagoda Projects just wanted to share a quick message to all our participants, alumni, partners and everyone going through challenging times.
Look after yourselves, whether that’s with crazy new home workouts, becoming a jigsaw master or learning how to light a Zoom call like a Hollywood film set.
Friday 27th March
Although our InternMexico programmes for June & July 2020 have also sadly been postponed, our InternMexico Branch Manager James is busy planning the launch of our newest initiative from the comfort of his own home in Mexico City.
Friday 27th March
Our InternVietnam team waved goodbye to the final few participants on our Ho Chi Minh City programme this week. They are on their way home to the France, the UK and Germany, hopefully taking lots of fond memories of Vietnam with them.
All InternVietnam programmes for participants due to head out to Vietnam until July 2020 have been postponed but the InternVietnam team are still planning for some arrivals in August and September 2020!
Friday 27th March
Our Taipei team are hard at work and continuing to plan for participants wishing to embark on our Taipei programmes from September 2020 onwards.
Participants on place in Taipei are exercising caution and looking out for themselves. We are supporting these participants in their decision to either continue with their placements or to return home early, dependant on advice from official government channels such as FCO, DFAT, MFAT and GAC.
Our participant insurance policy will continue to cover those hard-working interns who are eager to stay under the current circumstances. However, we will be reassessing the safety of these participants daily in case of further developments and will remain in close contact with our insurance providers as things progress.
If you have any concerns regarding a participant currently on place in Taipei, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with Daniel (in Taipei) or Clare (in the UK).
Thursday 26th March
Our InternChina teams are slowly emerging back into the world after a period in lock-down. Our Chengdu Branch Manager Liam is thrilled to be back working in the office again.
Programmes that were due to take place in Mainland China in April or May 2020 have sadly been postponed in light of current travel and visa restrictions.
All of our study tours along with Australian and New Zealand Government and University programmes have already been postponed. Some of the InternChina programmes that are due to take place in June, July and August 2020 on behalf of students studying in the UK may also be postponed. We will stay in close contact with the participants and ongoing applications hoping to take part on these programmes about any changes to over the coming weeks.
This includes those applicants hoping to take part on the GenerationUK Programme this year, your programme dates may be subject to change. Please keep your eyes on your inboxes for an update and thank you very much for your patience and understanding in the meantime.
Thursday 26th March
Just as our participants, alumni and faithful partner universities and companies across the world are striving to endure, adapt and thrive through the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pagoda Projects are doing the same!
From all of us at Pagoda Projects, our thoughts and best wishes are with medical workers and governments who are doing their best to heal and protect.