The secret behind our exceptional and innovative programming comes down to the strength of our staff and with that, we are excited to announce the addition of three tremendous good eggs to our Hutong Family: Kyla, Howard and Anete! We took a moment to catch up with the newest Hutongers to get to know them a little better; click here to see what they had to say!
What brought you to The Hutong?
Kyla McIntyre: A combination of my own personal dreams and goals, and circumstances! Providential circumstances, you could say. A couple years ago I took part in a workshop recording dreams and goals and had identified, as one of my top two goals, that I wanted to be part of a creative/outdoor/experiential education program. I felt pretty discouraged about the idea at the time though, because I thought there was no way this could happen in Beijing or anywhere in China, and that I didn’t have enough training or experience for it to happen in any reasonable amount of time. The week after, I went on the BCIS Grade 7 Experience China Week trip with The Hutong as BCIS staff (I was teaching there at the time). I knew about The Hutong, but didn’t know that they ran educational travel programs. I had a couple good chats with our program leader who suggested that I get in touch with the head of The Hutong’s Offsite Department, and I’ve been hanging around ever since!
Anete Elken: I found The Hutong thanks to the Beijing Improv community. It was April 2014, I had just moved to Beijing and I didn’t know anyone here. Since I was on a tight budget, I lived in a youth hostel on Nanluoguxiang for the first week of my stay. There was a guy staying in the same hostel, who was here for the International Improv Festival taking place near the hostel. He invited me to attend the festival workshops and see the shows. I met the Beijing Improv community and everyone warmheartedly welcomed me to join their regular workshops and events. One of Beijing Improv long term members, Jeffrey Schwab, asked me then if I wanted to be a freelancer on The Hutong programs. I said yes (that’s the number one rule in improv) and three weeks later I was on my first Hutong program to Inner Mongolia. And now I can’t even imagine my life here without my two families – Beijing Improv and The Hutong!
Howard Wong: All the nice and passionate people you work with here! And look at all the fun we have on educational trips – once I got to experience what The Hutong does, I knew I wanted to be a part of the team.
What is it that you do at The Hutong?
KM: So many things, and so many ways to answer this question! My favourite thing that I do at The Hutong, big picture, is to facilitate fun new experiences for students. Whether that’s teaching them a new game to play with their friends, showing them a new part of the city, giving them a new perspective on China, or helping them see a new side of themselves, I love the growth and learning and smiles brought about through each of these kinds of experiences. Sounds cheesy, but it’s really true.
HW: In a nutshell, I run educational trips, private tours and research different destinations in China.
AE: My position is Programs Coordinator – I take school students on educational trips to discover different places in China. I also run team-building events for companies and teach public baking classes at The Hutong’s courtyard kitchen. I enjoy incorporating improv games and workshops to our programs so I often lead fun improv sessions with kids or adults to help them be more creative, open-minded and work better as a team.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
KM: Before The Hutong, I was a teacher, and before that I was a hairdresser! I also play the flute and speak French.
HW: I’m a big Lego fan.
AE: I am a certified open-water lifeguard. I like Chinese and Russian rock music from the end of 80s and beginning of the 90s. I run a popup bakery in Beijing that is selling sourdough rye and wheat breads.
What are three things you can’t live without?
KM: Adventure and people to share it with … and music.
HW: Family, friends and achievement.
AE: 1.Outdoor activities – from running long distances to hiking, swimming and surfing – I love them all. Perhaps I love running a bit more than other above-mentioned sporty activities. That is why I am taking good care of my knees, so I could still run marathons at the age of 60.
2. Coffee – It is part of my morning and afternoon rituals. I love taking time with my coffee and to read or do something creative while drinking it. And I think that conversations with interesting people while drinking coffee are really underrated.
3. Sketchbook – I love taking notes, writing down my thoughts and drawing. I draw cartoonish and philosophical illustrations about life and all the wonderful and slightly less wonderful things that we face every day.
KM: Right now home is a favourite destination, but aside from that… So hard to answer! Somewhere with a beach and good snorkelling/scuba diving, but also other places to explore, preferably on motorbike, and good food. Lots of places fit that description, so I’m pretty easy to please.
HW: Yet to find out. I’m surprised every time I travel with students. Every time is a different experience to me – even the same destination.
AE: A place at the seaside with blue skies, refreshing wind and clean water.
What music are you currently listening to?
KM: I’ve been listening to some new stuff on Spotify recently and I can’t remember the names of whom I like! I’m also listening to Adele’s new album, and Sia’s new album.
HW: Recently studying some Beijing opera which my roommate is complaining a lot about.
AE: A post-rock playlist on Spotify that has songs by Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky.
Most memorable meal?
KM: Probably the most memorable would be the hot rock ‘BBQ’ in a ger in the Mongolian countryside, right after we watched them butcher 6 sheep. Wasn’t my favourite meal to eat, but definitely the most memorable! It is actually one of my favourite travel experiences ever!
HW: Oh! That Xi’An wedding lunch with my friends. Authentic Chinese wedding ceremony attended by international friends. Things can grow so interesting with multiple cultures involved.
AE: Outdoor (post swim) brunch at my mother’s countryside cottage in Southern Estonia: pancakes cooked over bonfire using a DIY frying pan that one relative made from an old pot lid. Pancakes were topped with wild bees’ honey from a friend of my grandpa’s and strawberries that I picked myself the same morning. This bliss happened a few summers ago.