Madrid

After my lovely stay with my family, we’ve moved on to Madrid, where we will be here for 10 days. My fiancés parents are also here so we are spending time with them checking out the city. I didn’t really know much about it but from what I’ve seen, it’s very pretty. I especially love the buildings. There are lots of parks to walk around and there hasn’t been one cloud since we arrived!

Of course now I’m not used to the sun after spending time in Ireland, so it’s making me tired. We usually go for a nap when the sun is at it’s hottest, and then head back out when it’s a bit cooler.

Now that I’m in Spain, I can really notice how their Spanish accent is different to the Mexican one. I prefer the Mexican accent, it just sounds better I think. (Of course being with a Mexican is making me biased) I also realised how fast they speak! Ah how am I ever going to understand them!? I just zone out when I hear people speaking. I know I should try and listen, but when I can only understand/hear one word  in a whole sentence, then that is what makes me not bother!

But yeah, so far I’m enjoying my time in Madrid!

Aisling

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This Time Last Year

IMG_8987

The University where I worked at

It’s strange to think that this is the first September that I’ve been in Ireland for 5 years. Every September I’ve been in China. It’s not very significant but it means a lot to me. It’s change, and that’s good.

This time last year I started teaching University students. I was making PPT’s for them and getting used to waking up at 6:30am, work at 8am. I was trying to learn all the students names and where my classes were for teaching every class. Little did I know that in a years time I would be at home enjoying time with my family and getting ready to go to Mexico. It’s a nice feeling to know that my life has changed (in a good way) from 12 months ago.

As for teaching and after my crappy students from last semester, I’ve gone off teaching altogether. I really want to try something new. I’m really fed up of teaching now. The students did a good job with that!

I think private teaching would be ok in the future. When I worked in a private company I had some great students and I really enjoyed their classes. But first I’ll try and do something that I want do, and then maybe for extra income I could work teaching privately. It’s good to know that I can fall back into teaching if everything else fails. (which I’m sure they won’t)

But yeah, it’s just a great feeling to know that things are moving now. I’m not stuck in China teaching yet again, for another year. I can start to learn Spanish, I can start looking at jobs I want to do, I can start doing things that I just couldn’t do in China.

Even making friends, I hope I can make new lifelong Mexican friends in Mexico. In China, we made friends and then lost them…. as everyone moves away eventually. So it’s hard to meet and keep in contact with people, especially in China.

I have to think, what will I be doing this time next year? I’ll most likely be in Mexico. Will my Spanish be good? I hope I’ll have new friends. I hope I’ll be living in an apartment. Ha I’ll push the boat out and hope I’ll win the lotto and be rich.

Who knows!

Aisling

While I’ve Been Back

While I’ve been home in Ireland, there are more and more things that I notice every time I come back. Here are a few since I came home.

Roche Castle

Roche Castle

There really are 4 seasons in 1 day

In China, it’s either sunny or cloudy/smoggy and there is little change during the day. In Ireland, in the morning it could be sunny, at noon it could be cloudy, in the evening it could be sunny and then all of a sudden rain would appear, and then maybe it will be cloudy again. It really does fluctuate here, and I’ve never realised how much it does until I came back here. So you really do have to have an umbrella and coat with you!

Ireland is dirty

Having lived in Chengdu which is very very clean, and then travelling around Japan, which is also spotless, I arrive in Ireland and there’s rubbish everywhere. A bottle here, a crisp packet there….. It’s only now that I realise how dirty it is. While we were in Dublin, I saw two dead rats on the pavement (plus loads of rubbish). I admit I feel quite ashamed of the state of my own country. Why do people think it’s ok to throw rubbish instead of just putting it in the bin? I’ll never understand it. But yeah, unfortunately Ireland is very dirty in comparison to Chengdu and Japan.

More variety in ethnicities.

Having moved from Ireland 5 years ago, I’ve noticed many more different ethnicities here. Even in my small town of 40,000 I’ve seen many more. (I really don’t understand why they would come to where I live, there’s nothing to do here!) I don’t see a problem with them coming here once they contribute to society and not just arrive to receive social benefits. Also in Dublin I’ve seen a lot more tourists about! It’s good to see but I can see in the future that the city won’t be able to handle the big influx. Dublin isn’t a very big city at all, so I feel there may be problems in the future.

More expensive

I was looking at the prices of sweets in shops, and a lot of small bars are like €1! Just for a chocolate bar! I don’t know whether I’ve just never noticed when I lived here before, but I really don’t remember having to pay €1 for a bar. Maybe 70cent. But yeah, I do notice things are expensive here. (Cry)

People are fat

Again, I’ve noticed that there are many bigger people here. Maybe it didn’t register when I lived here before, but I feel there are more people that would border on being obese than before.

Needing a car

My house is literally 5-10 minutes away by car from the town centre. It’s really close but yet I need a car to get there. There are no pavements on my road until closer to the town, and I wouldn’t feel safe walking on the road (it’s quite busy), so the only way to get there is by car. There are also no buses.

It’s actually quite annoying. My fiancés parents also said that they wouldn’t like to live here because you need a car. So it’s nice to live in the countryside but that means you will need your own transport to get around. The transport system here is crap, and unless you live in a big city like Dublin then you need a car to go pretty much anywhere.

I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of right now. It’s nice being with the family though. I love going to bed in my own bedroom and sticking something on to watch while I’m surrounded by all my own things. I couldn’t do that in China.

Aisling

Back Home: My Thoughts

I’ve been home for nearly 1 month now, and it’s the first time in a long time that I didn’t have to think about going back to China. Being home this time round has made me realise some things…

The first is that I don’t actually miss China as much as I thought. Of course I miss my independent lifestyle, my apartment and the transport, but I thought I would miss it much more! Since arriving home, I’m enjoying the colder weather and that I don’t sweat at all now, I’m enjoying my Mum’s food. I like being with my Mum and Dad at home, and I feel I’ve a better relationship with them now than when I left for China 5 years ago. I suppose I’ve matured more.

The second is that I would like to live closer to the family. I’ve been missing my nephews grow up and I know that the next time I see them they’ll be completely different. They won’t be the nephews that I have in my mind 1 year ago. They’ll be brand new boys to me. Also Mum and Dad aren’t getting any younger so that’s another reason.

I know one thing though…. I wouldn’t be able to settle down in my hometown. It’s too quiet, too small, and absolutely nothing happens here. So that’s one thing that I know.

We are moving to Mexico soon so I can learn Spanish, and I kind of have mixed feelings about. I really want to go and learn Spanish, but then at the same time I feel like we are back to square one, and that we’ll always be feeling in limbo. I have no idea where we are going to settle down, and it stresses me out. We can’t buy this or buy that because we’ll have to bring it with us when we move.

We would love a dog but we just can’t at the moment as we have no idea where we are going to be living.

So it’s nice to be home, but at the same time, I’m in limbo!

Aisling

Hostels We Stayed At In Japan

If you are thinking of visiting Japan, here are the hostels in which we stayed at!

Tokyo

bnbplus Ninjadojo Ueno

Good: The location of this hostel is great. It’s about a 10 minute walk to Ueno train station where we could take the JR trains with our JR Pass. We actually had another hostel booked but we decided to stay in this one longer because the location was so good. Also there is a great street about a 5 minute walk with lots of bars and restaurants.

The showers were fine and there was shampoo and conditioner. Also the bathrooms were ok. It’s also very convenient to get to Haneda airport.

Bad: It’s a bit difficult to find, and also it’s very very cramped. I think there were about 22 beds in it and it’s just too small. There’s nowhere to put your bags so you’re constantly stepping over everybody else’s. Also the host wasn’t really there at all, and if we had any questions for him, it was very hard to get in contact with him. He’s also not the most friendliest of people! It can be very hot in the capsules because the curtains don’t allow air to flow in them.

It’s not really a hostel at all, just a room full to the brim with beds.

Would I recommend? For location, I would definitely recommend it. If you plan on staying just a few days, then this hostel is ok. I think for longer then no, it’s too cramped and sometimes quite noisy (apparently it’s ok to talk loudly at 2am).

Would I stay here again? I think for the location alone, yes I would. But If I had more money I think I would choose to stay in a different hostel but in the same area.

Kyoto

Kaede Guesthouse

Good: I think this was my favourite hostel. The staff were very helpful and the common area was really nice. Free tea and coffee was available all day with free bread for breakfast. The location was also very good as it’s only a few minutes walk to the centre of Kyoto. Also you can wash your clothes and hang them on their balcony which they have. The dorms were big and clean, and the bathrooms were good too!

Bad: Honestly I can’t think of any bad things to say about this hostel.

Would I recommend? 100% yes! We loved it!

Would I stay here again? Again, yes!

Osaka

The Dorm Hostel Osaka

Good: The location of this hostel was very good, just a few minutes walk to the centre. The width of the capsules were big and inside you had your own little shelf to put things on. The hostel itself is very nice and clean! They also provide free tea and coffee.

Bad: I’ve read reviews from this from other people and they said there is a lack of atmosphere, and they are right. I think the staff need to learn how to communicate better. When we arrived we had to sort our bags out and they just stood and looked at us while we were doing this, so it felt a bit awkward. Also there’s nowhere to put our bags before we check in. We had to leave them in the main common area, which we didn’t want to do.

Another thing is that at night there is a bar downstairs which plays loud music, so when you’re trying to sleep you can hear it, which is very annoying. For me, I can only sleep when it’s quiet, so I was quite annoyed by that. So if you are like me and can’t sleep with loud music, buy earplugs!

Finally, the top bunks are extremely difficult to get in and out of.  As you can see from the picture, the opening is too small. At one point I thought I’d never be able to get out of my capsule, as it’s too narrow! Ask to stay in a bottom bunk!

dorm

Source: booking.com

Would I recommend it? No, I wouldn’t. I like to know that I would have a good sleep, but here I knew it would be noisy at night from the bar downstairs. Also the lack of energy in the common room isn’t very good.

Would I stay here again? No. The reviews on booking.com are good, but for me, not being able to get out of my capsule to go to the bathroom at night is a no no. Plus the music at night does not lull me sleep!

Koyasan

Sekisho-in

Good: This is a buddhist temple that allows tourists to stay. It’s extremely expensive but it’s not very often you can stay in a temple. The location was perfect, with the main road right outside. Our room was very nice and the monks were also helpful.

They also had an Onsen which at first was very very intimidating (I thought there were showers) but I took the courage and went in anyways, which I was very happy I did! If you don’t like having a bath with others, then this may be a problem.

Bad: The dinner and breakfast wasn’t the greatest. It was just too different for me, plus there was lots of seaweed and tofu which I don’t like. Also we thought it was a tad too expensive.

Would I recommend it? If you want a different experience, then yes!

Would I stay here again? No. Once was enough. It’s very expensive and I think it’s only a one time thing.

We used booking.com to book these places, so if you thinking of staying in Japan these could be options for you!

Aisling.

What To Prepare For Japan

Because we can’t speak Japanese and it was our first time in the country, we prepared some things to make our travels that little bit easier!

JR Travel Pass

japan-rail-pass-worth-it

Source: google

This has been so useful for travelling. We bought them online and then after we arrived in Haneda airport we went to an area where they will give us our pass. This allows us to travel on certain trains as we have already prepaid for it. We never used busses while in Japan, only relying on walking, taking the metro or trains. This pass doesn’t cover metros, so you’ll have to learn how to buy tickets for those. We were unsure whether it would be worth it, but we actually used the JR trains quite a lot, sometimes 4 times a day. And it’s very handy just showing the pass to the employees and they just wave us through instead of having to buy a ticket every single time. It’s expensive but really worth it!

A Wifi Device

We heard that it’s very hard to find free wifi in Japan, so we decided to buy a wifi device and that is our wifi for wherever we go! When we were lost, we simply turned it on and then we could figure out where we were . It’s very handy when you need to use google maps or search for restaurants nearby or whatever. We collected ours at the airport and then when we were finished we put it in a post box in the airport when we arrived back. The website we used for this is: Sakura Wifi Device

Plenty of bottles of water

As we arrived during a heatwave, I’m pretty sure we spent most of our money on buying bottles of water! But I would recommend maybe buying a flask or something so you can refill it. We had ours but we didn’t use it as much because they did become heavy with all the water! But yes, if you arrive during the summer you should expect to drink tonnes of water… and spend lots of money on it too!

Food

Since booking our flights, I had  been worrying about the food in Japan, that they only eat fish and sushi……

But when we arrived, we actually found out that they eat lots more than just those! For one thing, they really enjoy curry, and they have quite a few places that do curries. Also, Japan is famous for ramen, and it actually is delicious! I can honestly say that I never had one bad tasting thing in Japan. Everything was so nice! And I don’t like sushi! So if you are worried about the food, don’t be….. it really is more varied than you think!

Restaurants

As we knew Japan is very expensive, we found 3 restaurants that were cheaper than others, and all 3 of them were really good!

  1. Yoshinoya
  2. Sukiya
  3. Coco’s Curry House

We visited Yoshinoya more than the others as it was just more common to see. We went to Coco’s Curry House only once but we were hoping to find another one to go to! So if you want to go for cheap food, head to one of these…. cheap but delicious!

I’m pretty sure that all of them have an English menu so it wasn’t difficult to order food.

Japan is such an easy country to travel to, but it’s just good to prepare for everywhere you go, such as for trains and what not. They leave on the dot and they certainly won’t wait for you! And if you’re stuck, a Japanese person will try their best to help you!

Aisling

What Was The Most Difficult Part Of Our Trip To Japan?

Although we loved our trip to Japan, there were two things that proved very difficult for us while there!

  1. Our bags!

Our bags caused us a lot of difficulties for us while in Japan. Not only in Japan but also while we were in Shanghai, they were difficult to lug around with us. We both had 50/60 litre backpacks, I had another smaller backpack, while my fiancé had a smaller backpack and a laptop case…. so he was carrying 3 big bags with him!

Never mind that, the worst thing about it was that most of the things that were in my bag I couldn’t even wear! I had two jumpers (because I naively thought it would be cold in the mountains in Japan) and just thick t-shirts and things that I couldn’t wear, mainly because it was just too hot. So out of all the things in my backpack I had about 6/7 t-shirts that I wore. The rest were sitting at the bottom of my bag.

When we were sending our big box home, we couldn’t fit everything into it, so we just had to bring whatever things we had left with us in our backpacks. So that was quite annoying! I had to throw away a few t-shirts and that while in Shanghai just so I could try and make it lighter. It was very heavy for me.

And then, while in Tokyo…. my backpack decided it had enough and broke: 1 slit at the bottom of it appeared, and then another 2 at the top. So that was it for my backpack! I’ve had it for 7 years so it’s quite old, but that meant our last day in Tokyo was spent looking for another one for me. Unfortunately in Japan they rarely use backpacks, instead using suitcases. I picked up a decent one in the city which fits all my things plus more! No more back pain!

So yeah, it was a struggle with our bags, but thankfully I think my body got used to the weight and it slowly got easier as the trip went on. Now in Hong Kong, I just have my suitcase and my small backpack, so it’s a bit easier now!

2. The heat!

When we arrived in Japan we noticed the weather was unbearably hot! I knew it was going to be hot, but not that hot!! Little did we know, we arrived in Japan in the middle of a heatwave!! We were talking to a few people that live there and they said it’s too hot this July, and that it isn’t until August that it gets this hot. They said that the summers seem to be started earlier and earlier. (There’s global warming in action).

Everyone was sweating; men, women, kids…… everyone. It wasn’t humid, it was just so dry and there was no rain for 14 days while we were there. Plus the sun was just so hot! Everyone struggled with the heat. So the heat, plus our huge bags made for us being VERY sweaty…..everyday.

It was tough!

Apart from that, everything else was a breeze! Really! Japan is such a friendly place for foreigners and it’s very easy to travel around. Yes it is expensive but if you find some cheap restaurants to eat at it’s fine.

Aisling