An Gorta Mór (the Great Famine): the manmade environmental disaster that changed the world.

Came across this interesting blog about Ireland and the Famine. Just like other countries, Ireland has been shaped by its past… and is continuing to do so.

SeanMunger.com

famine memorial

This is article number six in my Irish History Week series.

Beginning in 1845, a disaster of almost unimaginable proportions occurred in Ireland. Calling it a famine is a demonstration of the inadequacy of words to convey some things in history. With millions dead and the entire country broken and destitute, the Great Famine is nothing less than Ireland’s Shoah (Holocaust). Although the trigger for the disaster came from the natural environment, what the Irish call An Gorta Mór (the “Great Hunger”) was almost entirely man-made. It changed Ireland forever, and the rest of the world as well.

The story of the Great Famine doesn’t begin or end with potatoes. It really begins with land ownership. By the early 19th century Ireland had been conquered by Britons many times, sometimes by military force and at other times by economics or demographics. By the 1840s Ireland was Britain’s closest colony–its workshop, food…

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Yay or Nay?

 

Here is a list that I composed about the yay (good) and nay (bad) about China. Of course these are my opinions so they will of course vary from person to person. Enjoy, and I hope, if you’re considering visiting China, this list will help you to learn more about it.

Nay:

  1. Spitting- A lot of people spit in China. I don’t think you could ever get used to the sound of someone beside you hocking and doing a great big spit onto the ground. I miss everything that goes on around me because I’m constantly looking on the ground to avoid stepping on spit.
  2. Stares- You will get stared at A LOT. They will take pictures, videos, ask for pictures with you, so get ready to become the centre of attention to all Chinese people. If you’re shy at taking pictures, this is the PERFECT place to get over your shyness.
  3. Lack of creativity- From my teaching in college, I noticed a lot of students struggle to think creatively. Their mind is like a road. They stick to one route, not being able to veer left or right.
  4. Food- Some of the food is strange to say the least. You will get dishes where you have no idea what it is, so when possible, bring someone Chinese who can translate what the food is. Oh and chicken feet is extremely popular, and smelly tofu.
  5. Language barrier- With the older generation, English is hardly spoken, so be prepared to learn some basic phrases and do lots of miming. Although the younger generation know more English, don’t be surprised, if  you are ever stuck communicating with someone older, some younger person comes over to help you.
  6. Traffic- I have witnessed about 10 car accident aftermaths since I’ve been to China.  Traffic congestion is also bad during peak times.
  7. Pollution- Although I thought it would have been worse, pollution is always in China. Beijing is re-knowned for its smog, but thankfully Chengdu hasn’t been too bad with it.  There is a constant haze and you will not see much blue sky about.

Although there are bad things about China, there are also some good.

Yay:

  1. People- Chinese people are so so nice. They would go out of their way to help you with something. The older generation love when you answer ‘hello’ to them when they practise their English.
  2. Food-Although there is strange food, a lot of it is delicious. One of my favourites is Hot Pot, or in Mandarin huŏ guō.
  3. Inexpensive- a big bowl of noodles could cost you 12yuan, about €1.45. A restaurant outside our apartment, nicknamed ‘the rice place’, I would get a big bowl of rice, 2 sticks of meat and whatever veg I picked, this would cost me 15yuan, so €1.80.
  4. Lots to see- China is such a huge place so you won’t be stuck for things to do. In Chengdu itself, there are so many things to see and do.
  5. Transport- Transport is very accessible. Speaking about Beijing and Chengdu; they have the subway which is extremely cheap. For me, a bus to the subway takes about 25minutes, and costs 2yuan, so 25cent. From the subway to the city centre, it costs about 3 or 4yuan. There are also a lot of trains travelling all around China so it is easy to travel to somewhere else, just don’t forget your passport when buying train tickets.
  6. You Become Famous- It will be the closest feeling of being famous. Everyone wants to talk to you and be beside you. It is such a strange feeling at the beginning, but gradually you get used to it.
  7. You Become Healthier- Chinese people don’t eat much dairy, if any at all. From what I saw, they are not huge lovers of crisps or anything unhealthy. I’ve lost a little weight since I came back, and in my opinion, it was due to the fact that I didn’t eat any bread over there.

These are just a few things about my experiences in China, the good (yay) and the bad (nay)!

Aisling

See You Soon China!

Well I gave the family the best present ever… ME. I kept my arrival a secret only for 2 close friends who knew. My plan worked out perfectly.  The flight was fine, where I got a bus back to Dundalk, and hailed a taxi. I asked him to drop me at my neighbours house where I would walk down. I didn’t want them to hear the car outside. So I knocked on the window where Mum was sitting, and the look of SHOCK on her face when she saw me was unforgettable. My sister leapt out of bed and gave me a huge hug. My Dad thought he was dreaming when he saw me, and nephew was hyper the whole day. It was such a great day, although I was extremely tired by 4pm.

When I booked the ticket home, that was it, it was a definite ‘I’m going home’ in a week’s time feeling. It was at that stage that I actually didn’t want to go back to Ireland. I still didn’t have a job, so I thought ‘I’ll head back home and continue to look for a job’, that way, I get to see the family. It was tough though. So the week before I was due to leave, I made it my mission to go to as many interviews at possible during my free week.

Although when the day arrived, I was so sad leaving my Chinese friends that I made. I know I will see them again but it’s always sad to leave people. The taxi to the airport was hard, where they drove up with me, checked in and walked me to the security area. But It would have been 10 times harder if I knew I was never going to see them again, so I suppose it could have been worse.

Everybody keeps saying to me ‘welcome home!’ when actually It’s just a flying visit. The day before I left, I signed my contract, and now I can’t wait to get back to China. Back in August, I had no idea what China was like. No idea. I have to admit it is COMPLETELY different to Ireland. Literally everything is different, it’s like a totally new world. Back then I didn’t know whether I would like it. ‘I could hate it and want to go home’ was what I thought. But I was totally wrong. I can’t believe how much I love it. I could happily spend the next few years living there. Although it is hard at times (I’ll write a post about this topic later).

It was over 2 months ago when I decided ‘yes, I want to stay here’. Of course I have my family and I will miss them, but at the end of the day, it’s my life. There is no point living life for my parents. That is one thing I most certainly would have regretted later on.  I know some people just want to stay at home, work and have an easy life at home with everything and everyone that they are familiar with. Since going to China, that is NOT what I want my life to be like. Adventure: yes please.

I’m not sure when exactly I am going back to China, sometime in the next few weeks, but … I will see you soon China… and I cannot wait.

Aisling

Alone in big, bad China.

I’m alone! I now have the apartment to myself, as my room-mate has started travelling. I actually enjoy the peace and quiet. So this past week I’ve been travelling to Chengdu city for interviews. It’s hard work. For me, it takes an hour to get to the city. Coming from a small town in Ireland it’s a bit of a change having to travel that far just for an interview. On Tuesday I had 2 interviews. One was at 10:30, another at 3pm.

So to pass the hours in between, I found a Starbucks and indulged in a Cappuccino and a blueberry muffin. At home, I would never sit in a coffee shop by myself. Never. But in China, a lot of people do it. They either read a book or watch something on their phones. It was just so relaxing, chilling by myself.  I think that might be a regular thing now.

Some people would think being by yourself is torture. I love it. I confess I’m an introvert, so the idea of being by myself in an apartment doesn’t phase me at all. I quite enjoy my own company. Although that’s not to say that I don’t like working with people. I like a balance between the two.

 And there ARE Western people in China. While I was sitting at the window in Starbucks, 7 Westerners walked by. They do exist. I even know who is a Western when they are not facing me. We really do stick out like sore thumbs here.

Aisling

A New Year, A New Beginning

I can’t believe it’s 2014. Last night, for our movie night, we decided to watch ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. It’s one of my all-time favourite movies and my Chinese friend never saw it before so we decided to watch that. I glanced at when it was made…2004! I couldn’t believe it! 10 years ago! Time is just going too fast… and every year I’m getting older. When 22 came, I thought ‘mm… its ok’. But when 23 came around I thought ‘no, no, I’m actually starting to get old!’ I’ll be 24 in 4 months. If I lived in China, I’d most likely be settled down, planning a wedding and having a baby in the next year or two. Its mad how cultures work sometimes.

Anyway, on Monday I have my last oral examination. On Friday I had to do one for 3 hours, asking the same questions 45 times. But they were my good 1st year class, and they are all lovely. The girls were asking me ‘will you be teaching me next semester?’ and I had to say unfortunately not. The look of sadness in their faces! I was so grateful though, they said that I was a kind, lovely teacher…that I was their first foreign teacher, and that they would always remember me. I was so taken aback. To hear such nice things from them made me so happy. One of the boys asked for a hug and said he loved his name. At the beginning of the semester he asked could I give him a new English name. I picked Jacob. I have no idea where the name came from, I know nobody called Jacob, but it instantly suited him. I think Jacob is quite a rare English name to Chinese people so he will be different too.

It was sad though, I was interviewing each one in turn, and I’d think ‘this is probably the last time I will talk to this person’. Throughout the semester, you gradually learn about each student, where they sit in class, who they hang around with in the class. You know the students who are eager to learn, listen to your every word. Then there are the others who sit at the back, play with their phones and just do not want to be there. But I suppose in every classroom around the world it’s the same.

And I have officially finished teaching. Done. Dusted. Finito. I remember walking on my own to my first lesson at 8:15am. The students literally never said a word. It was hard at the beginning. But slowly they started to gain more confidence and they began to talk more. September seems like ages ago. At one stage, I thought ‘I can’t wait to be finished so I can go home’. That was my unhappy stage of teaching. But that gradually passed, and the rest of it flew by. A new year, a new beginning. Of course I know there will be ups and downs in 2014, I just hope that there will be more ups. I don’t know what will happen, will I live in Ireland? China? Another country altogether? Who knows. But what I keep reminding myself is…..

What will be, will be.

Aisling