Hong Kong for my Visa

Last week I had to go to Hong Kong to get the correct working visa, the Z visa. At the beginning, I was so excited to go. I was looking at where to visit, where we could stay and generally just looking forward to getting out of Zhonghai.

But as the time came closer, all that changed. I didn’t want to go. I had to go during my days off, meaning I wouldn’t get a weekend. Travelling by plane, waiting for hours in an airport, queuing for hours at the visa office, spending tonnes of money on accommodation and food… no thanks. It was too much effort, too much money. And worse. It was for business.

But I had to go. So after class, me and a fellow teacher boarded a plane for Hong Kong. The plane was delayed four hours though, meaning we were put in a hotel until they called us. Great start. We arrived in Shenzhen airport at 4:30am so we decided to stay there until 7am, where we got the subway to the Hong Kong border. By the time we got to our accommodation in Hong Kong it was about 11.30am.

I would recommend you to stay in the Check Inn hostel. It is about a 10 minute walk from the visa office and the overall hostel was fine, with great air conditioning and free wi-fi in the rooms. Although it was a little bit dearer then others, I would stay there again. There is another hostel called CheungKing Mansion (not sure of spelling) and I heard it is the cheapest in Hong Kong. But if like me and you need to go to the visa office, then stay in Check Inn. Cheungking Mansion is on the mainland of Hong Kong meaning you have to get the Ferry to Kowloon Island where the office is.

For any other people needing to go to Hong Kong for their visa, listen carefully. At immigration you will get a small square piece of paper with a small blue design printed on it. It will have your name and what not on the paper. You NEED this. Don’t loose this. When you go to leave your passport into the office don’t forget to give them this along with your other documents, they will ask for it.

Another teacher who went before me told me about this. He said ‘Don’t loose that paper whatever you do’. I said ‘No I’ll make sure I have it’. What did I do? Well I didn’t loose it if you must know. When I went up to the counter, the lady looked at my documents and asked, ‘Do you have the receipt from immigration?’ I replied ‘What receipt?’ She then showed me the paper. I thought… ‘oh s..t’ She told me to go to the opposite building and get a new one, thus loosing my place in the queue. Incidentally, the other teacher left his at the hostel.

So we were walking back to the hostel and I looked in my bag, sure enough there it was. In my haste I threw the piece of paper in my bag, not knowing what it was.

So, keep that piece of paper.

Another thing I might add about the visa process. You hear people saying ‘Yes the lines are very long in the visa office, make sure you go early’. That doesn’t necessarily apply. Because we arrived late, we decided to go around 1pm. We arrived only to find out that it doesn’t open until 2. Although at this time there were about 50 people in a long queue waiting. The whole procedure was quite quick, but with our misplacement of our receipts we had to leave and come back. But by 3pm there was literally no queue. So I would suggest to people, if you are going during mid day, go at around 3pm. There is no queue because people would have went at 2pm.

Because we paid for express, our visa was ready the next day. We went in at around 3pm and picked them up. The whole process was quite easy, although we were constantly worrying in case we would be rejected.

So, make sure you have the right documents, your money to pay for the visa, and that small piece of paper, and everything should go smoothly.


Open Door Round 2

I didn’t have high hopes for my second Open Door, my first went terribly, even I wouldn’t have been impressed with me if I was a parent. So with my second Open Door, I was a little nervous about.

I had it at 9am so at least I didn’t have to wait all day for it. My two students, age 6 or 7 (forget) are usually great in class. And they didn’t disappoint. One students Mum was there, with the other students sister. This time round I was more prepared. I had my flashcards ready, had my topics ready, activities that I was going to use all prepared and I knew what I was going to do.

I have to say, I was SO proud of my students. They done great. Everything we done in class I reviewed with them. Open doors are usually when you show the parents what you taught them, a review class. (My first OD was NOT like this at all).

The students actually talked English, and they were really showing off what they knew. They weren’t shy and they done everything that I asked. I was so happy with them that I gave them 2 sweets after class! One of the students forgot a few vocab so I had to remind her, while the other one was helping her, making sure her Mum knew how good she was at English.

Because this class lasted an hour and half, after 45 minutes the parent and sister left, so I continued with the lesson. We had a quick 5 minute discussion with them afterwards and they seemed pleased, with the only thing I need to pay attention to is the students speaking Chinese during class.

I’m more prepared with my future Open Doors, where I have the feeling my next one is with one of my lesser favourite students. I feel as if I am teaching her nothing, because she is either tired, hungry, too lazy or doesn’t want to be there. Personally I think it’s all four.

I also have a new student on a Saturday for 1 hour. She used to be with a group but her Mum wants her to practice more oral English so she is now just with me. The first day she was a little shy with me but I think she will be a very good student. She seems really nice. I love when you get students that are just great students and you don’t mind teaching them. That’s half the battle.

My worst class is the babies…. Oh my god I’m going crazy with them. I have one group aged 4 and it is a real challenge. It used to be 2 girls but one left because the parents thought she was too young. Now there is a boy and girl. And lucky for me, they don’t get along. Typically, the boy likes playing with cars, while the girl prefers to play with cakes and girly things. The girl has in fact become sadder since the boy arrived. Its hard to see.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I am literally stressed with them because they keep fighting and don’t share. Then the girl just sits on the chair and doesn’t want to do anything because she doesn’t want to play with the boy. The only time they do get along is when the boy starts singing a Chinese song and she starts singing with him. Then I CAN’T teach them anything because they are too busy singing.

To top it off, the boy’s granny has to sit inside the classroom because he starts to cry. So I have HER looking at me during the catastrophic class. It really is bad. I know I can ask to move the class to another teacher if I feel like I can’t handle them, but I’ll persevere until I feel that I can do no more. It’s just obvious that the students just don’t mix and they shouldn’t be in the class together.

So hopefully my future open doors will go smoothly, and my babies will cop themselves on and start being good, or I’ll package them up and ship them to another unfortunate teachers soul.


Open Doors

Well I finally had my first open door with one of my groups. I was praying the PA’s would forget about them and I wouldn’t have to do them. But no, unfortunately they didn’t. Usually every 15 classes the group there would be an Open Door. The parents come in and watch 45 minutes of the class. Then there is a discussion about the class and what the expectations are from the parents.

During the week I was gradually getting a little more nervous of the prospect. This particular class is very quiet. I have 2 girls and one of them is very quiet, whereas the other is a little better but it’s obvious she doesn’t want to be there and it’s hard to get her to co-operate. Oh, and they are also 5 years old.

Well my praying to my angels didn’t help. The open door didn’t go very well. The more active girl started bawling so that took up 10 minutes with her Dad trying to get her to calm down. Then they both wouldn’t do anything for me. I would say “RUN TO THE…. GREEN CHAIR!” and they would slowly walk to it.

Then for a game I decided to get them to ask “How many heads/eyes/ears… do you want?”….. Then the student would have to draw how many they said, so they have a picture of themselves, say with 10 heads and 5 legs. But because I couldn’t get a word out of them, the game went extremely slow… taking 45 minutes. I know I should have stopped the game and moved onto something else, but I suppose I was under-pressure and just didn’t think. So that meant the parents didn’t see much from the students. The parents then left and I taught the students for the remainder of the class. Miraculously, they started talking English when the parents left.

After came the meeting. My PA discussed with the parents while I just, well sat there. They were speaking in Chinese so I couldn’t even understand what they were saying. However I did hear the Chinese word for ‘but’ used quite a lot…… so I’m presuming that’s bad.

I think Open Doors are one of the hardest things to deal with. You may have great students, you may have a well planned lesson, but once the students notice their parents are there, you honestly don’t know how they will react. They could become extremely energetic and show their parents how good they are, or they could clam up and realise ‘oh no, my mother’s here. I’m afraid in case my English is wrong. Best if I don’t say anything at all’….and that’s what will happen, they just won’t say anything; which ultimately happened my 2 students.

And yay, I have another Open Door on Sunday with two girls. These are usually really well behaved and they speak good English, but you never know.

And another sad note, my favourite class is being moved to another teacher. I’m so sad. That was one class I didn’t mind teaching at all. I actually enjoyed going into that class. They were also MY students, whereas a lot of my other groups were passed down to me because of teachers leaving. This meant I could see their English improving from me, and I could see their English level getting better compared to their first class. The reason for this is because the parents wanted a male teacher from the start, but at the time only I was available. Now that there is a new male teacher available they are going to try it out with him.

My students are going to have to work really hard if they want to become my new favourites.


All By Myself… Don’t Wanna Be, All By Myself….

Joey with 'All By Myself' music.

Joey from Friends, all by himself.


Happy Birthday to my blog! One years old! I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for that length of time. I never thought I would have still been writing in it. You see many blogs that slowly wither away, turning into dormant blogs, hoping that one day they might come back to life. I thought mine would go down that route, that I would become too busy to write in it. But no, thankfully I’ve stuck to it, prioritising a time to it every week.
But what a year makes! That girl from one year ago has surely grown up a bit. She had to heart-breakingly walk away from people she loved to get to where she is now. But thinking back, it has been the right decision. Everything has changed.

But, if someone sat me down last May, with a lovely Latte and a bun, and told me:

“Ok Aisling, you’re going to go to China and leave your family, boyfriend and friends’ behind. You’re going to live in Chengdu by yourself. You’ll have your own apartment, but you’ll have to pay for everything yourself, and you won’t be able to ask your family to help you. You’ll have to get your own food, work a full time job, and have 2 days off a week, like regular working people. Oh, you will also have to get yourself up at 7:30am, no asking Mum or Dad to get you up. No one will bring you tea in bed either.
Some days you’ll be lonely and you’ll want to go home, but you won’t be able to do that. There will be things that will happen and you won’t be able to go and cry to someone, hoping they will fix your problems. You will have to fix them yourself. You’re not going to understand anyone, and everyday people will stare at you because you look different… But you need to do this to become a better person….. now is that ok Aisling?”

I would have said “NO way!”

Too. Much. Trouble.

Need. My. Family/Boyfriend.

Live.On.My.Own? I. Will. Die.

Seriously though, that would have put me off living abroad. But thankfully, I kind of erased those parts from my head, ignoring them in a way. I don’t want to think that I wouldn’t get tea in bed from my lovely parents, no one will cook my food for me. That I, of all people, will have to get MYSELF up for work. That jobs for Mum and Dad. As goes for making me food, washing my clothes, and generally keeping me alive and presentable to others.

I have to do ALL THAT…. By MYSELF?! That’s a big ask.

But when your thrown in by yourself, you have to do it. Simple as. I learned that.

Now….. I have to go wash my dishes… they’ve been decomposing a week now.



Public Holidays


This weekend the Chinese had a public holiday. That meant: no classes. Because its a private company, we have to work during public holidays. Usually my weekends are jammed packed with classes, so it was really strange to see that I only had 1 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Although it was great that I didn’t have to teach, it also means I won’t be getting paid… but I won’t say no to the offer of a day free of teaching.

I also should be heading to Hong Kong this week for my visa. Although I’m looking forward to it, I know it’s going to be expensive, meaning what money I did save up, I’ll most probably spend a good chunk of it over there. Another teacher needs to get his visa so we’re going over together. Now I plan on doing some sightseeing while I’m there, because god knows when I’ll be back there again, but I think I’m the only one who is planning that…

It’ll also be the first time that I’ve been away from Zhonghai since I’ve arrived here, so when I return, will the feeling of being ‘home’ hit me.

When I was here for my internship, it didn’t really feel like ‘home’. The apartment didn’t feel like ‘my’ apartment, because I was sharing and I didn’t pay rent. I also didn’t feel like I ‘belonged’. Yeah I worked, but it didn’t feel intimate. I worked with hundreds of teachers… I knew none of them. I was swamped by students. There weren’t any other foreign teachers near me. (apart from my room-mate).

This time around I feel like I belong. I live in my own apartment and pay my own rent. I don’t rely on anyone but myself. I work in a place with great people and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone helps each other and there is absolutely no bitchiness. I’ve heard that in other campuses there is a lot of bitchiness going around. Every one of my colleagues is so nice and helpful. The students actually seem to like me and I have a great time with them. Most of the time they are laughing at me because I do something silly; but that’s the only way to bring out their own silly side.

I remembered when I worked in the college and thinking “It’s all so serious”. I was jealous of the other interns; they worked with children and pre-teens, meaning plenty of games and laughter. I worked with older students and the whole atmosphere felt subdued and serious. Students were studying for exams, and the whole college took rules a little too seriously.

Now there’s laughter, joking, chatting, plenty of games, and generally a happier atmosphere. Of course there are days where I just want to stay in bed, and not have to go in and (try to) teach some particular students. But generally it’s ok.

I suppose the only way to see what kind of teaching you like is to experience them all, both in public and private teaching. You won’t know until you try.