Chongqing and a wedding.

The past weekend I was quite busy. I was invited to attend a Chinese/Western wedding. It was very different to weddings I’ve been to in the past, where in Ireland they would last all day and night. This wedding was much different. Not only did it start at 7pm, but the Chinese guests left at around 10pm. The westerners however stayed out much longer. It was a lovely wedding though, where they had a lovely stage which lights around it, with two long tables either side. Because it was dark, it made it much more romantic.

We couldn’t drink much however, because the day after, me and my boyfriend headed to Chongqing for a few days. Chongqing is south east of Chengdu, taking 2 and a half hours to reach by train. The city is located on the Yangzi River, where from there you can go and visit the Three Gorges, a beautiful river area in China.

The city is different in comparison to Chengdu. Chengdu city is completely flat, meaning there are tonnes of e-bikes around. In Chongqing however, the city is built on mountains, meaning it is nearly impossible to ride an e-bike, it would be too difficult and steep. And the amount of STEPS we had to walk up to get anywhere! It was unbelievable! Thankfully Chengdu doesn’t have any. You would walk up about 30 steps only to realise that it leads to a dead end or into a house, meaning you have to walk all the way down then.
I also read somewhere that it is very hard to navigate and it is easy to get lost. This is true. Because there are lots of hills, this means there are no simple straight roads. Unlike Chengdu, the layout isn’t clear. We got lost a couple of times trying to find our way back to our hostel. I realise now that Chengdu is rather easy to navigate around, and the metro is extremely easy in comparison to Chongqings.

We only spent two full days in Chongqing, so that was hardly enough time to visit many places. There were loads more places we would have liked to have visited, but alas we had no time.

Our first day saw us meeting 3 people that live in the city. They brought us to an ancient town called Ciqikŏu Ancient Town, situated on the Jiālíng River west of the centre. This is an ancient town that has been restored, and it was very busy with people. It was quite similar to Jinli street in Chengdu, however much bigger and a lot more steps. Here, we visited Băolún Sì, which is a temple. Its main building is more than 1000 years old.

After this, we decided to get some Hot Pot. Chongqing is known as the founding place of this popular dish. This is extremely popular in Chengdu also, so I was eager to find out would it taste different. I wasn’t surprised to find out that it does indeed taste exactly like Hot Pot from Chengdu.

After this, we headed to a mountain where we walked (what seemed like 5 hours) up about 2000 steps to reach the top of this mountain over-looking Chongqing. It started near the top meaning we didn’t have a great view when we reached it as it became foggy, but I’m glad I persevered to the top.

Later we went to Helens for food and a few drinks. There is a Helens in Chengdu city, and it is popular with the Westerners because they serve food, drink and play good music. Chongqing’s Helens was the first that opened, where it then opened up in Chengdu. It looked pretty much like the same as the only at home, only bigger, and no Westerners to be found. It was so strange! Every table was occupied by Chinese, with our table being the only foreign table. In Chengdu, you would see loads of Westerners. This shows the lack of foreigners that live in Chongqing.

The following day, we decided to book a tour and visit the Dàzú Buddhist Caves. These are impressive rock carvings which are spread over 40 sites and are carved into the cliffs. They are very well preserved and it is both a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of China’s four great Buddhist cave sculpture sites.

Although our lovely excursion did take a turn for the worse. Once we saw all the sculptures, it started to rain. Although this didn’t deter us from us walking back to the entrance. Yes we saw the Chinese getting the small busses back the entrance, but we thought we’d walk it.

I however started to getting worried, there was no one on the road, and it was raining quite heavily. Because the tour was in Chinese, we had no idea what time we had to leave at, so I suggest walking quicker so we wouldn’t miss the bus.

We made it anyway but there was one problem; we couldn’t find our bus. The place itself was pretty empty because it was raining, so there weren’t a lot of people about. We also didn’t recognise any of the Chinese that travelled with us on the bus.

At this stage both of us were worried. We decided to ring our hostel and see if they could give us some information, or at least ring the tour guide and ask them where they were. But typically no answer. Not even a dial tone.

We didn’t know if the bus left us, had they gone to another area to look around? We were 2 hours from our hostel so we couldn’t exactly walk home.

After steadily growing more anxious, we spotted two people who were on our bus! We started to walk behind them to see where they were going. They were going outside of the area. I decided to ask him in Chinese do they speak English. He said he did a little. He explained to us that the bus is leaving in 5 minutes. We soon realised that the bus was tucked in a little corner shrouded by trees a little walk away from the main entrance. Every other Chinese person was on board, and here we come trundling on soaking wet and on the verge of having a breakdown with the thought of being left behind. That will teach us to walk that half hour to get out of the site.

Our tour was not at an end, we ended up going to, what I thought, was the strangest museum I’ve ever been to. The main topic was about hardware. (Yeah I know). So we followed the group around, where we saw old things from ancient China. Soon I saw some scissors. I thought ‘they look very modern! I’m really surprised they could make those in ancient China’.

Turns out they WERE modern. Literally, and I mean literally, the next window, the tour morphed from ancient china, where they had old pots and cups, to looking into windows at brand new scissors, locks, fire lighters, spoons, knives, one kettle, rice cookers and the likes. They were that new they still had the plastic stickers on them. It was the strangest museum I’ve even come across. We saw modern shovels, farming equipment, pictures of random Western people (I thought this was about China?) and then in the middle of all this modern equipment, stuck right in the middle was this steal pike from Ancient China.

It was like ‘well we can’t fit this anywhere else, so we’ll just stick it beside this solar sun panel here’.

But wait, we were in for even more bizarreness. After they showed us the delightful array of equipment, they opened some curtains and we were treated to a lady selling us KNIVES. We had to sit down and watch this lady, on her platform, sell us these great knives. She was cutting up vegetables, literally hitting a steal pipe with the knife (to show us how it won’t break) and was trying to make us buy these things, with the sponsor on the wall above her reading ‘baishite’. ‘Bai’ is pronounced as ‘buy’ in Chinese. Coincidental?

Well her selling skills must have been good, because there was a great flurry of activity with all the Chinese ladies running up to the stage to look at these wonderful knives. We however passed, we don’t cook, ever.

So today I was back to work, which is crap. September has arrived meaning it’s going to be a busy month with all the students back.

I need another holiday, for 1 month this time.

Aisling.

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Learning the Language.

It’s amazing just to find out how many people can speak even a little bit of English. I manage to get my daily life here, with my limited vocabulary and my miming skills, but I manage.

But some people don’t realise how incredibly difficult Mandarin is. I’m in Sichuan, so they don’t even speak Mandarin, they have their own dialect called Sichuan dialect, which is very different to Mandarin. Chinese people study both Mandarin ( the Beijing dialect) but they also have their own dialect from their own province, which they mostly talk. So if someone from Beijing came to Sichuan they wouldn’t understand the dialect, so the person from Sichuan would have to speak the Mandarin dialect so they can understand each other. So that means, most of what I hear isn’t Mandarin. Not a good start to try and learn the language.

Secondly, they use characters. This means from restaurants to basically everything, it’s in characters. So you can’t practice the language because all you constantly see is characters.

Thirdly, the tones are so hard. In Pinyin (how foreigners learn Chinese) you have the tones. But even if you see the tones, that still doesn’t mean it’s that tone. Say for example you say “ nĭ hăo”. This means hello. So, you would think you pronounce the tones above the letter ‘I’ and ‘a’. This is not the case. Instead, to make it easier to say it, you pronounce the ‘nĭ’ with a ‘ní’. So the tone rises up, instead of rising, falling and rising once again.

Even if you know the vocabulary, it’s difficult saying the sentence. You have to remember the vocab, tone and the grammatical structure of the sentence. If you get the tone wrong, most of the time they won’t understand you. This happen’s loads of times.

But also the majority of Chinese people can’t speak any English, although there are a few that pop up. For instance, today I was paying my bills. Thankfully the lady in the internet shop could speak some English, while using her dictionary to help; she explained to me what I needed to do. It makes life so much easier when they speak a little English.

Then I went to pay my maintenance fee. The man said something to me and I replied in Chinese ‘Wo ting bu dong’; I don’t understand. So there we were, stuck. I replied ‘wo yao’ and pointed to my piece of paper, meaning I wanted to pay.

Then this family walked in with the grandfather at the front. And he suddenly spoke English to me, asking do I want to pay my maintenance fee. We then talked for a few minutes and I told him where I was from.

Very few older Chinese people speak English, so I was very surprised to see that he could. It’s mainly the younger generation who are studying English that speak to me.

It’s a slow process learning Mandarin unfortunately.

Aisling.

I hate you.

At the moment I have a very special girl who I teach. She is such a sweet girl….. I WISH. She is just over 4 years old, and I am constantly bombarded with ‘I hate you’ during class. She says it in Chinese, but I understand her.

If she asks ‘méi yŏu xià kè?’, which translates as ‘is class finished?’. I reply no…then I hear ‘wŏ hèn nĭ’. (I hate you). She then pouts her lips and folds her arms.

If she is doing something wrong and I sternly say no, I hear ‘Wŏ hèn nĭ’

If she gets annoyed with me, she looks for something near her and tries to hit me with it. I tell her she’s not allowed to hit me and I hear ‘Wŏ hèn nĭ!!’

The thing is, I did the demo for her, and she was the nicest wee girl. So clever for her age, and I actually thought I wouldn’t mind teaching her. If I knew now what she would be like I would have said ‘bù yào’ – don’t want.

She’s my worst class. I don’t know, I just feel like I’m just not good with babies. I have one 3 year old and he is great, really is. I love that class because I just play with him while teaching him English. But with my other classes, they just don’t go so well. Maybe I’m just not suited to 3-4 year olds I don’t know. I tell my PA’s, don’t give me any babies, so they know not to.

I’m better suited to teaching older students. I suppose I know now what my strengths and weaknesses are.
Last week I also had a Reading class. It was for 5 students for 6 days, 2 hours each day. On Saturday I was so tired after it. We had to do an act out, so a little play.

I made the small script, everyone had a few lines, and I thought it would go well. I was wrong! The boys had no charisma whatsoever. They didn’t know their lines and they didn’t want to learn their lines. The girls were good. They put effort into it and I was proud of them. However it just didn’t go well. We were meant to take a video of it but because the boys had no desire to do it, the video didn’t go so well.

But I suppose from every mistake you make, you realise how you can rectify it for the next time.

Also, the wedding that I am going to is getting closer, and I have yet to find a dress. Hopefully I’ll find one this week. Then myself and my boyfriend are taking a few days off after the wedding so we are planning on going somewhere. We still haven’t decided where to but I’m looking forward to that.

I have also got my bike fixed. It is great! Also I realised my fitness has gone down-hill since so I will have to start building that up.

Aisling.