Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Merry Christmas to everyone. This Christmas has been much better than my previous one; working, feeling very very alone, and not being with the people I love.

This time round is much different. I had a lovely Christmas meal with my boyfriend and his family, received some lovely presents, and just generally feel much happier than last year.

I know last year I posted that next Christmas I would definitely be home to celebrate, it hasn’t happened. But I’m happy where I am.

Although I miss the celebrations at home; food, films, atmosphere, christmas lights… and just generally being with the family and watching my nephew open his presents… being where I am is a whole lot better than last Christmas.

But It’s hard very hard missing Christmas, every expat knows the feeling. People who never missed a Christmas with their family might think that it isn’t that hard; but it is.

Christmas only happens once a year; where your family get together, have a lovely dinner and just relax with the people you love. A whole day dedicated to that. Being with family, and hopefully, with no arguments. So when you’re living in a different country it’s just not the same, and it never will be.

Maybe next Christmas I will be home to celebrate with my family, and with my new niece or nephew who will be arriving into this world in February. Maybe I wont. But being away from home during Christmas makes me remember the past 22 Christmases where I WAS at home, and how wonderful they were and how I will cherish the lovely memories with my family.

And how, when I do go home for Christmas, I’ll have to buy presents for an extra member of the family.

They’re going to be spoilt rotten by their Aunty.

Merry Christmas.

Aisling.

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Why did I choose to learn Mandarin?

Since coming to a Spanish speaking country… I’ve been asking and re-asking myself ‘why did I choose to learn Mandarin?’. . . . . In comparison to Spanish, it is HARD!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand Mandarin is difficult, but It’s only when I begin to learn another language that it dawns on me how difficult Mandarin actually is, and how quickly I’ve been able to pick up Spanish.

In the past week and a bit since I have been here, I’ve picked up more Spanish than I have Mandarin in 3 months.

I’ve picked up the basic’s; how, when, for, with, why, because, how much… And some simple words like bread, cake, water etc.

I have really surprised myself. I imagined needing to spend a lot longer to study the language. Although this thought was due to the fact that I was studying Mandarin, one of the hardest in the world.

I’ve been (jokingly) saying to my boyfriend ‘I’m going to stay here and learn Spanish, you go back to China. I’ll meet you in a few months and then we can talk in Spanish.’  I’m sure in half a year I could hold a decent conversation.

Now I am barely capable of stringing two words together, but since arriving here, my listening has improved which makes me rather happy. Although I can’t understand, well pretty much anything, I hear  the vocab mentioned above. I studied French a few years ago and some French words are quite similar to Spanish, so I can just guess them. Then, a lot are similar to the English variants so that helps a lot.

In comparison to Mandarin; nothing sounds like English, so every words needs to be learnt, meaning I can’t exactly guess what the word is. And the tones don’t help either…oh and stick in the characters for good measure too.

I’ve registered in a Chengdu University to study Mandarin which I’m excited about; I’ll feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, and not just teaching kids with super rich parents.

I do want to learn Mandarin; I like the idea that the grammar is quite simple, its more direct than English, for example ‘How old are you?’ is ‘Ni duo da le?’ Ni= You. Duo= How. Da=Big. Le= grammar function. So basically, its You How Big? I didn’t include the tones because unfortunately I can’t put them on this.

Another example is ‘What does this mean? is Zhe shi shenme yisi? Zhe shi= This. Shenme= What. Yisi= Meaning. So… ‘This what meaning?’

Not only this, but to me, in life now you need a second language. Imagine all the opportunities being lost because you can’t speak a certain language.

So at the moment, my head is being tormented with why oh why didn’t I learn Spanish, but sure saying that, I had my chance to learn French and I blew it so.

Oh well, live and learn.

Aisling.

 

Life in Mexico

I’ve been in Mexico for nearly one week. One week already!? I’m getting sad thinking about it already. The time is flying by.

But I’ve done a few things while I have been here. On Saturday, because we arrived on Friday, it was a lazy day. We went to the cinema and saw the new Hobbit film. I noticed that although it’s in Mexico, there is a definite American influence in the cinema.

In Ireland you can get a small, medium or large drink. Usually people get medium one. The large is a little too big. Although they are minute in comparison to these ones I saw in Mexico. The large ones are HUGE! I was so surprised to see such a huge cup. I also noticed the famous ice drinks; we call them Slush Puppies at home. They are the drinks full of ice and some flavouring. I noticed those were being sold in gigantic portions. It was crazy to see!

We also went to a sushi restaurant which I was a little apprehensive to visit. I don’t like fish, and a sushi restaurant equals hell to me. I ordered a vegetarian one and it was quite nice… Although there was seaweed in it meaning every mouthful meant me thinking ‘seaweed seaweed seaweed seaweed’ and then tasting the stuff too, next time I will ask for no seaweed. Mm I wonder can they do that…?

We also visited some impressive caves. One hour and a half away from where we are staying is a huge cave millions of years old. We went on a tour inside it which lasted about one hour. I can’t believe that underneath mountains there are these vast caves tunneling their way through the mountain.

In the cave we came across a mound of stones and a cross. Apparently in the last century, an English man ( documents on him prove this) went with his dog inside the cave to look for silver: the area is abundant with silver. Something must have happened and he couldn’t find his way out.

His dog tried to bark and let other people know, but the people thought it was a menacing and unworldly creature barking from the caves meaning no one would help.
People eventually found the deceased man and dog; the dog lay beside his master where they both died. The tour guides now retell this story to the visitors.

So after the caves we went on a small boat down the river beside the mountain and then we rode on horses back to the entrance of the park. The last time I was on a horse was in a Tibetan area of China. Mad how different things are in just a year.

Finally, we visited a town called Taxco. It was very beautiful and the architecture was lovely. Apparently it is quite a popular tourist destination because it is a lovely town and the silver is supposed to very pure.

So those are just a few of what we have done, but because of this terrible jet lag my mind is like a sieve.

Jet lag is a bitch. We go to bed at nighttime around 9/10pm because we are so tired, then wake up between 4-5am. Always around that time…after about 20-30 minutes, I usually fall back to sleep until around 8:30-9:30am….. During the day I become very tired by 5 and needing a nap badly.

The downer on the trip is the jet lag. I can’t wait to get over it. Then I’ll really enjoy my time here!

Aisling.

From one non English speaking country to another.

 

So I’ve moved half way around the world to another non english speaking country. Although my body is in another country, my mind however, is still stuck in China.

Although the visibly different architecture, the gorgeous weather, and the facial difference’s between Mexican and Chinese; all of which SHOULD give it away that I am no more in China…. they surprisingly don’t.

Like China, I have no knowledge of Spanish. I never studied it at school and the only thing I knew (before meeting my boyfriend) was ‘Hola’ and ‘Como estas?’

So when I came to Mexico, I didn’t realise how confusing it was going to be.

I’ve spent a year in China and learning the basic Mandarin to get by. So, when I came to a Spanish speaking country, my mind was still thinking Chinese.

Someone would start speaking Spanish to me and, in my head, I would think ‘wo ting bu dong’. ( I don’t understand). Before I blurt it out I have to think You’re not in China.

In China, when I am with my boyfriend, I am the laowai (foreigner) and he is Chinese. Because he has darker skin, black hair and brown eyes, Chinese people think ‘’yes, he is definitely Chinese.” Me however, I stick out like a sore thumb.

When we are together, it is always him that the Chinese speak to. They don’t notice me because they know I most likely don’t speak Chinese, and because I’m ‘obviously’ with a Chinese person, they would rather speak to him.

So I became used to my boyfriend repeating ‘wo ting bu dong. ‘Wo bu hui shuo Zhongwen’. ( I don’t understand, I don’t speak Chinese.) I’m pretty sure he gets fed up with them presuming he is Chinese. Whereas I get away with their non stop blabbering to me.

So when we arrived in Mexico airport, my head was (and still is) in Chinese mode. In the airport, a man came over to us and talked in Spanish to my boyfriend. In my head I was thinking ‘aw god help him, he doesn’t know he can’t speak Spanish’

Then, to my amazement, my boyfriend replied to him, in Spanish! My automatic reaction is ‘Jesus he understands what he said’. Then I suddenly realise that of course, he’s a native Spanish speaker. It’s difficult to get used to this.

So, I’m in another country where I STILL don’t understand anyone, and I STILL cant read anything. But it’s 100% better than trying to read Chinese characters.

My head needs to find out what country I’m in.

Aisling.

This sums up teaching.

I have just come across a website/blog link that, to me, has summed up much of my experience of teaching in China.

http://www.vagabondjourney.com/the-china-english-teaching-experience/ 

From Vagabond Journey around the world perpetual travel; it is worth a read to those aspiring English teachers.

Yes you will have to evaluate students, do lesson plans and talk to their parents.

Yes you will be treated like a human resource.

Yes you will be flexible. The amount of times students have been added to my timetable unexpectedly has been quite a few.

And yes, I too have been asked if I would like my face to be plastered over Chengdu by my company.

Oh what a delight that would have been.

Aisling.

10 Facts about China.

map_of_china

Ta Da: here is my blog about China.

1. One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China’s population is estimated to reach a whopping 1,338,612,968 by July 2009. China’s population is four times that of the United States

2. Giant Pandas (“bear cat”) date back two to three million years. The early Chinese emperors kept pandas to ward off evil spirits and natural disasters. Pandas also were considered symbols of might and bravery.

panda

3.The custom of binding feet (euphemistically called “golden lilies”) began among female entertainers and members of the Chinese court during the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1279). Tightly wrapped bandages gradually broke the arch of the foot and caused the woman’s toes and heel to grow inward toward one another. Her leg muscles would also atrophy and become very thin. Bound feet were seen as highly sexual.

feet

4.Historians speculate that as the Chinese population grew, people had to conserve cooking fuel by chopping food into small pieces so that it could cook faster. These bite-sized foods eliminated the need for knives and, hence, chopsticks were invented.

5.The name of China’s capital has changed over the centuries. At one time or another it has been known as Yanjing, Dadu, and Beiping. Peking or “Beijing means “Northern Capital.”

6.It was customary for wealthy men and women in the late empire to grow the nails of their little fingers extremely long as a sign of their rank. They often wore decorative gold and silver nail guards to protect their nails. It is sometimes still seen today.

7.China’s “one child” policy has contributed to female infanticide and has created a significant gender imbalance. There are currently 32 million more boys than girls in China. In the future, tens of millions of men will be unable to find wives, prompting some scholars to suggest that this imbalance could lead to a threat to world security.

8.In some parts of China, “pigtails” were associated with a girl’s marital status. A young girl would wear two pigtails, and when she married, she would wear just one. This may have contributed to the Western view that pigtails are associated with children and young girls.

9.China’s national flag was adopted in September 1949 and first flown in Tiananmen Square (the world’s largest public gathering place) on October 1, 1949, the day the People’s Republic of China was formed. The red in the flag symbolizes revolution. The large star symbolizes communism and the little stars represent the Chinese people. The position of the stars represents the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party.

china

10.China invented ice cream, and Marco Polo is rumored to have taken the recipe (along with the recipe for noodles) back with him to Europe.

Aisling.