France in Pictures: Provins, Medieval Town

We were lucky enough to visit a lovely medieval town called Provins. In 2001, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a lovely little town and if you are in Paris, try and take a trip to this lovely place.

Quaint buildings.

Quaint buildings.

The entrance to the town.

The entrance to the town.

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Areas for eating.

Areas for eating.

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A view of the countryside.

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The medieval wall that protected the town.

The medieval wall that protected the town.

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再见!

Aisling.

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France in Pictures: Paris.

I know I’m a bit late posting these, but here you are!

Sacre Couer Basilica

Sacre Couer Basilica

View of the city from the Basilica.

View of the city from the Basilica.

Paris has some lovely ice-cream!

Paris has some lovely ice-cream!

The Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge

The bottom of the Eiffel Tower.

The bottom of the Eiffel Tower.

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The winding queue.

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The most famous view of it.

The most famous view of it.

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The huge amount of locks.

The huge amount of locks.

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Catching some sun on their man-made beach.

Catching some sun on their man-made beach.

The queue to get into Notre Dame Cathedral.

The queue to get into Notre Dame Cathedral.

Inside the Louvre.

Inside the Louvre.

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Bustling about to see the most famous lady in the Louvre.

Bustling about to see the most famous lady in the Louvre.

There she is!

There she is!

We waited 2 hours in the sun to get to this green building; the entrance to the Catacombs.

We waited 2 hours in the sun to get to this green building; the entrance to the Catacombs.

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The long and cold walk down.

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再见!

Aisling.

The flooding of Chengdu, every time it rains.

During the month of August, it rains quite a bit more than usual. And with this rain, comes plenty of puddles. Everytime it rains, there are puddles everywhere. And not just small ones, no, these could carry on 6 or 7 feet in length. You do see drains, but they always seem to be located in the wrong place. You see a drain, and about 3 feet away is a huge puddle of water! On the whole, Chengdu is a flat place, so water naturally lies where is falls. So a lot of water builds up!

About 2 weeks ago, there was very bad weather. I’ve never seen it that bad before. The wind was wild and the ground was  a swimming pool. I was surprised to hear after that there was actually a storm somewhere in Sichuan, so I think we got hit a little with it. Rafa was supposed to go to work, but he cancelled; the weather was too bad, plus riding on his e-bike would have been a disaster. I’m pretty sure the flooding was terrible in some parts. Also, in some places, there are sort of like shiny tiles on the ground. So when these get wet, its incredibly easy to slip on them, walking, but especially on e-bikes.

Rain makes us not want to venture outside; but for work is has to be done. Yesterday after work I got caught out on the rain. Thankfully I took my umbrella, but my shoes were not made for the rain, becoming soaked as I walked outside the campus. With no water draining away, the level easily reached 3cm in some places. By the time I got to the bus, my feet were squelching in my shoes.

The Chinese way to handle the rain; wear flip-flops. Throw a pair of flip-flops on them, and away they go, which is rather sensible.

Yet, although when the weather is bad in Chengdu, usually the next day is a great day; the sun is shining and the sky is actually blue! The rain seems to clear the sky of pollution. Even the level dramatically drops to a healthy level. Our lungs can get a respite from the pollution for once!

So theres actually a small silver-lining to the bad weather after all!

再见!

Aisling.

My pet hate of being late!

Today was my first day in which I’ve returned to teaching. My long holiday is officially over. And it certainly made me remember this awful fact this morning!

In my old campus, they have asked if they could add two more classes to my schedule. I’ve had these kids before so I know what they are like. They have assured me that they would arrange a company bus driver to pick me up in the morning. They told me they would arrange it so I wouldn’t have to travel 1 hour to the campus, instead it would only take 30 minutes. I used to have a class at 12:30pm. Now I have one at 11:15am. Being me, I like to be super early to work. I hate rushing. I absolutely hate it. Plus, I haven’t had these kids in a few months so I have no idea what they have been doing. I needed to do some preparation!

So I wait outside my complex at 10:15am… no bus. “It’s ok” I think. “I still have plenty of time to get myself sorted”. 10:25am. Getting a bit worried now. The bus comes at 10:27am. I hop in. Theres a Chinese girl with me. I ask her was she going to my campus in which she said she was going to another one. So we sit anyway. The traffic is pretty bad. I start getting nervous.

25minutes pass on the bus, we are quite close at this stage, but the traffic is fierce. I keep checking my map on my phone to see where we are. My campus area was coming up.

11:00am. Fine, I have 15 minutes. I should get most of my preparation done. . . .

But then, I see he keeps continuing straight ahead! At this stage I didn’t know what to think. Did he get lost?.. No, I thought. He’s just dropping this girl to her campus, it wont be far. . . .

Another 10 minutes! By this stage I text my campus manager and said “I’m going to be late, we are at Happy Valley”. . This place was way north of where I was supposed to be!

11:10am. I’m definitely going to be late. No time for prep, not sure where the kids folder is, don’t know where they put my box of pencils/ markers/scissors.

11:15am. The Chinese girl has arrived at her destination. Good for her! However I’m getting calls from my campus saying “Hi Aisling, your students parents are here waiting for you. Where are you?”. I don’t know where I am, I just know I’m not where I’m supposed to be. And that I’m late for work.

11:30am. Still haven’t arrived. Traffic is at a standstill, so I cant do nothing except silently fume in the seat.

11:35am. We are close. Very close. I tell the driver to stop, cheerfully saying BYE BYE to me. I however was not in the mood.

11:40am I start teaching. No prep done. No idea what they know. Someone stole stuff from my box. This lateness then affects my other class which was at 12:30pm. I was hoping that my half hour free time between my first and second class would give me time to prepare for my next two classes that are back to back. But no.

Usually I would come to class 45-60 minutes early. I don’t like to rush, I don’t like to be late. I do my prep, and then for the next 20- 25 minutes I can relax, talk with the other teachers, knowing I’m ready for my class.

And this is why I don’t like going on the bus to school. I’m debating whether to use it next Saturday. I know it doesn’t take as long, but I’d rather know in my head that I’ll be early if I go by myself, even if it takes an hour!

My first day back and I’m late. Well, I suppose the good thing was that I made it!

Better late than never!

再见!

Aisling.

A bug in our food.

Well it finally happened. After 2 years of being in China, a bug was in our food. It was at one of our locals ( even worse) and we were tucking into our food, when Rafa noticed something black among his rice. I saw him notice it, and thought ‘aw no, don’t tell me it’s a bug’. His expression said it all. He took it out and there it was, with legs and all. Luckily, I was finished eating, and whilst he still had a little in his bowl, the sight of that was enough to make him full.

I’m guessing it was in the rice, and then he scooped it into his bowl. It wasn’t covered in any sauce so thats my guessing. As we usually go to the same restaurants for food, I’m sure we’ll go to this one again, but it will be a little soured by this discovery.

After that, we were talking and I was asking ‘I wonder what do Chinese people do if they see a bug in their food? Do they just discard it and not take any notice, or would they actually make a fuss?’ I’m guessing this has happened to a lot of them.

But it makes you wonder what the state of the kitchens are like. I’ve briefly past one once, and guess what, its a regular I go to, and it was literally a mess. No health inspections have walked in there i’m sure! The food is delicious and Sichuan is known for this, but the hygiene aspect is something that China should concentrate on.

At the moment, Ireland has successfully persuaded China to allow Ireland to export its beef produce to them. China put a ban on all EU beef during the BSE crisis, commonly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. Of course Ireland is very happy with this. I hope to start seeing Irish beef in Chengdu very soon.

Although I understand they needed to ban this importing of beef, and they have done so for 15 years, I think they should use the energy that they had on banning EU beef and and now use it to tackle the hygiene of some of its restaurants. I know it will be impossible; there are too many Chinese now for the government to make any such difference (thats why they target the internet and censor it, something that they can actually do) so I don’t think I’ll see any improvement in this unfortunately.

I’ve now become a little more aware of what goes on behind the kitchens here, and hope I won’t find any surprises in my food!

再见!

Aisling.

Ireland in Pictures: Belfast

I’ve only been to Belfast once before, even though we live about 1 hour away! So I headed with Rafa, my sister and her boyfriend for a day trip. Thankfully the weather was good too! I imagined Belfast would be quite large, but it’s actually quite small! Theres a different vibe to Dublin there, and the architecture from the older buildings was lovely.

We went a day before the 12th of July.This is when the Protestants celebrate the victory of King Williams battle of the Boyne in 1690. During this time there were a lot of Union Jack flags flying around the city and there were building big bonfires. Although unfortunately when they light them they put Irish flags on, as well as effigies of pro-Nationalist figures, which is sad to see.

It was a great time to visit and see the huge bonfires though! We also went on a ‘Black Taxi Tour’, it was fascinating to see the differences between the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city. Apparently the wall separating them, was built even before the Berlin Wall. A poll suggested that the people, on both sides prefer the wall to stay standing as they feel safer. It has actually gotten taller recently too!

Belfast is a lovely city to visit and it’s full of history.(although somewhat turbulent).

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Preparation for the 12th of July parade.

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Murals on the Catholic side.

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Bobby Sands: a hunger strike volunteer.

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The wall dividing the Catholic and Protestants. This is the Protestant side.

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Murals

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Titanic building

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再见!

Aisling.

你好成都。 Hello Chengdu!

Well, here we are back in 成都。 Our flight back was a little more stressful then normal. The first flight to Abu Dhabi was ok, but then when we took the shuttle bus to get to our next flight and the queue of busses all going to the same area made us a little hesitant. Our flight was at 8:20am, and by this stage it was 7: 20am. Knowing we had to go through customs made me even more nervous. By half we made it, but the queue for customs! I generally thought we were going to miss it. Thankfully it went quick enough, but by 7:45am we were running to our boarding gate, knowing it was going to close at 8am. We made it just in time. Although, after all that, the plane didn’t stop boarding until at least 8:40, as they were waiting for people.

So we had another 7 hours to relax on the plane to Chengdu. We then went through customs we picked our bags up…. well I picked mine up. Unfortunately Rafa’s bag got held up in Abu Dhabi, so it was stuck there. We had to go and organise how to get it back, and to receive some compensation from Etihad. Another flight should be arriving today so I hope its on that one. I’m guessing they will send it to our apartment when they get it.

So today I’ve been a bit sad, leaving my family and all that. Making it harder now with the new nephew too. But it was great being home, drinking tea, seeing relatives, and generally being with good company. 

In a way I’m glad to be back in Chengdu, to try and get into a routine again, and slowly out of the holiday mood. . . and get back to studying!

I’m going to miss the politeness of people, people not spitting or staring at me, being able to understand people, and the good traffic. Not even 5 minutes into our bus journey home we were nearly in a crash! Typical Chengdu driving! And soon after that there was beeping…. ah China. What will we do with you?

再见!

Aisling.