Checking Out Xiamen

The flights are paid for and the hostel is booked, so it wont be long until we check out our (maybe) future city where we plan to move to. Having had our eye on Xiamen for a while, we decided the summer is the best time to visit, with us going on a little trip with our friends to Western Sichuan, then with my boyfriends sis and boyfriend visiting in August, it was now or never.

Because Uni finishes the 24th of June, we decided to travel the 27th for a few days. We can see the city, check out the weather, food, environment, apartments, and where we may be working at. From what I’ve seen, it looks very nice, and we have gotten in touch with 2 people who already live there and they are very positive about the city, so I hope we will enjoy it too. Although I know for certain that apartments are much more expensive than Chengdu.

What’s also good is that there are direct flights from Amsterdam straight to Xiamen, so only a short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, then plain sailing to Xiamen. That’s definitely good… especially when my family comes to visit one day.

But if this city isn’t up to what we expected, I suppose we’ll just have to research more about another city that takes our fancy. Ideally we would like somewhere that has Western supermarkets like Metro, Carrefour and the likes, the winters aren’t especially cold… oh and good weather!

When the weather is good in Chengdu, there aren’t very many places to go and enjoy it, unless you have the opportunity of being able to get onto the roof of your building. Or you have a balcony, which we don’t.  When you go to a park, masses of people are there… so every seat is taken. Plus, every one of these seats will of course be in the shade. Damn it, I’m from Ireland, we don’t get ANY sun, let me enjoy it in Chengdu at least!

Furthermore, my boyfriend is from Mexico where the weather is great, so he really isn’t keen on the weather here.

So our time here in Chengdu is ticking away… and just maybe I might be posting from Xiamen next year.



Adding More Classes

Because I’ve moved from my old campus to my current one, I’ve had to leave my students behind. Apart from one, she decided to follow me to my new campus which I’m very happy about. I love teaching her and she enjoys learning English.

But because I’ve left my other students behind, that meant that on a Saturday I’ve only had my one student. It was definitely an easy day, but at the same time it’s a bit of a waste going just for a 1 hour class.

So last Saturday I was teaching a girl who I was covering from another teacher. Her English is brilliant, and because she is a teen, it’s a class where we can chat about different topics which makes the class interesting. So I finished teaching her, then my PA told me that I would continue to teach her every Saturday.  Then I hear that another teen girl wants to do a demo after my last class. So I did the demo with her, also with the parents in the room observing ( I hate when the parents are in the demo).. but they seemed happy with the class and so I have her from next Saturday too.

So from next Saturday on I will have 2.5 extra hours of class which is great. 3.5 in all. Just yesterday I was worrying about my money situation; being a part time teacher isn’t at all ideal when you plan on travelling during the summer, and thinking of moving, oh and paying rent and fees.  So I’ve been having problems getting classes because they first need to give them to the full time teachers, then when their schedules are full… it’s my turn. So those extra 2 classes are a godsend.

At the moment I love all my classes, my youngest is 7 years.. and my oldest is now 14. The good thing about being part time is that you can choose what students to teach… if my PA’s say ‘Oh Aisling, we have a very cute little girl who I think you could teach….she is extremely cute!’

First of all, I’m not going to teach a girl just because she is cute…. PA’s think that this a real selling point to teachers; a really cute girl. But it really isn’t. Yeah she could be the most cutest Chinese girl I’ve even seen, but if she is a nuisance in class… then you really just have a cute girl that is extremely hard to teach.. and you dread teaching this girl every week.

So when they offer me this I always ask ‘What age is she?’ …’Oh she is 4 years old’ I can now happily reply ‘No thanks, I don’t want to teach young students’… without feeling bad about it.

However when I was full time, I had quite a few bad classes. . Oh I remember in dread… I often wonder how I managed teaching some students. I think it was because I was sort of new to the whole teaching and I just put up with them… so at the moment I’m much happier teaching the students I have.

If we leave Chengdu we will most likely have to move back to full time teaching so we can earn more money, which sort of annoys me. I’ll no longer be able to use the ‘No’ word anymore.

Oh no.




It’s a Foreigner Thing

Not only is learning Chinese difficult for me, but it can also be difficult for a native speaker having to listen to a non-native butcher their language!

During the week, one of our teachers decided to play a game with us. Having split the class into two teams, she each gave us a piece of paper with two Chinese words that we have learnt since the beginning of the semester. We each had to explain what our two words were, without actually saying them.

Our poor teacher! One of the students would be saying a sentence and we would have to quickly raise our hand if we knew the word they were referring to. Our teacher would look at us with astonishment and ask ‘How did you know that was the word???’ She didn’t have a clue what some of the students were saying, but us foreigners did!

For Chinese people, they have learnt Chinese through tones…. so a lot of times when foreigners say something, Chinese people just don’t understand us, simply because our tones aren’t good enough. They rely very heavily on tones to get the meaning across.

Whereas with us during class, we weren’t listening as much to the tones, but to the overall sentence and what they were trying to say.

We have one student from France, and he has a very strong accent when he speaks in Chinese. There are times when he says something and I listen and think ‘God it sounds as if he just spoke French just now’.  But when he said his sentence, the hands went straight up!

Our teacher, god love her…she didn’t have a clue what he said. We kept repeating ‘It’s a foreigner thing’. Each of us were speaking in Chinglish but we all managed to figure out what we were saying, and guess the correct word.

So I suppose that game made us realise that Chinese people won’t understand us a lot of times, but also how us foreigners can manage to get by with our Chinglish… even though it’s only to other foreigners! ha that is a lot of help!

I enjoyed the game though… and plus my team won!





The Late 20’s Club.

The Late 20’s Club.

So I’ve finally joined the ‘The  Late 20’s Club’. Ha, I remember at one stage me thinking ‘Oh I want to be older so I can do loads of stuff.’ When I was 18 I always wanted to look older… When someone said ‘Oh you look older than 18’ I was delighted. (Although this was when I had plenty of make-up on me). I hated having to be asked for ID when going to bars and clubs.

However now, that definitely isn’t the case. I always used to think that I looked young for my age, but now I’m not too sure. Maybe now I look more mature, but I’m beginning to feel like I look my age… and I’m not really sure what to make of it! Maybe I could be totally wrong… but I certainly see a difference in myself from 2 years ago.

So for my 26th birthday, me, my boyfriend and another 2 couples that we met in Level 1 in our Uni, we went for Beijing duck in a really popular restaurant North West of Chengdu. It is a bit of a travel from our place but it is worth it. The duck is delicious and it’s juicy and not fatty at all. Plus we ordered other dishes which were all lovely too.

I hope, one day, if my parents visit and we can bring them to Chengdu and they can come to this place.

And…my friends even bought me a cheesecake! Chinese cake really is terrible, but the one they got is a Western style cheesecake, and it was delicious! After eating this we were all stuffed!


And they spelt my name right!


My lovely friends

After this, we headed to one of our friends apartment and drank some imported beer, took a shot of Korean Soju, and tasted berry flavoured vodka. It was a great night!

However it makes me sad to think next year my birthday will be rather different. With one couple moving back to the UK in the summer, the other planning on heading back to the US next year, and us thinking of moving to another city in China…. this will be the last time we are together for my birthday.

Even for my last birthday and who came to celebrate, 6/7 have left already.

But I suppose, we now have an excuse to visit Scotland and America to see them! And when myself and my boyfriend move to Mexico, then they can definitely come to visit us! That would be great!



Chinese Freetime

You know, when I see a Chinese child I become very sad! They are not exactly going to have the easiest time growing up here, as I’ve found out since living here. I was chatting with one of my students during class about the topic of free time and what this means to her. Free time to her, is substantially different to what it meant to me when I was her age!

First off, they have to perform extremely well in school, getting top grades in school, and only have one full day off from school. Study this, memorise this chapter, dictate this, do this, do that….

After primary school, they have their really important exams that they must pass to be able to go into 3rd level education. I know every country has these exams, but these Chinese exams are, from what I heard, one of the most difficult in the world. The pressure that they face is unreal. Once a student told me about the exams…. she was 8 years old. Even at that age, they know that they have to do these exams eventually.

My private student actually told me she often cries in school because she is under so much pressure… she is only 10 years old.

So basically, test scores are of the most utmost important in Chinese school.

So after they are finished school and have a degree…. finding a boyfriend/ girlfriend is the next hurdle they must go through. My Chinese friend is in her early 30’s… so she is labelled  a ‘Leftover Woman’. ‘Leftover Women’ is a term for women who don’t have a boyfriend by a certain age. In China, you really don’t want to become a leftover woman. Quick, find a partner!

Ok, so you are in a relationship… what next? Marriage! Of course the  couples parents are going to be pressuring you into marriage, they want their dream grandchild! In China, you must get married first, then you are able to have a child. My Chinese friend admits she hates going home to visit her parents as they keep pestering her to find someone.

Marriage done, children done… what next… a house! You definitely will need your own house. Usually, the husband will host his Mum and Dad in their own house together. Actually, our next door neighbour comprises of the Mum, Dad, child and the Grandmother. When the Mum and Dad are working, the Grandmother minds her grandchild during the day… and from the amount of crying the little girl does… it does not seem like an easy job!

I’m not really sure how this housing relationship works… but it’s very common here so it must work fine. Although sometimes I think the grandchildren spends all their time with their grandmother/grandfather and not a lot of time with their actual parents.

Keep in mind, during getting married, having children… they must have a car, plus have a job that will pay relatively well.

Ok, I’ve gone a bit off my topic, but my poor student has all this ahead of herself, unless she moves away from China!

My student only has Saturday off school; but on this day; she’s goes to dance class for 1.3 hours, then she has lunch…. heads to piano lessons for another 1.3 hours…. THEN she has me teaching her for 1 hour.

Finally she can go home, do 2/3 hours worth of homework, and then, finally then she will have her free-time. I’m really surprised she can last the whole day!

So in short, although my student says she has enough free time (when her homework is finished) I really don’t think Chinese students do. Unfortunately they are in Chinas big bubble, without a clue about how other countries education system differs from their own, and how much pressure they actually have to deal with.

I really hope this pressure of doing well and exceeding everything slowly starts to diminish… but unfortunately I highly doubt it.