Chinese Golden Week

Once again China has their annual ‘Golden Week’, where they all have 7 days holiday.. usually from the 1st to the 7th of October. During this time China becomes mad with people travelling here and there… but I certainly won’t be going anywhere!

It’s great to get a week off going to University, but unfortunately China is just too busy during holidays. Many just stay at home and relax, while others will venture out and join the swarm of other millions of people.

It’s such a pity though. I would love to go and travel during this time, but I know, from experience, everywhere you go there will most certainly be too many people. Plus the roads leading out of Chengdu will be jam packed with cars.

No, I think we’ll leave the travelling to the braver ones. We plan on relaxing, saving some money, try and study Chinese…oh and work.  Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean the children have a holiday. Of course they will have tonnes of homework and will have to come to English class.

I asked one of my 14 year old student what were her plans for the holiday. She replied ‘I’ll go with my family travelling but my teachers gave me a lot of homework, so I will have to bring my homework with me and do it during my holiday’.

The poor Chinese students never get a break from school. I really feel sorry for them. No wonder many families are sending their children abroad to study now…

Her Mum is planning on sending her to America next year to study so fortunately she will be out of the Chinese education rat race to be the best. Although she is extremely clever, with the 2nd highest exam scores of her whole school for her summer exams. So she will be fine in America.

So with no school for a whole week… when I return I will certainly not want to get up early in the morning again!

再见

爱玲

 

 

Working, Studying & Living: Sorting It Out

For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing what to do with our lives for the next year… and finally we’ve come up with a plan.

Working: Because I’m making hardly any money at the moment… although I do love the free time that I have, I’ve resorted having to go back to full time, well 15 working hours a week. This in my company is ‘full-time’.  I’ve managed to keep only working 3 days a week which is just great. I will dread the day when I have to work 7 hours 5 days a week. I’m really being spoilt here.

So working full time means I will be guaranteed my wage every month, whereas right now I’m paid by the amount of hours I teach.. so during the summer time I hardly get paid anything because students go on holidays.

Studying: We’ve also decided that this semester will be our last in our current Uni. I’ve really grown fond of it, plus I enjoy classroom based teaching. But every semester we are finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning. And at the end of the day I still have to pay 1 year tuition. We will miss everyone that we have met, even my teachers. All of them are so nice.

Instead of learning at the Uni, I will continue going to my private lessons in a private language school. It’s only 15 minutes walk from my apartment so it’s very convenient.

And as for Living: Unfortunately due to the enormous cost of rent in Xiamen, we decided to stay in Chengdu. It’s just too expensive. I really love the place, but I don’t want to be worrying about bills and rent just because I want to live somewhere sunny and pretty. I’d rather save my money and go travelling. Instead, when our apartment contract is finished, we will look at some apartments in the community that we already live in. We like where we live and we don’t want to have to lug our things miles away. Because we are going to be earning more, we want to upgrade to a bigger apartment… haha we might even get a balcony, and even a door for our bedroom!!

So right now, we are sorting out my boyfriends Mum and Dad’s visa to come to visit here, let our company know that in December I will be able to teach more students (they will surely be delighted with this), and begin to sort out the dreaded work visa for next year.

Every foreigner in Chengdu dreads that time of year when their visa expires. Enrolling in Uni is the easiest way to get one… but because we will be getting a work visa, we will need to go to Hong Kong on a ‘visa run’ as people say, plus we will get a medical certificate done.

I’m not too fond of going to Hong Kong. It’s expensive and crowded. However maybe this time round it might be different with my boyfriend being with me.

I hate having to sort visa stuff out. The people working there are not at all friendly and they can deny you a visa without giving any explanation whatsoever. Plus if you don’t have 1 piece of paper, that’s it: go home and come back when you get it. Oh and they need like 10 photocopies of every piece of paper you have. Oh they are very picky!

So, we’ve managed to sort out our plan for next year…. ha I won’t think too much ahead just right now or I’ll panic again!

再见!

爱玲

Figuring Out The Future (And Becoming Scared)

Myself and my boyfriend have been thinking more and more about the future lately. When we should leave China, what to do after, maybe do a course on something, moving to Mexico (so I can learn Spanish)…. and the more and more I think about it, the more I realise how comfortable I am here in China.

But I know I can’t spend my life here… unless I want to teach ‘He is big, she is small’ for the rest of my life.

It’s scary though… I’ve been reading more and more about Ireland and it’s rent crisis: rent in Ireland has increased every month… for 50 months straight.

There is just no way I can afford to rent in Ireland. At the moment I can’t see how I can get my life going…. rent is too expensive for me… I can’t afford a car…. never mind paying for it’s insurance.

I should have already started setting up a pension… plus god knows what the situation is when I return to Ireland and can’t get a job…If I can apply for the government to give me a supplement or is that all to do with tax…. with which I haven’t contributed to for over 3 years.

I’m just so unprepared for everything.

I’ve read that the top paying salaries in Ireland are engineering,accounting, law and being a chief director…. and I have absolutely no interest in those types of jobs whatsoever. So that’s me out of earning a great salary.

Plus I would like to have kids one day….ideally when I’m 30. So only 4 more years left!

I feel like whatever we do we wont have options; In Mexico my boyfriend will find it difficult to find a job, and if he does, it will be low paying.

For me, I’m back again teaching English… just this time in a different country.

However in Ireland, where my boyfriend would like to live one day… everything is just too expensive, plus where will we live if we can’t afford to rent?

I’m scared for the future because I’m not prepared. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to live my life when I can’t afford to.

We both need to do some serious thinking and try and begin to sort out both of our lives.

再见

爱玲

 

 

University Time Once More

With summer flying by, I’m once again back at Uni. One of the reasons why it seems that it went so fast is because here I don’t finish until the end of June… whereas at home, colleges finish the end of May. So we got an extra month of holidays in Ireland. Here however, Chinese people get more holidays during Chinese New Year, and two months off during summer.

Having come back from travelling, studying Chinese had taken a break. Since Monday I’ve been back to Uni, so my studying is back underway again.

This semester we have decided to skip a level and move up to Level 5. Every level I’ve been in wasn’t exactly a struggle. I’d go in, learn and come back out. I knew I wasn’t really pushing myself.

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to try 5. Plus doing all 10 levels would take 5 years….. so no thank you.

I’ve only had 2 days of class, but I know already It will be more difficult than before. Before, I understood everything that the teacher said and the Chinese she wrote on the board, and the grammar wasn’t too difficult either.

This time round, I don’t understand everything the teacher says… there are plenty of Chinese characters I don’t know…. oh and the grammar is tougher. Even the book content has jumped up a notch… with more difficult sentences and Chinese characters. I really need to preview everything before class now.

Only 6 of us moved to level 5 from our level 3 class, with some moving to 4. I’ve been with them since Level 2, so it’s a bit weird not being in the same class as them now.

And with every semester it seems as if my standard of Chinese is getting lower and lower. Level 2 my Chinese was better than most, 3… it was average… this time round… I feel it’s lower than a lot of peoples. But I suppose that just makes me realise that I need to continue learning.

I feel like my Chinese hasn’t improved at all, especially my speaking…. but then I remembered the first day we came to the school… we ended up going to the Level 5 classroom by accident. We asked the lady next to us what book she was using, as hers was different to ours.. and she showed us. Seeing all these Chinese characters made us quickly jump out of our chairs and head to our correct Level 1 classroom. At that time I knew zero characters… absolutely none.

Now, the teachers fills the whole board with characters which we have to read. Most of them I can read no problem… but it showed me that this time 1 year and a half ago, there was no way I could read them. . . so I suppose I did learn a lot since the time I started.

I’m just hoping in a few weeks time I’m not crying about how difficult this semester is!

再见

爱玲

 

 

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 2

Onto my next 2 days in Western Sichuan. On Wednesday we got up at 8am for breakfast and on we went. We had organised the day before to go horse-riding, but found it was too expensive. We decided to leave it until the next day. So after breakfast our driver located a group of Tibetan people who brought tourists up a mountain to take some pictures. Of course we had to pay for going up the mountain and the horses, but it was worth it.

The weather was great that morning and we were able to take some close up photos of their beautiful tibetan writing on a rock on the mountain.

The ride on the horse up was a little daunting; it was quite steep and I was afraid in case the horse would struggle. But thankfully they were fine and we reached the top no problem.

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Horses trying to run away from their owner

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Found an old house at the stop of the mountain

After our morning outing,  we headed back to Kangding. It took around 3 hours, and before we knew it we were back in the small city. Along the way we met 3 accidents! The first car accident was between a small van and a car, I’m guessing the van hit the car while going round a bend in the road.

The next accident we saw was a lorry had turned on its side, again it was navigating a corner.

Finally we saw a white car in a ditch at the side of the road. Drivers here drive far too fast, so I’m not surprised most of these were because of going too fast. But I don’t think anyone was injured in the accidents.

Our driver was driving pretty fast too but thankfully we made it safely back!

So we arrived in Kangding and our driver brought us to some hot springs. I was a bit hesitant; I hate people looking at me, especially when I have a bikini on… but when we arrived we realised he had booked us a private hot spring area just for the 4 of us!

The last time we went to a hot springs it was more like a pool with different temperatures. this was rather different! First of all the whole place smelled like eggs. So we realised this must be the real deal.

Before this, we finished what we had left of our picnic the day before, drank some Chinese tea… then when we were rested we decided to head in. Our driver told us that the hottest hot spring might be too hot for us so he recommend we should go to a cooler one.

We were really surprised at how hot it was! My god! I could only stay in it for 10 minutes at a time then I had to get out. Everyone did. The place is quite old but it was great to actually be in a proper hot springs and not a man made one. Was really authentic.

Plus it was deep, reaching my neck! Although we realised there were big rocks at the bottom of the pool, so we had to be very careful or else we would crack our toes off them.

We were booked for 2 hours there, but after 1 hour we were done. It was just too hot for us.

After this we headed to a small temple in a mountain side and took a few photos.

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In the evening, we accompanied our driver to our favourite Tibetan restaurant and then had 1 beer with him in the hostel until it was time for bed.

Thursday: Our final day consisted of us travelling back to Chengdu. Our journey coming to Kanding took hours because of traffic…. so we were worrying this time it would be the same again.

After breakfast, which consisted of the worst tasting pancakes in the whole world, we left the hostel at 9am.

Thinking we would be back to Chengdu at around 5/6pm, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive home at 3pm! We had no traffic along the way so it was much quicker this time. We said thank you to our driver for driving us everywhere and we headed to our apartment.

In a way we were sad we couldn’t talk our driver more; our Chinese isn’t very good and he knew zero English… but we tried anyway and did our best.  I’m sure he was very tired after driving such a long way!

Our visitors were leaving the day after so we just relaxed and went to another tea house, drank tea and chatted. It was a great trip and I’m very glad we did it.

Although It feels like I need another holiday after that holiday!

再见

爱玲

 

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Finally arriving back in Chengdu, it was time to relax! For me, it was only 1 week of travelling, but I definitely needed a break. I don’t know how people can travel 2/3 months straight!

Our visitors finally experienced are lives in Chengdu and why we like living here. During their stay , we did the usual stuff: visit JinLi/Wide and Narrow alley, saw the pandas, drank plenty of tea in the tea houses, saw many temples, walked in parks, ate Sichuan food like the famous Hot Pot… and  I think they really enjoyed themselves.

The weather was also fantastic, it didn’t rain one day during their time in Chengdu. Being in China 4 weeks, our visitors only experienced a 1 hour outburst of rain in Guilin. That was it! Very very lucky!

After a week in Chengdu, we organised through CoolTrip to visit Western Sichuan; where all the Tibetan people live. I’ve been to Western Sichuan, but not this far!

We left on Monday morning at 7:30, and we reached a small city called Kangding. Unfortunately we experienced loads of traffic jams… one in which we moved at a snails pace for 1 hour. We found ourselves in about 3/4 bouts of bad traffic…. in which our Chinese driver wasn’t too happy about!

But we finally made it at about 5pm.

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At night, the surrounding mountains are lit up. Really beautiful and it was such a surprise to see!

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Our hostel recommended us to head to a Tibetan restaurant in the city to try our their food.  Although it took 1 hour to come out, it was really delicious! On our last night, we went again with our driver. This time we ordered Tibetan butter tea. Oh my god it was horrible. It was really really bitter and salty… which was such a shock. I thought it would be very sweet. Our French visitor actually thought it wasn’t bad.. but I had 2 sips and that was it.

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The famous Butter Tea

Although it was nice to actually try it… I won’t be rushing for it again.

After spending a night in Kangding, we were on the move again. We visited the Tagong Grasslands and saw a beautiful Temple. After this we walked up a small mountain and took some photos. The only thing that sort of annoyed us about the trip was that you needed to pay for everything. We were about to head up the small mountain when we found out we had to pay. It wasn’t even a mountain, more of a hill. I suppose for them it’s difficult to earn a lot of money, so their only income is from tourists.

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Yaks

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Where we had to pay 10yuan to walk up to the top of this hill.

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After this, he brought us to another, apparently very very old temple. Upon having a nosey, we found out this cost 20yuan/ 2.70euro each to enter… so he quickly took a few of the outside and headed back out.

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We continued driving a bit, until we stopped for lunch! The tour provided us with bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and meat so we could make our own sandwiches. It was a nice experience!

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After our lunch was finished, we travelled to our hotel that we would stay in for one night. On our way we encountered some really pretty scenery with Tibetan houses dotted around. Was really pretty. Unfortunately because we were moving we weren’t able to take many photos.

I especially love the Tibetan houses; they are so pretty and have so much character. And some of them are huge! I’m not sure why, I’m thinking maybe one whole family and their extended family will live in one house altogether. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but there has to be a reason why some of them are very big.

I could happily spend my time just taking pictures of all the houses here.

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Having spent 2 days on our trip, we have another 2 days left, so I will cover those in Exploring Western Sichuan Part 2

再见!

爱玲