Yay, we got our visas!

Our 2 week wait is finally at an end! This morning we travelled to the centre of Chengdu to retrieve our new year long visas. Although we gave everything that we needed, we were unsure whether we would need to do a Medical exam. We prayed we wouldn’t, so when we handed over our documents, and when they didn’t mention anything about the Medical, then we presumed we were safe. However I constantly had that niggling feeling that they could ask (and I really wouldn’t be surprised) for a health check.

But, thankfully we received our passports with no problems! That is one less thing to worry about, and knowing 100 percent that we can now travel to Ireland. Leaving in 2 weeks, we will be there for a month, time for me to get my procedure done and then time with the family for Christmas.

I missed 2 Christmases at home, so this was a complete surprise that I would be home for this one. After going home for the summer, Christmas was DEFINITELY not on the cards. But oh well, I’ll enjoy it anyway. God knows when I’ll be back.

Although I will be missing a few weeks of Uni, I plan on trying to study the missed chapters at home and also during my private tutoring before I leave. It is amazing what vocab you pick up, and the random ones that stick.

鬼: gui= ghost.

拉肚子: la duzi= to have diarrhoea.

疯: feng= crazy/mad

Ha, I mightn’t be able to ask for directions, but I can confidently say If I have diarrhoea. Also the word for ‘ghost’ is one that I have stored, although quite useless.

It is amazing though, what words crop up during English class with my students. For instance, I was explaining the word ‘famous’, which she didn’t know. I said the Chinese of it to her and she immediately understood. I’m noticing more and more English words appearing that I actually know the Chinese of them, which is great for me! I’m actually remembering them.

My head even translated something into Chinese which I had forgotten the word in English! We were eating some bbq and I noticed this lady was using extremely long chopsticks while cooking; maybe 3 times the length of normal ones. I told Rafa ‘Oh look at the lady using the long…….’

I actually forgot the name in English for chopsticks, and before I knew it, kuaizi popped into my head! ha although this experience may have just been a once off, there is still hope that in the future I won’t need to translate EVERYTHING in my head.

And with regards to my very bad student, I had a short talk with my PA, and before she tried to convince me to take her again I said NO. No way. Although I feel bad for not teaching her, I don’t feel bad having to put up with her.

The PA said ‘Aisling I’m so sorry for putting you through this.’

I replied ‘You shouldn’t be sorry, you don’t have to be.  It’s not your fault and It’s not my fault either. It’s the parents fault for not teaching her daughter good behaviour. ‘

I advised her to give her to a male teacher; she may be more timid with them. But we’ll see how it goes!

再见

爱玲

Aisling.

 

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My rant about my student on probation.

I have been teaching this girl for a few weeks now, the one I mentioned in a previous blog. I decided to put her on probation; every class if she was good, she would gain another class. So I went class by class with her.

The past few weeks were quite good, although she still didn’t like English. But this weeks class was when she really pushed me over the edge, by way of me slamming her books on the desk and telling her to leave the classroom.

The beginning of class was ok. My PA was in to figure out what to teach her, as her mother asked us to teach from her English book from school. So we figured it out and we started to learn the topic.

As soon as the PA left, she was misbehaving; laying her head on the table, not talking, and just being lazy.

She then asked me;

‘What’s your name?’

I said ‘You know my name.’

‘I forget…..Sabrina.’

This is one of her previous teachers.

‘You know that isn’t my name’.

‘I don’t know your name.’

I have taught her about 10 times, she definitely knows my name. That’s her way of pissing me off.

So I tried and tried with her for the remainder of the class, until she got angry with me.

What she told me was something I would NEVER, when I was her age, have said to my teacher. Never. She said them to me before, and I decided to give her another chance. But not this time. She does not have the right to say any of the things she said to me.

By this stage I was very angry, and upset. We still had 5 minutes left of class but I told her to go. She was blabbering in Chinese, and I was speaking English really fast back to her, knowing she wouldn’t understand. I opened the door and told her to leave and then I sat down and went on my phone. At this stage she didn’t know what to do!

She then said:

‘You are not happy.’

I replied .’No, I’m not happy, I’m very annoyed at what you said. You cannot say those things!’

Then she backtracked.

‘Oh but I’m sorry, I did not mean to say those things.

I replied ‘But the things is, you did. You did mean those things!’

Then she got super sweet and said;

‘My birthday, thank you for the card.’

I replied ‘It’s ok, you can leave now. Class is finished.’

So she slowly left the classroom and I just stayed; annoyed and upset at what she said. I went up and caught her leaving with her Mum, saying ‘Goodbye Aisling’. (Oh, now she knows my name) I just replied bye and walked ahead. I then told the PA that I’m wasn’t teaching her anymore.

Her answer was ‘But she really likes you Aisling. She was like this with her other teacher too, saying mean things to her. Her behaviour isn’t right. Her Mum doesn’t care about her. ‘

I replied ‘Thats not my fault. It shouldn’t be the teacher teaching her good behaviour and manners, thats the parents job not mine. She can’t say those things to people. If the Mum doesn’t care, then why should I then?’

She then replied ‘ The student needs behaviour counselling.’

Too right she does.

Teaching English is a two way system. The teacher has to do their job, and the student has to do theirs. Theres only so much teachers can do. If the student doesn’t want to learn, then it’s much harder for us to do our jobs. Plus, some parents expect us to do THEIR jobs, by teaching them manners and good behaviour. Then, if the student isn’t learning anything; the parents give out to the parents saying its our fault.

If you taught your son or daughter good behaviour then we wouldn’t be having this problem. Especially with my student.

Apparently with my student, her mother favours her younger brother who is smart, enjoys English, and is better than her. My PA said to me;

‘When I talk to the mother about X behaviour today, she compares her to her brother and how good he is. She does it when she is listening. So then she thinks she is stupid because she isn’t as clever as her brother.’

The Mum shouldn’t be saying these things in front of her daughter. This surely isn’t helping her self esteem or her confidence. Imagine having to listen to that from your own Mum!

But anyway, I re-iterated today that I’m not teaching her again. I don’t care to listen to her give out about me for a 3rd time.

So after my horrendous class, myself and Rafa went to the cinema with two other friends and we watched Spectre, blocking my hideous class out of my mind for a while.

Let’s hope I don’t see her on my timetable for next week, AND I don’t get another student as bad as her in the future.

再见!

爱玲 (aì líng)

Aisling.

Being ‘fat’ in China.

I’m well aware that my body shape isn’t the conventional shape of a Chinese body. I know this. Every day having to look at girls that have literally no fat on them whatsoever has definitely cemented this in my head!

So when my students say I’m fat, it makes me both a little angry, but It also forces me to explain to them that in fact, outside of China… I’m not actually fat.

During class, my 10 year old student and I had to make up a story. I was teaching her irregular verbs, so making up a story would be a good way for her to practise. I started mine off about a scary house. To make it more interesting I acted it out. I was pretending to try and open the door to run outside but of course it wouldn’t open. My student says to me…’But you are fat!’

I have no idea why she said this, my only guess is that because I am ‘fat’, I should be able to open the door. So, this abrupt sentence made me stop, turn to her and say… ‘I’m not fat.’ Her reply was ‘You are.’ In which I started to explain ‘ Yes, in China, I’m fat. But in Ireland I’m not. I’m normal’.

Her reply was ‘Really?’. Not the best thing to say to someone…..

I could as easily have said to her ‘You are fat too.’ As in China, she would be considered bigger than normal Chinese kids. But I would never say this to her. If someone told me at her age that I was fat, or this or that….. I would certainly remember it. So I held my tongue.

Compared to Chinese, I’m pear shaped, so I have bigger hips than them.  And I know this. I don’t try and flaunt them; wearing short shorts or the likes. Getting me into a bikini during summer nearly gives me a mental breakdown; the mental anguish of them seeing my ‘fat’ and ‘wobbly’ bits. The Chinese however, they have NO hips, and thats the way they like it. They also have no fat… like anywhere. No fat legs, no belly fat,  not even BINGO WINGS!  Sometimes I think ‘How the hell is that even possible??’

The bottom line is; Thin is beauty. Oh, and white skin.

I know my student didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, as it has happened to me before. For instance; when I came back to work after my trip to Mexico, my Chinese colleagues said ‘Aisling you are skinnier’. I didn’t know whether to be happy that I lost weight, or annoyed at the fact that before I was fatter.

It’s just a Chinese thing. In Ireland we wouldn’t mention anything about weight, but here it’s not considered taboo. If someone got fat, they will tell them, without meaning to be mean.

I heard that if someone is fat, then they enjoy eating and that they enjoy their life. Being plump means you are healthy. But the way people here are obsessed with being skinny, I don’t think this ideology applies anymore. Pity, the old idea definitely suits me better!

I’m slowly learning not to pay attention to these comments. It is hard sometimes though, especially as I’m not the most body confident person, so any criticism sticks with me…. for a long time!

Though once they say it in Chinese, then thats ok, as I won’t have a clue what they are saying about me. 🙂

再见!

Aisling.

Getting new student visas.

So the time has come for us to get a new visa. Because we leave for Ireland in the middle of December, when we arrive back in Chengdu we will only have 3 days before our current visa expires.  I think we could just about get away with it as we would bring all our documents with us to the airport, but I think we just don’t want to risk it! Get the visa done before we leave so we don’t have to worry about it!

We have most of our documents from the school and work so we are going to the visa office tomorrow and see what they can do. Although we want to get student visas, this means the visa is only for the schools 2 semesters, whereas we would need to get a year visa; we will get the visa this November/December. This means having to get a medical done! For working, I’ve had to get one, but we are unsure whether the officer will let us away with it or not. I’m guessing not! They are very strict. If you only have a copy of a document, they will refuse you; asking for the original, they are that strict! We hope we don’t have to get the medical, but I wont be surprised if they ask us for one!

So that has been stressing me out a little. I think anything related with visas is stressful; at the end of the day, they can simply refuse you there and then. We decided to stay in Chengdu for another year and continue studying so getting student visas is a little easier than work ones.

I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad about that fact that I’ll be here another year!? I’m enjoying studying, but now, the only reason why I’m in China is to study. If that wasn’t the case, I think I’d be gone home long before now! Many of our friends that we have met here are also thinking of leaving in the next year; people from my old and new campus are leaving, people from school are leaving….It’ll be us on our lonesomes soon!

But, I’m sure we’ll meet other people!

再见!

Aisling.

Jiuzhaigou & Selfie Sticks.

Last weekend we took off work and decided to take the Universities offer of a trip to Jiuzhaigou ( 九寨沟 ). I have been there around 2 years ago, but I’ve always wanted to return. It’s such a beautiful place! We left on the Friday, departing from the school at the ungodly hour of 6:30am, and driving North. We had lunch, which wasn’t particularly tasty, and at about 4:00pm we arrived at Huang Long. This is a beautiful area that many people visit as it’s on the way to Jiuzhaigou.

Of course though, this is China, and nothing ever runs smoothly here. We were told by our tour guide that we would only have 1 hour at the park. 1 hour!?! To walk to the top takes at least 30 minutes! They told us we could get the cable car up, then walk back down again. We decided against this idea, we wouldn’t have time to make it back down to the exit in one hour.

So, we decided to go to the main entrance and walk the opposite way up the mountain. But just as we entered, the guide said ‘You can stay 2 hours in the park’. But….. why tell us this NOW? While we just enter? With this new announcement we became rather annoyed; we could have taken the cable car after all, and see the most beautiful area that is up at the top of the mountain. But never the less, we couldn’t do anything about it now.

So we started walking. As everyone was coming down, we were walking up; so we were literally walking against the tide of Chinese people! We walked about 40 minutes and took some lovely photos until it started raining. Clouds started rolling in and then we heard thunder followed by lightening! Up on a mountain, surrounded by water; this wasn’t a very good combination. We quickly started to head back down. This was also the Chinese peoples idea too, so we were all rushing past one another to get down before the rain got worse.

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By the time we got to the exit, my trousers and feet were soaked, but we were the lucky ones. The others, who got the cable car, spent another half hour getting down the mountain. By this time it was dark, so god knows how they managed it!

Because we had to wait for the other people, we ended up getting to our hotel at around 11pm! We were supposed to have dinner by 8pm there. I was dubious about the food… ‘would they have food waiting for us at such a late time?’ ‘Would the cooks actually wait for us to return to cook it?’….. We arrived, and the food was out, presumably since 8pm. It was serve yourself, so I’m guessing they just left the food there. One look of it and I decided against it, having a small bowl of luke warm rice. Then we went to bed.

On Saturday, we left the hotel at the more reasonable time of 7:30am. Well, it was SUPPOSED to be 7:30, but by the time everyone was out it was 8:00am when we left. We entered Jiuzhaigou park at about 10 and spent the whole day walking and enjoying the scenery.  We strolled around with a few others that we met on our bus. 

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很多人!A lot of people!

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Selfies everywhere!

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Although it is a long trip, I think It’s worth it; the beautiful surroundings, the crystal clear water, and they preserve it well.

One thing I did notice since my last trip; selfie sticks!! 2 years ago I don’t think they existed; I remember loads of people holding iPads. Now, iPads are gone and selfie sticks are in. And by god they were everywhere! They were actually pretty annoying, as they are so long which makes it difficult to get past someone with one. The Chinese do love their selfies. I understand why many institutions banned them though.

So after Jiuzhaigou, we got the bus back to our hotel, where the ‘lovely’ food was waiting (presumably about 3 hours) for us. Deciding against eating this, we got some food prior to leaving the park, so we were quite full. We didn’t venture near the restaurant and instead went straight to bed, having to leave at 6:30am the next day.

Sunday was travel day, and it was long, and windy! We were to drive south, all the way back to Chengdu. The driver had another idea, deciding to turn east. From the main road we turned into a road barely large enough to fit two cars either side. I checked my map and was surprised to see he was driving in a different direction. But we carried on; the road twisting and turning up a mountain. All I saw were trucks, presumably heading to a quarry or something. This made me nervous. Every turn I expected would lead to a dead end.

I text my friend who was on the other bus and asked him was he on the same road. He text me back with his location. They were NEARLY home!! Whereas we were in the middle of nowhere. They kept on the main road. I was thinking ‘why the hell is our driver going this way??’ By this stage, most people on my bus were wondering what was going on. Apparently our driver heard that the main road was closed, and this road was the only way back.

I got another message from my friend at 5pm ’I’m home now’.  I was definitely not saying ‘I’m home’. Well away from it in fact. We finally got back at 7pm, but I suppose it was better than 9 or 10pm.

Although I did enjoy the trip, the organisation of it was very bad.  We expect this; nothing is organised in China. I’m not exactly sure why, it just is. Every foreigner living in China says the same thing, so now most people expect a trip, or an event to be unorganised.

Yet it was great to get away from the pollution and the grey sky of Chengdu.  I’ve been getting more and more headaches recently, which I’m blaming on this. And we did plenty of walking which I’m happy about!

But…. I’m sorry, I cannot travel to Jiuzhaigou by bus, for 10 hours… for the 3rd time! Twice is definitely enough for me.

再见!

Aisling.

Our favourite park in Chengdu.

Because last Sunday it was such a nice day, we decided to go our favourite park; Huan huaxi Park.  Before this however, we decided to get lunch in one of our usual eating spots while we lived in the old apartment. This is one of the first places Rafa brought me to eat when we were first meeting, so it has good memories for me. Unfortunately we haven’t eaten there since last March, since we left the old place. It is run by the husband and wife, and it isn’t even a restaurant, just an area big enough to fit around 5 tables. We would often see their small grandchild there. At that stage she couldn’t really walk yet. We used to say ‘let’s go and see the baozi baby’.  Ha I’m not sure how we ended up with that name, but I think it was because whenever we would see her she would be wrapped up in layers of clothes, literally like a ball. We always joked that if they let her go she would roll away.  Baozi’s are steamed buns by the way.

The man doesn’t even sell baozi buns! But we ended up calling him ‘baozi man’ too. We would usually get jiaozi’s, and they are very nice! They come with spicy dipping sauce, and so far, we haven’t found another place that sells these. The owners have their own dialect (not sichuan dialect) so we are presuming the jiaozi’s are from that province.

It was so nice to see them again. The husband and wife were there, and suddenly we saw the little baby! She was much bigger now, and was blabbering a little in Chinese. And, she was no longer afraid of me; giving both of us a wave! After our food, we explained to them that we don’t live near there anymore so thats why we don’t go anymore. But we did promise to ourselves to make sure to go more often. I missed those jiaozi’s and of course the baby. We have a photo of myself holding the baby and we showed it to my family. My little 4 year old nephew asked ‘Is that your baby?’ Then, during our Skype session he would ask ‘where’s your baby that was in the picture?’ Aw kids!

So after our lunch, I decided we could go to Huan huaxi Park which was quite close to where we were. Coincidently the last time we visited was this time last year! So we haven’t been there in a while!

I think the reasons why I love this park is that it’s big, there are bamboo trees everywhere, theres a huge lake to walk around, and it doesn’t feel as cramped as say ‘People’s Park’. Because it’s so big, it doesn’t feel like there are so many people in it. I also like the layout of it. Luckily it was a lovely sunny day, so that added to how nice it was. It would be a good place to go running in in the mornings as it’s also free.

We decided to get some teas and sit by the river. I wanted to get my red tea 红茶 hong= red, cha= tea, but unfortunately they didn’t have it. That was the only tea I knew in Chinese, so he ended up giving us one that we had tasted before and liked. We sat for over an hour, until my poor feet were covered in mosquito bites. They are still itchy as hell! Then we went for our stroll, taking some videos to send to my family later.

Here are some pictures from the Park. Some of these are from last year. 

The younger baozi baby!

The younger baozi baby!

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Chinglish is everywhere.

Chinglish is everywhere.

再见!

Aisling.

The Smell of Cut Grass.

We were on our e-bike driving up to our school at the campus and we hear the sound of someone cutting grass in the complex. The sound, and then as we past, the smell of it immediately transported me back home; my Dad cutting the grass in the garden….usually it’s a good day. The smell wafting up to me. I think this smell is the strongest one that reminds me of home. It’s not often I find someone cutting the grass here, but when I do, it just brings me back home.

This particular time was the strongest though. It’s amazing how a smell or a sound brings back memories. I think for me, I grew up with my Dad cutting the grass all the time, meaning it’s a deeply-ingrained memory.  Of course there are many more; my sisters perfume or something that my mum cooked.

Whenever they send me a box over from Ireland, I take a long smell inside the box; I know it’s Irish air trapped in there! Pure and fresh! When they send me clothes from home, I take a long smell again, reminding me of home. The first box they sent me I asked for my little teddy cat, I didn’t bring it with me. It’s my childhood teddy. The smell of home lingered on it for weeks.

I love being reminded of home, but It also makes me miss it! I wonder, when I leave China, what smells with remind me of my time here? Maybe the strong smell of hotpot. (if I ever try a hotpot place in Ireland or somewhere else). I definitely know one thing that I’ll never forget….. STINKY TOFU! I’d never dream of finding it in Ireland, but I’m sure thats one scent that is unique to Chengdu.

For Rafa, something that reminds him of home is this spicy salsa sauce you put over food, like in a tortilla wrap. Coming back from Mexico, he brought some back with him. He says smelling that instantly reminds him of home. Another thing is a sauce called ‘Valentino’. It’s red/brown in colour and spicy. We put it over our popcorn. That again is from Mexico and it reminds him of home.

Yet for me, those sauces, because I ate them in China, will always remind me of China! One thing that does bring memories for me of Mexico… While I was there we bought these watermelon flavoured lollipops. On the outside you have kind of like a powder covering them. It is both sour and sweet and for me, a very unique taste that reminds me of Mexico.

vero mango

But, like stinky tofu, there are some smells (which seem plentiful in China) that I’d rather not get used to….. public toilets to name but a few!

The Horror!

再见!

Aisling.