The Unorganised Chinese Company

I swear to god, some Chinese companies/ institutions can be so so so unorganised!!

And I’m definitely not the only person to point this out.

Especially when it comes to visas; they need to be on the ball with this. We are trying to sort out visas at the moment and I tell you, they certainly don’t rush…but they make you have a nervous breakdown!

Having gathered some things for our visas, we were pretty confident that we had everything… everything seemed to be going smoothly and with no problem. Then they say ‘Oh you need to get this notarised.’

What?? Why the hell did you not say this to us from the start??? And typical; the one thing that needs to be done early because it needs to be sent to Beijing…. it’s this that they fail to mention to us!

It’s just so annoying when they could have told us this a week ago. We leave China in about 15 days. God knows what will happen if this document doesn’t arrive back in time.

From the get-go we have been making sure to get all the things we needed to get done done. It’s just frustrating that people don’t seem to care/notice about these important issues, and it will inevitably be myself and my fiancé who will suffer for their negligence.

What’s more, we have to do all this ourselves. No one from their side will come and help us. We have to get this document, that document, do this, do that. I thought we would be getting a bit of help from them… but apparently not.

So myself and my fiancé are a bit annoyed at the whole thing now. I swear…. if they tell us we need to do/get another thing then I’m going to go mad!

I hope everything will sort itself out…. I don’t want any more grey hairs!

再见

爱玲

Visitors in 中国

At the moment, my boyfriends sister and her French boyfriend are in Chengdu visiting us. Flying into Beijing, they saw the most famous of places, before heading to Xi’an and then to Guilin. This was were they met me!

We spent a week in Guilin, where we visited the Rice Fields and then to Yangshuo, a beautiful place which everyone should try and visit one day.

We then took a 25 hour train from Guilin to Chengdu (although we very nearly missed it; that will be another blog post) and we arrived to a lovely sunny day! Chengdu really did pull out all the stops for our visitors.

But I am so glad we are back home in our own apartment. I’ve only been travelling a week but I’m exhausted. It’s nice to get back to familiarity and not having to worry about how to get somewhere or where to eat.

In a few days we head out to Western Sichuan to an area called Kangding, where we will do some hiking and visit the pretty grasslands.

I will post pictures of my trip in my next blog!

再见!

爱玲

My visit to Hangzhou.

Since my last post, we have travelled east to Hangzhou. Because I have been in a bubble in western China, when I came here, I now realise how vastly different western and eastern China are. I’ve become used to Chengdu’s life, with its more laid back style, it’s more traditional shops and restaurants. I now realise how much more modern eastern China is! Although I’ve been to Beijing, I couldn’t compare it to Chengdu as I didn’t visit it yet, but now I see it!

There is a saying ‘In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou.’ I must say, there is a truth to it. My Chinese friends would ask me ‘Where are you going during Spring Festival?’ I say Hangzhou, with the reply ‘Hangzhou is a beautiful city’. And it is. The city is modern, the buildings are nice, the weather is much better than Chengdu. The famous West Lake is iconic in the city. There are beautiful walkways along the lake. A vast expanse of mountains where you can hike and visit pagodas and temples. For those who like hiking, this is a perfect place to do it.

For foreigners, this is a city for us. A lot of restaurants have English, or at least pictures. There are bikes to rent all over the city so it’s a lot handier to travel around the city. A lot of signs have English. In comparison to Chengdu, it’s a city that is more foreigner friendly. This is because it is a major city to visit with regards to both Chinese and foreigners.

We have been here about 7 days and within those days, we didn’t even see half the things that are here. Our last few days we are going to relax and prepare for our trip back to Chengdu.

There is a certain charm to the city, and I think its a great place to visit. It is close to Shanghai, Suzhou and a 5 hour train ride to Beijing, meaning you can visit many more places around the city.
In Chengdu, we are limited to only one other major city to visit, Chongqing.

So here is a list of the good and bad that I’ve experienced from Hangzhou.

Good:
1. Restaurants (usually) have English menus. There is also a variety of different food on offer, from Hangzhou, Muslim (Xinjiang province) and Korean.

2. There are many cultural places to visit; West Lake, Hefang Street, Wuzhen Water Town, Six Harmonies Pagoda among many many more.

3. Rent bikes from stalls found all over the city.

4. Beautiful scenery around the Lake and the mountains.

5. Close to Suzhou and Shanghai.

6. Good drivers. We were so surprised that drivers actually stop for us when we are crossing the road. Drivers are much more patient, much less honking of the horn, and generally they are better drivers.

7. More conscientious about the environment. There are blue busses that are electric, and I have seen some electric cars also. It’s nice to see that somewhere in China they are thinking about the environment.

8. The city is quite small, with around 7 million people,  meaning it is easier to travel to more places.

Bad:
1. People are not the friendliest. From my impression, the staff in restaurants and shops aren’t very polite or helpful. Maybe this was because it was Spring Festival, I’m not sure. In Chengdu, because there aren’t as many foreigners, we are treated with more respect. In Hangzhou, I’m sure they see a lot more of us. You won’t get many smiles in Hangzhou.

2. It is more expensive. This is seen especially in restaurants where the food is dearer. A 2 person meal in Chengdu would cost between 40-60 yuan, whereas in Hangzhou, it would be 100 yuan and upwards.

3. More foreigners. Although some people may like this, I personally don’t. I like the more authentic experience of living in China with Chinese people, and not bumping into foreigners all the time.

4. During the spring festival, the traffic was MAD, and there were Chinese people everywhere! But this was during the spring festival so It wont be as bad during normal times.

Although we planned on visiting Shanghai, we decided not to. During this time, it is too busy with people travelling and it would much harder to get train tickets. Also, we booked our hostel for 10 days, meaning if we stayed in Shanghai for a night, we would have lost money in our Hangzhou hostel.

But it is a beautiful city and the lake is beautiful. Although we were quite unlucky in that the weather isn’t great here at the moment, I can just imagine what the city would look like during the summer when the sun is shining.

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.

Learning the Language.

It’s amazing just to find out how many people can speak even a little bit of English. I manage to get my daily life here, with my limited vocabulary and my miming skills, but I manage.

But some people don’t realise how incredibly difficult Mandarin is. I’m in Sichuan, so they don’t even speak Mandarin, they have their own dialect called Sichuan dialect, which is very different to Mandarin. Chinese people study both Mandarin ( the Beijing dialect) but they also have their own dialect from their own province, which they mostly talk. So if someone from Beijing came to Sichuan they wouldn’t understand the dialect, so the person from Sichuan would have to speak the Mandarin dialect so they can understand each other. So that means, most of what I hear isn’t Mandarin. Not a good start to try and learn the language.

Secondly, they use characters. This means from restaurants to basically everything, it’s in characters. So you can’t practice the language because all you constantly see is characters.

Thirdly, the tones are so hard. In Pinyin (how foreigners learn Chinese) you have the tones. But even if you see the tones, that still doesn’t mean it’s that tone. Say for example you say “ nĭ hăo”. This means hello. So, you would think you pronounce the tones above the letter ‘I’ and ‘a’. This is not the case. Instead, to make it easier to say it, you pronounce the ‘nĭ’ with a ‘ní’. So the tone rises up, instead of rising, falling and rising once again.

Even if you know the vocabulary, it’s difficult saying the sentence. You have to remember the vocab, tone and the grammatical structure of the sentence. If you get the tone wrong, most of the time they won’t understand you. This happen’s loads of times.

But also the majority of Chinese people can’t speak any English, although there are a few that pop up. For instance, today I was paying my bills. Thankfully the lady in the internet shop could speak some English, while using her dictionary to help; she explained to me what I needed to do. It makes life so much easier when they speak a little English.

Then I went to pay my maintenance fee. The man said something to me and I replied in Chinese ‘Wo ting bu dong’; I don’t understand. So there we were, stuck. I replied ‘wo yao’ and pointed to my piece of paper, meaning I wanted to pay.

Then this family walked in with the grandfather at the front. And he suddenly spoke English to me, asking do I want to pay my maintenance fee. We then talked for a few minutes and I told him where I was from.

Very few older Chinese people speak English, so I was very surprised to see that he could. It’s mainly the younger generation who are studying English that speak to me.

It’s a slow process learning Mandarin unfortunately.

Aisling.

Teaching Review and…I’M BACK!

index
I’m Back! Its been a while, but after the disaster with my visa debit card ( another post) and only just getting the internet, my blogging has unfortunately been at a standstill…. Yet no more! I shall (hopefully if I’m not too terribly busy) be posting new blogs up here again. During my time with no internet, I’ve written 2 posts at once, so I’ll post them together. Enjoy!

Teaching Review

Since January, I have signed a contract to work with another company for 1 year. This means I’m actually a FULL TIME teacher, with an actual wage this time. From September 2013 to the beginning of January 2014, I was on a teaching internship for one semester.

I know reviews are especially good for people who are thinking of joining a company; one of the reasons why I applied for the job I now have is because I met a person who works there and he told me that It was a good place to work, so I know personal experience is important.

The company, i-to-i is a company that I found online. I knew one of my friends was doing a TEFL course online and was going to Japan to teach, so I researched and found this one. After completing the 120 hours online, I decided to apply for the Teach & Travel China Programme which was advertised on their website.

You can choose the China, Vietnam, Thailand or Poland internship. Each programme starts on 2 different semesters. Speaking about the China internship, programmes start in February (Winter Programme) and August (Summer Programme). I chose the August programme, where I was shipped out with about 150 people to Beijing. Most of the participants were English, but there were about 20 Australians, 14 Irish, 4 Canadians, 1 American in my group. There were many more that arrived 1 month earlier to do their 140 TEFL from a lot of European countries.

The first week was amazing, where we saw the Great Wall, Acrobatics Show, Saw the Beijing Olympic Stadium and ate Peking Duck in Beijing. We then travelled to Harbin for our orientation. It was great being with a big group of people where every day you would talk and hang around with different people in the group. Everyone was there for the same reason; to do something different.

After that we were sent to our teaching locations. Around 50 people went to Sichuan, where people were placed in Chengdu, and about 50 went to Guangzhou, where most people here were placed in Guangdong. The rest went to Beijing, Harbin, Inner Mongolia, and near Shanghai.

Of course you’re going to hear bad reviews about companies, I’ve even read about them myself, about Teach and Travel China and thought “did I make a mistake?”, but as I say, everyone’s experience is different. Some people might have had a bad school, living conditions, bad neighbourhood and so on. Luckily, I was very fortunate; I had a good apartment, the school was fine and nothing major happened. My location however wasn’t great, where I was 1 hour away from the city centre.

So here are the good things and bad things about doing the i-to-I and Teach & Travel China Internship.

Good
• People are in the same boat as your-self.
• You’ll most likely be placed with someone. This will be living together and in the same schools, living together but different schools, or living by yourself but being near other interns.
• You won’t go through it alone. There will be like 150 other people starting their teaching at the same time so you won’t be going through it by yourself.
• Apartment and school is guaranteed for you. There is no worrying about finding schools.
• Guaranteed a minimum of 2 hours Mandarin/Cantonese lessons.
• Everything is provided for you in the apartment; kettle, cups, quilts…
• Given an advisor at your school to help you throughout your internship.
• Don’t have to pay rent or bills. (that’s if you don’t go over your bill limit)
• Maximum of 15 teaching hours.

Bad
• Expensive. From applying for it, to getting your visa, the cost adds up.
• Might be placed with someone you don’t get on with… and your stuck with them for 4 months.
• Don’t know where in China you will be placed. This means it’s difficult to pack when you don’t know the climate you’re going to live in. You could also be placed in a really remote area.
• Don’t know what age group you’ll be teaching. If you pick 7-14 age for instance, you may not get it.
• Wages aren’t great. You can live off it, but you can’t go mad spending.

These are my own opinions about the good and bad points about the internship. There are plenty of people I’m sure would say “ NEVER DO IT, IT WAS THE WORST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!”. I’m sure some people did have a terrible time on their internship, I’ve read about them. But on my own accounts and experience, if nothing majorly goes wrong with your internship, you’re blessed.

Because I’ve had a good experience of my internship, I would tell people to do it. It lets you have a taste of teaching but it also lets you live in a new country, even just for a few months.

The choice is up to you…

Aisling.

Yay or Nay?

 

Here is a list that I composed about the yay (good) and nay (bad) about China. Of course these are my opinions so they will of course vary from person to person. Enjoy, and I hope, if you’re considering visiting China, this list will help you to learn more about it.

Nay:

  1. Spitting- A lot of people spit in China. I don’t think you could ever get used to the sound of someone beside you hocking and doing a great big spit onto the ground. I miss everything that goes on around me because I’m constantly looking on the ground to avoid stepping on spit.
  2. Stares- You will get stared at A LOT. They will take pictures, videos, ask for pictures with you, so get ready to become the centre of attention to all Chinese people. If you’re shy at taking pictures, this is the PERFECT place to get over your shyness.
  3. Lack of creativity- From my teaching in college, I noticed a lot of students struggle to think creatively. Their mind is like a road. They stick to one route, not being able to veer left or right.
  4. Food- Some of the food is strange to say the least. You will get dishes where you have no idea what it is, so when possible, bring someone Chinese who can translate what the food is. Oh and chicken feet is extremely popular, and smelly tofu.
  5. Language barrier- With the older generation, English is hardly spoken, so be prepared to learn some basic phrases and do lots of miming. Although the younger generation know more English, don’t be surprised, if  you are ever stuck communicating with someone older, some younger person comes over to help you.
  6. Traffic- I have witnessed about 10 car accident aftermaths since I’ve been to China.  Traffic congestion is also bad during peak times.
  7. Pollution- Although I thought it would have been worse, pollution is always in China. Beijing is re-knowned for its smog, but thankfully Chengdu hasn’t been too bad with it.  There is a constant haze and you will not see much blue sky about.

Although there are bad things about China, there are also some good.

Yay:

  1. People- Chinese people are so so nice. They would go out of their way to help you with something. The older generation love when you answer ‘hello’ to them when they practise their English.
  2. Food-Although there is strange food, a lot of it is delicious. One of my favourites is Hot Pot, or in Mandarin huŏ guō.
  3. Inexpensive- a big bowl of noodles could cost you 12yuan, about €1.45. A restaurant outside our apartment, nicknamed ‘the rice place’, I would get a big bowl of rice, 2 sticks of meat and whatever veg I picked, this would cost me 15yuan, so €1.80.
  4. Lots to see- China is such a huge place so you won’t be stuck for things to do. In Chengdu itself, there are so many things to see and do.
  5. Transport- Transport is very accessible. Speaking about Beijing and Chengdu; they have the subway which is extremely cheap. For me, a bus to the subway takes about 25minutes, and costs 2yuan, so 25cent. From the subway to the city centre, it costs about 3 or 4yuan. There are also a lot of trains travelling all around China so it is easy to travel to somewhere else, just don’t forget your passport when buying train tickets.
  6. You Become Famous- It will be the closest feeling of being famous. Everyone wants to talk to you and be beside you. It is such a strange feeling at the beginning, but gradually you get used to it.
  7. You Become Healthier- Chinese people don’t eat much dairy, if any at all. From what I saw, they are not huge lovers of crisps or anything unhealthy. I’ve lost a little weight since I came back, and in my opinion, it was due to the fact that I didn’t eat any bread over there.

These are just a few things about my experiences in China, the good (yay) and the bad (nay)!

Aisling