I Do Matter To Old Friends

backlit dawn foggy friendship

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It rains pretty much every day, it’s colder…. but I’m getting used to being home again. So last week I met a friend who I haven’t seen since I finished university, and it was nice to meet up and catch up on old times. I have been home a few times but I didn’t meet up with her. I don’t know if this is weird, but I just always felt like ‘well I’ve been away for such a long time, nobody will really want to meet up with me again. They have moved on with their lives and I was in China for such a long time, that surely I don’t matter anymore, they won’t want to meet me.’ Honestly that is what I thought. I still kind of do in a way. Why would they want to meet me again, I haven’t been here, I haven’t been part of their lives in years…. I’m just the girl that they used to hang around with. I don’t matter to people now.

So when I met her It was just like old times; talking about the course we studied, the people who were in it, plans for the future. It was nice. Because I haven’t seen her since I left China, it was like going back in time again. And I suppose it made me realise that I do still matter to some people. It did make me feel good about myself.

We are going to meet up again soon so she can meet my husband. I haven’t met up with any other old friends yet because I still have that ‘I don’t matter to people’ feeling. In China I’ve had friends, but they come and go so quick and easily that it was extremely hard to continue having a friendship with them, especially if they move to a new country. It’s hard to keep in contact, so eventually you lose a lot of friends.

If I’m going to stay in Ireland a little while longer, I have to make the effort to meet up with them, I just need to get this idea that I don’t matter to people out of my head.

Aisling.

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My Husband Speaks English TOO Well!

 

photo of couple inside the coffee shop

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So, you would think that me being with a Mexican person I would pick up Spanish just like that…. well…..

No…. if ONLY it was like that! You see the problem with our relationship is that my husband is pretty much a native English speaker….. only that he looks Mexican and grew up in the country. His English is perfect and doesn’t have an accent at all. He actually never studied abroad or anything like that and just studied it when he was young, which amazes me!

So….. him being able to converse perfectly with me creates a problem when I’m trying to learn Spanish.

When we met in China, I didn’t have the urge to learn the language, I didn’t even know if I would be with him long! Then when it became 3+ years together I thought “Oh hang on, I think I’ll actually have to learn it now”.

While in China, I was busy studying Chinese and I just didn’t want to get the two languages mixed up, so that was the main reason for not studying it. Plus I didn’t need Spanish at the time. So throughout our time in China we always spoke English to each other.

Then when we arrived to Mexico, he STILL talked to me in English. I had to remind him “In Spanish….in spanish..” and then he would say it again. Our relationship for over 4 years was completely in English, so now it was just difficult for him to switch to Spanish. He’s too used to speaking English with me.

So this is a big problem!

I think now he’s getting used to speaking more to me in Spanish, but it’s still very common to hear him talking to me in English. And it would be simple things he would say to me in English and I would think “He can easily just say that in Spanish and I would be able to understand”

I understand pretty much everything that he says to me, so there’s no problem with me not understanding…. it’s just this habit that we’ve picked up.

Sometimes I wish his English was crap so then I’d be forced to learn it, but then I think “Well if his English wasn’t good then he wouldn’t have gone to China and taught English… I wouldn’t even have met him if that was the case”.

We will break this habit one day!

Aisling

Speaking Spanish & Speaking Chinese

aerial photography of city

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I’ve lived in 2 non English speaking countries so far, and there’s one big difference that I’ve noticed between the two.

This is: In China, people don’t expect foreigners to speak Chinese, whereas in Mexico they absolutely expect you to be able to converse in Spanish.

In day to day living, this is very noticeable when I’m out and about in Mexico.

In a clothes shop: China

Say for example when I go into a clothes shop in China, the workers will timidly come up to me and say “Welcome” in Chinese. Usually I would just reply a simple “I’m just looking” in Chinese. That’s really the only communication that would happen between us. Then for paying, they usually wouldn’t say anything either, just the price of something. So you don’t interact too much with the employees because firstly you probably can’t say much other than basic Chinese, and secondly, the employees usually think that I can’t speak Chinese very well so they don’t try to converse.

In a clothes shop: Mexico

In Mexico, you walk in the the employee comes over and says “yoakekkgnnsiishghghehekdknb”. It’s gibberish to me because they talk too fast. My husband told me that they are usually asking “Is there anything you are looking for in particular?” So then, when I go and pay they might ask MORE things, to which I don’t understand. Maybe they might have a promotion on and they are telling you about it. But of course all I hear is gibberish! Because I’m not Mexican looking, to them I’m either a foreigner who’s learning Spanish or maybe I was born here but from a non-mexican family.

In a shop: China

In Chengdu there are these shops called ‘Hongqi’, and they are everywhere! They sell household things, food, rice…usual things you would find in a shop! I’ve been to these places loads of times, and not once has the employee at the counter asked me anything. They just scanned the item and I paid. That was it. No communication whatsoever!

In a shop: Mexico

Here it’s another story altogether! I (still) haven’t bought anything in the small shops here because usually my husband is with me and he pays. ‘7eleven’ and ‘Oxxo’ are the shops that are very common here. So when we enter and pay, the employee at the counter asks “Do you want to top up your phone?”… “We have a discount on these items today.” Although my husband pays, they will most likely also say the same to me, because to them that there’s no doubt that I can understand them.

In Starbucks: China

Yet again, there’s usually no more communication other than me ordering my drink and paying. And actually most of the staff in Starbucks speak English so you can even just order in English!

In Starbucks: Mexico

We went to Starbucks once and my husband said to listen to what he orders and then I can order it next time. So he orders and the lady asks him “Do you want regular milk or slim milk?’…..”The beans are slightly different because of the time of the year, is that ok?”.

So…..as usual a different experience than in China! I know these questions are good for your listening and speaking practice, but I really just want to go, order my drink in simple Spanish, and thats it. I don’t know what the vocab is for ‘Full fat milk’ or ‘slim milk’, and neither do I understand ‘beans’, so if my husband wasn’t there with me, then I definitely would have been caught out!

So with these different attitudes on languages, I’ve also noticed how Mexican people don’t congratulate me when I say “Hola” to someone. They don’t go “WOW! YOUR SPANISH IS SO GOOD!” No, they don’t do this because they expect me to know the language. To them, it’s not an impossible task for me to learn it.

In China, when I say “nihao”, they will say “WOW! YOUR CHINESE IS SO GOOD!”. To them they don’t expect me to speak the language, so when I say hello in Chinese and the pronunciation is better than average they will be absolutely shocked! Maybe that’s all I can say, but my Chinese is just sooo good to them.

I’m not saying either one is wrong, it’s just I’ve become used to not interacting much with Chinese people, and then coming to a country where they will absolutely talk to me like any other Mexican person just takes some getting used to. I’ve learned more in Spanish in 3 months then learning Chinese in 2 years, so that really says something.

So, one day I know I’ll be able to order things and I’ll be able to answer back in Spanish… I will be able to understand!

night skyline skyscrapers shanghai

Photo by Manuel Joseph on Pexels.com

Aisling

 

This Time Last Year

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The University where I worked at

It’s strange to think that this is the first September that I’ve been in Ireland for 5 years. Every September I’ve been in China. It’s not very significant but it means a lot to me. It’s change, and that’s good.

This time last year I started teaching University students. I was making PPT’s for them and getting used to waking up at 6:30am, work at 8am. I was trying to learn all the students names and where my classes were for teaching every class. Little did I know that in a years time I would be at home enjoying time with my family and getting ready to go to Mexico. It’s a nice feeling to know that my life has changed (in a good way) from 12 months ago.

As for teaching and after my crappy students from last semester, I’ve gone off teaching altogether. I really want to try something new. I’m really fed up of teaching now. The students did a good job with that!

I think private teaching would be ok in the future. When I worked in a private company I had some great students and I really enjoyed their classes. But first I’ll try and do something that I want do, and then maybe for extra income I could work teaching privately. It’s good to know that I can fall back into teaching if everything else fails. (which I’m sure they won’t)

But yeah, it’s just a great feeling to know that things are moving now. I’m not stuck in China teaching yet again, for another year. I can start to learn Spanish, I can start looking at jobs I want to do, I can start doing things that I just couldn’t do in China.

Even making friends, I hope I can make new lifelong Mexican friends in Mexico. In China, we made friends and then lost them…. as everyone moves away eventually. So it’s hard to meet and keep in contact with people, especially in China.

I have to think, what will I be doing this time next year? I’ll most likely be in Mexico. Will my Spanish be good? I hope I’ll have new friends. I hope I’ll be living in an apartment. Ha I’ll push the boat out and hope I’ll win the lotto and be rich.

Who knows!

Aisling

Back Home: My Thoughts

I’ve been home for nearly 1 month now, and it’s the first time in a long time that I didn’t have to think about going back to China. Being home this time round has made me realise some things…

The first is that I don’t actually miss China as much as I thought. Of course I miss my independent lifestyle, my apartment and the transport, but I thought I would miss it much more! Since arriving home, I’m enjoying the colder weather and that I don’t sweat at all now, I’m enjoying my Mum’s food. I like being with my Mum and Dad at home, and I feel I’ve a better relationship with them now than when I left for China 5 years ago. I suppose I’ve matured more.

The second is that I would like to live closer to the family. I’ve been missing my nephews grow up and I know that the next time I see them they’ll be completely different. They won’t be the nephews that I have in my mind 1 year ago. They’ll be brand new boys to me. Also Mum and Dad aren’t getting any younger so that’s another reason.

I know one thing though…. I wouldn’t be able to settle down in my hometown. It’s too quiet, too small, and absolutely nothing happens here. So that’s one thing that I know.

We are moving to Mexico soon so I can learn Spanish, and I kind of have mixed feelings about. I really want to go and learn Spanish, but then at the same time I feel like we are back to square one, and that we’ll always be feeling in limbo. I have no idea where we are going to settle down, and it stresses me out. We can’t buy this or buy that because we’ll have to bring it with us when we move.

We would love a dog but we just can’t at the moment as we have no idea where we are going to be living.

So it’s nice to be home, but at the same time, I’m in limbo!

Aisling

Chinas obsession with its phones

Every traveller who visits China will say the same…”Chinese people are obsessed with their phones”.

And they are correct. On the bus, everybody has their noses stuck in their phones. In a restaurant, in a cafe, in a park, in the metro. Everywhere. It’s actually quite terrible to look at. 6 people in the metro sitting together and every single one of them is on the phone, oblivious to what is going on around them. The amount of times people bump against me because they are too busy looking on their phones while walking I can’t even count. When parents take their kids to a restaurant and all of them are on their phones, even the kid! On the bus, the parent will be sitting with their child and the the mum/dad have their face stuck to the phone constantly, while the child just sits their quietly….. not getting any attention whatsoever from their parent. It’s really quite sad to see.

But that is the reality now in China. They are absolutely obsessed.

We recently went to a bar and our friends had a thing connected to their phone. We didn’t know what it was. They replied that the bar rents out power banks so you can charge your phone. Our Chinese friend who was with us said “That’s exactly why Chinese people are addicted to their phones”.  So they don’t even have to worry about their battery running out; just rent out a power bank for 1 hour and they are good to go!

While myself and my fiancé were in McDonalds, a girl and boy couple sat beside us. As soon as they sat down, out whipped a phone and the girl started playing a game on it, of course with the sound turned on really loud! Then the boyfriend took it off her and for the whole time we were there, he was sat there playing with his phone….. while the girlfriend hand fed him chips.

So he was busy playing the game while the girlfriend just sat there looking around her. Sometimes he would say something (i’m not sure if it was to the girlfriend or just to himself), but apart from that, there was no interaction with them at all. Then to make things worse, he had a big smudge of mayonnaise on his face and not once did the girlfriend mention to him/ clean it off him!!

Me and my fiancé were just there sitting there looking at them in disbelief. No communication between the pair of them…… mayonnaise on the guys face….. girlfriend didn’t even bother telling him….????? Honestly we couldn’t get over it at all.

How can these people become so addicted to their phone? We know other Chinese friends and they are the same; stuck to the phone… even when they are with a group of people, they don’t care. They will just continue on their phone and not make conversation.

Now not all of our Chinese friends are like this, and even one of our Chinese friend admitted that this addiction thing is really bad in China.

Another example of this is in Starbucks. Sometimes we would go there and treat ourselves, and we would constantly see people on their phones. No talking, no nothing. Just on their phones. When we were in Mexico, we realised how cheap it actually was, so we decided to go in and have a drink. We looked around and EVERYONE was talking! We looked around and not one person was on their phone. They were talking, playing card games…. interacting with one another.

We then realised how different it was in China. I suppose we didn’t really notice too much, we just became accustomed to it. But yeah, I think we kind of made a mental note to ourselves not to use our phones as much.

But yeah, it’s a terrible problem that Chinese people have… and I really don’t think it’ll stop. They use their phones to pay for things, buy things (such as cinema tickets)….. pretty much everything!

We even saw a homeless guy asking for money with a scanner code! You simply scan the code he has, then you pay him through your phone!!! That is actually a thing now!

So yes, I won’t miss the obsession with phones here. I’m not sure if it’s the same in Ireland (I hope not) but I’ll definitely try harder not to use mine as much!

Aisling

Shanghai

So we’ve arrived in Shanghai and this will be our last full day in China! The weather has been great here the past two days, however today is cloudy and apparently there will be a typhoon hitting us. It seems ok at the moment though, and the lack of sun is a relief for me, it was very very hot the past two days!

With regards to Shanghai, it’s a pretty city and all, but I don’t think I could live here. The metro is crowded and unorganised, everything is very expensive, there doesn’t seem to be many parks about, and finally theres a lack of tree coverage from the sun. Myself and my fiancé aren’t too fussed on Shanghai to be honest. It’s nice to say we’ve visited but I’m not blown away by it.

We’ve heard from other people who have visited that they weren’t really taken with the city either. We also have a friend who moved from Sichuan to Shanghai to work and when we met them here they said they don’t really like it and want to move back to Sichuan.

The Bund is very pretty at night but the crowds are terrifying! And this is every single night! I can imagine the crowds during a festival! It’s crazy here during the night, as everyone heads to the Bund to see the views of the high rise buildings at night. Plus it’s much cooler than during the day so that’s when everyone is out!

We are heading to Tokyo tonight (another crazy city), so I don’t think we will sleep at all as we will be flying at 12:30am. That will be fun!

I’ve been very tired the past few days here though; the sun, our huge backpacks that we have to carry is taking it’s toll on me. Hopefully my body will get used to the travelling and I’ll be ok soon. It’s the worst when you’re travelling and all you want to do is sleep!

Aisling