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

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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

Oh So Very Soon

The time for leaving is rapidly approaching and I’m enjoying my last days in Chengdu. Thankfully we have been preparing to leave for a while, so we’ve pretty much everything sorted. We are doing exams next week, so then we will need to submit the grades to the school, print out some things for our principal to sign and change more money from Chinese yuan to Euro and Japanese Yen, and that’s really pretty much it!

Yesterday we went to our favourite Western restaurant to have our usual burgers. This place is called ‘Red Beard Burgers’ and the burgers are delicious! We usually go there for a special occasion, such as for a birthday.

Unfortunately however we found out that he’s actually closing in a months time; the people in the apartments upstairs have been complaining that their apartments smell like hamburgers all the time, and then of course they got the authorities involved and now he has to close up. It’s such a shame because he always got business and his burgers are really really good. He can’t object or anything because of course he’s a foreigner and we’ve no rights here at all. So there’s nothing he can do.

It’s always us against Chinese people here, and you don’t need to think hard about who will always win.

So when we found out he was closing, we said “Yes, now it’s definitely time to leave China” We were going to miss the restaurant a lot when we left, but now we just feel it’s another hint for us to go. The owner said to us that he’s going to go back to his country and start a new adventure, so I suppose thats the same for us! A new adventure!

We’re going to try and go one last time for a burger, we won’t be getting one ever again! ‘Sniff’

We know we are leaving China for good, but I don’t think it’ll hit us until we get back to Ireland and we won’t have a return ticket. Instead we’ll be going the complete opposite way from China….Mexico!

There are a few things I want to buy when we start our new chapter:

  1. A dog. We both really want a dog, but we just couldn’t get one here. We knew we were always going to leave, so we didn’t want more hassle having a dog with us. Plus it wouldn’t be very fair on it either. We might get one in Mexico, maybe, but again we don’t know how long we’ll be there for. So that’s the problem (still).
  2. Weighing Scales. We plan on buying some weighing scales so we can keep an eye on our weight. we don’t have one here, so it was very difficult to see how fat we were getting!
  3. Coffee maker/ press. I enjoy drinking coffee and I know they have good coffee in Mexico, so I want to buy a good coffee maker or a coffee press thing.
  4. PS4. Both me and my fiancé want to buy this for ourselves. That could be our big treat for ourselves!
  5. Instant Pot. I hate cooking and I think this would help me a lot when I start to learn. It’s a basic skill to have but yet I’ve survived 28 years without it. But now I feel I need to start learning, and I really want to enjoy cooking and be able to cook great food…. so I’m going to try once I leave China.

God knows if I’ll get any of these things…… we might be broke by the time we get to Mexico and not be able to afford anything!

Another thing is that we’ve always been in limbo in China, so we’ve never bought anything for future use. Things we bought were always for the ‘here and now’. That’s the problem of living in limbo.

We’ll try not to live in limbo in Mexico though!

Aisling

Sending A Box Home

Sending A Box Home

After living in China for 5 years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of things! We are leaving many things here after we leave, as there will be 3 teachers still working at the University, so I’m sure they will make use of them, such as cutlery, glasses and what not. We wanted to send our clothes, shoes and some other personal things back to Ireland though. My Mum has sent about 3 boxes to me; full of sweets, crisps and even some presents! It was such a treat to open to open the boxes.

But we’ve never sent anything from China! Due to the fact that we don’t speak Chinese very well, we would have no idea where to start, and also because exporting things from China is such a hassle, we decided to just leave it. But we had quite a few things that we didn’t want to leave, so we searched around the we found we could send a box with a company called ‘SendMyBag‘.

Everything sounded pretty legit with it, so we decided to try and send our box with them. And from China, the box MADE IT TO IRELAND! Such a relief! But….. we had some hurdles along the way!

First, we met the man who would collect the box. All was good until he asked us what were ‘magnets’ that was on the list. We explained that they go on the fridge.

“Not allowed” he told us in Chinese. We looked at each other… We didn’t know what we could do. So he told us we could take them out of the box. Phew! At least we can take them out, that was ok. (We wrapped about 1 roll of cellotape around the box though, so all that hard work gone because we had to open it again)

Then he asked for my passport…. What? The website didn’t say we needed a passport. So I quickly ran back to the apartment and got it for him.

Unfortunately we didn’t realise he meant A COPY of the passport. (The communication barrier is so annoying sometimes), so my fiancé runs back to find a copy…… and comes out empty handed.

So, I run down the road and quickly get a copy of it from a shop, coming back to the van hot, sticky and out of breath, while he opens the box and finds the magnets.

But eventually the man got going in his van, box with him. Time to relax now!

So later that night while we are watching a film, we get a message ‘Due to makeup in the box we cannot send it to Ireland’.

WHAT????!!!! Oh my god!! What are we going to do! I was really about to start crying. All I put in it was some makeup brushes and some powder makeup, they are allowed. I’m thinking like crazy why they couldn’t send it!

Oh….. now I remember, I forgot there were 2 eye pencils in the bag….. 2 measly eye pencils are the reason why we’re going to get the box back and lose our money we spent!! I couldn’t believe it.

But then, another message ‘I can take the prohibited items out of the box, is that ok?’.

YES, YES!! TAKE IT, I DON’T CARE! I really didn’t want to see that box again until I’m in Ireland!

So they did that, and I was just so grateful to them. So FINALLY the box was on it’s way.

We sent it on Friday morning and it actually got to Ireland on Monday! It was really fast! Also I was able to track it on the website which was also good too.

So I found out that it made it to Dublin! Great I thought! It’s nearly home!

I was keeping my Mum up to date on the whereabouts of it so she would know when it would arrive.

So on Monday night I was getting ready for bed and my Mum texts me saying that she got a phonecall from the courier and that she had to pay €89 for something.

Oh god, not more money. We had already spent €189 to send it, why did we need to pay more??!! Maybe it was for customs? But that is ridiculously high for second hand things. There’s not much value in the box at all!

So there I am trying to contact the courier AND SendMyBag about this extra money that I have no idea what it’s for, while looking at the time as it gets later and later.  Thankfully both companies contact me and say they will investigate what the money is for.

I’m in bed trying to sleep but also stressing about this money when my phone goes off and it’s a message from SendMyBag. They said it was a fee for something (which I still don’t understand, something about a double entry) and they will cover the cost of it.

PHEW! I contact my Mum and tell her they are going to cover the cost. I can finally sleep!

It was our first time sending anything out of China, and as you have read, wasn’t plain sailing. But in the end it made it, that’s the most important thing.

So, would I recommend SendMyBag to send stuff home. Yes I would! We didn’t have to prepare too many things for it, everything is stated on the website, they are very prompt at replying if you have a question, and even with the money my Mum had to pay, they were extremely quick at sorting it out. That was great.

My only criticism would be that they didn’t tell us magnets weren’t allowed in the box and we needed a copy of my passport for the driver. Although I’m thinking that every country is different and maybe only China won’t allow magnets to be send out and they needed a passport copy.

Also what we didn’t know was that the price depends on the size of the box. We were initially only going to send a box with a maximum weight of 15kg. We bought a big box though, and when we inputted the dimensions into the website, it came to €189 with a weight of up to 30kg. We were a bit annoyed at this but in the end all our stuff came to the weight of 24kg…. so we definitely overestimated the amount of things we had.

So be aware if wanting to send a box through SendMyBag. The size of the box influences the price.

I also realised another thing…. China is so strict with exporting things!!! We literally were limited to clothes, books and shoes. No pastes, no gels, no food… nothing like that. Not even a watch. (Or makeup as we’ve learned)

So I would certainly recommend using this company, but make sure you know EXACTLY what you can’t send it the box…. or you might be getting a lovely message like we did.

Aisling

Things I Will Miss From China

With my time coming to an end soon, I’ve made a list of everything that I will miss about China.

Of course the first one is food. If you love spicy food, definitely come to Sichuan. They even eat spicy things for breakfast here! There are loads of different dishes to try, and every province has their own speciality food, so if you’re a foodie, you will love China. My only problem with Sichuan food is it’s rather oily. That is its only downfall!

Independent Lifestyle: If there are people, there are buses and restaurants. That is one thing that’s guaranteed. I’m going to miss being able to go anywhere I want in the city, and not needing a car. I like that I can walk at night time (on my own) and not be afraid. I really will miss the independence that I have here. In Ireland everyone needs a car to go anywhere. If I don’t have a certain thing in China, I can simple walk down the road to a shop and buy it. No car needed!

If I’m hungry, simply walk to the nearest hole in the wall restaurant and order something. It’s great! Most of the time if we are hungry, we simply order online and wait for it to arrive outside our University campus. The driver will ring us when he is there, and we just go and collect it.  We have become so lazy!

Transport: Again, people = buses. The transport system in Chengdu is incredible. With buses going EVERYWHERE, and new metro lines popping up every year, it’s a great place to live if you don’t own a car. To be honest you really don’t need a car in Chengdu. We have transport cards that we can use for busses and metros, and transport is so cheap too.

For buses, at every stop in the city there is a display showing the bus numbers and how many stops there are until they arrive. I’m REALLY going to miss the transport here.

My apartment: I have lived in 5 apartments since coming to Chengdu, but I really really like the one that we are living in now. It’s huge, the shower is fantastic (we don’t need to wait for the water to heat up,  hot water lasts for like 30 minutes, and the pressure is great) our sofa is big and comfortable (3 people could sleep on it), we have carpet (which is rare in China) and it’s literally 15 steps away from the University shop.

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Yes I know it’s messy…

But of course there are some problems with it: theres not really a kitchen, there is a basketball court right outside and it literally drives me mad when they come out to play. BANG BANG BANG is all we hear. Also as you can see theres absolutely nowhere to put our things. No shelves whatsoever. So it would be a bit tidier if we had places to put things. We have two small balconies but we don’t use them as then everyone would look at us lounging.

To get this apartment we had to move way out of the city. But because it’s in the University, we don’t have to pay rent which is good!

Easy money: For this Uni job I’ve literally taught whatever I want, and I get paid quite good money. For teaching English, you will usually get well paid, because they really really need teachers. However now, many private companies are increasing the work hour. When I started a full time job was 20 hours in the private company where I used to work. Now it’s about 35 hours. But you can save a bit of money here, unless you go travelling and spend it all (which we have done…)

It’s also extremely cheap here! Although I do notice that it’s slowly getting more expensive, but generally it’s very cheap for food. For other things such as deodrant and foreign brands, they can be very expensive though. But travelling and eating here is cheap!

I also love that it’s so safe. I’ve never once had a bad experience either when I was cycling or walking on my own here. It’s very safe. Many parents let their older children get the bus to/ from school. For younger children it’s a little more dangerous, as there are MANY cases of child abduction, especially babies. It’s sad but true.

In my hometown I wouldn’t walk around at night time, too many drunk people/ bad people about unfortunately.  So I’ll miss how safe it is here.

But yes, I really will miss living here though. I’ve realised why I’ve been here so long. There are definitely problems with the country for sure, and sometimes all I want to do is complain about China and the people and what not, but it has been good to me too.

With regards to my future however, I just couldn’t see myself living permanently. The government is too restrictive, the education system is too harsh and stressful, and sometimes the attitudes of it’s people are just too different to my own. I don’t believe in their values, such as money is the most important thing in life, blah blah blah. ha plus I’m always going to be fat here.

But yeah, it’s time to move on, and leave all these great things I mentioned above behind. Sniff Sniff…..

Aisling.