What I Learned About Guangzhou

What I Learned About Guangzhou

Before arriving in Guangzhou, I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect. I knew it would be more western and there would be more foreign people living there, but here are a few things I noticed while I was there.

  1. Chinese people still stared at me.

I was surprised by the amount of Chinese people that stared at me while I was there! Because it’s very close to Hong Kong, I presumed that they would be used to seeing foreign people in the city. But that didn’t deter the older Chinese people from having a good look at me.

2. No tissues in restaurants.

In every restaurant in Chengdu, you will always find a box of tissues at your table. In Guangzhou however, we found tissues in only one noodle restaurant we ate at. Sichuan food is quite oily, so most people need to use tissues while eating. In Guangzhou, their food isn’t as oily, so maybe they feel that they don’t need them. I’ve gotten used to having tissues at hand while eating now, so we always needed to make sure we brought some with us!

3. A mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

With Guangzhou being in southern China and the fact that they speak Cantonese, both myself and my fiancé were surprised that we heard quite a bit of Mandarin being spoken! I’m guessing these people were Chinese tourists, but I thought that I would only hear Cantonese being spoken. I’d say we heard 50% Mandarin being spoken and 50% Cantonese.

4. Quite dirty

Like our visit to the city of Xiamen, which you can check out here;  Chengdu Vs Xiamen     we noticed that Guangzhou is also quite a dirty city.  I’ve said it before, but Chengdu is the cleanest city in China that I’ve been to so far. You will see a road sweeper on every road here, but in Guangzhou, it was a struggle to find any. Rubbish would pile up beside bins that were full to the brim, and it’s such a shame because it’s a nice city.

5. Cyclists on the footpaths.

One thing that really annoyed us in Guangzhou was the amount of people cycling on the footpaths. We kept wondering why this was, and we realised that it was because many roads in Guangzhou are one way. Obviously the cyclists can’t cycle down the wrong way, so they go on the footpaths instead. Many footpaths in the city are narrow, so that makes it even worse. So when you’re constantly hearing a bell ringing behind you to move, it does get quite annoying after a while.

6. Small portions

We’re not sure if this is really true, but on two occasions we went for noodles or wontons, asked for a big portions, but they brought out a bowl which to me is only a small portion. In Chengdu a big portion is BIG. We thought we ordered the small by accident, but no, they were big.. So we were still quite hungry after our big noodles and wontons.

So they are a few things that I noticed about the city. I know every city has it’s charms and it’s negative things, but overall I really liked the city!

Aisling

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Trying Dim Sum

With living in Sichuan province, we have undeniably been spoilt by food; hot pot, maocai, spicy dry pot, chuan chuan… we will certainly miss these when we leave!

We knew that in Guangzhou they rarely eat spicy food, preferring sweet things instead. They eat a lot of Dim Sum; bite sized pieces of food served in bamboo baskets or on plates. Not having tried Dim Sum before, we were eager to try when we were in Guangzhou!

With a Dim Sum restaurant 20 seconds walk away from where we were staying, we ventured in and were given a table. No English was found on the menu! So we had a bit of trouble ordering anything! We asked the waitress what she recommended. Two dishes. Ok, so we ordered those.

And they were very nice! One was a small steamed dumpling with meat, and the other was a dessert with a coconut custard filling. We thought it was weird that they came out together, so we ate those and we realised we were still hungry. We weren’t really sure how ordering dim sum worked; did we order lots of things at once, or wait and and see if are hungry and order more. In Sichuan usually if there are two people eating, you order 2 dishes, if there are 3 people, then order 3 dishes. So with Dim Sum, we weren’t sure how we handled this!

We realised that 3 dumplings and 3 dessert pieces were definitely not going to fill us up! So we ordered another basket of dumplings. So all in all we only ate about 4/5 small dumplings each and a piece of coconut dessert. We were happy to try them but we definitely needed something else!

After our experience, we learned that we can order as many as we want! If you ordered 4 types of Dim Sum, and you are still hungry, you can easily order more. The next time we visited there we ordered many more types of Dim Sum! We also got a Chinese friend to help us translate the menu so we were spoilt for choice then!

We enjoyed all except one! The one with the green veg at the side wasn’t our cup of tea sadly. There was meat and egg inside and it was just too gooey for our liking! The one that I was mixed about was the white one that looks like a dessert. I bit into it and the bread part was sweet, but then in the inside there was savoury meat! So to me it was a weird combination! My fiancé like that one, but I wasn’t too sure! The meat was nice but I couldn’t handle both sweet and savoury together.

So it was a nice experience trying food that are from the region and that are the real thing. Now I’d like to see if there are any Dim Sum restaurants in Chengdu to have a try!

Aisling

Deciding to visit Guangzhou

Deciding to visit Guangzhou

Although I have to put up with some VERY LAZY students, there are a few benefits with working in a University in China. The first and most important one is holidays!

With our university, they agreed on working some days where the rest of the people in China would have off. Then they clump all these days that we worked and then we would have a week off. Not too bad for a Uni that is very badly organised!

So in December we will have a week off for New Years and we’ve decided to spend it in Guangzhou. We were debating where to go but because it will be winter and we really don’t want to go to the north of China as it will be absolutely freezing, we thought we’d better find somewhere in the south where it will be a bit warmer than Chengdu! I hope anyway!

It’ll be nice to see the city and try the food there, which is much sweeter than Sichuan food. As we plan on leaving  China next summer, (yeah I know I said that loads of times and I’m STILL here)  we’d like to try and visit a few places before we go. Obviously China is a huge place and it would be rather difficult to visit every single place of interest, but we’ve managed to see a few sightseeing places and cities!

So that is the plan! When I first came to China the thought of travelling in this huge, non english speaking country was very daunting. Now however, we have enough Chinese to get by and we know what to roughly expect when we travel around. Plus in the East of the country a lot more people speak English so it’s handier to travel there than in Chengdu, where literally no one speaks it!

Every city in China is different so we’re excited to see what Guangzhou has to offer!

再见

爱玲 (Aisling)

 

Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

Learning Spanish With ‘Duolingo’

After finishing up my last semester learning Chinese and starting a job, I’ve put Chinese to the side for the moment. Having become increasingly frustrated with how little I’ve learnt so far, I’ve decided to move onto Spanish for a while. Plus I have my own private Spanish tutor living with me which definitely helps!

I had a go at learning Spanish before, but I quickly realised that it was just too difficult to concentrate on two languages at the same time. But now I’ve really put more effort into learning the basics of Spanish, and so far I’m doing ok.

I’ve been using Duolingo, and overall it’s pretty good. There are some problems in how they teach it, but I’m getting the basics right and although I guess some answers, usually they are correct! So something is working!

In order to improve my pronunciation, I try and mimic the Spanish recordings until I get it right, this way I can sound more native like and also It’ll help me to practice speaking in Spanish.

What I need to do now is get my fiancé to speak Spanish to me all the time. The problem with that though is that because I’m only at a basic level, he really needs to dumb everything down. Maybe when my level is higher then he can do that with me. At the moment If I’ve any problems with grammar or what not, then I ask him and he tries to explain it to me.

But of course the Chinese grammar that I’ve learned creeps in sometimes.

For example, there was a sentence like ‘ I talk with my father’

So in my head I reverted back to my Chinese grammar and how I would say it in Chinese using the Chinese sentence structure: ‘I with my father talk’

So I start saying in Spanish “Yo con mi padre hablo”

My fiancé looks at me and says “No……Aisling that’s not right. Say it again.”

So I say again, wondering what’s wrong with my sentence.

“Aisling you are using the Chinese sentence structure. Just say it like you would in English!”

Ohhh….. I never even realised! I just naturally translated it into the way I would have said it in Chinese. Also, when he speaks to me in Spanish, I automatically think of the answer in Chinese, so it’ll take me a little while to get used to switching from Chinese mode to Spanish!

But anyway, I’m glad I started using Duolingo; it’s good for beginners and it gives a good foundation on the language.

Plus it’s free!

Aisling.

Settling Into My New Home & Job

I’ve been back in China for just over a week, but we’ve been so busy packing our things, moving and starting our new jobs, that it really feels like I’ve been here for weeks already! I’m shocked when I think I’m back only 1 week!

From arriving back in Chengdu, both myself and my fiancé were busying packing the remainder of our things, moving them into two vans we booked, moving into our new place, meeting new teachers (all male by the way, so I’m really outnumbered) … and finally work on Monday! So we were quite busy when we arrived back!

With most of our things unpacked, we can finally relax in our new apartment and area where we are living. Our university that we work in has two campuses; one for the 1st and 2nd years, and another for the older students. We live in ‘villa’ sort houses in the campus for the older students. The building where we live only has 3 floors, and they are dedicated solely to the foreign teachers; each building houses 3 teachers… so it’s refreshing not to be surrounded by people below you, above you, and either side of you! We live on the ground floor, so we just have another teacher living above us.

Apartment wise, it’s a BIG improvement to our old apartment…. our new place is absolutely HUGE! I’m pretty sure the whole of our old apartment could fit into our new bedroom. Now if I lose something, I could be looking for 10 minutes for it! Theres actually too much space now! Another good is that we actually have a U shaped sofa!!!! No more do I have to put up with our tiny, crappy, uncomfortable sofa from the old place. Our shower is fantastic (the shower head didn’t work very well in the other place), we now have a big dining table and a proper bed (instead of just a mattress on the floor).

We also have big air conditioning units in both the living area and the bedroom. Our toilet is a huge improvement too! In the old apartment, their was literally no water pressure whatsoever in our toilet, so we always needed a big bucket of water to give everything a helping hand…

The only problem with this apartment is the lack of a cooking area. Now I don’t usually cook anyway, but it’s always nice to have the option. Here we just have a portable electric stove top … and it’s actually broken. Plus we have no electric fan to get rid of the food smell. So that’s one negative thing about the place.

But apartment wise, so far I really like it!

As for my job, I feel this has been a REALLY long week! Every foreign teacher here teaches 1st year students, and whatever lesson plan we do for our first class of the week, then we use that one for the remainder of the week….. so it does become very very monotonous! I have 10 classes, so I have to repeat the exact same lesson plan 10 times. Sure it’s easy, but when it comes to the 6/7th time of doing the exact same thing, it does grate on me a little. That’s why it feels like such a long week.

Most of my students are girls, with only 4/5 boys in each class, and generally they are ok. Some of their English is atrocious though, so I really don’t know how I’m going to teach these kids anything if they can’t even get the basics right. But thankfully the school doesn’t put pressure onto the foreign teachers, so we are free in doing whatever we want in class. It’s up to the students to try and learn!

Location wise, because we are outside the city, I really do feel a bit lonely and isolated here. As I said before, I loved my previous area where I lived. Now… it takes 1 hour by bus to even get to our nearest ATM! By taxi it would take 30 minutes to get to somewhere where there is a decent amount of people…. so yeah, I do feel very isolated from everything. I don’t think I could live here for longer than 1 year.

For food, we’ve only had one dish which we have really enjoyed. Because we are located where students live, the restaurants near us aren’t exactly good quality or flavoursome. Yeah it’s cheap, but the food is very basic and I don’t particularly enjoy some dishes. Also each restaurant basically serves the exact same thing, so it’s hard to find a good meal here!

So there are some positives and negatives of moving. One good thing is that we are guaranteed money each month so we can save for our wedding and what not. We are guaranteed the same holidays as the students, and with the amount of walking and cycling I do… I’m optimistic I’ll lose some weight!

I know I’m going to feel down some days and just wishing I could leave, but I’m glad I didn’t come here by myself… I don’t think I could last!

再见

爱玲

A Trip To The Capital; Dublin

Even though my hometown is about (1.5 hour by bus) to Dublin, you would think that I would go up and visit more often, but surprisingly I rarely go! Since I’ve arrived home, I’ve had to go up twice for work reasons, but it definitely wasn’t for a visit! I did what I needed to do, then got the bus back.

I’ve never really thought much about living in Dublin while I was living in Ireland. I just never thought of it like that. Since living in China and living in such a big city as Chengdu, I’ve become used to large cities. Before leaving Ireland, I always thought Dublin was a big city. I’ve never had anything to compare it with, so I naively thought it was big.

My perception now is quite different!

But my two times having to go up, I’ve realised that I wouldn’t mind living there; it’s compact, walkable, not too busy, a lot of places to eat, and it just seems like a nice city to live in.

But… of course there are downsides; it’s a ridiculously expensive city, and rent is very very high… too high for me to afford! So I don’t think I would be able to live there unfortunately!

I think the last time I was in Dublin was a few years ago, and this time I noticed that there are so many more little cafes open! The ones with tables and chairs outside. There are loads now in the city! I do like this, but Dublin isn’t exactly like some city in Spain or France… the weather isn’t ideal for sitting outside. But yeah, there are loads more of these places about!

I was also surprised by how many foreigners there were! Groups of Italians, groups of Spanish, Chinese…. it was crazy! I suppose that I’m so used to seeing mostly Chinese people in Chengdu, that it’s strange to see people of other nationalities! I’m sure many are studying English here.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how small the city actually is! Having to walk from one place to another, I was surprised about how much distance I covered while looking at google maps. In Chengdu, I wouldn’t get very far (distance wise) by walking. So I suppose this showed me how small it is!

So Dublin has changed a little since the last time I’ve been here, plus my perception of it has changed, for the better I think!

再见

爱玲

I Don’t Like Changes

I’m a person that really doesn’t like changes…. if there’s nothing wrong, then there’s no need to change it.

But then…. that’s the problem. You’re stuck in the same rut for years on end…..too comfortable to move, change and adapt.

At the moment we’re in the middle of changing our lifestyle and way of life here. As nothing is 100%, I won’t say much more about it until it’s definitely happening. But yeah…. this past week has been tough on the ‘change or not to change??’ dilemma.

I like to think that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it’s very hard to think of it like that! But I suppose it’s my way of comforting myself!

Some people itch for change, but me…. no no no!

Haha maybe this is why I’ve been stuck in Chengdu for the past 4 years!

再见

爱玲