Chinese Freetime

You know, when I see a Chinese child I become very sad! They are not exactly going to have the easiest time growing up here, as I’ve found out since living here. I was chatting with one of my students during class about the topic of free time and what this means to her. Free time to her, is substantially different to what it meant to me when I was her age!

First off, they have to perform extremely well in school, getting top grades in school, and only have one full day off from school. Study this, memorise this chapter, dictate this, do this, do that….

After primary school, they have their really important exams that they must pass to be able to go into 3rd level education. I know every country has these exams, but these Chinese exams are, from what I heard, one of the most difficult in the world. The pressure that they face is unreal. Once a student told me about the exams…. she was 8 years old. Even at that age, they know that they have to do these exams eventually.

My private student actually told me she often cries in school because she is under so much pressure… she is only 10 years old.

So basically, test scores are of the most utmost important in Chinese school.

So after they are finished school and have a degree…. finding a boyfriend/ girlfriend is the next hurdle they must go through. My Chinese friend is in her early 30’s… so she is labelled  a ‘Leftover Woman’. ‘Leftover Women’ is a term for women who don’t have a boyfriend by a certain age. In China, you really don’t want to become a leftover woman. Quick, find a partner!

Ok, so you are in a relationship… what next? Marriage! Of course the  couples parents are going to be pressuring you into marriage, they want their dream grandchild! In China, you must get married first, then you are able to have a child. My Chinese friend admits she hates going home to visit her parents as they keep pestering her to find someone.

Marriage done, children done… what next… a house! You definitely will need your own house. Usually, the husband will host his Mum and Dad in their own house together. Actually, our next door neighbour comprises of the Mum, Dad, child and the Grandmother. When the Mum and Dad are working, the Grandmother minds her grandchild during the day… and from the amount of crying the little girl does… it does not seem like an easy job!

I’m not really sure how this housing relationship works… but it’s very common here so it must work fine. Although sometimes I think the grandchildren spends all their time with their grandmother/grandfather and not a lot of time with their actual parents.

Keep in mind, during getting married, having children… they must have a car, plus have a job that will pay relatively well.

Ok, I’ve gone a bit off my topic, but my poor student has all this ahead of herself, unless she moves away from China!

My student only has Saturday off school; but on this day; she’s goes to dance class for 1.3 hours, then she has lunch…. heads to piano lessons for another 1.3 hours…. THEN she has me teaching her for 1 hour.

Finally she can go home, do 2/3 hours worth of homework, and then, finally then she will have her free-time. I’m really surprised she can last the whole day!

So in short, although my student says she has enough free time (when her homework is finished) I really don’t think Chinese students do. Unfortunately they are in Chinas big bubble, without a clue about how other countries education system differs from their own, and how much pressure they actually have to deal with.

I really hope this pressure of doing well and exceeding everything slowly starts to diminish… but unfortunately I highly doubt it.



Semester 1 is over!

Semester 1 is officially over. The months flew and thankfully I’ve learned quite a lot; now quite a lot means asking and answering about your family, talking about yourself, what you want to order, directions among more, so quite basic stuff. But i’ve also leaned some grammar and my listening has improved quite a lot! We also had our exams which I was very happy about, some minor mistakes with my characters (what a surprise) and I was a tad nervous with my oral speaking; talking about how I like dogs, cats, pandas and bears (they are the only animals I know) and how I don’t like Chengdu’s weather.  I now know where my level is at. Now I just need to start getting private classes for my oral speaking, as this is my weakest point.

When it comes to the speaking, thats what messes me up! Before Uni, I was a bit more relaxed about speaking, but now, I know how important the tones are, I know that if I don’t pronounce something wrong they don’t understand me, and I’m definitely more conscious of myself speaking. So, I’ve basically become that student that doesn’t talk outside of class.

When we come back from Ireland I want to try and get started in August, and hopefully this in time will improve.

Other than that, nothing else is happening, I’m still teaching my students, something that I was surprised about! I know 3 groups want to stay with me which is good.  I definitely don’t want 2 groups though; one is a girl and just doesn’t want to learn anything except do her own thing and of course watch Peppa Pig. She’s on a “10 stars = Peppa Pig” system, but I get a little stuck when she doesn’t get those 10 stars so I be a little lenient with her. I only have her once a week for 1 hour, so if they just take that 1 hour out of the week then I don’t mind teaching her at all! 🙂 Then the other group is with two 11 year old boys. One is fine, the other is mad, blowing balloons in the class, eating paper, not sitting down and not being able to concentrate. Their English is very bad for their age, so they really should listen in class. So if they get rid of the mad boy then teaching the other one is great. But unfortunately that’s not the case. So thats the other group I don’t want.

 I hope to organise my classes with them so that I can work 3 days a week instead of 4, as I will have some extra hours on Saturday in my old campus, plus I want to study my Mandarin more. From the second semester book there are more characters to learn! It’s a never ending battle! So if the PA’s do that I’ll be very grateful! 

Also, there are 7 days until home time. At this stage I’m getting fed up with the waiting. I can’t imagine the wait expectant mothers have, 9 months! But I know the week will fly by, with no Uni and just working, Wednesday will come around quick enough.

Weather in Ireland seems ok, so I’m just hoping it will continue while we are there. But I really don’t want to think about coming back to China. Aw I know it’s going to be bad….. 

Sometimes I really don’t know how I still live in China. From the people who have literally NO, and I mean NO common-sense at all, ( I could make a list of things I saw that prove this) to the people who push and shove you, somedays it really does drive me mad. The only thing that is getting me through it is the studying. It’s not all bad, but when you live in China there are definitely moments when you think ‘f**k this, I’m going home!’

But lets not think about that for a while!



One day at a time!

Well semester one of Uni is officially over. Next week we have our exams and then we are finished until September. Unfortunately my character learning has slowed, well it’s actually at a stand still. I don’t know all the characters, but I decided not to stress about it. Theres no point in worrying over something that doesn’t need to be worried about. I’m not exactly under pressure to learn them, only from myself!

So I do my exams, work the next few days, then Ireland! Or in Chinese 爱尔兰 ‘ài ěr lán’ . Ireland pronounced in Mandarin is very similar to the English pronunciation, as are many other countries. The Chinese just pronounce them phonetically. So ‘chocolate’,  ‘bacon’ ‘pizza’ ‘hamburger’ ‘coca cola’ among others sound quite similar to English, check them out and you’ll see!

Packing wise for Ireland, everything is shaping up nicely. We’ve gotten our euro’s, giving us 500euro notes which I was surprised about! But, easier to bring back with me.

I’ve also bought some things from the internet so I have to wait for them to arrive. But apart from that everything is going fine.

I’ve made a list for my Mum to cook us while we are there, and each day, it’s growing longer. I haven’t eaten my Mum’s food in like forever, so I want to make the most of our time at home by indulging her cooking again. God knows when I’ll be back, as I’m going to be broke when I return to China. Working part time does have it’s drawbacks unfortunately.

In China, this weekend there is a festival; The Dragon Boat Festival. I’m not sure what it’s actually about, but I know the Chinese eat these sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. I’ve tasted one last year and it was ok, not amazing, but ok. But I’m guessing there are many varieties so you just have to find out which ones you like.

Usually during Festivals many students cancel, but so far, none of mine have yet to cancel! And I know for a fact one group will be coming on Monday. I’m guessing I’m such a good teacher that they really want to have English class. ha. But if they do cancel, that means I’m loosing out on pay, but then that equals more free time. It’s a catch-22 situation. But, if they choose not to come, I won’t be too disappointed anyway.

So at the moment nothing too exciting is happening. Slowly counting my days until home time; Rafael is fed up of me showing him how many days we have left on my countdown app. I’m sure he can certainly figure it out himself. But, it gets me excited anyway!

The only thing I’m worrying about is the weather. All I want is no rain. Maybe no wind either. I don’t mind if it’s cloudy and no sun, but just no rain. I’m not being too picky! If the sun does come out, then I’ll be extremely happy, but for now, just having the clouds ( and no rain) will do me fine.



I’ve gone Philosophical!


As  teaching begins to wrap up for this semester, I have been doing oral tests with my Elective students. In 90minutes, I only get about 20 students done, so it’s a slow job! I actually enjoy it though. It’s just you and the student and some of them really surprise me with their answers. I came up with 10 questions, one of them being ‘If you could, what would you change about China to make it better?’ Nearly all of them said the education system. They all say that it’s too difficult, too much emphasis is on written exams, there’s no creativity and they have no freedom to do anything. From what I hear, they are absolutely correct. Even in my classes, a lot of them struggle to come up with anything creative. Where as in Ireland, we would relish it.  Too much emphasis is on exams, and then, when they don’t do well in their final, they feel ashamed; the final exam is one of the important things in their young lives.  But I suppose, with the amount of people in China, there is a lot of competition for the best Universities.

Another question was ‘What would you change about yourself?’ Most of the students said that they are shy, and that they would like to be able to talk more to people. A lot of girls said they want to be slimmer, bigger eyes, and have a smaller nose. It’s interesting to learn what they all think.

In the past, it has always been me sitting opposite the examiner; nervous, clammy and dreading it. I never would have thought that I would be the examiner one day! It just shows what can happen in life. You think ‘I’ll never do that’ and then you realise one day that you actually are. It makes me realise what I can actually achieve.

I survived 1 semester teaching in China.3 years in the past, I would never have dreamed that I would be doing something like this; living in China by myself, teaching students literally only 2 years younger than me. It just goes to show how life changes, and it’s these things, both good and bad, that shape and mould you into a (hopefully good) person. People come and go from your life; seemingly important ones at a time, seem to just drift away, while new, exciting people enter your life. It’s this that changes who you are, and makes you a better person.

I’ve gone all philosophical now. I’m just reminiscing about the last few months. Without a shadow of a doubt, this experience has made me a better person. There were times when I thought, numerous in fact ‘I don’t think I will be able to live in China… it’s just too different’ While I wasn’t very happy at home with the lack of a job, I was in my own wee bubble, my comfort rut. Everything was the same, unchanging, mundane, but It was what I became used to, and it was very hard to leave it all behind! But I think it’s just a big push I needed. I thought one day, ‘right, I’m going to apply for this China thing’ and I just done it. I asked my Mum and Dad what do they think…and the same night I applied.  I think that’s what a lot of people need to do. Just Do It. I’m so glad that I did.

I hope now that when I do go back home, I will be a changed person. I can’t wait to tell everyone about China, its good and bad points. From people spitting in the street, to  the people who work in the tea shop literally running over to us and beaming, just so excited to see us. It’s these kinds of things that make China…CHINA. You just have to accept it the way it is, it’s not going to change.

I can’t wait to teach the family about China; its history, its people and their way of life. They will be amazed!