I’m Really Liking Tokyo

We’ve been in Tokyo 2 full days now, and we are really really enjoying it! The city is great! We’ve been to a few big cities, and of course Tokyo is huge, but I feel it doesn’t feel as crowded as other places we’ve been to. We got a real culture shock when we just arrived, but now we are getting to used it.

The weather is HOT, the food is delicious, and the people are so polite. The city is spotless, the drivers are courteous, and literally everything is organised and on time. This is the complete opposite of Chengdu, where nothing is organised.

It really is a unique city, and we’ve been enjoying walking around and not being bumped into, walking in spit and not being constantly stared at.

We’ve been walking tonnes so my legs need a break, and the sun was very strong today so I got burnt (what a surprise there). I think my body is also slowly getting used to constantly being on the go which is good!

We are heading to Kyoto and Osaka so we’ll look forward to seeing what it’s like in those cities!

Aisling

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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

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.

My Wish List

Things I Want To Try:

Macaroons– I’ve visited France twice and I’ve never tried these. I’ve always thought they would be hard and crunchy all the way through, but now that I’ve seen how they are made, I definitely want to try them now!

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Slurpees– DONE! I’ve actually tried these in Mexico the last time I visited and they are exactly what I imagined! I’ve tried a cherry flavoured one and a blueberry one, so I can’t wait to go back and try more flavours.

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Pickles– Now the only time I’ve had pickles is when they are on a McDonalds burger, and they are horrible! But I always wondered is that what all pickles taste like, or are they different. Apparently everyone in the US loves them, so I’d like to see what the fuss is about.

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Skiing– I’d love to try skiing. I sometimes think ‘Maybe I’ll be a natural at skiing, I’ll just get on the snow and I’ll be naturally good and will have a great talent for it’. Haha that’s what I think anyway! I’d like to see if that’s actually true!

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Things I Want To Buy:

A dog– I’m mad to get a little dog, but at the moment it’s just not possible. Not knowing where we are going to live after China and what our plans are, we don’t want to have a dog with us and having to worry about paying for flights for it. When we are settled then we’ll get one.

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A coffee maker and proper coffee– I enjoy drinking coffee, and I would love to buy a fancy coffee maker/ press and good quality coffee. If I had lots of money, thats what I would indulge in. It makes all the difference when it’s good coffee!

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An Instant Pot– I’ve read online that these things are brilliant. With me being a bad cook, and the fact that I don’t particularly like cooking….. I think I would definitely use this.

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A Good Pair of Expensive Boots– My Mum bought me a good pair of boots about 7 years ago, and I still have them today. I’d like to get another pair, as I feel that buying a good quality pair of boots will last you for years.

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Maybe in  a few years I will tick some of these off!

Aisling

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

The Bustling City of Guangzhou

With a week off from Uni, we wanted to get out of the city and head somewhere a little bit warmer! Chengdu in the winter is a horrible place to be, made worse by the fact that it’s 8 degrees outside but there’s not a radiator or heater in any shop, restaurant or school! I literally freeze while I’m teaching!

Anywhere north of Chengdu was too cold to visit, so we decided to visit Guangzhou, a big city near Hong Kong. We really didn’t know what to expect from it. We knew it was big, people spoke Cantonese, and it would definitely be warmer than here! Our friends from Chengdu recently moved to the city so we could also catch up with them there!

Well my I think Guangzhou exceeded my expectations quite a bit! I read online that apparently it had no culture, but I thought the city itself was full of culture! I especially loved the old buildings all around the city. Some were ugly but I just loved how different each were and how they had their own unique characteristics and architecture. I really enjoyed looking at all the different buildings in the city. And from what I saw, pretty much all of them are in use, usually as housing!

I know the weather in summer is absolutely scorching, so we visited when it was much cooler. During the day a light jacket is enough for us during December, but at night it was a little more chilly!

So I was left a good impression of Guangzhou; it’s much greener than Chengdu, the weather is better, and it’s a great place to live if you want to travel as there are lots of nearby places to go to  such as Shanghai, Hong Kong. Also it’s a major city for international flights. Chengdu is more in the west so it’s not as easy to hop on a train and go somewhere in 5 hours…… more like 25 hours!

But of course I did miss Sichuan food! The food is nice in Guangzhou, it just lacks spice and a bit of flavour. Some of the dishes were a little bland for me. I’ve gotten too used to spicy food now! We tried the famous Dim Sum that southern Chinese people eat, and I enjoyed trying all the different types that they offered, when we could understand the Chinese characters of course!

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I think If I could move there if I was planning on staying in China longer, but of course the cost of living is more expensive, plus the rent is much higher there than Chengdu! Oh, it’s also MUCH bigger! Chengdu is nice and compact, whereas Guangzhou is a sprawling city! So it’s bigger, meaning more people, so that equals a busy metro!

After 5pm the metro was crazy when we used it! I would say during rush hour, you only need to wait for a train for about 20-30 seconds, and then another comes. But of course there are big queues waiting for every one of them! So I didn’t really like how busy it could get. I can only imagine what it’s like during a major holiday!

But I’m glad I visited the city. It’s nice to see different parts of China. Each and every city is different and has it’s own unique history and culture!

Where we stayed: Lazy Gaga Hostel

Good: It’s literally 5 minutes walk to the nearest metro so it’s very centrally located. It made getting around Guangzhou that much easier. There are places to eat/ shopping centres/ bus stops and famous landmarks all within walking distances.

Bad: You’re really paying for the location. I thought it was too expensive for what it was, and the hostel needed to be refurbished. If I only had 1 night in Guangzhou, I’d stay again, but for anymore I would look for another hostel.

Aisling

The Police Are Coming!

So I’ve settled in nicely with regards to teaching and where I’m currently living. We’ve also visited a few shopping centres that are a few bus stops away from us, plus found new places to eat, so all in all I think we have both settled in ok.

We are always trying to find new places to eat, but in China there will always be food places around. If there are people, restaurants will come.

One evening after class, we decided to venture outside the campus and take a 5 minute walk to a street where there are more restaurants. We come across about 5/6 food stalls literally straight in front of the campus back gates. “This is great!” we thought. Now we have some food on our doorstep!

So we have a look at what they are selling; fried potatoes (great for me), these sort of Chinese pancakes, fried rice, noodle dishes and bbq food on sticks (called shao kao). So quite a nice selection!

We decide to get a rice dish and while we are ordering, one of the other foreign teachers comes behind us and we start talking. He mentions that usually the police show up and the food stalls have to move up and go. I’m not sure if they are legal or illegal, but I’m sure the other restaurants down the road get pretty angry when these people literally park right outside the students campus and sell their food.

So anyway, the teacher leaves with his food and we continue to wait for ours to be cooked. All of a sudden we hear two beeps coming down the road. We look up and we see blue lights flickering down the road. “Oh the police are here!!” we said. And up they come in their police golf cart and park. It’s such a funny sight seeing police officers in this electric golf cart for the 4 of them. I’m not sure if this is in all of China, but in Chengdu it’s very common to see them spinning about in their cart.

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Source; google

“Tamen you lai le”…”Here they are again” I heard our lady from our cart say. Of course they know that the police will eventually come, so they quickly try and get as many orders out as they can.

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The different food stalls

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He cooks while she takes care of the orders

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If there are no police, it’s safe to come!

So the police come and stop, and one man jumps out and starts taking pictures of the stalls. Of course he’s seen this before, so he casually waits until all the carts have finished their orders and then tells them to go! We were worried that we wouldn’t get our food, but thankfully they were able to cook the remaining orders and then move on.

Our teacher told us that sometimes the stalls go to different places in the road, and even down a little side alley in order to evade the police!

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My dish which cost €1.30

 

So we are very happy to know that these stalls are about somewhere! Until the police cart shows up that is!

再见

爱玲