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

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What Was The Most Difficult Part Of Our Trip To Japan?

Although we loved our trip to Japan, there were two things that proved very difficult for us while there!

  1. Our bags!

Our bags caused us a lot of difficulties for us while in Japan. Not only in Japan but also while we were in Shanghai, they were difficult to lug around with us. We both had 50/60 litre backpacks, I had another smaller backpack, while my fiancé had a smaller backpack and a laptop case…. so he was carrying 3 big bags with him!

Never mind that, the worst thing about it was that most of the things that were in my bag I couldn’t even wear! I had two jumpers (because I naively thought it would be cold in the mountains in Japan) and just thick t-shirts and things that I couldn’t wear, mainly because it was just too hot. So out of all the things in my backpack I had about 6/7 t-shirts that I wore. The rest were sitting at the bottom of my bag.

When we were sending our big box home, we couldn’t fit everything into it, so we just had to bring whatever things we had left with us in our backpacks. So that was quite annoying! I had to throw away a few t-shirts and that while in Shanghai just so I could try and make it lighter. It was very heavy for me.

And then, while in Tokyo…. my backpack decided it had enough and broke: 1 slit at the bottom of it appeared, and then another 2 at the top. So that was it for my backpack! I’ve had it for 7 years so it’s quite old, but that meant our last day in Tokyo was spent looking for another one for me. Unfortunately in Japan they rarely use backpacks, instead using suitcases. I picked up a decent one in the city which fits all my things plus more! No more back pain!

So yeah, it was a struggle with our bags, but thankfully I think my body got used to the weight and it slowly got easier as the trip went on. Now in Hong Kong, I just have my suitcase and my small backpack, so it’s a bit easier now!

2. The heat!

When we arrived in Japan we noticed the weather was unbearably hot! I knew it was going to be hot, but not that hot!! Little did we know, we arrived in Japan in the middle of a heatwave!! We were talking to a few people that live there and they said it’s too hot this July, and that it isn’t until August that it gets this hot. They said that the summers seem to be started earlier and earlier. (There’s global warming in action).

Everyone was sweating; men, women, kids…… everyone. It wasn’t humid, it was just so dry and there was no rain for 14 days while we were there. Plus the sun was just so hot! Everyone struggled with the heat. So the heat, plus our huge bags made for us being VERY sweaty…..everyday.

It was tough!

Apart from that, everything else was a breeze! Really! Japan is such a friendly place for foreigners and it’s very easy to travel around. Yes it is expensive but if you find some cheap restaurants to eat at it’s fine.

Aisling

Our 2 Week Itinerary: Japan

Having absolutely loved our time in Japan, we really really wish we stayed for more than 2 weeks! Here was our itinerary for our time there.

3 Nights: Tokyo

4 Nights: Kyoto

2 Nights: Osaka

1 Night: Koyasan

3 Nights: Tokyo

For our last night in Tokyo, our flight wasn’t until 1am the following morning, meaning we had a full day to spend in Tokyo and we didn’t need to pay for another night.

With Tokyo, there’s so much to see and do, and with many places outside Tokyo to visit, you would need about a week or more just for this area. There are loads of towns outside the city that we didn’t have time to visit.

Moving to all these places was really easy, we just used either the bullet trains or normal trains. We didn’t need to use public busses once while there! From Tokyo to Kyoto took around 3 hours by bullet train. Kyoto to Osaka literally took 15 minutes by bullet train! It was very handy to get to these two cities! Koyasan is a small buddhist town on the top of some mountains, it’s gorgeous and we loved it. We stayed in a buddhist temple for one night. From Osaka we had to take a metro to the train station, then a train to the bottom of the mountain (the views were beautiful!). Then we had to take a funicular (really cool) to the top of the mountain, and then a bus to where we were staying. That was the hardest trip as we had a lot of travelling with our heavy bags!

During our stay we also went on some small day trips. While in Kyoto, we spent a day at Nara, a town with DEERS!! You can actually touch them and feed them! They are beautiful animals, but once they see that you have food they swarm all over you and nip at your clothes to get your attention. They have also learned to bow, so when you bow, then they will bow, then you give them the food. It’s so cute to see!

During our stay in Tokyo, we visited a seaside town called Kamakura. It’s a pretty town with temples and things, and we spent half a day there. it was a bit busy as it’s also a popular spot for Japanese people to visit!

We also visited Nikko, an area famous for lots of shrines! It’s a very pretty place surrounded by really tall trees, so we got plenty of nice photos of the shrines! The town itself is tiny but it’s also very quiet!

We absolutely loved our time in Japan: the people are just so polite, the transport is great, I loved all the food there,  everything is organised, and it was just a really cool country to travel to. We are already contemplating visiting again as we’d love to visit the north of the country. We were blown away by it. We reckon it’s our favourite country we have visited.

And we miss it already!

Aisling

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

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

Who is rich in China? Don’t ask me!

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From living in China, I’ve quickly realised that material things matter to many many Chinese people. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a new bag, getting their hair done every week, looking great…. people here need to look….. well, rich.

One thing that I dislike about China is their need to persuade to others that they have money. They need to have nice clothes, they need to have an iphone, preferably and Iphone6+ and newer. They need to have that fancy car. It’s a constant battle to appear rich and that you have money for these things.

So it’s quite difficult to spot the people who are generally well off, and the people who are on an average wage here.

We found an example of this when myself and my fiancé went for food at our local dumpling restaurant. Now this restaurant is small, not very modern and it’s a typical hole in the wall style of restaurant that you see all over China. There’s really nothing fancy about it at all.

So we order our food and we wait, while the owner (we guess he’s the owner) is starting to leave. He has taken a shine to us and always cheerfully welcomes us in. As we wait we see him and the wife leaving, and in such a surprise to us, they get into a big, new jeep that was waiting outside.

We were both really surprised about this! How can he afford a jeep when he runs this small hole in the wall restaurant that only serves like 6 types of dumplings??!! We thought that he wouldn’t be making that much money. Maybe we are totally wrong and he actually makes a tonne of money from his business! Now we are in doubt about the whole thing!

We do know that people take out loans to buy whatever they want here, so he could have taken out a very big one for his jeep! That’s the problem here; so many people take out loans for cars and phones and what not so then they appear to be very rich, but in fact they have taken a loan for all these material things. That’s how it’s difficult to figure out who is well off and who is not.

I don’t have a car, an iphone 6+ or anything else fancy really, except for my macbook air laptop…. but at least I’m not drowning in debt! My family taught me “If you don’t have the money for it, then don’t buy it”.

Plus, I’d rather spend my money travelling!

Aisling.