University Time Once More

With summer flying by, I’m once again back at Uni. One of the reasons why it seems that it went so fast is because here I don’t finish until the end of June… whereas at home, colleges finish the end of May. So we got an extra month of holidays in Ireland. Here however, Chinese people get more holidays during Chinese New Year, and two months off during summer.

Having come back from travelling, studying Chinese had taken a break. Since Monday I’ve been back to Uni, so my studying is back underway again.

This semester we have decided to skip a level and move up to Level 5. Every level I’ve been in wasn’t exactly a struggle. I’d go in, learn and come back out. I knew I wasn’t really pushing myself.

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to try 5. Plus doing all 10 levels would take 5 years….. so no thank you.

I’ve only had 2 days of class, but I know already It will be more difficult than before. Before, I understood everything that the teacher said and the Chinese she wrote on the board, and the grammar wasn’t too difficult either.

This time round, I don’t understand everything the teacher says… there are plenty of Chinese characters I don’t know…. oh and the grammar is tougher. Even the book content has jumped up a notch… with more difficult sentences and Chinese characters. I really need to preview everything before class now.

Only 6 of us moved to level 5 from our level 3 class, with some moving to 4. I’ve been with them since Level 2, so it’s a bit weird not being in the same class as them now.

And with every semester it seems as if my standard of Chinese is getting lower and lower. Level 2 my Chinese was better than most, 3… it was average… this time round… I feel it’s lower than a lot of peoples. But I suppose that just makes me realise that I need to continue learning.

I feel like my Chinese hasn’t improved at all, especially my speaking…. but then I remembered the first day we came to the school… we ended up going to the Level 5 classroom by accident. We asked the lady next to us what book she was using, as hers was different to ours.. and she showed us. Seeing all these Chinese characters made us quickly jump out of our chairs and head to our correct Level 1 classroom. At that time I knew zero characters… absolutely none.

Now, the teachers fills the whole board with characters which we have to read. Most of them I can read no problem… but it showed me that this time 1 year and a half ago, there was no way I could read them. . . so I suppose I did learn a lot since the time I started.

I’m just hoping in a few weeks time I’m not crying about how difficult this semester is!

再见

爱玲

 

 

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Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 2

Onto my next 2 days in Western Sichuan. On Wednesday we got up at 8am for breakfast and on we went. We had organised the day before to go horse-riding, but found it was too expensive. We decided to leave it until the next day. So after breakfast our driver located a group of Tibetan people who brought tourists up a mountain to take some pictures. Of course we had to pay for going up the mountain and the horses, but it was worth it.

The weather was great that morning and we were able to take some close up photos of their beautiful tibetan writing on a rock on the mountain.

The ride on the horse up was a little daunting; it was quite steep and I was afraid in case the horse would struggle. But thankfully they were fine and we reached the top no problem.

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Horses trying to run away from their owner

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Found an old house at the stop of the mountain

After our morning outing,  we headed back to Kangding. It took around 3 hours, and before we knew it we were back in the small city. Along the way we met 3 accidents! The first car accident was between a small van and a car, I’m guessing the van hit the car while going round a bend in the road.

The next accident we saw was a lorry had turned on its side, again it was navigating a corner.

Finally we saw a white car in a ditch at the side of the road. Drivers here drive far too fast, so I’m not surprised most of these were because of going too fast. But I don’t think anyone was injured in the accidents.

Our driver was driving pretty fast too but thankfully we made it safely back!

So we arrived in Kangding and our driver brought us to some hot springs. I was a bit hesitant; I hate people looking at me, especially when I have a bikini on… but when we arrived we realised he had booked us a private hot spring area just for the 4 of us!

The last time we went to a hot springs it was more like a pool with different temperatures. this was rather different! First of all the whole place smelled like eggs. So we realised this must be the real deal.

Before this, we finished what we had left of our picnic the day before, drank some Chinese tea… then when we were rested we decided to head in. Our driver told us that the hottest hot spring might be too hot for us so he recommend we should go to a cooler one.

We were really surprised at how hot it was! My god! I could only stay in it for 10 minutes at a time then I had to get out. Everyone did. The place is quite old but it was great to actually be in a proper hot springs and not a man made one. Was really authentic.

Plus it was deep, reaching my neck! Although we realised there were big rocks at the bottom of the pool, so we had to be very careful or else we would crack our toes off them.

We were booked for 2 hours there, but after 1 hour we were done. It was just too hot for us.

After this we headed to a small temple in a mountain side and took a few photos.

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In the evening, we accompanied our driver to our favourite Tibetan restaurant and then had 1 beer with him in the hostel until it was time for bed.

Thursday: Our final day consisted of us travelling back to Chengdu. Our journey coming to Kanding took hours because of traffic…. so we were worrying this time it would be the same again.

After breakfast, which consisted of the worst tasting pancakes in the whole world, we left the hostel at 9am.

Thinking we would be back to Chengdu at around 5/6pm, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive home at 3pm! We had no traffic along the way so it was much quicker this time. We said thank you to our driver for driving us everywhere and we headed to our apartment.

In a way we were sad we couldn’t talk our driver more; our Chinese isn’t very good and he knew zero English… but we tried anyway and did our best.  I’m sure he was very tired after driving such a long way!

Our visitors were leaving the day after so we just relaxed and went to another tea house, drank tea and chatted. It was a great trip and I’m very glad we did it.

Although It feels like I need another holiday after that holiday!

再见

爱玲

 

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Finally arriving back in Chengdu, it was time to relax! For me, it was only 1 week of travelling, but I definitely needed a break. I don’t know how people can travel 2/3 months straight!

Our visitors finally experienced are lives in Chengdu and why we like living here. During their stay , we did the usual stuff: visit JinLi/Wide and Narrow alley, saw the pandas, drank plenty of tea in the tea houses, saw many temples, walked in parks, ate Sichuan food like the famous Hot Pot… and  I think they really enjoyed themselves.

The weather was also fantastic, it didn’t rain one day during their time in Chengdu. Being in China 4 weeks, our visitors only experienced a 1 hour outburst of rain in Guilin. That was it! Very very lucky!

After a week in Chengdu, we organised through CoolTrip to visit Western Sichuan; where all the Tibetan people live. I’ve been to Western Sichuan, but not this far!

We left on Monday morning at 7:30, and we reached a small city called Kangding. Unfortunately we experienced loads of traffic jams… one in which we moved at a snails pace for 1 hour. We found ourselves in about 3/4 bouts of bad traffic…. in which our Chinese driver wasn’t too happy about!

But we finally made it at about 5pm.

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At night, the surrounding mountains are lit up. Really beautiful and it was such a surprise to see!

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Our hostel recommended us to head to a Tibetan restaurant in the city to try our their food.  Although it took 1 hour to come out, it was really delicious! On our last night, we went again with our driver. This time we ordered Tibetan butter tea. Oh my god it was horrible. It was really really bitter and salty… which was such a shock. I thought it would be very sweet. Our French visitor actually thought it wasn’t bad.. but I had 2 sips and that was it.

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The famous Butter Tea

Although it was nice to actually try it… I won’t be rushing for it again.

After spending a night in Kangding, we were on the move again. We visited the Tagong Grasslands and saw a beautiful Temple. After this we walked up a small mountain and took some photos. The only thing that sort of annoyed us about the trip was that you needed to pay for everything. We were about to head up the small mountain when we found out we had to pay. It wasn’t even a mountain, more of a hill. I suppose for them it’s difficult to earn a lot of money, so their only income is from tourists.

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Yaks

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Where we had to pay 10yuan to walk up to the top of this hill.

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After this, he brought us to another, apparently very very old temple. Upon having a nosey, we found out this cost 20yuan/ 2.70euro each to enter… so he quickly took a few of the outside and headed back out.

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We continued driving a bit, until we stopped for lunch! The tour provided us with bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and meat so we could make our own sandwiches. It was a nice experience!

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After our lunch was finished, we travelled to our hotel that we would stay in for one night. On our way we encountered some really pretty scenery with Tibetan houses dotted around. Was really pretty. Unfortunately because we were moving we weren’t able to take many photos.

I especially love the Tibetan houses; they are so pretty and have so much character. And some of them are huge! I’m not sure why, I’m thinking maybe one whole family and their extended family will live in one house altogether. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but there has to be a reason why some of them are very big.

I could happily spend my time just taking pictures of all the houses here.

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Having spent 2 days on our trip, we have another 2 days left, so I will cover those in Exploring Western Sichuan Part 2

再见!

爱玲

Visitors in 中国

At the moment, my boyfriends sister and her French boyfriend are in Chengdu visiting us. Flying into Beijing, they saw the most famous of places, before heading to Xi’an and then to Guilin. This was were they met me!

We spent a week in Guilin, where we visited the Rice Fields and then to Yangshuo, a beautiful place which everyone should try and visit one day.

We then took a 25 hour train from Guilin to Chengdu (although we very nearly missed it; that will be another blog post) and we arrived to a lovely sunny day! Chengdu really did pull out all the stops for our visitors.

But I am so glad we are back home in our own apartment. I’ve only been travelling a week but I’m exhausted. It’s nice to get back to familiarity and not having to worry about how to get somewhere or where to eat.

In a few days we head out to Western Sichuan to an area called Kangding, where we will do some hiking and visit the pretty grasslands.

I will post pictures of my trip in my next blog!

再见!

爱玲

Hiking The Four Sisters Mountain

Hiking The Four Sisters Mountain

A couple of weeks ago, me, my boyfriend a few other friends made the 5/6 hour journey to a beautiful area in Western Sichuan where the Four Sisters Mountain’s are located. Because two of our friends were leaving China and heading back home, we wanted to do a small trip before they left.

During the trip I realised that I am so unfit! Having walked up a mountain for 8 hours, by the time we got back to the hostel at 5pm, I was completely wrecked, but I was so happy with myself that I hiked for that long and for quite a distance.

I really enjoyed it, and it makes me want to visit more places for hiking. Maybe when I get back to Ireland? I know there are a lot of trails to walk around the island. Plus the scenery is beautiful there.

Here are a few pictures of our trip! The weather wasn’t the best unfortunately but I suppose it could have been worse!

再见

爱玲

Chengdu Vs Xiamen

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Chengdu

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Xiamen

Here are a few differences which I found between Chengdu and Xiamen. Because Chengdu is situated in the West of China, while Xiamen is in the East, it has a more Westernised feel to it.

People walk much faster in Xiamen. Chengdu is known as being a relaxed city… they actually walk too slow sometimes!

Because Chengdu has an army of street cleaners and sweepers, it’s really quite a clean city, whereas Xiamen is unfortunately much dirtier. It’s a shame; the weather is great and it’s such a touristy place, you would imagine they would keep it cleaner.

Xiamen is definitely more expensive. Rent is also ridiculously expensive… but also food and drink also costs more than Chengdu. Also, during the Summer, they increase the prices of things for tourists. We got charged more for bananas we bought at a stall because we were ‘tourists’.

I was really surprised to find out that there were not many foreigners in Xiamen. Instead it was bustling with Chinese tourists, mainly from Taiwan. I heard that many Westerners leave Xiamen during the summer, but to me it was strange not to see many. There are increasingly more Western people coming to Chengdu, so you are bound to see one now and again.

Because Chengdu is in the West, the people there are kind of sheltered from the influences of the Western culture. This means that they are still sort of surprised when they see a Western person. They would rather shout “HALLO” to you when they have actually passed you….instead of saying it directly to you. In Xiamen, they are definitely not afraid to try and speak English to you. They are braver.

I thought Chengdu had a lot of fruit.. but Xiamen definitely has more.. and it’s more delicious! The mangos are huge…. and they have a much nicer juicier taste. Also the bananas taste much better.

I think because many Chinese tourists visit Xiamen, both myself and my boyfriend have noticed that the Chinese people there look different to the people in Chengdu. In Chengdu, they have rounder faces (I think anyway), whereas in Xiamen, they have a different looking face. I’m not sure how to explain it, but a lot of women have more oval faces… they just look different to Chengdu people. I’m guessing it’s because there are a different mix of people in Xiamen.

Chengdu is overflowing with e-bikes, we also have one too…. because they are just so handy and cheap to get around with, and because the ground is flat, e-bikes are everywhere. In Xiamen, there are not as many. I think Xiamen has a different regulation with having an e-bike, so not as many people have them. From what I’ve seen, it’s usually just for people who have a business; so they can transport their goods easier.

I missed Sichuan food so much in Xiamen! And no Hot-Pot to be seen! For people who don’t know what Hot-Pot is, it’s a large pot with simmering oil and spices. You put different food into it to cook it in the spicy oil; like  sliced potatoes, boiled eggs, meat. It’s great to eat during the Winter. In Xiamen, there was no Hot-Pot restaurant to be seen. That is one thing that I will miss if I move to Xiamen.

Coming from Sichuan, where most of the food is spicy…to eating sweet food from Xiamen is quite strange! They prefer to eat food that is more sweet in taste. The food really reminded me of the Chinese food I would get from our Chinese take-away shop in Ireland. The taste is really similar. In Xiamen you could order ‘Sweet & Sour Pork’, whereas in Chengdu you would never see that on the menu. Also, the food in Xiamen is not as oily as in Sichuan. Sichuan food can be too oily sometimes.

One thing that really surprised me was that shops in Xiamen would play Western English music. It was so weird to hear! In Chengdu, you rarely hear English music… they always have Chinese music playing in the background. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese music… so it was nice to hear English music being played in shops.

There are too many people in Chengdu! Everywhere you walk there are people. Compared to Chengdu, Xiamen is so so quiet! You could walk in a park and not meet one person the entire time. It was great walking around the island.

No Tea-houses in Xiamen. We were walking in a park and I noticed ‘Huh… there are no tea-houses here’. In Chengdu, you could find 4/5 of them in one park; people sitting for hours drinking tea and chatting or playing Mahjong. In Xiamen however, this tradition simply doesn’t exit.

Those are some differences that I noticed between the two cities… If I remember any more I will add them.

Xiamen is a much more beautiful than Chengdu, but Chengdu has more charm I think. It is more traditional and has kept more of it’s old culture than Xiamen. Xiamen has become more Westernised. I love both places in different ways!

再见!

爱玲

Don’t Want To Quit

As I keep saying, this Chinese really does do my head in sometimes. I put the effort in, but I just can’t see the results….

Some days I think ‘Whats the point??? Will I even use Chinese after learning it? Would I be better off just quit learning it and start learning Spanish instead?? Spanish will only take about 1 year to learn anyway.’

But this  thought keeps popping up:

‘I don’t want to quit’.

Like so many other people, I quit a lot of things when  I was younger; Speech & Drama, tin-whistle, flute, dancing, singing, karate (although I can’t remember) learning French, among other things. Now I regret quitting all those things. I’m jealous that so many Chinese students can play the piano, I wish I could play it. But I know I probably would have quit at some stage.

So now, with the Chinese, I’m old enough to have some self-discipline. I want to prove to myself that I can do it. I want to meet my French teacher one day and say to her ‘Yes I can speak fluent Chinese.’ (I was the worst at French and there were only 7 students in the whole class)

I don’t want to add Chinese to my long list of regrets.

So I’m going to keep trying and trying and even more trying to learn this seemingly impossible language. And maybe one day it will all just click into place for me.

I need to stay positive with it and stop pressuring myself to be better than what I am. I’m terrible for putting myself down, especially for Chinese.

I just keep thinking ‘In another year  I’ll know more Chinese then I do now.’ Which helps a bit.

再见

爱玲