How Did My 2016 Resolutions Turn Out?

How Did My 2016 Resolutions Turn Out?

Scrolling down through my posts, I came across my New Years Resolutions for 2016; My (few) New Years resolutions. I had totally forgot that I had posted resolutions for myself (which isn’t a good sign), so I thought I’d update on which ones I unconsciously achieved, and some which I have not!

1.Study More Chinese.

Well I think I’ve done this unconsciously; I’ve attended another 2 semesters of Chinese learning since then. Plus I’ve read a few Chinese books, I’ve watched one Chinese movie (I know I know… 1 isn’t that good). But I have started watching a Chinese TV series called ‘虎妈猫爸’ or ‘Tiger Mum’ in English. There’s quite a lot that I don’t understand but I get the gist of each episode and the storyline. So my listening should be improving because of this. Finally my speaking; well because I’m an introvert. . . I’m not the chattiest of people even when I speak to people in my native language, never mind in Chinese! So that’s still a hurdle I need to address. But I think I achieved this resolution.

2. Do the HSK 3 exam.

Unfortunately I didn’t do this… but I did buy a book for practising! So I did have some good intentions to do it. To be honest I don’t really know how I sign up for it, and apparently you can do it in the comfort of your own home! I did not know this! I will do it one day… I might even attempt the HSK 4! haha well we’ll see!

3. Do more exercise.

Having come back from Ireland after Christmas and gaining a lot of weight, myself and my boyfriend started to do more exercise… then grew lazy as we all do. Thankfully I’ve bought a new bike so I now cycle to work and school. I’m still not as slim as before but at least I’m doing a bit more exercise. I’d have preferred to do even more exercise so I’ll put this one as half succeeded.

4. Travel more around China.

Having never left China during this year, I’ve travelled more around the country. My favourite is definitely Xiamen, I really loved the city. But I also enjoyed going to Kangding and Garze and experiencing the Tibetan way of life. I loved going to Yangshuo and seeing the famous mountains, then to Longsheng and walking in and among the rice terraces. Those a few of the places I’ve been to this year. So I’ve achieved that resolution.

5. Last but not least, be happier.

Mmm… this is  a tricky one. I hate to admit it but I’m a pessimist… instead of thinking of what could go right.. I’m constantly thinking of what could go wrong. And I’m also a worrier.. about EVERYTHING.  I really drain myself! I wish I could be a happier person… but I just naturally end up worrying and stressing over money, work, Chinese, finding a good job, missing my family loads… thinking about life after China… so obviously this makes me much less happy. I’m afraid that I’m going to live out the rest of my life not being happy; because I didn’t do this, I couldn’t do that.. I did that wrong.  So I suppose with this resolution I’ll say I half achieved it.

Now I must make my Resolutions for 2017!

再见

爱玲

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Working, Studying & Living: Sorting It Out

For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing what to do with our lives for the next year… and finally we’ve come up with a plan.

Working: Because I’m making hardly any money at the moment… although I do love the free time that I have, I’ve resorted having to go back to full time, well 15 working hours a week. This in my company is ‘full-time’.  I’ve managed to keep only working 3 days a week which is just great. I will dread the day when I have to work 7 hours 5 days a week. I’m really being spoilt here.

So working full time means I will be guaranteed my wage every month, whereas right now I’m paid by the amount of hours I teach.. so during the summer time I hardly get paid anything because students go on holidays.

Studying: We’ve also decided that this semester will be our last in our current Uni. I’ve really grown fond of it, plus I enjoy classroom based teaching. But every semester we are finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning. And at the end of the day I still have to pay 1 year tuition. We will miss everyone that we have met, even my teachers. All of them are so nice.

Instead of learning at the Uni, I will continue going to my private lessons in a private language school. It’s only 15 minutes walk from my apartment so it’s very convenient.

And as for Living: Unfortunately due to the enormous cost of rent in Xiamen, we decided to stay in Chengdu. It’s just too expensive. I really love the place, but I don’t want to be worrying about bills and rent just because I want to live somewhere sunny and pretty. I’d rather save my money and go travelling. Instead, when our apartment contract is finished, we will look at some apartments in the community that we already live in. We like where we live and we don’t want to have to lug our things miles away. Because we are going to be earning more, we want to upgrade to a bigger apartment… haha we might even get a balcony, and even a door for our bedroom!!

So right now, we are sorting out my boyfriends Mum and Dad’s visa to come to visit here, let our company know that in December I will be able to teach more students (they will surely be delighted with this), and begin to sort out the dreaded work visa for next year.

Every foreigner in Chengdu dreads that time of year when their visa expires. Enrolling in Uni is the easiest way to get one… but because we will be getting a work visa, we will need to go to Hong Kong on a ‘visa run’ as people say, plus we will get a medical certificate done.

I’m not too fond of going to Hong Kong. It’s expensive and crowded. However maybe this time round it might be different with my boyfriend being with me.

I hate having to sort visa stuff out. The people working there are not at all friendly and they can deny you a visa without giving any explanation whatsoever. Plus if you don’t have 1 piece of paper, that’s it: go home and come back when you get it. Oh and they need like 10 photocopies of every piece of paper you have. Oh they are very picky!

So, we’ve managed to sort out our plan for next year…. ha I won’t think too much ahead just right now or I’ll panic again!

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

My Xiamen Experience

My Xiamen Experience

Having arrived home from a great trip from Xiamen, Chengdu hasn’t exactly welcomed us back with lovely sunny weather…. smog and rain greeted us.

Having had our eye on Xiamen for a while, we wanted to take a visit to the city so we could experience the city and see whether we could move there in the future.

Leaving on Monday morning, we were constantly checking the weather forecast for the following few days… Monday looked ok, sunny with a few clouds… but from then on it didn’t look too good; Tuesday: Thunderstorms, Wednesday: Thunderstorms, Thursday: Thunderstorms…. and so on.

I of course was a little angered over this, I didn’t want to be cooped up in our hostel for the whole 6 days while we were there!

So, the weather didn’t look too promising.

When we arrived on Monday morning, we had the whole day to explore the city, knowing that this was the only good day we were going to have.

We decided to visit Gulangyu Island. A very touristy island that is a must see for anyone visiting. So we got the bus and headed to the ferry to take us. We got in the line and my boyfriend said “I hope we don’t need any ID”.

It didn’t even occur to me to bring any, but then as I looked around, all the Chinese people surrounding us had theirs. I had my passport picture in my phone, that should be ok I thought.

No, it wasn’t ok. The lady wouldn’t give us any tickets until we could present an actual tangible ID card. My boyfriend fortunately had his Mexican ID, but me…nothing.

Obviously I got very upset about this…. I don’t want to waste the only good day we had having to travel back and forth from our hostel and loosing half the day. But seeing that it was only 1pm, we decided to head back to our hostel and get our passports.

So… we end up back at the ferry and thankfully got our tickets, joined the other Chinese and boarded the ferry to the island. It used to cost 8元,however now it is 35元 or 50元! Apparently they increased the price so as to ‘deter people from coming to the island and ruining it’…. MMmm with the way the ferry was jam-packed with people, I don’t think that it’s working too well!

Gulyangyu Island is very pretty, old and I really like the old buildings that are there. There are a lot of cute wee shops in the small alleyways on the island.

By 4:30pm, I was just wrecked: having slept only 4 hours the night before and sight-seeing straight from being off the plane… plus the unbearable sun and heat… I was tired. Having to wait until 7:00pm to leave the island, we took it easy for the rest of the afternoon…. and by 9:30pm we were asleep in our hostel!

On Tuesday, we woke up by… GOOD WEATHER!!  The sun was beaming down and the sky was blue… we might get 2 good days I thought!

We decided to venture to Nanputuo Temple first. Of course it was mad busy with people, but the area is beautiful. To me, after seeing countless Temples in China, they all look the same… but it was nice none the less. We found a trail which led up a small mountain behind the temple and found a lovely viewing point!

 

To the left of the below picture is the scenic Xiamen University, it is free to enter, but of course we needed to show our ID’s, which luckily this time we brought!

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In the line to enter the Uni, umbrellas were needed!

Ever since I came to China, I’ve always complained about the girls using umbrellas during the summer. They don’t want their skin to get darker, so they always bring an umbrella when it’s sunny.

Unfortunately in Xiamen I became one of those girls. It was definitely not to keep my skin this pasty ghostly white colour; the sun was that strong I had to use it so I wouldn’t get baked. I feel in Xiamen the use of umbrellas is necessary for the sun, whereas in Chengdu.. it’s more of ‘Oh my God I see the sun, I don’t my skin to get .5% darker!!!’ So, it still pisses me off seeing umbrellas in Chengdu… It’s never even sunny!

The Uni itself is very beautiful, a lovely lake in the middle, palm trees, the buildings themselves. It’s like a park. The Uni is very close to the beach so you can wander around it and then head to the beach for a while.  Also, in their shop, they had an open fridge with all sorts of fruit inside it; apples, oranges, watermelon, mango…. all cut into slices. Beside the fridge they had loads of round containers to put the fruit into… You pick what fruit you would like and then pay..then you can enjoy the cold, fresh fruit. It was the first time I saw this but then I realised you can do this all over Xiamen. Such a good idea!

Wednesday came… good weather once again! I thought ‘yeah that weather app was totally wrong’. At this stage though, the heat and sun were getting to me… and by 4pm I had to have a lie down because of the tiredness.

On Thursday we decided to visit a Mandarin school to find out more information about their classes. At least there is a good school for us to learn from if we do decide to move!

We also walked around some parks and around the main road at night. Called Zhongshan Road, it used to be a busy road for cars, but a few years ago they blocked it off and now it is only for pedestrians. During the day it is deserted, with it only becoming alive once the sun goes down. Because Xiamen is a very touristy place, the road was full of Chinese tourists.

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中山路 Zhongshan Road. 

Below is a place called Hulishan Fortress. An old fortress build in the 1890’s. A nice little stroll about!

The last day we decided to go have lunch in a place called Grandmas Home. We initially went here in Hangzhou, so we were pleasently surprised that there was a chain in Xiamen too! It is cheap and delicious, but you need to wait a while sometimes to be seated. Thankfully we only had to wait 5 minutes until they were showing us to our table. In Hangzhou we had to wait 1 hour!

 

If you ever see a Grandmas Home, it’s def worth it to have a try!

Xiamen is a gorgeous place, very very different to Chengdu. I loved the place, except the weather (too hot) and of course the seafood. I don’t like fish or seafood, and this is like their staple food… I really missed Sichuan food!

So we will have to have a long think and weigh up the pros and cons about moving….

再见

爱玲

Checking Out Xiamen

The flights are paid for and the hostel is booked, so it wont be long until we check out our (maybe) future city where we plan to move to. Having had our eye on Xiamen for a while, we decided the summer is the best time to visit, with us going on a little trip with our friends to Western Sichuan, then with my boyfriends sis and boyfriend visiting in August, it was now or never.

Because Uni finishes the 24th of June, we decided to travel the 27th for a few days. We can see the city, check out the weather, food, environment, apartments, and where we may be working at. From what I’ve seen, it looks very nice, and we have gotten in touch with 2 people who already live there and they are very positive about the city, so I hope we will enjoy it too. Although I know for certain that apartments are much more expensive than Chengdu.

What’s also good is that there are direct flights from Amsterdam straight to Xiamen, so only a short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, then plain sailing to Xiamen. That’s definitely good… especially when my family comes to visit one day.

But if this city isn’t up to what we expected, I suppose we’ll just have to research more about another city that takes our fancy. Ideally we would like somewhere that has Western supermarkets like Metro, Carrefour and the likes, the winters aren’t especially cold… oh and good weather!

When the weather is good in Chengdu, there aren’t very many places to go and enjoy it, unless you have the opportunity of being able to get onto the roof of your building. Or you have a balcony, which we don’t.  When you go to a park, masses of people are there… so every seat is taken. Plus, every one of these seats will of course be in the shade. Damn it, I’m from Ireland, we don’t get ANY sun, let me enjoy it in Chengdu at least!

Furthermore, my boyfriend is from Mexico where the weather is great, so he really isn’t keen on the weather here.

So our time here in Chengdu is ticking away… and just maybe I might be posting from Xiamen next year.

再见

爱玲

The Late 20’s Club.

The Late 20’s Club.

So I’ve finally joined the ‘The  Late 20’s Club’. Ha, I remember at one stage me thinking ‘Oh I want to be older so I can do loads of stuff.’ When I was 18 I always wanted to look older… When someone said ‘Oh you look older than 18’ I was delighted. (Although this was when I had plenty of make-up on me). I hated having to be asked for ID when going to bars and clubs.

However now, that definitely isn’t the case. I always used to think that I looked young for my age, but now I’m not too sure. Maybe now I look more mature, but I’m beginning to feel like I look my age… and I’m not really sure what to make of it! Maybe I could be totally wrong… but I certainly see a difference in myself from 2 years ago.

So for my 26th birthday, me, my boyfriend and another 2 couples that we met in Level 1 in our Uni, we went for Beijing duck in a really popular restaurant North West of Chengdu. It is a bit of a travel from our place but it is worth it. The duck is delicious and it’s juicy and not fatty at all. Plus we ordered other dishes which were all lovely too.

I hope, one day, if my parents visit and we can bring them to Chengdu and they can come to this place.

And…my friends even bought me a cheesecake! Chinese cake really is terrible, but the one they got is a Western style cheesecake, and it was delicious! After eating this we were all stuffed!

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And they spelt my name right!

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My lovely friends

After this, we headed to one of our friends apartment and drank some imported beer, took a shot of Korean Soju, and tasted berry flavoured vodka. It was a great night!

However it makes me sad to think next year my birthday will be rather different. With one couple moving back to the UK in the summer, the other planning on heading back to the US next year, and us thinking of moving to another city in China…. this will be the last time we are together for my birthday.

Even for my last birthday and who came to celebrate, 6/7 have left already.

But I suppose, we now have an excuse to visit Scotland and America to see them! And when myself and my boyfriend move to Mexico, then they can definitely come to visit us! That would be great!

再见!

爱玲

Contract signing

One year has flown by, with us suddenly needing to sign another contract for work. Our current contract is part time, as will our next one. However in 2017 we hope to start a 15 hour full time contract.

This means that we will be payed a fixed salary every month, instead of being part time where we are only paid by the hours we work.

I’m looking forward to starting a full time contract next year, this lack of money coming in does not make me happy!

Presently, I have been working in two campuses; one from when I first started working, and the second when I moved to another campus and work during the week. For my campus on Saturdays, I would have to travel one hour to work and one hour back… which at the beginning was ok….I even stayed with the campus for an extra year, just so I could teach my students.

However I soon became fed up with the travelling. Last week, I had 3 classes.. totalling 2 hours 45mins. But because my first class was at 11:15am, while my last class finished at 5:30pm… this meant I had to leave home at 9:30 and I would arrive back at 7:00pm. So all in all I worked nearly 3 hours, but I was away from home for like 9 hours! I just didn’t want to keep wasting my time travelling and then only teaching a few hours.

In fairness though, I did stay the extra year to come in on the Saturday to teach, which I kinda feel, after telling my campus manager that I was finally leaving… my effort of going every Saturday wasn’t truly appreciated… thats what I felt anyway! I have 2 more Saturdays to work and then… adios Zhonghai!

Yesterday when we were signing our new contract in the businesses main headquarters, the Chinese staff told us “because you took 35 days off for holidays, you will have to work an extra month to make those days up”

What????? We were so surprised to hear this! How could this be!? I distinctly remember when I signed my contract that it definitely did not say this. Plus, we were part timers… it shouldn’t matter if we take time off… we don’t get any bonuses for completing a contract.

Part timers don’t get many benefits unlike full timers, but not having to make up for days not working is just for part time people.

So we asked her to check… and sure enough she returned saying “Oh I’m very sorry, I got confused… you don’t need to work an extra month” So we got that sorted.

Because we plan to move from Chengdu next year, we will not be studying Mandarin in a University. We will look at private places in (maybe Xiamen) and then we will get a work visa. We will also need to go to Hong Kong during November or December in order to do this.

I will miss studying at the Uni we are at though… I like the school and we have a good routine in Chengdu. At the moment I am half against moving away, half against staying in Chengdu. I’m comfortable here, and I don’t want ‘change’…

But I suppose, if you are always comfortable with something… it will be difficult to change, or you will never change it….. and I know in the blink of an eye…. I’ll have been in Chengdu 5years if I opted to stay.

再见!

爱玲