Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Back to School

Classes started last weekend finally! It was brilliant to see some of the kids. There is very little cuter in this world than seeing 4 year olds have back to school reunions. One of my tiniest F2 boys saw his best Disney friend (who happens to be one of my tiniest F2 girls) arrive and shouted 'NNNNIIIINNNNNAAAAA!!!' across the clubhouse, causing Nina to spot him and go 'JJJJJEEERRRRRRYYYYYY' at which point they ran to each other and hugged tight like the moment after a disaster in a movie when the leads are trying to find each other, then started giggling. Seriously, I nearly died.

There is another really cute little girl that I met at a referral event and she just glomped on to me totally. The whole event she kept turning around to tell me COMPLETELY! IMPORTANT! THINGS! in Chinese about herself (that I kept having to smile a nod at as I had no clue) and running over to me to give me hugs. She's really adorable. Apparently the dad enrolled her into class and she just happens to be in a class that goes into session the same time as one of mine, we had some trouble explaining that she couldn't go with me into my class (she lined up with them and everything before I realised she wasn't supposed to be there). I don't currently have a class for her level else I would have snatched her up immediately.

I have my new teaching partner now and she is much much better, though I'm having a bit of trouble adjusting. The fact is I basically didn't have any help in class (my previous partner was sort of there in flesh only) so I really don;t know how to use one. I love that she wants to be involved but have had some big frustrations this week over her judging my classes because she doesn't know my classes or their progress and keeps comparing them to her old ones. At one point she was being quite insulting and I told her so, but the next day we were able to come in and plan, so it's nice that we're able to say what we say and not hold grudges at this point. With both of us involved planning is taking ages though! I need a way to speed things up to something close the time it took me alone. Hopefully we'll be able to settle into things soon though, I think we're both quite controlling people with experience (my new LP worked in another centre before this) which is making the first few steps a little rocky. We're getting there though, and it's nice to have someone who gives a shit in class.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Back to work, but not quite

Well, we were supposed to be back to our centre doing demos today, but upon my arrival I learned that we'd failed our fire safety inspection (possibly because of the masses of boxes blocking our fire escape at the time?) so we're not allowed to start them. Instead of demos tomorrow we'll be doing parent tours of our new centre so they have a chance to resolve some of their concerns about moving, but the lack of certificate means we can't start teaching this weekend like we'd planned. Quite what this is going to do to our teaching schedule hasn't been decided yet by the higher-ups, but there's only so many lessons we can condense and still teach all our content, so we're hoping for an answer soon. Right now the idea is that we start teaching Thursday, though whether that comes to fruition or not is anybody's guess. Hopefully the right bribe will have been paid to the right person by then.

Three trainers have quit suddenly at the other centre which has left a lot of us concerned as to how it's going to affect us. Technically, according to our learner numbers, we have too many trainers for our centre, so I think they're looking into seeing who is willing to transfer, but I really don't want to at all. Fingers crossed it doesn't become an issue for me, I'm uncertain at this point how forceful the 'request' will be, or if it will even be extended to me. While we may have too many trainers, we scheduled our classes assuming all the trainers we have, so to pull multiple pairs out now would take some creative rearranging to say the least.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


Wow, I spent a lot of money the last few days; obviously I shouldn't be left on my own with free time and an internet connection?

2 days ago I joined a gym. Yay? It was a good deal, 1980 kwai for a year (just under £200/$320ish) but with loads of freebies. They gave me a free six months on the end so I actually got an 18 month contract. They also gave me a 1500 kwai gift card for the spa close by, a free gym bag, towel, and water bottle. I kind of feel like I'm making money off them at this point? I joined with my manager at work, and a guy at work is also thinking of coming back with his girlfriend and joining up. The man who signed us up must be so happy, he gets commission from 4 people. This is what you get for not being too scared to show around the foreigners. You have to nominate a day to start your membership, my gym buddy has gone away for the National day holiday so we're not starting until the 8th. She basically told me: Go Home. Bake. When I come back, prepare to go hardcore. I'm taking her advice. I wouldn't usually advise the 'Last Supper' approach to losing weight - eat everything you want in large quantities the last few days before you start dieting - because it's just more to lose, and it puts you in the mindset of denial ('I'm never going to get to eat this again!'). On the other hand, I've been watching 'Great British Bake-off' avidly and all I've been wanting to do is mix flour, sugar, butter and put it in my face, so I figured why not.

Last night/this morning I went internet shopping. Oh, how many stories begin with those words? Here's the thing. I need clothes for the autumn/winter, and it costs to ship them here so rather than ordering one or two things as I go, I do one big order a two or three times a year. £190/$300 later, and I bought all the things. Seriously, all of them. And then I accessorised. It probably would have been better for my wallet if I hadn't discovered that Evans, Yours, and Marks & Spencer (all good plus size clothing suppliers in the UK) now all ship world wide. It also probably would have been a good idea to wait a bit and see if this gym thing end up equalling actual body changes before ordering new clothes, but post generally takes about three weeks and by then it's going to be getting cold, so I don't really have time to wait around. Tailors here can be pretty cheap, I'll find a way to get them adjusted if sizes are really off.

Then, to top things off, I went to WalMart to get some groceries, and came back with a new bedding set and a new DVD player, because my player broke a few weeks ago and apparently that's how I roll today. I'm funny with money sometimes. I'm generally quite sensible with it, and enjoy saving and seeing my little savings account fill up, but then a few things I need to get build up and I have a spree. Once the seal is broken as it were, I find it very easy to keep spending. If you're going to do it may as well get everything right? There's a necklace in a posh jewellery shop near WalMart that I've had my eye on basically since I got here (a good 7 months ago now!) and I was so close to just saying 'screw it' and buying it today. I have a nickel allergy so a lot of costume jewellery sends me out in a rash. I've been thinking recently I should get one or two really good pieces and wear them a lot. I don't know exactly how much this necklace costs because I don;t want to go in and ask in case it's super expensive and I have to turn around again. It's a little embarrassing to have them get something out the window and then realise there's no way you could afford it. Or to realise that yes you could afford it, but it's more expensive than you thought so you don't want to get it, but then you've sort of committed your interest? Or maybe it's all in my head, but whatever. From what I can spy from the window I think the pendant might be around 1200 kwai, plus the cost of the necklace. If I re-sign at the end of my contract I get a month's salary bonus, which would get me the money the end of April I think. Given that it's my 30th Birthday in May it might be a good present to me, we'll see if it's still there.

Fortunately I was reasonably financially prepared for this. When I sent £3000 home the other month I put a good percentage of it in my savings account, but left some money in the current account so that when the weather started getting cooler I could shop. Even with what I've spent today I'm OK, and so long as I don't go on any more sprees I should still be able to put aside half of my salary at the end of the month to send home at some point, which is what I aim to do. I've got money in my home account left still (despite my best efforts!) so that should sort me for my Christmas shopping. I can't believe so many places online have their Christmas content up already! It's not even Halloween yet people!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

It was the best of foods, it was the worst of foods

It's great being in the new centre at work, but I can't wait until we get back into actual routine again. With the switch around while we actually moved, and the October holiday coming up, I can't keep track of days at all right now.

I had the best and worse of food experiences today. The highlight was Free Stufz that Disney gave us (again! First an Avengers DVD and now this, it's been a good freebie month). We all got a gift voucher for a box of goodies from Haagen Dazs in honour of the Moon Festival, with today being the last day to redeem it and us not having to be into work until a bit later (owing to the Fire Marshall coming to give the final sign off) I hopped the metro a few stops to the city proper and picked mine up. It was pretty! (Click for larger if you want to see what's in it)

The roundish chocolate thing is an ice-cream version of a moon cake (making it basically a big, delicious choc ice), the traditional version of which I'm not really a fan of. Slight choc ice fail though when I bit into it and realise the dry ice seen on the side of the box hadn't quite done the job, and while the chocolate had the remained solid the inside was liquid. My problem was compounded by the fact that after finishing my treat (over the sink, mamma didn't raise no fools) (well...) I realised the water had been turned off temporarily and had to do some improvising to make myself presentable again. The rest of my box is currently in the freezer at work to prevent me from scoffing the whole lot in one go at home.

I'm meant to be off tomorrow because I'm coming in a day early back from the holiday to do demos, but I didn't get all my lesson planning done (my AT was having boyfriend drama, which I thought I'd avoided owing to her calling in sick, but she rang and I couldn't get her off the phone) so I'll nip in tomorrow for a few hours and get the rest finished off.

On the way home I had to nip into WalMart and get some meat for attempt two in the slow cooker (tomorrow, I want to wake up, poke the contents of that pot with a spoon and have it fall apart - you hear me slow cooker?) and had unfortunate low point in food for the day, on display (or, more precisely, animal parts) section of the shop

What? Suddenly not hungry? There was no meat on it, just pig face hung up by the ears. I particularly like how the black bar behind it makes it look like it's glaring balefully out of one eye.

Monday, 24 September 2012


My friends and I did manage to get out to Hong Kong after all, so we had a great few days! Hong Kong is an awesome city, lots to see and do and so much easier that China! Because of it's British history English is spoken much more widely and much more proficiently, I'd forgotten what it was like to ask a question and get an answer without causing pandemonium. Ah, back when life was simple...

We got a flight to Shenzhen because it was much cheaper then flying to Hong Kong as it's still a domestic flight. From there we grabbed a bus (it only takes 70 minutes, plus time to go through customs). The first plane journey was a bit of a farce, we were loaded on to the plane at 9:30pm for a two hour flight and didn't take off until midnight. The poor stewardesses had a mutiny on their hands. I've always felt that the Chinese language can feel a bit like you're being yelled at even when you're not, but when people are actually angry it's pretty scary.

The first day we went the beach at Repulse Bay and at night we saw the Symphony of Lights show at Victoria Harbour.

Day 2 was all about Disney Hong Kong baby! As I mentioned before we got in for free because of our silver passes. When you go in on your Silver pass you can sign in yourself and three other people, so we went and got all four tickets and then played ticket fairies for people in the queue. We gave some to a nice Austrailian family we met on the subway getting to the park, and then gave out the others. It's surprisingly hard to give away free tickets? People assume you're out to scam them. We were like 'no, really, free tickets, no tricks. We work for Disney, they gave us tickets, we have extras'.

The subway line to Disney is themed! How cute is this?

The third day we hopped on a tram a just rode around the city. At one point we spotted an Outback and nearly died of happiness, hopped off the tram and had lunch. We walked around for a while afterwards and found a supermarket and a pharmacy to stock up on things we can't find in China (in my case that was mostly Cadbury's chocolate, parchment paper for cooking, and good deodorant). I was glad to get it all, thought Hong Kong is expensive. Or rather, I say that, Hong Kong is about on par with any international city, but with China being So. Cheap. in most things, going back to regular-ish prices gave me a bit of shell shock. When I get home to England (where it's expensive to live) I'm not going to be able to make myself  buy pretty much anything for a while. I also got some cough medicine, hoping that actual, real medicine might have more effect on the cough I have now had for two weeks than the crappy snake vemon Chinese stuff. The stuff I bought is green like The Hulk, and tastes like someone has bottled death and left it under a radiator for a week so it better be doing me some good. *Knock wood* I'm feeling a little better. I caught it from my new AT (who still has it!) and have given it to at least one of the girls I travelled with (whoops) so I would really like to see the back of it without needing a doctor visit.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye

The last day at our centre has been survived and it's over! The new place isn't quite ready though so they've give us until next Monday off while things are finished. Given that we get all of 5 vacation days a year, it's an unexpected bonus. I went  and had a look inside the new building yesterday with a few other people, it's looking really nice!

A friend and I are considering getting a last minute flight out to Shenzhen and then a bus over the border to Hong Kong so we can go to Hong Kong Disney. Our silver passes came through a month or so ago as part of our employee benefits, so it will be free to get in. Flights to Shenzhen are much cheaper (about half) of that to Hong Kong because Shenzhen is still a domestic flight, whereas Hong Kong is international. The bus will only take an hour and a half to get us there though, so it's for the best. I looked into it a little and it looks like we'll be able to get flights and hotels for around £250 total, so estimating how much I'll spend aside from that I may be able to pay for the whole trip out of the money I have in my bank now rather than dipping into my savings. We'll have to see how much my bills come up to tomorrow though.

We haven't made plans yet as I wasn't sure if I wanted to go, but I'm meeting her to go pay our rent and bills tomorrow so we can discuss it then. Hopefully we can get something sorted out quickly. If so I need to nip to Walmart on the way back and buy a new little suitcase as I only have the giant one I brought with me.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

It's the final countdown!

Yesterday was kind of awesome, which I wasn't expecting for the week from hell. First of all it was my planning day so I had no lessons, making me predispositioned to like the day. Then we got in to the centre and the LLD was running centre meeting, meaning it was only half an hour long, and we were told that our free DVDs had arrived! Disney sent out a copy of The Avengers free to all cast members because it did so well in China. We also got a voucher from Disney for a purple box filled with different ice-creams from Hagen Daaz in honour of the moon festival, so now we're all going to find the nearest one to collect it from.

Another good thing is that we finally got some actual details on The Big Move, and had a chance to start packing things up. We can't strip our rooms bare just yet because we're still doing parent presentations, but I started packing up my cupboards. We won't be in on Monday like we wanted, but we should all be there by Thursday. The guy who handles center demolition and salvage came to have a look around yesterday. He's also the guy who helps to choose where the centre would be in the first place, so he has been the one getting it in the neck for all the problems. Our landlord has been out to screw us from the beginning, and you can tell he's angry about it. His job for now is to salvage or destroy anything copyrighted so no one can use it illegally, but we're also under orders not to leave anything that could be useful to the malls construction workers because of all the problems. We're taking everything, light bulbs, doors, the works. Given that our classrooms don't have any windows because of the problems it would cause reflecting on the projectors, that should be interesting for anyone trying to work int he space after we're gone, it's going to be a shell.

One presentation down, three to go, two in the next few hours, and I've developed a hacking cough just in time. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

And now for a little light relief

Did I mention that yesterday was Teacher's Day here in China? Caught up in all the stress of this last week it's easy to forget the nicer moments. Disney sent a big basket of shiny red apples down from Shanghai for us so that every teacher in the centre could live the cliché for a moment, and a couple of my kids were absolutely adorable and bought me the little plastic flowers sold for the occasion. I have them at work right now, but will have to take pictures when I go back in on Thursday.

My phone credit ran out last night so I had to go up the street to the mall to top up my phone, so I got some groceries in while I was there. My first day off tends to be shopping/cleaning then the second I can do whatever. Sadly the 'cleaning' portion of today seems to be a fail so far, but given the crazy hours I sleep I suppose the day isn't a write off yet for all it's 7pm.

I've been looking into all the new autumn shows, with me just having Chinese TV I have to research this stuff, but it's all looking great! Some of the things I have on my radar are things I genuinely look forward to, others I think are going to be bad but will watch anyway. The genuine side includes the new season of Revenge (I bought a DVD of the first season here for 20 kwai (£2/$3) and watched it all over about 2 days), The Vampire Diaries (after finally watching season 3 properly), Big Bang Theory, Elementary (though I'm unsure how I'll react given how I enjoyed the other version), and (surprisingly as it's a CW show and they can be terrible) Green Arrow is looking potentially good. Shows that I'm on the fence about are Once Upon a Time (such a good premise that got so cheesy so fast), and Beauty and the Beast (A show I would love to love but looks like it's going to be done so badly!). Has anyone got any info on the new show Nashville? I ready a little synopsis on Television Without Pity and it could be interesting, but I need more info I think. Going back to my homeland I'm also waiting for Merlin, new Downton Abbey, and am loving the return of The Great British Bake-off. What's on your TV radar?

Monday, 10 September 2012


Well now it's Monday, which means it's my Friday as my days off are Tuesday and Wednesday, and a weekend has never been needed more. Saturday/Sunday are our busiest times in the centre, so bearing in mind some of the scheduling problems I outlined in my last post and all the extra work/stress it has resulted in, I was very much in a HULK. SMASH. mood for the majority of it.

Fortunately now that it's over and I'm breathing a little easier. The sit in demo thing didn't go too badly (Well, all the parents signed up anyway so it couldn't have been that bad), I got through my observation (we having done our feedback session yet so I couldn't tell you how it went), I got permission to do my assessments straight away rather than waiting for the next lesson (which clawed back some time for EOTP practice), and managed to get most of my classes to do some kind of run through of their performance activities, so I'm in better shape than I was in that respect. Today I managed to get all my report cards written and scanned in to the computer so they can go to my team teacher for translation first thing Thursday, backed up some important files ready for the big move, made my Power Point presentation ready for my littlest kids to receive their certificates, and uploaded all my assessment results for parents to check. This puts me somewhat back on schedule as by condensing lesson 11 and 12 into week 11 it also means I lost a week of time to get my reports finished and other stuff done. The End of Term Presentations are still the bane of my existence and despite the creative rearranging to better use the time they remain woefully under-practised, but I just keep trying to remind myself that even if they are all terribly awful, in a week it will all be over.

My LLD mentioned to me the other day that Disney do some kind of educational reimbursement, so I'm going to be looking into it to see if it's possible to get a Masters in Education (or something similar) while I'm out here. It would mean staying in China longer, but would make studying much cheaper than in I were doing it back home. I don't know the details yet so I'm trying not to pin my hopes on anything, but it remains a tantalizing possibility.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Work day blues

Construction addition of the day; we got to work and they've ripped up the floor to tile the entrance way, which meant for a while that you couldn't get to either the lifts or the stairs. Awesome.

With the change over to the new centre, we're having to make a few changes to our schedule, which means we'll have a good week or so with no lessons. Unfortunately, the teaching schedule is given out to every centre so there is zero flexibility, because everyone teaches the same week at the same time. There are advantages to this, if a family goes travelling they can go to another centre and get the same content for that week, or if they are absent for a day they can make up the class with another teacher and continue with their lessons. Given that we can't change the schedule, it means for the first six weeks we are going to have to double teach lessons, that is, condense lessons together and teach what we can to make up for lost time and return tot he national schedule by the end of the first unit. We're also condensing the last two weeks for this term so my kids now have zero End of Term Presentation practice time as I was expecting them to do the test and then have a week free to practice practice practice. The rug has been pulled out from under me a bit as the parents are now coming to watch us next lesson.This should in no way be a disaster of epic proportions.

In addition to all that I have no less than three demo kids sitting in my lesson today so their parents will be joining them in class, which means I can't fiddle with the routine to try and get us some more time (also: AHHH, PARENTS IN CLASS!), and head office have decided my manager still has to do 10 class observations this month despite the fact that we not be teaching for most of it due to the aforementioned centre move, so I get to have her come in to judge my Sunday morning class. My least favourite thing is to have people watching my class, and I get two lots of that this weekend, along with the added extra stress.

8 days 'til centre close. Body, a stress heart attack would slow me down significantly, we hold it together.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I can't decide if I want to get back in to blogging again officially. I feel like sometimes it's me telling myself 'no you have to blog' that makes me so disinclined to do it.

So, what's up Doc? We seem to have finally broken the back of the long hot summer of 2012, temperatures are hovering in the high 20s, but the burning heat and breathless humidity seem to have (literally) cooled it a bit. It's been overcast and downright pleasant here, I had almost forgotten what it was like to go outside and have it actually refresh you rather than making you want to cry.

I've spent the last few days eating fruit/veg intake like a mad woman. Last week I was having an Unpleasant Illness which included throwing up/running to the bathroom. I figured it was food poisoning, but then a couple of days later (when I thought things were fine again) I got this intermittent stomach pain that had me go home from work one day. It wasn't radiating from any one point, it was just present and interfering. My manager mentioned it sounded a lot like when she had gallstones, and that one of the things that can cause that was an unbalanced diet, so to avoid oily food and increase fruit/veg intake. Whichever one it was, it proves that my body belongs to the Florence + the machine school of relationships ('you hit me once, I hit you back...') and that I should probably cut it some slack every now and again. Eating out is so easy and cheap though, cheaper than buying the food yourself for the most part, that when you work the shifts I do (finishing late at night) it's easy to get lazy after a tiring day. I had been dithering about eating a bit healthier anyhow, but it seems my body has taken matters into it's own hands for now.

Our building at work has basically imploded. The mall changed owners and they decided they wanted to rebuild a whole lot of it, so there has been major construction going on all around us. It would be finny if I didn't have to work in it, every day we come in and the crew seem to have found a new way to make things much worse for us, despite us looking around the day before and thinking it was physically impossible for them to do so. In the couple of months we have had storage rooms cave in and flood, ceiling tiles taken out of multiple rooms due to water damage (and rubble falling from said holes), constant banging and drilling while trying to do demos and teach classes, bad smells, dirty water dripping through lights and other electrical items, mould, light fixtures fall out of the ceiling because the internal tile around it got wet, utilities being cut off at random times (bye bye functioning bathrooms), our internet wires accidentally dug up so we had no access to any of our teaching content or printers, an odd smoke/haze through our hallways, one of our room ceilings being supported by a tube wedged between it and the ceiling to stop it falling down, and finally, the crowning glory, one of the workers next door accidentally putting a pickaxe through the back of an interactive white board while demolishing a wall next door that was behind it. Fortunately it wasn't in use at the time.

The good news is a couple of weeks ago, the higher-ups came in and told us 'We have heard your cries! This centre is not safe and we will build you a new one!'. Unfortunately that didn't fix us for the time between then and the new place being built, but whatevs right? Thankfully the new building is nearly finished and we should be leaving the current death-trap on the 16th.

You'll all have to cross your fingers that we survive until then.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bad news

About an hour after I posted last I received an email from my brother telling me my granddad had passed away. He didn't wake up after his stroke that Friday, and I'm told it was pain free. Mum is making arrangements now, having tentatively bookmarked the 26th/27th for the funeral, assuming the necessary paperwork comes through. There is no real way I can back to the UK for it, which has left me feeling guilty. I wish I could be there for both her and him.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Catching up

I went to pay my bills today for the first time today, first time because here you pay your bills in 3 month increments. My water bill for 3 months was 22 yuan (£2.20/$3.45)! My electricity was 96 yuan (£6.96/$10.83)! The realtor I worked with to find the apartment (who spoke really good English) has left the company, so I wasn't sure how getting all the info on the bills I needed to pay was going to go, but the guy dealing with my friend and I had a little English, so we got by. He told us we were his first foreign customers and asked us if we could take a photo with him on his phone to commemorate the occasion.

I was dog-sitting for the adorable Penny a few days ago, the pug of a pair of married friends I have who have gone to visit home for a few weeks. I took her for a few days until the regular dog-sitter could come back from their own trip and take her. How can you resist this face?

Owing to my long absence I never posted pictures of my work, so here a few pics of my classroom. Our centre is in a kind of creepy abandoned kids mall, it opened about 8 months ago (at which point we moved in, because what better place to put kid's English school than a children themed mall?), but then it went bankrupt, so now the only thing open in it is our centre (though they are doing work upstairs on it now so they may be putting a restaurant upstairs?). We have a special side entrance that is unlocked for us during working hours so we can operate. My classroom is Coral Reef, so it's on a Nemo theme.

This is the interactive white board/projector wall combination and stage area ('magic theatre') we use to teach the kids with, every room has one. The fish down the side of the board are my rules for the class (always listen, be patient, be safe, be kind, be clean, speak English). Every room has a variation of these rules presented in a way themed to the room, Snow White's Castle has them printed on apples, Mulan's Garden on flowers etc.

Things at work are a little crazy right now as it is unit 2 assessment week and next week are end of term presentations, where the parents get to come in and watch us perform for them. I foresee my EOTPs going badly.

Today it got up to 39C (102.2F!) and my God could you feel it. My friend and I had to pay the aforementioned rent, so we went to lunch after and had a look around the market. Here is a really cool looking... ad? movie prop? random transformer? that I saw in the mall as we were walking out after lunch:

On the way out we also passed a drink place that was offering some pretty hefty healthy benefits with their refreshments:

On a more serious note, I got an email from my sister on Friday saying that my granddad had a stroke/seizure early that morning and is unconscious in hospital and they didn't expect to live out the day. They were wrong and he is still there comfortable and apparently going strong, but he hasn't woken up and right now they don't think he will. It's really hard being here knowing there is nothing I can do. I try to remember that when they say he won't wake up, they also said he wouldn't live past Friday and it's not Wednesday, so who knows? but the truth is things are looking pretty bleak right now. I've been promised updates if the situation changes, but with mum being in the hospital looking out for him I can't call her myself.

Okay, that's a lot of information, I'll leave you with these umbrellas hanging from the roof of the covered walkway in the Confucius Temple market.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

End of the 'Weekend'

Back to work tomorrow and I'm finally feeling almost myself again. The cough is almost gone, but more importantly my ability to breath is returning to me. I had a week where I felt like I was breathing around a plastic tube lodged in the base of my throat. I'm not 100% but getting there.

It's been getting really warm here! I've been wearing my face mask to work but it makes me so hot! Sweating off your make up before you arrive is not a sexy look. I've been looking on ebay for some more summer clothes, I've only been here two month and I'm already bored of all my clothes. I kind of want to wait until I lose some weight, but I don't know how long it will take so I'm not sure if it's worth it? I don't want to waste money.

I've been trying to prepare more food at home to avoid ordering food at work. I came to this decision when I realised I'd eaten McDonald's four times one week! McDonald's and KFC deliver here, and they have English language order lines (that can tell where you are by locating the phone so you don't need to know the Chinese address!) which means that all us foreign trainers use it a lot as it's something we can do ourselves instead of having to get our Chinese co-workers to do it for us. I'm not going super hardcore with it as I can't really read the nutritional info and the ones that actually have info only show kilojoules instead of kilocalories, so it's more a case of trying to make the best choices of what I'm offered. I can be difficult when you can't read menus to find something reasonable, so things have been a bit hit or miss, but I don't want to stop eating out with people as the social aspect is really important. It's so easy to become isolated here and I don;t want that to happen.

The other day I bought a red cabbage from the supermarket, but didn't really know what to do with it as cabbage salad seemed so boring. Luckily it was Google to the rescue, and I ended up making a sweet and sour cabbage dish I found on Simply Recipes. I kind of eyeballed how much of the ingredients I wanted to use as I was only making a couple of servings, and I added a bit of garlic on advice from the comments section, but it turned out pretty nice!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sick again

I've been in a constant state of coming down with/suffering from/getting over various illnesses since coming to China. Most foreigners working here go through it the first few months they get here while their bodies adjust to the poor air quality, new strains of bugs/viruses and (with spring coming in) a combination of high pollen counts and the beginning of building season. I myself live in an apartment complex next to a building site, as they are building new blocks nearby. Last Monday I got a wicked sore throat, a which point I began losing my voice. This sucked as I have lessons and demos to do at work and you have to be really high energy. A day later the sore throat abated, so I didn't feel bad at all, but my voice sounded like I was dying. Then the coughing started.

My God did the coughing start.

It was bad to the point of me having to excuse myself to throw up because it was hard enough that it was setting off my gag reflex. Weirdly, I felt fine, just coughing a lot. I've been ill before and a cough tends to be the last stage, it just goes on forever. I went to the pharmacy next to work, armed with my pocket dictionary, and they gave me some things I thought would help. Sadly no. Yesterday I had a truly unpleasant day (fortunately the first of my tues/wed 'weekend') and finally caved to the idea that I actually needed to see a doctor. After going to the fabric market my friend and I went to Global Doctor today and the doc gave me a crap ton of drugs for the cough and virus I have:

Thank God our insurance pays 90% of our costs! We go to Global Doctor rather than some of the other medical places because they have a direct pay system, so instead of me paying 100% and claiming the 90% back, they can just take my insurance card and I give them the 10%. Given that the bill came to 1,739RMB (about £170/275USD) I was happy to only pay the 173RMB. After listening to my chest he also put me on a nebuliser (heh, 'nebuliser' makes me feel like I'm in Star Trek or something) for 30 minutes, with further appointments for tomorrow morning and afternoon for more sessions. It would appear my lungs were not designed for Chinese air. 'Bronchial hyperactivity' were the words he used; all I know is that I've used my inhaler more these past few days than I have the past 3 months. He asked me if I would be able to move apartment (NOOOOOO!) which isn't possible, so I've got to try and keep windows etc closed when I can. To add insult to injury I get to wear this walking to and from work from now on:

Now, I know that wearing a mask isn't so very strange here as the air quality is bad. In Japan people would wear them when they were sick to avoid coughing on you (not the case here as people are more than happy to cough, sneeze, hack and spit in your direction). Unfortunately I still feel like a complete tit wearing it. My friend and I decided we would wear them together as she's been meaning to get one because the dust is so bad around us.

After we'd finished at the surgery, I nipped to Walmart on my way home. I wanted to get some chicken and vegetables to make soup and be sure I had supplies for the next couple of days. I got a small cauliflower, aubergine, carrots, 2 red onions, and 8 chicken wing/drummet things for the princely sum of 14RMB (just over 2USD). I was going to get a little whole chicken and simmer that as I thought it would be more flavourful, but after finding the whole chickens I found I couldn't get past the look of 'Whhhhhhy?' in it's eyes:

The 'Aquatic Life' section of the supermarket is tubs and tubs of fresh fish; and by fresh I mean still alive swimming in the water. You get a net and catch it yourself (or get the helper lady to do it for you).

These poor turtles looked nervous:

I actually got served one of these little guys in a restaurant the other week. I was with two friends eating lunch and the people thought they'd be nice and bring us out something free to try, but it ended up being a whole turtle in a grey soup. I tried a bit because let's face it, left to my own devices I'd never knowingly order turtle (and I felt bad trying to ignore it when they'd been nice enough to want to give it to us) but it freaked us all out a bit. The taste is strange, because it tastes like fish but has the texture of meat. Needless to say, when we were boxing up leftovers to take to work it didn't make the cut.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Apartment pics

I've just tidied apartment (again), so it seems like as good a time as any to get some pictures for you guys!

Here is a picture of half of the main living space:

I bought the little rug today at the market. I want to get something to put on the table, and some nice (fake - I have a black thumb) colourful flowers to warm the place up a bit, it still has that 'show home' feel to it at the moment

This is the other part of the living space by the door, I'm standing by the table at this point

You can see the sliding door entrance to my little kitchen at the side of the picture

It's the standard Asian-small size, but it's nice and new. I bought an electric oven today so I'm able to widen the range of things I can prepare. That being said I've been eating out a lot here, when we get off work it's late and you don't want to come home and cook so a few of us will usually go grab something to eat (including me there are 4 of my co-workers living in this complex). It's so cheap to eat out here that it costs about the same or less than buying groceries to cook. I'm going to try bringing lunch to work at bit more though, if only to balance my meals a bit more. It's lots of noodles and rice here!

The other door coming off this side of the main room is the bathroom

Just out of shot in the corner is the shower head (above the pink bathmat), to maximise use of space it's quite normal here to leave off the shower cubical and just have the room tiled so the water doesn't ruin anything. On the ceiling there are some really cool heat lamp lights (like the things used to keep food warm in restaurants, but cooler looking) so you can keep yourself toasty warm during winter showers.

The open wooden door in the first picture leads to the main bedroom

I went to the market today and chose fabric, half an hour later I had a new bed sheet, quit cover, and pillow cases. At 190RMB for the lot it was cheaper than the stores (though I suppose I could have negotiated it down a bit more) and it fits perfectly. I was having trouble finding pre-made sets that fit the quilt because IKEA standard size and China standard size turned out to be different. Plus, my mattress is a bit of a beast (I have to do a hop up to bed at night) so it was too deep for most sheets available. I love the ones I got though! I also love my dictionary iPhone app that made the getting possible! The apps I've been using have been lifesavers for communication.

My room leads out to what must have been a balcony at one point, but it's been converted to an enclosed space and had the washer and hand-wash sink put in there, as well as some clothes hanging rails. Personally I far prefer this, as the area I live in is basically a building site from the other set of apartments they're building down the road. Even if they weren't, the views aren't anything I would sit outside for and I would have used the space to dry clothes anyway, so I like having the usable space.

Lastly we have the second bedroom, I'm not using it for much at the moment, mostly it tends to be the dumping ground of the apartment as I can just shut the door on the stuff. The quilt on the bed is massive because it's the additional part of my one (I bought an all seasons quilt that popped together when it's cold, but then it warmed up so I put it on the other, smaller, bed).

So there you have it! My place is small but perfectly formed and I love it. The landlord and lady had obviously redone it all before I came to look round, because everything is brand new. They've been really good to me in terms of helping me out and fixing a few problems I've had, so I'm doing my best to keep it well cared for for them.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Home again Home again

I'm more productive between the hours of 12 and 2AM then I am the entire rest of my day, to wit, laundry done, apartment cleaned, floors swept, washing up done and suitcase finally put away. Though sadly, at no point between those hours in any of the days (and days and days) since I last updated could I get myself to write up a proper blog post for you all. Assuming 'you all' are still out there after the aforementioned lack of posting.

I have various excuses at the ready, would you like to hear them? At first I was going to blog everything, but on-boarding (the three week training period before going to your placement) was the kind of thing that leaves your brain saturated at the end of the day, leaving me to scrape the cake bowl of my intelligence for enough remains of my mind to get myself from the training centre back to the hotel on the Shanghai metro. It sounds easy, but at one point I did get on the wrong side of the track with an equally tired friend of mine and end up 5 stops farther away from our destination then we'd started at before either of us noticed.

Then I had a lovely hotel room in Nanjing, however their Internet's report card would undoubtedly have said does not play well with others. After that I reached the point where I had dozens of bits of posts floating around waiting to be plucked from the space between my ears and fulfil their destiny as written words, but I had so much to tell you that I just found I could start. Which is where we are right now.

I most important thing, I guess, is that I'm more or less settled into my Nanjing apartment and permanent base now (save a couple of things). I've started teaching now and the kids are insanely cute. China is great, baffling and downright weird by turn. I want to get some good apartment etc. pictures to show you now I'm actually here, though some of you may have seen the quick facebook ones took as I was looking at it during my house hunting. I'm not sure where to start on telling you about everything else, I think we'll have to wait for now while I chew it somehow into manageable chunks.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Flipside

I'm in Shanghai! Finally all that stressing came to a result. I only got in yesterday evening, so all I've really done is nip to the convenience store (Family Mart! Ah the memories of Japan) to grab a snack pack of sushi and then go to sleep. We've got out own rooms (rather than sharing in twos as I was expecting)which is so much better, three weeks is a long time to be holed up with a stranger! Jet lag woke me at 5:30, but I went to sleep at 10pm so at least I got some rest in.

I've just had breakfast at the hotel (it's included with our rooms) and took a picture so you guys could see the kind of stuff on offer.

Please excuse the messy picture, I would have presented it better but I was a) hungry, and b) trying to do the picture quickly so the lady in charge of the dining room didn't laugh at the tourist taking pictures of her breakfast. The round things are steamed dumplings, one was pork one was vegetable, then three fried gyoza (I need to find out the Chinese word for those. Actually, I need the Cinese words for everything, so far all I know hello, thank you and sorry). Then there was the vaguely named 'vegetable' which turned out to be a cabbage mix, and you can just see the scrambled eggs with tomato peeking out of the back. Out of shot was a tiny cube of fermented tofu, the tiny-ness of which should of warned me it was going to be incredibly strong ad best avoided, but alas my food warning signals are a little rusty. There were other things at the breakfast buffet, congee (a type of rice porridge I don't really like), tea soaked hard boiled eggs (I already had the scramble on my plate) and a few other things.

At 10 everyone is going to be meeting in the dining room to go over documents, and the go sort out bank accounts and getting phones, so that will be a good productive start. I'm hoping to get an iphone so I have maps an stuff, and then once that's done with I think we just get to explore the city. My VPN is working great (hence my being able to access all my social media, which is all blocked in China) so I'm going to try and keep updating so that I remember all the details later. Sorry if it gets a bit tedious!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Quick Check In

I thought I'd have a quick check in here as its been a while. My grandfather (my dad's dad) passed away on the 27th, age 89, and his funeral was on Monday. Dad's pretty upset (of course) so things have been a bit rough. I'm also still worrying about my China stuff, having gotten an email today saying my employee license application has been approved finally, but their not sending it to me until Friday, which means I have a week to get the documents from china, get the visa from london, and go. I'm not sure I can do this in time, it all depends on how long it takes for the stuff to get to me, but it's driving me crazy right now.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Hmmm, how have I been? Exercise has been great! I've been every day since I got the month pass, working out for an hour+ each time. Food, not so much. I'm trying to pinpoint why I've binged twice this week and the only reasons I can come up with all relate to work. I'm still very worried about the China paperwork and the possibility of it not coming through, if I miss this arrival date I don't know what happens. Maybe I'll have to go to another city, one that has arrival dates for whenever my stuff come though? I hope not, I chose Nanjing after some consideration and wouldn't want to change it now. In my current job there have been some problems with the other admin person and my dad is planning on confronting her on Friday, which I'm really not excited about witnessing, but I leave myself on Tuesday so I just have to hold on until then. I'm trying not to get on the scale at the moment, I hadn't seen the swoosh from the exercise last time I tried it and I was finding it a little demoralising. I'll try and give it another week or so, but I really need to start eating with more control.

I got my new ticket reservation, let's just hope I can use it this time. Some slightly exciting news is that I called up Turkish Airlines and they told me I have 30kg (66lbs) instead of 20kg (44lbs) for my baggage allowance, which is going to make packing a year's worth of stuff a little easier. It's not as much as the Americans get (2 pieces of 23kgs each), but when I went to Japan I only had 20. I think it's kind of unfair that Europeans don't get to use the piece system in situations like mine, whichever route you take China is a bloody long way.

Friday, 20 January 2012

I'm here, I'm here

I had a bit of bad news this week regarding China, my application to the Labour Bureau was rejected for some reason, so Disney have to reapply for it. This means they've had to push my start date back by two weeks. I know it's not their fault but I'm quite pissed about it, I was ready to go on the 9th and now I'll have to wait until the 23rd. It also means the awesome seat I some how managed to bag on the plane (bulkhead aisle, nice and roomy for the legs) will now be lost, and I won't be paid until six weeks after I get there instead of two (because I'm now arriving after the 15th of the month). I finish work the end of this month regardless so that's income I'm losing, along with practical concerns like the fact that I'd canceled my mobile phone with the Feb 9th date in mind and things. I'm also worried now that the second application won't go through, meaning it'll get pushed back again. I don't want to have to change cities because I missed the arrival slot for a particular centre.

Aside from that the week has been OK. I've made it to the gym every single day this week, so that's good. I saw a drop on the scales right after I started (nothing massive, just a couple of pounds) but nothing since. That's pretty normal for me though, whenever I start a regular exercise routine it takes my body a bit of time to adjust before I see the results on the scale, so hopefully I'll see a bigger drop on the scales at some point in the next week when my body finally catches up.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Had quite a quiet day. I got up and everyone had gone out, so I got in the car and went the gym. One of the girls who works there approached me after I had been wandering the machine area for a few minutes looking at the pictures for instruction and asked me how my workout was going because I looked a bit lost (I WAS VERY LOST - gym machines are quite intimidating things to approach when you don't really know what areas you should be working out). She showed me a few machines and gave me some recommendations on what sets/reps I should be doing and lots of other official sounding stuff. I ended up doing 5km on the recumbent bike, followed by a selection of the weight machines, and finishing with 10 minutes on the cross trainer. It was only 10 minutes because it nearly killed me. It's much harder than the recumbent bike, but in a good way. I'll have to build it up bit by bit.

It's been a busy weekend for Disney info. I got emails about my travel itinerary and the first few weeks of my training. Still waiting on the employee license and invitation letter so I can get the visa stuff though. I checked and if the plane I'm going on is the one I think it is (this one), by luck of the draw I have somehow scored an awesome aisle bulkhead seat for the flight. If you check that link in the brackets my seat is 26C. That will definitely make the second flight of 10+hr more comfortable. I'll be going from Birmingham to Istanbul, Turkey, have a layover there for 3 and a half hours there, and then a 10hr 25m flight to Shanghai, with an hour transfer from airport to hotel. One thing keeping me on the straight and narrow with the gym right now is that I'm scared I'm going to be too big for the seat. I just want to have a comfortable journey (or at least, as comfortable as you get on a plane for hours). If my weight ends up being an issue it's going to be mortifying.

Friday, 13 January 2012

And.... breathe.

Well, I did it. I went the gym.

Today has actually been reasonably productive, but it feels less so because I had a few hiccups on the way. It's odd, because it's a good day, just done badly?

It started with the doctor, I had to start my vaccinations for China. I planned to leave at 9:20, drive the 5 minutes or so to the surgery and be a bit early so I wouldn't stress. The operative word then is 'planned'. What I actually did, was to get outside at 9:20 and realise that we'd had a cold snap in the night that had caused my car to freeze over. 10 minutes later my car has thawed out and I'm ready to go, but now worried I'm going to be late and hoping the roads won't be icy.

I don't really know the way to the surgery, except that it's quite close and I know I've driven around the area during my lessons before. I know the way to the station so I'm fine until then, so my dad gave me some basic instructions and told me not to worry. The first thing I did with these instructions was to miss the first left turn after the station because I didn't realise it came up so fast. I took the second left because I knew it led in the same direction, but that meant I was completely lost after. Dickens Heath (the place my doctor's is) is quite a new housing estate, and once you get in there are lots of little roads and dead ends. To make things worse, the sat nav I'd brought with me just in case is yelling directions at me, but they don't match with the roads because it's new ('Turn left': THERE IS NO LEFT HERE SAT NAV!). In the end I parked because and asked a passerby. I knew I was quite close, but with that kind of layout you could circle for ages. I ended up being 10 minutes late for my appointment, and having to face a faintly disapproving nurse because I have just under a month before I leave so it's a bit late to start thinking of injections (hey! I found out I was going and then we had Christmas/New Year, shit happens nurse lady). She gave me a polio booster thing since my original injection from little school was back in 1987, then stuck me in the other arm for the Hep A/Hep B combo shot. I have to back next week for the second Hep A/Hep B shot, as well as a typhoid shot, then I have to go again two weeks after that for my final combo injection and probably a flu shot. I feel a bit like a pin cushion.

Getting back to my road after the appointment was pure guess work.

After the doctor I went to the gym. It's weird, usually they won't let you on machines until you've gone through an intro of some kind, in this case I just filled in the details form yesterday and gave them the money. Today I signed in and that was fine, maybe because it's only a temporary membership? I did 5km on the recumbent bike (oh bike, how I've missed you!) then I did 3 sets of 12 reps on an upper body weight machine thing, followed by another 2km on the treadmill. I've added a little gym page to the site so I don't have to ramble on about it in detail here if you guys fine it boring.

After the gym I went to the supermarket (the gym is attached to the building) to get some soup I wanted for lunch, and planned to get home, do some prep for dinner tonight so it would be a bit faster (dad likes his dinner early, drives me mad but there you go). Again, the operative word there is 'planned'. What I actually did was get a call from dad in the car park as I was loading the food into the boot, asking where I was because I was meant to be in work 20 minutes ago. Damn! It's Friday, which means I work 12-4 not 1-5. Now I'm not going to have time for lunch - double Damn! I grabbed a banana and an apple when I got home and ran to the office with them, but I'm pretty hungry! I didn't eat breakfast before the doc because I wasn't sure f I should and then couldn't get a proper lunch after the gym!

So yeah, a good 'I achieved things' day, but in the most stressful way possible?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Thank you

Thanks everyone for your congratulations, it was lovely reading them all! Driving is still terrifying, but it has to be done so I suppose I should just get on with it. So far it's only been trips to the supermarket, which is route I know well. Tomorrow I'm driving to the doctor's surgery to get some vaccinations for China and I'm quite nervous about both getting there and parking. Turns out my parking is terrible, mostly because it's something I was never taught so I'm kind of figuring it out for myself. My car now has a much higher clutch in terms of finding the biting point and stuff, and is much less forgiving then my instructors car if I'm a bit quick lifting my foot off it, so I've been stalling a lot, but I'll get there.

Speaking of things I should just get on with - Hi! My name is Thursday's Child and I'm overweight. I finally stepped on the scale and holy cow, turns out it's really easy to gain 10lbs in a short space of time. This may be a bit of a knee jerk reaction, but I emailed my local gym and they said I could have a monthly membership for £34.99, so I think I'm going to go for it. It's a complete cliché I know, joining the gym in January, but fortunately I don't actually need the will power to keep going for the whole year, I just need enough enthusiasm to get me there most days until I leave. I'm not happy that my jeans don't fit anymore and the last thing I want to do is gain a stone right before I leave, which is where I'm heading right now. With me driving now I'm much less active too, so means even if I manage to get my eating back to what it was before it would be harder to see results. If I can even lose what I've gained I'll feel much better (especially as I would be losing it as a result of exercise, which leaves me feeling so much better than losing through food alone), so I figured it was worth the money and I'll have to get over my embarrassment of working out in front of people. Given that I work afternoons I'll be able to go mid-morning, which should mean it's not as busy as early morning/lunchtime/after work.

In fact, now I'm sitting here thinking about it, I may go see the gym people tonight after work so I can't change my mind about it. Especially as I have the doctor tomorrow I could go work out after. Damn, that means I have to drive in the dark! (see, this is my life now).

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Sorry I haven't been around to leave comments on blogs for the last few days, but thank you to the commenters and I'll be around soon I promise. I just wanted to get online quickly to say I FINALLY PASSED MY DRIVING TEST THIS MORNING! Third time's a charm. Not a moment too soon either, I was so worried that I was going to fail this one and not be able to take another before China (you have to leave 10 working days between attempts, but then you have to find an available time slot, which usually only has spaces about a month in advance). If I hadn't passed I basically would have wasted all the money I spent doing it this past year because I wouldn't have remembered how to drive after 13 months of not doing it (hell, I can barely go 3-4 days without forgetting everything), and my theory test pass certificate would have been out of date so I would have had to retake that too. It's such a relief!

All I need to do now is actually drive by myself. I'm kind of scared of not having my instructor safety not ready to slam on the brakes if necessary.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

I hope everyone has had a wonderful New Year, and that 2012 will be even better!

I've been going back and forth on the idea of new year resolutions. Part of me is worried of pledging myself to a goal and failing, but then I know I've put weight on over the Christmas period and don't want it to get out of hand, especially now when I'm having to buy clothes and things for China. There's no time like a new year to get a fresh start, even if the resolution is a little cliché.

I've tried to make today a decent beginning anyhow. I actually logged my meals today, and made a conscious effort to not pig out. Dad had a huge new year party (as he does every year) and the day after is spent with the guests that stayed over, eating what's left of the party food instead of meals. I had quite a few moments when I really had to think 'no, you don't need it' instead of reaching automatically for the Bakewell tart. What I noticed on a lot of those occasions was that it was an automatic gesture a lot of the time, a case of 'I can see it so I'll have it'. When I was actually hungry, instead of Bakewell tart and mini-cheesecakes I went for the leftover vegetable chili, and later a beef/salad wholemeal roll. In the afternoon I went on a short walk with my aunty and her dog before the rain hit. It's not a hardcore 'I'm going to exercise 7 time a week and only vegetables that start with a C' sort of thing, but if I can keep doing what I've done today for another month, I can re-evaluate my plans one I'm settled in my new place. Truth be told the closer I get to leaving the more worried I'm getting about any problems fitting into the seat of the aeroplane, so I have to keep my weight from ballooning (at least for a short time if I can't manage anything else).

Speaking of China, mum got me a Rosetta Stone kit for learning Mandarin and I'm loving it! I tried downloading it once to try it and hated it, so I was really worried that she had spent all this money and I wasn't going to like it. It made me feel really ungrateful, but it turns out that it didn't really work because using my laptop built in mike meant that I was too far away to pick up sounds properly for the programmes purposes, using the headset that comes with the pack makes a huge difference.

I have a driving test on the 5th, but I managed to break my instructors car a couple of lessons ago, so I'm not quite sure what's happening now. I hit the curb while I was driving, but I caught the corner of it (the curb was super high!) so not only did I blow the tyre I actually buckled the wheel! He's managed to get a spare tire on, but it's a space saver tyre, which means you can't go above 50mph on it, so you can't have them on the car during your test. My instructor is trying to get a replacement sorted today (he has another person's driving test tomorrow) but with it being new year, and the tyre size not being the standard for the old versions of his car, he's finding it difficult to find a place where it's in stock. I have a lesson with him tomorrow night, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.