travel

A few days in Switzerland

As soon as I left Zürich last year, I was itching to go back almost immediately. 13 months later I managed to squeeze another trip between my teaching weeks and I absolutely loved it! P.S. If you’re in a rush and want a quick summary of my trip, it’s at the bottom of the page 😉

Unfortunately, the trip started badly. I had my purse stolen at Gatwick airport with £160 inside, and my purse was a beautiful design from Fossil.

I don’t think I have ever publicly cried so hard in my life. I didn’t know what to do and no one had handed my purse in or even seen it. I knew it was gone. No one was going to bring that back to me and the security guys said that if I wanted to not board my flight I’d have to ask the airline staff to approve it. I had 15 minutes until I was due to board and didn’t have a single penny on me.

I called my friend in Zürich and asked if he’d be able to lend me some money when I arrived and thankfully he said yes. I’m not sure why I was so surprised. I’d do the same for a friend but I think it’s more to the point that I’d never have enough spare cash to lend someone money anyway.

When I arrived in Basel I had a two hour wait for my coach to Zürich but the journey was worth the wait. The greenery, the mountains, the sun trying to break through the clouds – it was all beautiful!

P.S. Need cheap travel across Europe? FLIXBUS is amazing. Great prices and loads of destinations – even the app is pretty easy to use.

My friend came into the city to meet me and as soon as I saw him I instantly felt better. I couldn’t believe that I’d been able to come on holiday because he was willing to lend me some money.

I headed to my hostel so I could put my bags down and have a quick nap. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the amazing Bahnhofstrasse – I love that place! Flags everywhere, fancy shops, cute cafes, and of course, coffee shops!

I stopped by just coffee and had the most delicious filter (sadly I cannot remember which one and I’ve lost the written details).

The first thing I do whenever I reach Germany or Switzerland is grab an apfel schorle and pretzel, and after arriving at 10:30 I was absolutely desperate by 4:30! I sat by the river and watched the world go by for a bit before realizing I needed to shower and change in time for dinner.

We went to this lovely Italian restaurant for dinner – the staff were lovely, the food was great and there was a decent wine list too!  The prices were reasonable, which in Switzerland is always a bonus. I paid CHF 20 for my pasta and CHF 8 for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

DON LEONE – Bäckerstasse 31 which is a 5 minute walk from the Stauffacher tram stop, on line 14.

After dinner we met up with two of my friend’s friends for cocktails and before I knew it we were receiving polite hints that it was closing time, around 11pm. It was such a fantastic evening and it just flew by – so much laughter and brilliant cocktails. The staff were lovely and the atmosphere was super.

Henrici – Niederdorfstrasse 1

Unfortunately the hostel was noisy, but when aren’t they? The girls I had a room with were asleep when I got back but one lady woke us up at 1am when she came in and turned all of the lights on, then she woke us up at 2:30 by taking a phone call and refusing to go outside, then again at 4:30 when she decided to pack all of her things up and leave. By 6am I was out walking along the lake and back through the winding lanes of the old town. It truly is a beautiful city and the only disappointment was that the weather was grey and drizzly.

I had breakfast back at the hostel, met a really nice Malaysian guy who’d just quit his job and decided to travel around Europe – great idea!

I headed off to find a coffee and sit at the lookout point. One of my favourite parts of the city and even better when the sun is shining.

I wandered up past the bus station and over the little river, back to the train station for pretzels and then jumped on the 11am bus to Basel. I definitely didn’t want to leave Zürich.

Once I met my friend at Basel airport we paid CHF 4.70 for the bus into the city, checked into our EasyHotel and changed into our summer clothes, because the sun had finally made an appearance it IT WAS WARM!! We had drinks by the river, found vegan ice cream and eventually had a lovely dinner in Vapianos.


I wasn’t entirely impressed by Basel at first, but by the time we left on Sunday afternoon I felt differently. It was beautiful, quirky, interesting and full of amazing architecture.

There were lovely coffee shops, interesting doorways and arches and the Münster and Elizabethenkirche are breathtaking! Unfortunately the good places were all closed on Sunday and I didn’t get the chance to try them all out.

What I did find, however, was the most wonderful little cafe / coffee shop called frühling – Klybeckstrasse 69

Which served about 10 different coffees, afternoon tea-style breakfasts and lunches, brownies, pastries and more! It has comfy chairs and all of the tables have beautiful floral displays on them. It was perfect!

You should definitely take the little ferry boat across the river, as it’s pulled across by a wire and the current of the water. It’s so sweet and a great way to see the city from a different angle.

The zoo was okay. If I had paid full price (CHF 21) I would have been annoyed and disappointed. The animals didn’t have enough space, we even saw a dead bird in one of the bird cages! It was quite upsetting, but I guess you could put that down to natural causes. The flamingos were BEAUTIFUL and there was a section of farm animals which was lovely for families as the children could pet them, but overall I wasn’t impressed.

However, one great thing about Basel is that all tourists receive a ‘Basel card’ which entitles you to free transport and 50% off the museums and zoo. It’s a fantastic idea and certainly helps you save money!

Basel is fantastic for a day-trip or a weekend break, but I don’t think I’d stay any longer, I much prefer Zürich!

P.S. When I went to Zürich last year I crammed in as much as possible – museums, cafes, walks, etc and this time I wanted to relax and just wander around aimlessly.

Basel was new for me and I wanted to explore a little:

Friday was catching up, Saturday we went to frühling, the zoo, the Dreiländereck (the place were France, Germany and Switzerland meet) then to the old town, the Rathaus, O’Reilly’s pub, Vapianos and then back to the hotel.

Sunday we went to frühling again, took the little ferry across to the Munster, had lunch in an Italian in the old town, had ice cream at a little cafe and then headed to the airport.

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Claire in China

China – 6 weeks later

And I still haven’t received a single penny.

I’ve had enough now.

Last week I had yet another email full of contradicting statements and it was basically ‘we will pay you for the hours you’ve worked TO THE PENNY even though head office don’t want to pay you’

Yet again showing that contracts in China mean nothing, and if someone is the ‘director’ of a company it actually doesn’t mean anything either.

If someone has to keep shouting about what a great person there are, they’re obviously trying to reassure themselves that it’s true, even though it’s the complete opposite.

I honestly hope no one ever has to deal with the person I’ve had to.

I enjoyed some of my time in China but I absolutely regret believing that this man was a good person to work for. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Claire in China, Personal, Uncategorized

Breaking up with China [p2]

As you guys have probably noticed, part one was a little long and emotional.

Since I arrived back in the UK on April 6th everything has been a complete roller-coaster.

I arrived late on Friday night, Tuesday was payday and I knew there would be a problem. Of course there was a problem. Despite being told that they would stick to the contract 100% in every matter, they 100% did, and have, not.

I’m going to keep this short and simple, so people can see why I left China as quickly as I did, and why I haven’t gone back.

My exboss asked me to take a week to think about whether or not I wanted to come back to China. On Tuesday when I asked him why I hadn’t been paid his response was ‘we haven’t been able to re-rent out your flat’. Now, as someone who hadn’t yet made their decision about going back, why was he trying to rent my flat when I’d only been gone 4 days? ALAAAAAAAAAAARM BEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLS.

In the following days, and weeks, I’ve had 3 different excuses as to why I wasn’t paid on April 10th.

I’ve had threats of being sued, taken to court, being reported to the police and foreign bureau.

I’ve had insults, nasty comments, lies and over-emotional, angry emails that were clearly written within 5 minutes of reading the email that I had sent. They were unprofessional, unkind and full of lies.

These people were making angry assumptions, putting words in my mouth and even copying their FRIENDS into these emails. People I didn’t know, people who didn’t even work for the company. It was ridiculous.

I had emails saying I had vandalized the apartment, broken the air conditioning on purpose, telling me I was a terrible teacher and that I should have no confidence in myself.

I had messages saying all I was after was ‘lots of money’ and free gifts.

Anyone who knows me will know I don’t do things for ‘freebies’ or ‘gifts’. I feel guilty when our canteen manager gives me a brownie for free, or if my students give me chocolate when they bring coffee to school.

In fact, people insisting I accept gifts such as coffee cups, dinners and whatever else only makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. Especially if said person is supposed to be a manager. I continuously felt as if I was being ‘bribed’ and ‘guilted’ into staying.

In China, I wasn’t actually having days off. Despite not working much at all, my phone was buzzing 24/7 and I was called into the school constantly for ‘paperwork’ or ‘meetings’ or other such things which could have been done on an actual work day.

On my sick day I was called 4 different times, despite being SICK and needing to sleep. Telling them I needed to sleep, my phone kept ringing. I ‘had to’ go to hospital. I ‘had to’ go and get my phone sorted out. I was dragged around the city for a total of 5 hours on my sick day, when I should have been resting. No chance.

I was mentally exhausted and rapidly slipping back into bad habits and it couldn’t continue.

I honestly didn’t expect things to turn out this way. I handed in a resignation letter and offered to work my 30 days notice, as any normal person should. I was denied this. The resignation was accepted and I was suspended immediately. I’m beyond shocked, but I don’t know why because you hear these exact stories coming from China all of the time.

I wanted to use my 30 days notice to figure out something different, a different city or just another option. They made it very obvious that wasn’t going to happen.

And as a person who went to China for the ‘freebies’ I have lost £4,000 in this process and still have not received my salary, actually not a single penny. Why is that? Because contracts in China are absolutely, completely, 100% WORTHLESS. There are some nasty people in the world and unfortunately it’s not always easy to figure out who they are until they screw you over.

Claire in China, travel

Breaking up with China [p1]

Hey to those of you reading!

As you can see, my last post was an entire month ago – my little trip to Monkey Mountain and since that day things went rapidly downhill.

I woke up that Tuesday morning feel absolutely exhausted. Not from the hike, but from another day in China. I woke up crying, my  neighbours were making a ridiculous amount of noise and there were firecrackers going off right outside my door. I was mentally drained and I could feel myself spirally into that oh-so-familiar feeling of depression.

It was that morning when I realised that my time in Lianyungang wasn’t going to get much better.

The city certainly wasn’t about to change, a wave of new foreigners wasn’t coming and the food most definitely wasn’t going to improve (although I must admit I did enjoy being extremely skinny for a while!). I was working FOUR HOURS PER WEEK!! I was going stir crazy and I was never able to relax and enjoy my free time because everywhere was so noisy.

Personally, I think that anyone who’s ever experienced mental health issues knows how vital it is to keep yourself as far away from relapsing as possible. On that part, I was failing massively.

Anyway, By 8am I was out of the flat. Walking around the city. I decided to check out the third mall, the one which no one seemed to know about, and it was pretty good. There were so many different clothes stalls, another cinema and the supermarket was definitely better than any other I’d been to. Yet even walking around there I felt angry, bitter and completely lost. I blasted my music through my headphones, trying to ignore reality and as I walked down the wine aisle, all I could think was, ‘is it too early to start drinking?’ to which the answer was, ‘yes Claire. It’s 10:30am.’

I was trying to talk everything through with my mum and I know her and my dad wanted me to stick it out in China, and I tried. I tried to convince myself that I could. So I walked through the park, tried to appreciate the open space and the spring flowers, but even that was ruined by someone trying to follow me with a camera, people pointing at the ‘white person’… it wasn’t helping at all. I went to Suning mall and tried on loads of things in H&M, I loved them all but didn’t buy a thing. Here’s a few things I tried on:

Eventually I walked back home, desperate to sleep after only having 3 hours in the night (yet again!) but to absolutely no surprise the kids were running in the hallway and the people upstairs were starting World War Three, so no, sleep wasn’t happening.

It was then I finally decided I wasn’t going to be staying in LYG much longer, and began to craft my resignation letter. I had decided that if I worked my 30 days notice that would give me enough time to figure out if I wanted to stay in China, move back home or try a different country like Vietnam or Korea. 30 days gave me enough time to sort out a new plan, say goodbye to my new friends and still have time to travel to places like Nanjing and Beijing on my days off.

Wrong Claire. Wrong.

It took my EXboss nearly 8 hours to respond to the email, to which he suggested that I ‘should go home for a week’ and then decide if I want to resign or come back. He also said that whatever decision I made would be met with no hard feelings, no issues or complications. Honestly, I believed he was trying to be nice.

WRONG AGAIN CLAIRE!!

After agreeing to this option (that I’d go home for a week then decide if I want to return to the job) I was promptly removed from all teaching groups (there were about 8 or 9).

I knew straightaway something was up. I just had that gut instinct that something was going to go wrong from here on out. I told my mum what was going on, that I didn’t feel right about this and because she had to go to work, I did what I did best in China, I went out drinking.

With a huge group of people, we had a fantastic night. We chilled out at the local wine bar, swapping stories of travelling around China, learning Chinese, stories from home. It was brilliant. Followed by a 2am trip to McDonalds before heading home to bed.

Wednesday morning I awoke to numerous messages saying that my exboss ‘accepted’ my resignation, even though 24 hours earlier, he asked me to retract it. Red flag. I needed to sort out the ‘IOU’ as soon as possible. The agreement with the loan was that I would pay it back from my salary, but that changed pretty quickly. Another red flag. I was told my duties were suspended immediately – even though I had a class that afternoon – and that I was to pack up all of my belongings and leave without telling anyone. (Sorry, what?!) My gut instinct was right and I started looking for flights home straight away.

I was starting to pack and tidy up, in between messaging my friend who was deciding whether or not to go away for a few days, when I realized I probably wasn’t coming back to China anytime soon. To my surprise, and sheer happiness, he said he was going to stay in the city and we were going to hang out for the day! (Not going to lie, this made me cry.) Both hungover and pretty hungry, we decided to go for pizza downtown. Excellent decision as well. We thought a few drinks in the park might be a good idea and after picking up some beers, quickly headed back to my flat to pick up a jumper and a coat, have a quick power nap (not together, may I add) and I had a speedy packing session.

We wandered around the city, looking at funny building signs, watched a strange protest where half the city seemed to be running down the road with banners and loudspeakers, sat on a wall with our beers (so English!) and then went to my favourite place for dinner, the Buddhist restaurant! Even as I’m writing this, I really miss that place…

Still in a bit of a panic about the whole situation, I called my Dad and asked him to book me the first available flight and good ol’ Dad came to the rescue as he often does, I had a flight for the Friday morning within the hour!

Which meant I was really leaving. So we met up with another friend at the wine bar and we had a few beers, planning for an extremely chilled night as we were going to wait for the Champions League match at 3am. We played stupid drawing games, ate junk food, talked rubbish, ran out to buy more beer and junk food and by the time 3am rolled around we only managed to watch the first half before falling asleep.

Thursday morning, hungover and without much sleep, we wandered down to Starbucks for breakfast and a bit of last minute shopping. It was good fun but I already started feeling sad. Plus, when do guys ever willingly go shopping with you? Goodbyes suck. Especially that one.

I bought some amazing cherry / chocolate cake to share with my friend back at my flat, she was helping me with some last minute things over coffee and cake. Another moment when I genuinely started feeling sad, but at the same time glad I met yet another lovely person.

I whirlwind-style packed everything, cleaned as much as possible, although when I moved in the flat was absolutely filthy to the point I had to go out that night and buy cleaning products. Another friend came over to help me with my bags, thank god – I couldn’t have done that by myself! and it took over half an hour to get a taxi in the pouring rain.

Despite all of the negatives in those 5 weeks in China, my final moments came down to me saying ‘see you soon’ with tears in my eyes. This was not how my time in China was supposed to end. I had a strong feeling that I wouldn’t be coming back. Someone was making sure of that.

The airport was a total zoo, my bags were far too heavy and the taxi driver didn’t even bother to help me out with my 6 bags. It was a nightmare. I was beyond relieved to get on that plane and was asleep before we took off. I woke up stretched out over 3 empty seats just as we were about to land, tears still streaming down my face. Wasn’t this what I wanted?

We landed at the wrong airport in Shanghai, along with about 6 other flights, so the airport was an absolute nightmare, no one to help, it was gone midnight before I arrived at the other airport, 3 hours after I should have done. I sat in Starbucks (thank god it was 24 hours) which once again made me feel sad. I tried to sleep on the floor of the airport and woke up to three fat, bald Chinese guys shouting and pointing at me. I was furious! I suddenly couldn’t wait to leave. The airline wouldn’t refund my taxi costs, even though it was their fault I was at the wrong airport. I was furious again. One final Starbucks before getting the shuttle bus to the next terminal. Again, furious. The first bus driver wouldn’t wait for me to put my bags on the bus so he drove off. The second guy watched me struggle with 6 bags, again. I was just furious beyond belief. Everything was so infuriating. The guy at check-in was wonderful and put me on an earlier flight, ignored my extra 4kg suitcase and wished me a lovely journey. (I could have hugged him!) Hong Kong was just as infuriating as I find their staff so rude and unpleasant, but I found a chair at the end of the terminal and tried to stay calm. I was talking to my friend and once again started crying. Why was I leaving such lovely people? I know why,  because people can’t always change the way you feel. People couldn’t change my work situation, or my apartment, or the city. None of that would have changed.

On the plane from Hong Kong I met two really lovely couples, who also didn’t sleep much, and I spent most of the flight talking to them, sharing our travel tales. It was just nice. (I’m sorry, I hate the word nice, but this time it works).

I cannot tell you how happy I was to finally touch down at Heathrow. I cried, again. I fast-walked through the entire airport, check-in, baggage claim, bought myself a massive sandwich, bag of chilli doritos and a dr pepper before dashing off to get the coach.

I missed my friends terribly, but I was finally, finally home.

and yup, I cried again when I finally got home to my mama.

Those five weeks felt like five months.

xo


Claire in China, Photography, travel

Monkey Mountain – Walking in Lianyungang, China

Hey everyone!

I’ve been slacking and I apologise.

I finally got WiFi at home yesterday which means I can actually use the internet again. It’s been almost impossible to get online outside of Starbucks, and trying to blog has been a nightmare. I promise I’ll do my best to update regularly again, and I still have a Shanghai post to do ASAP.

So! Today, my friend Dean and I went on his bike to a mountain called HuaGuoShan (花果山) which doesn’t translate to monkey mountain, but that’s it’s English name, apparently.

It was warm by 8:30am and as we drove through this deserted city, looking around at empty buildings and flat land, we kinda knew it was going to be a good day!

The drive was less than 20 minutes and our first view was a small pagoda in the middle of a lake, then suddenly we realised we’d arrived at the base of the mountain.

You could feed Koi Carp with a baby bottle, buy toy monkeys and strange rainbow hats! The ticket cost ¥100 (£10) for Dean, but free for me because I have a ‘tourist card’ #winning

And we saw little goats too!

We couldn’t take the bike through so we started walking, both claiming how unfit we were and that we’d never make it too far. Oh boy did we prove ourselves wrong!

First stop ✋🏻 we had to take photos, of course

We decided to take the 349 steps up, because why take a bus when you’ve only just arrived – right? They nearly killed us! Or so we thought.

We came across mini pagodas, look out towers, blossom everywhere! And, wait, even. more. stairs.

The views were unbelievably beautiful and we knew the more we walked, the more amazing it would be. We met people along the way who wanted take selfies with us, with their kids, they were videoing us or chatting. It was lovely! One old guy was RUNNING up these stairs, encouraging others to ‘keep going’ and he was telling us how we had to go to this temple because it had thousands of years of history, so we joined him. And found monkeyyyyyys!!!

Dean was desperate to find the waterfall, so we kept on walking to reach it, stopping only very briefly to catch our breaths. Everything we passed was fantastic and so interesting! The waterfall was a welcoming sight though as we could walk (err, run!) under it and cool off

(And then go through this awesome underground tunnel – very dark, full of water and Dean nearly knocked himself out because the walls were so low!)

More monkeys, pagodas, caves and an insane view followed as we tried to make our way down the mountain! We met these adorable children and their parents who wanted to take photos with us! And we met them a further 3 times after that. They kept calling us ‘a yi’ and ‘shushu’ which mean auntie and uncle, usually just a form or respect for any man or woman older than you. It was so sweet. I just wanted to hug them all.

You’d think coming down the mountain was easy right? Hell no. We were both struggling with bad knees, leg cramps… we were like a super old, injured pair! It must’ve been quite funny to watch. But, we made it! It was 30°C and pretty clear skies, not much pollution over the mountain which made it even hotter. For some reason Dean wore jeans, I was smart and wore running gear!

Once we hit the bottom of the mountain we slowly wandered back to the bike, and decided we both deserved food and beer – at my favourite Taiwanese restaurant.

#wemadeit

We drove back through the empty city and on the way saw an awesome fountain!! So of course we had to pull over and we discovered a beautiful, enormous local park!

Although we could barely stand up, pulling up outside the restaurant felt like arriving at the gates of heaven! (Okay, slightly dramatic but I really thought I was going to pass out!) food, beer and coffee went down extremely well and after 5 hours of walking, we absolutely deserved it.

I’m obviously now waiting for my six pack to suddenly appear, and have been extremely healthy all day. I can only hope I do the same tomorrow but I almost know that I won’t.

Apologies again for not updating sooner, I hope you at least enjoy this post!

Lots of love xo

Uncategorized

Depression always returns

Hey guys! I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting my China updates… the internet here is so unbelievably slow. Half the time I can’t even load Instagram or even my browser. I’m missing all the Instagram posts and barely keep in touch with people.

I have maxed out my hard drive and can’t upload photos via my phone because it takes too long and I don’t want to half-ass post about China.

One thing I do want to write about very briefly is how much I’m struggling here. I’m not even denying how difficult I’m finding it.

This city is so weird. It’s so small but the noise is non-stop. There’s nowhere to relax, nowhere to hide. It’s full on. There’s hardly anything to do here. One bar, one wine shop, two small malls which get boring after a few visits. Everyone points or stares or takes photos of me. Because I’m white. This place is beyond backwards.

I’m miserable.

All my depression signs are seeping back into my life.

I can’t eat. I don’t care about what I do eat. I’m not exercising. I’m angry and bitter ALL THE TIME. I cry at night. I cry randomly during the day. I’m so negative about every little thing. I’m utterly disappointed in myself for choosing to move here. It couldn’t be a bigger mistake. Why did I leave my lovely job back home? I hate being here.

I knew when I kept telling myself I’d beaten depression that it wasn’t true. I knew it would end up coming back to me somehow.

Now what the hell do I do? How can I beat it again?

Uncategorized

Giving up

Guys.

I’ve been here 14 days now and I’ve had enough.

I haven’t slept more than 4 or 5 hours a night, and the last 4 nights I’ve only had about 3 hours.

I am absolutely exhausted.

The noise level in every single metre of this city is ridiculous.

I can’t take it any more.

I just want to go home.