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.

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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

Claire in China, travel

An expat’s struggle in Lianyungang, China

Hey everyone!

So, today was a real struggle, despite starting my morning with so much positive energy. It was 18oC today so pretty warm after the real cold spell they’ve had here, so I wore my gym vest and a shirt over, but everyone made comments about how I ‘wasn’t wearing enough clothes’ or pointed or whispered at me. BUGGER OFF!!!

I tried so, so hard to ignore it but it just kept happening. At least 4 times today someone took a photo of me. Are you joking? If you were in England someone would have punched you for that. Ugh.

One woman stopped right in front of me and went ‘wowwwwwwwwwwwww wai guo ren’ (foreigner) – and that ‘wow’ was a real dramatic, drawn out wow. It was ridiculous.

Some guy followed me around the park. I tested him. I kept weaving in and out and he was always right there. Also annoying. Go away already.

So after 4 hours of walking around I went back to the Taiwanese cafe for lunch, the owner was there today so the service was insanely good. I had a salad with sesame dressing (still trying to get used to that taste) and some amazing chips. But unfortunately the place was quiet and all the staff were on their phones or playing games, and it was just so noisy.

I came home and tried to sleep but the neighbours were banging out, dragging chairs etc and there was so much noise from the traffic and construction work. I was absolutely overwhelmed with frustration, stress, homesickness. I couldn’t help but cry. And I felt so sick and exhausted I cancelled on the girls dinner, and let them go without me.

After attempting sleep, and failing, I decided to walk. I walked all the way to Wanda mall, which is about 30 minutes along the river and extremely peaceful. There’s hardly anyone along that road and it’s almost free from bikes and traffic so it’s nice to just wander along without worrying about getting run over!

I decided to try out this little cafe in the bookstore and the coffee was great! And only £2.20 which is pretty good for here. There was only two of us in the entire cafe and I’d brought my Chinese study books with me, so I managed to calm down until some couple came and sat RIGHT NEXT TO ME to watch movies and slurp their drinks.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall of my frustrations just came rushing back. They had the entire cafe free, to sit wherever they wanted, but no, they just had to sit next to me.

I wandered around the mall looking for stupid quotes / tshirts / hello kitty and sure enough I found some. But in one of the quirky shops there’s a woman who follows me every time I go in there and unfortunately she was there today. Picking up everything I did, telling me I need to go home to bed (at 9:30) and that foreigners need more sleep. She just doesn’t stop.

Thankfully, the woman in the bread shop was the nicest lady I’ve met in days! She said my accent was good and that my Chinese was really impressive and that I had a nice face. Haha. At least that was a nice ending to the day.

I took a really slow walk home, along the river again, and finally started to feel calm again. It’s been awful today. It wasn’t even a ‘bad’ day but it felt absolutely awful and all I’ve wanted to do is go home. But what’s the point? Go home to what? No job? No money? A town that’s only fun in the middle of summer? There’s no point really is there.

I think if I wasn’t here alone it might be manageable, but I don’t know. It’s definitely a challenge though.

Thankfully, and finally, my boss bought me a jar of marmite and they dropped it off this evening! So I’m currently winding down with lemon tea and a marmite sandwich as I write this.

Little things, little things.

Claire in China, Education, travel

Hitting the ground running in Lianyungang

Hey guys! I’m still alive.

I’ve been in China for 9 days now and finally feeling a little less homesick. Although everything at the moment just seems to be BEET BEET BEET in my brain. Anything that happens at work I just think, ‘oh well at BEET…’ ok, ok Claire. Just shut up now.

I’m slowly adding more to my apartment and I really like it there, except for the really ignorant neighbours who drive me crazy – keeping me awake until 2am and waking me up again at 6:30. So far, even ear plugs haven’t helped. Not sure what my next step is!

Thankfully the weather is getting warmer and I no longer need 10 layers on every morning. When the skies are blue it’s just amazing here. It’s a fairly flat city and although there are lots of buildings, there’s also huge empty spaces!

On Friday I had to go to the local hospital for a medical check, which I was dreading and also expected. Thankfully Jane (my boss’ wife) came with me and helped me fill out all of the forms etc. We weren’t there more than an hour but it was a weird process. So for those of you thinking of coming to China, this is how the medical goes…

CHINA HEALTH CHECK IN CHINA

  1. Firstly, you need a copy of your passport, your real passport and 2 passport style photos
  2. You need to fill out a form with all of your details, they scan it, re-print it and then ask you to sign it.
  3. Then you pay for your medical. Mine was around ¥380 but was covered by the school.
  4. Now you start the process.
  • Giving blood
  • Blood pressure, height and weight check
  • Eye sight test (point the way the arrow is facing lol)
  • ECG
  • Ultrasound
  • Chest X-ray

Then you’re free to go home!

Thankfully the hospital was only 30 minutes away by Taxi and then Jane took me to Starbucks for breakfast and we met our colleague there too. #foreignershangout

I managed to get a single seat in the Buddhist restaurant but unfortunately they were quite low on food! But what I had for ¥20 was still a bargain, and so delicious!

I had a little lesson in the afternoon (on Friday) which wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t happy with it. Thankfully my lesson yesterday was 10x better and my boss said I had ‘hit the ground running’ !

Which meant beers for me! I went out with some new friends to watch football, play pool and hang out at this local bar. It’s strange, quirky but the weird thing is you can smoke inside! Aaaaah. My hair smelt so gross when I got home!! But it was a great evening out despite the horrific West Ham defeat.

Then I had one more teaching demo on Sunday, which unfortunately was a bit of a flop.

I expected the children to be more engaged and lively and everything I said just went down like a lead balloon… it was awful. I had no idea how to redeem myself!

I’ve borrowed some books from my boss’ mini library and plan on reading more over the next few days. I couldn’t bring any books with me!

Then my colleague invited me to dinner, and my boss and his wife joined us too! So it was a really great evening in the end. I’m sure they think I’m a total weirdo though…

On the plus side… I’ve figured out how to use the washing machine and my clothes are all fine! Hooray!! #smallvictories

xo

Claire in China, travel

An expat’s first days in Lianyungang

Hey guys! As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not easy to blog every single day, but I have a question for you. Would you rather I post short, daily updates OR a bigger update every 3-4 days? Please let me know!


So, it’s day 5 of being in China.

day 5 of living in this bizarre city.

A city that doesn’t have an international supermarket, but has UGG, Tommy Hilfiger and HM.

There’s only one McDonald’s, 3 Starbucks and one Sofitel hotel – that’s it as far as international goes. There’s one or two local supermarkets that have things like oreos or kellogs, but nothing major.


I’ve been trying to YouTube every day, because I find it much easier to express my emotions when I’m talking, and right now I’m pretty emotional about this major move. AND I want you all to see what I’m seeing for real. I’m trying out instagram live, but when I’m out it’s 3/4/5am in the UK so no one’s tuning in. My YouTube channel is gzxklair so if you want to check it out that would be awesome. You might hate it, you might kinda like it. Let me know?

Today’s video is here


Day Three

was induction day. It was ‘go to the police station’ and ‘get your local ID card’ day. It was looking around the school, signing papers, getting stuff done. Also the day I finally got my SIM card. I say finally like I waited years for it, but trust me, 3 days using up my UK data at £8 a day is not good on top of a £50 per month phone bill. They say it’s 4G but come on, it works worse than 2G. It’s an absolute nightmare. I’m trying not to complain because it’s costing me £10 per month for unlimited internet, when back home I pay £50-60 per month for 3-5GB a month, which is an outrageous price. ANYWAY! 

My trip to the police station was an experience in itself. My boss’ wife, who’s the manager of the school, is amazing. She’s been doing all of my paperwork, running around, sorting out issues since day one and today was no exception. We went to the police station on the back of her e-bike, which is an electric bike and looks like a cross between a scooter and a bicycle. I was terrified! I had visions of me being a typical Thailand tourist  – videoing their scooter ride on a GoPro but no, no way. I hung on for dear life.

The police station was like a court room. Everyone was waving papers all over the place, shouting at each other, people were trying to serve 4 people at once. It was absolutely insane. Thankfully we weren’t there more than 10 minutes and everything was sorted out very quickly.

After getting back to the school my boss and his wife took me to lunch at a little Buddhist restaurant only 10 minutes walk away. It’s a lovely little place and only serves vegetarian food. It was absolutely fantastic! For 16 yuan (about £1.80) you have a buffet of 20 dishes – vegetables, tofu, roasted beetroot, tea, water… it was just perfect. I keep meaning to go back but I am weary of going and sitting alone.

Then I was able to get a ‘tourist card’ which is a bit like the UK National Trust card, except this is a local version and only cost £8 for the year. It means when Spring arrives I can go to the beach or the mountains and not have to pay any entrance fees. Too bad about my horrific murderer style passport photo.

I had a few hours to myself after this and walked around the local park, unaware that there was only one exit and entrance. I walked aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way to the edge of the crossroads opposite the mall, within the park, before realising you couldn’t actually get out. Therefore, having to walk aaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllll the way back to the main entrance and around the outside. Good exercise I suppose. There’s a bridge, a beautiful lake, an exercise area, seats, flowers, plants, and security guards. I feel so lucky to have that on my doorstep and it will be wonderful once the weather is warm enough to stroll around and sit outside. I’ll be sketching and having picnics I think.

Of course I stopped by Starbucks, my daily routine, and had a little wander around and by 4pm I was back at the school with a warm loaf of chocolate bread from the bakery below the school. It tastes like heaven, I’m guessing. I had a ‘demo’ lesson with my boss, which was great fun.

Some of you might not know what a ‘demo’ lesson is, because I certainly didn’t when I first started applying for jobs out here. Essentially it’s a lesson you give to entice parents to send their children to your class / school, and to give students an idea of what classes would be like if they joined. Basically, a marketing tactic whilst still being productive. So I had to pretend to be a small child learning about the names of animals. I got high-fived and thumbs up – it was brilliant.

Then I watched a 30 minute class, in which my boss started singing ‘You are my sunshine’ with the kids and I thought I was going to cry. That song is one I used to sing to my Grandpa when I was little, and it’s also a song that they sing at BEET quite often. So double memories!

After that I came home to a freezing cold apartment, which took until last night to figure out, so that was just awful. I didn’t stay long because I went back to the Wanda mall in search of a heater, which failed, but I did over-buy on junk food – coke, crisps, chocolate, snacks etc because I was feeling sorry for myself. Hey ho!


Day four

not bad not bad… I had a day off so I decided to make the most of the morning sun, I walked down little roads and past the shopping mall in hopes of finding something new.

Unfortunately I had to go into work because the police wanted some papers signing immediately. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t impressed as I really wanted to do my own thing, but my boss made me a coffee and we talked about ‘next steps’ for my career etc and it turned out to be an enjoyable hour.

Because it’s Ladies day on the 8th of March my boss’ wife bought me some things for the flat! How lovely is that?!

When I woke up this morning I had a request in my Instagram inbox from a girl that lives in the building next to me, saying that she was free today if I wanted to grab a coffee – so we did! I found this ‘creative quarter’ just a short walk from the flat and we went there. The coffee was okay but it was £3 for an Americano! Where on earth did they get that price from?! But it was great, it feels soooo nice to have made one friend!

It clouded over and ended up being pretty chilly, so I sat in the school office for a bit where the heating works like a dream, then went in search of another supermarket. About 20 minutes walk on the same road as my flat, past a million food stalls and strange fashion shops, is a large building with florists, toys and a supermarket. It’s not huge, it has a few imported items and you have to weigh every. single. item. of fruit and veg. It’s really annoying and there was a huge queue, but I remember having to do that in Taiwan, running off whilst my mum stood in line for ages.

I bought myself some packet noodles, broccoli and a bowl of fruit which came to £5. Much more expensive than Lidl! I’ll have to search for some markets I think.

In the evening my landlady came back with her husband to ‘fix’ the heating system. She kept changing the time throughout the day and in the end she was late! I know it’s her flat but she walked all around in her dirty shoes and was looking at everything, which I thought was so rude. The best bit was that neither of them even considered I could speak Chinese, meaning I understood every single word she was saying about me.

The system is easy to use, but not the same as what I have back in England.

The thermostat on the wall displays the temperature of the heating system, not the inside of the flat. No one told me this. And all you do is press ‘on’ and wait 20-30 minutes for the boiler to heat up, then you turn the aircon / heating on and it works. Simple, yes? Well, not if no one tells you how to use it when you move in!

So she was standing there, looking me up and down, tutting, saying things like ‘oh it’s so easy’, ‘she didn’t even try to use it’ and also, my personal favourite, ‘look at her, she’s not even wearing any clothes’. As I stand there with two tshirts, a jumper and a cardigan, tights and jeans, three pairs of socks and a scarf. Are you kidding me woman?!

Anyway, it’s fixed now and I’m most definitely using it because IT IS COLD!

The neighbours are a nightmare and kept me awake until way past 1am. It’s infuriating. I bundled my double duvet and pillows onto the sofa, set up the extra heating and raided my USB for some movies. Thankfully I had ‘The English Teacher’ and ‘Les Mis’, plus some jam sandwiches!


Day Five

I’m absolutely exhausted today. After falling asleep somewhere around 2am, and being woken up by the neighbours at 6:20 I think it’s fair to say I’ve hardly slept!! Grumpy, tired and not impressed I showered, dried my hair etc and tried to drown their noise out as much as possible.

I walked to yet another supermarket complex and this place is so much like the old Carrefour in Taiwan where you walked in an felt like you’d discovered a pot of gold. Although this place didn’t have as much imported stuff, it was still the best place I’ve been to so far. It was huge.

They sold all the usual things – clothes, stationery, face wash, towels, sports equiptment etcetc, but but but when I finally got to the checkout, there were 25 lanes, all of them full, I queued for 15 minutes and barely moved. I had a mini-strop. I put the basket down on the floor, and walked out. But guess what?  My mama used to do this on numerous occasions when we first moved to Taiwan. Talk about frustration!

For some reason my mum was awake and I was able to talk to her about this, which was definitely reassuring. I found this fascinating road which is full of hair salons, clothes shops, tea shops and strange little food stalls. It was lively at lunch time and I bet it’s heaving of an evening, so that was great to wander around there. Heading up past the mall and finally discovering a shopping quarter which is either called Walking Street or Women’s Street – I keep hearing different names. Anyway it was lovely, lots of quirky shops and restaurants, tonnes of coffee houses, but unfortunately they were all closed. Yet another place I bet is heaving now, of an evening.

There were lanterns everywhere and the buildings were stunning. Traditional houses, temples, bridges. It was so beautiful.

I kept walking, got a little lost, met my boss at a local (and very small) import store for dairy and baking products before finally heading to McDonalds. I didn’t know what to eat or where to go so I figured chips couldn’t kill me. So for £2.50 I had a large box of chips and a weird salad with an even weirder seasame dressing.

I managed to sleep, dead to the world, from 3 – 6:30 because it was finally quiet, but of course, I was woken up by my neighbours. They really are ignorant people. They haven’t stopped making noise since 6:30pm and I’m sat here with my headphones in, which I hate doing.

That about wraps up the last few days. It’s been emotional, bizarre, testing, eye-opening.

Tomorrow I go back into school for an induction, study lesson and also to teach a very short lesson tomorrow with some little ones – wish me luck guys! I’m so nervous.

xo