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, 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, 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

Education

The weekly round-up [22nd January]

Happy Friday everyone!

This week I was determined to encourage my Upper-Intermediate class to read more and guys, guess what? I DID IT. I FREAKING DID IT. On Wednesday I brought a box of books into the class and asked each student to pick a book, then told them we would read quietly for 15 minutes. It was deadly silent. The only noise was the turning of pages. I’m not even kidding. I nearly cried (see my blog post on things that made me cry this week…) After 15 minutes, “No, 5 more minutes, please?”

We had 5 minutes of ‘reflective writing’ – What have you just read? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts with the person next to you…

At the end of the lesson they asked if we could do the same thing tomorrow. I could not believe it. So on Thursday, we had 20 minutes of silent reading. 3 students brought their own (English) books and 2 students checked out books from the library. I’m proud of myself for achieving that alone this week.

Even today two asked me why we weren’t reading today… #proud


I have also taken on a social media role at the school because I wanted to keep busy and focused. I get to interact more with the students, ask them to share their photos and talk more about their experiences here in the UK and at the school. Finding decent photos to take and uploading them to Instagram and Facebook… it’s all making my brain tick a little faster but I do love a project.

Thankfully, I think it’s paying off. We’re already getting more followers, hitting a pretty big audience and the main thing is that it’s fun. Everyone likes a good Instagram and I can only hope I achieve that.


Finally, we say goodbye to a group of 40 Argentinian students who have been an absolute wonder to teach. I’ve never met such dedicated, hard-working, lovely people in my life. For 16, 17 and 18 year olds, they are amazing. I have no doubt that their parents must be so proud of them. They are full of life and have great senses of humour, they’re kind and thoughtful and considering they didn’t know each other 4 weeks ago, you’d have thought they’d been friends since birth!


Next week brings even bigger challenges, but I’m ready for them.

  • To complete the newsletter
  • To improve the social media accounts and increase engagement
  • To plan more appealing lessons
  • To help my students speak and write more fluently (possibly starting with speaking)

Oh, one more thing, I’m off on a tour of Stonehenge and Salisbury tomorrow… but am one of the group leaders!! Eeek… I’m super nervous. Stay tuned, because I’ll be taking my camera and definitely be blogging about that tomorrow or Sunday.

Lots of love xo

Education

The weekly round-up [15th January]

4 weeks Christmas holiday – sounds good, right?

Well, in all honesty, 10 days was more than long enough of a holiday before I was getting bored. I suppose because I love my job, having the weekend off is plenty of time before I’m ready to head back.

My first week back at school was challenging, without a doubt, but it has only reassured me that I absolutely love the career path I’m finally on.

Monday

  • 2 x 90 minute lessons – I felt rusty and like I’d lost my spark but good to be teaching some of my previous students, and some lovely new ones too

 

  • INSET session – you can read all about that here

  • I also met up with one of my previous teachers, and now a lovey friend, for catch up and coffee ☕️

 

  • Then my mum, sister and I went to watch The Greatest Showman and it was absolutely fantastic!!


Tuesday

  • In desperate need of coffee all day. Luckily I came home and my skinnycoffeeclub package had arrived! (Stay tuned for my blog post!)

  • I had short stories printed out for each of my Upper-Intermediate students, as I’m determined to get them reading before I head of to China. It went well, except for one student who sat and stared into space for 15 minutes. He definitely does not like reading.

Wednesday

  • I was in school before 8 again and desperately trying to find some fun things for my classes, but I was ready without realizing it.

 

  • The young Argentinian students I’m teaching are delightful. They’re so self-disciplined and well behaved. They’ve got loads of energy and always want to get involved – it’s lovely!

 

  • I had another reading session for the Upper-Ints and they seem to have enjoyed it. They’re just short stories that we tell children, to help them learn those sub-text morals – don’t go off with strangers, being kind goes a long way, don’t tell lies, etc.
img_2492
Credit to: siminiblocker.tumblr.com Simini Blocker
  • Then I walked into town and had dinner with my sister – aaaah how I love Mexican food!!


Thursday

  • Another pre-8 start and absolutely exhausted at this point. I’ve hardly slept well and really struggled this week. Today was especially trying my patience as I was over-tired, emotional and feeling down on my luck.

 

  • The lessons went well – we had a lot of pace; bits of grammar, vocab games, idioms and some writing work too.

 

  • In my ‘speaking’ class I used my favourite game – ‘Matching news headlines’: Each group gets two or three ‘phrases’ taken from different news headlines, they put them together to create their own story. Then the story has been created they swap groups and role-play interviews. We had a lot of laughs and good energy in the room! For an elementary / pre-int class these guys did impressively well with their vocab for this.

 

  • After my final lesson I spent an hour planning before heading over to AFC Bournemouth for a stadium tour with two of my colleagues and a group of students! It was a fantastic afternoon. Even though I used to work there, I never got to see the changing rooms or the VIP boxes. The students had a fantastic time and definitely enjoyed taking lots of photos. Andy and Jordan were great at showing us around, telling us lots of stories and about the history of the club. Thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour with the school!

  • Between 4:30 and 7:30, I had a looooong time to wait for the school’s music night – A sing along evening! I planned my lessons, walked up to subway, did some reading. By this point I was almost crying, almost falling asleep and extremely tempted to go home. I am so happy I stayed.

The music night happens every two weeks or so, and our Assistant Director Martin plays the guitar or ukulele and sings some favourite songs from traditional English to Oasis to The Beatles. Everyone joins in – clapping, dancing, funny shout-outs! It was such a mood-lifter. To make it even better, one of my students was celebrating his birthday and his friends had surprised him with cake, coffee and sweets, which they shared with the rest of us. I must admit, I absolutely love Arabic coffee. I must learn how to make it. Anyone got a recipe?


Friday

  • After finally getting into bed at midnight, I slept soundly until 7am. Thankfully my mum gave me a lift to work but I was so full of energy.

 

  • Intermediate class was brilliant – I had 5 students and I started with a word-search, followed by teaching them some new idioms and we tried to find Arabic and Turkish alternatives – I think we all enjoyed that! Then we played the ‘Headlines’ news game and that was brilliant. Some excellent stories about English teachers being kidnapped by pandas, a school director fell in love with a secretary after saving her from robbers… Such fun!

 

  • My Upper-int class was great. My lovely, lovely students bought Arabic coffee and chocolates for everyone. They know how much I love their coffee. We started off with an idioms recap, then played the matching headlines game – I just love how you can adapt this game to any lesson, any level. You can ask students to write out their story, write a dialogue for an interview… it requires them to speak, think, use their grammar and vocab correctly and it helps with pronunciation too, of course.

 

  • Then the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti gents went to mosque, which left me with the lovely Laura! We did some phrasal verbs, talked about applying for University, looked at using Pinterest for learning languages and started a reading comprehension. It felt like a really productive hour and hopefully she felt that way as well.

 

  • Unfortunately my speaking class didn’t go too well… I’m not sure why. I don’t know if the language was too difficult or if they just wanted to head off and start their weekend early… I felt guilty but I didn’t have a back up plan. Why didn’t I? I naively thought I wouldn’t need one.

 

  •  After work I was exhausted. I was so glad for Friday afternoon but I was determined to enjoy my weekend. I sat down and took up three spaces on the desk and planned out each of my three classes. I photocopied worksheets for grammar, role-play cards, board game work-sheets. I am ready for Monday!!


My brilliant colleagues all in matching shirts – totally unplanned!



My job is so rewarding and I am so grateful for the chances the management took employing me. I was a nervous wreck on my CELTA course but all I needed was the chance to improve and prove myself. I have worked so hard for this job and I will continue to do so every day.

big, big thanks to those that have given me tips and left lovely comments this week – please keep them coming as I am always looking for new ideas and genuinely appreciate them.

Book Reviews, Education, Personal, travel

2017 reflections

Initial plans

Before 2017 started I was determined that this year my main goals were:
1. to beat depression (my new year’s resolution that failed in 2015)
2. to hold down a proper job and pay my bills, and
3. to re-ignite my love for reading

What I have accomplished this year is more than I, and more than my family, could have possibly imagined. The first thing that changed was I decided to stop going out every day to ward off my depression with coffee and talking to random people in coffee shops. What this first step did for me was gave me time to relax at home, in my own space, and focus on myself. What happened was, I stopped wearing make up, took time to write and, wait for it, READ. I told myself to read for 10 minutes every day, that’s all, but within days I had gone out and bought new books. I was reading two a day, sometimes three! It was like magic that my passion for reading flooded back.

Once I’d realized it was back, I looked for a reading challenge and decided to go with PopSugar’s version! I’ve enjoyed it immensely and recommend any book-lover to do it too! Total books read in 2017: 44!

This is honestly one of the best parts of 2017. I had forgotten how much reading influenced me. How moving words can be and what an effect they can have on us.

I’ll briefly share a few of my favourites with you.

A man named Ove, by Fredrik Backman – This had me laughing, crying and feeling so many mixed emotions as I saw parts of my grumpy self in Ove, but also parts of my Grandpa in that the love between husband and wife is unbreakable even after death.

Mad Girl, by Bryony Gordon – The first book I read this year that I couldn’t put down and without a doubt reminded me of how much I’ve missed reading. Despite the struggles of Bryony, she lets us into her world through humour and showing us that it is okay, ‘not to be okay’. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her story.

Baby Doll and The Walls by Hollie Overton – wow! Neither of these books were read lightly. Absolutely gripping at the pages as I read both of these, each in one sitting. The Walls actually gave me nightmares, it was that good! Twisted, warped stories that had my heart racing start to finish! Must, must read!

All the bright places by Jennifer Niven – oh my poor heart. What a moving story! It took me a few days to read this, as I started back in January when I wasn’t fully in the swing of reading but by the end of it I had quotes on little post-it notes around my room, I wanted tattoos, I couldn’t stop following Niven’s fans on instagram and twitter. I was sucked into the world of Violet and Finch.

My weight loss

This was a pivotal part of my year because growing up I was always extremely skinny, and sporty, and even at Uni I wasn’t ever more than a size 8, but once the depression crept in, then the medication, I ate and ate and ate… I never stopped. Dr Pepper, doughnuts, pizza hut, crisps, chips, chocolates, beer, wine… whatever I wanted, I ate. Immediately. I was eating anywhere from 5 to 10 times a day and I didn’t care. It wasn’t long before I was pushing a size 16 and 70kilos. My family were shocked, my friends of course didn’t say anything, and I felt repulsive. This year I put an end to it. How? Believe me, people have asked.

  • I started off by cutting out eating after 7pm. This made a huge difference to my bloating and discomfort.
  • The next stage, I stopped eating dairy products. No milk, chocolate, cheese, none of it! This made a massive difference and the weight started dropping quite quickly.
  • Then it was time for some hard work, I had to stop eating junk food. I cut out cookies and crisps, I went nearly 6 months without a single pizza (this was painful!). It meant daily smoothies, veggie sticks for snacks instead of crisps, soups when it was cold rather than 2 plates of pasta or pizza.
  • Then the real work, exercise! This was tough. My knees are weak and running is always painful for me… so I had to buy some weights and do things at home. Mostly squats, sit ups, crunches, jumping jacks, lizard crunches (seriously guys, do these!!) Plus the occasional swim or trip to the gym…

I’m still working on my weight, and I hate my stomach, but to lose 16 kilos in 12 months is a massive achievement for me and I feel surprisingly proud of myself!

First real job

After a few part-time job stints in 2016, I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d been doing. I’d enjoyed my job at the Little Red Roaster immensely, but because of my mental health I had to resign. My boss there was amazing and most of the customers were lovely, and in the jobs that followed I didn’t find either of those bonus points.

Someone recommended I apply for Coffee #1 in Winton and I had a great trial shift… two days later they called and asked if I wanted to train up as an Assistant Manager. Jeez… Where do I begin? A week after signing the contract they said I couldn’t stay in Winton and that I’d have to go to Eastleigh. Every day. I agreed, since I had no other option but that journey was awful. Getting the bus to Southampton, then a train to Eastleigh took about an hour in the morning, but coming home was awful. I had to get a train back to Southampton, which depending on what time I closed up that night could have me waiting in Eastleigh for an hour. The coach times changed and sometimes I was waiting in Southampton for an hour, or longer. On average, coming home took between 2 and 4 hours, for a 30 minute car journey. I didn’t get paid for my travel time, as promised. I didn’t get compensation half of the time either. I enjoyed the job I was doing but most of the time, I was on auto pilot. The hours were awful, the travelling was even worse. I’ll skip the other finer, irritating details of what I had to put up with, but eventually I handed in my notice. It was absolutely the right decision for me and I’m so glad I walked away from that place.

No money

With my first solo trip booked, Switzerland!!, and no job… I was in panic mode. Do I cancel my holiday? Do I retract my notice? No no no! I went to Zuerich for three days and had the best holiday ever! I saw old friends, went to the FIFA museum, walked along the river and I barely bought a thing except for food. Have any of you been to Zuerich? What did you think of it??

The turning point

One of the biggest points of 2017 was my Taiwan holiday… Leigh and I had argued, big time, before I flew out and I was back at a really low point. I didn’t know what to do next with my personal life, my career, my education. Everything felt like a complete mess. However, I took myself off to a little coffee shop and explored my options.

I started working on my mindfulness, writing a journal again and learning how to be more reflective on situations.

NOW was the time to step out of my comfort zone. I signed up for a CELTA course. After years and years of uhmmmmmm-ing and aaaaaaaaah-ing about whether to go forward with teacher training, this was it! I started the day after I arrived home in Bournemouth.

I’ve said it time and time again lately but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That CELTA course pushed me to study again, to make some wonderful new friends and, believe it or not, almost cure my stage fright! I honestly had no idea if I was going to pass the course or not, but I applied for a summer teaching job at the sister school, BEET. I had a few interviews and finally, as long as I passed, I had a 4-week contract!

Now I won’t go into too much detail about the job, because I’ve blogged about it a fair bit already but this job has changed my life. I have found a passion. I love this job with my heart and soul, and the people that I’ve met through it have inspired me, supported me, and some have also left me feeling totally drained (but that’s a rare few!)

I’ll be forever grateful to those two people who gave me this opportunity, and to everyone who has supported me along the way. If I could work there forever, I would.

 

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…

Okay. We did. But I’m not going to blog about that now…
August 30th 2017 – Leigh and I got engaged.

Closing

As the year draws to a close, I’m still glowing from my wonderful holiday in Germany with our friends, a lovely Christmas with my family and Leigh and I are in the process of signing contracts for teaching jobs in China.

We went up to London yesterday for our medical exams, and have a week to wait for the results. In the mean time, we are going to enjoy THREE WHOLE DAYS OFF together! Then it’s crunch time. Packing up my things, throwing away what I don’t need, etc etc.

I cannot believe that I’m about to move to the other side of the world and finally move out of my parents house. Hopefully for the last time! Does this mean I’m officially an adult now? Let’s hope so.

I hope everyone has a lovely New Year’s Eve and that 2018 is absolutely wonderful for you. Please let me know what you’re looking forward to, if you’re doing any book challenges or if you’re also going to be teaching abroad!

 

Lots of love

Claire

xoxo

Education, Personal

The last teaching day of 2017

Well, I know I haven’t been updating my blog as I should have but I feel as if today is definitely deserving of a post.

Today has been my last day of teaching for 2017 and I’m feeling fairly emotional about it, as I knew I would be.

Not only does Christmas bring lots of goodbyes and holiday wishes, but today felt even more emotional saying goodbye to student that I’ve been teaching for 2, 3, even 6 months! People that have taught me about different countries, religions, traditions and most importantly, friendship.

Watching these students come together from totally different worlds, some with almost no English and others with a seriously impressive standard of English, has been wonderful.

Working at BEET has inspired me more than I thought could be possible. I’ve finally found my career path, I’ve found something that I want to do forever. A job that makes me feel, mostly, positive, happy and yet at the same time drives me crazy and causes me to lose hours of sleep over planning the best lessons, trying to help students focus on their weaker areas and excel wherever possible. I’ve never lost so much sleep before.

My colleagues are extremely inspiring. They are intelligent, intellectual, hilarious, kind, thoughtful and have made me feel completely welcome at the school.

I will miss them in many ways and I can only hope my new colleagues will be half as amazing as them.

6 months ago I would never have thought I was capable of teaching, but thanks to the people around me and the students I’ve taught, I have a new found confidence in myself, and a new passion.