So much schoolwork. So little time. Feels like I am living at my desk right now. Is this worth it?
quite like when you spend it on the in-side of a window
I am an old dog who prefers his box
nothing comes together (the self-hatred)
but here is a bicycle built for two, you drive and you steer
Here alone I am a pilot in his pod on the long journey
practicing zen meditation and playing video…
Kinmen, Taiwan. A one-hour ferry ride away from Xiamen, Kinmen is technically Taiwanese territory. Full of tiny alleys and little temples, it is a fantastic place to spend a day or two. The bottom photo is a picture of noodles drying on the street, something we have never seen before.
Xiamen, China. A truly beautiful seaside city. Sunset at the beach, no more than a fifteen minute’s walk away from the city centre. Fantastic.
Chinese New Year dinner with Sissi and her extended family. Her mother and grandmother laid on a feast for us all to enjoy. What a lovely evening. It felt a little odd though, sitting in on what is another family’s Christmas…
So I have been in classes for a week now. And I am absolutely knackered! It’s funny, being in class is a little bit like exercising. Having not been to class for eight weeks, I am so out of shape, I am almost out of breath thinking about it aha. The difficulty level has been ramped up, but not uncomfortably so, which I think is good. What has dramatically increased is the amount of work I need to do after class, either for homework on in preparation for lessons. Two days this week I was working for ten hours (including class time). I have a funny feeling if this carries on I will not make it past March without developing narcolepsy….
But you have to take the rough with the smooth. Saying that, its not as if I am not enjoying being back in class. Having a routine and learning new things again is fantastic and I am really in my element. This term’s classes so far have been extremely beneficial in that I have learned many new ways of expressing myself, and also have discovered some more personal strengths and weaknesses.
If only the day was 48 hours long, then I could do all my classwork and still have hours left to laze around/research the next place to go travelling/waste on the internet!
Outside of class, I haven’t really done a lot. I am currently reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which has been an absolutely fascinating read. I suppose you could loosely describe it as a self-help book, and it aims to help you discover some sort of mindfulness and the importance of focusing on, and experiencing fully the present, which he says is the key to happiness. Worrying about the past or projecting those fears onto the future are two big causes of unhappiness, as is the mind’s voice. By focusing on the now and what is going on right now in this very moment, Tolle explains how you can reduce the amount of time your thoughts are in control, which cause you pain, and increase the amount of time you are conscious of the world around you. I have barely scratched the surface of this book, but it has enthralled me and I am very keen to see if I can apply some of the lessons taught in the book to my own life, and hopefully try and work on the awkwardness I have in some situations.
Tonight is Ladies Night at the Sofitel, all the girls are going out and I have been invited to tag along, which should be a good laugh and tomorrow I am going out for dinner. So tonight and tomorrow should be a good release from the stress of the first week back.
I am finding my place here again slowly and I am really happy with the way life is going at the moment.
So the time has finally come, after almost eight continuous weeks of holiday and fun, for me to go back to class. Back to 8a.m. starts and muddling through first week nerves and awkward introductions in front of the whole class and the whole ‘oh crap I have a lot of characters to learn this week to even begin to understand what’s going on’ feeling. But, don’t get me wrong, I am excited to go back to class.
Travelling was so much fun and I am unbelievably lucky to have had the chance to go and explore some of the world’s most amazing sights (including the Harbin Ice Festival which I have wanted to visit since I was about fourteen years old!), but as this time grew closer, I began to look forward to having a set routine again, and more importantly, to learn new things again. I am at my happiest when I am learning new things and moving forward, and this year has been so much better than last year in that regard. Being away also threw me into so many more situations where I was forced to use my Chinese, much more than if I had stayed in Nanjing for two months, and I have noticed my spoken Chinese noticeably improving.
Now I am entering the lower-high level classes, which means that the textbooks are completely in Chinese. This is so daunting. For the first time in my life, I am using Chinese to learn more Chinese. I also now have the opportunity to take extra classes in Chinese, to improve my general education. There are classes in finance, economics, in exam technique for the HSK (the general standard exam for Chinese ability, recognised worldwide), and in Chinese grammar and tones. However, if I were to take all of the classes that I want to take, it would mean that I would be in classes from 8am to 5:30pm four days a week, which is an insane workload. So I am going to try and take all the classes I am interested in, and if it turns out that in fact I can take the workload, I will continue them. If it turns out that after a week of 8-5:30 I want to shoot myself to stop the misery, then I will obviously drop the classes.
It is exciting, yet nerve-wracking starting. Wish me luck (I will need it!)
[Photographs: Cathy Erway] Every cuisine has its signature dish—something that’s unique, unilaterally enjoyed by its people, and unquestionably delicious. For Taiwanese cuisine, it might just be lu rou fan. Literally “stewed meat rice,” lu rou fan is a homestyle dish…
There is something so warming and wholesome about this dish. That may be due to the large amounts of MSG included in restaurant versions of this, but this hits all the right spots for me. I suppose it is closest to a bolognaise sauce, if you are looking for a Western equivalent, but it is less tomatoey and less sweet, with more of a savoury flavour. The slightly fatty pork used adds a rich deepness to the dish, and the boiled eggs included mean that one bowl of this will be enough for a good few hours!
I cannot stop craving this right now.
Today we took a hike organised by Beijing Hikers, who were absolutely fantastic. We met at a metro station, where they picked us up on a minibus. From there we travelled two hours out of Beijing city centre to this part of the Great Wall, which had not been restored - unlike a great deal of the Great Wall which is open to the public these days.
We took a four hour hike up and along this fantastic section of Ming Dynasty wall, aided by our guides who assisted with route and anything else we wanted. It was such a beautiful crisp morning for a hike, and I especially enjoyed being away from the grey polluted skies of Beijing city centre.
We came back at around 6pm. A day well spent!
Yesterday I concluded my travels around China and came back to Nanjing. Six weeks of almost continuous travel have completely knackered me, but I have seen some amazing, unforgettable places (pictures of which will be uploaded on here as soon as I can) and I am so soo glad I had the chance to go travelling.
And in other news, Dad arrives tomorrow! This I am excited for, as I haven’t seen him since I left the UK last August.
We visited Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City today. Temperatures of -5c meant that the rivers and lakes and moats were frozen over. It was absolutely beautiful. The Forbidden City is MASSIVE, and it seems as if 75% of the rooms there were reserved for the Emperor’s concubines. Well how else was an Emperor to keep warm in the cold of a Beijing winter, heh?
Ice cream van in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Couldn’t believe we found an ice cream van in Hong Kong of all places.