One day one night in Hong Kong

I had to leave China to do a visa run a few weeks ago and it led me to visit Hong Kong. For those who don’t know, a visa run is a quick, one-day trip across the border of a neighboring country and returning. This is usually done a few days before the expiration of one’s visa.

It can be seen as annoying to do but I was actually pretty glad to be forced to leave the country to discover another one. It gave me the chance to experience the Hong Kongese lifestyle for 24 hours and although my trip was short, it was quite intense because of it.

The first thing that struck me was how multicultural Hong Kong is. After 3 months of total immersion in Fuzhou, a very “Chinese city” where no one speaks English, seeing the waves of foreigners on the streets brought me some comfort and I felt like I was home. I must have looked like a creepy lady, staring at people and smiling. I just wanted to say “hi” and talk to everyone!

As soon as the taxi dropped me off at the hotel, I quickly checked in, threw my bag on the bed and jumped straight away in a shuttle to go explore the city. I had no particular idea where to go, I just had the urge of discovering as much as I could in a limited period of time.

 

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I took the subway and stopped at Central Station, in the centre of Hong Kong. I ended up on a very busy street named Queen’s Road. As soon as I got out of the subway, the Hong Kongese vibe made me think of New York. A Chinese NYC. Lively and busy collection of streets filled with restaurants, fancy bars, cafés and stylish shops. Big buildings, skyscrapers, international brands, a multitude of red and white taxis on the lookout for customers and hurrying businessmen hustling down the street.

Hong Kong is an intriguing mix of Asian and Western culture. A unique place where “East meets West”. As a foreigner living in China, I was really fascinated to observe the Hong Kongese lifestyle which is quite the opposite of mainland China’s. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Chinese but the long period of colonisation and exposure to the Western culture has resulted in a very distinct cultural identity from China. Most of the Chinese people living in Hong Kong speak English and the mainstream culture is an Eastern culture influenced by a British lifestyle.

As I was walking down the street, a tiny but colourful entrance of a place that looked like a café caught my attention. Spongebob’s and Patrick Star’s faces were plastered all around, making me want to discover a bit more. I ended up having afternoon tea at Dim Sum Icon, where you can eat steamed egg yolks buns, quench your thirst with a full-sized pineapple drink and have a bit of a Spongebob ma lai gao, aka the Spongebob spongecake.

What I do best when I explore a new city is to get lost. I don’t really mind getting lost, it’s part of the adventure. Without knowing it I ended up in Soho, a vibrant district filled with lively little streets going up and down. Every 5 square metres there’s a pub, a restaurant, a bar, a café and all of them are busy. I kept walking for a long time looking for a French restaurant called La Vache. Of course, I could not find it and after asking directions from 3 people who gave me 3 different answers, I started to worry a little. My phone was dying and my Chinese internet data was unusable in Hong Kong. A small detail that I flippantly ignored. I was supposed to meet up with a French couple that I virtually met via WeChat for dinner.

In China, it’s a common thing to find power banks in cafés to recharge your phone but here in Hong Kong, I could not find any. My old backpacker’s habit led me to McDonalds where I nicely asked the cashier if I could charge my phone and use the free wifi.

I finally managed to get in touch with the French couple who came to rescue me. They took me to La Vache in Soho (check out their website, it has the cutest design!) which is probably the best French restaurant in the Hong Kong dining scene. I was craving a steak-frites and La Vache, took me back, for a couple of hours, to the heart of Paris.

 

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The stylish, Parisian-style brasserie serves a unique menu: an organic green salad followed by a USDA prime ribeye with unlimited crispy frites served with generous pots of La Vache’s house-made sauce. A beautiful treat for the taste buds.

On my last day, I met up with a friend of a friend who is Chinese. That’s what I love about travelling – meeting new people is one of the most enriching human experiences. Yolanda took me to the most typical Hong Kongese places and we talked for hours about our different cultures and lifestyles.

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We walked down to a secret place that only locals know. It was located underground, in a small shopping mall. The restaurant was crowded with a line of people waiting to be seated.   

The place was so small and packed that we ended up sharing a table with two other girls. That is one of the facts that I have noticed. The lack of space in Hong Kong. With about 7 million Hongkongers in a territory of 1,104 km2, Hong Kong is one the most densely populated regions in the world. People live in tiny studios in the city and the rent is very expensive.

Hong Kongese food is a fusion of Asian and Western food. It reflects the history of the country. Local Hongkongers like eating buttery toast while having noodle soup. They love drinking milky tea and coffee. I was surprised to see some Italian pasta in an Asian bowl of soup with potatoes and tomatoes. This fusion also characterises Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food coexists with haute cuisine.

After a traditional Hong Kongese lunch, we went for a walk to Victoria Harbour, a natural landform harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in Hong Kong. We enjoyed the colourful Christmas decorations and an impressive panoramic skyline view.

And that concludes my short but intense Hong Kongese trip, one day, one night full of flavours, beautiful encounters, and unforgettable memories.

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10 Random facts about China

After 10 months of observation and getting more acquainted with my Chinese life, I have to say that the customs and habits in China are pretty fascinating. Especially the behaviour towards the digital world.

Here’s a list of 10 random facts about China that strike me the most.

#FACT 1: CHINESE PEOPLE LIVE IN A DIGITAL WORLD

In China, you can order EVERYTHING online and get it delivered to you. I insist on the word “everything”. It literally is. Food, clothes, furniture, groceries, plants, anything you can possibly imagine. My friend even bought some tropical fish that arrived two days later in a special container! The best part is that it gets delivered to your door or left in those electronic mailboxes each building has. 

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Chinese people always have their heads down looking at their phones. It’s very common to see motorbike riders typing on their phone while driving!

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#FACT 2: CASH IS DEAD – LONG LIVE TO MOBILE PAYMENTS! 

Cash is pretty much dead in China as the country is living the future with mobile payments.

Chinese people don’t use cash or coins anymore to buy things. They use their mobile phones. They have a digital wallet with money and all you have to do when you purchase something is scan a barcode and type in the amount. The first time I saw Yance paying the taxi driver this way, I watched it with my mouth wide open. I thought it was the coolest way to pay for stuff. It actually made me want to buy something just to try it out.

The online payment technology is incredibly advanced. No wonder why China’s economy is one of the world’s fastest-growing in the worldThe Chinese mobile payment volume more than doubled to $5 trillion in 2016*.

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The two most popular online payment apps are WeChat and AliPay. They are the major players in China.

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In many ways, using digital money makes your everyday life easier. It’s just more convenient and faster. There’s no need to carry cash or a credit card. You only need your phone.

I like the “transfer” function. If you owe money to a friend, you can just look for his/her contact in WeChat and transfer the amount. It’s so much faster than getting their bank account details! I was a bit concerned regarding the safety, but my digital wallet is locked up with a passcode that I have to type in every time I make a payment.

The only crucial thing is not to lose your phone! You can’t live in China without a phone!

*Source: Analysis data cited by Hillhouse Capital. 

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#FACT 3: WECHAT, CHINA’S “APP FOR EVERYTHING”

WeChat is a magical app that makes the impossible possible. It has been called China’s “App for Everything” because of its many functions and platforms. It is one of the world’s most powerful apps.

If China lives in a digital world it’s mainly due to this kind of multi-purpose social media mobile app. It has such a huge social impact on Chinese behaviour. With WeChat you can order, pay, book and pretty much do everything. It’s crazy to think that an app has replaced real life and physical actions like going to the supermarket or getting cash out at the ATM. It fascinates and scares me at the same time.

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#FACT 4: THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA

With the rise of the Internet in China in 1994, the country has struggled to strike a balance between “opening up” to the Western world and keeping its people away from the Western ideology. The Great Firewall of China, formally known as the Golden Shield Project, is the Chinese government’s internet censorship and surveillance project developed in 2000.

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This Golden Shield Project caught my attention as I think it reflects pretty well the position of China towards Western countries. I believe it poses one of the most interesting dilemmas in modern history.

On one hand, the Chinese government wants to use the information technology that comes with the Internet to build its blooming economy and make it thrive. On the other, the Internet inherently encourages diversity of ideas and represents a tool for democratising society. While the Internet is important to China’s economy, its very existence also undermines the political stability of the country. China is constantly seeking to strike balance between these two ends.

With the firewall, much to my desperation, I must say, many popular websites are banned in China. You can say goodbye to search engines like Google, Yahoo, but also media (Youtube, The New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, Le Monde – Yes, even French media!). Social media are of course the focal point and are completely banned (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and more).

You can check out the list of banned websites here.

But don’t panic if you’re planning to go to China. There’s a way to bypass this firewall (otherwise you would not be reading this post!) and still get access to your favourite websites. You will need to download a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Any mobile app store will have VPNs. On my end, after trying at least 3 different ones, I have purchased Star VPN which works pretty well and costs me $3 a month.

You just have to be aware that there’s no perfect VPN and sometimes the connection can be slow or not functional. All you need is a lot of patience!

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#FACT 5: A WONDERLAND OF DISCOUNTS

But only if you have a trained eye! The first time I saw a shiny 90 sign, it really enticed the western shopper in me. I thought “Wow! 90% off?! That’s the best sale ever!” However, I was just a fool. 90 isn’t as great as it seems.

I found out that Chinese discounts work in a completely opposite way to western discounts. While a western shopper sees 90% off, a Chinese shopper sees that you pay 90 percent of the price. That means 90 is actually only 10% off!

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But generally speaking, there are always ways to get cheaper things in China. They have insane discounts and special deals that defy the rules of competition. Especially when it comes to food. Let’s say you order online and reach a certain amount, you can sometimes get 30  50% off. It’s also very common to see sales guys from restaurants giving away vouchers in shopping malls to get 50  100 RMB off your meal.

Online prices are cheaper than retail stores. My friend Yance buys all his clothes online and I have started to do this as well. In case we’re not happy with our purchases, we just call the courier who comes to our place to pick up the items and we get a refund straight away online!

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#Fact 6: CLICK THE RED PACKETS! 

A red packet is a monetary gift in a little red envelope which, in the Chinese tradition, is offered during holiday seasons or for special occasions (weddings, graduations, births etc).

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But there’s also a digital version of the red packet that blew my mind the other day. After working hard for Thanksgiving at the school where I work, our managers, as a reward, sent to our WeChat group a rain of red packets! The concept is simple: someone sends in a group a red packet with a defined amount of money and chooses how many people he/she wants to share the amount with. The first person to click on the red packet earns a random amount of money.

For instance, I can send to the group a red packet of 100 RMB and choose to share the amount between 5 people. Once the red packet appears in the group conversation, its members have to quickly click on it to see how much they’ve earned. That’s when it gets funny and exciting because the whole concept of the red packet is based on luck. The first 5 people who’ve clicked earn a random amount. One can get 30 RMB, another one can get 2 RMB and so on until it reaches 100 RMB. The amount of money you earn goes automatically into your WeChat wallet!

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For Chinese NYE, people send big rains of red packets and the amount can go up to hundreds of RMB! It’s probably the easiest way to make money just by clicking some links on your phone. There’s no doubt, Chinese people love playing with money! No wonder why they love gambling so much.

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#FACT 7: CHINESE PEOPLE LOVE DRINKING HOT WATER

In China, the tap water’s not clean and you’re better off not drinking it. The first day I got here it was so hot that I poured a big glass of tap water and started drinking it.

“What are you doing?! yelled Yance laughing at me. Don’t drink tap water in China, you’re going to be sick!” I emptied my glass and I suddenly missed the clean and fresh water of New Zealand.

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Chinese people drink hot water (even under 30 degrees) and it took me quite some time to get used to it. It’s not even tea, just boiling water. When I ask a Chinese person why they drink hot water, the answer is usually “it’s better for your health”. I did not really get it at the beginning. Apart from burning my throat, I could not see the benefits. Now that I’ve reviewed my habits, hot water has become my new tap water.

But to be honest, hot or cold, water is water and both are fine to drink! It’s just a question of beliefs and habits.

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#FACT 8: THE MOST TYPICAL DISH IN FUZHOU IS…

Hot pot! Each region of China has its own food specialty. In Fuzhou, you will find many hot pot restaurants. Hot pot is a soup with a variety of East Asian foodstuffs and ingredients, prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and cooked at the table.

Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf, vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.

It’s the perfect dish to share with family and friends as it’s very convivial and can last hours! I absolutely love it, it’s delicious!

 

#FACT 9: CHINESE PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO PARTY

I wrote about the nightlife in Fuzhou in a previous post. I am still amazed by the Chinese hospitality when it comes to party or going out. The nightclubs are insane and they really make an effort to put on a big show. People in nightclubs talk to you and naturally buy you drinks. They don’t expect anything from you except having fun.

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#FACT 10: A NEW SKYSCRAPER IS BUILT EVERY 5 DAYS

China never sleeps. It’s constantly developing and expanding. Buildings, skyscrapers, and massive shopping malls are popping up like flowers. Towers appear in little to no time and in a couple of months, a new suburb is born. China is like a giant tree whose branches keep growing.

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Diary of a little Vietnamese Girl in France – Story 1

I am sharing today a little piece of my heart. The text below is the first page of my children’s book. I am still putting the text and the illustrations together, it’s taking way longer than I thought. Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever get it through. Making my own drawings and self-publishing my book are such big challenges. But it’s also my dream, so I will keep going until the day I feel the pages between my fingers and smell the cover of my book.

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I AM FRENCH-NAMESE

My name is Julie, I am 10 and I am French with an Asian face. I am French-namese (as in French and Vietnamese). My parents came to France a long time ago because something really bad happened in Vietnam and they had to run away from the country. They don’t talk much about it but I know it has something to do with war and stuff.

I have a big head, very dark hair and a funny fringe Mum loves to cut too short and uneven. I am very little and skinny. Everything in me is small. I am the smallest girl in my class. My feet never touch the ground when I sit.

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Sometimes I spend hours looking at my face in the mirror. My eyes are smaller than my friends’ and I don’t really have eyelids. I do weird things like pinching my nose because I don’t want to have a flat nose.

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I have a big brother, Christian, and a little sister, Ketty. I also have a cat, Lilo, who is black and white like Felix, a famous French cat who does TV commercials.

My favourite colours are navy blue and pink. I like grilled chestnuts, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and French fries. I like riding my bike, playing with my toys, my friends and rummaging in Mum’s wardrobe or anywhere where it’s messy. I don’t like onion and celery, I am scared of spiders, I am very scared of the dark and I get angry when people make fun of me because I look different.

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Lost in Translation Part III – China’s nightlife

My new life in Fuzhou is slowly taking shape and after a difficult start, I finally feel like my time in China is going to be amazing. I can see myself living here for a while, learning what I have to learn, discovering and experiencing as much as I can. 

I remind myself every day the reason why I came here and where it’s going to lead me. It makes me feel good.

I am eventually feeling what I love so much about my life: enjoying my freedom.

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Fuzhou city, a night at the Life Club, 2 am.

The music is so loud that I have to shout in the ear of a guy who’s asking my name.

“My name is Juliiiie!!” He says something back but I cannot understand a word. I shout a very ungraceful: “Whaaat??”

That’s pretty much the only conversation you can have at the Life Club, the place where you lose your memory (or your consciousness) while having countless shots of vodka and feeling the vibes on the dance floor.

I’ve never really been a party girl but this place is probably the craziest club I’ve ever been to. Going to Life Club is like doing a triathlon of drinking, jumping and dancing. You need a full day to recover.

Clouds of mist and confetti spray on my face every ten minutes, huge balloons floating in the air, free bottles of vodka on every table, performers are diving into the crowd on inflatable boats and DJs are dressed up as pandas. It’s a fun madness. Jumping and dancing on the bouncing stage in front of the DJ booth has been the best exercise. I have to say it, Chinese people know how to party.

 

Fuzhou’s nightlife is quite lively and offers a diversity of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and pubs. Wherever you go, no matter what the time is, you will always find a place to entertain yourself. Chinese youths go out a lot and love hanging out to play games, to party, to have drinks or to eat a festive dinner with friends. There are many ways and places in Fuzhou to socialise and meet people. You just have to get out there.

One night, I randomly ended up in an underground club. A dance battle competition was on. I am not a dancer but I stayed all night. The Chinese dance scene is unbelievably good and it was interesting to observe something new. I’ve found the dancers to be crazy free, bold and really daring. Like they were freeing themselves from a strict and pressured everyday life.

It’s so easy to get carried away here. The Chinese hospitality when it comes to partying is limitless. Chinese people love making toasts shouting: “Gan bei!” (cheers) every 5 minutes, offering drinks and giving cigarettes to everyone. Not the best way to stay healthy but definitely the best way to bond.

I’ve been meeting more foreigners lately which has considerably diminished the feeling of isolation. I am feeling again what traveling and what being an expat is truly about. New encounters are such a huge part of it. It reminds me of when I left France to move to Australia 5 years ago. I was on my own, but I met along the way some amazing friends to share beautiful adventures with.

Moving to a new country and experiencing such a strong cultural shock really pushes you to open your mind in a big way and to accept different customs and habits. Adaptation and acceptance are fundamental.

Applying these principles are making my life in China way easier and because of that, I feel happier. Even if the language barrier is still omnipresent, I am finding my own way to create a new life and to fit in a completely new environment.

 

 

Goodbye my Love

My dear Ezra,

I remember you said, “If one day our love story ends, I would feel so grateful for the amazing time we’ve had together.”

Deep in my heart, I’ve always hoped that this day would never come but today, life has decided it was time for us to go our separate ways.

The most difficult part has been the acceptance. When you told me we could not be together anymore as I was starting my new venture in China, I was in shock. I got angry, mad, extremely sad, I felt lost and powerless, but now, I know I have to let us go and find my inner peace.

Finally, I feel grateful too and I can think of our wonderful memories without tears of sadness rolling down my cheeks.

I want to keep in mind the best of us and the beauty of our love story. It was an amazing and unique experience to share our dreams together.

Despite the gap between our two worlds, our love for each other and the strong vision of our relationship kept us together for two beautiful years. Our trip to Europe will remain one of the most memorable events in my life. I was so glad to bring you overseas and open your mind to something that would inspire you.

I know we both have learned a lot from our relationship which will make us stronger and more prepared for the future.

We are giving ourselves the freedom to go for our respective dreams and that’s a beautiful reason to go our separate ways.

Believe me, it was so hard for me to think this way. I’ve been through the whole mental process, trying to cope with my crazy emotions.

But now, I am okay. I am not crying anymore, I’ve found my sleep back, my appetite and I wake up with the feeling that I can conquer the world again.

I wish you the very best, I know you will make it because you’re the most passionate person that I know. Keep pushing, hustling (I know you’re very good at that!), don’t give up until you’re at the top. I am so proud of you for what you’ve achieved so far and my support will be with you forever.

I am sure I will hear from you and about your company sometime soon.

On my end, it’s time for me to work harder on my dreams too, and I promise I will send you a copy of my children’s book!

Please keep the crafty book that I made for you, in the memory of our beautiful story.

With all my love,

Julie.

Julie & Ezra’s Special Book: http://www.juliedocreative.com/ezra-julie

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Lost in Translation – Part II

I am feeling fear as I’m standing on the corner of an intersection. A hundred of motorbikes are sitting there, waiting impatiently for the green light.

“Don’t hesitate, just go and don’t stop. They will avoid you.” says my Chinese friend Yance.  I grab his arm tight and dive into the madness.

I am still trying to overcome my fear when I cross the street in Fuzhou. Motorbikes are like pedestrians here, so they use pedestrian crossing…It is so impressive (and scary!) to see on the other side of the road, an army of motorbikes that literally ploughs into you.

China is a real cultural shock that I am still in the process of getting used to. It will happen in the end but it takes time. Everything is so different and it’s a big change from my western life.

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My life in Fuzhou is challenging. I am feeling a mixed bag of emotions that make it quite intense. I am so excited to discover a new culture and immerse myself in a new environment. But it is also alienating as the cultural shock is so strong.

It reminds me of the turmoil of Vietnam. Insane traffic, a hustle and bustle in the streets that never stops, a cacophony of horns and the smell of Asian food emanating from every corner.

Fuzhou never sleeps, it’s constantly developing and expanding. Buildings, skyscrapers, and massive shopping malls are popping up like flowers. Towers appear in no time and in a couple of months, a new suburb is born. China is like a giant tree whose branches keep growing.

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I have observed a curious mix of advanced technology, modernism, tradition, and conservatism. It’s everything and its opposite. They fancy the luxury of the Western world but forbid you to be truly exposed to the outside world (Google, YouTube, social media are banned). The access to information is restricted and controlled. If I am still able to update my blog and socials it’s thanks to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that I have downloaded.

It’s for sure one of the most difficult things to cope with as a foreigner. I was born in a democratic country whose main principle is liberty.

But the most challenging part is definitely the language barrier. I did not really think of it before leaving. I was way too excited about the amazing teaching opportunity. I naively thought that people would speak English. At least a little bit.

The reality is no one speaks English in Fuzhou. All the signs are in Mandarin and I have no clue of what’s happening around me.

Luckily, my Chinese friend Yance is with me. He’s been guiding me so patiently but relying entirely on someone is somehow, alienating and frustrating. Not being able to communicate or understand people are the biggest frustration I’ve ever felt in my life.

I remember the first group dinner we had. I felt so diminished and powerless not to be able to interact with the rest of the group. It’s a very unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling. I have never faced a struggle like that before and I did think: “What am I doing here”.

I am so out of my comfort zone that it scares me. The thought of going back to Australia has crossed my mind many times. This natural instinct that pushes you to go back to what you know because it’s safer and easier…

I do miss my Western lifestyle, but I do know I need to put in the effort to build a new life in Fuzhou if I want to make the most of it.

I have to think about the long-term and I want to recall this experience 5 years from now saying:

“My year in China has been the most enriching and challenging experience in my life. I am proud to have given myself the chance to live over there and open my mind to a new world.”

 

 

Teaching in China

Fuzhou, China – Friday 3rd, November, 7 am,

The squeaking sound of a jackhammer brutally pulls me out of my sleep. I can’t recall a night since I am here without being awakened by these bloody machines.

The building and area where I live in Fuzhou are still being constructed and the noise has become part of my new world. Somehow I got used to it.

It’s time to go teach at the school.

“Wake Up Yaaanceee!” I shout at the door of his bedroom.

(Yance is my Chinese friend I met in Sydney. He helped me attain a position as an English teacher at the school where he works, which has brought me to China. Teaching a second language to young children has always been one of my aspirations).

15 minutes later we’re running late to the school. Thank God it’s only 200 meters away from our apartment. In Fuzhou, no one wants to be stuck in the insane morning traffic.

The school is brand new. A month ago when I arrived, it was still a construction site and I thought it would never be ready on time. I was wrong. In a month, the site has transformed into a beautiful school.

 

What really caught my attention is that this school is not a primary school or part of an academic system. It’s a creative educational school that offers 3 courses: English, Drawing, and Dancing.

When Yance told me about it, it sounded like a dream. I have always wished to be able to teach languages in a fun and creative way, using games, music, art and role play.

 

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The challenge was also to discover a new country. China sounded ideal. A real disruption of culture that would push me far out of my comfort zone. Again.

France, Australia, New Zealand and now China. I like to think that I have lived many lives in my life. I am a traveler at heart and there are so many things to discover about the world.

I have started to teach my own class and I have met so many different types of children with different personalities. From the shy little girl who does not want to leave her Mum to the exuberant boy who disturbs the class. I find extremely interesting and challenging the fact that no matter what, I need to engage with the children enough to catch their attention.

Once it’s done, it feels so good and rewarding to see the cutest happy smiling faces, having fun while learning another language.

 

I am discovering how to make teaching plans, curriculum for the year, and the greatest part is that we have the freedom to be creative. We incorporate songs, dance routines, games, art, role play. It’s so much fun. Way more fun than my old school memories.

Teaching and playing with children is a therapy to me. When I teach, nothing else matters. Worries and problems are gone. My only goal is to make the children happy and teach them the love of learning.

I do believe that Education is the foundation of a better future for humankind.

When I was a child I remember being so bored at school and not interested in the class. I used to daydream a lot and imagine crazy stories. I wish I had more encouragement from teachers to see above and beyond. And that it is okay to be different.

I want to encourage children to pursue their dream and I want them to feel great about themselves. Because that is just what youngsters are. Great.

 

 

Lost in Translation – Part I

I saw it straight away. My name “Julie Do” on a piece of paper at the arrivals of the international airport in Fuzhou, China.

“Ni Hao” I said to the driver and “Xie xie ” when he carried my two huge suitcases to the car. That’s about all I can say in Chinese.

“Do you speak English?” I ask the driver who laughs and shakes his head to say no.

On the way, with my eyes wide open, I look at my new surroundings. A misty chain of mountains, a few Chinese temples, then as we get closer to the city, a blooming industrial life.

I see huge towers spitting clouds of smoke, enormous boats transporting merchandise, monster trucks filled with construction material. Soon we get stuck in the most insane traffic.

The driver sighs and whispers something in Chinese. He is probably swearing. An hour later, we finally reach the city.

The landscape changes and I can spot big buildings and skyscrapers. The streets are busy and loud. The driver slaloms between motorbikes, pedestrians, cars, bikes and buses. It’s complete madness.

The car finally stops in front of a big modern building. It’s the library where I’ve planned to meet up with my dearest Chinese friend, Yance.

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I met Yance two years ago when I was living in Sydney. We soon became very close and I recall so many happy memories. His flamboyant personality got me the instant I met him. I can’t believe that just a couple of month ago, he contacted me to offer me an English teacher position at the school where he works.

And now here I am, after quitting my job and saying goodbye to my boyfriend in no time, I am standing in a giant Chinese city, my life packed into two suitcases.

To be continued.

Why I’ve decided to self-publish my book…and make my own illustrations

My publishing venture has been punctuated with ups and downs so far. More downs to be honest but somehow I expected it. That is what the reality of the publishing industry is about.

After a 7 month experience, the result is far from my initial hope. 3 publishing contracts from vanity publishers (aka scams), 3 rejection letters from trade publishers and I am still waiting for many other responses that might never come. I am checking my mailbox with less and less enthusiasm and the hope to receive any positive letters has seriously diminished.

It could be better, it could be worse. It is just what it is and that’s okay. Rejection is part of the publishing process. It does not mean I have to stop, it means I have to keep going and pushing, as long as I believe in what I do.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately and my attention went to another publishing method which is called self-publishing. After thinking things over and weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to give it a go. It’s a long and difficult journey but I am not scared of the challenge. It’s exciting and most importantly, it will give me the freedom of creating the book of my dreams.

Gaining entire control of the creation of my book is, in the end, the most fulfilling part. Who knows better than me how I want my book to look like?

I’ve also made the decision to make my own illustrations. I’ve always felt like I wasn’t skilled enough to do it, but then I realised it was just a question of confidence and will (and lots of practice!). No one but me knows exactly what to draw and how to interpret my childhood memories. 

So I’ve started my drawings, picturing in my mind all the details that have made my memories so vivid and memorable. It’s hard and it’s taking me ages. I often have to start over again and do some research. But when it’s done and I contemplate the result with a big smile on my face, the feeling of happiness and accomplishment is worth the pain.

It’s a little piece of art that is taking shape. And it’s mine 🙂

More information about self-publishing: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/how-to-self-publish-a-print-book/

 

I did something that I am proud of today

I did something that I am proud of today.

I wrote my resignation letter and I sent it to my boss. My hands were shaking and it took me ages to finally press the “SEND” button. Two hours to be precise.

I was so scared to resign from a job I did not even enjoy. But then I told myself: what do I have to lose?

Nothing. And that’s the point.

The big dive into the great unknown. That’s what got me scared. But only for a minute. I’ve already experienced the leap of faith when I left everything behind me in France to move to Australia. The only things that I had were a free mind and a big backpack.

4 years later, here I am, living a comfortable life in Auckland NZ, doing some marketing for an international company. Comfortable but boring. I’ve started to remember the reason why I left my home country 4 years ago. I wanted to chase my dreams and experience as many things as I could. I wanted to explore the world and embrace the great opportunities that would fall on my path. After all, what is the point of your life when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait to lurk to surprise you?

So I seized it. The great opportunity. Like a wish that has found its shooting star.

I am going to be a teacher in a primary school in Fuzhou, China. I will be teaching English and art to little Chinese children. I will adapt myself to a new culture and environment. I will learn Mandarin and will live my life like a proper local, getting a fresh pair of eyes in a part of the world I have never explored yet.

I intend to do what makes me feel alive and happy. Challenging myself. Again and again. I need to fulfil my passion and aspirations. I need to make my dreams come true. Dreaming is lovely but taking action towards your dreams is the key!

Following my heart and trusting my instincts have paid off so far. We only live once, so why bother with details and futility? Why live a life we are not fully happy with? I feel lucky to have set my mind free. I am scared just enough to push myself and feel the excitement more than the fear.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Henry David Thoreau