Sunday, 16 October 2016

China: Qingdao: Chengyang

(view from my apartment)

So I'm going to reawaken this blog because I feel the need to write down (when I can) the experiences I'm having now I have moved to China - Chengyang a suburb of Qingdao.

Years ago I passed through Shanghai in transit and those few hours were some of the 'scariest' yet exhilarating moments of my travel experiences to date and I said to myself, at the time, that I should come back when possible - when I was brave enough! China is like a whole different world and the vastness of it is semi-mind-blowing. You feel so small and insignificant - like you could easily get lost in the chaos, swallowed up forever.

Well, I finally felt brave enough so many years later and it just happened to fall into my lap, like fate had always been planning it. It's only three days in, so it is hard to know for sure, but so far its been great. Having undergone culture shock in the Amazon and India I was bracing myself for the dreaded hit, but apart from a strange moment in the dead of night where I woke up in fear (I'm supposing the day's overload of information suddenly hit my subconscious mind hard) and the usual nerves of walking into your first class at a new school, it has been a remarkably smooth transition.

This could be down to the brilliant people I find myself surrounded by - the teachers at my new school. They are such a wide range of nationalities and personalities but all have made the effort to be helpful and supportive. I'm so impressed with their language ability too (some are studying Chinese for three hours, five days a week at the local university) and without them - getting around, buying food - everything would feel incredibly difficult. It encourages me to get cracking at the language, despite its pronunciation challenges, so I too can navigate and stand on my own two feet. On top of this, their passion for China and dare I say life and adventure is also infectious. I think it also helps that my boss is British too - takes the edge off things, and needs and worries can be communicated more effectively and dealt with.
(some Chinese food we had today)

I'm not going to overload you with information, I'll try and keep this one short, but so far I can say the food has been fantastic and very flavoursome with a wide range to choose from - it actually took me until day 3 to eat some proper Chinese food as Korean food is prevalent here and I've also had some really good sushi (and a Chinese MacDonalds late at night after much alcohol and today I went to a Chinese version of an English restaurant too - which was kind of off the mark a bit...).

(a super huge building in Qingdao)

The people seem friendly, curious and full of smiles and the landscape is actually greener than I expected but juxtaposed with so much grey high-rise buildings and multi-coloured neon signs. Some places look like a massive mixed up patchwork quilt of craziness.

(colour everywhere)

Furthermore and reminiscent of Spain, the Chinese LOVE their fireworks. Every time they have something to celebrate they let them off  and its bang-bang-bang like the Mascleta in Valencia during Las Fallas festival. Couple this with the noise of constant building works, taxi hoots and music, China feels like a total bombardment of the senses. But it is all good to me.

If you are fussy and want your western comforts, okay...maybe China isn't for you just yet (though I have been surprised at how developed it is already so I'm sure you can find these things and they have all the western brands at their shopping malls...). However, if you want slightly uncomfortable excitement and the challenge of overcoming what at first seems impossible (but having faith deep down that you will succeed) then I'd say come here. Come here and find a good group of people - a school and network that will help you make the transition. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Going to China

So...I'm supposedly going to Qingdao, China (see above).

I say 'supposedly' because I won't truly believe it until I'm slipping into my seat on the plane. However, I have just finally sent off for the visa and when it returns (ten working days, so I'm told) I will be booking those flights and going. All this has been slowly shifting into place for the last six months - yes, it really takes a long time to organise if you plan to work there. I was actually meant to be flying this Monday gone but I said it takes a long time! You need a thorough police check, university documents legalised at different places, payslips, photos...They all need to be sent to china in exchange for other documents, application forms need filling out, expensive couriers need to get all takes time and money.

I realise with this blog I completely missed out life in Barcelona...(2015 has only five posts!) but I wouldn't worry, there are lots of blogs out there that probably cover it - that city is saturated with expats it feels like London in the sun. I will miss it however and I think it would have done me good to stay another year. I've come to the conclusion now that one year is usually NOT enough. Yet...I plan to do 11 months in China... and this bothers me... but whilst adventure is a drive, I have a bigger over-riding drive: make some money.


So I can get back to Spain quickly and buy myself a little apartment. Then I can go back to focussing purely on adventure and the good life, but with a little nest egg for my twilight years. It sounds a simple plan, but I think it is going to certainly prove a challenge on a tefl teacher salary and what with the Brexit fallout. Who knows how easy it is going to be to buy property and live in Spain in a few years time?

When Brexit was first announced I almost did a u-turn. I had been living in Spain for 4 years and 1 more would qualify me for EU membership...but that is based on the current rules. Plus I was all geared up for China in my mind and the idea of staying, with no prospects of getting ahead, made me feel deflated. I resolved not to live my life in fear of 'what ifs' and just go for it and hope for the best.

So...China it is. Qingdao - a coastal city, the size of London, half way between Shanghai and Beijing and voted one of the nicer places to live. It's positioned opposite South Korea, so this has some influence and I hear it used to be a base for the Germans also in times gone by so I'm expecting some German-style architecture. This probably helps explain why there is a massive beer festival there every year too.

I definitely want to document it and I'm thinking some writing, some videos and photos - a nice mix. So...going to have to take the plunge soon and upload my first video! Hmm...maybe! Hopefully! Watch this

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

New chapter

It is late and I really should be going to bed but I suddenly had a little spark of creativity and motivation. The last two weeks I've been languishing around the house more often than not, waiting for visa papers to arrive. I'm not good at being patient and waiting and sitting at home. I try to stay active but there are only so many days I can do sitting on my arse watching videos, reading books and drinking hot drinks. I cherish free time, but when its continuous and you have to stay in and wait for the postman, as someone who likes to be out and about, it becomes restrictive.

Finally, today, papers arrived from China and tomorrow I can get down to the post office and apply for my visa. It has been six months since I began the long, tedious process. I was actually meant to fly this Monday gone....but nope! Still here! And the next stage could take up to 10 days too. However, this should be the last one! Once they send back my application I can book my flights and go...

A new chapter in China will begin!

Tonight, I lazily browsed through my Instagram account looking at the years that have already rolled by - most of them taken up by adventures in Spain. I started my Instagram life just before I left for that country. I can't believe how the years flew by. I look at myself back then and I can see a vibrantly happy smiling face. I like the girl in these photos. She is beautiful and happy, whatever other things were going on in the background that sometimes challenged her. I see her more fully and I am more generous to her now than I was to her back then. We all have our insecurities - about our bodies and actions and who we are - throughout life. But looking back over the last four years I can see that she really didn't do too badly.

I'm so nervous about China but since I first set out for Spain, I have grown and I have strengthened and I feel ready for this huge undertaking. I definitely want to document it somehow. Video blogging has been one idea... but I'm not sure yet. I hope it will be from this platform but I'm doing my research... we shall see. It is just a matter of

Friday, 9 September 2016

Blogging and the next direction

Blogging has changed so much since I began to write back in 2008. I returned to my old blog and looked to the right side panel where I kept a list of all my favourite blogs I used to read and frequent. If you look at their postings many of these lie dormant. An era came and went. The oldies moved out and the new kids on the block moved in.

The blogging days I remember were like a little community. People weren't so fussed about gloss and glam and the perfect photo shot. They were just honest, open people who were exploring this new platform and making some online friends along the way. Nowadays blogs are like magazines and many are big business. Blogs evolve like everything I guess, except what they involved into was not what I had been seeking.

I started my blog to encourage myself to write more fiction. I didn't end up writing much fiction at all but I did write. I had so much to say. Then one day my voice dried up and my attention was directed elsewhere, towards my passion for art and socialising. I can't say why, but maybe as more people flooded the platform, the community disappeared and a feeling like competition set in, and, for me, in some ways, it stopped feeling 'real'. It felt like it suddenly became all about 'comments' and numbers.

Furthermore, I didn't have as much time to write anymore. Back in the day I was stuck at my office job desk with too much time so I filled it with this. When I changed my career, suddenly I was no longer bored and stuck behind a computer as much. I got out into the real world and began living it more than reflecting on it.

I'm still living it. In many ways I'm still too busy. Instagram seems like a less time-consuming solution. Or video blogging. So I'm not sure what direction I plan to take next. Maybe I will adapt this blog into a instagram one... or do a mix of the two. I think a visual revamp might be fun but I'm so rusty it might take me a while... and then there is the fact I'm moving to China in two I'm not sure how the firewall is going to affect things. Whatever I decide I'll keep you informed if possible.

Until then... xxx

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Thinking about returning...

Okay, so my blog is old and out of date but I miss writing. I think a comeback might be on the cards because suddenly I have a lot to talk about again. It is weird how it is...sometimes you want to focus your attention on other things and sometimes you are too busy living life to sit down and write it all down.

This actually happened to me when I was a late teen. I kept a diary from the age of 11-18 years and then when University hit it all kicked off and I just didn't have time to keep writing.

Anyway... no promises but... just saying - Watch this space...I might be back! xxx

Monday, 26 October 2015

Moved House

You're going to have to bear with me. I'm sort of fumbling around in the dark at the moment with where I'm going with blogging and my online experiences. I feel this need to record and write but I'm not sure if I want to keep doing it here but I've come back anyway as it is the only platform I have right now.


I've just moved house! Suddenly I find myself in El Raval in Barcelona. It is quite amazing. This is my sister's old neighbourhood. It seems more populated then it was back then when she was here. The tourists are overspilling from the Gothic quarters and El Born and the Rambla and wading into this district.

It still retains it seediness though. Outside my house bookending my front door sleep roughly two rather unsavoury figures. First thing I saw the morning I stepped out was one relieving himself against a wall. They group around a little memorial statue everyday like they are having some sort of committee meeting. Further down the road if you turn left you can wonder onto a street of dishevelled prostitutes and pimps and sad looking recycled mobile phone and barber shops.

Contrast this with all the boutique hotels with gold-gilded signs and fairy-light bars and cosy cafes brimming with hipsters and their awesome, stout, little bulldogs. I guess it feels a bit like Camden. It certainly has character. Whatsmore, in one minute you are on the Rambla and it is heaving. I feel like I've moved to the equivalent of Soho or Leicester Square when I find myself here but I'm paying a fraction of the price.

The thing is though - I'm going through a bit of a crisis. Okay...that sounds dramatic. It isn't so bad. It's rather low is just my thoughts. I'm locked in a bit of a downward spiral with what I want from my life...and I've read a lot of literature lately that has left me feeling a bit like 'What is the point?' I'll have to explain this another day in detail but to give you a glimpse, think - environmental issues, money, corruption, the food industry, behaviourism (which makes me question if we have souls)...the world in crisis.

I'm not thinking in a suicidal way or anything. I'm happy enough. I'm just a bit disillusioned with the world and my inability to steer through it the way I want. Can any of us make a difference? Does it really matter? It can feel a bit overwhelming and I feel helpless at times.

Fortunately I'm friends with an eternal optimist whose phd is in positive psychology and she is encouraging me to redirect my thoughts and try to counterbalance the negative reading/facts with some positive. Its actually super simple. The moment I do begin to count my blessings (which at times I have to consciously do) the sun comes out. I mean...Gosh, I've said it just now in the previous paragraphs.

I'm living in central Barcelona. Smack in the heart of all the hub. For a seedy part of town which houses a lot of rough pads (along with bedbugs, cockroaches and rats) I have a wonderfully modern apartment shared with one other person. I have a beautiful large window which lets in all the light and despite being in the centre there is a huge tree outside and birdsong wakes me up.

There is a gym within walking distance, my bank is opposite my front door, the best market in the city is one minute away and I don't have to take a taxi to access all the night-life I want which as a singleton is well...just bloody marvellous. still isn't solving any big world problems. The negative is still very much there but by redirecting my thoughts and focusing on the little things in my life I'm hoping I'm going to climb back out of the hole I slipped down. And maybe once I've made a bit of headway, maybe it will becoming infectious and then maybe little differences will be noticed.

One thing I know for sure, even if I never achieve anything great in this life, if I can just be a good friend, if I can make those around me happy...then well...that is something positive. There is so much I could write about all this but I think I will stop here for now.

I hope you are all having a good day. It is Halloween soon too! My favourite holiday. Lots of Love xxx

Monday, 12 October 2015

Hello! Is it me you're looking for?

Probably not...I've been away too long.

Is there anyone out there?

Hmm...well...I'm here. I'm back to write. For how long? I don't know. I feel like my little blog needs a shake up. I had thought of making a new one, but why? When I have a perfectly good one here.

I've come to realise that although sometimes I have periods where I don't write, ultimately I need a space for this. I have a lot of thoughts and I get swamped in them at times.

I don't know what it is. The blogosphere isn't the same as it was when I first began. It's character has changed and become more slick, more magazine like...less of the community I once knew it to be. I don't know if I want to be a part of that and well, mainly I just can't keep up. I haven't got time.

But I need to write - I need an outlet. I also feel these days that so many people are talking and writing and you feel like you get swallowed up in the sea of it.

I'm going to find a way...Just it is taking some time.