4th of July

July-4thThe 4th of July has been a hard holiday to miss. You might not think about it being that important of a holiday, but when you think about it,  there are only 2 holidays that are specifically American holidays where we celebrate our country and we we came from. The first being 4th of July and the second being Thanksgiving. I missed Thanksgiving when I studied abroad in Spain and it was really hard to miss that holiday but CIEE Alicante had a Thanksgiving Dinner for us and that totally made it feel like Thanksgiving. I’ve never not been home for the 4th of July before. And there isn’t much you can do to celebrate the 4th if you aren’t in America.

Normally, my mom and I have a cookout. Sometimes my aunt and cousins are there too. We grill hamburgers and hot dogs, make potato salad, have watermelon, lemonade, and of course we always watch fireworks. Fireworks are my moms favorite part, so we’ve been to see most of the ones in the area from Clinton to Sylvan Beach to Old Forge. I love fireworks too actually. You only get to see fireworks once a year, maybe twice if you are lucky. So fireworks are special.

Here in China we had to work on Friday July 4th. It was a normal day. On Saturday all my friends and I got together in Hongyadong. We ate Subway for lunch, sat around at a cafe on the river, talked and played Uno. Then we went to the Chinese market below us and got to explore an old part of town. It was a pretty good day actually. It was nice for all of us to get together and spend time celebrating in our own way.

It was sad hearing about everyone’s Fourth but whatcha gonna do? I’m in China for another 6 weeks and even though it was sad and I miss everyone, I’m not going to waste my time here sulking and being sad or depressed. That’s not me and I’d miss out on life. I hope y’all had a great 4th of July and that you appreciate what it means to be American and how important appreciating that is. Not everyone is as lucky as us and you would not have the things you do if it wasn’t for our ancestors.

Here’s what I showed my class because I now know that Disney has the best fireworks and I want to go watch them one day before I die.

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Chongqing Summer

Summer weather in Chongqing is ridiculous. It’s hot and it’s humid. It hasn’t even been a “true” or “real” 7-Infrared-SaunaChongqing summer yet. It gets up to 40C or about 120F ewww! The month of June was pretty unusual for Chongqing. There were 24 days of rain and the highest temperature was maybe 89 degree Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius. It was pretty humid throughout the month but the rain made it feel like a warm New York summer but with rain. Then July comes around and bam the sun starts shining. I shouldn’t complain because I’ve only actually seen the sun maybe 7 days total since being here, but damn it’s hot up in here.

temperature_2334980bThis week it has hit 96F and 98F or 35.5C and 36.6C. And besides that it has not only been sunny, it has been humid. The walk to and from work has been like hell. It feels like you’ve been lying on the beach all day in the hot sun, but you’ve only just stepped outside. And exercising? Pleaseeeee, it’s like being in a tropical jungle with you’re whole body drenched in sweat. Even after finishing you’re workout, you’re still sweating until you can reach your shower and turn that cold water on.

And of course, AC has become my best friend. I never turn that thing off. Well ok, to save money on electricity I turn it off when I go to work but THAT’S IT!!!! I live for AC now because really who can stand being outside unless absolutely necessary? No one, even the Chinese avoid the sun and heat like the plague. They have an unfair advantage of having grown up in this weather and of not sweating like us foreigners.

Chongqing is actually called one of the Furnace Cities in China because it get’s so hot. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached those peak temperatures yet. I hope to God we don’t, but well this is China and you know after our month of rain, it’s going to come back with a vengeance.

Note to self (and everyone) Don’t come to China in the summer!! It’s not only expensive to travel but it’s HOT as hell.

 

 

 

 

Jared sums it up pretty well. So go take a look!

 

Zhangjiajie- The Avatar Mountains:

After work on Thursday Jared and I went home to finish packing, make sandwiches, eat dinner, and make our way to the train station. Our train left at 7:21 and went from Chongqing to Huaihua. We would arrive in Huaihua at 4:30am and then catch our train to Zhangjiajie at 5:30. At least that’s what we thought. The first train from Chongqing to Huaiahua left 10 mins behind schedule. The train ride was rather smooth and the trains were not bad at all. Our students had said they could be really bad but actually they were quite comfortable. There were maybe 30ish beds per train car. Each train car is divided into 5 or 6 sections and in each section are 6 beds. 3 beds lined each wall: 0157a876f44c12cda0ae4c575b170d21d460c2af951 bed near the floor, 1 above that in the middle, and 1 closer to the ceiling of the train. We had the middle beds.  There were little kids under us that were demon children. Within 20 mins of boarding the train, 2 train attendants asked to take a picture with me. They were women so I was a little confused because they normally want to take a picture with Jared but hey that’s better for me haha

We arrived in Huaihua over an hour late. So we thought we missed our train to Zhangjiajie. We arrived in Huaihua to find out our next train was delayed 2 hours. We waited and it became 3 hours and then there was no time at all. We had to exchange our tickets for a train that left at 9:13 which was the time we were supposed to arrive at Zhangjiajie, now we wouldn’t arrive until 12:34pm on Friday June 27th.

So we arrived in Zhangjiajie and weren’t exactly sure how to get to the park. We ended up taking a taxi and this guy tried to get us a tour guide. The tour guide guy was hardcore trying to sell us a tour, but it was expensive and I can navigate myself. He tried telling us that they don’t speak Mandarin because the people in the park are all minorities. Then he said that they hate Americans and that without a guide you would get lost and never find your way around. Well, let me tell you that was all BS. We navigated, found our way and talked to people in Mandarin just fine.

When we got to the park, we bought maps that had all the trails on it and we just followed that. It was pretty easy actually. The first thing we saw when we stepped into the park was MONKEYSSSS. Lots of them! I actually took more pictures of monkeys than the mountains right in front of me. I mean come on, monkeys or mountains? Def monkeys every time.

Anyway once we got past the monkeys, we saw how beautiful the park is. There were trees, a river, the mountains above us, grass and it was nice to be in nature. It was like being in a forest with a tropical rainforest jungle feel. It was hot and humid but thankfully that first day wasn’t that hot at all and it was cloudy. I haven’t seen that many plants and animals since I arrived in China.

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The first hour or so was a pretty nice hike because it was mostly flat with some incline going up, but the second and third hours were tough. I’m not the most active person but I do go to yoga and I run on the treadmill at the gym and I walk A LOT. The hike during those 2 hours was just stairs going up and around the mountain. It was a very tiring and sweaty hike. I think I sweated off 5 pounds doing that hike, but when we finally got to a platform to look out over the mountains I forgot all about that torturous hike and was in complete awe. The mountain makes you work for it but it was so worth it the moment my eyes saw the view.

It is the most incredible place I’ve ever been. I’ve travelled a lot but I mostly saw cities. The only place that was even close to Zhangjiajie was Slovenia’s Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj but they were picturesque and gorgeous whereas Zhangjiajie is magnificent and awe-inspiring. Zhangjiajie is so amazing that I don’t know how anyone can even question whether there is a God or not. I know there is a scientific explanation for  how Zhangjiajie was created and there were several signs explaining that there, but I personally don’t think that anything that marvelous and astounding came to be all by itself.

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Once we finished the rest of the hike up to our hostel, showered and ate some dinner because we were starving, we went down the path next to the hostel and looked out over the mountains while enjoying a nice cold Tsingtao beer. The next day we walked to the bus stop and took the bus to the other side of the park. On the way to the bus stop we saw rice fields and people going to work in the fields. While we were on the bus we saw some great views of the mountains. The roads were really windy and the bus driver was driving way faster than he should. It was kind of scary. Chinese drivers already aren’t the safest drivers but those bus drivers take the cake for worst driving, although we didn’t die or get into an accident so I guess I can’t complain.

The other side of the park was even better than the side we hiked up. There were dozens of platforms to look at the mountains and even though they were all similar they weren’t all exactly the same. While going down to one of the lookouts I got cornered taking pictures with random Chinese people. I was just minding my own business taking a picture of the mountains and then the next thing I know I have a line of people wanting to take a picture with me. Seriously. No joke. Being foreigners we always get asked to take photos with random people but Zhangjiajie has the record so far. I personally had like 15 people take a picture with me or of me within 10 mins and together Jared and I took at least 5 more pictures with people.

We tried to take the cable car down the mountain but it was broken L and we had to hike down. It wasn’t that bad because we were going down and we did get to see more nature and more views of the mountains for the first half of the way down. The second half was pretty boring actually because there wasn’t anything cool or interesting to look at and it was just stairs down. Towards the end there were some rivers and mini waterfalls which were pretty. And we saw a creature we never saw or heard of before… it was like a bug but it was white and walked around like a peacock with his feathers on full display the only thing was this thing was about the size of the nail on my pinky. We made it to the bottom, hopped on the bus to the exit, and then walked to the bus station to catch a bus to the train station. Once back we went to McDonald’s for some much needed lunch and to chill out for a while before our train. Once we got on the train it was smooth sailing till we arrived back in Chongqing Sunday June 29th at 6:45am.

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Plans for the Future

So you may or may not know that I applied to work for the Spanish government in their Cultural Assistant program and was accepted. I have decided to go and I will be in Castilla La Mancha from October to May/June.  It’s very exciting to be going back to Spain. I love speaking Spanish and I am beyond ecstatic  to see my madre and my Spanish family, including the CIEE staff in Alicante! It’s a very exciting opportunity for me.

This program is great for a few reasons.    1) I get paid 700 Euros a month (euros to usd=$$$)      2) I only work 12-16 hours a week and I can do private lessons on the side   3) This is the easiest way to get a visa to live in Spain and work at the same time because technically this is an internship study program. So at the end I get some sort of certificate    4) I get to live in Spain AGAIN!     5)  I’m going to be travelling Europe love love love this     6) My girl Jenna, who I studied abroad with, will also be in Spain  7) I’ll get to spend a lot of time with my Spanish family!

I have to go through the whole visa process again from getting another background check to going to NYC for the visa appointment. And of course I’ll be starting up another blog to share all my experiences! I haven’t come up with a name yet, so if you have any idea’s let me know!

But that all happens when I get back. Right now I’m just working- teaching English  and planning the trip with my mom in August. That will be a trip of a lifetime and we’ll have many stories to tell.  And I’ll share them right here with all of you!

Likes and Dislikes  

As we get closer and closer to the end of my time and China, I’m beginning to think about the things I will miss and the things that I hope I never have to see, hear or deal with again.

Don’t get me wrong China is a great place to live. It isn’t anything like you’d imagine. In fact, it’s like living in any other big city besides everything being in Chinese. I really like living in China. Of course, I have those days where “I hate China” but truthfully I like life in China. China is a communist country and they monitor the internet, so I have to use a VPN just write on this blog and use Facebook.

I work for the government, and if you’ve read my 2 posts about my company you’d know that it is unpredictable and changes constantly. I love my students but I don’t really like my co-workers besides Jared, I love Jared. Thankfully, the extra class we had has ended and the Philippine lady has come back to work so our work load has gone back to normal. (See my previous post Working at Chongqing Multinational HRM )

I get paid alright for what I actually do but sometimes I do not get paid enough with all the changes going on. I like how cheap everything is. So I don’t have to spend a lot of my monthly paycheck because it is so cheap here. Food is super cheap, taxi’s are cheap, and my work pays for my apartment and my lunch every day so I have it pretty good. I don’t need much money to survive here so I’m saving as much as I can. (aka spending money on traveling to places like Hong Kong 2 months ago and Zhangjiajie/Avatar mountains this weekend SUPER EXCITED)

I’ve made a list of both good and bad things about living in Chongqing. There are obviously good and bad things about every city and town. China is no different and even with all the things I will never miss about living here, I will miss many things and I will especially miss the friends that I have grown so close with over the last 4 months. I believe that the people we meet truly make a place feel like home. I can say that  the family I’ve made here in China has made this my home for the past 4 months. I will be sad to go, but there are exciting things in my future.

Things I like:

1. Everything is so cheap (especially food, and healthy food)

2. Life is like anything other city, besides the Chinese

3. There are so many places to travel to

4. Chinese people are so friendly and welcoming to foreigners

5. Learning Chinese

6. Cutest little kids on the planet

7. My students, I seriously love them!

8. All the friends I’ve made… Jared especially, idk what I’d do without you man.

9. There are Wal-marts, Metro’s and Carrefour to buy all kinds of foreign foods

10. I’m lovin the veggies and the spicy food

 

Things I don’t like:

1. Summer is H-O-T with a double T and HUMID to the double D

2. Chinese tones are hard to learn

3. People spitting everywhere… all day every day

4. Seeing little kids butts all the time/ seeing them go to the bathroom on the street

5. Everything is last minute AKA work (see any of my 3 work posts)

6. Ehhh work

7. The smog… where is the sun?

8. Was that a cockroach? Crapppppp

9. China is hugeee….Not enough time to go everywhere

10. Why is everything an organ or body part when you go out to eat with Chinese people?

11. I have to boil all my water (not fun when you just want to put some water in your coffee pot in the morning)

Working at Chongqing Multinational Part 3

And the saga continues…

I told you China has issues especially when it comes to working. The longer I stay here the more I hate my job and my boss. I love my students but this work environment is ridiculous.

The newest issue was that Jared and I were almost screwed out of our over time. In the month of May, not only did we have an extra class for ground staff or people who want to work in the airport which gave us more classes, the other foreign teacher also just randomly took 2.5 weeks’ worth of leave without notice. So Jared and I had to cover her classes as well. This was our busiest month so far. We worked double what we were supposed to be working according to our contract and even though it wasn’t pleasant and we didn’t want to do it, we knew we would get some nice overtime pay. That day came last Friday when I was called into the office to discuss my overtime. I was told my overtime pay would be 180 yuan or 30$. I was outraged and on the verge of loosing it and crying at the same time. I controlled myself but even arguing with them about it they just kept saying “this is how it is”. They wanted me to sign a paper saying it was ok and I said no and walked out. I found Jared and explained the situation.

Basically what I was told was that no matter what time we arrived or what time we left, we only got paid between the hours of 9-11:40 and 1-5. And besides that, we only get paid if we are teaching. Of course Jared and I were never told that and we had previously gotten overtime in the amount of 1200 yuan or 200$. They said we get paid by class no by hour and again we were never told that and our contract says we get paid by hour.

 Jared and I were furious and we had a meeting after lunch and basically we argued some more and said it was non-negotiable. We don’t work and not get paid. So they accepted and we got the overtime we deserved because really what could they do? We weren’t going to be doing any more teaching unless we got the money we deserved. We said we understand all the rules now, especially since you’ve just laid them out 20 times and we will follow them. These rules didn’t exist before and even if they did no one was ever told about them.  I was especially upset because they tried to blindside me and they didn’t want Jared and I together. They had come and gotten me while Jared was teaching and I was alone in the office.

 So now, we are only at work from 8:55-3:3pm. And we have gotten 3 pages worth of new rules that they want us to sign but Jared and I have no intention of signing because it’s not only ridiculous but we get deducted money for EVERYTHING! No I don’t agree and no I won’t sign that. I have 2 months left, I don’t need to be told what uniform to wear on what day and I will not wear the same uniform for like 5 days in a row that’s gross. And I’m not gonna say it’s ok for you to deduct money from me because of that. If I didn’t have only 2 months left, I would have quit already. Our office is just always changing and there is no consistency. Our boss is a conniving woman who treats everyone with disrespect. When all the arguing was going on about the overtime, our boss didn’t even look up from her computer screen or try to participate in the conversation. My answer to everything is no now because 1) I don’t make enough money for this crap 2) you couldn’t pay me enough to stay 3) I don’t want to put in extra work 4) I’m not appreciated and my boss just wants to cheat me out of money and deduct money from me for retarded and ridiculous rules that she doesn’t even have to follow.

 Jared and I emailed our program coordinator Kelvin, who is awesome, and both our emails were the longest emails you’ll ever see. We were and are very unhappy with our company and our boss. And now that Kelvin knows what has been going on, he too is upset. He has called the lady in charge of CIEE participants in Chongqing and they are in the office next door and they too are upset. So there have been meetings and there are more meetings. I’m sure there will be more meetings and actually we just had one today where they said they just wanted us to be happy.

We came to the conclusion (after they repeated the same things like 20 times) that there needs to be more communication. I came up with the awesome idea for a handbook, who would have thought, and they are going to include everything about the job and related to the job in that. Jared and I will be writing normal things related to jobs in America so they know and that there can be more communication. We also are coming up with a list of things we like and dislike so that they can try to accommodate us and we can combine Chinese and American culture. They told us to just talk to them when we have a problem (20 times) because that was the problem honestly. They never tell us anything so we never know and everything gets completely messed up and confusing. I feel better after the meeting because it wasn’t just our boss, the dragon lady, but another boss from a different department and some other people. Our boss is still as bad as I said but the rest of the company is great. Seriously, it is just our department. I love Miss Liu, the boss from the office next door and her staff because they are all so nice and we have made friends with them.

Oh well, I have less than 2 months left and I am so excited for my mom to come to China, to go home, to see all my friends and family, and then to jet off to Spain. Yupp. That’s right. You heard me right. I’m going to Spain. Sometimes, I can’t believe that this is my life and all the amazing things I get to do. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate life and we have to stop and enjoy the little things in life because it is so easy to get caught up in life and forget about all the things that make us happy. Life is too short not to enjoy it and for me travelling is what I love. I can’t wait to see my madre again because I have missed her and speaking Spanish and that European lifestyle.