A Week at Home: Scrapbook #5

I got home from China last week, and at the weekend, my family and I celebrated by having Christmas! All of the grandparents came over, and I was able to give them their gifts from China, and tell them all about my trip. Missing Christmas this was especially hard, because I know how lucky I am to have all my grandparents, and I realise that every year spent together could be our last. That sounds morbid, but what with recent health scares it’s something I have to come to terms with.

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I also got some lovely gifts, including some new pants and a Christmas candle set. My room now smells like a pine forest.

The English weather has been gorgeous this week, with warmer days and beautiful stormy skies. I have had a couple of walks out in the fields (how I missed them), and have been enjoying seeing all the British birds. I saw this song thrush when I was getting dressed one morning and literally dropped everything to get a picture of it. I posted this photo (and many more) on my new birding and wildlife blog.

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Perhaps my greatest achievement this week: I finished my crocheted blanket! It adds some lovely colour to my room, and I can just picture it thrown over the back of a sofa when I eventually get my own place.

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I have also made some steps towards organising my future. I have a job interview later today to be a cleaner. I think it would be really handy, as I would be self employed and able to pick when and where I worked. It’s not the most aspirational job, and to be honest, I was embarrassed to tell people about it. I’m trying not to let their judgement pull me down (I’ve held back tears more than once since I told people). But this is not the end goal, and it pays better than my retail job. I can’t worry about what people think, and what assumptions are made about jobs such as that.

What is important is that if I get it, it will help pay for my course! I am so excited to start learning more about animals, and continue learning German. I hopefully will also have time to do some volunteering. There is a shelter for retired greyhound dogs near where I live and they need people to walk them. If only I could get paid to do something like that!

Of course, the best thing about being home is being able to hang out with my best friend. She doesn’t judge me, and she helps get rid of some of the stress I am feeling about the future. Making calls, changing jobs, and meeting new people are all things that I find incredibly difficult. It’s the little things like my cat, crafting, and nature that help me through.

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China Review

I am back! I am home! My China adventure has ended. I thought I would take a moment today to reflect on the experience, the ups and the downs, and see where I am in my life now.

What has going to China taught me? I have certainly learned to challenge myself, in every aspect of everything. I have challenged my independence, proved that I can do extraordinary, scary things by myself, and create fantastic experiences and memories for myself. I have challenged myself socially, by living with other people, entering into a new work environment, talking in front of large groups of people are working with children.

I don’t have one stand out experience that I can label as my best experience. However, I can say that it was an overall positive experience, which I am very happy about.

The first few days, and weeks were certainly a highlight, hanging out with my flatmates and realising that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. We went out to eat, see the city, played cards at home, and generally had a really fun time. It was the first time in a while that I had properly laughed and enjoyed other people’s company.

I really enjoyed my second trip to Suzhou. Simply being alone, doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, was a delight. I know I spend a lot of time alone, but there’s always the people I live with or work with there in the background, and in Suzhou it was just me. I loved having a hotel room that was all mine, and with an en suite so I didn’t really have to leave my room, and I enjoyed an evening vegging out and eating good food.

There were also many lovely moments with the children I was teaching. I particularly enjoyed the baby class, which was basically singing and dancing with adorable pre-school children, but it was nice being able to talk, play and laugh with older children as well. I thought I would really struggle to b confident enough in front of the kids, and while it took me a while to warm up, I eventually got there.

My worst experience was probably the situation that arose with a particular flatmate. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was over Christmas and New Year, when I was missing spending quality time with my family, and it exacerbated my feelings of melancholy. Overall, I was very lucky, and I think I have been cured of my fear of living with other people.

Not necessarily a bad experience, but something negative that turned out to be amazing was my second day in Nanjing. Nanjing was not my favourite trip. I was travelling by myself (because of the whole flatmate situation) and I felt down and unmotivated. On the second day, I got to Linggu temple, having not had a proper breakfast, as there were no places to eat near my hostel, and I was not enjoying myself. I was really questioning what the point of travelling was if I was just going to different places, taking photos, and leaving without having fun. However, when I got to Linggu pagoda, and climbed to the top, I looked out, and despite the smog and crap view I felt really happy. I realised that it was quite amazing that I had climbed to the top of this tower After that, I had a really great day simply looking at all the touristy things and living in the moment

That was China, so what’s now? I have realised being in China and being surrounded by bilingual people that speaking another language is both useful and rewarding. Sp, I am currently trying to relearn German, which will maybe lead to some trips to Germany, and maybe a job over there.

I also want to do some kind of course to tackle another one of my big anxieties: education. I have found a zoology course, and an ornithology course, that look interesting, now all I need to do is make a decision and go for it. Alongside all that, I am hoping to get a part time job to cover the cost of my education and maybe have a bit left over so I can travel.

This seems like a good time to let you know what other projects I have on the go. I have another blog dedicated to birding and wildlife photography, where I have shared lots of photos I took in China of birds, and I have been sorting through all the pictures I have of British birds and wildlife, which will be going up all this week. As ever, I am making ASMR videos on YouTube, and still really loving it. You might find it helpful if like me you suffer from anxiety. Finally, I still have my Etsy shop where I sell all my crafts. I am having a bit of a sale at the moment to celebrate my return, and you can use the code OPEN10 for 10% off.

Okay, that’s all the plugging I will do for a while now! China was amazing, and I feel that it really gave me perspective on my life and what I want to do. Now, I am looking forward to moving on and growing, and being happy. Here’s to the next chapter!

Shanghai Part 2

Before I flew back home to the UK, I had one last trip back to Shanghai. I felt really comfortable, as I knew my way around the centre pretty well. In addition, I was staying in a room all by myself, which is a luxury that I always look forward to.

On my first day I went to Century Park, the largest park in Shanghai. The plum blossoms are just starting to bloom, and there was a whole section of the park full of beautiful pinks and whites, along with a few yellow osmanthus trees.

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I was also treated to one final bonsai garden before I left China. They were all in blossom, which only added to the effect. I think now that I am back home, I may have to invest in a bonsai tree of my own. They are just so cool!

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Some of the trees had multiple coloured blossoms, this one I thought was especially stunning. I’m not sure what causes it, but the effect is lovely

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The next day, I went to the Shanghai Natural History Museum. Natural history museums are my favourite, and wherever I go I make sure to visit the local one. I do have a some criticisms of it, as there were some live animals in the museum, which I didn’t know about beforehand (and was disappointed to see), and I was not overly impressed with the quality of the exhibits in Shanghai. It was also the kind of crowded that I’ve only ever encountered in China. However there was an interesting exhibition on extinction, and an amazing rocks and minerals exhibition. The museum was very big as well, so there was lots to see, and overall, I had a nice time.

The museum was located in the Jing’an sculpture park, and although I didn’t spend much time there, I did really like this sculpture against the city backdrop.

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I then walked to old town. I did some shopping and had my last baozi, which were sweet red bean flavour.

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After I had a final walk along the Bund and down Nanjing road, which is the first place I travelled to in China. It felt like a fitting end to the whole trip.

All of my photos are now up on my Flickr  in an album, which you can see here. This is the final chapter in my Chinese adventure, but I am looking forward to  whatever adventure comes next!

Last Week in China: Scrapbook #4

By the time this is posted, I will be getting ready to leave China!

During the last part of the Spring Festival break, I didn’t have an awful lot to do, so I decided that I would go out for a walk everyday. I walked around the downtown area, and locally in my favourite park that is only a 15 minute walk from my apartment.

Even though it is still very cold here, the plum blossoms have already started to appear. I learnt that they are the national flower of China, and they are very beautiful.

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On my last proper day in the office, my colleagues and I went out for Korean food. I don’t think I’d ever had it before, but I thought it was delicious. I got rice and vegetables that came in this piping hot stone bowl. You then add a spicy sauce, and stir it all together, and the heat of the bowl cooks the food, and keeps it warm. I think it works better if you have something that needs to be cooked, like a raw egg on top, but it was cool nonetheless.

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Over the past weekend I had my final lessons, and while I discovered during my trip that teaching is not my calling, I am going to miss the children. I went to one of my flatmates classes on Saturday to help out, and we had a great time doing a quiz and some crafts with the kids. I could have taken the afternoon off, but I found that I wanted to go to the lesson instead. I think that shows how I have grown since I have been here, and improved my social skills.

On Sunday, I had my final class with one of my favourite students. He is a bit cheeky, but very bright, and we always have fun in our lessons. I was surprised with how sad I felt once the lesson was over, and I had to leave the office for the last time. I am very excited to go home, and for my visit to Shanghai before that, but it has been a wonderful experience working in Nantong.

I will of course be posting some photos from my short stay in Shanghai once I am home. However, apart from that, this chapter in my life (and by extension my blog) is over.

PS. If anyone is interested, I have been doing a sort of secret project whilst in China, all about birds! You can take a look here if you are interested in that sort of thing, and I will be continuing it when I am back in the UK and beyond!

 

Should Trump be allowed to visit the UK?

Since Trump’s inauguration, it seems like every day another nightmare comes true. He is signing executive orders endangering women, Native Americans, and Muslims.  It’s easy, especially in countries overseas, to feel powerless against what seems like unchallengeable power.

The Muslim ban is a disgusting development. I really can’t believe that Trump is so delusional that he thinks banning normal people, Muslim people, will stop terrorism. Who does he think the refugees are fleeing? Who does he think are being killed in countries like Syria? Extremists are killing Muslims, they are persecuting Muslims, and we need to protect these people and offer them asylum in our countries. His hypocrisy is clear particularly when it comes to Saudi Arabia, a country not on the ban list, even though it has proven links to the 9/11 attacks and a violent religious regime. It is sickening.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do in the UK, and with an imminent state visit, I think I have some ideas.

I really want to see other countries starting to speak out against Trump, and I certainly do not want May or the British government to be supporting him. If the visit from Trump does go ahead, I think it will be a really sad day for British Muslims. What message will the government be sending out to them? In reality, the message will be quite similar to the one sent out when we allow visits from Saudi leaders, because business is more important than human rights, apparently.

I think major pressure from world leaders will be a good way to force Trump to stop his extreme policies, and hopefully prevent further discrimination. I think this might be something we could do in countries that are not the USA, by protesting and putting pressure on our governments not to accept Trump while he is making these horrific executive orders

I am looking forward to being back in the UK and able to add my voice to the protests. I would also love to hear your opinion. What do my American readers think about all this? Are you protesting? What can we do to oppose this?

My Favourite Podcasts

This post is long overdue! I love podcasts.  In fact, I don’t really watch TV anymore, as I much prefer listening, as opposed to watching, my entertainment. So, in no particular order, as I really can’t fairly them, here are some of my favourite podcasts.

  1. Sword and Scale

I listen to a fair few true crime podcasts, but Sword and Scale is definitely the most gripping. It tells the stories of real life murders, but it really tells them like they are stories. The narrative, and the use of recordings from police interviews and trials completely immerses you. The episodes that got me hooked were 79 and 80, which are pretty much entirely recorded police interviews of 2 different people. I don’t want to spoil it, but I started off not knowing what was going on, much like the people being interviewed, and the revelations that came about during the course of the episodes were so engrossing.

  1. Made of Human

This is a really cool podcast made by the comedian Sofie Hagen. I started off listening to her other podcast The Guilty Feminist, but the format of that show started to bore me a little. When I heard she was making another podcast, I decided to give it a listen, and it was definitely worth it. In the Made of Human podcast, Sofie sits down with one of her friends, usually a comedian, and they talk about mental health, growing up, politics, basically lots of interesting personal subjects. It’s funny, and it’s intimate, and I really like how it feels as if you are listening in to someone’s conversation in a quiet little cafe. It’s also very thought provoking, and I would particularly recommend the episodes she did with Susan Calman, which really got me thinking.

  1. Woman’s Hour

I like to joke that I’m secretly 60 years old, what with my crappy knees, my love of birding, crochet and sewing, and preferring to stay at home with my cat over going out. My love of Woman’s Hour is an extension of that, and I only make that joke because it’s something my Gran has always listened to. In fact, they cover a lot of really interesting topics, such as feminism, politics, lesbianism and even veganism in one recent episode.

  1. The Right Dishonourable Podcast

This is one of my favourite political podcasts. The hosts, Jazza and Jimmy, talk about politics, mostly British, and engage in some friendly debates. I don’t align entirely with either of their politics, but that is why I find it so interesting. For example, they each voted differently in the EU referendum, which made for some rousing discussions. It’s also very accessible, and as someone who admittedly sometimes struggles to read the news and understand all the current issues completely, it’s nice to listen to two normal, albeit intelligent, people talk about politics.

  1. Feminist Current

This is another political podcast, but this one has a radical feminist stance. I listen to a few feminist podcasts from across the spectrum, but what I like about this one is the interviews that they do. Megan Murphy, the creator, interviews real women affected by feminist issues, as well as lots of older feminists who have experience campaigning for women’s rights for many years. My only criticism is that it doesn’t have a regular upload schedule, so sometimes you have to wait a month or so for a new episode.

  1. Serial

How could I not include Serial in this list? Serial is probably the first podcast that I binged on, and the first that got me into true crime. It is incredibly well produced, and another that has a very strong narrative. The first series covers the murder of Hae Min Lee and the resulting conviction of Adnan Syed, and the second follows Bowe Bergdhal, a US soldier who deserted and was then held as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. I did prefer the first series, but both were very engrossing and detailed looks at two interesting cases.

  1. My Dad Wrote a Porno

I have never laughed at anything as much as this podcast. I have almost had accidents in my car from listening to it, tears streaming down my face, my stomach in absolute agony. The premise of this podcast is that one of the creator’s dads wrote an erotic novel, several in fact, and he and his group of friends decided to sit down and record their reaction to it. The abbreviated title of the novel is “Belinda Blinked,” and it’s an awful novel, completely contrary to all my feminist beliefs, but listening to Jamie, James and Alice rip it to shreds is fantastic. They also all have amazing laughs, so you can’t help but laugh along when listening.

  1. Answer Me This

Finally, an old favourite. Answer Me This is my podcasting comfort blanket. It is hilarious, and Helen and Olly are endearing and articulate presenters. The concept for the podcast is simple: listeners submit questions and they answer them. It is very light hearted and enjoyable, but you also learn some pretty cool, obscure facts.

I hope that I have introduced you to perhaps a new favourite podcast, or at least something interesting. If you have any podcast recommendations, I would love to hear them!

 

Happy New Year! Scrapbook #3

I had a busy weekend of work last weekend, but this is me playing with one of the kids before class. He beat me. Twice. Next weekend is my last teaching in China, which is crazy to me. It has gone by so quickly!

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I have had the rest of the week off, and went to a few touristy spots around Nantong with my new flatmate. First of all, I took her to Wolf Mountain, which is probably the best thing to see in Nantong. I have been before, but it was still fun to climb again.

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Next, we went to Nantong Museum, which is a quirky little museum in the centre of Nantong. It was comprised of a few different buildings in a park, with a main exhibition hall, and a nature hall which contained a “whale thematic exhibition.” It was essentially a mini natural history museum, with a few sad taxidermy birds.

Below is the pavillion out on the water. You had to walk across a zigzag bridge to get to, which seem to be quite popular in Chinese architecture. It led to a weird building that had motion sensor lights and old photographs on the wall, but it was all in Chinese. It was a bit creepy walking through it, having these old faces light up whenever you went near them. We didn’t stay in that room for too long.

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After the museum, we went to a restaurant which is the only place I have had spring rolls in China. Spring rolls are one of my favourite snacks, so I was disappointed not to have had more whilst being in China.

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My flatmate then went travelling, so I have had the flat to myself over Chinese New Year. Last night, at midnight, there were an incredible amount of fireworks and firecrackers going off. I went out onto the balcony and in every direction the sky was illuminated with flashes. I’m not usually fussed with fireworks, but the sheer number being let off was quite impressive. Less so as we got into the early hours of the morning and I was struggling to sleep, and all of today when the constant banging has gotten a little irritating.

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Lastly, I was feeling really good about myself today, so here is a rare selfie.

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Happy New Year!