From Ballinasloe to Beijing, By Irene Dolan

So I am living in Beijing for nearly four months now, and it’s been some journey! I come from a very small town in Ireland so moving to Beijing was a big step. I finished studying Social Care in 2016 and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I decided one day that I would do a TEFL course and see where it took me, and here I am, in China!

My first couple of weeks were crazy; getting used to people staring, spitting and the squatter toilets. I am used to being stared at, but the other two – I will never accept! These are the only negatives I have to my experience so far.

The people are great, and the food is great – although sometimes the meat can be a bit dodge I do enjoy the food here. The flavors are great, sometimes oil is used a little bit too much but hey, it’s tasty! It can be fun ordering in a restaurant – usually it involves me pointing to a picture and hoping whatever I have ordered is edible, but I’ve been very lucky so far. It is also very cheap to eat out, so I rarely cook dinner. Cooking can be awkward as I don’t have an oven, so I crave lasagna, oven roasted vegetables, roast chicken etc. from time to time.

If you are into having a good time and enjoying a drink, China is the bee’s knees. Everything is cheap. We live about 45 minutes taxi ride away from the big party area called Sanlitun, but they have bars and clubs that cater for everyone. There are other areas like students areas which I prefer myself and they are closer! “DiDi” is a great app to get – it allows you to order a taxi and you can follow it on the map. Sometimes they ring you and the fear sets in that I won’t understand so usually I hang up and send them a text message.

The language barrier was a big worry for me. People try to talk to me in the lift and I have no clue what they are saying. So I just look at them and say I don’t understand in Chinese (I’m not going to attempt to spell that word!!) I have started Chinese lessons which are provided by Aihua. I’m slowly but surely learning. I don’t expect to be fluent, but to know the basics.

I have not been a great tourist as of yet – a lot of my days off have been spent sitting on the couch watching TV, a waste really – but I’m here for a year (at least) I went to Temple of Heaven – it was nice, but I got a little bit bored there after seeing a couple. But that’s just me! I did hike uphill the Great Wall and went camping. It was a tough hike carrying a big bag, water, tent, etc but it was worth it. The views were incredible, it was so much fun meeting new people and we partied until the early hours! It wasn’t that expensive either.

Getting around China is graaand. Between “DiDi”, buses and the subway you can manage. The subway is easy to follow. I bought a bike at the start of the year so I used to cycle to work, but now I have a scooter so I am in my element. Cycling/scooting on the China roads is very daunting at first. People walk out in front of you, car doors open and cars can turn right on a red light. So you have to have your wits about you – but you get used to it. Also get used to cars beeping their horns, sometimes it goes through me. Some people beep just for the sake of it. It can be quite annoying.

Working for Aihua has been great. The Chinese Teachers are very nice. Everyone is more than happy to help – I was unfortunate enough to lose my phone and bank card, and the staff at Aihua were very helpful bringing me back and forth to phone shops and banks. You never feel alone. The apartments are great, we all live near each other it’s like a little community.

Overall I am really enjoying my experience, I probably left out quite a few things that I wanted to talk about but this will do. 

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