The day I became an illegal alien.

Some lessons I learnt about the trials of coming home.

  • Check your visa status. My visa for legally being in China expired June 24. My ticket home was split across two journeys, one from Beijing to Guangzhou at 1730 – 2045 on June 24, and one from Guangzhou to Auckland at 0030 – 1600 (+1) on June 25. Already Chinese Customs saw a slight mathematical problem. I was going to be an illegal alien for half an hour.  I was warned to go through Guangzhou Customs very quickly, as once you’re in no-mans-land you’re technically out of such jurisdictions.
  • 7kgs overweight check-in baggage equals NZD $200 fine. I wish suitcases came with a built in scale in the handle to show you how much it weighs as you pack.
  • Travel pillows are the difference between passing out on a plane and genuinely sleeping for at least two hours. Beer also aids the sleep process. Abuse the free alcohol.
  • Free wireless in airports is great, but don’t mess with the password system or it will lock you out and you will be forced to people watch in airports. TIL: people in airports are the epitome of weirdly dressed individuals.
  • Pack your carry-on with laptop accessibility in mind. You will feel like you are the one individual who holds up the entire security line if you don’t. Tip: cameras are also another tech accessory that need special security scanning. (Why you would make a camera shaped bomb is another question entirely).
  • Chinese security are genuinely very nice and don’t make you feel like a hindrance.
  • Unless you have scissors in your bag. In which case they become very protective.
  • Always clean out backpacks you use on a daily basis before packing. There could be a sneaky pair of scissors. Or eighteen (inside joke).
  • Chinese do not understand space. We were herded onto a bus that connected us to our place (BJ-GZ flight) and naturally they all head for the first of three doors. I walked to the end door of the bus and stood in the back as I watched the first third of the bus become more and more like a sardine can. Finally the driver said something in Mandarin I can only think is the equivalent to ‘you idiotic morons, move down to the very back!’ And finally all was well.
  • Delayed planes can really mess up an already sticky visa situation. The first plane was grounded for as long as the film ‘Great Expectations’, the one starring Helena Bonham Carter, takes to screen, which was almost three hours (terrible choice China Southern, terrible). Finally after four hours from original take-off time it finally taxied onto the runway and took off.
  • Chinese kids are too damn smart. One six year old wunderkind whooped his mum in xiangqi (a chinese variation of chess that has cannons!) and was always five moves ahead of her.
  • It is totally acceptable to stand and watch people play cards/chess/any game on any Chinese domestic flight.
  • Four hour flight delays means you definitely miss your connecting flight.
  • All English supplied in China is purely courteous. To my knowledge (and from my limited Google searches) English is not a registered official language of Greater China. So for all you foreigners (I’m looking at you large obnoxious Danish man I encountered), who complain about the service provided (which I thought was exceptional given it was 1am and hotels are hard to access at this time), remember what country you are complaining in and that there is no one language to rule them all.
  • Being a solo white female traveller has its perks – you are the only one allowed a room to yourself in the hotel the airline provides you with when you overstay your welcome (silly weather).
  • A good way to kill time in a hotel – slow mo videos.
  • Smiles are a universal currency, and also a good way to score free breakfast lunch and dinner courtesy of the friend I made at the front desk.
  • Sometimes being a solo white female traveller sucks, I’m looking at you random Nigerian guy who approached me asking what flight I was on. ‘Err, I’m from Paris’ (bolt).
  • China is a stickler for the details, almost detained because of visa, finally allowed to board the plane I PAID FOR TO GO HOME because the manager actually thought it was a good idea.
  • China doesn’t believe in duty-free alcohol. Much sadness was felt.
  • Airbuses don’t always come with in-flight entertainment.
  • If you are on a Chinese airline and can speak some Mandarin, use it to talk to the flight attendants (for food, drinks etc). They genuinely get a real kick out of it.

Job interview questions.

So I might be moving to Beijing.


And this thought (irrationally) terrifies me.


Update: I am progressing upon the idea of not working at 43 Middle School next year. I cannot deny that it has been a great learning experience, but the time has come for me to move on to something that gets me closer to what I actually want to do.


(I’m not sure exactly what it is I want to do, however a change of pace usually gets me closer to it; do not attempt to dislodge this logic as it’s all I have going for me).


I have had two prospective work places contact me so far. One is for a high school graduate training school in Shijiazhuang. The other is for an oral English teacher in Kede College, Beijing.


Pros for Shijiazhuang:


I know the city already.

The city is very cheap to live in.

I have friends here.


Pros for Beijing:


Hi-tech art school (with their own fricken 3D cinema mayun).

Two days work for twice the money I currently make.

Capital of China.


They both have their respective cons as well, but I want to look on the bright side of life when making this decision do doo bedoop bedoop bedoooop.


But I must pause on this discussion, and write the reason for today’s post:


Today I had to give a demo lesson to the job in Shijiazhuang. They gave me an elementary level book that they have in their curriculum (published by Oxford, so already very promising), and asked for a half hour lesson to be provided. So I biked over with a .ppt in my pocket this afternoon and showed them what I came up with. There were no students to test the lesson on, so I had teacher’s sit in and watch/discuss my methods and approach to the book. One teacher, and the main character of my story, was named Liam.


Liam arrived late (already promising) but was polite during my lesson completion. At the end, when we had time to discuss various points, he was very interested in listening to a native English speakers opinion to how the Chinese textbooks continuously have damaging English mistakes, which permeate within the entire English development of China.


Then this question appeared.


“Are you religious?”


While somewhat taken aback, I answer truthfully and said “No.”

His reply to sum up was “That’s great, most of China is not religious either.”


I have had this question before, and while it is a little rare it’s still something foreigners are expected to be asked once or twice in China.


Then another question, “What is your blood type?” Again a little taken aback I say “B negative.”


“B is what a lot of Chinese are!”


Ok this is getting weird. But then conversation resumes back to the job so I think the strangeness is over.


Alas it was not. The grand finale, complete with a dead-pan serious face, “What is your star sign?”




“Ah, the fire sign, I knew it.” And he proceeded to rattle off the many reason he knew I was a fire type. (I didn’t know I had stumbled into Avatar). Then he asks, “What do you think I am, I’ll give you a hint, I am a water type.”


And so my brain, not knowing how to play this game, automatically things Aquarius, logic being aqua=water=correct.




The look of sadness and horror as I said this to him is unbelievable, and hard to describe using the limited vocabulary I know.


“Aquarius is an air type actually.”


Well shit son, my bad.




So that’s a quick update about my brain. Chat to me, what school do you think I should look into? I’ll put on record saying I would be immensely happy with the Kede College job. My inhibitions are currently stuck in the whole ‘moving to another place where I know absolutely NOBODY’ phase. How do I get out of this, any tips guys?


Until next time, China you stay classy (and crazy).



















“It smells bitter”.

These words were said by a Chinese friend of mine, well, technically she is my boss for a weekend job, but she is too chill to put into that category so I now upgrade her to ‘friend’ status.

“How strange”, I thought, “can you use the word bitter to describe smell?”
“And if not”, I continued, “What word is there to compare this scent?”

For two minutes I sat in silence in their car. Here I am, a native English speaker, perplexed by such a short, strange, statement.

This made me feel rather inadequate, as I am contractually hired to be an Oral English Teacher.

Uh oh.

As it turns out (agreed upon by a few foreigners I spoke too) the word ‘bitter’ is a little awkward to use when describing scent. The closest word we could think to use was ‘acrid’.

This is one reason I love working as an English teacher in China. The amount of strange English questions I encounter is fascinating, and makes me want to learn more about his language I’ve supposedly mastered. Yet, I feel sorry for the kids, as I cannot give them a proper definitive reason why the word ‘companion’ is better than ‘companies’ when describing the affection felt for a dog. I know that one word is correct, but I do not know why I feel it is.

How is it that I learnt English so well, but this school system in China is so inadequate? What did I do that was different? I wish I could remember. China needs this more than ever if it is to become a global powerhouse. They need people who understand intransitive verbs, and how Past Perfect tense expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past (it can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past). I enjoy my job immensely, but I cannot stay here forever, as I will be detrimental to the advancement of English is this environment.

I am paid to be interesting, and nothing more.

(However it is still a wonderful way to spend my early 20’s time and I couldn’t wish for a better experience personally).

What is your opinion? Do you think experiences in different job environments aids you? Should what you study be ‘the’ definer in regards to jobs you undertake, or should you look outwards? Can you really learn on the go? I’m interested in what you have to say.

Thanks again for reading.