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Mitä aiot tehdä isona?

We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

11/6/16 05:37 pm - Girls just want to have fun

You know, one thing I've been really struggling with for years is making time to do mail related things. I don't even know why it is so hard for me to reply to letters on time, it's not like I don't HAVE time. Sure, I'm busy with a lot of things, but I also spend a lot of time reading the paper or magazines or stuff like that, or watching series on Netflix. That time could just as well be spent writing letters or signing slams, which is something I actually enjoy more. It's quite embarrassing really, the pile of letters on my desk. Not so much the size of the pile, but the fact that some letters have been there for over a year. And the longer they sit there, the worse I feel about writing back, and the less likely I am to pick up my pen.

I also don't make time for drawing. I love drawing. But I never do it. I don't know why. It's the same mechanism as writing letters, really, I do HAVE time, I just don't use the time I have to do it. Instead I do things I enjoy less and that don't make me feel as good. I always feel like a slob when I spend too much time watching TV or reading magazines, but somehow I always end up doing that. Why don't I do the things I really enjoy? It's the biggest mystery of my life. Does anyone else have this problem? 

3/8/12 12:03 pm - The staring

(Just posted on www.rapturina.com)

There is one thing I was rather apprehensive about before coming to China to live in a city where a foreigner is still an anomaly: the staring. When I was in India last year the amount of people staring at me drove me crazy, so I was worried it’d be the same here in China (I could obviously never be a celebrity!).

People in Yantai have seen foreigners before, but it’s not like this is Beijing or Shanghai, where foreigners have become more or less part of daily life (or so I’ve heard). I suppose here in Yantai it’s still kind of special to see a foreigner on the streets, so people do stare a bit sometimes. I don’t find it as annoying as I was expecting though, so that’s a relief! People don’t really do anything but staring. Some of them might do a double take as I walk by, and some might yell “hello!”, but that happens maybe once every two weeks. Not *all* the time, like they did in India, and they don’t want to constantly take pictures of me either or try to sell me stuff, so it’s not a problem at all.

Mind you, the staring is actually a lot worse when I’m out and about with my fellow teacher Simone, who has dark skin and dreadlocks. She’s much more of an event than I am, I’m just a boring white person, which suits me fine. :D

Having said that, being a boring white person is one thing, a running white person is apparently a lot more exciting. Yesterday morning I went for a short run along the beach and some cars would actually slow down beside me to have a good look at the running foreigner, which I thought was rather funny. I was too out of breath to really care anyway! A word of warning to my former colleagues in Tilburg though: I was wearing my Tilburg University hoody, so you will have to mentally prepare yourselves for a big inflow of students from the general Yantai area next year!
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2/22/12 09:06 am - Home sweet home

(just posted at www.rapturina.com)

A few days ago I finally moved into my own apartment, hurrah! I’m very happy with it, it’s only a small apartment but for one person it’s perfect. Once I get all settled in I will take some pictures, I promise. :D

I now live only five minutes away from the beach, which is very nice. I can actually see the beach from my window! I live on the 16th floor so the view is pretty nice. There is a building right in front of me, but if I look to the left or the right, I can see the beach. And if it’s a clear day I can see the downtown area as well.

The past few days I have been mostly busy with buying things for the apartment and contemplating where I should put things. I finally emptied my backpack and suitcase and stored those away, but most of the stuff is still scattered around the apartment. I always need some time to figure out what would be the best place for some things. The apartment is furnished, but only with the basic things. So I have a pink couch and a coffee table, but I had to go out and buy things like plates, cutlery, towels, cleaning stuff, etc. So that’s mostly what I have been doing since moving last Thursday.

The couch, by the way, is big enough for a person to sleep on, so everyone who is interested in visiting is now cordially invited to come and sleep on my couch whenever they want!

I’m also trying to get more into a routine. Ever since I left the Netherlands I’ve been acting like I’m on holiday, sleeping as much as I want and going to bed at whatever time I want and all that, but now I think I need to be a bit more strict for myself and go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, just to get a bit of a rhythm. I also want to get started on really learning Chinese now. I think today I will start with the numbers and how to say “How much is it?”, as those are the most important right now, with all the shopping I have been doing!
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2/14/12 12:53 pm

Some pictures of the area where I live now can be found at www.rapturina.com, and at my Flickr page. If there is anything specific you would like to see, just let me know and I'll see what I can do. :D

I have been writing a lot of letters lately, which has been a lot of fun. It's good to finally have some time to focus on letter writing. I have missed doing that over the past couple of years! Letters are going out to littlewhisk, scatterhearted and a non-LJ friend today. Then I only have to reply to celandine_belle and superkattis and I will have no letters left to write! Shocking!

It's quite possible that I owe someone else a letter, by the way. If that's the case, let me know!

2/7/12 11:19 am

(Posted on www.rapturina.com last night)

The Chinese really seem to love fireworks, mostly the noisy kind… Today is the last day of the Chinese New Year’s (CNY) celebrations and there have been fireworks going off everywhere for hours now, it’s really crazy. And if it’s not fireworks, it’s car alarms being set off by the fireworks (to give you an idea of how loud it is!). I just read online that two weeks after CNY the Lantern Festival takes place, which officially concludes CNY celebrations, but I haven’t really seen any lanterns today. I don’t think they really do the lantern thing here, just use it as an excuse to set off more fireworks. Mind you, they have been setting off at least a couple of fireworks, all day, every day, since CNY started two weeks ago, so you’d think they’d get tired of it by now, but apparently not!

Anyway, it’s kind of strange, I’ve only been in Yantai for a little over a week now, but it feels like it’s been much longer! I suppose the first couple of weeks in a new place are always kind of slow. I’ve seen most of my students by now, and taught my first lessons. For most classes not a lot of students actually showed up (and the classes are pretty small already, my biggest class has 10 students in it), but at least I got to do some teaching and test the waters. I teach several different age groups. The youngest are 6 years old and are going to be quite a handful. I have to teach them for 2 hours on Sunday mornings and even at that hour they are wide awake. They’re very cute and sweet (they keep hugging me all the time), and like to speak English, but they are very loud as well. My other classes are mostly kids between 10 and 12, and one class with teenagers (13/14 years old). I have one adult class too, but they’re all younger than me (though one only by a few months!), which is kind of depressing. :D Anyway, so far, so good. I’m struggling a bit with how to entertain the really young ones, and general lesson planning, but I think that’s normal for someone who doesn’t have an awful lot of teaching experience. I think it’ll be a pretty steep learning curve, but I’m optimistic things will get easier at some point!

Today Simone and I took the bus to downtown Yantai for the first time. Where we live is sort of a suburb of Yantai proper, and it takes about 20 minutes to get to central Yantai. It was quite an adventure taking the bus as we didn’t really know where exactly to get off the bus, but we managed in the end. I had already checked out the busroute on Google Maps beforehand, so I had a vague idea of what we could encounter on the way, which helped a lot. Downtown Yantai is not particularly exciting, but it has more shops (even a Walmart!) and it was nice to see something new and just walk around for a bit. There are a few sights in the city according to my Lonely Planet, but I think I will save those for when the weather gets better. There’s not a lot to see, and I’ve got all year to do it, so I’m taking my time. :D

2/1/12 11:25 am - Hello from Yantai

(I keep forgetting to cross-post to LJ... This is the latest blog entry, more can be found at www.rapturina.com)

Well, I’ve arrived safe and sound in Yantai. The journey from Hong Kong to Yantai was pretty smooth, no problems at all getting into China, so I was all worked up for nothing, as usual. :D

I arrived late Friday night and my boss came to pick me up at the airport. It was nice to meet her finally after sending so many e-mails back and forth and she’s quite chatty, so it was a nice welcome. The first night they put me up in a hotel as I arrived so late, and then the next morning they took me to Simone’s apartment. Simone is a fellow teacher and I’ll be staying at her place for a while until they have sorted out an apartment for me. I have no idea how long that will take, but so far Simone and I get along fine, so it’s not a bad arrangement. I would very much like to get my own place and get settled properly, but it’s also nice to have someone to talk to. Arriving in a new place can be pretty lonely!

I’ve been at the school a few times over the weekend to meet the other teachers and get an idea of the place. Everyone is really nice, but things seem a bit chaotic. They have given me the books the students are using and I’m taking over the classes of a teacher who has left by now, but nobody knows where exactly in the books the students are at the moment. That makes it a little difficult to plan lessons at the moment, but I think I will just do some games and colouring sheets during the first class to get to know the students a bit better. Once I know their level it will be easier to plan! Everyone at the school is really relaxed, it seems like you can do pretty much whatever you like during the lessons. You need to use the books, but there’s a lot of time for doing other things as well.

Yesterday I was supposed to teach my first class, but as it’s apparently still school holidays a lot of people are not in town, and none of my students showed up. That was pretty disappointing, as I was all ready to go and looking forward to getting started. I have another class this afternoon, but I’m not sure if that is going to happen. They’ve told me the attendance should pick up again next week, so fingers crossed I might actually start teaching soon!

I’m teaching two classes (one kids, one adults) on Tuesday and Thursday, and then one class (kids) on Wednesday. On Saturday I teach three classes (all kids), and on Sunday two (again all kids). So Mondays and Fridays are my days off. It’s not a bad schedule, all classes during the week are after 4:30 pm, so I can do a lot of things during the day before having to go to the school. So far, so good!

I haven’t seen much of Yantai yet, just the area around the school and the apartment. The school is right on a big shopping street, with a lot of restaurants as well, which is very convenient. It’s pretty cold here at the moment, under zero degrees and it has been snowing quite a bit. Everyone is saying it’s a warm winter though, so apparently it should actually be a lot colder. The beach is quite close, about a 15 minute walk from the school and it’s very quiet down there, compared to the hustle and bustle and general craziness of the shopping street.

I’m feeling a little lost as everything around me is in Chinese and I can’t read anything, and it always takes a while anyway before you can find your way around a new place. I’m sure the feeling will pass once I get the hang of the place though. :D
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12/26/11 01:23 pm

So far Christmas has been pretty uneventful, but that's good, I guess! On Christmas Eve we went to Almere to my brother's house to have dinner with everyone together, which was fun. I always enjoy it when the whole family gets together, there are always interesting conversations and lots of laughter. Yesterday, on Christmas Day, Selmer and I went to Hoek van Holland to walk along the beach for a while, which was very windy, but nice. Then we cooked dinner and watched "Love Actually". Well, I watched "Love Actually" and Selmer pretended to watch while sneakily looking at his phone or e-reader all the time. :D

And today is Boxing Day (or second Christmas day as we call it in Dutch, "Tweede Kerstdag"), and tonight we're going to Selmer's aunt & uncle to have another Christmas dinner. After that Christmas is finally over and we can all go back to normal, thankfully!

With Christmas behind us I will also get started on the final preparations for China. It doesn't yet feel like I'm moving to China in three weeks, I've been so busy at work and now with all the Christmas stuff going on. But tomorrow and next week everyone will be going back to work, and I won't, so I suppose that's when it will hit me. I don't have an awful lot left to organize, just some paperwork and I still need to arrange my visa (minor detail...), and pack my bags. I also still need to buy a ticket, but I'm waiting with that until I've arranged my visa. I've been looking at ticket prices over the past couple of weeks and they've been pretty stable, so I think it's better to wait with booking until I know for sure when I can leave and I won't run into any delays. It's a little stressful for me to wait so long with booking a ticket, but I think there will be more stress if my visa is delayed and I won't be able to actually leave on my departure date!

My last week at work was good, I still had quite a lot of work to do, so I was busy until pretty much the last minute, but that was also because my boss gave me Friday off rather unexpectedly. Officially I had to work right up to Christmas break as I don't have any days off left (I'm using them all to not have to work all of January and still get paid!), but some of my colleagues felt bad I would be the only one working on Friday afternoon (everyone is taking time off), so they convinced my boss to give me the Friday off for free. Which is a very nice gesture, but also meant I had to finish everything a bit quicker than I had originally planned. :D Still, I did most of the things I wanted to do, only one or two minor things weren't done, but that won't be the end of the world for my colleagues after Christmas Break. :D On my last day I finished everything and then cleaned out my drawers and shredded a few final things, and then that was it. I had dinner with a colleague at the campus cafe and then went home, my last time on the train from Tilburg to Rotterdam. It's all a bit bizarre, really. I just spent four years of my life going back and forth between Tilburg and Rotterdam and putting most of my energy into my work, and now I don't have to do that anymore. I will miss the job and my colleagues, so I'm a little sad, but I do still feel like it was a good decision to leave. No regrets yet!

10/27/11 04:36 pm

To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo? That is the question...

I've had such a good time doing NaNoWriMo last year that I really would like to do it again this year, but I fear the timing is even worse than last year. There are several other, more important, projects I really should be focusing on (like learning Chinese!), instead of writing a novel... But I have such a good idea for a new story this year! I'm actually looking forward to sitting down and working on this idea, but I guess it's going to have to wait for a while. I'm sort of assuming I will have much more free time once I'm in China in a few months (less working hours and definitely less time going back and forth to work), so it's probably a better idea to move the novel writing forward a few months. Despite it being much more fun in November...

So despite it being an extremely difficult and boring decision: no proper NaNoWriMo for me this year. I will however embark on an alternative project that matches my other priorities at the moment and keeps the spirit of NaNoWriMo: I am going to write something in Chinese. Obviously not a novel, as my Chinese currently consists of "My name is Maaike" and "I like China", so 50,000 words is completely out of the question. But perhaps a text incorporating the things I've learned so far and will learn in the next couple of weeks? I think 500 words should be doable. That's only 17 words per day. Maybe it can even be a very simple short story. Maybe it can even have the same basic plot as the novel I have in mind. We'll see!

So here is my challenge for National Novel Writing Month: write 500 words in Chinese between November 1st and November 30th, that form a somewhat coherent text. I will post the full story here on December 1st (with the translation). It's on!

10/23/11 04:03 pm - I have a job!

Big news: I have found a job in China! After the interview I mentioned in my last blogpost I had another Skype interview with a second school. I asked for e-mail addresses from current teachers at both schools (apparently that’s common practice when trying to find an ESL job in China) and I spent about two weeks e-mailing back and forth with those teachers. In the end I decided to go for a small private language school in Yantai. The teacher I was talking to via e-mail was very enthusiastic and Yantai seems like a nice place to live. So I accepted the job there, and I start January 30th!

It’s quite an odd notion to have found a job in a place I’d never heard of before, in a country I’ve never been to, but I guess a lot is possible with a little help from the internet!

The internet is also very helpful when trying to get an idea of the place where I will end up. I saw on Google Maps that Yantai is a coastal city, and that there are a lot of Korean restaurants, a shopping mall and a KFC in the area where the school is located. Wikipedia has been able to tell me a bit about the city and its history. The city has its own website as well, even with some English content. And, there even is a website geared towards expats living in Yantai! At least I’m getting some idea of what it’s like to live in Yantai and it’s no longer a complete black hole. :D

Crossposted to www.rapturina.com.
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9/20/11 06:46 am - The board is set, the pieces are moving

If you can guess where the quote in the title comes from, I’ll give you cookies.

Even though it still seems to be quite early for someone wanting to start work in January, I have now officially started looking for a job in China. Two days ago I’ve sent out four applications and I already had two positive responses, one of which I just had a Skype interview with. I think it went okay, it’s always really hard to tell. I’m quite pleased with how I did, it was a nice conversation and I had a fairly intelligent answer to the interviewer’s questions. It was a short interview, only a little over 15 minutes, but the connection was quite bad, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad sign. :D I’m glad it’s over though, I always get rather worked up about these things and I slept quite badly last night. I’m tired already and my day hasn’t even started yet! Guess I’ll be drinking lots of coffee today… They promised to send me the e-mail addresses of one or two of their teachers so I can speak to them and ask more questions, and they said if I’m still interested after that, we would take it from there. A bit vague, but positive, right?

The other positive response came in just as I was doing the interview and is also quite promising. I’m rather charmed by the text of the e-mail, they said “I’m very impressived of your resume. As you said you are new to the ESL field, but I do believe you are very potential to be a qualified ESL/English teacher after I read your resume. It just by time!” Cute, no? :D

So, all in all I’m off to a good start, I think! The school I talked to today sounds really promising, so it would be great if that would come through, but even if it doesn’t it seems it would not be so difficult to find something else, especially considering my actual preferred starting date is still months away!

(cross-posted to www.rapturina.com)
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