11/20/17

Living in China without ayi

Life before

From Summer 2016 until Summer 2017 we had a full-time ayi, a nanny who took care of our daughter, cleaned and cooked. She lived with us five days per week.

During that year we got so spoiled! Dinner was always on the table when we got home from work, Anna liked playing with ayi and ayi would help out in the evening too if I wanted to sneak to the movies with my husband.

But then came Summer 2017 and our ayi started to talk about leaving, she said she could consider staying with a higher pay, but we wanted to check our options first.

We realized salaries for ayi had increased a lot, best ayis were now 6000rmb per month! Luckily we found a nice daycare where Anna now goes four or five days per week.

Life after

So how has our life in Guangzhou changed since we don’t have an ayi anymore?

Before I often worked until 6pm and got home at 7pm, now I finish before 5pm so I can get to daycare on time to pick our daughter.

Before my husband worked long hours, for months he did the night shift. Now he started working for him self as well, making his working hours very flexible. He is now the one who stays at home when Anna is sick and takes care of her every Saturday when I’m working.

Household work and cooking is done by both of us. During the week my husband is in charge, on weekends we often clean and cook together. During the week we often cook for two days at a time or prepare meat and vegetables the day before. During Winter hot pot has become our favorite as it’s easy to prepare.

The biggest difference is that as me and my husband are either working, taking care of Anna or doing household chores, we rarely have time for the two of us. “Let’s watch a movie when Anna is asleep” has become a joke, I usually fall asleep when I put Anna to bed!

Now that we don’t have a babysitter in hand, we decided once a month to have a date day. Our daughter usually doesn’t go to daycare on Mondays, but once a week she does. So me and my husband hit the gym, have lunch and watch a movie. Then rush to the daycare to pick up Anna.

Why to have or not to have an ayi?

If both of the parents are working it’s definitely good to have an ayi. Work days are longer in China and with the traffic it’s often late when a working parent gets home. In general apartments also get dirty fast so cleaning takes more time than in Finland for example.

Having an ayi is also a way to minimize and family debates on who does more household chores!

Our decision to not have an ayi anymore is mostly financial, we rather save money than use it all to ayi’s salary. Anna’s daycare is cheaper that hiring a full-time nanny.

Luckily our flexible jobs allow us to manage this without having help. I admit it would be difficult if my husband still worked such a long hours as before.

All in all it’s busy years for us juggling work and family, but for now we can do it without an ayi. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend to hire one if possible ;)

10/21/17

Week of a Chinese Teacher Entrepreneur

I was just reading a blog post by a Finnish blogger where she listed all the work related things she did that week, I wondered it would be fun to do the same! Recently I’ve also noticed that many people are quite surprised to hear that as a foreigner I’m teaching Mandarin Chinese full time here in Guangzhou.

Lets see how a typical week of a Chinese teacher and entrepreneur is like!

 

Sunday and Monday

 

My husband’s very first carved pumpkin!

These are my days off and I spend them with my family. I occasionally prepare for lessons in the evenings after our daughter is asleep, but most weekends I feel asleep the same time as she does.

 

Tuesday

 

Learning Chinese characters

8:00 I arrive to the office every day between 8:00 and 8:20, I eat breakfast and prepare for the lessons.

8:45-9:45 I have my first lesson of the day, a private lessons with a beginner level student.

10:00-11:00 Chinese Characters 2 course with three students. We review the character components we have learned so far. As a homework I give them a short story to read.

11:00-12:15 Lunch hour while preparing for the coming lessons. Usually lunch takes half an hour and the rest of the time I can prepare classes.

12:15-13:15 First lesson with a new students. We do a HSK mock test to determine her level.

13:30-15:00 Surprisingly I have a Finnish lesson every Tuesday! Two students, one of them married a Finn and another one has a Finnish boyfriend. Finnish lessons always takes more time to prepare than Chinese lessons.

15:30-16:30 Last private lesson of the day with a HSK4 level student.

After lessons I hurry to the daycare to pick up Anna or if my husband picks her up, I use the last hour to prepare for lessons.

 

Wednesday

 

Lots of HSK3 students on Wednesdays

8:00 I arrive to the office and have breakfast.

8:30-9:30 First private lesson of the day, we are studying characters because she wants to take HSK3 in the future.

9:30-11:00 Second private student is soon reaching HSK3 level and we are progressing fast with the textbook.

11:00-12:00 Early lunch

12:00-13:30 A HSK3 group class got cancelled and I use the time to write my blog and prepare for other lessons.

13:30-14:30 Wednesdays are full of HSK3, another private lesson with level three student.

14:45-15:45 Private lesson with a HSK4 level student. She tells me good news in Chinese, she got a job offer!

After class I again prepare for coming lessons. Our daughter is sick at home with my husband so I go straight home.

 

Thursday

 

Professional Women Night Out

Thursday mornings I often participate in Guangzhou Women’s International Club (GWIC) events, if no events that day, I use it to prepare lessons, write WeChat articles or blog posts.

13:30-14:30 Private lesson with a HSK4 student, she has two lessons every week.

14:30-15:30 Private lesson with a beginner student, also two lessons each week.

15:30-16:30 Another private lesson with a student. Today we learned how she can communicate with her ayi (cleaning lady)

I stay at the office preparing for lessons and go to an evening networking event organized by GWIC.

 

Friday

 

Most of my students take HSK to reach goals

8:15 I arrive to the office and have breakfast as always, then I prepare for lessons.

9:45-10:45 Beginners group with three students, we started learning how to order coffee at a coffee shop.

11:00-12:00 A group lessons was cancelled so I use the extra time to have early lunch.

12:15-13:15 Group class of two students who have passed the HSK1 and are planning to take HSK2.

13:30-15:00 A private lesson with student at HSK3 level, she also takes lessons twice a week.

After classes I prepare for lessons and go pick up our daughter from daycare.

 

Saturday

 

GWIC Shoe and Bag Sale

8:00 I arrive at the office and have breakfast.

9:00-10:30 First private lesson of the day with a HSK4 student, she will be taking the exam in December.

Between lessons I rush to the bakery to get something to eat.

11:00-12:00 A group of teachers studying beginner level Chinese, usually their lessons is later on the day, but tonight they have special plans. We learn how to take a taxi in Chinese.

12:00-13:00 Second private lesson today where we learn time words in Chinese.

13:30-14:30 A second group of teachers, we learn how to order coffee in Chinese.

After classes I visit another GWIC event, this time a charity market. After the event I buy lunch/dinner from the supermarket and come back to the office to rest, prepare for lessons and write this blog post.

Later tonight I have another networking event organized by InterNations, after that it’s finally a weekend for me!


Besides what I listed above, I also use time to write lesson feedback of all the lessons I have taught and also make sure that the part time teachers working for me have written their feedbacks as well. I also keep an eye on the progress of the students that I don’t teach personally and offer guidance to the teachers. Lots of time goes to lessons planning and creating extra exercises for students according to their needs. Answering questions of old, new and possible students takes time as well. Luckily my husband is now helping me with management and finances of the company so I can concenterate on teaching and improving the quality of education.

That’s it! Next week is gonna be even busier, so lets have a good rest this weekend!

10/19/17

There is no place I’d rather be

I’ve been living in Guangzhou since March 2010 and it’s often been a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. I’ve gotten my dream wedding day here, I’ve stayed in a hospital for over a week. I’ve struggled to make long term friends and then found my place with amazing women who share the joy and struggle of living in another culture.

Now that I’m soon starting my ninth year in Guangzhou, I feel I am coming to a peace, I have found my place. My small family is healthy and happy, our daughter is in a great daycare and in the weekends we enjoy taking her out to explore or just stay at home cleaning together. Now at almost 2 years old she is such a fun person to be around!

Me and my husband are working together in our business. He is in charge of management and finances, I’m in charge of teaching and promoting. We have grown from teaching at coffee shops to having our own office in the center of Guangzhou. A small office, but an office nevertheless! We are approaching our 50th student any time now.

Regarding friends I have found other long-timers who are married to Chinese men and have young children as well. We have all lived in Guangzhou for years, some of us over 10 years. And most likely will stay in for the foreseeable future as well. When moving to a new place, especially into a new culture, it really makes a huge difference to be able to meet friends who are in the same situation as you are.

For making friends I’ve found GWIC, Guangzhou Women’s International Club, to be huge help! I’ve made so many new friends through coffee morning and afternoon teas. I’ve explored new places in Guangzhou and even started my own club inside the community.

The best season has started in Guangzhou, the Autumn. Temperatures are between 23 to 28 degrees, it doesn’t rain that much and the sun isn’t as scorching as during the Summer. If one wants to travel to Guangzhou, October to December is definitely the best time to come!

There are always new challenges coming when living in China, but right now Guangzhou is the best place to be. For me at least.

Until next time!

10/6/17

Where to go with kids in Guangzhou – Lingnan Impression Park

There are many great places to visit with your family or kids in Guangzhou, after today I’m going to add Lingnan Impression Park to the list. I was a bit worried if it would be just a fake theme park, but it actually had everything needed for a fun day with the family.

Lingnan Impression Park  岭南印象园 is located in University Island, just half an hour drive from the Guangzhou city center. Tickets are 60rmb for adults and 30 for kids, small kids get in for free. Many discounts are available if you book in advance through group buying apps.

The area is big enough to spend half a day, we ended up staying for five hours, but 2-3 hours can be enough too. The village main street is the busiest, but even today on a holiday it wasn’t too crowded. Areas around the small lake were quite quiet during morning and lunch time, offering some peace and beautiful views.

The main street offers a few restaurants, coffee shops and plenty of Cantonese culture shops. All the traditional art forms are present here, including Lingnan architecture, sugar painting, paper cutting, Cantonese opera, costumes and so on. The park is full of great spots for photos!

The park is located on the spot of the original Lianxi Village. Fok family temple is one of the oldest, constructed in the Ming dynasty and renovated in 2002. There are a few other old buildings as well, but mostly is newly built replicas that continue the Lingnan architectural style.

During the day there are several shows being presented around the area, including puppetry, dancing and Cantonese opera. You can visit several temples and replicas of private houses to get a glimpse on how the wealthy lived back in the ancient China.

Don’t forget food! The main street is full of small food stalls and there are at least three Cantonese restaurants in the park. Coffee shops serve ice cold drinks and ice cream is available no more than few  steps away no matter which part of the park you are.

Besides getting to know the Lingnan culture, the park is also a big playground for kids! There are several play areas for kids of different ages. Huge sand pit, climbing, slides, catching small fish and even a splash pool that is open during the Summer holiday.

Kids will enjoy the playgrounds for sure, no matter what age! Anna’s favorites where the slides and playing with the sand.

These slides have to wait a year or two before we let Anna go in them, but luckily there were smaller slides and climbing nets for the toddlers as well.

All in all we enjoyed our day at the Lingnan Impression Park a great deal. We didn’t get to visit any of the museums or temples, but today was all for having a fun family day so we spent our time at the playgrounds. Next time we want to visit the farm side and see the small animals too, this time Anna’s nap time didn’t allow us to see everything.

More family friendly sights and activities in Guangzhou coming soon!

10/3/17

Mountain Escape Yangshuo – Hotel Review

Bedroom on the second floor

It’s time to go back to our trip to Yangshuo and introduce our peaceful and amazingly renovated hotel!

Mountain Escape Yangshuo is located in the ancient Yulong village, about half an hour from Yangshuo city and one hour from the train station. The courtyard has a history of at least 80 years and has only four beautifully renovated and furnished rooms. Chinese style with Western luxury and comfort!

Bathroom

When we first arrived we were chanted by the old brick houses, so similar to our own house! But when we opened the door to the courtyard and then to our room, we didn’t believe our eyes! And old black brick house was fully transformed into a modern hotel room but still had the history of the building intact.

Guest room first floor

Our daughter Anna was especially fond of the huge bath tub which fit all three of us at the same time! Now I got to say that this isn’t exactly a family hotel, the rooms all have queen size beds but no room for a cot or bed for a child. Luckily Anna sleeps with us so that wasn’t a problem!

Rooftop terrace

We were really impressed when there was a knock on the door and a beautiful woman in blue and white qipao offered us their special cold drink and small gifts. She even asked us what our preferences were for breakfast. (The actual breakfast served didn’t fully follow the paper form they asked us to fill though.)

Hotel courtyard

The hotel courtyard consists of several buildings including for guest rooms, offices, owner’s living quarters, restaurant and a rooftop terrace. As we live in a Chinese style brick house too, but only 40 years old, we were inspired by the decorations and elegant style of the hotel.

Dinner and lots of desserts!

Breakfast, and desserts, were Western style, but dinner was simple but delicious Chinese cuisine. We really enjoyed the food there and stayed in for dinner both evenings. The owner even prepared his hometown noodles for our daughter when we mentioned how much she loves noodles.

For breakfast we had toast, bacon, eggs, vegetable rolls, sausages, vegetables and fruit. The variety wasn’t as much as it seemed on the “pick your breakfast” paper form, but it was tasty and enough to fill our tummies.

Me and Anna, Sunny from Bike Asia and Gary the owner of the hotel

What we missed was a hotel leaflet that would introduce the hotel, services, the village and things to do around there. I always enjoy reading these service manuals no matter where I stay.

The wifi connection also wasn’t that good in the rooms, especially in the first floor. It was easy to connect but the connection got cut off often. Good for relaxing, but bad for us smartphone addicts.

I would definitely recommend this hotel for a romantic get-away for a couple without kids who enjoyed peace and quiet. If you want to experience the beautiful nature of Yangshuo, but stay away from tourist crowds, then Mountain Escape Yangshuo in Yulong village is a great choice!

* Hotel stay sponsored by the hotel