12/30/17

30 things about me

1. I have lived 27% of my life in China. I moved here in March 2010 and have only been back home for holidays.

2. I’ve only had four boyfriends, only the first one Finnish and the last one is my husband.

3. I have studied Chinese for roughly 10 years, that’s one third of my age!

4. My favorite sports are snowboarding and horse riding, but haven’t done either since I moved to China. Now there is a horse riding stable close to my home!

5. I moved out from home when I was 15 because I wanted to go to a high school specialized in creative writing. That has been one of my best decisions in life, writing is still part of my life.

6. I hate saying no to new students and that’s why my teaching schedule is so full I rarely have time for lunch.

7. In primary school I read a lot of novels about kids/teens solving small crimes. I wanted to start my own kids investigation group too! I don’t think we solved any mysteries though…

8. I have studied taiji on three occasions, first in Finland around 2007, then during my BA degree and finally during my MA degree. Those were compulsory taiji courses for me.

9. My parents lived in Beijing in the 80’s for a few years and moved back to Finland few months before I was born. So I was in China before I was born!

10. My first website I created was in middle school and it was a virtual horse stable, those were super popular at that time. It had photos and introductions for each horse and you could virtually take care of them and write a diary on the site.

11. I Failed my first HSK test in 2010, but now I have the highest HSK certificate which is level 6.

12. My very first job was to distribute commercial leaflets, after that I have worked as a supermarket cashier, cleaner, telemarketer, charity worker, museum assistant, overseas purchage assistant, freelence copy-writer etc

13. Cities I’ve visited in China include: Beijing, Pingyao, Xi’an, Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo, Shanghai, Foshan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Haikou, Sanya, villages in Guizhou province, Jingdezhen, Hangzhou, Suzhou, water town Tongli and Wuzhen, Hong Kong, Zhuhai.

14. I’m from a small city with a polulation of 20 000 people, I always thought Helsinki was too big for me, but then I moved to Guangzhou that has a population of 2.5 times the whole of Finland. And I don’t think Guangzhou is too big at all!

15. I have taken two courses in Cantonese at the university, but haven’t continued it since. My husband’s family is Cantonese and I prefer to stay out of all the family drama that is being held in their native language.

16. Speaking of languages I have studied Swedish and German both for 5-6 years, but have forgotten both completely after moving to China.

17. I have been on Chinese TV show once and it was a fun experience though I’m not a fan how fake everything is.

18. I learned not to curse in Chinese after I got one taxi driver super mad for basically nothing. After all, I don’t like cursing in any language.

19. As a kid my dream jobs were hairdresser and animal care-taker.

20. I met one of my best friends through my blog when she sent me an email saying “I’m moving to Guangzhou and I have Finnish chocolate with me”.

21. My best friends in Guangzhou are all married to Chinese men and have mixed kids.

22. My favorite Chinese dishes are spicy cabbage, mapo tofu and eggplant with long beans.

23. Summer 2005 I took my first one week course in Chinese language, but I started studying more actively only in 2008 when I started university in Finland.

24. I love taking photos of doors, I must have hundreds of pictures of old and rusty Chinese doors.

25. Places I want to visit in the near future are Macao and Yunnan province.

26. Longest time I’ve been away from Finland is 2.5 years, looking back I’m not even sure why I stayed away that long. Now I must go back every year, in the future hopefully twice a year.

27. I loved being pregnant because no need to suck your tummy in! I gained 20kg, but felt super condifent and loved the belly. Being pregnant in China also always guarentees you a seat in public transportation.

28. I met my husband when a bunch of friends got together to cheer up a common friend who had just broken up with his girlfriend. Me and my husband just couldn’t stop talking!

29. I had only one student today (everyone else is traveling) and I love being at the office all by my self for the whole day! As a mother of a 2 year old, I don’t get to be alone at home anymore.

30. I feel good at being 30! I’ve never wanted to be younger than I was, as each year gives me more expriences, hopefully a little bit of wisdom too. During the coming year there are a few challenges I want to overcome and a few dreams to pursue. More on those later!

Happy Birthday me!

12/4/17

A 2-year-old learning Chinese and Finnish

When our daughter started speaking she spoke mostly Cantonese as she was home with a nanny a lot. But now Mandarin had completely replaced it and Finnish is a good second.

At home I speak Finnish with Anna and my husband speaks Mandarin. She goes to daycare where she hears both Mandarin and Japanese. Cantonese she hears once a week at the grand parents house and English occasionally when we meet friends.

Anna has now clearly entered a phase of rapid language learning. She is starting to form sentences like 佩奇睡觉 Peppa is sleeping and 佩奇哪里啊 Where is Peppa. Yes, Peppa Pig is hugely popular at our household.

In Finnish she isn’t forming sentences yet, but knows a lot of words. Some words she only uses Finnish, some she knows in Mandarin as well. Anna calls me mama (mother) in Chinese and only just today said äiti (mother in Finnish) after I told her to use that term. Not sure when she will change to äiti for real.

Anna doesn’t separate the languages yet in a sense that she would speak only Finnish to me or only Chinese to daddy. Of course she knows I understand Chinese too. And my husband have learned some Finnish from Anna as well!

Right now Anna is big on giving orders: syö (eat in Finnish), 坐 (sit in Chinese) just to name two. She had strong opinions and preferences as well.

Anna likes to look at pictures and say the names of items and animals, if she doesn’t know it she will ask us. She likes repeating what we say and is learning new words almost daily.

We feel Anna had a bit of foreign accent in both her Mandarin and Finnish, but it’s a first time for us so don’t know if that happens with all kids.

At the daycare Anna is very quiet, just saying 要 want and 不要 don’t want. Typical introverted Finnish! But at home she speaks nonstop, most of it we don’t yet understand.

I feel this is going to be super interesting this coming year to see how Anna’s languages improve. Can’t wait to communicate more with her!

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!