01/24/15

Being Pregnant In China (Guest Post)

Being Pregnant in China

Photos by our wedding photographer Andy He

What it’s like to be pregnant in China? No, I don’t have any big news for you, but I do have a guest post from my dear friend Ellen who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at the end of last year. 

I’m a Russian from Estonia and my husband is a Hakka Chinese from Guangdong province, China. Through common interests we met at the university in England and fall in love. Two years later we moved to China to start the next phase of our lives. We got engaged, married and I gave birth to a child – all in one year. Since love stories are pretty much all similar, then my pregnancy was certainly something remarkable and I’d like to share this story.

To begin with, visiting hospitals in China is bizarre. The system here is that you go to a hospital in the morning, you get a queue number (if you’re lucky to fit into the quota) and then you wait. Once you see that your turn is about to come, then you start pressing yourself into the doctor’s room. The doors are open and along with you there are two-four other women standing next to you, trying to squeeze themselves onto a chair next to the doctor. One has to accept that there’s no privacy in China. Everyone gets to know your story. Furthermore: in case of visiting a women’s doctor, everyone gets to see your… you know. I haven’t allowed that! Though I have accidentally seen some.

When it comes to antenatal check-ups in China, then doctors care very little for tests. In modern practice, each antenatal check-up includes checking body weight, blood pressure, urine sample, listening to baby’s heartbeat, measuring the stomach (feeling the abdomen) and occasionally an ultrasound scan to check the baby’s growth. Moreover, at certain weeks of pregnancy the doctor will perform various screening tests. In China, all of that is done only if you require. At first, I knew very little, which tests need to be done, so I didn’t know to ask. And to be honest, I think that would be of little use since doctors only care for you if you tell them you have pains and great discomforts. Well, eventually my dear husband arranged me into a private hospital in Hong Kong, so I got proper check-ups and screening tests in my later pregnancy.

Being Pregnant in China

Moving to superstitions and rules that pregnant Chinese women have to follow.

  1. No cold food. Not only it includes ice cream, cold drinks and cold soups, but also food that carries cooling energy like watermelon, papaya, and some Chinese desserts. Cold can lead to miscarriage.
  2. No scissors on the bed. This might lead to miscarriage.
  3. No tea of any sort, no coffee, no potatoes. For me as a Westerner, that was perhaps the toughest task to give up these three things. But in the name of the baby’s health, I managed. To 90%. It is believed, that all of these contain poison for the baby (when potatoes sprout, they instantly become poisonous, did you know that?). Whenever we went to a restaurant, then waiters knew instantly what drink I should be offered: hot water.
  4. No high heels. OK, it might sound obvious that a huge belly and high heels don’t go together, but I was forbidden to wear high heels from the moment we got certain of my pregnancy. It was week 6. I found it difficult to get used to this rule as well, because I’m a person who has 20 pairs of high heel shoes and only 2 pairs of flat shoes.

The shocking part is that in China no one seems to have heard of the harm of cigarette smoke to the baby. In China, smoking is allowed everywhere. People smoke everywhere, even in the elevators. So it happened to me a couple of times that a man with a cigarette in his mouth walks into the elevator, seeing I am obviously pregnant. And then those countless cases of smoking next to me at the restaurants, in the streets.

All in all, I gave birth to my baby in Hong Kong, where doctors speak English and I received very good care. If I were to get pregnant again, then I would either go to Hong Kong again, or even better, go back to Estonia. In my opinion, it is a risk to be pregnant in China.

Stay tuned. There will be part 2: Chinese postpartum 30 days, called 坐月子 (zuo yue zi). I have to step over a fire to get home, I am not allowed to take shower, my daily diet consists of black eggs, black ginger, chicken soup and rice only.

11/21/14

Busy Autumn Continues

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Finnish Booth During Culture Day

It’s been over a month since my last post, the busy life of a graduate student in China, because I’ve truly been that busy with lectures, homework and teaching. Today I wanted to take the time to relax and update my blog that has become way too quiet since I started my master’s degree.

Some of my classmates, especially the locals students, stay up until after midnight writing homework or planning events for our department. I’ve been lucky to be able to sleep well, only a few times staying up until 1am. Because of all our courses are done during our first year, its gets very hectic and many of my classmates have complained the department, now the teachers are actually giving us a chance to voice our opinions anonymously.

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The cat’s aren’t happy that I don’t have enough time to play with them

I’ve been mostly enjoying the busy life since doing nothing for half a year, challenging my self with studies has been great. I’m reading a lot more in Chinese than I ever have, we also have plenty of opportunities to practice our spoken language during class, group discussions and presentations. Once I mentioned during class that I didn’t learn pronunciation properly during my first year of studies in Finland, after that the head of our department always corrects my fourth tone when he gets the chance! I was a bit annoyed first, but now just take it as a chance to improve.

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At taiji class

I got excellent thesis supervisors, one energetic and excellent younger teacher with a lot of passion. Another one is bit older and in charge of us graduate students, one of the most important teachers at our department. This first semester is mostly for study and reading tons of research to pave the way for thesis writing next year. One of my supervisors hinted that I could do something related to vocabulary, especially synonyms, but I also have others interests that I would like to pursue.

Me and my husband Alan are staying in Guangzhou for the foreseeable future, but you never know if we at some point find out selves in Finland. I’ve slowly started to understand the current state of Chinese teaching in Finland, connecting with a few great teachers that has been so kind to share their experiences with me. It’s very interesting to see how Chinese teaching and learning continues to grow in Finland, it’s already grown so much since I was studying Chinese at Tampere.

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Only some of the books I’m reading this Autumn

I don’t often do “this is what I’ve been doing” posts, but as you all know, being a student means a lot of time at classrooms, lecture halls, libraries and having my nose buried into books. It’s very interesting, but doesn’t leave much time to explore anything else. Thank you for still being here with me along the journey!

I almost forgot, we booked tickets to Malaysia for our honeymoon in January! First we will be spending a week at Kota Kinabalu and then two nights at Kuala Lumpur. It’s going to be the ultimately best way to end our first year as a married couple, and also my first busy semester as a graduate student.

10/13/14

Busy Life of a Graduate Student

Sun Yat-Sen University

It’s been a busy start of the semester, but finally I found the time to share my first thoughts and feelings how it’s like to be a graduate student in China. As most of you know, I did my bachelor degree here at Sun Yat-Sen University first, and continued to the master’s this August. Doing the undergrad was more like going to high school: go to lessons, do your homework, take exams, just with an added bonus of writing a thesis in the end.

mastersstudiesschedule

Doing a master’s in Teaching Chinese (or International Chinese Education as we call it), is something totally different. My studies consist of following elements:

  • lessons
  • individual homework
  • group projects
  • reading articles, research papers, books
  • writing project reports and course papers
  • listening to experienced teachers teach
  • teaching simulation
  • internship at Chinese Teaching Materials Base

My current courses can be seen on the schedule above, later this year two courses will be added to the mix. Next year Spring and Summer semester will continue more or less in a same way, leaving the teaching internship and thesis writing for the last year.

Challenges

Studying a graduate degree in a second language is always a big challenge, what makes it a bit easier is that in our class of 63 students, we have 22 foreign students from all over the world. We come from different cultures, but also have similar challenges in studying a degree in Chinese. It means a lot to have this support group.

All of our courses are of course taught in Chinese and I can follow the lessons well. I can see that some teachers are still a bit unsure in which way their teaching can keep both the foreign and Chinese students happy, but in general it’s us foreigners that need to keep up with the Chinese.

Reading a lot of material in Chinese is also a challenge at the moment, but at the same time a good way for me to improve my reading skills and speed. I will be reading papers mainly on teaching, psychology and culture fields, using digital versions on my iPad whenever possible.

Later on writing course papers will present another challenge, I need to improve my written Chinese and avoid too colloquial expressions in my writing. I believe reading a lot helps with writing skills as well.

A good choice

I’ve been very happy that I got the scholarship and the chance to continue my studies here at Sun Yat-Sen University, during the years it has already turned into my home university. I just got the news that the supervisor teachers I chose also chose me, so I will be doing my thesis next year in a good company.

This is just the beginning of my degree, there will most probably be sweat and tears along the way, but hopefully also feelings of success and happiness. I will keep you posted!

09/21/14

Watching sun set at Hangzhou West Lake

Hangzhou West Lake

My one week trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou feels like ages ago, even though it was just last month that I did this trip alone to find some joy after being at home for such a long time. My husband encouraged me to go out and see new places before starting my master’s degree, luckily I listened to his advice!

What I liked about Hangzhou and Suzhou is that you could actually explore parts of the city by foot. Guangzhou is so huge that by foot you don’t really get anywhere and have to rely on metros and buses. In Hangzhou the best place to wonder around is of course the famous West Lake!

 

Sara and Jocelyn

I had Jocelyn from Speaking of China as my local tour guide, showing me beautiful views to the lake and also taking me to taste both local and foreign delicacies. I’ve been reading Jocelyn’s blog since I first came to China in 2010, it was great to finally meet her. And as it happens, we just talked and talked for hours that day!

Hangzhou Tea House

Our day started at Qing Teng Tea House were we had this amazing lunch with main dish, fruits, snacks and dessert. Not to forget the famous longjing tea. We had our own small room with beautiful decorations, offering a very peaceful and calming surrounding for our lunch.

Hangzhou West Lake

Back in February 2010 I was walking on the foot steps of emperors and concubines in Forbidden City, but now in Hangzhou I was following poets and painters through dynasties who had been fascinated by the breathtaking scenery at West Lake.

The best time to visit West Lake is sun rise or sun set when the sky is painted with soft colors. And don’t make a lit of visiting the most famous spots around the lake, it’s much better to just wander around and avoid the crowds if it happens to be a weekend or a public holiday.

Hangzhou West Lake

As many beautiful places in China, the West Lake is also a popular destination for wedding photos. This bride looked amazing in her figure-hugging lace bridal gown, that I had to snap a picture.

Hangzhou West Lake

“Green mountains surround on all sides
the still waters of the lake.
Pavilions and towers in hues of gold
and azure rise here and there.
One would say a landscape composed by a painter.
Only towards the east,
where there are no hills,
does the land open out,
and there sparkle, like fishes’ scales,
the bright colored tiles of a thousand roofs.”

—From Daily life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276

Hangzhou West Lake

When the sun set below the horizon, fishermen came out with their long boats. Me and Jocelyn continued our discussion about everything between heaven and earth. I guess when two Western girls living in China and both having Chinese husbands, interesting topics for discussion are never-ending.

Next time I hope to visit Hangzhou and Jocelyn together with my husband.

09/9/14

Wedding Planning In China

Life’s been busy since the new semester started few weeks ago. Starting of my master’s degree means lessons, lectures and internship. On top of that I have started tutoring a beginner learner two times per week. Lots of exciting things!

Before I have time to continue with the travel posts from Hangzhou and Suzhou, I show you my first video for Out and About in China Youtube channel. In this short video I go over the 4 basic steps in wedding planning and also offer a few tips for others who are planning their multicultural wedding.

Hope you enjoy the video! Please subscribe to our Youtube channel for more videos around Asia.