01/31/15

Honeymoon in Malaysia

Honeymoon

Its been almost a year since me and Alan got legally married in Guangzhou. In China you get a short marriage holiday that you can use during the first year and we decided to save it to the last month. After our first married year together, it is now the perfect time to explore something new together. Our destination was decided in a less romantic way, choosing discounted tickets!

This is our fourth day at Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and we’ve been loving it! Coming from a huge city like Guangzhou, it’s so refreshing to be in a small town that you can walk from one end to the another in half an hour. The airport is just 7km away and many times per day we can hear and see the planes coming and going.

It’s not a high season here at the moment and that’s even better! It’s peaceful and quiet and even the busiest beach has space for everyone to enjoy the sun and the sea. In the photo above we are watching the sun set at Tanjung Aru Beach, the colors were amazing!

One of the highlight of this honeymoon was to try scuba diving together and we enrolled to the beginner scuba diver open water course. Unfortunately I got very afraid and panicked when practicing our skills in the sea, but luckily Alan found himself a great new hobby. I already plan to take hime horse riding when we go to Finland this Summer! Its an old hobby of mine that I started in primary school. Or if we go during Winter, then it would be snowboarding!

Sun and my white skin doesn’t go together that well and even with sunscreen I managed to get burned. The perfect excuse to rest a day and chill out at the hostel Lavender Lodge where we are staying. Tomorrow new adventures awaits us!

p.s. If you want to see more photos during our honeymoon, follow my Facebook Page.

03/30/14

“Do the things that scare you but feel right”

The Great Wall of China

Last Friday I headed towards the Guangzhou Library in the modern Zhujiang New Town district to participate in the 3rd Women in Business Forum. I’d just heard about the event the day before at Guangzhou Stuff and decided to go. The event included four inspirational speakers, but the presentation I loved the most was Meera Saujani’s.

Meera graduated from Oxford (only because her high school teacher advised her to apply, she thought it would be impossible to get in), worked in advertising and then decided to travel the world for one year in 2011. After the amazing trip she went back to the UK to work for the BBC, but left again in 2013 to work in Shanghai for the British Council.

The main thought behind her brilliant presentation was to “Do the things that scare you but feel right”. It reminded me of my decision to move to China. Applying for the study exchange was pretty easy, I didn’t even know if I would get in or not. Then the news came and it was suddenly very real that I was going to the Middle Kingdom, at least for one semester.

I started planning and preparing. Put my belongings in the storage, sub-rented my apartment and packed my rucksack. Two weeks before my flight I got scared. Was this really what I wanted to do? Would I end up hating the life in China and lose my interest towards the culture and the language? What fs my expectations were just too big?

In her speech Meera was talking about the same thing, that she was terrified before her one year trip across the world. But in her life, and I think I’ve done the same too, she pursues to do those things that scare her but still feel right to her.

I remember having a lunch with a reader last year that was traveling in Guangzhou. She had this dream of moving to China, but she was afraid to leave her job, apartment, family and friends back home. In other words, she was afraid to leave her comfort zone. I haven’t heard from her since, but if you are reading this right now, I still advice you to make your dreams come true.

Right  now I also have things that I want to do, but are a bit scary to put in action. While listening to Meera’s presentation I realized that doing it really feels right for me, it’s something that I just might be meant to do. I’ve also recently met a new friend who has encouraged me to pursue the dream. Hopefully I can write about it soon to all of you!

Do you have dreams that you want to make true but are afraid to do so? Do they still feel right in your mind and heart? What has kept you from pursuing the dreams or how did you decide to take the first step towards making them true?

02/17/14

Getting Married In China: Wedding Ceremony

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On February 14th 2014 came the most important day of my life so far, me and my Chinese fiancé got legally married. Alan has been away for business for five days and I was worried if his flight would be on time on Valentine’s Day. I had all these terrible scenarios on my mind of what could go wrong. But you know what? Everything went so perfectly that it’s hard to believe!

My fiancé Alan was the first to arrive at the Guangzhou Foreign Marriage Registration Office and I arrived by taxi just a few minutes later. After that Alan’s parents, sister and brother-in-law arrived as well.

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I will write more about the paperwork side of things on a separate blog post, but in short, it was very easy to get our marriage certificates. You would just get your number and let the staff point you to the right directions for filling out forms, paying, taking photos and for the official ceremony.

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After filling our forms we had about fifteen minutes to take some photos at the decorative hallway. As this is an office that only deals with foreigners marriages, I think they want to make a good impression on us on how smoothly things go and Chinese elements were to been seen everywhere.

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Getting married in this special office was very nice for two other things as well. First of all there was no rush even though it was Valentine’s Day. They did say it was their busiest day of the year, but still the staff had time for us to have a special ceremony, something that Chinese-Chinese couples don’t get. Secondly the staff took many pictures of us and in the end we could buy a cute wedding album with nine photos. The album also has pockets for our marriage certificates (the red booklets) as well.

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Above Alan is demonstrating how there’s no change for me to run now! (Or was that to show how he can’t lift me up?! Which he actually can. )

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After some more cute photos, it was our turn to start the official ceremony. Us and our family members were asked to the ceremony room where we started taking a lot of photos according to the staff member who guided us for different poses.

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I had no idea that the wedding ceremony would be this interesting as I thought it would be more like a “sign the papers and get the booklets”. It was a very nice surprise to see that us Foreign-Chinese couples got some special treatment and attention. After all, at least for me this was the actual wedding day which will later be celebrated on anniversaries. For Chinese it might be just getting the paperwork done and that’s it, the wedding reception is much more important for them.

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After posing for photos the marriage officiant came in and said a few words that I really don’t remember.

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Then we had to read our “vows” from the forms we had already filled and that were printed out. As I had filled mine in Chinese, I also had to read my vow in Chinese! I was super nervous but my dear Alan read quietly along me so I could pronounce all the words. It was the first reading aloud I’ve ever done, but luckily there is no recording of that!

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The vows included things like we vouch that we aren’t relatives by blood, that we are getting married by our own will and that we are clear of each others health situation. After reading we both signed the paper to make it legal.

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Then we exchanged the same rings we bought when we got engaged. We took the rings of at the beginning of the ceremony and now it was time to put them back on our fingers.

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In the photo below you can see as both very touched to receive our official marriage certificates. In that moment it really felt real that we are now husband and wife.

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We of course also had to take a photo with our new red booklets! Alan was surprised that we don’t have marriage certificate in Finland that look like passports, according to my knowledge it’s just a document in black and white. But in China you get these red certificates that includes a photo of you two and your information.

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A kiss to seal the marriage!

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Finally was my time to surprise Alan and we hopped into a taxi without him knowing our destination. He was super surprised to see that we get off at the Westin Pazhou Hotel! It was time to celebrate with excellent food, five-star service, Finnish sauna, swimming and luxurious room.

Even though we are now legally married, there is still a lot to write about getting married in China! Future posts will include the paperwork to be done in China, changes in addressing family members and planning the Finnish-Chinese wedding reception.

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11/13/13

Us balinghou

While been living in China for almost four years, and especially living with a Chinese family most of 2013, I’ve noticed the big gap between generations. I have also noticed how some children follow in their parent’s foot steps but some feel themselves so foreign in their own families.

The whole extended family is worried about me and my boyfriend moving to the old family house. They are worried that the stress would be too much for us and we won’t be able to take care of ourselves. They can’t understand why anyone would want to live in an old house where there is so much space in the new house where we live at the moment.

To be honest, my boyfriend probably wouldn’t be moving out if it wasn’t for me. He was quite accustomed in his own ways inside the family. Working late, doing his own things during the evenings and weekends. He has a lot of non-traditional ideas, values and hopes, but perhaps even more so after I came to the picture.

My mother has always given me the freedom to do what I love. I choose my own high school, my major in a Finnish university and to stay in China. I’m sure it haven’t been easy for her, but she has always encouraged me to do what I want. And because of the education I was brought up with, I can’t get back into a cage anymore. Some might see me as an idealistic, but I’ve happened to achieve many of my goals.

It looks like we can’t move to the old house before I go to Finland in January. And what’s worse, my boyfriend will be away during Christmas for business. Experiencing Chinese family life have been amazing, but I’m already waiting for the next phase of my life, and to get my independence and freedom back. The move will be even more exciting for my boyfriend who is moving out for the very first time (if you don’t count living in a dorm while at university).

What is traditional in my boyfriend is that he wants to be the breadwinner for the family. Not that he would make me to stay at home, but that he very much prefers to earn more than me and also share his money with me. I can see many Chinese girls taking an opportunity of this, demanding expensive hand bags and gifts for example. But what I like to spend my money recently is to have a delicious lunch or dinner in a restaurant.

The generation gap between my boyfriend and his parents is so much wider than between me and my parents. I remember a friend saying how a gap as big as generation gap happens in China every five years, just count how many gaps that is between a son and a father!

These thoughts today were inspired by an amazing article by James Palmer. I really recommend you to read it: The balinghou

Balinghou 八零后 means the generation born in the 80s.

11/2/13

My journey of becoming a Chinese teacher

Chinese Corner in Guangzhou

Our weekly free Chinese Corner in Guangzhou

This semester I have started working in a Chinese language center in Guangzhou where my work includes lecturing about teaching Chinese, organizing courses and later also teaching Chinese to foreigners. But how did I end up following the career of a Chinese language teacher?

When I was still back in Finland my major was history and for a brief moment of time, I thought about becoming a history teacher. But then I realized the reality of being a teacher in a local middle school, with lovely teenager pupils, and gave up the idea. I concentrated in getting to the museum career instead and worked in a small museum in Tampere for one year before taking the leap and moving to China.

After 1,5 years in China I finally started my bachelor degree in Chinese as a Second Language at Sun Yat-Sen University. I’ve dreamed about doing my undergrad in China since high school, but was too afraid to make it happen right away. When I applied to the university, the school’s website told me there are too specializations to choose from: Business Chinese and Culture Chinese or something like that. As an old history major who also studied art history and culture history, I of course wanted to go for the culture specialization. Later I found out there weren’t enough students and the culture had been cancelled.

As I didn’t want to study Business Chinese, I went for Teaching Chinese as Second Language instead. Haven’t regretted that decision even for one day! I believed that by choosing this specialization I could progress further in my Chinese and learn a lot of interesting things. I’ve actually always been interested in learning and study methods. I even had a blog about applying to university in Finland for a few years and it was quite well-known at the time.  I stopped updating it when I came to China, but the interest towards learning have always been there.

Then last summer I was in Hong Kong, aimlessly browsing the Weibo, Chinese Twitter. I found an event flyer about teaching foreigners Chinese. The flyer was well made and funny, so I decided to check out what the event was all about. After I transferred the weibo to my own “fans”, the organization of the event contacted me. They wanted me to say a few words about my Chinese learning at the event. I decided to be brave and agreed (even though I’m quite an introvert).

On that Sunday I arrived to the event almost late, after queuing to the local Pizza Hut for half an hour to eat something. A big room was full of women mostly, all interested in working as a Chinese teacher. As the event proceeded I found out it was organized in order to find more students for the Chinese language center which holds courses on teaching Chinese.

After the event the language center’s teacher came up to me and asked about my studies and my plans for the future. She said they were looking for foreign teachers and if I was interested we could meet up again in a few days. The way she spoke was something totally new to me, something I haven’t seen in any other Chinese person. She speaks with you like anything is possible and if you work hard, you can achieve everything.

Now it’s been a few months since that event and starting this semester, I’m a part of the Chinese language center. From a student’s point of view I lecture in teaching Chinese, giving our Chinese students advice and tips on how to teach foreigners. I’m also planning tutoring and courses for our foreign students. Later I’m going to teach foreigners too.

Right now I’m working on building us an English website to introduce who we are and what we do. It’s still in process, but I’ll be sure to share it with you as soon as it’s ready for public. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

I have learned so much during these months and I continue to learn new things everyday. There are many challenges of course, as most of the things I do now are completely new to me. I’m diving my head first into the deep end and hope I can swim back to the surface. Sounds scary, but at the same time working at the Chinese language center I can combine my passions together. Learning methods, teaching, Chinese language and culture, even social media and website making!

I will share more with you as soon as the website is ready, but if anyone of you is interested in learning Chinese in Guangzhou, just contact me!

And for my Finnish readers: Meidän kielikeskuksessa voit opiskella kiinan kieltä myös suomeksi!