Chimelong Hotel and Water Resort

During the second week of July, my host family and I went on a short two day trip to Zhuhai. Everyone, except the dad who was busy with work, boarded a ferry from Shekou Port to Zhuhai (45min trip). My host mum pointed out how even though I couldn't go to Hong Kong I could still see it from her apartment balcony, and that now even though I can't go to Macau, I'll be able to see it from Zhuhai. πŸ˜‚

Ayi in the lobby, ferry to Zhuhai, views from the hotel

Right now as I'm writing this the trip was a bit far back so I apologise for my vague memories. One difference I have noticed is that here in China the hotels tend to be more extravagant than those in Australia. When we were there it was crowded with a lot of people, the hotel had various facilities from their own indoor and outdoor waterpark, fake beach, and aquarium.

Breakfast buffet, water resort park and more views from the hotel

After spending an afternoon in the hotels waterpark and enjoying a nice dinner that showcased the cuisine from Zhuhai, we left the next day. We didn't immediately go home instead we had breakfast at the buffet downstairs. Side note, I love these buffets it's always a chance for me to have a non-chinese breakfast. Whilst I do enjoy Chinese cuisine I sometimes get a little tired of the same oil soaked vegetables and plain buns. So this particular morning for breakfast I had a slice of baguette with feta cheese, some fruit and oatmeal porridge. We then went to an aquatic amusement park that was located about ten minutes away from the hotel. Since we had to catch the ferry in the afternoon we didn't have the time to explore the whole park, and because my host kid is two years old that also meant we couldn't really go on any rides. We walked around for a bit, went to see a seal show, had lunch and then went home.

In a karaoke booth with Terrance and a view of the incoming storm with India

Wechat dominates and overrides any other form of payment. You could find yourself in a dingy back alleyway buying durian off a street seller and still be able use your smartphone to pay. However not everyone has gotten the hand of it as demonstrated by my host grandmother when she thought she could pay for karaoke with cash. In some instances the only way to pay is using wechat, however since she didn't know how to and I don't have a Chinese bank account (you need one to use wechat pay) my host brother and I ended up just singing by ourselves. It was also during this time that I spent most of my free time with India, she lived about a 20min bike ride away and we had similar schedules. This we both took this opportunity to meet up and spend time away from our host families.

Luhan's position when we walked right past him; India with her photography skills at Wutong mountain

On one of the many days that I would spend with India, we got lost around the Shekou area. That day started off pretty badly we met up in an area that supposedly had various independent stores only to have to actually bike in the blazing heat for about an hour looking for that said area. We decided to head back to our usual spot, HongKong drinking, to get a really refreshing, and more importantly cheap, drink. Right before we were about to head to the metro, India pointed out that there was a growing crowd and that we should check it out. Since we were foreigners none of the security guards said anything to us when we walked through their set. (It took up the whole road, so people were still allowed to pass). Anyway we were trying to figure out who was this famous person everyone was here for. Turns out it was Luhan (a huge celebrity in china among the younger demographics) and we had just walked straight past him.
On another day off India and I took the opportunity to visit wutong mountain. It. Was. So. Tiring. At one point I just laid on the middle of the road and slept for about a minute. However it was still a good day we splurged on food afterwards got some drinks and then went home.

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Downstairs lobby where I go to get a breather sometimes

Two weeks into July and I have just crossed the four month checkpoint. The month of June had more downs than ups. Working with children is always unpredictable even more so if they are younger. As a refresher, my host kid is a two year old boy, we have our good days and we also have our bad days as everyone does. The thing with being an aupair is that even while you have set schedules you essentially never leave the workplace. Unless you go out at every chance you get it's a bit difficult to relax in your "workplace". Host families sometimes don't understand the pressure and stress that au pairs can gain from this. On paper, yes, you are working the right amount of hours but in reality it feels like so much more. For example, I start work at 9am and finish at 8:30pm, even though I have large rest breaks in between I still can't fully rest knowing that I have to go back to work. The only time I feel truly relaxed is when I've finished for the day.

There is also that blurred line between host sister and English teacher, whilst one can create an English speaking environment for a host kid sometimes host parents desire a much more direct and visual form of teaching. Chinese families tend to be very result oriented and want results to be seen as soon as possible. I cannot speak for others but as soon as my host kid was saying his first few English words I was told to get him started on sentences. Not all au pairs have a TESOL or direct experience in a classroom, but we all have experience with kids. We not only help with English, but we act as a role model for the host kids to follow. Right now, my host kid is at the stage where he will copy anything he hears, which now means that I have to be more cautious of my language even if I'm not with him *cough,πŸ˜…* and when I'm on a video call with others who could possibly do not censor themselves.

As au pairs we are aware that we are in somebody else's household, somebody else's life and we don't want to disrupt anything or make the family feel uncomfortable. However attempting to achieving this can come at the cost of making ourselves feel uncomfortable.
The month of June welcomed two new au pairs, Nina from America and Ayah from Scotland, and this month in July we received another au pair India from England. This has meant that for the first time I became the experienced one and was given the pressure of trying to recommend go places to visit. Long story short, i failed. However I still made three new friends. Whilst it's hard to arrange a time to hang since we all have different classes and schedules, with the little time with had we've already gotten lost, ranted about our host kids, went to yum Cha and now we're in the process of planning a beach camping trip.

Separate from the beach trip this month I will be planning on perhaps travelling around China and visiting sights such as the Great Wall, Jiuzhaigou and Zhangjiajie. I'm planning to go travelling mid August with my uncle who also wants to see more of China, hopefully seeing someone from my family will soothe my homesickness. Whilst I am happy in Shenzhen and really enjoy this city I restless to see what other parts of China have to offer.
And on a last note to anyone who works with kids for long periods of time, I salute you. Handling kids will sometimes require a a lot of patience, something in which I feel like I'm running dangerously low on πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚

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May has just begun which means it's now summer here in China and I am personally hating it. It has nothing to do with the country or city, it's just that I cannot function well in humid weather. Since I had arrived to Shenzhen I spent most of my time with two specific au pairs, excluding Lina, the Swedish au pair who finished her contract, these au pairs came from a different agency and one (Jon) lived really close by so I spent most of my time with him. Since we both finished work at the same time, 9pm, we'd usually meet up at Starbucks to talk or watch a movie or tv show. Also a side note in comparison with other places drinks at Starbucks are soo expensive, at one point in order to comfortably use the wifi to watch some episodes we just took an empty cup from the table beside us to make it look like we had actually bought something πŸ˜‚. The other au pair is a polish girl named Alicia she lives really far away so we'd usually meet up during the day to have lunch or go shopping. Anyway just as things were settling down Alicia was going to go on a two week trip with her boyfriend and Jon had to switch families. Which for me meant I had to socialise again 😭.

Xichong beach with the whole host family. My legs went numb after having the host kid on my lap for a consecutive 3 hour car ride.

Since Jon got relocated to Hangzhou I decided to give him an early birthday present. It was an extra boomerang I had brought from Australia. Long story short, his gift lasted less than 10 seconds.

"Thanks dude"
"No problem just don't throw it yet, there's not enough room"
"Okay"
*Proceeds to toss it in the air almost hitting a security camera and getting stuck in a tree

So presumably I'd spend more time with Alicia however we never got the chance to meet before she travelling. Also my host grandmother disappeared one afternoon and I was told she wouldn't be back for a week. This not only meant more responsibility but more pressure as I would be spending more time with the host mother. However things turned out pretty well, while the host kid was at kindergarten in the morning we'd both chat and study at Starbucks until noon. This month I also got the chance to meet the host grandfather who stayed for a week and a half and will be leaving tomorrow morning. He was very friendly and kept always trying to give me more and more food. My host grandmother came back the day after he arrived and they've been married for over 20 years now. Also I fell victim to fake currency this month when I tried to buy a few things from the supermarket and my 50 yuan note wasn't being accepted by the self checkout machine. I was so frustrated and angry because 50 yuan goes a long way in China. Nevertheless I now make the effort to check the notes I get given as change. And yes I know I could use wechat pay but if need a Chinese bank account and that seems too complicated right now.

Dragon boat festival dinner with the whole host family at Jade Garden, and the Spanish restaurant my host mother took me too when I became homesick.

Ayi making too much delicious food πŸ₯˜

Using a Snapchat filter on my teacher during dinner, view of the landscape from Civic centre and LED kites lighting up the evening sky at Lianhuashan park

After class my teacher and I explored a bit of Coco park before deciding to have dinner at Children's Palace. Usually back home when I'd go out to eat with friends we'd each order our own dish and then pay or respective parts of the bill, however in China every instance I have gone out to eat with a Chinese friend it's very different, they refuse to split the bill and insist that I can pay next time. Also meal times are seen as opportunity to share not only daily events but the food. So when I told my teacher what I wanted from the menu she had the same reaction as my host mother a few weeks before --- "Okay what else?..... wait that's it?!"

Zongzi, Children's day at IBOBI and monthly cultural class

Byeee from my host kid and his next door neighbour 😁

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Hello everyone! My name is Andrea, I just graduated from high school last year and am 18 years old. I was born and raised in Australia and for my gap year I decided to become an au pair in China for six months. My host family consists of my host mother Erica, host father Carlos, host grandmother, the ayi and my host kid Terrance. The family lives in the city of Shenzhen, a place situated very close to the much more well known city of Hong Kong. While not as popular as Beijing or Shanghai, I really enjoy staying in Shenzhen, although right now the weather is getting warm and humid, the air quality is better, it's less crowded and the transport is awesome, seriously it's so cheap and efficient, well in comparison to Australia, the transport in Sydney is terrible.

For me, the moments right before my host dad found me, looking lost in the middle of the airport, were the most nerve wracking. I'd only spoken with the host mum through video calls and had only seen photos of the father and kid. So when my host parents picked me up from airport, like expected, it was a little awkward. even more for me as I'm not a fan of photos yet my host mother absolutely loves to take photos and so my host kid and I went through a mini photo shoot before we were able to leave. However during my two weeks I could tell that the family genuinely made an extra effort to make me feel welcome and enjoy my stay. I think my host mum took me out for lunch so much during the first week that I barely ate anything at home.

The first week was the hardest for me, despite my family's efforts I became very homesick, I had missed a couple of birthdays back home and other important events. I got better after time though, throughout this past month my experience with my host family has had its ups and downs. Right now however I feel a sense of stability. I now know my way around the city, how to use transport, what's considered too expensive for one apple, how the rental bikes work and so on.

My first trip with the family was to Guangzhou where we went to visit the zoo and watch a circus. We stayed overnight in the zoo's hotel which was enormous, just the reception desk was intimidating. The next morning the whole family awoke early in order to take advantage of the day at the zoo. After a tiring day we finished the trip with a circus show, which was my favourite part of the entire trip and the show was made even better by the fact that we were seated in the second row.

My host kid loves dancing and music and I've found that it is the easiest way to get his attention. He is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and practically all trains. When he doesn't have class or is taking a nap the grandmother takes us out for bike rides or walks to the park. From Monday to Friday Terrance has class in the mornings so I'm usually free until lunch. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons I accompany him to his afternoon art and drama classes. The rest of the time we usually watch cartoons, read books, and play games.

Since my host parents were mostly always busy with work, I spent most of my time with the grandmother and the ayi. My host grandmother is really nice and probably the only one in the family that can understand my horrible Chinese. I was unsure as to how to treat the ayi at first because usually at home I was used to doing certain things by myself. However my host mother made it clear to me that I should let her do certain tasks for me because it was her job. Other than that, ayi is the one I have most fun communicating with, we both just end up using over exaggerated movements and weird noises to communicate.

The photos above show the best times I had during my trip. One of the most important aspects was a half Swedish-Chinese au pair that lived in the same complex as me. Her name was Lina and she had been here for almost 5 months and was leaving soon. Most au pairs tended to go to Beijing or Shanghai, and it turns out that in Shenzhen, it was just the two of us. So after hanging out during my afternoon breaks, getting coffee or going to the movies, it was hard to say goodbye when she finished her contract and left to continue travel elsewhere which coincidentally was Sydney, Australia.

And that is all that happened this month!

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