Tag Archives: China

Bucket List Adventures: Learning to Write Mandarin

I love languages. My grandfather spoke multiple languages and I was always fascinated by languages because of that.  Granted, I am not fluent in a second language but I do like learning the basics of any language and find it fun.   I also like seeing how my language improves slowly over time.

I am calling this a bucket list adventure because I am just starting on this bucket list goal and I have a very long way to go, plus I am all about teaching you as I learn and hopefully you can gain some knowledge from my mishaps.

That all being said, I have decided to tackle Mandarin.  At least writing.  I have always thought the Chinese symbols were fun and would be fun to learn.   I decided to start with numbers.  Numbers 1-50 to be exact.

Let me just say… I can assure you it isn’t that hard.  I have not tried learning to speak the language but writing it, is a lot of fun.    Once I learned the first 50 it was pretty easy to learn 51-100.  Cause when it comes to Chinese  numbers there is a pattern and it makes learning them quite easy.  Yes I made flash cards, and ran through them every single night.  I realized that regular practice is the only way I am going to get fluent.

I am not sure how numbers will really help me in Chengdu but you have to start somewhere.

SO what am I tackling this month?

The First 100 Chinese Characters


I ordered this book because after reading reviews it appears that most of the characters start with these 100 characters and build so I figured this is likely my best next step.  I also liked the work book style so I could work on this for a 20-30 minutes every night.

I can’t wait to see how much my ability might improve when I go to Chengdu in February, if at all.  When I was in Beijing I couldn’t understand anything, it will be fun to see if that changes.

Can you read or write Mandarin? If so what are you tips?


Chop Sticks and Hissy fits

Chop Sticks… the bane of my existence.

I really do not understand how people are able to eat so easily with these little sticks of death.  I hate them, I loathe them… or they hate me, I am really not sure which.

Either way, you would think I would have practiced prior to my arrival in Beijing.  Ha! as if.

The first night we went out to eat I guess I just expected a fork to be at the table, or I would be able to communicate I needed a fork.   Truth is I thought eating in China would be easy, I mean they are used to dumb people like me unable to use chop sticks right?


I realized that first night  I would either have to learn how to use chop sticks, or treat China as a week long fast.

I struggled.  Noodles would slid off the stick, my fingers would get twisted… every one around me was able to maneuver those things so easily.   It was absolutely horrible.

Finally one day we were at a small but very busy noodle shop.  I ordered some type of noodles.  I still do not have a clue what I ate that day… and tried to use chop sticks again… and the noodles just slid right off the chop sticks.

and I through a tantrum that would have made any two year old proud.  I was fed up, but right after I threw this tantrum I looked up and saw this elderly Chinese man who had been clearly watching the whole thing… laughing his ass off at me.  At first I was mad. How dare he make fun of the poor American girl that is starving.

Then I realized how ridiculous I had been, so I picked up those sticks took a deep breath and ate my noodles.

and  never looked back.

PS I still suck with chop sticks.  




Worker’s Paradise: You Too Can Teach English in China! by Ron Curtis

Are you considering teaching English in China? I have been teaching English in China for 4 years, and this book contains my advice and insights for new teachers. Who should come to China? What kinds of working conditions should you expect? How are the students? How is the food? How can you have fun in China?

Now, more than ever, China is taking a leading role on the international stage. Thousands of expats come every year to experience the amazing culture and make their fortune in the process. The market, however, is becoming more competitive. Let me introduce you to this legendary land, not as it is in the movies or in our imaginations, but as a foreigner in the trenches today. I wish I had read a book like this myself before I came to China.

Table of Contents
1. Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, “Holy Shit! I’m in China!”?
2. Red Scare: An American walks into a Commie Bar. . .
3. Hey Teacher, Go F*** Yourself! What do students really think of foreign teachers?
4. Marco? Polo! Getting into China
5. Saving Face: Your ESL Resume
6. Forbidden Cities: Avoiding Jobs in the Chinese Ghetto
7. Sweatshop Nation: How much do your Chinese counterparts earn?
8. Black Market English: Part-time Work in China
9. You Pay Now! Money Issues in China
10. Me so Horny: The Adult World of China
11. General Tso’s Trippin’: Getting Wasted in the PRC
12. Socializing with Socialists: Making Friends in China
13. Me No Speak-ey No Chiney! Learning The Chinese Language
14. It’s literally Dog-food: Enjoying Chinese Food without the Diarrhea!
15. Yup, they got Jehovah’s Witnesses here, too: Religion in China
16. I didn’t Order the Pupu Platter: Surviving Chinese Bathrooms
17. White Rice or Brown Rice: Racism in China
18. Riding the Chinese Dragon: Transportation
Appendix: Workers, Party! Making the Most of your Time in China

My Review: Real talk when I was just dipping my toe into reading about teaching abroad, I laughed SO hard at the chapter titles in this very short book and I knew it was going to be one of the books I read for my research.

This book may have funny chapter titles but it really dives into each subject and gives you a great understanding of the subject. For example, education is hard in China.

This book is a fantastic guide for those specifically wanting to teach in China, it dives into social norms, what to expect and yes even racism in China. It gives you a deep insight into teaching ESL to Chinese students

I really enjoyed this book and I will read it again once I am ready to go especially if I gain contract in China.


The Forbidden city isn’t that big… just kidding.

Confession:   Sometimes I am an absolute idiot when I travel.  I mean I don’t mean to be but it happens.

I will often travel to a destination with an idea on how I think it is going to be but in reality I was wrong.   That is why I love to travel it changes your perception on everything.

For example, the Forbidden City.   My perception was what I had seen in the movies, or the occasional blog.

In other words, I thought it was just one maybe two buildings, pretty much this scene from Mulan

Don’t judge me I learned a lot of valuable lessons from Disney.

Anyway I digress.   I just thought we would walk in see this building and that would be that.

In fact, after we walked in I looked over at the person with me.

“The Forbidden City isn’t really that big, is it?”

The look he gave me was crazy.  It was mixed with shock, confusion and Jen you are f’ing crazy.  I guess he knew  the truth.

I mean the buildings were not that tall so I was kinda right.

So you will walk a lot and it is large like very large. Pretty sure it took us 4 hours just to walk through it. IF you were like me and walked all over Beijing the day before the Forbidden City it is very daunting.  In fact, I was beyond exhausted every night in China from all the walking.   (TAKE the subway, trust me)

It was a great attraction and obviously if you go to Beijing it is a must do.  I really enjoyed it, especially I have seen it in so many books, blogs and movies.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Forbidden City.

Have you been?