Five Awesome Things I've Done That You Have No Idea About...Yet!

I'm still not especially good at posting regularly, although once a month could be considered regularly, but once a week would be even better. I do manage to post updates to my Facebook and Twitter accounts (mostly) via Instagram though...go figure! Taking pictures and posting them with a short message is just a lot easier (and faster) than sitting down to write a blog post! Today I'm taking the time for it though.

For this reason I've decided to keep things short and sweet and tell you about five awesome things I've recently done that you probably have no idea about, just yet. I'm about to change that though so don't go anywhere...unless of course you're going to get me a cup of coffee. Black please, no milk no sugar. Thanks!

Alright. So what have I been up to? Work's quite busy, especially because I work four days in a row, then enjoy one day off, then I work for one day and then I get to enjoy another day off. That means Tuesdays through Thursday I have it easy but Friday through Monday I have to teach 20 classes and that's exhausting at the best of times. I used to work three days, then enjoy a day off, then work two days and then enjoy another day off, but my hours got changed because apparently I'm a work horse and not a human being. Thankfully I'm going home next month and I get to do nothing (related to teaching) for a whole month (or two years), whichever way you look at it. My friend is also ridiculously excited to house-sit because it means her commute to work will be reduced from about 40 minutes to five minutes. Aren't I just an awesome girl friend?

Alright, here's my list, in no particular order.

one hour of fast uphill walking
I've started regularly working out at the gym again. Admittedly, I'm still somewhat lazy and not quite in perfect shape but when I'm actually working out I've mostly got my vigour back and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, even when my trainer tortures me with excruciating exercises, such as rope skipping, running across the room and various other forms of endurance training. Spending an hour on the treadmill is tiring and exhausting but it feels blooming amazing. I get to listen to music and space out for a while, it's a good way to clear your mind or resolve some issues. When you're busy walking uphill on the treadmill you don't have the energy to complicate things by coming up with elaborate resolutions to simple problems. Instead you will usually find a simple solution and most of the time that's also the best. I promise I will write that post about my trainer so I'm not going to praise him too much here.

Post work-out: sweaty, tired and red-faced but happy

I've been cooking a lot. Or more than usual anyway. I'm big into eating my greens, especially 菠菜 (spinach) and 油麦菜 (Indian lettuce) and even though I'm not cooking as often as I could, I try to cook at home at least a few times a week. I've as good as given up on rice (once a day, if at all) in a hopefully fruitful attempt to be more healthy and help me lose some more weight at the gym. Chinese rice really doesn't agree with me so I treat myself to the more expensive Jasmine rice from Thailand. It tastes really good, which can make it difficult to control how much you eat of it, but I'm trying my best to be good. Admittedly I'm not cooking anything amazingly special but it has flavour and I enjoy standing in my petite little kitchen, wielding a kitchen knife attacking the garlic and other various edibles. In addition to that I've made a point to have breakfast at home, unless the craving for a portion of steaming hot dry noodles gets the better of me (which hasn't happened just yet). Just the other week I caught a nasty bout of food poisoning after having dinner with my friend and for a good few days that bug thoroughly ruined my desire to eat absolutely anything.

Post food poisoning recovery food: mashed banana and grated apple + a steamed bun

At home I'm the boss, I thought my slippers should reflect that!
I bought a new handbag. This is newsworthy because I haven't done that in over a year. Well actually that's not quite true. I did buy a handbag sometime bag in April or May but it broke after only two weeks of using it so I gave up on the whole handbag-buying business for about six months. Last year my tiny little handbag and faithful companion post-arrival in China, a present from my ex's aunt, split into a thousand pieces and with no spare handbag at home I went to the next best shop to buy a new one. It's been a faithful friend up until now and despite it's low price of 130 RMB its proven to be of amazing quality. Even though I've been using it every day, since the day I bought it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. There isn't a single stain on it or a single crack in the "leather" or tear in the seems. I just decided to retire it, in favour of another handbag. Sometimes a woman just needs a change.

amazingly my new handbag is not black

Now, this isn't really something I've done, because I actually regularly do this, but I decided to add it to the list because it's something I rarely did while in Ireland. I (to my own surprise) regularly get my nails done or my hair or ask a make-up artist to beautify me. Ireland's steep prices in that department never allowed me to do more than just dream about it, but here in China I can afford to let myself enjoy a "celebrity" lifestyle as I like to call it. There's just something special about getting your hair washed and professionally styled and just having to pay 20 RMB for it. A good make-up artist will demand about 30 RMB and manicures range anywhere from 20 to about 350 RMB. I usually pay about 150 RMB to 200 RMB for mine because there is only one beauty parlour I go to and their prices are slightly higher than elsewhere. It doesn't bother me much though because their products are of good quality and it's not like I do this every week. I do have a VIP card and I always get treated well. Also, the boss is my friend and as you know in China you need guanxi...

While waiting for my date my friend snapped a photo of me. FYI, she's not two metres tall, she's standing on top of a pillar

I'm putting as much effort as I possibly can into improving my Chinese further. Compared to last year it already improved a great deal but I try to increase the amount of characters I know by reading a lot. I mostly read short articles on WeChat and rely heavily on HanZi Reader, an amazing Chinese-to-English translation iPhone app for Chinese learners, for my studies. I try to write some Chinese everyday, although only on my phone or on the computer. My handwriting has if anything only gotten worse. I want to work on it but it really isn't my priority. What's more important to me is to be able to speak clearly and be understood. I've gotten pretty good at arguing in Chinese because sometimes you just have to be unfriendly and direct to get your point across, otherwise you don't get anything done. My friends are also happy enough to teach me new things and I ask my colleagues occasionally to explain the one or other thing to me. I still don't speak Wuhanhua but I definitely got the accent down right. I don't like it when people praise my Chinese though as I've discovered that I stop understanding people when they do so. It's really funny. We'll chat for quite some time and I have no problem with keeping up with the conversation, then the person or persons I'm talking to praise my Chinese and bang there it starts. I find myself not understanding things and asking for them to repeat things time and time again. The HSK test level 4 is definitely on the agenda for next year. I'm going to bite the bullet and do it!