Finding my way around Shenzhen – Part Three

I have spent the last three months au pairing and studying in Shenzhen, China through a LoPair programme. I have had some incredible experiences, and have been documenting my journey through the LoPair blog. LoPair is an established au pair agency with an extensive track record on au pair placements, arrival orientations and support care. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, go here. You can also find part one to this story, here, and part two here.


Little did I know, when I first came here, the effects this city would have on me. From the rising sun breaking into your window early in the morning to the clusters of palm trees splayed around blocks, it is not hard to close your eyes and imagine that you are in paradise.

Miles away from home, it can, at times, be difficult adjusting to the life here. The difference between British and Chinese culture is stark. But it is these differences that makes travelling worth pursuing. To share a meal with a new friend, to recognise words from a once unfamiliar language; these small pleasures are what makes journeys like these worth the time and effort.

The work we do here is by no means easy. Being an au pair is tiring – connecting with a child, opening their minds to all the possibilities of the world, being a friend as well as a mentor and a caregiver, these feats all take energy out of you. And whilst the whole journey could be described as wondrous, it is also important to take time for yourself, and proscribe some self-love and self-care. I have found pleasure in going for walks, reading, listening to music, drinking tea, and playing Chinese chequers with my host brother. There are so many things that are left needing to be seen and done. My time is fleeting and yet I know, I’ll be hard-pressed to find another opportunity like this.

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Shenzhen – a place full of hidden wonders

Before I came here, I had hoped I would be able to develop further as a person. And I believe I have. It is in these trials that I have seen myself gain a new sense of independence and responsibility. No longer am I concerned only with myself but I have been given both the privilege and burden of moulding another person’s success and overseeing their safety, cultivating their sense of adventure as well as their mental acuity. This role is not for everyone. And that I can understand. But if you are up for the challenge, if you are capable of pursuing this opportunity, then I urge you to at least consider it. Because despite the difficulties and stress that comes with this position, being an au pair humbles you, and pushes you to look out into the future and see the world with new eyes.

There are many things here that I am proud of. It may be small and may even sound silly but I am proud of being able to combat Chinese traffic. Cars here don’t care about rules and green lights yet I have been able to tackle this and stand my ground from even the most stubborn vehicle.  I have found a routine here; the familiar steps of getting ready, greeting the family and embarking on my duties, are a source of comfort for me. Making my 9ams (something which proves to be more of a challenge back home!) and taking an active role in my Mandarin classes has given me hope yet for my future as an academic student.

Every day I take the time to reflect on my experience here, to suss out the ups and downs, and make plans for the future. Writing is often a relief for me. Being able to put the words to my thoughts down a page for later examination and analysis helps steady me when I am feeling down, and ground me when I am feeling high.

There are many things I’ll miss about this place. The clean subway stations, the stylish clothes, the general way of living. It was in a tai chi class that I learned to find peace in my movements and thoughts. When I return home, I’ll face a new kind of pace, and trade excitement for consistency. My home, strong and steady, is a nice thought to return to when spending time here.
Nonetheless, I’ll be sorry to leave. It has been a marvellous experience, and I am happy to have spent at least some time here. I am sure this won’t be my last time here in Shenzhen or China but for now it is but a happy chapter in my life.

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Learning the art of tai chi: a cultural class in the making

The original blog can be found here. If you have any tips or advice that you would like to share, or you have any questions, leave a comment down below.

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Finding my way around Shenzhen – Part Two

I have spent the last two months au pairing and studying in Shenzhen, China through a LoPair programme. I have had some incredible experiences, and have been documenting my journey through the LoPair blog. LoPair is an established au pair agency with an extensive track record on au pair placements, arrival orientations and support care. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, go here. You can also find part one to this story, here.


Close your eyes, close your eyes and get a surprise

This fun children’s chant could not be more apt in describing my experience in Shenzhen. With every day that comes by, and the shut-eyes in between, I find myself learning more about the environment that lays around me.

Despite the temperamental drenching rain, and the (at times) stifling heat that so threatens to envelop you, the Shenzhen air is clear and the sky is bright.

For those of you who are considering joining the LoPair au pair programme, don’t forget your sun cream – you’re certainly going to need it once you’re here!

One of the most important things to do whilst you are out here, asides from maintaining your work and class duties, is to find and build a support system. I know personally that my experience would not have been the same had it not been for my fellow au pairs. Wechat is such a nifty tool to communicate with others, and it is something that I have definitely taken advantage of whilst I have been here.

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Moments for wechat users is what stories are like for fans of Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. Something you can use to show off your lesson plans, and travels. It’s a great way of keeping track of those around you, and of highlighting some of your favourite moments in China. It is these personal touches, aided by digital bytes, that are ubiquitous here. Certainly what surprised me when I arrived, was the seamless integration of technology that exist in everyday life here. For example, people can pay for meals or simple trinkets using wechat pay. You could come across, even the most remote shop in the city, and they would accept payment by mobile. Just scan the QR code, and you’re a-go.

It is with this in mind, that I am left wondering why Chinese stereotypes are not extended to technology. A city full of digital minds and hearts, Shenzhen certainly has a reputation for being the pinnacle of technological innovation (having been dubbed China’s answer to Silicon Valley), however the same could not be said of reputations elsewhere. China is opening its mind (and wallet) to the possibilities of open networks and constant trade of information and goods, and the rest of the world should take note. With one of the biggest e-commerce markets in the world, China is making a stand for modernity and connection.

It would, however, be a digression to delve further into the inner mechanisms of Chinese society. Certainly that can be left to the sociologists, anthropologists and economists of the world.

What are worth noting instead are the smaller connections that are forged within this community. Recently, I attended a KTV session (essentially a karaoke booth) with some other au pairs. From this, I had hoped for two things: to gain a finer appreciation for Chinese culture, and to stretch out my vocal chords. As I expected, I was able to achieve both objectives. There is something special about sharing a song with others. Amidst all your struggles and worries, you can left everything go in the middle of a Beyoncé or ABBA song. It was something I needed, and something I really enjoyed. Despite the lack of up-to-date English songs (unfortunately Despacito doesn’t count, however memorable and fun it may be), the booth was packed with throwbacks. Picture Jamilla and Natasha Beddingfield: absolute classics in their time, and you can begin to have some idea as to what the atmosphere was like that night.

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It is from this high that I hope to embark on new adventures in my journey here in China.

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Warm air and picturesque surroundings – what more can you ask for?

 

The original blog can be found here. If you have any tips or advice that you would like to share, or you have any questions, leave a comment down below.

Hot Brown Honey – Review (Feminist Fest)

Hot Brown Honey… where to even begin?

Branded as ‘hip hop politics’, the all-female troupe are experts in comedy, spoken word, dance and cabaret. They are truly a revolution. With their seductive ways, they’ll invite you into their beehive and show you a whole new world. Preaching intersectional feminism, the Honeys will have you jumping out of your seat, chanting along and swaying to the music all in the name of social freedom.

From a jokey scene involving a care-free ‘typical Western tourist’ to a chilling 911 call from a victim of domestic violence, the performers skilfully give us a taste of their repertoire. In between the jokes and seamless choreographic dances, they drive home an important message: that inequality is rife in our society. It may range from subtle microaggressions, the ‘can I touch your hair?’ and ‘where are you really from?’, to the blatant racism in the sale of golliwogs in Australia. Our ignorance ends in violence and racial perceptions are steeped in blood.

As I’m writing this, the last hours of my being a seventeen year old are dwindling. The vestiges of my adolescence are a reminder that a different world is yet to come. The Honeys may be fun but they never fail to point out the injustices in society. A powerful political piece, Hot Brown Honey captures and retains the attention of the audience for the entirety of the show. Once it’s finished, you’ll be wanting to rewind and watch it all over again.

A clear 5 star show, the Honeys are right in saying “fighting the power never tasted so sweet”.

Ayah-Sofia reviews: Whiteout

Check out my #feministfest 2016 review on Barrowland Ballet’s ”Whiteout” performance!

#FeministFest

Behold, a black screen. A girl floating; her body a piece of clay. She is lost in time and space. Wrapped in confusion but nonetheless ever serene. She is all of us and yet she is unique. Her fluid motions set her free from the world’s painful, unrelenting grip. In the midst of chaos, she is finding herself.

Barrowland Ballet‘s dance and physical theatre performance Whiteoutis a little crazy, a lot of fun and very symbolic. Opening with a powerful introduction, the strong dancing ensemble stagger their way through each chapter of their lives, discovering new challenges and overcoming social stigma as they find themselves in bi-racial relationships.

At the beginning of their journey, we are witnesses to their confinement and daily struggles. Our senses overwhelmed by the commanding music, we zero in on their every move; each pirouette, jump and pose executed with precision.

At times…

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SSB Questionnaire

For my Baccalaureate in Social Sciences I’m doing a project on the factors influencing voting behaviour. I’ve created a survey to help me collect data and I’d really appreciate it if you took it! Let me know your thought on it!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/?sm=hwL7inJMMNqZDXMJOS%2bzZg%3d%3d

3 year anniversary…

It’s been 3 years since I’ve created this blog and what better time than for me to launch my new campaign!

I’m taking part in the DofE Diamond challenge where I’m raising money so that young people from all backgrounds can gain their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award. I’m currently working on my Gold award and I have to say it’s been one of the best experiences of my life!

If you would like to donate some money please visit my fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/dofediamondchallenge-ayahs93

All proceeds will go to DofE – thank you very much, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three years with me!

Lucie Pohl: Cry Me A Liver – Review

Cry Me A Liver is a versatile sketch-show that sees Lucie sporting a wide array of accents to go with her stereotypical characters.

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Her performance is flawless, and at times you just can’t help yourself but smile. We’re given a real show. From Putin’s sperm to an overambitious career mum, to a fanatical German show host, we’re able to observe the complexities of Pohl’s personality and her boundless talents.

She even lends us a true gem: “You know how you know who you is? By knowing who you ain’t is.”

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Unfortunately, some of her punch lines fails to hit the mark. At times, her jokes about sexism seems less funny and more uncomfortable, and her show is ultimately let down by a poor script. Her slightly crude New-York style humour can appeal to some, however, for me it just didn’t work. Go watch the show with caution, and a basic understanding of Benicio del Torro.

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Credit: gifs from giphy