New ideas

Do you remember my other blog that I started sometime last year? Well I sorta abandoned it when we moved to HK, while we were just settling into this city. Anyway, I’m thinking of actually deleting it and starting a brand new one: writing about my language journey as I learn Mandarin. And then hopefully other languages in the future as I continue on this lifelong journey. I’m really enjoying the journey, and I think it would be nice to have a written record of it, to see the frustrations as well as the triumphs, and to share with others on a similar journey the numerous resources that I’ve come across that have helped me (or still helping me) improve my Mandarin. Anyway, it’s just an idea at the moment, but one that is certainly piquing my interest 😊

We had bak kut teh for dinner tonight! πŸ˜‹ N bought a few bak kut teh packet mixes from the supermarket in SG while he was there for work last week. Ah SG, how I miss you πŸ˜”

And then we watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones (season 8 episode 3) while we ate our bak kut teh. Stressful episode! But a damn good one. I don’t know how many more episodes are left, surely they’re close to wrapping up the series? I am thinking of making my way through the books now, surely they’re just as good as the tv series, if not better?? It’s not quite the genre that I like to read, so I’m not sure how I’ll find them. Maybe I’ll give the first book a go anyway. I’ll let you know 😊

Semblance of a typical Sunday

Little Miss woke me up at around 7am πŸ˜’ Our usual morning routine is after giving her breakfast, we go sit in the study together until she gets bored with me and hops off my chair and sleeps somewhere else in the room. So even though I was half-asleep this morning, I knew she’d want to do the same thing this morning. She couldn’t care less that it was a Sunday πŸ˜† So I sat in the study just surfing the net, trying to stay awake, to keep her company. She’s like a baby sometimes, I tell you! πŸ‘ΆπŸ»

So at around 9am, she finally let me head back to bed to get a bit more sleep.

And the next time I woke up, it was 12 noon! 😲 Wahhh! So I scrambled to get ready, so that we could go have our usual weekend yum cha brunch before they all close on us so they can prepare for their dinner service.

After brunch, we just headed back home and N just picked up his gear and headed to karate. I went down to a nearby laundromat to wash one of our bath mats, as our own washing machine doesn’t like it when we wash it in ours πŸ€ͺ It always gives us an error message whenever we try to wash it at home. And Kitty has thrown up on it, so it definitely needed a wash. The washing machine at the laundromat is industrial size in comparison to ours, so the lone mat looked tiny inside it. I should’ve taken a photo. This one could definitely handle this teeny mat! πŸ˜‚

I then just went home and watched another episode of Love O2O, a Chinese drama that I initially started watching just for listening practice, but now I’m actually getting into it 😊 Not my favourite Chinese drama, and it doesn’t even come close to any of my favourite Korean ones (they reign supreme in this world, I tell you πŸ˜†), but it’s not too bad. The episodes are getting better as the series goes on πŸ‘

It was a fun Sunday, despite the rather disrupted start to the day!

One thing taking longer than expected, the other taking a shorter than expected time

I found yet another good resource on YouTube, Iris Song, for learning Chinese. One of her clips has her reading a short passage called Burn the Midnight Oil, which I found really useful. So I copied the text from her blog and wrote it out in my own notebook, and actually studied the short passage, taking down notes, translating it, learning new words and grammar structures, then listening to her say it over and over and over again, repeating it with her most of the time, both looking at the text and without, seeing just how much I can actually hear without my usual crutch.

It took me way longer than I expected it to: I actually ended up spending the entire afternoon working on this 😲 Not that it felt torturous or anything, it was actually quite fun, believe it or not πŸ€“ Plus N wasn’t back from SG yet (I was tracking his flight while I was studying the above passage), and it was miserable outside, so it was the best type of day to study anyway 😊

How crazy busy is the sky at any given time??

He made it home safely (and early! His plane was about 45min ahead of schedule!) and we ended up just watching the first two episodes of the new season of Game of Thrones, while having fish’n’chips for dinner. They were goood, as per usual – both GoT and the fish’n’chips! πŸ‘ πŸ˜„

My crutch

It was my first productive day all week. I got a ton of things done, and the only area that was left untouched was really just fitness, as I don’t want to do anything too strenuous while I’m trying to get over this stupid cold. So it was a nice way to end the work week! πŸ‘

I then started watching this TEDx Talk on YouTube (my new best friend, if you recall my post from yesterday) – which is almost entirely in Chinese!! It has subtitles, though – but that is also in Chinese! English subtitles is obviously the best, but Chinese subtitles is the next best thing, as my listening is still really really bad. My reading isn’t that great either, but it’s way better than my listening, and if the dialogue is simple enough, I can get the general gist of what they’re talking about.

I got about halfway through the talk, and was pleasantly surprised that I somehow magically fumbled my way through what she was saying! It was nowhere near perfect comprehension, but I probably got about half of what she was saying, if not more. And that is freaking good for me! I’m still using subtitles as my crutch – and it’s a pretty damn big crutch, if I’m being honest – but that’s ok, over time, I shouldn’t have to use it as much, if at all. Hopefully everything is coming together, piece by piece, to eventually create this big huge web of Chinese language “stuff”, which I can just pick and choose from at my leisure. Wouldn’t that be nice 😊

So after this rather promising (and completely unexpected) experience, I’m even more motivated now to continue working on my listening!

My new best friend

As expected, since it always happens this way, my cold has now gotten worse. Isn’t that great. I still managed to get a few things done this morning, at least, and then I slept for most of the afternoon. Argh, what is it with me and sickness?!? πŸ˜’ It’s sorta good that N is in SG this week for work (did I mention that already?), so he doesn’t catch it off me.

And then I just watched random stuff on YouTube, trying to improve my listening, and also practising my speaking, repeating sentences to myself. Some clips also have subtitles, so I try and say things along with them. I find listening the hardest, because a native speaker can say things in however way they want, they’re not going to restrict their choice of words to whatever is in your textbook. Plus people have all different accents, and some accents are harder to understand than others. Then you have speed to contend with: some people speak so damn fast! So there’s a ton of variables when it comes to listening. Speaking isn’t tooo bad, as I seem to have this ability to get my message across with the limited amount of words and sentence structures that I know. But I still need to grow my vocab, as I think that’s part of the reason why I find listening so hard. Plus it’s just my lack of exposure to the spoken language. So YouTube is currently my best friend! πŸ˜„ There is sooo much stuff on there, there is no way I will run out of things to watch!

Another polyglot

I still felt pretty shite today, and so I ended up sleeping for most of it. But it paid off, and I’m feeling somewhat better now.

And in the evening, I just watched a few more YouTube clips that polyglots have posted. I came across Lindie Botes today, and came across this clip of her time in SG. It made me miss that country so much! πŸ˜”

She absolutely LOVES Korean, and she also seems to gravitate towards various Asian languages. And what I like about her the most out of all the other polyglots I’ve come across on YouTube so far is that she’s learning my top three Asian languages: Chinese, Korean and Japanese. She’s even made clips about learning all three, which is sooo inspiring! She’s most advanced in Korean, which – despite all the fantabulous dramas that they make – is actually the language I’m least interested in out of the three! πŸ˜† But she says Japanese and Korean are so close that it sounds like you’d sorta get a 2-for-1 package deal if you learn these two languages πŸ˜‚ So I may consider picking up Korean later on down the track when I get a better handle on the first two πŸ˜ƒ

Typhoon season

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning, and it never got any better as the day went on. I think perhaps the aircon was a bit too cold for me last night πŸ₯Ά So I just felt a bit under the weather all day. Hopefully I can shake it off tomorrow…

The heat and humidity have kicked in now, it seems. It’s starting to feel more like SG, but a little cooler, as technically it is still spring πŸ˜„ I have put away all my cold weather clothes, and my summer clothes are now all out and ready to be worn. Yeah! Bring it on!

The only thing about summer that is freaking me out a bit is this typhoon business in HK. I know the locals are used to it, but I am SO NOT, and just the word itself stresses me out a little. I was here once when they announced a typhoon, and I was also in Taipei once when a typhoon warning was announced there too, and neither of them turned out to be too bad – at least where I was! So hopefully that remains the case… 🀞 I remember shops and hotels in Taipei were taping up their windows the night before the typhoon, laying down sandbags across the bottom of their doors, to minimise any water damage. These guys know how to prepare. They must, as typhoons seem to occur so often in this part of Asia. Hopefully during our time here, nothing major happens…!🀞🀞

Being tourists in our not-so-new city

We wandered around and did some touristy stuff today. We decided to check out the streets near the HK Museum of Medical Sciences and Man Mo Temple in the Sheung Wan area. This area is steep, I remember exploring this neighbourhood when we were just tourists in this city, well before there was even talk of us moving here. I was climbing the bajillion steps in this area, following exactly what Google maps told me to do. Even though, yes, it was telling me the quickest route to get to the museum, but it didn’t take into consideration the steepness! I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the museum – and I still remember finally reaching it, only to find out it had already closed for the day! The inter web gave me the wrong opening hours for the museum! Argh! 😩 And yet I still went back the next day, and climbed the damn stairs again, that’s how much I wanted to see the museum then!

But now I know better: do NOT take those damn bajillion stairs, unless you want the exercise πŸ˜‚ And especially in the HK heat and humidity, which can rival SG, believe it or not. Take the mid-level escalators and get off at Caine Road, and make your way to the museum from there. It may take longer, but it is a much less strenuous route. And then from the museum, you can then make your way down to Man Mo Temple. Doing the museum first and then the temple means a downhill walk, instead of a painful uphill climb. But you can make up your own mind which route you wish to take 😊

The area is pretty funky, with a lot of antique stores as well as a few cafes, creating a nice juxtaposition of eastern and western influence. And the place wasn’t overly busy either when we wandered around, which made for quite a relaxing afternoon walk 😌 So we’d like to go back again and check out a few cafes and restaurants in thjs area. Maybe find a new yum cha place sometime next weekend? πŸ˜„

And then in the evening, we finished the last few episodes of The Exorcist’s Meter. N is off to SG tomorrow for the rest of the week so we both just wanted to finish the series today rather than have to wait until next weekend to do so. I don’t want to say anything other than the ending was goood! It was right up there with some Korean dramas in terms of endings, actually. I was quite impressed with the last few episodes πŸ‘ Now we need to find our new drama…

Friends, language learning and generally just having fun

We met up with a friend who’s here in HK for the weekend. We took her to yum cha, of course 😊 She apparently just turned 21! I didn’t realise she was so young. I made a comment saying that we are probably as old as her parents, which she agreed with πŸ˜‚ So not sure why she likes hanging out with us oldies. I guess dancing just brings everyone together, regardless of age 😊

N went to karate, while I practised some more of my Chinese. I’ve been really focusing on my speaking and listening, to get it up to the same level as my reading and writing. I don’t want to get to a point where I can read a Chinese novel, and still not be able to hold a basic conversation! I’m still learning new words, so I’m automatically still working on my reading, but it’s just not where my focus is right now. I just want to speak more and listen more at this stage, and be as exposed to the spoken language as much as I can.

YouTube has been an absolute goldmine, a seemingly endless resource for all things related to improving these very skills. There is a ton of stuff specifically for my level, and then of course there’s more stuff that’s aimed at native speakers. I’m obviously just looking for Chinese resources, but I’m sure you could find almost any other language on there. It’s pretty crazy.

And then in the evening, we watched an episode of The Exorcist’s Meter, our current Cantonese drama. We’re getting close to the end, so we’ll have to find a new one soon! 😊

Our first trip to Shenzhen

This post is about our experience of going to Shenzhen from Hong Kong. Firstly, the two posts from ausbt.com.au that I’ve provided links to in this post were the most helpful for me when preparing for our day trip today. I’ll outline some more things that we encountered today that weren’t mentioned in these two posts, probably because they’ve been more recent changes, but everything else is, by and large, still valid.

How to travel by train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen

Firstly, coming from HK, this still seems to be the most common route to take if you need a visa on arrival in Shenzhen. But do note that if you’ve already organised your visa to China beforehand, you can now also catch the high speed rail, which takes something like 15 minutes from West Kowloon station in HK to Futian station in Shenzhen. This is wayyy better than the normal train that supposedly takes 45 minutes or something. But yes, it is also more expensive. But the trains are newer, and you are guaranteed a seat, unlike the regular trains. So it is better to book your tickets for these beforehand, as you may not get a seat otherwise at the time you wish to go.

How to get a Shenzhen visa on arrival when visiting from Hong Kong

We went today, the Saturday during the Easter long weekend, and there were a bajillion foreigners at the visa office. The above article said that their wait was something like 10-30 minutes, ours was more like two hours. We got there at around 10am, and we probably left at around 12-12:30pm. It was crazy busy. At one point, there were no seats and people were just standing around inside and outside the office. So if you’re going during a long weekend like we did, I highly recommend that you get there as early as possible, perhaps when the visa office opens!

The steps they have at the visa office goes something like this:

  1. Take your photo in one of the photo booths
  2. Fill out a visa application form
  3. Take a queue ticket from the ticket machine
  4. Wait for your number to be called

They now have photo booths just outside the visa office, so the first queue you have to face is this one. But don’t do the steps as they suggest: I suggest first taking a number from the ticket booth, as the ausbt article recommends. You still have to wait, so you may as well cut down that wait time by doing a few other steps beforehand. Do note, though, that they say that if you miss your number, you’ll have to queue up again with a new number, so bear this in mind and assess whether or not this is the right thing for you to do, depending on the number of people ahead of you on the day.

Also note that the rules change all the time. We ran into a few of N’s workmates at the visa office – it was one big office reunion πŸ˜‚ One of his colleague’s visa applications was actually rejected, and he had to basically turn around and head back to HK. He was constantly checking to see what the latest rules were with his passport, and he was getting conflicting information, so do bear this in mind too if your passport is from one of these countries where the rules constantly seem to be changing. You do run the risk of not being able to get a visa on arrival, so it may be safer to just apply for your visa beforehand. He knew the risk he was taking, but I was still disappointed for him.

You can also pay by credit card for your visa. The cost of the visa does vary, but a lot of countries seem to be at the Β₯168 price point. You can pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Amex), as well as by UnionPay or just with cash. I wasn’t expecting to be able to pay by credit card, so that was handy too.

And then after you get your visa, you head down to immigration. What seems to be new now are the fingerprint machines near the arrival slips. You need to do this first, so you’re in the “system”, I suppose, before you head over to join the immigration queue. Note that the arrival slip and the departure slip are attached, so you can fill both sections out now if you want, to save you time later when you depart. But it’s not necessary, entirely up to you.

And that’s it! Ordeal over! 🀣

Shenzhen metro

This is actually pretty easy to understand, as it is very similar to Hong Kong’s MTR system. You can buy single journey tickets, but we decided to buy the Shenzhen metro card, which is similar to HK’s octopus card, as it’s just so much easier to get around with it. Note, though, that the machine to buy these metro cards are all in Chinese, there is no English option 😱 But we still managed to fumble our way through it (my limited Chinese might have helped!), and we paid the Β₯100 for each of our cards.

Then we realised that we don’t have any value on them, so we had to go up to the customer service counter to add value on to them. Now this staff member is completely rushed off her feet, fielding numerous questions from random people. This happens all the time in HK too, and it happened a bit in SG, so I’m used to it now: people butt in and ask customer service people questions, even while the staff member is already serving someone else. I used to think this was extremely rude, but over time, I’ve come to realise that it’s just the done thing, and no one pays any attention to it. Staff must just learn to multi-task. It’s insane.

Each metro station that we went to (all four of them πŸ˜‚) had a security check area before you enter the paid area of the subway platform, with the conveyor belts and all, like at airports. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It must be a real pain to have to go through that process during rush hour on a weekday – for all parties involved!

General comments

We didn’t explore much of Shenzhen today, unfortunately, as the rain was torrential. We only got to go to Leyuan Road and KK Mall. But from this limited experience, we came across very little English. It’s tough going, but for a day trip, you put it down to the adventure of being in a foreign land πŸ˜†

I was also warned that Google Maps won’t work in China (and anything Google or Facebook related). Well it still did work for me, but my location wasn’t as accurate as it normally would be, even in densely populated HK. People have suggested this map app instead, but it’s all in Chinese, so it’s much harder to use.

Overall, I think we sorted out the practical stuff today, which was really the main objective of the trip, as we knew the rain would probably make it hard for us to do much else. But we didn’t expect it to be so torrential! Despite not doing much touristy stuff, though, I still think we had a successful day πŸ‘ I’d like to go back again and do the touristy things that we didn’t get to do today because of the rain. Maybe we’ll apply for a visa beforehand next time πŸ˜„