Guest Post: 4 things I underestimated about china – Justin Light (Inky n the Brain)

A month ago I had the pleasure of guest-posting on Inky n the Brain run by a very nice chap called Justin. Today it’s Justin’s time to return the favour.

Justin’s site is about practical positivity and motivation which is why I posted about ADHD but Justin is also a travelling kind of a guy and travel, with respect to new cultural experiences, is just what kenthinksaloud is about (well, one of the things anyway!).

So sit back and learn about a country I’ve always wanted to visit (I’ve been learning the language, on and off, for several years): CHINA!

Over to Justin…

If you have ever considered living in China, here are some things I underestimated while teaching English abroad. Prepare to be tantalised.

When people think of China initially people visualise:

  • Traffic congestions that make you wonder if anyone ever gets to work
  • Pollution that blankets an afternoon sky, resembling that of an oncoming apocalypse.

For me, I visualise hundreds of KTV (Karaoke) bars that line the streets stuffed with expats and diehard Chinese locals. From the raging street culture, street food and fashion to the ancient monolithic landscapes of Xingping, Dragonback Rice Terraces and mountain top religious Buddhist temples.

After teaching English for 3 months here are my top four things  I underestimated while living in China.

1. Diversity and Cost of Food

Planning a trip to China? If you are you might ask, “does that mean I get to eat lemon chicken and honey chicken like all the time?! OOO! And Springrolls?” No you won’t. That’s Hong Kong, don’t go there, it’s boring.

In China you experience a whole range of cuisine! From, cat to dog, bird and rats! Well the thing is, you simply DON’T KNOW what you’re eating because it’s all in Chinese but if it’s not one of three symbols 鸡肉,牛肉 or 猪肉,  its safe to say you should be spending your yuan elsewhere.

2. Public Transport is so reliable

This is definitely true! Hooray, clap clap… The problem is, china’s public transport is that reliable that EVERYONE USES IT!!!!!

I don’t know about you but I live in a place called Australia where the population density is 3 people per square kilometer. Add this to our population of pet kangaroos and there’s still plenty of room to play with.

Now, imagine squeezing 30 million people into ONE city and then encouraging them to use the one singularly effective method of commuting, the underground train network. 30 MILLION!? We have less people than that in my whole country..Crowded Guangzhou Metro

So prepare yourself for moshpit mondays, pushing through gigantic crowds (or being pushed in directions you don’t want to be going) to get to where you need to go. ‘Peak hour’ is definitely not ‘happy hour’.

Despite the overcrowded rails, I was never late to work because trains ran every 5-10 mins (2 in every direction, and at every stop). That’s a lot of trains…

3. Cost of Living is incredibly low

Well, I knew it was gonna be cheap but discovering 50c full-plated breakfast noodles made me tear up with joy. I honestly don’t know how their food economy can thrive but my word it does and it never seemed to disappoint.

Other than food, the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen are famous in China for their thriving commercial centres, markets and plazas filled with name brand copies and local threads. I could pick up a pair of jeans and a shirt of reasonable quality for about 15-20 $AUD. Anything lower and the quality was starting to suffer, mind you anything that you are buying is a quality risk especially in the street markets. Nevertheless, picking up a pair of $5 converse high-tops is pretty good no matter the quality!

Check out these guys and how they travelled China comfortably on $32.50 a day per person!


4. China’s nightlife

My home town, the city of Sydney has a light show every year but for Guangzhou, it’s every night! Thanks to the photography skills of Vincent Loy, you can see the skyline on the pearl river, which I use to cross every night on my way home. You can also expect top notch expat bars from all cultures across the globe. In Guangzhou particularly, Liede and Taojin feature some of the most interesting and exciting bars i’ve ever seen. 04bd0f98 (1)

Inky Wrap Up

There are many misconstrued ideas about how the western world perceives China. My challenge is for you to go and experience China for yourself. Sure, you have to live amongst the huge crowds, the spitting, the smells and the pollution but when the smog fades around your preconditioned eyes you’ll begin to find this crazy nation-wide dichotomy a country of fascination, history and a very rapidly developing future.

Ken says…

Thanks Justin for this quirky tour through your experiences of China!

Don’t forget to pay Inky n the Brain a visit and do press those ‘like’ buttons and maybe leave a comment or two – his posts are very readable. In particular try out his recommended posts on being an ambivert or even take the test!

Finally, if you didn’t look at my post on ADHD do go take a look. Then have a read of my friend Doug’s rebuffal of the post on his site – ADDadultstrategies. I shall be giving my own reply to that post here on kenthinksaloud soon (possibly the next post I do if other things don’t get in the way) and I promise you it’s going to be gritty!


Posted in ADHD, Culture, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homeschooling the Things: Final steps for this term

So a quick update here on how the homeschool adventure is going on.

So far, still glad to be out of the meat factory!

Socialising is going well. We’re getting on well together, both kids have friends coming round to study or hang out. Both are going to the local Army Cadets training one evening per week. My daughter Thing I is still involved in the county student political group organised by the council and my son Thing II goes to a youth group once a week too. I’m just starting to get my head around us doing trips soon too.

We’ve just bought in the last of the GCSE courses Thing I will be doing this year. She’s taking Business Studies, Psychology, Sociology and now Human Biology through online courses.

On top of that, she’s enrolled to do English Language GCSE night class which begins next week with the intention of taking the exam in January. This will be a test run both of taking proper formal exams for her and also at how fast she can manage an entire course. English Language is just about the easiest course she could do, as she’s a damned good writer already. It would not be the course of choice for Thing II however!

Thing II has just started working through a Higher level Maths GCSE revision computer program despite being only 12. He’s doing well. He loves working on the laptop (he studies coding for himself and has begun building his own website which already looks better than anything I could ever come up with!) and the program keeps a proper check on his progress including what grades the questions he passes are set at.

He’s also shadowing Thing I’s Sociology and Psychology course as well as studying History and Chemistry.

His lessons are a little more fluid and relaxed as I want him to have the time to experiment with his learning styles a little and not focus too much on material which has to be studied eventually. However, we will have him working on English and languages before too long – perhaps next year?

Both kids continue to do music with me and we exercise together, cook meals, clean the house, walk the dog and read together. It’s nice having them both around. I do get lonely when I’m on my own.

Thing II is also getting private lessons in Latin and Greek with the view to taking GCSE or equivalent in these in June next year and she has skype French conversation lessons with a teacher friend in preparation for taking up French GCSE in the second year.

That means she’s up to five formal GCSEs this year plus a possible two others if progress is good. Then we’ll book in another handful for January 2017 and a further block for June 2017. Overall, the hope is she’ll take at least as many, if not several more, GCSEs than she would if she went to a formal school. We counted up  eighteen subjects she’d like to do but we both realise that’s probably a bit much (the normal in the UK is 8-12 GCSEs over a two-year block)! Still, who knows? So far the workload has not been taxing her. As long as she continues to enjoy the work, of course, and thrives as well as she is, I see no issues arising with this schedule. So far, all marked work has come back with fantastic results!

Perhaps more impressive is that Thing II, despite Maths being a bit of trudge, is also seemingly still enjoying homeschooling. Something of a miracle really!

And I rarely have to look like this. Rarely.

As for me and my work? Mostly good. I have as much writing work as I can take on right now. In fact, I could really do with a writing PA to help me get through research a lot faster! Anyone up for it? :D


All of us out for a meal recently. Happy days :)

All of us out for a meal recently. Happy days :)


Posted in children, Education, Life | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Quality and quantity


One of the secrets to being a successful blogger – which every new and budding blogger is taught repeatedly by the WordPress guys and all the blogging gurus out there – is that success comes through constantly writing posts.

It’s true. The blogging crowd – both those who blog and those who enjoy reading them but don’t write any themselves – are a fickle lot. I guarantee that if I posted every day with a load of tosh and drivel I’d end up with a dozen to two dozen new followers by the end  anyway. Whether or not I’d ever see any sign of those followers again is a different matter, but they would come. I have no idea why.

I also notice that when I get the chance to catch up on the backlog of blog posts for the nearly 100 blogs I follow and go through reading and, where appropriate, commenting that some of these bloggers make appearances on my blog, liking a post or two before fading back into the ether. It’s as if my liking a post suddenly reminds them I exist. Hmph – I’d rather they remember me because they like what I write!

Some blogs I follow list how many thousands of followers they have and how many hundreds of countries they’re read in. Nothing wrong with this at all – and yes, sometimes I see these phenomenal numbers and feeling a pang of jealousy for just a couple of seconds despite having a follower list which is pretty darned good and much better than I ever expected. But I’m also glad I don’t list mine and there are good reasons I don’t which I shall try to explain.

Become friends

Thanks to the internet, this is very easy to do now. No excuses.

I’m often amused to see a blog which boasts something like 3,000 followers but when you look at the number of likes and comments there’s only two or three of each or even less. Every blogger gets a dud post from time to time but these blogs I’m talking about are consistently like this. I wonder what made so many follow them in the first place and why they don’t engage now. I do notice a rather sad correlation between the attractiveness of the (female) blogger and the number of followers with the inverse relationship with the number of those liking and commenting. Of course, sometimes, they can be pretty and followed brilliantly but then I think that’s more to do with the quality of what they write, rather than the ability to attract a lot of sad and lonely men.

Sometimes I look at such blogs and decide not to follow them because of the high numbers. I think: I’m not going to get to know this person. Not really. There’ll be no bond.

Hemingway quote trust1

For me, quality is always much more important than quantity. I deliberately don’t make public how many follow my blog because I don’t want that to matter to anyone – I want those bonds. Everyone who comes gets my personal attention because that’s the way I do things in life too. When you’re with me you are the most important person in the world to me. The rest of the world has gone away. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of friends and followers I have because only you matter.

The result is that I see a core number of bloggers regularly liking and commenting on my blog. These are people I consider genuinely as friends and these are the people I write for. In fact, a good number of my blogging friends have gone on to be real friends either through other platforms or in real life. I’m a true believer that you can find real and genuine friendship with someone you’ve never met. Not advocating the internet as the best way to find a lover mind you! But for friendships, I don’t think you can beat it.

Live for a cause

People do come to my posts for a variety of reasons and from a variety of places so the stats look very different to the likes and comments but I write for those of you who engage with me. I appreciate your support and kindness. I hope, in a sense, that the regular comments and small numbers of likes encourages people similar to me to stay – the ones who like a cosy place to hang out rather than follow the latest guru who has thousands of people clamouring for their attention.

For that reason, I rarely comment on the blogs of those who follow me unless they comment on mine. If you’re a blogger who gets regular comments from me but doesn’t follow me or comment on mine consider yourself special! It means what you write is especially useful or important to me and probably means I admire your writing skills. Otherwise, I reserve my time and effort for those who show that they appreciate having me around as much as I enjoy their company.

I’m like that in life too. I make friends very easily and I’m loyal and caring; but I don’t suffer fools gladly. As soon as you start being shirty with me, irritated or abusive then I just back away and, where necessary, cut you out. I’ll put up with a lot but I ain’t no doormat. I invest my time with those who make it clear they want me to do just that. Those who couldn’t care less can go take a running jump. I have no issue with unfriending someone on Facebook or unfollowing their blog. Life is too short for wasters.

love respect

The quantity of followers doesn’t matter to me then but the quality does. I know, as a professional writer that quantity should matter and that I should make myself constantly write for my two blogs in order to drive new traffic and prove to publishers that I have an audience – but I really couldn’t care less (and besides I’m too busy actually writing for clients for real to do so).

Instead, when you engage with me here (by liking and commenting) then I will always return the favour. Liking a post alone isn’t enough because sometimes people do that to show they’ve been around but not that they’ve read the post. I never like a post I haven’t read completely but that’s also why I get behind and some of you find one night that I’ve liked and commented on about a dozen posts of yours in one go! I could just fly through them all and press like without reading a word but that, in my mind, would be dishonest. I read them all.

So you won’t ever know how many follow me (other than vague numbers from time to time). For that matter, I don’t really know! On top of the all the bloggers who follow there’s a vast army of non-blogging people who subscribe and some who don’t subscribe, don’t like, don’t comment and yet I know (because I know these people in real life) that they’ve read every word and kept up with every post! It’s very odd to think this happens but I find out so often that I feel like I have my own band of silent stalkers watching my every move – thank heavens they’re all friends!

Instead, you’re assured of a warm and genuine welcome here. You’re welcome to come and go, pass by without any evidence you were ever around. You’re welcome to press the like button and go again because that’s all you have time for or wish to do – your presence and support is appreciated. But if you come here to chat, to discuss, to argue, to engage then you’re doubly appreciated and welcome. Because, for me, blogging isn’t about garnering an audience, about shouting off my thoughts in some vain attempt to make someone hear me (though I do enjoy sharing them), but about engaging with others from all walks of life, from all faiths, from all cultures and viewpoints and giving a safe place where friends feel able to come, be surprised, challenged, moved or even angered – and be able to talk about it openly.

To paraphrase the end of a Kafka story: this blog was intended only for you. You’re welcome here.

Although, having said all that, THIS is also true ;)

Although, having said all that, THIS is also true ;)


Posted in community, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Why ADHD rocks

I’m guest-posting over at Inky-n-the-brain today all about some of the good things about ADHD. Not denying that sometimes there are issues with it, but this is a feel-good post about an area I feel passionate about. As I say over there, if you could give me a pill to take it away, I wouldn’t touch the pill.

Feel free to pop over there and see what I have to say. It’s a good positive-vibe place to hang out too!


Why ADHD rocks – surprising view of a freelancing expat

Posted in ADHD, Philosophy | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Let the WTG wine and dine you this weekend!

WTG showcase extravaganzaThe Whitehaven Theatre Group are laying on a rather special spread this weekend and promising a delightful evening’s entertainment for all who come along. For just two nights – Friday 4th and Saturday 5th September – the WTG are doing something a little bit different to usual down at Egremont’s Market Hall.

After some wonderful successful shows in recent years including The Full Monty and The Wedding Singer, the ambitious gang have decided to give us a full ‘buffet spread’ of songs from the musicals. Numbers from Annie, Rent, Grease, Mamma Mia, Oliver and many more should ensure a wonderful time for all.

What’s more, the audience will be seated formally around tables with waiter service for drinks from the bar and nibbles and sandwiches provided. You can buy individual tickets for £10 or book your own table for ten people for just £90 – it’s a bargain!

The organisers are recommending you book your tickets ahead of time ( or call 07588051942) and arrive at 6:30pm to be seated and get drinks before the show starts promptly at 7pm.

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