Volunteer work in China and how I was a scam-victim

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So I spend four and a half weeks of my summer vacation doing volunteer work in Northern China. Overall I found it to be a nice experience, I met some awesome people, did work I enjoyed overall and lived with a nice family, thought this does not change the fact that I was a victim of a scam.

After looking through several volunteer companies on the internet, I found the company called IFRE (please note this name if you ever decide to volunteer). They had the cheapest rates and when I looked them up they had relatively good reviews – though I did not find any reviews from people who went to China.

This was my job description in short: 

– Teach poor and underprivileged children in rural cities of China.

– Have time to travel around in China and get help from staff concerning any information.

– Free mandarin Chinese lessons.

– Don’t have to be a native English speaker.

– 3 Meals a day and a host family will be provided.

The problem was the lack of promises they actually kept when I finally arrived in China. I did get a host family. A family of a father, mother and a daughter and they did everything to make me feel at home, so I only have good memories from my stay with them, the problems started when I had to start my work. I was assigned to work in the northern city of Dalian, nothing rural or underprivileged about this city. They put me in a private English teaching center – not a school. It was a company that sold English lessons to especially high school and university students. These classes weren’t cheap either, I was told that this is one of the most expensive English companies in China and one hour could easily cost between 50 to 100 USD. So basically, I was teaching some of the richest people of the city without getting paid, which where the next problem arose – since I might not get any money from my work, but somebody else did.

Before I arrived in China I got contacted by a Chinese guy from the China department of IFRE called “Jeff” – he explained me some of the main aspects of my work and arrangements. When I arrived in China I was told by the school that they actually paid this “Jeff” money to have me – he was getting money for the work I provided, money I never saw because I was supposed to work there as a volunteer – simply: I was working for free. I was told by other foreigners of the school that this “Jeff” was famous for doing these kind of scams, he would help people with finding a job in China, but then get half of their salary. So no poor children to teach and according to the school I wasn’t working for free either.

Where I lived in China

The apartment complex where I lived in Dalian, China.

Then came the next problem, the school weren’t told that I wasn’t a native  speaker of English and it ended with them asking me to don’t tell the students that I’m from Denmark and make of some kind of lie when it came to my nationality. “You have such nice English, easy to understand and no accent – it won’t be a problem” they told me. Exactly – I have no general accent, meaning I neither speak clean US English nor do I speak clean British English. I was taught British English and when I talk with British people my English to also sound very british, but if I talk with Americans or other English speakers, suddenly my English starts sounding more like US English.

Another problem with this concept of lying was the fact that the students liked asking questions about your country. If I told them I was from New Zealand, but suddenly couldn’t answer a single question about this country, how believable does that make me as a teacher?

Dalian City

Dalian City

The next problem came when I came for work on my second day. Another volunteer from Switzerland had been causing problems. He was from the same volunteer company as me, he had been lied to as well and was quite angry about it. He had tried contacting Jeff to get his money, he tried to cover up his non-native English by telling the students he was from England, but the students complained about him. Saying that his English was hard to understand (seems like a had a strong accent) and that he had attitude problems. My supervisor at the school told me he refused to do English Corners and he would angry at people around him. All these problems made them fear that I would cause the same problems, so they decided that I shouldn’t come to the school anymore.

“You can learn Chinese with your host family” – how they’re hardly home and doesn’t speak any English at all.

“You can travel around China” – I paid the company to come here as a teacher, so if you’re going to send me away I want a 100% refund!.

After long discussion they decided to give me a chance and instead they fired the other volunteer – who was the one causing problems anyway.

I decided to stay, even though my husband told me to quit the school since I was clearly a victim of a scam. I had come to China to get teaching experience, so I was going to stay, but I decided to tell my students that I was from Denmark and not an English speaking country. I wasn’t going to tell them lies.

Then came to promise of time to travel around China. I was given 2 days off a week. I worked from 1pm to 9pm in the weekdays – 8 hours a day and then I worked from 9am to 6pm in the weekends – 9 hours. I had to beg the school to give me 3 days off in one week so I actually had a change to go anywhere. I did get 3 days off, with only 2 days notice, meaning I had to hurry home and search for flight tickets to Beijing and find a hostel to stay at. The fact that I got these 3 days off came back to bite me in the ass later since I only got one day off in my last week in China, meaning they made me work 50 hours in one week. Yes, lots of time to explore the Chinese culture!

My trip to Beijing

My trip to Beijing

This was not my first trip to China, since I before had been to Nanjing and Shanghai which also made me prepared for a lot of things – especially the fact that there’s no toilet paper in public toilets and the fact that people will push like the next bus will be the last bus to ever come. I was also prepared for the Chinese food which is very different from non-China Chinese food and I must admit I still prefer Japanese food over Chinese food. I was used to the almost non-existing traffic rules – that cars love honking, especially if you got the silly idea of crossing the road when it’s green light (for you).

From my trip to the Great Wall of China

From my trip to the Great Wall of China

I had some really good experiences in China. I had some nice co-workers at the school, both Chinese and Foreigners. I had a lovely homestay family. I had an amazing trip to Beijing and I had many lovely students, who always seemed overjoyed so see me and always told me how much they liked my classes. Though this does not change the fact that I was scammed. I did not do volunteer work – I was working for free for another person’s benefit. I tried writing complains to the main branch of IFRE (in the US). First they talked about giving me partial refund, but first they wanted to ask Jeff about the situation – I never heard from them again. After I returned home I wrote them again saying that they worked with a liar (Jeff) and I was a victim of fraud. They contacted me again and apologized for the situation and told me they had let Jeff go – though I have no proof that this is true, instead I want to warn people on the internet and tell them to not trust the organization called IFRE – find another company!

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My Chinese nails

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So I haven’t posted forever, which there’s a lot of reasons for. The main reason is that I was busy with exams in May and June, then I spend almost 5 weeks in China in July, where this site is blocked. Then I spend my August in North and South America and have only recently returned. I want to be an active blogger again soon. First I felt like sharing the beautiful nails I got done in China. They cost around 30 USD, but after 4 weeks they’re still in the same condition. Neither nails nor rhine stones have fallen off, no chipping in the polish and the only proof that I’ve worn them for this long is the growth of my own nails below the polish line.

My Ten Favorite/Most used Make-up Items. [Alphabetically]

L’oreal – Color Riche Eyeshadow

The color Riche line is one of the newer eyeshadow lines from L’oreal (they also have the color riche nail polish line). It offers an array of colors, everything from natural looks to colorful looks. All the eyeshadows contains a set of 4 colors and on the back on the eyeshadow an small example of how to use all the colors is included. Some of the most vibrant of these are the purple one, the blue one and the orange/green one, which works great when creating a colorful look. I was especially excited about the purple colors, since I for some time have been searching for a pigmented purple color – since for some reason the color purple seem to have the hardest time showing up on the lid. I did several swatch tests of several purple eyeshadows of several brands in several store and none of them showed up as pigmented as this L’oreal Color Riche Eyeshadow (my test also included other L’oreal eyeshadows which didn’t pass the test). The color pretty much shows up as clear is in the palette and has very few fall outs. The same goes for the other colors in this line – no matter if it’s the green or the bronze or the blue and they’re all quite recommended.

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L’oreal – Lash Architect 4D Mascara

This has been my current favorite mascara since its’ release last year. It’s easy to apply, with less chances of the lashes clumping together and it gives them a full and long finish without having to apply too much. Before this mascara I’ve been through more mascaras than what is considered fun. I was always ready to test the newest drug store mascaras in hopes of finding a new favorite, but with this L’oreal Lash Architect I finally found it. Though recently I’ve also taken an interest to the new Maybelline Rocket Volume Mascara. Normally I’ve not been a big fan of the Maybelline Mascaras, but this newest addition to the Volume Express family actually to have potential. It separates the lashes, gives them good length and doesn’t leave any crunchy lashes or clumps.

208500-0648_1L’oreal – Perfect Match Concealer

My most trusted concealer. It’s easy to apply and has great coverage. One of my main reasons for choosing this concealer last year, was the fact that this doesn’t use the “click system”. The system where the applicator is a brush and you click on the bottom of the concealer, like a pen, to get more product on the brush, like this GOSH concealer in the picture below.

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I’ve had some bad experiences with the click system when I’ve brought the concealer with my on flights. The pressure on the flight resulted in the concealer to “pop” and a lot of the product flooded out of the brush. I’m not saying that all click foundations will do this, but I find the click system unreliable for people who travel a lot like me, since there will always be a chance they will “break under pressure”.

Therefore I decided to find a concealer with a different system, which this L’oreal has. As seen in the picture above this concealer utilizes a sponge line applicator instead of a brush, which is dipped into the product instead. A lot more reliable on flights and such.

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MaxFactor – Face Finity 3 in 1 Foundation

Before I used this foundation I used the Dream Matte Mouse from Maybelline since I found that very easy to apply compared to liquid foundations. Then I came across this MaxFactor 3 in 1 Foundation, which is both a foundation, primer and concealer – all you’ll ever need.

This foundation has great smooth coverage without getting cakey and it’s very easy to apply. Since it’s a 3 in 1 foundation it saves a lot of time since you’ll not have to worry about primer and concealer. Though when I seek flawless skin on more special days I still like to apply my favorite face primer and concealer. Though it is without evident that this foundation also contains certain amount of these two things, since it covers up red spots and dark patches better than a regular foundation and it also lasts longer than a foundation without primer. Overall this is currently the foundation I recommend to friends and family when I get asked.

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Maybelline – Dream Matte Powder

Not much to say about this product, but since I do use it everyday with satisfaction I thought it needed a mention. It’s easy to apply and gives you a nice, matte and smooth skin.

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Maybelline – Eye Studio – Color Tattoo 24hr Cream Gel Shadow

The Maybelline Eye Studio 24hr gel shadows are often compared to the MAC paint pots, but there’s no doubt that Maybelline’s gel shadows are the cheap alternative, since the MAC paint pots costs around 18 USD you can buy Maybelline’s color tattoos for around 8 USD – half the price. I must admit I’ve not, yet had the chance to try the MAC paint pots, but the Maybelline color tattoos was instantly among some of my favorite make-up items. The colors are very intense, easy to apply and lasts for a long time. Especially the colors such as gold, silver and bronze are surely colors that will make a nice addition to any make-up collection. The great thing about these gel shadows is not just the great colors and easy application, but also that they can act as an eyeshadow primer. Just add one of these gel shadows on your lid and apply other favorite eyeshadows on top your look will last a lot longer – also without any creases. The only color among these 24hr gel shadows which is not recommended is the purple color. I have not purchased it myself, but after doing simple swatch tests in the make-up store it quickly shows that it does neither apply evenly nor is it easy to work with. Other make-up reviews will often agree to this fact. The other colors are great purchases.

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Sephora – Raspberry Sheen Blush

My current favorite and most used blush. It’s a nice dark pink color that goes great with my fair skin. It’s easy to apply and has a nice finish. It has tiny glitters in it to add some shine to your cheeks, but the glitter is still so small and subtle that it doesn’t add any cheesy unneeded sparkles, which also makes it a great addition for your everyday make-up.

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Urban Decay – Eyeshadow Primer Potion

Most make-up loving girls swears by this product and I’m without a doubt a part of this group. Are you tired of your pretty eye make-up getting ruined by nasty creases? Aren’t your pretty eyeshadow colors showing up well on your lid? Or are you just tired of your eye make-up lasting far from long enough? Then the eyeshadow primer potion from Urban Decay just what you’re looking for. Not only does it make your eye make-up last all the way through the day, it also prevents your make-up from creasing and it will stay perfect for hours without any change. Finally using this eyeshadow primer also helps your eyeshadow colors to show up more brightly and colorful on your lids – which means this primer is definitely a must for the more heavy make-up like smokey eyes. It’s pretty hard to make the perfect smokey eyes without this primer.

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Urban Decay – Naked Palette 2

Everyone talks about this palette from Urban Decay and most people praise it. It surely is a great addition to any make-up collection – especially for those people, like me, who also likes to wear eyeshadows on regular days. It’s filled with all the colors needed for a neutral look that you can wear at school, at work or even to a party. It suits pretty much any skin tone, any occasion and it gives you a timeless look. The colors are well pigmented and shows up very well on the lid (tested with eyeshadow primer potion), there’s a regular amount of fall outs and it has a wide array of colors (between dark brown, bronze, golds and light colors) making it possible to put together various looks. I myself have a big passion for brown, bronze and gold colors, making this palette an obvious purchase for me and it has also become a treasured part of my collection.

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Urban Decay – Smoked Palette

This is the perfect item for anybody who love smokey eyes – like me. It’s a simple palette, with 10 colors and an eyeliner. There is 4 matte colors and 6 metallic/shimmery colors, making this a strong contender for being the perfect smokey eye palette. The colors range from earth colors (brown, grey, black and beige) to strong colors like purple, blue and green, giving many possibilities for a great look, whether you like the classic black smokey eyes, smoldering brown eyes, rockstar purple eyes or green smokey eyes. You can also be bold and mix them all up. The colors are beautiful, vibrant and pigmented and pretty much what you can expect from an Urban Decay product. Together with the palette and the eyeliner, you also get a travel size eyeshadow primer potion and also a pamphlet with various step-by-step tutorials to do various looks.

Aaa the ”Cuteness” [Japan Loving Foreign Girls]

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So I have been wondering something for quite some time – what is it about Japan that makes some non-Japanese young women act like little girls?

If you have an interest in Japan (or general knowledge about Japan) I’m pretty sure you know the type of girls I’m talking about. Maybe you’re even part of the group yourself, then maybe you can enlighten me.

I’m talking about the type of girls who loves Japan (often manga and anime) who then tries to take cuteness to a annoying level. A quick search on youtube will give you several videos with non-Japanese girls who should be in the age of evident maturity, who speaks Japanese with high pitched voices stretching out words like “desu”, “ne” and “etto” way too much and through around “victory signs” like they get paid by the amount. Sometimes these people are even by a popular term referred to as “weeaboos” – I do not like to use this term though.

Is this a rant entry? You might call it that, but I also think I’m generally confused about the whole thing.

I often get comments and messages on youtube from Japanese people telling me how nice to hear a foreigner using “natural” Japanese. That I don’t try to act Japanese and that I don’t overuse “ne” and other filler words. For people to actually take the time to write these comments and messages just shows that the “cute girls” are definitely getting known – and they’re increasing.

So what is the whole cuteness about? Do these girls actually try to act their image of Japanese girls or are they trying to bring their favorite anime and manga characters to life.

I think many blog entries about the difference about “real Japan” vs “manga lovers image of Japan” can be written, but with these girls I just feel generally confused. To be honest I’ve never myself met any Japanese girl act like some of these Japan loving non-Japanese girls, so should I just assume that it’s the anime talking?

I also sometime believe the more “cute” this girls act, the less the chance is that they’ve actually ever been to Japan. Visiting Japan often tend to be an awakening to these girls that the Japanese they try so hard to speak is actually neither the common way of speaking in Japan – nor is it actually wanted. I seriously doubt many Japanese would take grown up girls who says things like “Konnichiwaaaa Love-chan desuuuu YAY” seriously.

I am aware that in the recent years Japan has been associated with various kinds of “cuteness”, but is it really necessary to take it to that next level?

If it is the anime talking, I’m in no way telling people to stop acting like this if brings them joy. For my sake knock yourself with all the cute voices, pig tails and stretched out words. All I hope is that these girls keep this fact in mind: it’s not real.

I myself have no interest in anime and manga, but I never try to burst any bubbles, I often just try to tell people who have a general interest in Japan not to use manga and anime as their only sources. This concerns both the language learning and also when it comes to understanding the Japanese society. I’ve seen so many anime-loving people getting culture shocks in Japan, when they realize that anime is FAR from everything in Japan. Suddenly they had to realize that the common Japanese person didn’t know their favorite anime or manga and that they actually couldn’t care less. Also learning just Japanese from anime should also be taken with a grain of salt. One of my female class mates (I’m a Japanese major) kept talking like a guy (using words only males use) and say things like “show me your panties” during the first year, because that’s how they spoke in her favorite animes.

To all the “cute girls”, if you have fun – then rock on, but if you ever find yourself in the actual country of Japan, please have a “mature” back-up character to take over, unless you only tend to hang out in Akihabara and Harajuku. Or else you might find yourself more alienated than regular foreigners.

MOLLY HOLLY: New Shoes

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So I haven’t been active for some time, mostly due to the fact that I’m currently back in Denmark and I haven’t really had any Japan-related things to share. Of course I do buy lots of make-up like I always do, but since the main focus of this blog is not make-up and fashion I try to refrain myself from sharing too much of that. BUT… I did get these shoes yesterday (a gift from my mother) and I love them so much I felt like sharing a picture. I do expect to have a Japan-related entry up by tomorrow.

Accessory and Bags [Stone Market & Shimamura]

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So it’s time for me to return to Europe tomorrow, since I unfortunately can’t keep skipping classes at university and my husband also has to return to work (he works at a ship for 35 days at the time), so I had one last shopping spree here in Japan, which was accessories and bags. The earrings and necklace is bought at a shop called “Stone market” which specializes in birth stones and all those kind of things, but they also sell cute, glittery accessory – perfect for the girly girls , like me. I wasn’t before I took the picture that I realized that I ended up buying a lot of flowers and butterflies – a “heat of the [shopping] moment”- problem, I guess. The above accessories ended up costing around 4300 yen (around 45 USD – so not the cheapest).

The last part of the shopping trip took place at the chain store, Shimamura, where I bought two bags, a shirt and lots of leg warmers, over knee socks and leggings. Everything for a very reasonable price. The two bags costs around 1000 yen each, so the two bags ended up costing around 20 USD – not a bad deal. The leg warmers and such costed around 3-4 USD pr. pair.

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I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Having a Bad Nail Day.

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So today one of my longest nails decided that it did not want to continue our cooperation anymore and with that broke the contact. To put it more simply: I broke it on a heavy door. A very sad day.

Since all of my other nails are very long – as seen in the photo, I decided to invest in some cheap plastic nails in the 100 yen shop (one dollar store) to cover up the damage for some time.

SONY DSC80 pieces of plastic nails for 100 yen (around 1 USD) is not such a bad deal, though I must admit that I don’t have much experience with fake nails, since I love doing nail art and I have my nails decorated and polished all the time with helps them getting stronger and therefore longer. The two other items in the picture is nail glue and glue remover – also 100 yen (1 USD).

 

 

Clothes & Shoe Haul [Honey’s & Shimamura]

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When I did my exchange in Japan last year, I lived close to a shopping mall, which had a clothing store named “Honey’s” – it was love at first sight. A lot of fashion stores in Japan only have M sizes – which is kind of seen as “one-size”, which sometimes makes it hard for me to buy clothes in Japan. I’m by no means neither over-weight nor am I considered big (I’ve sometimes even been called skinny) – but I do have curves (read: big boobs) which is something that doesn’t go well along with Japanese fashion.

The chain store “Honey’s” can save us foreigners in Japan, who loves Japanese cute fashion, but have a bit too big curves for the small sizes. Honey’s carries S, M and L sizes and the L size is the perfect one for me (Not so good news for plus size girls – sorry). Not only does Honey’s sell cute Japanese fashion in several sizes, they’re also very affordable compared to other Japanese clothing stores. Their price range is within 1000 – 3000 yen. (10 – 30 USD), where’s most fashion stores in Japan has a price range from 5000 – 20,000 yen (50 – 200 USD).

So of course during this time in Japan I of course needed a trip to Honey’s before going back to Europe, which resulted in my buying four skirts and four shirts. Totaling in around 16,500 yen (around 175 USD).

I was not able to find all the clothing items I bought on the online shop, but here’s some of the shirts and skirts I bought. If you’re interested in seeing how youth fashion looks in Japan, you can check out their online shop: Honey’s.

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Another chain clothing store in Japan which offers cheap clothes, accessories and shoes are the “Shimamura” chain, which also offers “big sizes” as one of the few shops in Japan. They have around the same price range as Honey’s (though a bit cheaper actually) and their fashion is a bit similar. In Shimamura I bought two shirts and a pair of shorts, I also bought these shoes.

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They cost around 2000 yen pr. pair (around 20 USD), so they’re also in the rather cheap price range here in Japan and for a shoe loving girl as me it was like paradise – or actually more like hell, since I had to chose which ones I wanted to the most, because it’s actually not my own money I spend here, but my husband’s. XD

Recipe: Making Goma Dango (Sesame Dumplings) [ごま団子]

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So like a big amount of girls I love sweets and it’s a miracle that I’m not bigger than I am – since I seem to spend a good part of time eating anything from cakes, cookies and sweet bread – especially when I’m in Japan. One of my favorites here in Japan is pretty much anything with “anko” (red bean paste) and the price winner among anko desserts are “goma dangos” (sesame dumplings). In Japanese these dumplings are considered “chuka” – food which originates from China, but like with most so-called Chinese food in Japan, I feel sure that the taste is different from whatever they might have been inspired from. Anyways, I made these dumplings twice lately and since they’re very easy to make (if you’re able to get hold of the ingredients) I thought I would share this simple recipe.

These are the needed ingredients:

[For 16 dumplings]

  • 200g Dango/dumpling mix.

  • 150 ml. water

  • 200g Koshian (anko) (Red bean paste)

  • White sesame

  • Frying oil.

First pour the dingo/dumpling mix in a bowl and there after add water (some also add milk) – it’s best to pour it in little at the time to make sure you don’t put too much in. Some dango mix needs more water than other, but when the powder has a firm texture it’s done. Then blend the powder and water together with your hands till it has the wanted texture. You can also add some sugar in the mixture after your own liking.

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Then you divide the dango mass into 16 balls. (Yes, there’s more than 16 balls in the picture, but it was for a bigger portion.)

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Then your pour out 200g of red bean paste and like with the dumplings you divide the red bean paste into 16 balls.

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Then you flat out your small dumpling balls in your hand and place the red bean paste in the middle and then your wrap the dumpling around the bean paste and finally you roll them around in your hand till they reach the wanted round ball shape.

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Then you cover the dumplings with the white sesame and then you fry them in oil till they have the good golden color and the outside of the dumpling has hardened a bit and then you’re done!. Enjoy your sesame dumplings.

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