About Xiao Iolair

It is actually harder to describe myself than I would have thought. Let’s start with some of the boring details which I can’t actually change. Not that I want to or anything, it just seems like a safe place to begin. I’m a thirtysomething Australian woman. Actually, I was born in New Zealand, to an Australian mum. We moved to Australia when I was two. This is embarrassing, but the whole issue of my citizenship caused a bit of a debacle when I was around 21 and tried to apply for my first passport. After years of my mum and I just assuming I was Australian, I suddenly found out that I was citizenship-less and had to have a citizenship ceremony. Oops. Anyway, I’m Australian.

I’m also  a teacher. I teach English as a second language. I love teaching, but I didn’t plan to become a teacher. I majored in Philosophy, then ended up working first in the public sector, then for Quiksilver. Teaching is just something I fell into after I started travelling and then moved overseas to live. I feel really lucky I fell into teaching because the job suits me.

I lived overseas for 11 years or so. I didn’t mean to do that either, but I fell in love with someone whose visa ran out, followed him to Canada and then to Taiwan where we broke up rather dramatically. It was very messy and I’d rather not talk about it. Hell, I don’t even talk to him anymore, but if I did, I would probably say “thank you” because I may not have lived overseas if it weren’t for him. I doubt I ever would have lived in Taiwan, that’s for sure. And that would have changed the course of my life. My life has been awesome thus far, so that would have been a shame! Once in Taiwan, I started travelling like a fiend during school holidays and learning Mandarin everyday after work. After I could speak reasonably well, I started to learn to read and write. This took a rather long time to master. That’s why I ended up in Taiwan for so long. Seven years actually. I love Taiwan. To this day, I consider Taiwan my second home. I left Taiwan to live and work in China. I figured there was no point in learning Mandarin if I could only understand Taiwanese accents. I also wanted to learn simplified characters which also took a long time. I taught uni students in China, which I liked a lot. Then I came back to Perth in 2011, where I am still teaching.

Like I said, I love teaching, but my first love is languages. I’m fluent in Mandarin now and I can speak pretty rotten Taiwanese and German (not that this is anything to be proud of – especially since I used to be able to speak both of them fairly well). I’ve toyed with French and Korean too. And my English is not complete rubbish. At the moment I am plotting to do masters and become a Chinese/English translator and interpreter. I think I’d like that a lot, unless I get stuck translating tractor manuals or something.

I’m an extremely cheerful and optimistic person. I suppose I might be a bit naive sometimes too. My students say I am kind and funny which is kind of irritating because I always thought I was strict! My biggest fault is I am incredibly stubborn. This mostly ends up harming only myself (I tend not to give up when I should which can be very silly when hiking in adverse conditions), but it can also make me a bit argumentative sometimes. I don’t get angry very easily, but when I do finally lose my temper, it is pretty loud and impressive. That said, it is not usually over my own hurt feelings. I’m quite difficult to insult. When I lose my temper, it is usually because I feel someone has been treated unjustly or inconsiderately. I’m not particularly good at sulking and have a tendency to laugh at myself, which makes it very difficult to stay grumpy for long. Nobody ever believes I studied Philophy at university because I have a “sunny disposition”. I guess philosophers are supposed to be perpetually grumpy or something. Either that or it is a nice way of saying I am too much of a bimbo to have studied Philosophy. Never mind.

I admit I do have some odd interests that could lead one to believe I am a bit ditzy. I love watching Korean and Taiwanese soap operas. Singing makes me happy, so I’m a bit of a KTV junkie (i.e., I don’t go often because once I start singing, I can’t stop and 6 hours straight of karaoke is probably enough to kill a person). I like most types of music actually, but my favourites are light punk, rock and classical. I’m a regular at WASO concerts, but tend to get a bit emotional when they perform Russian works. I hate shopping, unless it is for shoes, books or plane tickets. I spend way too much money on books. At the moment, I read mostly political books written by journalists living overseas, anything about contemporary China and the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. I love spicy food, beer, wine (definitely not together though), horse-trekking, hiking and anywhere with water, but especially the sea.

But the thing that makes me happiest of all is travelling. I just love it. I love seeing new places, interacting with people from different cultures and trying new food. Travelling is also what got me hooked on writing. What started off as a way to stay in touch with friends and share new experiences and places with them when we were far apart also became a way to relieve stress and help me do some mental housework. Writing brings me great joy and keeps me sane. It also provides me with another way of poking fun at myself. I do a lot of silly things and frankly, if I can give someone else a reason to laugh, I consider my dignity a worthy sacrifice.

My first blog was my travelpod and I think the stuff I wrote in it when I was travelling around (and trying very hard to cope with being in) China is probably the best and funniest I have written thus far. I like to think it has been kind of helpful to other traveller’s, but that’s not really why I wrote it. I started this blog, Xiao Iolair’s Space as a way to jot down random thoughts and experiences I felt an urge to write about when I wasn’t travelling. I have no illusions about this blog. It isn’t helpful. It’s all opinion. I suppose it is narcissistic. It makes me happy and that’s enough for me.

I might like to read about tough-as-nails vampire hunters that take off the heads of preternatural serial killers with mini uzis, but I am actually a complete sissy when faced with real violence or hatred. I don’t feel scared as such, but it makes me cry. I shocks me that someone could know they are going to hurt another person and either not care or perhaps even want to do it. I don’t cope well with cruelty to animals either. It really upsets me when people make judgements about others based on things like race, religion, or gender rather than on their actions and how they treat other people. I think differences should make this world more interesting, not be a reason for hating or fearing someone. I would really like it if the world were a more tolerant place than it is and if people discussed issues in a more rational manner than we usually do.

I’m not religious, I don’t believe we are here for any special purpose or that life has any particular meaning except that which we decide to give it. That’s not to say I don’t think morals are important. The opposite. I guess there are some principles, which I may actually value more than my life, although I would never actually want that put to the test! I would like to live my life treading lightly through the world. I want to be happy and be the kind of person I can like and respect. I hope whatever interactions I have with those around me will be positive and will cause others happiness rather than harm. This world is such an amazing place and I hope to see and experience as much of it as I can.

BTW In case you were wondering, “iolair” is Gaelic for eagle and “xiao” means little in Chinese. Why on earth I decided to put them together is something I no longer remember, but it means Little Eagle, which is kind of nifty.

Xiao Iolair


2 thoughts on “About Xiao Iolair

  1. Was wondering why you had a Chinese/irish handle. You may be interested to know that Iolar was the name of Aer Lingus’ (Ireland’s then national airline) first aircraft. http://www.aerlingus.com/Services/iolar.htm
    Iolar is the nominative case and Iolair genitive s. or nom. plural. At least in Irish – of course our Caledonian cousins may well have messed it up somehow 😉

    1. The iolair part has been a component of most usernames I have had ever since I first started using the Internet years ago when I got my first email account at uni. I’m sad to say I don’t know how I knew about it, but I liked the way it looked and sounded. I lived in Chinese speaking countries for over 10 years, so that’s where the Chinese part came from. Little Eagle sounded kind of neat. I like it, and it incorporates pieces of my life which are important to me. Of course, if I’ve gone and labelled myself Little Eagles or something nutty like Little Eagle’s that would be ironic given the amount of time I have spent sneering at Chinglish on signs and stuff around Taiwan and the PRC. Oh well, what goes around comes around. Thanks for the info!

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