A lack of Nostalgia, a hint of Masochism

I am back. I am back in China, back to the blog and back to barely combating confusion. I survived the entire school year in Jiujiang, China. How? Well my dears, I used a wonderful combination of ignorance, positive thinking, humour, determination and a hint of masochism. Masochism? That seems like a weird ingredient to add to the mix. Yet, I must be somewhat masochistic if I voluntary forced myself to stay in that ‘muggle dungheap’ and suffer all the figurative faeces thrown in my face.

Anyway, I made it through in one piece. I have grown into a strong confident woman who definitely needs no man, no communication, no understanding of her reality and no goddamn help from anyone! (except Kayla and Sarah, without whom i would be rotting in the yangztee river).

So, after surviving in the middle of nowhere I made the intriguing decision to come back to China. Why? Well, other than the obvious masochistic behaviour trait i seem to possess, i had several reasons for returning.

firstly, i want to carry on learning Chinese. Hopefully this will promote myself in terms of a career at some point. Secondly, this way of life is exciting, adventurous and grants many travel opportunities. Thirdly, the job landed in my lap and I had to put in zero effort. My final reason, perhaps the most honest reason, is that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing with my life. I do not really know where my talents lie, nor do i know what career path I should follow.  Therefore, I decided living in China, travelling and leaning a language seemed like a more constructive distraction from reality than sponging off my parents? Right?

Nostalgia.

Am I experiencing any Nostalgia when I think about my time in Jiujiang? Will I ever experience any? I am only three weeks into my new life in Hangzhou and already I have realised how short my straw was last year. I spent the year in an entirely different world, even in comparison to other Chinese cities.

So far in hangzhou nobody has asked for a photo or taken one without my permission. In jiujiang that was a daily inevitability. Obviously there are still stares and mutterings, I am often still sticking out like a sore thumb.  However, most people don’t really care,  apart from the overly curious man on a tuc tuc.  To this fellow,  traffic lights and road safety came second to the baffling sight of a white chick on a scooter.  He was so intent on staring he even sacrificed some of his dumpling.

Is it too soon to look back on the year in jiujiang and conjure up something positive.  Perhaps rosie tinted glasses and perspective can allow me to faintly miss something about my time there.  Most of my fond memories from the last year occur outside of the city or are dependent on the people I spent time with. It turns out though, that in regards to the city i can, surprisingly, muster up two positives that the city has to offer.

Firstly I actually really miss all the great and easily available food. I may have taken it for granted, although my increased waist line says otherwise, yet my street in jiujiang had some incredible tasty treats.

4rmb (4p) pancakes on a wednesday

1 rmb breakfast turnip.

5 rmb fried dumplings

20 rmb for half a duck and pancakes.  Complete with deep Fried bones.

meals out for 20-30 rmb including, meat or fish dish, veggies and lots of spicey flavours.

Aubergine,  all the aubergine.

Food in Jiujiang,  while not always kind on the bowels,  was varied,  cheap and full of surprises.  Perhaps Hangzhou will offer culinary greatness,  yet,  due to its vast size,  the quest for gluttony becomes more arduous.

The second thing I miss is how cheap life was.  Food,  taxi fares. . .  Oh wait that’s all I spent my money on as there was nothing else to do.  Ok end of happy list.

The next list contains all the things I will never ever ever ever miss.

I will never miss my school.  Nope. Don’t miss any of you cretins. I certainly don’t miss the time spent crying on the floor of my cold stone office.

I don’t miss living inside the school. I was forced to listen to microphone man shouting random things at 7am,  10am and 6pm every day.  Nor do I miss the horrendous music played every day.  The same three songs they played. Every. Single. Day.  I am still sent into a crumbling spiral of insanity every time I hear the ‘fairwell’ song.  I was forced to listen everyday, a cruel form of torture I was never safe from.  Unfortunately, China plays this song everywhere.  On trains. In malls. In bowling alleys. Everybloodywhere. I am either overcome with the desire to curl into a ball and rock back and forth.  Or, I find myself seething with hatred and rage.  I pray this will subside in time.  Furthermore, I don’t miss being constantly surrounded by students and finding them staring into my flat everyday.

I DON’T MISS THE COCKROACHES. Nor do I miss the foul smells that permeated my street. The fishy water,  smelly tofu,  rotting meat and general grime that filled my nostrils and served as a romping ground for cockroaches and vermin.

I certainly don’t miss the excruciating loneliness that ironically accompanied the complete lack of privacy.

Jiujiang taught me many things.  I was forced to accept the various cultural differences and roll with it.  I also now know that plans may be cancelled, altered or be thrust upon you last minute.  The way to handle it is remain utterly unphased.  Get plenty of sleep so fatigue stays at bay and be ready for whatever China throws at you. Always expected the unexpected. Stay organised but in a very unorganised way. basically, be a paradox, confuse others but never yourself.  Even daily routines can be unpredictable,  grey areas are abundant and confusion is a constant companion.  However,  I must thank Jiujiang for throwing me fully into the deep end,  drowning me and pulling into the ocean ‘s murky abyss. I have remerged and am ready for round 2.

I do confess  I am still sent into a rage spiral every time I hear a certain song.  It is the farewell song my school played every single day,  even weekends and holidays,  that I was never safe from.  Unfortunately, China plays this song everywhere,  on trains,  malls,  bowling alleys everybloodywhere. I either become siezed with the desire to curl into a ball and rock back and forth.  Or, I find myself seething with hatred and rage.  I pray this will subside in time.

In conclusion, even though there is a lack of nostalgia, there are some positives and I do not regret my time there. It has definitely equipped me with the tools to be a complete bad ass. However, what is far more prevalent than the lack of Nostalgia is the hint of masochism that resides within my personality. Surely, anyone who endures a year on an emotional roller coaster of turmoil and confusion must enjoy their own suffering?

Thats all for now folks. stay tuned for more adventures that are surely brewing. Never forget, life is always better when tea is on the table.

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Combatting Confusion – Phase 2.

Phase 2 in my journey to acquiring bloody big bollocks.

  1. Embrace your bizarre reality! 
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Waiting for the morning bus and this guy strolls by.

 

Unusual. Weird. Odd. Bizarre. Strange. These words don’t even begin to cover it. Everything is different. Different doesn’t mean bad. Different doesn’t mean good. Different means constantly having all your senses fucked with in ways you didn’t even know were possible. Different means wishing you had a camera permanently strapped to your head so you could record every moment of your existence. Different is the reason I am still here. Even when I want to board the next plane home (which would be physically impossible as it would probably take me a whole day just to get to an airport flying out of China) I resist the impulse and stay here.

The important thing to remember is that while you perceive everything as bloody bizarre, to the rest of the population here the only thing that is weird is you; you are the foreigner. Not a single day has gone by where I can avoid either the intense gazes, the cries of ‘waiguoren’ (foreigner) or the ‘sneaky’ attempts at snapping a pic. The unwanted attention is so constant I barely even notice most of it now. I have lived here for 8 months and I can count on one hand the number of times I have unexpectedly stumbled across another foreigner. So among the sea of Chinese people my pale foreign ass can be spotted from a mile away. However, the photos and the staring don’t make it onto the list of weird occurrences, they are just an occupational hazard of being so freaking awesome…

SIDENOTE: while sat in a coffee shop writing this I looked up to find a small child standing in front of me staring intently at my face. I looked at him and gave a smile and wave hello. Growing in confidence said child came to stand beside me and stare at the computer screen. The curious thing then turned back to me, burst into hysterical laughter and ran away. Now, i ask you, who is the strange one in this scenario? Sadly, I think it might be me.

Do what you can to become part of the weirdness.

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matching bag and phone case. Nailed it.

 

  1. Buy some pj’s and never take them off.

In Jiujiang people love wearing their pj’s everywhere. Why put on your clothes to go shopping when you can just roll out of bed, buy some crap and then roll right back into bed without ever removing any clothes! Getting changed only enhances your risk of catching pneumonia. Heating isn’t necessary when you have pj’s thicker than cowhide. Why is the foreigner complaining she is cold, obviously she should wear more clothes. In fact ‘wear more clothes’ is what my mentor says to me at the end of almost every conversation. Even when I am already wearing thermals, a shirt, 2 jumpers, a coat and a scarf it is still never enough apparently. South of the Yangztee there is no heating. So instead of heating we wear really thick pyjamas. There is never an inappropriate moment to be caught in your jammies; Shopping malls, the supermarket, the cinema, cheap restaurants, fancy restaurants, the bar, school. Anywhere and everywhere is the appropriate time to wear your pj’s.

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Got my PJ’s sorted.

 

 

  1. ‘Is this too Matchy-Matchy’

Couples who wear matching clothes are truly in love. I see it everywhere, couples wearing matching t-shirts, hats, shoes or perhaps the entire outfit is matching. It certainly is a well-known fact that the only way to declare your love for another is by wearing the same clothes. Perhaps this is where I have been going wrong with previous lovers? I failed to coordinate our outfits. Well, no more shall I be making that foolish mistake, bae and I shall be matching right down to our days of the week underpants!

  1. Spit it out!

Question: ‘Have you ever been eating a meal and suddenly a piece of food enters your mouth that you find displeasing? Perhaps a piece of steak fat, a fish bone or a stubborn piece of meat?’ Yes? Of course that has happened, so you slyly remove said item of food and push it to the side of your plate or dispose of it in a napkin and hope nobody has noticed! What a colossal waste of time you fanny! Just spit that piece of crap out right onto the table! Anything you don’t want to eat for whatever reason, just remove it from your gob, and spit it on the table and continuing eating. Don’t worry about disturbing others on your table because lo and behold they too have a lovely collection of bones and discarded products piling up beside their bowl! Lovely. No, No, don’t clean up after yourself! Just leave your pile of crap on the table and go enjoy the rest of your lunch break, the next person to eat their lunch will surely be delighted to sit amongst the bones and gunk. I AM NOT KIDDING THIS HAPPENS EVERY DAY AT SCHOOL!

Spitting is a favourite past time of many Chinese residents. It is everywhere. It is unavoidable. It is bloody disgusting. The sight of phlegm is repulsive but it is nowhere near as grim as the sound that accompanies the phlegm as it is forced up the cretin’s throat and released into this world. If you walk along the street looking at your feet you will undoubtedly come across multiple puddles of phlegm. When is it an inappropriate time to spit? NEVER. Here it is appropriate to spit anywhere. Sadly, there is no way on earth to stop this phenomena. Apparently shouting ‘stop that you disgusting cretin’ and looking like you might hurl does not work. Even cursing in the native tongue doesn’t work. So you either have to ignore this repulsive habit or go deaf and blind.

  1. Meaty and fishy remnants

There are many strange sights to see whilst wandering around the city. Not all are pleasant. In fact if you are quibbling over the ethics of the new £5 note due to the certain animal cruelty products it uses (please note I am not condoning the use of tallow in money so don’t get your hackles up at me) then I would suggest avoiding certain places. It is a common sight to see half-dead fish in the street, in the toilet of a restaurant (I kid you not), or being loaded into buckets off the back of tuk-tuks whilst the fishy water leaks onto the street. It is not uncommon for a fish to be out of the bucket and on the pavement, nor is it uncommon for an unsuspecting fool, a.k.a me, to stand on said fish.

The preferred method of selling meat is to leave great hunks of it festering outside on wooden tables, allowing flies and bugs to crawl all over the juicy slabs while the blood oozes out and gently drips onto the pavement. Sometimes the head of the animal will be on the table or on the floor, perhaps to serve as evidence that this meat is in fact from a goat or cow. When you buy your kebab, for instance, you can get in the queue next to the hanging animal and watch as the meat is carved off, shoved on a skewer, cooked on the grill and handed over to your eagerly awaiting palm! Fresh! Of course, there is no telling how long the carcass has been hanging about. Also, do be careful you don’t accidentally walk into the swinging body that is taking up half the pavement. It has been done.

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Don’t lose your head.

 

Still, I think the worst treatment of animals I have seen in the street thus far is when I came across two calves in a tiny cage. It was not immediately obvious what purpose these baby cows where serving until I noticed the large sign advertising milk. Yes, that’s right these baby cows who lack all ability to produce milk where shoved into tiny cages to advertise the fresh milk being sold. Can anyone detect a hint of irony there? China Logic at its finest folks.

  1. The bus of banter

The local buses are a hotspot for bizarre sights. Anything goes on these vehicles of joy. Every day I have to fight my way onto the bus, push and shoving is a must, there is no time for pleases and thank you. If you want a seat you have to be first on the bus. Never sit at the front, that’s for the old folks and babies. Don’t expect the person sat in the aisle seat to move over for you. If you want a seat you must clamber over them to get into your window seat. The same is true when you want to exit the bus, again you must clamber over anyone in your path. Nobody will move out your way. Just be careful you don’t end up in anyone’s lap because, even though they make no effort to move out the way, people do not like it when the bus lurches and you accidentally find yourself sat on grandpa’s knee.

Headphones are rarely used so there is often an odd assortment of various noises, this includes anything from TV shows to slightly operatic music, often accompanied by someone who fancies themselves a performer. The sounds of people punching themselves (a common tactic to supposedly get rid of knots, aches or numb body parts), singing, humming, shouting down phones, spitting, eating and snoring, fill the bus with constant noise. Even the constantly beeping horns are unable to drown the din. However, the awful noise of the bus is matched by the disgusting smells and the general grubbiness. Suspicious stains and of course globs of phlegm plagues the floors, windows and seats.

I often see people doing strange things on the bus. The other day a man was quietly sat snipping his nose hair with nail clippers. On another occasion I thought I was hearing things. I could hear a noise that soundly oddly like croaking frogs. After a good 10 minutes of confusion I look around, after hearing a very loud croak like sound, only to realise that I was sat opposite a wriggling bag and two buckets. One bucked was full of mini lobsters and the other was brimming with writhing eels. The bag which is croaking and moving on its own was of course full of frogs. Nobody seemed at all concerned by our unexpected bus companions. Actually its quite common for people to bring bags of live fish on the bus, I just wish my bus buddy had been clever enough not to put the untied bag onto the floor, thereby allowing the water and fish to escape onto the bus.

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However, while the bus can at times drive me absolutely potty, I must admit I can now quite contently sit in my sat merrily trumping away. Trapped wind is no longer a battle I fight. I also feel no shame in humming a tune to myself when the desire strikes. Nor do I feel awkward about whacking out smelly foods that I would never dare eating in confined spaces back home. In fact, I no longer feel awkward about anything. I am perfectly happy to do whatever I damn well please, I already stick out like a sore thumb.

6. Methods of transporting children… and dogs

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Don’t stare at me child, you are sitting in a crate!

 

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There is a child in that coat.

 

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7. Exercising looks a bit different.

‘Dancing in the streets’ is a popular activity among some in China. Wherever there is a space to fill, dancing can indeed fill it. I still haven’t worked out whether there is a teacher or if everyone just knows these dances. Who brings the boom box? Are these coordinated and planned events or do they spring up? I have no found the answers to my questions.

Even going to the Gym or a yoga class is weird here. In the gym there are half naked men spitting or smoking. Sadly the gym stinks of smoke and urine and half the machines are broken. While I try to do some sit ups in the corner these men decide that’s the time they want to come and stand inappropriately close to me and do some lunges and squats, their intense gaze burns into me the whole time. Gross.  People tend to mainly walk on the running machines. A lot of people don’t bother to wear gym appropriate clothes and trainers or even remove their coats. It is a very strange and quite uncomfortable experience going to the gym.

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This fella was very shiny with sweat. When he finished running he then did a few lunges in his tight tiny shorts.

 

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I am not entirely sure how running backwards on the machines is beneficial. But I’m not a pro so I may be wrong.

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I have no idea why this guy was in the gym. He was not dressed in sports gear and he mainly just strolled around. Apart from when he spotted me and decided to ‘exercise’ near me, slowly creeping closer and staring a lot!

 

 

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Child playing with weight machines. #healthandsafety

 

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This is the yoga class where I stupidly admitted to being on my period. I had to lie like this for 45 minutes so I didn’t over exert my delicate self.

 

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There are so many weird sights to behold that I could probably fill an entire book! Its never ending. Not a day goes past where I don’t see at least one thing that makes me stop and question my environment. The main pro to this is that if you just embrace your bizarre new reality it is incredibly liberating. Nobody questions my armpit hair, back home people assume its either a feminist statement or they think its weird.  Its neither, I’m just lazy and don’t give a shit if my armpits are hairy. Here, nobody bats an eyelid. Same goes for my hairy legs, anyway they are too busy being shocked at how pale my pins are. I can take a massive dump in any public toilet and not have to worry if it stinks etc. because I see other people’s shit on a daily basis. In fact I often just see people peeing as toilet doors are either non-existent or people don’t bother to close them. I quite enjoy strolling down the street wearing fuck all make up and mis-matched clothing and yet still be called beautiful by a strangers. Where else in this world can I stroll down the street in pj’s, singing tuneless, farting and burping, gnawing on some sort of animal bone, spitting on the floor and generally looking like an absolute psycho, and yet not have anyone bat an eyelid. Nobody gives a flying fart because they are all doing the same. It’s bloody liberating and all the bizarre sights can never be called boring.

 

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A giant statue of Mao will never be ok. Stop it China.

 

 

 

 

Combatting Confusion – A Constant Battle

The past 7 months have been tumultuous. I’ve seen things I never thought I would see. I’ve grown accustomed to antics I previously thought alien. I’ve shed tears all over this country. It’s been tough, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, kicking, shouting and screaming as I go. However, I’ve battled on and I can safely say I now have balls of steel; balls larger than those of an OX. They are mighty and they are strong. Thank you China for giving me my oversized and weighty bollocks.

A few months ago I assembled a handy survival guide for a twit abroad. I can now speak from a (slightly) more informed perspective and shed some light on how I have attempted to get to grips with my bizarre existence. To prevent your eyes glazing over while I waffle on, and because I am being a pretentious twat, I have decided to release this as a ‘mini-series’. Each blog will be about a different aspect of my struggles to adapt to life in China. Please keep in mind that I live in a small Chinese city, the norms here are very different from those in larger cities. Life here is strange even by Chinese standards and as a city it is about 15-20 years behind places such as Shanghai, Hangzhou or Shenzhen (various places I have visited and can therefore contrast). The things that have occurred here may happen everywhere or they may be peculiar to JiuJiang, but believe me when I tell you that this shit is real.

 

  1. Learning the language! 

Here are a few examples of when the language barrier fucks you!

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Going to the Cinema and being told there will be English subtitles. This wouldn’t be a problem if I spoke Chinese.

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Understanding what is happening to the School computer wouldn’t be a problem if I understand Chinese

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Decoding my bus ticket would not be a problem if I spoke Chinese

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Buying medicine for a cold would not be a problem if I spoke Chinese.

 

Whoever said you don’t need to speak Chinese before moving to China is a brainless half-wit (British council I’m looking right at you, you dingbats! Good one). I blame myself for being so naive. I moved to a city where barely anyone speaks English. If anyone speaks English to me it is a rarity. In fact, it is such an oddity here that I am taken aback and squeal with delight when I hear English. Alas more often than not these conversations reach a screeching halt after ‘how are you?’ Even the English teachers at my school prefer to talk about my in Chinese rather than talk to me in the tongue of their chosen profession. Anyway, the point still remains that I am the dumbass who moved to a small Chinese city with no understanding of the Chinese language.

For the first few months I relied mainly on pointing, smiling, crying, and terrible miming. The phrase ‘Zhe ge’ meaning ‘this one’ fast became the most useful phrase. In fact it still is the most used phrase in my Chinese Vocabulary. Do not under estimate the power of pointing and saying ‘this one’. Pure gold. So to make my life easier and to stop being an ignorant foreigner I commenced my education. I found an amazing teacher and started the Wednesday night Chinese lessons with Sarah and Kayla.

Progress has been made. Over the last few months our ability to communicate has strengthened. Ordering food is less of an ordeal. A lot of guess work still ensues but the nub and gist of the practice has definitely been conquered! In September we were in a restaurant and instead of using words to communicate we had to resort to mimes. The restaurant owner was having a whale of a time acting out fish, cows and frogs, hopping about all over the show. In October I was able to order dumplings but accidentally received 2 huge boxes as I had muddled up my numbers. Now, I order all my meals without having to mime any animals. However, I do still guess and hope for the best. It’s still a challenge and dishes we order are often a surprise. Yet, I am happy to report it is getting easier and easier.

I can now tell taxi drivers where I want to go and give directions. I can even ask for directions, the problem is understanding the answer. I can have very basic conversation and spout out random sentences. Most importantly I can tell you, in Chinese, that ‘my cat is very cute’**** (Wo de mao hen ke ai) and that ‘winter is coming’ (dongtian lai le).

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Winter is Coming!!!?? (Winter did come to Jiujiang and it was horrible. Jon Snow knows nothing about this shit here)

 

 

****correction: this sentence is no longer useful because the bastards took my cat away, I cannot go into details here as my poor broken heart cannot handle the emotions this topic will unleash.

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Lying in bed crying but knowing everything will be ok because the cat told you so!     Now I just cry in bed alone. (this is one he had a cut on his otherwise unblemished face)

 

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Alas the dream team has been divided. Never again shall a being pierce my soul with eyes so full of wisdom. 

So I have been trying hard and even though it sometimes goes tits up I think I am improving. Next month I am taking the HSK level 2 examination (these are a series of 6 Chinese language tests) and hopefully I will smash it. Admittedly I still make a lot of mistakes. But does it really matter if I occasionally accidentally invite a lift full of men back to home instead of telling them I am going home now (don’t worry they didn’t follow me home)? Is it a massive problem if I accidentally tell I teacher I like eating oranges and then receive in the mail an entire crate of oranges? Even if I can’t understand the answer at least I can ask the question, right? It definitely isn’t a sign of defeat that I still have to say ‘ting bu dong’ – I don’t understand – every time I speak to someone Chinese. Nahhh its cool I am definitely in a better position than I was 7-8 months ago.

 

In conclusion, stage one of growing bollocks requires learning the language. This will be hard. The end.

p.s. Remember guys, absolutely no tossing!!!!!!

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The Jiujiang Diaries – episode 2 

So what has been happening in my strange new life in Jiujiang?

Adapting

First off i must admit that when i pictured moving to China I definitely did not envision a Chinese city such as Jiujiang. In my musings back in England, before the adventure commenced, I had pictured a place more like Beijing or Shanghai (places i had previously visited). A city that is part of the 21st century, a city where animal carcass or fish guts dont regularly block my path, a city where foreigners do exist and the English language can at least be sighted. Instead I have ended up in the arse end of nowhere where the language barrier makes isolation inevitable and escape is difficult and tedious.

I did not foresee living in a flat with no heating, no functioning toilet, a shower that likes to play temperature roulette with me and a front door that no will not even close properly never mind actually locking. I had expected to be welcomed by my school, to make friends with colleagues. I naively believed students would be well behaved and listen to me, i did not expect to have a class where 30/60 students are fast asleep. I also did not realise my timetable would be changed, lessons cancelled, knowledge about dates withheld and salary to be dished out when and if the school fancy it and only after i have asked numerous times. Oh i also assumed it would be put into the Chinese bank account they made me get. How silly of me!? NEVER ASSUME. WHEN YOU ASSUME YOU MAKE AN ASS OUT OF ME AND……ME, just me, I am the ass.

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Wake up you shits! 

However, life here is turning out to be one hell of an experience. Sometimes it is infuriating, sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes it makes me so angry and frustrated I find myself ranting and raving. At other times the bizareness is hilarious and has me in stitches. It is when I find myself off on one of my solo adventures, attempting to order food in a restaurant or being stared at by the entire bus as I commute to work, or merely weaving a path through the chaotic streets that I realise that this is my life. I actually live here. I am in China and this strange and surreal dream is actually my reality. Now while that thought can bring on a slight moistening of the underarms in a spell of dread and panic it can also fill me with a sense of what may be  described as joy, excitement and fascination. On the other hand that feeling may just be the complete and utter loss of my sanity. Who knows. Not I.

Put it this way, I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of the year someone jumped out at me and said ‘hahahah you’ve been punked!’ And this whole madness turned out to be a very long winded joke.

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would you like unidentified meat or crab meat for dinner?

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ahh too late the crab is making a break for it!

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Enter if you dare

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exit with some meat sticks 😉

My best friend 

Since my last blog a rather wonderful development has occurred. I am no longer living alone. I now have a cat. In keeping with the random and confusing manner in which events unfold in my world the acquiring of my new kitty happened in exactly that way. A few days previously I had met a woman who invited me to her kids birthday party, i spent the evening cooing over the kitty. Two days later i received this message, i might add this wasn’t a private message but a message sent in a group chat with the other people who had attended this party.

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At first I had thought she was making a joke, a remark about the fact I had spent the entire evening paying more attention to the cat than anyone else, including the host. So I told her I would pop round to discuss the matter further. As soon as I arrived all of the cats stuff was being assembled ready for departure. As she greeted me she said ‘ok, so you take him now, yes?’ Startled and somewhat confused, as per, i found myself saying yes. roughly ten minutes later i found myself walking home with the cat. So now Felix the cat (they had already names him) is my new housemate. I am already in love with him, but like every relationship there are difficulties. For instance he has not been trained in the slightest and has a tendency to bite when its play time. It is play time whenever he decides. He also likes to eat whatever i am eating, and drink whatever I am drinking. He climbs curtains and has succeeded breaking them. Bins, plastic bags, pens, paper, tissues and my knitting have all become his toys. Oh but when he is calm and he sits on my lap and has a cuddle the stone cold heart of mine melts and i fall back in love again, and again, and again. He has me wrapped around his broken tail (I suspect the children from his former life broke it but i have not succeeded in finding answers to this problem, it appears not to cause him any pains or problems though).

Navigating the train 

At the start of October there was a holiday, national week. So i decided to make the trek to Shanghai to visit the BC bunch residing there. While the trip itself was great I can’t deny it didn’t leave me with a sense of jealousy and a wish that I could be in that position! But let’s not dwell on delusions and dreams. Back to reality. I am very proud of myself for navigating the sleeper train on my own. Admittedly I did have a little chunder when I opened the toilet door to find someone had emptied the contents of their bowels in a very sloppy and messy way, in fact the contents was so vast and the colour a disturbing grey I suspect the pooper themselves was feeling a tad under the weather.

So from the train experience I have 2 tips for travellers.

1. Try very very hard to book your bunk in the middle of the carriage. Sleeping by the toilet is so grim words are useless to express the emotions I felt, the smells I inhaled and noises I heard. The smells of piss and turds alone are enough of a deterrent but the constant noise of people spitting and hacking up a lung in the process is beyond abhorrent. So please dear god don’t be as unfortunate as me and find yourself next to the spitting and shitting for a 13 hour journey.

2. Now it is the bottom bunk is the most roomy, you can actually sit up without banging your head, and the most easily accessible as you do not need to climb over other people or beds to have a snooze. However, the bottom bunk also seems to be the social bunk, so without warning you may find a random man on your bed. Or you may go to the toilet and come back to find his entire family has joined him on your little bed. Stand your ground people!

Goats and Gates on the mountain. 

One of the best things about Jiujiang is its prime location at the foothills of Mt Lushan. A quickish bus ride takes you up the mountain where, after paying an extortionate entrance fee, you can spend the day dawdling around the village or hiking to various waterfalls.

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All good journeys commence with the driver handing these out!

Somehow, even in a touristy area with a map to hand we still manage to encounter stranger things. After posing for an old man whose sly attempt to take photos were less subtle than a charging rhino we decided to head towards site no.13 Donglin Valley Gorge. Due to an utter lack of sign posts we managed to miss the footpath but eventually found our way through people’s back yards, past some family’s laundry, and found the steps leading down. Ah so naive and innocent we were as we looked down the path, how unsuspecting we were of the voyage to come. We did have a couple of hints that perhaps we had picked a long trek, we bumped into a group of sweaty people who had clearly just come back up from what lay beyond. The group had a selfie stick and seemed more interested in getting a group photo than anything else. So we posed politely. I believe our friends were trying to communicate that its a three hour walk down, at least they kept holding up three fingers.

So we waved farewell and tootled along the path. The path was littered with animal droppings, before we could even form the question as to what sort of bottom produced this poop our answer appeared in the path. Old Billy Goat was chilling in the path in front of us, casually blocking our way. Now, my experience with goats is rather limited but i do remember a rather vicious goat who used to charge at the gates and try to headbutt any passers by. Luckily this mountain boy was chilling to the max and let us by, hardly even bothering to acknowledge our existence.

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We soon encountered a gate. It was locked. Perplexed, we gave it a rattle and started having a nose around the hut next to the gate. An old man came out, shouting something in Chinese. We attempted to explain we wanted to go through but he laughed a lot of shook his head. We even got a Chinese pal on the phone to talk to this man. That didn’t actually help much. Soon a group of Chinese people, roughly our age, turned up. The old man got out his keys and proceeded to unlock the gate. Feeling rather outraged I took a strange risk and snuck through the gate with my new pals. Why should we be treated any differently to these people. This man wouldn’t let us through but would let these people through? Why? One of my new pals tried to explain, in his limited English and aided by my limited Chinese, that the man thought we were tourists staying on the mountain, that if we walk down we won’t have time to walk back up. He didn’t believe that we were teachers living in Jiujiang and that we wanted to walk down this path which takes us past the Gorge and down the mountain, where we can then get a taxi home.  Basically, the old man assumed we were stupid foreigners who would die on the mountain. Maybe, he had a point but it gets very very tiring when people continuously make assumptions merely based on your waiguo ren status (chinese word for foreigner which is inescapable in my day to day life in China).

Anyway we eventually all got through the gate and commenced the very long and rather tricky journey down. It was pretty much steps the entire way, but these steps, which more often than not were just rocks, were perilous, very uneven, not very stable and very very slippery. Our new pals seemed to have found a sense of responsibility and didn’t leave us the entire way, despite telling them numerous times they can leave us. They repeatedly told us to hurry up before the sun sets. Anyway we made it down in one piece. The pain in my legs the next few days was intense, hobbling round school was slightly embarrassing. This experience taught me that trying to use a squat toilet when you have very very stiff legs is extremely difficult. I pay have lost my balance and taken a tumble, I may also have failed to concentrate on my aim and peed in my shoe. That may have happened.

Potty for Pottery 

Jingdezhen is the pottery capital of China, on the weekend of the 2nd October it was host to the international ceramic fair. It also happens to be in the same Province as dear old jiujiang and less than a 2 hour bus journey away.

So Friday after school we hopped on a bus and rocked up to Jingdezhen. Hailing a taxi is always somewhat challenging in this country, they often decide the journey isn’t worth their time or they just don’t fancy dealing with the foreigner. For whatever reason it’s often a challenge. Anyway we managed to find a ride only to end up driving round in circles with the driver getting more and more confused. The inability to communicate properly definitely wasn’t aiding the chaos, the gist of the situation was that the location for the hotel was wrong or the hotel was not there. So the taxi dropped us off at some random other hotel where the woman behind the desk spoke a little English so helped us figure out what on earth was happening.

It turns out the hotel had closed down. We were homeless for the night. The hotel we were currently sat in was way too much for our budget so we sat in the lobby attempting to search for a new place on our phones. While we searched a drunk man vomited next to us. A beautiful metaphor for the mess our night had turned into.

After a lot more faff and confusion and failed attempts at communication we succeeded in finding beds for the night.

The next day we managed to spend a pleasant day pottering about the fair (pun most certainly intended), purchasing some knick knacks here and there. Chaos managed to stay at bay until that evening where our attempts to have a delicious meal at a restaurant that had been recommended to us were completely thrashed. Awww China you persistent omnipotent presence you win again. So after driving miles out of the city and heading up into a mountainous area we eventually got to a very deserted area that looked more akin to a Zombie Apocalypse. Eventually we arrived at the supposed restaurant. It is not at all reassuring when the taxi driver is looking confused and stressed. He hops out of his taxi and runs inside, he returns attempting to express something to us. We whip out a phone and proceed to have a bizarre conversation entirely through google translate. It turns out the restaurant is by reservation only, at least we think that’s what the problem was, we still aren’t sure because the driver was then trying to say he can wait for us in the taxi while we eat. In the end we got him to drive us back towards civilisation. Well actually it was a street which had a couple shops and a restaurant or two dotted along it,  but by this point we were hungry and in need of feeding. Luckily we managed to have a good dinner and were fortunate to hail a taxi home, despite the restaurant owner offering to drive us back to the city.

 

 

Well, there is so much more i could write about, but my dear friends why divulge all my juicy news in one fell swoop. Better to keep you crawling back for more. Allow me to wet your whistle and mention that the next instalment may even shed some light on the delights of Chinese tinder aka tantan. For now let us merely ponder and wonder together. What else does China have in store for me? What other weird and wonderful encounters will stumble across my path? Will I survive the year or will I roll over and admit defeat……Nahhhh, there are far too many adventures and tears to be discovered.. This crazy cat lady has some conquering to do and a man to look after. A little furry man who likes to sleep on my chest and nibble my toes, just like all men do.

Toodle pip and cheerio.

p.s. have you ever been to the toilet and seen your dinner in there?

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If the fish was to swim down the toilet would it lead to freedom? That’s my question

 

A confused woman’s guide to combat confusion – (a working progress)

I have somehow ended up in China. The question that has been permanently on my mind is ‘what is happening?’

From my experiences over the last month I have composed a survival guide for a newbie in China. This is also a means of ranting/venting. It’s been a rollar coaster folks

*** please note that these are just my own experiences, while others may have experienced similar things everyone’s experience will be different. This is not gospel. Don’t go getting your panties in a twist.

  1. Forget everything you have previously heard about China.

Seriously forget everything you thought you knew about China. I have been to China before, I thought I knew a bit about this huge and interesting country. I was wrong. All the myths you are told. All the stories and rumours. All the things you thought you knew about life in China. Forget it.

Firstly forget it because China is soooooo big that life in one province can be completely different to life in another.

I have ended up in a rural area in the arse end of nowhere. So the rumour that China is ahead of other countries etc, forget that.  The British council advertised this year by saying ‘spend a year at the heart of the 21st century’.  Well I can guarantee you I am not living at the heart of the 21st century. Cassette players are a popular device for teaching and chalk boards are still used #throwback. Trains are not a thing in this city unless you are getting the sleeper train out of here. Mopeds, bikes and buses are the main form of transport. Helmets are unessential.  Capacity is not an issue.  Now I am not saying that is a bad thing. I am merely commenting on the discrepancy between rich areas and poor areas. In only the month I have been in china I have noticed the difference between a city such as Beijing and a city like Jiujiang. It is vast.

Furthermore, that rumour that Chinese students are so obedient and so well behaved. That they really respect their teachers. Yes that is indeed not true. I’ve had swearing, refusing to do the work, kids walking out, kids mimicking me, kids shouting over me, a lot. It is very hard to control 60 kids at once. So when they start talking chaos can quickly descend. Oh yeah that’s another thing classes range between 60-70 students. The students are either asleep in your lesson or doing their homework. To be honest who can blame them!? They are in school around 7 every morning, they have exercises and drills to do in the morning, and they have four lessons before lunch. Then four lessons after lunch, including some eye exercises (one of the weirdest things to witness if you aren’t expecting it or if you are expecting it actually). They go home for dinner then come back for homework 7-10pm. They also have school on Saturday and often on a Sunday too. They have so much homework and are so tired. It is not hard to see why half of them are asleep.

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Don’t get caught in the stampede. It killed Mufasa and it could get you! beware! 

Have you heard that rumour that the Chinese education system is so incredible, well the brilliance of it has not been revealed to me yet. As of yet I see students who are exhausted. The students in the year are put into sets, which is common in most countries. However, the students are also individually ranked according to how well they do and how clever they are. Each student knows their place. If you are the worst in the year you know it. Teachers will say point blank in front the kids that they are terrible at English and they are in the worst set. Something that really grates on me. Hardly positive reinforcement. If you are in a poorly ranked school (yep the schools are ranked) then only a few of the students will end up going to university. The students know this. If you are at a bad school in a poorer area you also know that your parents would not be able to afford an alternative for your further education and you know you could very well end up living in the same province the rest of your life. So many of my 16 year old students have already given up. I hate this and it makes me very sad to see a young person be told they are not good at something. (I don’t know if this is true everywhere but this is what I have been told and I what I have seen in my job so far).

Also the rumour that you cannot get tampons, hair conditioner, mint toothpaste and shower gel. Total bollocks. Of course you can get all that stuff.

So forget all the shit you have been told and go figure it out for yourself. Just remember you will have a completely different experience depending on the city you go to.

 

  1. Always carry tissues with you.

So toilets in china are squat toilets. For me this is no big deal. In fact I actually quite like it. Popping a squat is wonderful for you bowels. Although, if you are wearing a playsuit or long trousers things become a bit harder. Always look at your feet and don’t step in urine, shit or sanitary products that may be lying about. Oh and you might want to hold your nose and avoid looking in the bin (if there is one).

It is a very rare occurrence to find toilet roll in the squatters. Sometimes there is some but every toilet I have visited here in Jiujiang lacks the proper wiping equipment. Therefore, you must carry some with you. Of course you can always go for the drip dry technique but if your bowels are as unpredictable as mine have been of late you may be caught short. So take it from me that is an awkward experience. So carry some with you. Ok?

  1. Don’t drink tap water

Any idiot will know this.

  1. Don’t put your belongings or your being on the floor

Cleaning products are not used as liberally as they are in England. The main method of cleaning the floor is throwing water on to it and pushing it about with a mop. The same mop is often used to clean the toilets and the classrooms. Is it sanitary? Is it effective? I don’t know but I do know that the floors remain pretty dirty. Your bag will leave the floor accompanied by suspicious stains. The students all know not to put their stuff on the floor. ‘teacher, teacher move your bag!!!’ cry the students as one rushes up to move my bag off the floor.

Also while we are on the subject of floors, do not get your students to sit on the floor to play a game. They don’t like that either. Unaware that the floors were not clean I tried to get my students to sit in a circle on the floor. Staring blankly at me they proceeded to get out brooms and begin sweeping around me while I sat stupidly on the dirty floor.

  1. Hygiene

We have already discussed the floor situations. The use of a mop and water is the method in practice as a whole. Bleach and floor cleaner are not a staple. This does not please me. Now anyone who knows me will know that I am a bit of a grimey gremlin. I’ve heard my own bedroom referred to as the troll cave, gremlin grotto and other various names. Yes it is true I’m not the neatest gal. However, I have found my limit. When I moved in to my new apartment I thought at first glance I had hit the jackpot. It seemed clean and spacious.

Oh how naïve I was. After a week I started to notice I had a few housemates. Yep the cockroaches are having illegal house parties in my abode. Occasionally they are joined by some spiders and, keeping slightly to the edge of the scene, is an ants nest. Oh Brill. I love hosting parties. Especially for Arogog, Shelob and the cretinous cockroaches from hell. I hate creepy crawlies. I am the woman who screams at a spider and fetches someone else to dispose of it. (Although don’t kill them because I’m pretty sure they will then somehow come back for you, or their families will). For those of you unaware cockroaches are robust and sturdy, they are hard to kill. They can live for a month without their heads. Stamping on them releases their spawn all over the place. They also carry every germ going. Oh and they are omnivores so would quite happily eat a human.

No thanks. Tap me out. Not interested. Party over. Please leave.

So death traps have been set all over my house.

I have been going ape shit crazy cleaning like I have never cleaned before. To my horror when I mopped the floor with bleach I discovered the water turned black with dirt. When I wiped the walls of the bathroom the cloth too was turned black with dirt. The cupboards were full of dirt, debris and the carcasses of various breeds of flies. So now my messy habits are being squashed out by the fear of cockroaches. Any food is safely sealed in a Tupperware box. All surfaces are wiped multiple times daily. The floor is hoovered and mopped on the regular. My mother would be so proud.

So yes there is a positive to living among the beasts. I am becoming a cleaner human. However, I also sleep in fear paranoid they are plotting my take down. My body will be found in months to come nibbled by cockroaches.

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This is Bruce. Before he met his match he had been attempting to have a dip in my sink.

 

The second point on hygiene concerns the experience I had while having my health check required for my visa. So every foreign person who works in china needs one of these. I had already had every one of these checks done before leaving as I was told I had to and had no choice. So I did it. Turns out many people didn’t get all the same checks. My province was clearly stricter. Anyway so my ‘mentor’ couldn’t be arsed to take me so dumped me on Sarah. Luckily Sarah’s mentor said there was space in the car so she could take me. We arrive and are presented with a checklist of impending procedures, including internal and surgery. Ermmmm what!? I am not having anyone cutting me open? Or going up my hoohaa thank you very much (yes that’s what I thought when I saw the word internal).

Bring on the medical. We enter into the first room. Ahh the blood room. My favourite. If you know me well you are probably aware that I have what they call white coat syndrome. Meaning i am a complete pussy and I faint when doctors come at me with needles. Or when they merely touch me (yes that’s happened). Or when the opticians tries to help me with contacts. Or when they dentist tried to fix my tooth. So yes I am a fainter. Its weird and I can’t control it. But when it happens I also have a fainting fit, occasionally emptying my bladder too. Super fun, not at all embarrassing. So that fear was prevalent in my head. In England I can sometimes avoid the fainting by lying down or having a nurse distract me. Sadly there was nowhere to lie down. There was no privacy. In fact the room where they take the blood is also the waiting room. There is a desk, behind which the nurse sits at a computer, a very rusty and dirty sink in the corner, and the floors are dirty too. On the desk sits the empty test tubes keenly awaiting my blood. There are also the full test tubes holding other people’s blood. Just sat there on full display staring at me. In the middle of these tubes is a pillow. A dirty blood stained pillow. Blood stained. Other people’s blood on the pillow they want me to put my arm on. So feeling pretty queasy already I sit on the stool. I lay my arm on the infected pillow and allow the nurse to tie the tube around my arm so she can start smacking my veins. Please note that I think this rubber tube may have been stolen from a heroin addict’s wet dream. The nurse is then trying to communicate with me but because I don’t speak Chinese and because I was determinedly looking at the ceiling and trying not to vomit or faint I have no idea what she was trying to say. It begins. Three tubes of blood were taken (as I later learnt). But towards the end I start retching and heaving. I then feel myself start to faint. I find myself lying on promptly vacated chairs with my head on Sarah’s lap. The nurse and Sarah’s mentor are staring at me like I am an alien. I am handed a sweetie as apparently I look very pale and my lips are blue. So yes it was a great experience. Feel free to drain me of my blood anytime yo.

Next we are given a small flimsy cup and directed to the toilets. Squatting and trying to piss in a cup is very hard. Especially as my balance was somewhat questionable after having fainted. Oh and the toilets smelt so awful that wasn’t helping. Spotting two already full cups on a tray by the sink we pop ours down next to them, hoping that’s what we are meant to do with them. Then I wash the piss off my hands. Without soup. Why would there be soup in a hospital? Beats me.

Next up is the ECG and Ultrasound. Sarah is in one room and I am in the other. They are conjoined. Nobody bothers to shut the door, so while Sarah gets her ultrasound I’m getting naked and having stuff clamped to my nipples. (yes they use strange clamps in china not the sticky tabs we use in England). Very kinky. Also did I mention there were a couple of random people flitting between the rooms to have a look at the strange English girls. Standard.

Thankfully there was no internal and no surgery. Although the eye test conducted in Chinese was interesting, reading Chinese symbols is impossible even with my glasses doc. Trying to explain about my lazy eye and tell them I am long sighted not short sighted was impossible so I gave up and allowed them to look and giggle at my wonky eyes.

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  1. Prepare to be confused

You will be confused. A lot. All the time perhaps. ‘wtf is going on/ what is happening’ are fast becoming my new catch phrases.

Questions will remain unanswered. A common response to most questions will be along the lines of ‘I’ll tell you later’. Later never seems to arrive.

More often than not you will have people call you and tell you they will be with you in five minutes to do something. Sometimes you will not be told what this something is. Sometimes you will not be called and warned of the impending something.

You won’t know what you are eating. You won’t know what you are buying. You won’t know where you are.  You won’t know what you are supposed to be doing tomorrow. You won’t actually know what you are supposed to teach. You probably won’t know when you are supposed to teach. You won’t know when holidays are. You won’t know how to buy medicine when you are sick. You won’t know much to be honest.

Solution: make it up.

  1. Last minute changes are common

Classes will be changed, timetables amended and holidays or extra days teaching will be sprung upon you without warning. Everyone loves a holiday but here it means working on the weekend to make up for the days missed during the holiday. I don’t know whether it is just because I am the outsider or whether things really are last minute and organisation is slightly lacking but whatever the reason I am told things very last minute. Sometimes not told at all. It is fast becoming a huge annoyance in my life.

  1. Just eat it

To really survive don’t have any allergies, dietary requirements or any food dislikes at all. Especially if you cannot speak Chinese this all becomes a lot harder. In many restaurants there will be no pictures and the owners will not speak English (obviously because we are in China). So there is a lot of guess work. I thought learning a few simple words such as rice, beef, beer, chicken, vegetables, would suffice but that still isn’t always sufficient. Often food turns up and remains unidentified. So I take the tactic of just eating it.

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This is when the restaurant owner decided to join us mid meal for a photo session. This was after she put her son jeff on the phone so that we could give our order. Not sure I appreciate what Jeff ordered for us (see pic below).

Unfortunately if you do have an allergy it is not easily guaranteed that you will be safe. Especially in the small local restaurants. Or street food. One of my friends is a vegetarian so learning how to say that and say no meet please is necessary.

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I have absolutely no idea what this is. I couldn’t bite any meat off the bone. The suspicious meat defeated me.

  1. Be friendly

People will be excited to see you. Not all the time but often if you go into someone’s restaurant they will get pretty over excited. They will take pictures. They may even bring a friend or their grandma to come have a look at you. Just roll with it.  Try to be friendly, even when you have a mouth full of unidentified meats and this random woman decides that’s when she wants a mug shot. Don’t give her the finger just try not to choke or show the camera the inside of your mouth.

  1. Get used to the daily assault on your senses.

There are strong smells. Smells of meat, dirt, fish, car fumes, poop, and urine. Where I live this is especially bad because it’s a more rural and poorer area. The smells can be quite overwhelming at times. At other times there are great smells. I live opposite a steamed bun shop. I have no idea what is inside the buns but they all taste great. Sometimes its meat, sometimes veg and onetime it looked like tiny little noodles shoved inside the bun. So yes there are very many smells. Some good some gag worthy.

Sounds. The horn of a car is a frequent sound. More than frequent. Constant. Everywhere you go there will be a car or bike horn. I have yet to work out where these are angry beeps or more of a ‘heyyyaaa i’m over here!’ type beep. It is very noisy. The bus ride to and from work is deafening.

Vocal sounds. There is a lot of shouting. Someone sitting next to you on their phone, shouting down it like they are trying to contact someone on mars. Someone shouting at you as though you are deaf. Conversation at dinner time, which of course you don’t understand, is very very loud. People are very vocal. However, you can get used to this by becoming deaf so fear not.

More sounds. Shops trying to lure people in by blasting very loud music. It is not enticing. Another tactic is to have someone stand outside with a microphone and sing. Or shout. Or a mixture of singing and shouting. Again, this tactic fails to spike my curiosity and lead me into the shop.

The worst sound. Spitting on the floor is inescapable. It happens everywhere. On the bus. On the street. In the doctors. Everywhere. (in the doctors it was into a cup not the floor).  I hate spitting. The thought of someone else’s phlegm glob lying on the floor makes me want to send the contents of my stomach right down next to the pile of phlegm. But that is not the worst part of the spitting. The worst aspect is the noise. You now the phlegm is coming when you hear the loud hawking sound, throat grumbling rumbling revolting sound of someone preparing to send their army of germs out into the world. It is disgusting. That is not up for debate, it is grim.

Sight – there are many different sights, some good, some bad. But your eyeballs will be assaulted if you walk past shops with crazy bright flashing lights. Again some sort of means of attracting people to enter the shop. I am not a moth. Therefore, this tactic has failed to work on me yet. You will sometimes see kids pooping or pissing in the street. This is encouraged. In fact their clothes have flappy bits around their privates to make the task that much easier.

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Go on Son!! 

 

Taste. Now I have tasted some pretty wonderful things since being here. The food is great. A tad oily but tables with have boxes of tissues so you can wipe the greasy crap off your mouth. Or wipe the sweat from your brow (sweat can be caused both by the 34 degree heat and the level of spice in the food). I have had some great dumplings, hot pots, duck and pancakes, fish on a stick, meats, veg and buns buns buns. But sometimes things don’t taste so great. Only way to find out is to shove in your gob and give it a nibble. Although sometimes its pretty much all bone/claw so you can’t nibble. I am yet to work out what you do with those parts of the animal. Perhaps just suck it.

Feel – the floors feel weird. I don’t know why they just do. My shoes are extra squeaky these days. Oh and my bed is like lying on cement. Super comfortable.

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Busy Sunday mornings.  found myself some veggies and some yummy dumplings.

  1. You will be stared at a lot. You will have photos taken of you.

People do stare. They do love to take a photo. This will not be subtle at all. Before you start to think omg people are staring at me, it must be because I’m so damn beautiful. No bitch its because you are not from around these parts and you stick out like a sore thumb. You look different, people stare. End of.

There is nothing subtle about it either. They can be very long and unblinking stares. So yes it is a bit uncomfortable at times. For instance when you trying to go to the toilet, squatting toilets with no doors on them. That would be a nice time not to be stared at.

Nothing you can do about this except change nationality. So just get used to it. You can find ways to make it more amusing for yourself. For instance I have taken to having staring contests with people. For example if I catch someone staring at me on the bus I now just stare back until they look away. Or you could just give a smile and wave. You may get a wave back which is always nice.

Get used to the photos. It will happen. I’ve experienced the sneak attack photos. I believe this is when people are trying and failing to be subtle when taking the photo. I’ve also had the full on approach of just walking up and taking the photo. Sometimes its nice to be asked if you will be in a photo. The worst time though is one you mentor decides that a really good time to start taking photos is in the police station when you are trying to sort out visa. What makes that situation even better is when she moves you into position, poking and shoving you and then afterwards tells you that you look very tired and in the next photo you should cover your eyes with sunglasses. Cheers mate, not like I hadn’t just got off a 13 hour train journey and been dragged around a new city by your crazy ass. Oh yeh my mentor is bat shit crazy. The other issue is that her English is very bad, so combined with my complete lack of ability to speak Chinese we are constantly suffering a communication breakdown.

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I don’t look at all uncomfortable do i? please note i was running on very little sleep at this point in time. Hence why Merry decided to tell me the need to cover my eyes with sunglasses.

 

  1. It can be very lonely.

I live on my own. I can’t speak to most people. I sit in an office by myself, sometimes for 5 hours in the day. The internet often doesn’t work. I am still unaware of how to actually get about the city or how to do simple tasks as there is often never anyone to ask. So I spend a lot of my time on my own with nobody to talk to. It is easy to go a bit crazy, (crazier than I previously was). Plus I now don’t have a cat to talk to, turns out being a crazy cat lady is actually what kept me sane all these years. Ironic.

  1. Perseverance is key

There have been times when I have wanted to quit. When I have no idea what I am doing here or why I am bothering. My tear ducts are permanently at the ready because I am cursed with being the type of person who cries when they are sad, angry, tired, annoyed, or basically feeling any emotion whatsoever. All the stuff that has been going on, how hard it truly has been, how isolated you can feel and all the other crap that comes with moving to a completely different country can sometimes make you want to stop and go home. And yet one thing will happen that will just make you keep going. Keep pushing through.

For me it is often the teaching. The strange thing is I don’t really want to be a teacher. When a class is naughty I want to cry or shout or swear and tell them to stop being little shits. Such as when they swear at you, or walk out your class or refuse to listen. Then refuse to talk when you actually want them to talk. However, when a class goes well and the students are interested and engaged, when you see them enjoying it and having fun or when a student is passionate about learning English and just wants to talk, it somehow makes it all worth it. Even if the next class is full of little shits.

Sometimes it is just walking around seeing a bunch of women dancing by the lake. Or a man in pyjamas strolling around blasting out some Chinese music. Or a man at a restaurant trying to ask what food we would like by miming, his impression of a frog was beautiful.

 

So yes its very tough, it is confusing, it is lonely, it is frustrating, it is infuriating and it is all so different from anything I have ever known. But my god it is going to make my memoirs bloody fantastic. Everyday something strange yet hilarious happens. Walking around and just seeing people in their own life’s which are so different from my own is really intriguing. So I stare, and they stare and we are staring at each other. We are both wondering ‘what on earth is this person up to?’

The answer: ‘I haven’t the foggiest mate. But at least there is tea.’

but hey if I’m ever in trouble at least there is a police station floating on the Yangtze river.

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Yep. That is a police station.

 

There is an Orgy in my Bathroom

I woke up this morning at half 7, a time which most adults may consider a lie in but for me it is an ungodly hour at which time I feel like a slug.

Sluggish: ‘slow-moving or inactive’

Yes you can certainly describe me as sluggish, especially at 7am. However while i may enjoy referring to myself as a slug in order to describe my slow and lazy mannerisms this does not mean I want to be a slug and befriend slugs. So as I crawled downstairs to the bathroom, drowsily stumbling through the kitchen I was suddenly confronted by a puddle. No i didn’t have my wellies on because yes this puddle was inside my house. That’s right the roof is leaking. Oh well, never mind, i have stepped in worst things. So moving on I shove open the door into the bathroom, i say shove because i really do have to launch my full weight onto the door just to open it, it seems the wood has swollen, probably as a sign of protest or perhaps to show the puddle who is boss, I’m not sure. Anyway, I lean over the sink ready to splash water on to my face when I see I have company.

Seven slugs have taken refuge in my sink. Weird baby slugs who did not move when i asked them to. They have sent out their change of address cards and have settled into their new life in my sink. When I returned to the sink at lunch time the slugs were gone, i thought that a more able house mate had dealt with the situation, perhaps communicated in a way that slugs could understand and begged them to leave. Alas no! When I went back for my evening wash/teeth brushing i noticed the little buggers had come back in full force. I am now convinced that they are everywhere in the house planning a full on attack. Humans Vs slugs. The end is nigh.

Have you ever seen slugs mating? It is weird, strangely mesmerising, but on the whole disturbing. If you have never witnessed such a feat of nature here is picture.

If a picture alone is not enough type into Google ‘David Attenborough – slugs mating’ and you will find an excellent video capturing the moment. I am now fully away of their filthy antics, I know that the slugs are multiplying, they are fornicating in the bath, oozing and secreting next to my toothbrush. There is a god damn orgy in my bloody bathroom and their spawn are using the sink as their private paddling pool. The slugs have a more active sex life than myself and they are mocking me with their sexual shenanigans. Bastards.

Anyway if anyone has bothered to carry on reading you are probably thinking i have gone insane, or perhaps wondering where the shrooms come into this. Well my friends the shrooms have been with us for a while. Not the fun lets take shrooms and trip fucking balls’ type but the ‘im growing in your bathroom and will probably be the death of you’ type of mushrooms. I have Shrooms and Slugs. So my point is I am so sick of living in a mouldy, wet, cold slug infested, shroom inhabited crack den! I want a fucking fire-place, a balcony, an oven that doesn’t try to burn me every time i light it, I want a fruit bowl with fake fruit in it just to confuse the hell out of people and I want an endless supply of teaspoons in the kitchen drawer.

So in conclusion i no longer wish to be a student living in a student house. I would like to live in a nice comfortable home, with a warm cosy bed, no slugs, no mould and with a whole shelf of beautiful teapots which nobody but myself uses. How do I achieve this……..Dad or Mum, I’m moving back home to Chichester, West Sussex, The United Kingdom, The planet Earth, The Universe.

Bugger that. If you can’t beat them, join them. Excuse me while I go fester in an empty bath tub surrounded by slugs and eating shrooms.

The future better involve tea.

So I did this year abroad thing and like found myself while I was travelling. I mean i just had this totally profound, eye – opening moment when i was staring down into the Grand Canyon and BOOM i figured out the meaning of life and my purpose on this beautiful planet………..

yeahhhh not quite mate.

In fact I have returned home and slotted straight back into life as though nothing at all has changed. I still have absolutely no idea what im going to do after i graduate, im also not even sure why im doing a philosophy degree. Everywhere i look my friends are getting married, pregnant, in relationships, graduating and starting new jobs. Yet here i sit in my dads house, with about ten pounds to my name and an extremely needy cat sat on the desk blocking the computer screen. So this is my question to everyone, is it all just an act, a facade that everybody is carrying out a lot better than i am? Does anyone actually know what they are doing? I cant be the only person who has no bloody clue what they are doing? Admittedly i probably am in the minority of people who spend more time talking to their cat than human people, but cats are less judgemental.

There are two questions, well topics of conversations actually, which have started to irk me even more than ever now. The first is whenever anyone asks me what i plan to do after uni. By going abroad i added a year to my degree, that means i actually would have gradutated this week if i had stayed in England, Congrats to everyone who has gradutated by the way, but all i can think is ‘thank goodness i pissed off for a year because what in merlins name would i be doing with my life now!?’ I have actually started giving different answers to questions about my future, sometimes i say i want to do a masters, i want to be a writer, or go into the world of Academia, or just be a spinster with cats. Truthfully i have no answer. ask me again in 10 years time and i probably still wont have an answer or maybe i will have already built my army of cats. who knows?!

The second topic of conversation concerns my relationship status. People ask if im STILL single (always the emphasis on still), friends want to know if i dated anyone while away, if im dating anyone now, complete stangers ask why im single. A stranger in the pub said that i am an attractive young woman so must surely have a boyfriend. Clearly a girl my age must have something wrong with them if they dont have a boyfriend!? what else would a girl do to fill the lonely void which is normally filled by the perfect guy………

Well yes i am STILL single. there are many reasons for this, 1 being that im a lazy cow who can’t be bothered to make the effort, the other is that im a crazy bitch, but really aren’t we all a bit crazy!? I am single now, just as i have been for the past 21 years but in a different way to how i was single 1 year ago, or 2, or 3 years ago. That may seem like an odd statement, how can being single now be any different from being single a few years ago, surely being single is just being single…. right??…….. Wrong! I was single a few years ago because I was incapable of feeling anything for any guy, i didnt know how to trust a guy and i hadnt ‘fancied’ anyone in a very long time because i honestly didnt know how. I didnt know how to cope with being myself let alone letting anyone else be part of that, a part of me. The best part about going away for the year was that i learnt a lot, no not about my degree (sorry parents) but about who i am and the kind of person i want to be. For the first time in a very long time i actually understood what it meant to have feelings for someone, i finally understood that having someone be part of your life could be a good thing, and that people can be trusted. No i wasnt in a relationship, nor did i even have strong feelings for anyone. This was just something i realised by being on my own and liking it. As a ‘sexually liberated woman’ i am used to other people’s judgements and opinions, calling me a ‘slut’ doesnt insult me, it makes me pity the person who cant understand that i make my own decisions and enjoy it. I never pretend to be anyone else or anything else and enjoy the hell out of it.

so yeah i didnt figure out the meaning of life while exploring the Canadian Rockies, or find my spirit animal lurking in the desert. But i did find out that releasing my nipples in random places and dancing in the middle of the road in death valley with a pack of weirdos is better than pretending to know the answer to questions i have no bloody idea how to answer. so while you digest this slightly odd blog im going to have a cup of tea and do some knitting.