Phase 2 in my journey to acquiring bloody big bollocks.
- Embrace your bizarre reality!
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.
- 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.
- ‘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!
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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
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.
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.