Our apologies. You’ve probably been wondering where we’ve been for the last…22 days… especially after Callum’s dreadful news that he has been ill. Well, not to worry, we are both well, and we are certainly still in China.
We’ve had a comment on the previous post about things that we miss. (Un)fortunately subway sandwiches are not one of them – China does like it’s western-style fast food and so we can eat Subway, McDonalds, and KFC until our hearts give out. One thing I do miss is central heating.
None of the apartments here have central heating; it is too expensive to put in every apartment, and what with so many flats being built and many of them being left empty, it would take a lot of maintenance. It is also redundant when the summer heat comes – I’ve heard it reaches 40 degrees C, and so one can see why central heating wouldn’t be needed. However, during this dismal weather spurt we’ve been having it’s difficult to dry clothes, dry walls, I suppose dry anything. A wonderful thing about central heating is how it warms everything to drying point – giving the English homes that cosy feeling that we all relish so much in the winter. Here, there is no cosy, just cold, and often, damp.
Being a true Brit, however, I do enjoy the rain. I enjoy the smell of a spring rain, and the way that when it stops everything is given new life. Everything is greener, bolder, and ready to spring into life. The air is fresher, crisper, and sometimes, the sun even shines in between. Being sub tropical, the rain here is a lot heavier. It is made of good raindrops, not like the terrible English drizzle, and yet it doesn’t clear anything. When it does finally stop, the air is still thick with humidity (and whatever else is in the air!). This sad fact makes for the need of a good radiator – none of my laundry is drying. (I told you we hadn’t died, just got old. I am currently publishing my – albeit clean – laundry online haha).
The torrent of the rain and the lack of heating when you get where you’re going makes the idea of a stroll, or dance, or even a walk to work altogether, undesirable. If you do so happen to get soggy, from your own lack of umbrella or the fact that cars really don’t care about splashing you with puddles on their way past, there is no chance that you’ll dry anytime soon. Which makes the act of dancing in the rain a little less magical than in England (I do suggest, for those of you in the UK right now, that you do a little dance in the rain for me).
The humidity would be WONDERFUL for bread baking, I hear you shout. And yes, it would, if the temperature was there. I am sorry to say we have not been able to bake any bread since we last posted. With such dismal weather, I am afraid to say, we have become dismal creatures. Disney couldn’t make this up.
Though, as they say, “from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success”, and so instead of bread baking this fortnight, we have learned to make good old Chinese dumplings.
The wonderful thing about working with people from another culture is that sometimes the weather is dull, and they know how dreary that makes people. And so they open their homes to teachers and teaching assistants alike for a day of learning how to make good old Jowza (haha, I don’t think I have spelt that correctly at all). From making the dough its cased in, to mixing the filling, putting it together, and finally learning the cooking method – it’s called shocking, if anyone is interested – we managed to make way too many dumplings, but by the end they were looking great. Top this off with a few beers and a few silly games and one has an incredible afternoon amidst all the depressing weather. I did indeed feel like the rat in ratatouille; as if I had found my way into a cosy hat and was witnessing a culinary masterpiece. From here I have befriended a beautiful Chinese girl who loves to cook and we have play-dates in the diary for recipe swapping, cooking, and eating lots of food. Watch this space for some more amazing flavoured posts.
From here we went back to being dismal, slugging our way to the office and back, eating, sleeping, and completing all 8 Harry Potter films. A weekend came, and our office being male dominated, the lads agreed to have a “lad day”. This fused a pub quiz and a pub crawl, with one round being read out in each bar, and although there was no wooden spoon, the consequence of losing a round was that one had to drink more.
(Callum here, I’ve been told to elaborate on the lads night, so i’ll do my best to string together what few memories I have of it. Firstly, as all mighty drinking sessions should, we started by eating a massive lasagna cooked by the office boss, which set us up pretty well for what was to come. We’d all prepared 10 fiendishly difficult questions on our assigned topic, (mine was history, and was mostly about explorers and mountaineering accomplishments). The first bar we arrived at was closed, so we headed to the trusty World Beer for a swift few, and got the first round (geography) under way. After much discussion, deliberation, and flat out argument, we put some rules in place to keep order. (The particularly contentious questions went something like “What are the national animals of the following countries ? – England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and of course China. Answers at the end, for anyone curious). With that out of the way, we headed to the next bar, who were barely open, still mopping floors and cleaning the lines, despite it being 8.30 pm. A quick pint here for the sports round (Name all 10 events in a decathlon?) and on to the next. My history round in a riverside bar (First Team to climb Everest and return, bonus point if you can spell the Sherpa’s name correctly) and the Science and nature round (What animal’s name means river horse?) in a bar next door, and we were well on our way. Between bars, we accidentally wandered into a high fashion clothes shop open late, and got roped into a drunken stagger down a catwalk amidst elegant Chinese models. A round of barbecued lamb skewers from a well known street food vendor kept us going, and two of the lads had a cuddle with a giant teddy bear for good measure. At this point my memory becomes a little hazy, and I can’t really say where we went next. There was tequila, several more quiz rounds, a crazy taxi ride, a few guys went home when we finished the quiz, and the last 3 of us ended up in a notorious gay bar being plied with crates of free beer at 4am. At this point we called it a great night and headed home. )
answers: click here, hold the button down and drag down to see.
national animals – England – Lion, Ireland – Deer, Wales – Dragon (controversial, and we accepted red kite in the end), Scotland – Unicorn????, New Zealand – Kiwi, and China – Panda (or golden monkey)
decathlon events – Day 1 – a 100-meter run, the long jump, shot put, high jump and a 400-meter run. Day 2 – the 110-meter hurdles followed by the discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and a 1500-meter run.
Everest Summit – Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay 1953 ( They Both agreed to always say they arrived together, so there is no official “first man up Everest”)
River Horse – in Greek is Hippopotamus.
Whilst the men were away, the women went to… the cinema. Chinese women being princesses in their own right – they are almost ALWAYS tottering around in beautiful heels, and equally incredible outfits (yes, even up our beloved Gu Shan Mountain) you can imagine that Disney has a big presence here. With showings every half hour for 10 hours, two English girls and three Chinese girls marched our way to the cinema to watch a Beautiful, not Beastly, remake of an old movie. I have to admit, I am very impressed, Disney, well done. From here we went for dinner and I must use the words of my English compadre to describe where it was we were eating.
“I love it here,” she began, “it is so basic, it is brown – brown tables, brown chairs, brown kitchen, and so cream – cream walls, cream lights, and the green – green walls, green utensils, its all so beautiful! Even the menu – Its so black and its so white – I love the composition!” Where I’m from, we’d call it hipster. But I digress. “I love how simple it is, I love how nice it feels, and the table cloth is made of paper! I love how simple that is! They can just throw it away!” I must mention here that my dear friend is vegetarian. And so when they brought the mountain of seafood, her opinion was as follows “its all so colourful! Look, the green, the orange, what is this?” it was un-shelled crab “I love food with lots of colours, even though I cannot eat most of it”*. What she is describing here is a mountain of seafood, tipped in the centre of the table on said paper table cloth. We were dressed in fabric bibs and plastic gloves (not uncommon here) and without plates we just dug in, unshelling prawns and clams, mussels and crab, scallops and shrimp. Our poor vegetarian friend ate the veg for us, mixed in, of carrots, corn on the cob, and potato. One of the Chinese girls even tried to convince her that there was no meat in a frankfurter (which they add to everything here), that it was just flour and water. With the rain on the window next to us, and being sat in the “nice”-ness of the restaurant, with a giant pile of thai-curried seafood, I quite liked that nothing else could be done. I was glad that I wasn’t climbing a mountain, that I wasn’t sitting in a beer garden. Fluff aside, I was glad that I was there.
*these aren’t exact quotes, but conversations as such did arise and similar words did leave her mouth, thus giving life to this one part of the blog.
And so we reach this week, where nothing’s still happening, the weather is still grim. In a couple of weeks we are off to Xiamen, and in a handful more we are going to Taiwan. So watch this space! I promise not all blogs will start as depressingly as this one 🙂
P.S. Callum was hungover for two days, and has solemnly sworn never to drink again.