Since we arrived we’ve heard countless times about an “abandoned German mall”, “You have to go and see it”, “there’s a secret door to the roof, if you find it, the view is incredible”. So off we set with visions of a post-apocalyptic China at the heart of FuZhou City.
Pulling up in the taxi, the streets were a hive of people (as are all streets in China) and looking up we saw the “abandoned mall”. Abandoned my bottom.
Walking in, we were clearly “not from round ‘ere”, ready with our large, shiny cameras and looks of awe. The building was indeed incredible, looking European, but it was full of people, rubbish, and wholesale stores.
Yes, it was clear that it had been abandoned once, yet people had taken it back, fly-tipping in the wide aisles, and opening stores full of stationary, fabric, and flowers. Lets get to the roof, I thought, so breaking away from my group I ascended many flights of stairs, trying to find the “secret doorway”. Some were bricked up at the top, some were inacessable, and other doors were unlocked and ajar, but locked with a chain and a padlock on the far side. We finally found one open door, yet behind it were constructions workers. The sign read “Enter at your Peril”.
No it didn’t, but I wish it had done.
We looked around for a good few hours, but, never making it to the roof, we moved on to a catholic church, just down the road.
Built by the Spanish in the 1800s this church was a taste of home. Of the bibles, some were official and printed, and some were handmade, their pages stuffed with handwritten letters, laminated photos of icons, and business cards for religious leaders. Inside, people were chanting and praying, and outside, children were playing on the concrete. A man was hacking at the ground with a pneumatic drill. We were still in China.
A few days later a friend and I (Sam, if you hadn’t already guessed) took a Chinese friend out for her FIRST EVER picnic. We met at her university and went to find somewhere to set up our blanket. Although the campus was vast and grassy we settled down in the middle of a 300m running track. It was “Sports Week”, a time when everyone gets time off from their studies to partake in or watch a myriad of sports events unfold around the campus. Most people go home. Our friend had stayed to use the library and study harder. People were running all around us, more than one relay team were practising, there was a basketball match or two going on behind us. We received many an odd glance. Picnics, aren’t a thing here in China, and so three people sat eating on the grass is an odd sight to see.
Now, I know what you are thinking, there is no savoury bread, there are no pork pies, no scotch eggs. No mini sausage rolls, no dips. What on earth did we eat? I shall tell you. Our picnic feast consisted of red dates, walnuts, almonds roasted in sugar, pringles, and dried fruits (a little like lychee) called Dragon Eyes.
We gave up and went to sit in a restaurant.
This past week has also included my birthday. It began the day before, when many of my Chinese friends became confused (because I was keeping it a secret) and told some of my students that it was my birthday that day. After class, one of my students dragged her mum home as fast as her legs would carry her, to find a gift, and then sped back to school as quickly as she could. Luckily I hadn’t gone home and she burst into the classroom with a paper bag printed with a silver LANCOME. After a motherless rendition of Happy Birthday (her mum was still climbing the stairs) she gave me the gift. I was ready to look in surprise and thank-you-but-it’s-too-expensive-I-can’t-possibly-accept-it, when upon opening the bag I saw that she had given me the largest persimmon I have ever seen in my life. I mean its over three times the size of any I have seen in the UK. Gift One: Persimmon.
That evening we stopped at a newly opened BBQ place near our work that plays live music in the evening and serves things on sticks, for a bite to eat before heading home.
We had been there before and they have always been good, the service is good and they usually get your order right (which is more uncommon than you may think). Well, this time, they were useless. Messing up our order more than twice, bringing us other peoples food, and then not correcting their mistakes. Three hours in, still hungry and mostly foodless we decided that we would pay for what we had eaten (not what we ordered) and leave. Finding out that it was my birthday, however, made them super apologetic and tried to give us free beers. With work in the morning we politely declined, and so they decided to give us the next thing out of the kitchen for free. The next thing out of the kitchen was octopus on a stick. Gift Two.
I slept well and on the whole had a good birthday, with gifts three and four being a bag of skittles and a cat cuddly toy respectively. For the Sunday evening (our Friday) I had tried to arrange a trip iceskating, There’s a rink in our local mall, so dragging as many Chinese folk along as possible (the Westerners will come as long as you promise beer) we headed to the mall. Most of the Westerners left after the beer ( you can’t take drinks on the ice) and so it was up to 10 of us to enjoy ourselves. And enjoy it we did.