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Three days in, first blog from China

September 11, 2011

Well, we’re here at last – China, three days in.  It’s sometimes easy to forget this little fact in the chaos of getting used to a new flat, new friends, new job, new place.  So, not much to report yet but every now and then a gentle reminder pops up and tries to attract your attention with a coy little wave.

Little reminders like the in-flight meal choice between Hong Kong and Chengdu being ‘fish-rice’, or ‘dog-rice’. (which I’m still not convinced wasn’t some in-joke from the flight staff, as beyond this I have yet to encounter dog in any other form other than as a cute pet).  Or the take-your-life-in-your-own-hands car journey from the airport, beeping, flashing and swerving our way past trucks, cars and road traffic accidents with a hairs-breadth between us and certain death.

Somewhere it’s tough to forget you’re on the other side of the world is the supermarket.  You’d think you’d be safe in a Wallmart and, to a large degree you are in any supermarket in the world, and strolling through the bedding and cleaning sections lulled us in to a false sense of security (Jackie Chan sells detergent over here, you know) – until we reached the fresh meat section.  Half a chicken in china, it turns out, is quite literally that – a chicken, plucked, and hacked in half head, feet and organs intact, lying next to whole plucked animals of indeterminate taxonomy and what, at first glance, looked like a two foot long lizard – but upon further examination turned out to be a whole, plucked, black-skinned chicken; “For the ladies!” explained a Chinese student later that day.  “Chinese medicine – it is said to be god for their skin.”  Images of Jess rubbing dead, black chicken on to her face were quickly dispelled, though, as it turns out you just cook and eat it in the normal way.

The food is fantastic so far, albeit experimental in some cases; I have yet to sample chicken feet, although I hear they are a delicacy here, and at a lunch held especially for us I was enjoying beef tendon until I cheerfully asked what it was I was eating and my  queamishness took over my taste buds.  Kanji-Roulette (to be explained in a future blog) will indeed be a high-risk game here.

Particular fun are the constant, gaping stares from everyone we walk past (the consequence of choosing an inland city to live in – there are probably only a few hundred westerners here in a city of five million people).  This in particular is a strange experience – we’re beginning to feel like minor celebrities, or freaks – depending how full your glass is; especially when families ask you for your phone number whilst you’re at dinner, so complete strangers can call you to practice their English or when strange old men openly star at your girlfriend right up to the point their beady eye disappears behind a slowly closing door, or their eyes follow you until they nearly walk in to a lamp-post. An American colleague at the University we’re living at has taken to pulling faces, throwing grass (the response to which, apparently, was a terrified wince as if the grass were cursed by a banshee) or running screaming at the men who stare as a coping mechanism: “if they want a freak, then I’m going to give them a freak” he calmly explained.

Having said that, the people are incredibly warm and open so far – eager to help, and the uncomfortable stares of the adults we walk past is balanced nicely by legions of cute kids running up to us to say hello as they walk past.  We’ve already been invited to several dinners and parties, and I have been assigned a ‘Charly’, a keen young student who has been as helpful and generous as anyone can be.  Jess made the mistake of giving out her number to her helper, which has now clearly gone half-way around the university as she is receiving texts saying hello, happy autumn festival (this weekend) and, oddly, one that contained just two kisses, all from seemingly random numbers.  I suspect that Charly has refrained from doing the same as he wants to keep me to himself…

So, not much exciting to report yet, other than the inevitable culture shock – I haven’t seen much of anything yet other than the campus we’re staying on, and the Wallmart in town but, then, we are only three days in.  More to come.

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From → China, Personal, Travel

One Comment
  1. I am looking forward to following your story.

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