#tbt the china year abroad.. i put some videos together (09/2016)

The title says it all. I put this together quickly and wanted to put it on my blog to share with you guys but also to keep it somewhere so I could watch it anytime if I so wished to!

Two years have passed since I went on my year abroad as part of my undergraduate degree studying Spanish and Contemporary Chinese Studies. I’ve had a clear out of my photos and videos on my laptop and stumbled across ones I had forgotten I had. So here is a mis mash… and a small insight to what I got up to in China as an exchange student… It is worth going if you ever fancy it!

Happy throwback Thursday everybody!

Xo.

Advertisements

You think you know China but oh no, you are not even close

I’ve had this sit in my draft pile for over six months and have decided it’s either time to make it a post or scrap it. I’m intending to achieve the former but should this go down the drain… off to the bin it goes. (Although you all wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t posted it.) During my short six months in China, the native people continued to fascinate me (and still do). There’s a general saying among the international students: “TIC” which stands for ‘this is China’. It is used as an explanation for when anything goes wrong or we have a problem.  It just shows we’ve just accepted the frustrating situation or, basically, when whatever is happening does not make sense to us ‘”laowais” (foreigners) because the Chinese can be bonkers confusing, stubborn or just unorthodox.

We are informed numerous times by family, friends, blogging sites, year abroad posts that the Chinese are the opposite to us in every way. And most of the time this advice is not unfounded!

I am still baffled by their cultural habits and customs.

When I left I felt finally freed from a very long list of things:

the land of no google, needing to have a vpn to do anything, seeing or hearing people spitting in the street, being surrounded by those who don’t understand the concept of a ‘queue’ or how to talk at a normal volume, from the staring because I am a “laowai”, from a form of chinese paparazzi of which all photographers probably have photos of me pulling the most unflattering face ever, from being almost two clothes sizes bigger than you would back home, from the cravings of western food, from the lack of the concept ‘personal space’, from the challenging language barrier that is sometimes so rewarding or an utter fail, from not being able to read or guess what everything is on a menu and sometimes having unpleasant surprises, from the excitement when we come across another “laowai” who’s not part of our crew, from the awful snoring in hostel rooms, unfortunately from the land of many cheap things, but fortunately from the squat toilets that sometimes have no doors nor do women sometimes lock them if they do, from those who don’t seem to know what ‘headphones’ are on trains and planes, and from the general hustle and bustle of the ever-in-a-hurry life that leaves us saying one thing I mentioned before: TIC.

Yet despite everything; I love the land I called home for six months and I cannot wait to return once I’ve graduated and decided what I want to do with my life… Does loving China that make me crazy?

Not a chance. 😀

I find it amusing that people ask me (and many often ask me): “But why do you like it? What draws you to that land of chaos?”

The reason I am entertained by these questions is that I just don’t have a straight answer. Have you ever had a hobby or been somewhere where you just feel energised when you do it? It thrills you, puts a smile on your face even in some of the most frustrating moments, and you feel that you could never get bored? That’s how I feel about China. It’s a land that has ‘adventure’ scribbled all over it.

So, how does one adapt to the Chinese way of life?

Firstly, be a little psychologically prepared:

>> Imagine China is like marmite: it’s a love or hate thing when you first arrive.

>> Then imagine China is like an avocado or olives (basically a food we don’t like as kids but discover we do later on): China slowly grows on us as weeks start to pass until BAM. You find yourself saying you’re loving life and can’t get enough of it.

>> But every now and again it’s as if you get a sour grape and you’re wanting to catch the next flight outta there because ‘you don’t have to put up with this’.

>> But by the time you are actually getting on your flight home, it sucks. China has become your favourite thing and you find yourself in slight disbelief that this transformation has happened. It’s almost as if you’ve been in a relationship and you’re just exhausted but you love ’em. ❤

(Then again, have low expectations because it’ll make it easier to get used to it.)

1. Make the most of the opportunity to learn some basic Chinese because that will make your experience 300 times better than if you can’t communicate with the majority of the population. Even on campus at Ningbo, the high street stores were run by local Chinese and their english was very basic. I would recommend learning: numbers, fruit, meat (and the characters for this so you can at least pick stuff out on a menu) and basic verbs.

Numbers:

9b79615dcef5868025a99cabf8be53c1Source: pinterest

Meat:
肉 – ròu: meat in general
牛肉 – niú ròu: beef
羊肉 – yáng ròu: pork
鸡肉 – jī ròu: chicken

It’s easy to find all of this online, and it will be so much easier once you’re having to learn and use it in real life situations!

2. You’re going to feel as if you’re being watched 90% of the time. No matter how hard you try to assimilate the culture, you will always appear alien to the eyes of the Chinese. This no longer happens much in big cities, but it’s quite a common phenomenon in rural areas where people are not used to meeting many foreigners (laowai). Be prepared to be stared at, followed around, lightly touched or asked to take photos with groups of strangers – but try to play along!

3. The best advice I’ve read is to just go with the flow, learn and copy how the locals do things and use that as a strength to making the most of any situation. As long as you keep your mind open to anything, remember the use of ‘TIC’, you’ll be as “happy as Larry”.

IMG_0115

Good luck to anyone travelling or moving to China temporarily or for the long-haul. I’m rather jealous really…

Xo.

Ningbo: A Video

I have made a video that covers the past five months of my life in China and have included as many international friends as I was able to! It’s filled with a mix of events, trips, photos and videos of many different moments through out the five months. Let me know what you think!

It is about eleven minutes long XD

Xo.

Reverse Culture Shock: Ningbo Style

It has been just over a month that I left Ningbo behind and I don’t know about anyone else but I feel like I am in mourning. Yes, I am rather a dramatic person but I have been followed by a little black cloud ever since I left that just takes me back to various moments that I remember or had briefly forgotten. I would do anything to be able to do it all over again and I wouldn’t change anything. I know that a lot of the exchange students I became friends with have gone through (or are still going through) the ‘Reverse Culture Shock’. It’s one of those feelings you get that seem utterly inexplicable to anyone. Thus because it is rather difficult for anyone to relate then it seems like I am hitting a brick wall a few times! So this is my take on it:

The first is: “where have my friends gone?” 

As I haven’t flown home yet, I haven’t yet returned to normality and been able to re-adjust to my daily life before I left. I guess not keeping myself busy with seeing friends and family again, moving into my humble abode in Nottingham and going through all the fuss of being back is not distracting me from wanting to go back to China. But that aside, I met some wonderful people on the exchange to Ningbo and basically, I miss them!

It is an odd thought that I’m not going to ever wake up again in Flat 406 to able to meet any one of the internationals for lunch, to hang out, go to InCity with, or even drag ourselves to the relentless 9am lectures… Also being more than friends with someone is equally odd to not have once I left. People say that it’s not worth the risk because it is just exchange – why let yourself risk being hurt at the end? but I disagree with that. If it happens, it happens. Because it will probably make you even happier than if you didn’t. It took me quite a while to let it happen when I was in Ningbo because I didn’t know what to do or how to feel, but letting it happen ended up being one of the best decisions I made. Even though leaving has been rather tough and the feeling as if I won’t move on… it was worth it. ❤

Despite being so fortunate to have the social media we have nowadays it is scary that it is not certain I’ll see half these people again. It is common knowledge that people you meet, who are not from your home country, in another part of the world are those you are more unlikely to see again. I half take this as a challenge to see them all again!

The second: “why don’t you understand what I’m saying?”

One of the biggest shocks that I still can’t adjust to is not being able to just use and mix more than one language into one conversation. Every time I say a single word in Spanish or Chinese (or any language I came across) my parents and brother just stare at me blankly until I realise, I’m not amongst internationals anymore… I became so accustomed to hearing a mix of languages being spoken around me that I am finding english a rather boring language right now! I basically miss the multiculturalism that we were exposed to being on an international campus. From day one the notts girls and I conversed in a mix of English, Chinese (only a little) and definitely “Chinglish”. As we got to know others more languages were added to the mix. The girls all practiced their french with the Frenchies and our friends from Montreal. And I practiced Spanish with Luis. Towards the end of our trip, Luis and I, at times, spoke in four different languages in one conversation! (English, Spanish, Chinese and very awfully pronounced Korean.)

Another thing is our english grammar is shocking. Many of us from Notts definitely had a few moments where we had to double take what we had just said and correct ourselves! And that is still happening despite having returned back to the western world..

The third: “why is water that expensive? it should never be that expensive..!”

One of the main conversation topics in Ningbo involved many of us comparing the prices of basic food, activities or even sofas to our respective homelands. We all agreed (except for Luis who said that food was cheaper in Mexico) that China is BONKERS cheap. Our meals averaged around £1 if we ate in the canteens or £2 if we ate in the campus restaurant yummys. Even eating outside of campus cost about £3. It may equal to what a student would spend in Sainsbury’s for a weekly shop but it comes with the perks of not having to cook it nor wash anything up! Wahey…! It was also rather cheap to travel around the country. A two hour train journey to Shanghai on a high speed comfortable train ( bought on the day or in advance) cost between £9 – £15 which is a bargain compared to trains in England. If you were to decide to go to London for a day (which is the same length journey) you would have to fork out £35 atleast. And that price is for railcard holders which gives them a third off the total price! Outrageous… See my distorted view of reality?

The fourth: “can I just have all the moneys to be able to travel now please?”

That pretty much sums it up. I am constantly trying to work out a million different ways to go around the world to see people. Thus I am just putting off the facts that my bank balance gives me a flat out ‘no’ and my conscience keeps mentioning “but don’t you have an really important degree to study ridiculously for…?”.

Pfffft. I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and just having friends living in various places totally justifies my reasons to going places without worry. (That’s not a complete accurate portrayal of what my response would be but it’s what I’d love it to be!)

This articles I’ve linked below sums up the ‘reverse culture shock’ perfectly with the most appropriate gifs (of which I agree with alll of them)! Enjoy 🙂

http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/when-youre-back/item/2597-10-signs-youre-suffering-from-reverse-culture-shock.html

I hope this short post just gives you a bit of an idea of what it’s like coming back from being abroad. Although it is so lovely to be back with our home comforts that we craved and seeing family who we missed, it does twist our vision or reality a little. One thing I do know is that I am going to move back to Asia (probably China) when I graduate next year. And I am so excited for it to happen when it does 🙂

Xo.

Lisa & Georgie: Parting Ways after our China Travels

So this is just a quick video before Lisa and I went our separate ways in China!

Apologies for the awful handling of the camera… I do look rather awful and definitely felt absolutely shattered at this point. I just chose to spontaneously record to remember the moment..!

China Travels #7: Pingyao (and the place I turned twenty-one!), Wuhan, Ningbo & Hangzhou!

Monday 15th June

After having a good a nights sleep as one can get on a hard sleeper that jerks and has a few snoring people and some smokers… We arrived in Pingyao! The directions I had indicated that it’d be easy for us to walk so off we went. Our bags were feeling heavy on our backs as if people had slipped rocks in them during the night and it was quite humid. The walk we supposed would take twenty minutes lasted forty five! We arrived just after eight o’clock at Zhengjia Youth Hostel. Luckily we were able to check in and ditch our stuff in the room despite two people having not checked out yet. Hayden (part of the Notts lot) and Stephanie (her friend from home) were joining us so we were to have a four bed dorm to ourselves. Luxury! To pass a little time we headed out onto the streets in search of breakfast. Pingyao is a mix of streets full of restaurants, souvenir shops etc and others untouched by tourism. It definitely is a much more authentic old Chinese town than others we have visited. 

The first part of the morning passed slowly. We had a little while to wait for Isabella, Hayden and Stephanie so after breakfast we returned to hostel and I found myself tucking up in bed. I intended on having a quick twenty minute nap which turned into an hour long deep sleep. I was so thankful that Lisa hadn’t chosen to wake me up although we were thrown into busily getting ready in a rush as Isabella had messaged me to say that she had arrived. We had to shower and I wanted to throw on some make up for the first time in ages just to look alright seeing as it was my birthday! I pulled on my now favourite ’21’ top, put the ‘birthday girl’ hat on and by the time Isabella appeared we were ready. She did the most generous thing and had brought me a huge birthday cake all the way from TaiYuan. It was beautifully decorated with white chocolate panels around the outside, pistachios and curls of white chocolate sprinkled on top. The inside was like a victoria sponge but also had peaces of cherry and mango in it. Delicious! It made the day feel that little bit more special and I just felt so lucky. Soon enough Hayden and Stephanie rocked up and we spilled out onto the town’s streets in pursuit of food and see a little more of the old architecture. As it was already lunch time we found a resturant that seemed to have good food and sat down to eat. It was delicious and Isabella was so utterly generous and paid! Her reasoning was that we were technically in her hometown (or close enough) so it was custom to treat gthe guests to a meal. Bonkers Chinese logic. As she had to leave soon after we slowly headed back the short distance back to the hostel to eat cake! I couldn’t let her leave without having some.

The owner of the hostel was so excited by us and my cake. He keep grinning at the fact that I was wearing a kiddie’s birthday hat and marvelling at my child-like excitement. I gave him a piece of cake because he was just so sweet. He gave us free beer too, haha! Once we had gobbled down an amazing slice of cake it was time to see Pingyao. I had a sad goodbye with Isabella – although I plan to see her again! – as she had been so kind and I just felt so lucky. I didn’t want her to go! Alas, once we waved her off, the four of us bought a ticket that allowed us to go into all the attractions which were mostly museum’s and old courtyard houses that showed us the old lifestyle. As it was boiling hot we didn’t do anything in a rush. We did go onto the city wall which was, for me, amazing because you can look over the low old style rooftops of the town below and it is one of my favourite views to see. By five o’clock we went back to the hostel to chill because Hayden and Stephanie were tired from their early start as well as Lisa and I still trying to catch up on our lack of sleep. Once we felt energised again we headed out for dinner and returned to the restaurant Lisa and I went to for breakfast. It was simple yet good food. From there we went in search of the bar street for a drink to celebrate the end of my birthday. We found one that looked alright and was a karoake bar (with thankfully no one singing!) which meant we could pick the music. Obviously I picked ‘Birthday’ by Katy Perry. Unfortunately the cocktails were quite expensive so we chose to only stay for one. None of us were desperate to party and even though it’s my twenty first, I was very happy to end the day there. It had been amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My parents and brother sent a video to me that they lovingly made themselves to wish me a happy birthday. It featured an Iron Man balloon (god knows why) and the three of them dancing (rather amusingly) to a ‘Happy Birthday’ song that lasted a good two minutes. I was highly amused and very grateful for it 🙂 I was also able to skype my wonderful Notts lot back home which was an extra birthday present that is just priceless ❤

Thank you to each and every one of you for making it such a fantastic day and memory for me xo.

Tuesday 16th June passed quite quickly. We spent the morning walking around Pingyao seeing more of the various museums but the main objective was heading on to our next stop. Hayden and Stephanie were to return to Beijing. Lisa and I were heading to a place called ShiJiaZhuang to then go our seperate ways.. It was really sad to know that this was the big goodbye for Lisa and I. I’m going to miss her a lot! She was the first person I met when I arrived at Ningbo and one of the good friends I made during my stay. My badminton buddy, a friend who always was up to do anything, someone who was always positive and listened patiently to all my babble and drama. Lisa, you are wonderful 🙂 

Bye bye :(
Bye bye 😦

Her train left first so I sat and rang my mum to pass the time. I was nervous about this train but I had treated myself to a soft sleeper and when I boarded the train I realised this was the best decision ever. (Well, on my long list of them.) The bed was actually soft! The duvet thick and I had two pillows. TWO. I read my book, sent a few wechats and happily went to sleep. It was bliss.

Wednesday 17th June

I arrived in Wuhan just after nine o’clock feeling quite rested and happy. I caught the bus from the station to my hostel shock only took fifteen minutes. When I got off the bus I pulled out my phone to check baidu maps and a elderly man saw me and asked me where I was going. I told him and he gave me directions, I thanked him and headed off. Little did I know that five minutes later he would appear by my side and walk me himself to the door of the Wuhan Pathfinder Hostel. I was quite on edge as we walked because I have found that I really don’t trust strangers at all – Taken just keeps popping into my head… – but we exchanged small talk and I was excited by the fact that I was conversing in broken Chinese. Again, I thanked him and he disappeared off the way we came. The hostel isn’t one of the best we’ve stayed in and the first room had many visible Mosquitos buzzing around that I asked to move. In the next I didn’t notice any so unpacked and showered. Once feeling fresh and ready for the day, I set off to see the sights. My exciting list has mostly gone untucked unfortunately. It was pouring with relentless rain for the entire day so after going up to see the 黄鹤楼 ‘Yellow Crane Tower’ my feet were already soaked. The lunchtime hunger hit at about two so I went in search of a street I’d seen on tripadvisor: 户部巷风情街 ‘Hubu Alley’. Compared to all the other places we’ve been to to eat the local snacks, this was one of the worst because there wasn’t anything special or good quality and it was expensive. I bought a pot of dumplings that reminded me of Guangzhou and they were tasty enough. At around three o’clock I headed to the Wuchang 1911 Uprising Museum. I had been excited to go here – and glad it was a place not spoiled by the rain – since we had studied his part of history in second year at Nottingham. It was enjoyable and quite informative! However I would have loved more information rather than loooads of pictures and memoirs left over. Unfortunately it’s a Chinese museum so it’s always going to be stingy with the amount they tell the general public. Despite this it was enjoyable to walk around. It was laid out chronologically and the main part about the uprising was designed to give you the experience of walking around the old streets of Wuhan in 1911. There were fake streets and buildings with the sound effects of bogs barking and crickets singing in the night. Once I had walked around the whole thing it was five o’clock and I surrendered to the rain. My shoes were sodden, every part but my head and shoulders were damp and my bag was quite soaked too. This I heard back to the hostel and sat in the bar area to read my book. 

It was relaxing and enjoyable. Until a Chinese man came over for a chat. He was friendly and could speak in English quite well. We conversed in both our native languages and I spent most of the time being a witch and wishing he’d leave me in peace. Yet the guilt won and I remained chatting for a while. Then he disappeared off.  I had dinner in the hostel which was a small mistake because the dish I ordered was really spicy. I forgot Hubei province love to use chilli too. Nor did I expect a dish (which I have quite often) to have any at all! After toasting all my tastebuds one by one I decided I was full and retreated back to my book. At half past seven the same man appeared (I can’t remember his name, only his wechat which is Sixfour) and invited me with his friend (a female) to a music session. Although every part of me wanted to decline the offer some crazy part of me said: “why not? People always take about how they meet people whilst travelling and you’re always the chicken to hardly utters a word to people when you’re alone…” So I accepted. We came out of the hostel and got into his car and drove to the Wuhan University campus where we sat in this tiny cafe that only had three customers. Sixfour and the owner played guitar and a drum. A girl who was also there happened to have a ukulele and played that. I mostly enjoyed it. I even had a go on the drum which wasn’t terribly difficult and quite fun! I was still a bag of nerves though. Sixfour seems very passionate about his music and obviously enjoyed  the little jam session a lot. We left at ten o’clock and ended up driving across one of the bridges and back so he could show me the river. It was all very sweet and harmless but I couldn’t help thinking: “what would my mother say?” Of course, I didn’t text her about any of this knowing that she’d probably end up eating a whole packet of chocolate to calm her worry… I did message Dave though. Not that he could do much if the plot of my life started to resemble that of the film Taken. We were back by eleven, I thanked him and slightly hastily got out of his car and went in. I skyped Dave and then went to bed, glad the day was over. Not a great way to end eh? But I have enjoyed Wuhan and I would love to return when it’s actually sunny. I’m too excited to return to Ningbo anyway!

Thursday 18th June

Today is an odd day. I woke up feeling a bit out of it and slightly all over the place mentally. Will and I had exchanged a few emails over the past few days and it has played with my head a bit. It has reminded me of the friendship we had and that I sacrificed it with my choice about our relationship. I don’t regret my decision but it still hurts when I remember that he was my best friend, that is it no longer an ‘is’. I could’ve told him so much about the past five months. It could have been as long as a novel! But again we have cut off contact. It is the right thing to do. I really hope that one day we will talk again as we did. Stay friends. But lord knows what the world has in store for any of us…

The same guy, Sixfour, kindly gave me a lift to the bus station and made sure I got a ticket easily. He was so generous for doing so, but I feel so guilty to have felt relief wash over me when he left. I find that I really don’t trust at all. Was I meant to? I assume it’s good to be on high alert but I think my brain was taking it to a whole new level. I had a cheeky McDonald’s breakfast in the station then caught the bus to the Airport which was an hour out of the city. I met a girl on the bus who was lovely. We chatted in a mix of English and Chinese! It was really enjoyable. Once we arrived at the airport we split ways, I checked in and sat on a sofa for an hour until it was time to go to my flight. The journey was easy. Even though the descent was rather nerve racking as we seemed to plummet down through the ominous dark clouds rather than gently float down… I managed to smile at the sight of Ningbo but I was a little distracted by the speed to really pay attention to the view. And it showed! We braked quite hard when the wheels made contact with the ground. I arrived back at campus easily! I ditched my stuff and went down to find Luis as I was eager to see a familiar face! We went to a pizza place in Sunday Plaza which was pretty good and by that I mean the dough wasn’t sweet for once! On our way there it had started pouring and despite having an umbrella we were pretty soaked. The rain hadn’t stopped by the time we headed home so we did the lazy thing and waited for a bus. Only the bus was taking forever and as it was more likely to catch one at the stop further along (and closer to campus) I finally decided to brave the rain and go. In this moment Luis and I spotted the bus we’d need behind us in the distance. We then did what (obviously) any normal person would do and pegged it to the next bus stop. We were more soaked than ever but the achievement of getting to the stop just before the bus was enough to distract us from realising we looked like we’d just taken a shower in our clothes. 

We spent the Friday 19th June and Saturday 20th June in Hangzhou to see the Dragon Boat Festival. On the Friday we walked around a bit of the West Lake and on the Saturday we headed to a place called 西溪湿地 ‘Xixi Wetland’ to see the Festival. Luckily it was not raining at all! The whole place was bigger than we thought but still lovely to wak through. After about two hours we came across the centre of the celebrations. It was so crowded (unsurprisingly) but it was cool to see all the boats. As we didn’t understand how it all worked, we just saw men rowing up and down in these quite small boats. They had a man or two on board each one with drums or other instruments making noise. After fifteen minutes we were happy and went off to buy 粽子 ‘zongzi’ because it’s the thing to eat for this festival! It was yummy. It is a small amount of glutinous rice with either sugar, red bean, pork or vegetables wrapped up in a lotus leaf. Luis wasn’t too keen on the texture but it was good quality!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We were done at the Wetland earlier than we thought so we went off on an adventure in search of the Eiffel Tower.

No, we’re not crazy nor are we suddenly popping to France ! 

China has stupidly spent its money by building neighbourhoods that resemble European style buildings! Most of these have not attracted the attention the government anticipated thus are sometimes referred to at the “ghost towns”. In Hangzhou there was one built on the outskirts called 天都城 ‘TianDuCheng’ and it has a mini Eiffel Tower!After an hour and a half of travelling on one of the most rammed buses we have ever been on, we arrived. It was pretty cool actually! Luis was so excited. I took the standard tourist photos and wandered around for a while. We were lucky with our choice to go to the station early rather than eat there because we just managed to catch the last bus. We arrived at the bus stop at six o’clock. The last bus was at six. A Chinese girl who was also waiting told us that it would be here in five minutes. We then realised that neither of us had change for this bus, we only have one hundred kuai notes. So I sprinted to a local fruit store where we had bought ice creams and begged for change. Luckily he was more than happy to help and I returned to the bus stop successful. At nine o’clock we boarded the train and headed back to Ningbo. We were both relieved to be returning because although Hangzhou is a nice place, we prefer our little Ningbo. We weren’t fond of the layout of the city of Hangzhou, nor the ridiculously volume of people we had to battle through most of the time. We understood that as it was a festival and weekend there were going to be more people but this was ridiculous! It was an easy journey home and we were soon back in our rooms and beds happily welcoming sleep.

Unfortunately I received some awful news on the way home. A girl I knew back in primary school has passed away whilst back packing and I’m just in shock. It’s the second a passing that I’ve heard about in the past five weeks of people I’ve either knew or met in passing. I’m flummoxed. We should be too young for this. So, I’d just like to say: rest easy you both, I can’t believe what’s happened and all my love to your family and friends across the world. 💝

Xo.

China Travels #6: JiuZhaiGou & Xi’an

Thursday 11th June

We eventually arrived at the bus station and were instantly bombarded with loads of local women renting hotel rooms for the night. It was incredible. Incredibly bonkers. They are like sharks that circle a victim in cartoons. Once we were off the bus and were waiting for Lisa’s Uncle, we watched them hunt down another bus load of tourists that just came in. I almost can’t explain how crazy it was. As the bus comes into the station, the women put their hand along the side and run with it until it pulls to a halt. When the doors of the coach open, they then board en masse before the poor people can fetch their belongings and disembark. Wow. I can’t imagine that being a type of job. But hey this is China (that’s my explanation…). Soon enough the Uncle (well, to be technical it’s her mum’s brother’s wife’s brother 😂) appeared in a chef hat and apron! We had been told he has a restaurant but didn’t realise he actually did the cooking!! It was a tiny walk to the place where we sat inside and had dinner. Fortunately for me he didn’t cook anything spicy! He is the first chef in the Sichuan province to understand “no spice” means zilch spice should be put in the dishes. And my, it was delicious. It was so freshly cooked, not oily and well-balanced. We tried to pay him using the red envelope method however he refused profusely. However he did accept the one for Lisa’s actual uncle so we just said take the other as well. It was sooo nice of him!! We then caught a quick cab to the hostel and checked in. Our room was on the top floor which in this case was the roof! We had a proper room and had the added bonus of having the entire sky to stare up at when we stood outside our dorm. We ditched our stuff and checked out the local stores for snacks and food to take with us into the park. We had already bought a few in Chengdu so we weren’t desperate but did buy cherries to share as they are easy to eat on the move and are mostly sweet. Back in our hostel we sorted ourselves for the long day to follow and got ready for bed. How welcome sleep was!!

Friday 12th June

Yay. Rain. Low cloud. 

Our alarms woke us begrudgingly early again and soon enough we were plodding along to the National Park Entrance at half past six. We were armed with snacks, cameras, ponchos and even poncho boots for our feet! We originally thought that the park opened at seven o’clock however when we arrived the sign said that it didn’t open its doors until half past. Nevertheless in glad we were there early because we were really close to the front of the queue. When they opened the doors the Chinese rushed forward as if there were only ten tickets to be sold. It made me think of the crazy eager people you hear about who wait outside department stores for the Boxing Day Sales. Luckily we weren’t trampled and bought our tickets quickly. We had decided against catching the bus because it was an extra ninety kuai and many people we had met during our travels advised to not. Instead, they told us to walk for the first hour and catch a bus from there because once you’re away from the entrance, they don’t check bus tickets at all. However luck wasn’t on our side because the wooden boarded path was closed for the first section due to some rocks falling the day before. We tried to be cheeky and sneak on a bus but a warden caught us so we paid for the bus ticket and happily jumped on. In the end this was a great decision because it took us just over half an hour to reach the furthest point in the right-hand valley and saved us an hour to see more. The top was rather simple, the main attraction was closed for repair so we basically walked through a forest for half an hour. It was still lovely to walk through. The air was so fresh as we were up really high (around two thousand metres or more) which was so nice compared to the rest of developed China. It was also pretty cold too. The clouds hung low, rain drizzling down and we could see our breath. We hopped on the bus back down some way to save time and because we would have to walk on the road if we didn’t. We got off at Arrow Bamboo Lake and worked our way down. The National Park is basically a really long natural river that pools into a lake every so often. The walk was easy as it was downhill most of the way and we could only follow the wooden path. I could go on and on how beautiful it was. But no words nor pictures can put it into the perspective it deserves. The lakes were many shades of blue and ranging from a deep navy to a bright turquoise. It was crystal clear. One of the spectacular features were the underwater trees. The trees that surrounded us on the mountain sides were bold greens. I think the pictures definitely and appropriately account for a thousand words.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We spent eleven hours in the park. Only stopping a few times to eat or catch the bus to go back up the left-hand valley. By the time we left at half past six, we were hungry and rather shattered. We headed back towards the hostel and stopped for dinner on the way. The food was delicious. It was spicy but tolerable because we could also taste all the other flavours in the dishes. The meals we had were probably the best dinners I’ve had this whole trip. Back at the hostel we packed and sat and chatted to a French guy in our hostel for ageess. He was really friendly and had already been travelling for over a year all across Asia. Eventually we got ready for bed but strangely didn’t feel tired. Despite another early rise – five o’clock – we just couldn’t encourage our brains to feel our exhaustion. I think we managed to sleep just after eleven.

Saturday 13th June

Thus this morning was tough. We crawled out of our warm beds (outside is so cold here!) and were down in reception at quarter to six. The taxi was waiting for us and we were off. The journey was smooth and easy. The driver was very chatty so Lisa and him talked for most of it. I understood half of their conversation until he started talking about things I had never studied the words for before. The landscape was very pretty and when the sun rose high enough in the sky, we were able to take a few pictures of the mountains beyond. Unfortunately we arrived at the airport early. It was eight kilometres from JiuZhaiGou so we had estimated this would take about two hours to get to however it took one and a half. We arrived, warned ourselves up a bit (I jumped up and down like a lunatic) and checked in. We sat in a fast food Chinese restaurant called Dicos (which is like a Asian version of KFC). I had a burger but the bun was of rice instead of bread and a hot drink to warm me up. Lisa just had biscuits and nibbled on my chips. We boarded and soon enough were off. The airport is tiny. It is like an airfield on the top of a mountain!

The flight was quick and I was very happy to arrive back in a hot city! We waited for our baggage for a little while then headed out. At this moment we are shattered. I know I mention that we are tired quite often but this time, we are genuinely out of it. We can barely utter words to each other because our brains just don’t seem to be functioning anymore. We headed to the airport bus and bought tickets. I quickly nipped to KFC and bought a cheeky ice cream because it’s really hot here and my throat hurts a little. The Airport Bus took us an hour. Lisa slept for most of it and I read because I can’t sleep. It’s boiling here too. It would be fabulous if I wasn’t wearing leggings, trainers and t-shirt…. Today is a defeated day.

At quarter to two we arrived at the hostel grateful to find air conditioning and relieve our backs from our heavy bags. The Shuyuan Hostel has a good vibe to it and it quite pretty. It is loads of rooms off one long wide corridor that has a small restaurant at the end on the first floor. Even though I had originally wanted to just lie on my bed for forever the air conditioning and fresh clothes gave me the willpower to carry on. As we still hadn’t eaten very well we headed to the Muslim Street which is the very famous food pedestrian street in the city. We passed the central roundabout where the Bell Tower stands and also the Drum Tower. Neither tempted us to go in as we have seen many similar buildings. Plus our stomachs just wanted to eat. As we neared the street my eye was caught by an arch which had balloons spelling out ‘happy birthday’ outside a store. The employees were all wearing pink ‘birthday girl’ hats and I decided I didn’t just want one, I needed one! So I bravely walked into the shop, leaving Lisa to finish her ice cream outside, and the short story is: I was wished happy birthday by the whole store and was given a hat. I think they were slightly gawping at the fact that I could speak some Chinese. As I cheekily added it was my birthday soon too, I was just loved. Now I have a birthday hat! Woohoo!! I left the shop with the biggest grin on my face and with a slightly worried Lisa when I said: “I’m wearing this all day on Monday!”

We found the Muslim Food Street and just wow. There were so many stalls serving varieties of snacks and treats with rows of restaurants behind providing lunch and dinner. We enjoyed ourselves buying a few local foods and watch the life of the bustling street happen around us. It had an excited atmosphere full of colour from the various banners and signs hanging from the buildings and trees. I managed to find a magnet and some postcards and after two and a half hours we made our way out back to the main roads. Then a miracle – for me – happened. We had been hunting for ages for a t-shirt that has the number 21 on it and it was fate to walk into the big shopping centre and find one. I was about to say to Lisa that we should try another shop when I saw it and squealed (and probably scared the Chinese people around me). So I’ve got it! And it’s quite a funky one too! It was meant to be. Especially as it was on sale too! I had a massive grin on my face for a good while and am really grateful to Lisa for her patience during my quest! We then headed back to the hostel so I could leave my hat and top, change my shoes and book the tour to the Terracotta Warriors for the following day. Despite it being over two hundred kuai it sounded so much more convenient, simple, easy and just no hassle. If we went on our own it’d cost about a hundred kuai less but that would mean we would spend up to five hours on transport rather than two to three. After sorting that we headed to the City Wall. The hostel was located just inside it so we were at the South Gate in no time. The wall was impressive however it was a shame that the city was taller than it so we didn’t have a fantastic view of the horizon. Nevertheless we ambled down one side for a while, taking pictures and enjoying our surroundings. The lights and colours decorated the night scene beautifully. At nine o’clock we headed back to the hostel, I felt like I was going to collapse. Despite getting ready for bed early I didn’t sleep until one o’clock and had disrupted sleep since due to people getting up in the night, an older guy removing his duvet cover from his duvet, him also snoring, another guys alarm going off like crazy etc. 

There was one moment this evening where I was just sat on my bed alone in my dorm room, arranging to chat to my old housemates first thing on my birthday. And I’m just crying (a little), laughing, spluttering etc as I chat to Dave on whatsapp. I am bonkers! I probably scared Lisa off a bit when she came in after her shower to find me blubbing a little. That’s what being overtired does to you. I cannot wait to get home (the UK) 💖

Sunday 14th June

I have woken with a thundercloud over my head. Lisa, in contrast, is quite lively. I had breakfast in the hostel and Lisa popped out to grab something. She also came back carrying food for lunch which caused a rumble in my thundercloud because I thought we had agreed to eat the thirty kuai lunch at the Warriors. I’m not mad that she decided to get food because we obviously prefer local meals that are cheap. However I don’t understand why she didn’t communicate with me. Just so I could’ve had time to grab something too. I now had the dilemma of eating the buffet without her or buying something expensive on the street. But, alas, bridge under the water. At nine o’clock we boarded the minibus to the Terracotta Warriors. The guide was lovely! She was enthusiastic, spoke a lot and was very smiley. I warmed to her immediately. Our day at the Terracotta Warriors was good.  I’m glad that we did include this city in our itinerary around China. It was a really nice to chat to different people and hear their stories and what they’re doing in China. The halls that contained the warriors were cool and the whole thing quite impressive. The photos speak louder than words really. It is just cool to say that we have been to the 8th Wonder of the World! 😀 Now for the other seven….. 

We were back at the hostel by half past four and I was ready to pass out. I think I’ve caught a cold and the lack of sleep over the past five days has caught up with me. Lisa however was bounding about like a little puppy – well that’s how I imagine her if she was a puppy – and was eager to walk around. I decided to stay at the hostel in the cafe area and slouch on a sofa. I knew if I went with her I’d be dragging my feet the whole way and forcing conversation which would probably come out as incomprehensible babble. So I remained on the sofa. I managed to sleep for a little while and it did do me some good. However I didn’t end up joining Lisa because my body just felt achey and weak. Instead I happily lounged on the sofa, read a book and treated myself to a pizza. And oh my. It was the best pizza I have had in so long. And a fantastic standard for a Chinese hostel. It was just a margarita but it was freshly made, cooked and served up in twenty minutes. An amazing way to start off my birthday. 😊 Lisa returned at around nine and we got ready to head to the train station for our sleeper at 22:53 to 平遥 ‘Pingyao’. The train is old so each carriage is a massive open space. Each one has around twenty two rows of tripe bunk beds with ladders at the end of the beds for us to use to climb up. The negative to this was all the snoring men or people walking about cannot be shut out by a door. Nor is there privacy. It also stunk of smoke which was horrible. Other than that, I was too distracted by the idea that I’m turning twenty one to care as much as I normally would. So here we go. Hello Birthday! I am utterly excited and hope that it will be a memorable one! ☺️

I love birthdays so much. I feel like it’s such an important time of the year where you get to look back at another year you’ve lived, remember the lessons you’ve learnt, laugh at the memories that have been made and ultimately; feel blessed for what you have today. 

My main blessing is the people in my life. The family, all kinds of friends, the people I’ve only met briefly, what they’ve taught me and how they’ve included me in their lives. I know I sound so soppy but it means me world to me to have what I do. And I love every one of you (you know who you are)

Xo. 

China Travels #5: Chengdu

Monday 8th June 

We left the hostel in Chongqing at eight o’clock and headed to the metro. It took us an hour to get to the North Train Station. We had plenty of time (thankfully) because what we were failed to be told was that there are two north train stations. We didn’t go to the wrong one but rather we had to catch a bus to take us to the other. Fortunately it was easy to do and soon enough we were on the quick train to Chengdu. Lisa slept the whole way (she’s a hoot to be with eh? Kidding!) and I listened to music. I’m finding it rather hard to keep this blog updated as we seem to be so busy and every time I can write it in just not in the mood. 

Lisa has an Uncle who lives in Chengdu and had kindly offered to pick us up and take us to our hostel. We arrived at midday and were at Mrs Panda Hostel by one where we quickly checked in then headed back out to join him for lunch. Lisa’s family are from Guangzhou so they spoke Cantonese to each other. A small proud moment was when I understood some of it! Appropriately enough he took us to a Guangdong (canton) style restaurant for lunch to eat ‘yumcha’. This concept is similar to ‘having dimsum’ when you go to Hong Kong. It is eating lots of little dishes rather than sharing lots of huge plates. Afterwards we were dropped off at the 人民公园 ‘People’s Park’ to have a wander and see a few sights. The park was lovely to walk through. Even though it was smaller than many other parks, it had a lot going on. There were many groups of old people playing mahjong near the tea houses, people dancing in the bigger open spaces, others playing badminton. The most interesting of all the activities was a few men writing on the ground in water. They each had a long pole with a sponge cut into the shape of a brush/pen tip and were writing out passages of characters. It was intriguing because it looked beautiful. But also it’s baffling to think at how many words and feelings have been expressed yet barely anyone in the world would’ve laid eyes on it. It shows how much is left unspoken. One man was able to write in English, and to be honest, he wrote pretty well! He used constructions such as ‘I’ll’ or ‘I’d’ which Chinese people normally find very hard to grasp. He couldn’t speak a word or English and most of his answers to my questions were grunts. Nevertheless I spent a lengthy time watching him write out many things. After a while it was obvious he was enjoying the fact he was showing off his skill. Many onlookers gathered around us to settle their curiosity (even though most were marvelling at me because I was reading the things alongside this man). One elderly man asked Lisa about me and they had a conversation about me. It does drive me a bit crazy that a lot of the time the Chinese (I guess quite rightly so) assume I know no Chinese at all. Even when I can answer for myself, they’d rather have a conversation with Lisa about me. One lady was asking questions about me once, and I’d reply (and she understood), but she’d continue to look and direct the questions at Lisa. Why can’t she look at me?

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable experience and soon enough Lisa coaxed me away to see the rest of the park. 

Even though the Uncle had already picked us up from the station and really generously treated us for lunch, we were invited to dinner too. Lisa continued to ask me whether I’d be happy to go and in that situation what do you do? Do you decline? Say yes? I’m the guest and personally I don’t feel like I have a say in the matter. I didn’t want to step on her family time with an uncle that she hardly sees. So I told her I’d be happy to do whatever she wanted. She seemed to feel a lot of pressure about what the right thing to was and with the added ‘Chinese culture’ it was definitely difficult to judge. In the end, she accepted the invite. We didn’t have long after going to the park until we were to meet for dinner but we managed to also visit the ‘Wide and Narrow Streets’. It was very touristy and most of it was filled with cafés and restaurants however quite fun. In some parts of the wall that ran alongside one of the streets there were sculptures and scenes from the past carved into them. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had dinner at a restaurant that the Uncle’s wife worked at near the river. Basically, it was a huge ship that was now a building or a building made to look like a huge ship. It was a bit daunting at first because they all spoke in Mandarin. However after a while it got easier and easier. Luckily the Uncle had invited a friend along who was chatty so he was able to keep a conversation going the majority of the time. The food was tasty and I tried Chinese yam for the first time which was delicious. It is like a potato but the texture is crunchy like an apple. Probably sounds odd to you eh? We thanked Lisa’s Uncle for the amazing dinner and his generosity and as we walked home from the restaurant along the river and saw some people had taken their shoes off. After a double take we realised that they were walking along a stony paved area as a natural way of getting acupuncture for their feet! Fantastic yet slightly bonkers idea. Only in China… After a rather uneventful day – compared to others we’ve had – we went to bed around eleven o’clock.. Luckily no one was snoring.

Tuesday 9th June

Today we were due to wake up at half past seven however when I woke Lisa, we agreed to sleep longer. She looked more sleepy than I felt and I was just not prepared to face the day. Despite our roommates banging and crashing we were able to sleep until nine o’clock. As sleeping beauty still looked pretty out of it, I had a quick shower and layered myself in sun cream and two different mosquito repellents. Seriously, I am a delicious treat for these pesky insects. My first thought when I woke up today was: “oh my gosh, it’s the ninth of June? How is it the ninth of June? That’s six days until my birthday…. What? No! I can’t be twenty one in six days. Pahaha. Seriously. I’m going to be twenty one in six days…” and it’s been running around my head since. For those who don’t know, I seriously love birthdays. It’s my favourite thing to celebrate. Anywaaay, today we were going to Leshan. It is known for having the world’s biggest stone statue of the Buddha carved into the cliff side. Lisa wasn’t as excited as I was so I felt a little bad for dragging her along but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it… The bus station we needed was less than a five minute walk from the entrance of the hostel. We bought our tickets for the eleven o’clock departure as well as tickets for 九寨沟 ‘JiuZhaiGou’ on the 11th June. That’s going to be an eight hour day bus ride. Yay. Before we boarded the coach we went to get a takeaway breakfast of noodles from a small local restaurant. And off we went! 

The journey took just over an hour and a half and we realised that we were being dropped off in the small city of Leshan rather than at the Great Buddha entrance. Fortunately there was a local minibus that offered to take anyone going to the Buddha for only five kuai. Fifteen minutes later we arrived and it went a little wrong for a while. Before coming  I had asked a few people about the Buddha and whether it was worth it to go etc and the general consensus was “yes”. However in some respects, expectations weren’t met. The price was higher than we expected – especially Lisa as she wasn’t utterly keen to do the Buddha – at student tickets being one hundred kuai each. Hence she was, understandably, cross for a while. I wondered why she hadn’t expressed her strong feelings sooner. I know that she’s Christian but I have no idea whether seeing a Buddha is something she finds tolerable or not. When travelling with one person you have to say what you think, feel etc because otherwise the other is left in the dark. I felt guilty for the fact that she had wished she hadn’t come however in this case there wasn’t anything we could change at that point. There’s no point being grumpy about something, especially when you’re doing so much that is incredible, and you just have to make the most of it. Be lucky for what you have. I know disappointment and anger can be pretty hard to get over but sometimes you just have to count your blessings. After fifteen minutes of standing outside we went in as we had made the effort to come all the way here. I paid for Lisa’s entrance. It feels generous but to be honest I didn’t feel like a good samaritan at all. But rather someone pathetically trying to make up for something they did wrong. Oh well. I had expected it to just be the Buddha however there was a massive park full of other various Buddha statues that surrounded it. As neither of us had a dying urge to see anything other than the main spectacle, we wandered our way to it and back. It still took us about three hours as the park is quite vast but it was good. Unfortunately quite low on my ratings of the many things we’ve seen in the massive country but nonetheless still another world heritage site ticked off the list! The Buddha itself was impressive. It is difficult to comprehend how it could have been carved into a cliff face back in 716 A.D… The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71 metre (230 feet) tall statue carved into one of the large cliffs by the river. It was made to watch over the part of the river that claimed many lives and stock of many boats about 1300 years ago and many believe that it has fulfilled it’s purpose. To be honest, it is quite cool to say that we have seen the the biggest Buddha statue in the world. 

On leaving the park we considered eating lunch there however as nothing was tempting us into the small local restaurants, we opted to catch the bus to the train station instead. After a long journey on both a bus, a train and a metro, we were starving. Especially since we have been so much recently that our stomachs are unhappy when we don’t eat for a while! We went to the very centre of Chengdu to see the central square that has a Chairman Mao statue. After snapping a few quick pictures I was ready to eat any and everything. I’m impressed at the fact that I haven’t eaten a McDonald’s since I started my travels again and I can only put this down to being with Lisa. She is a good influence! However at this moment I was so close to caving in. I was ravenous. We went down into the ‘Sunken Plaza’ which is a small shopping centre and food court underneath the square. Lisa finally decided to have a dish called ‘maocai’ which is a different type of hotpot but more like a soup with lots of foods cooked in it. It was pretty spicy! As we had to wait for it to be cooked, I dashed into the subway next door to buy a cookie to keep my hunger at bay. I didn’t want to become ‘hangry’ at Lisa so this was the best possible solution. I ended up buying a small sandwich for the next day’s lunch too because I had waited so long and wanted to have a break from spicy food. Another bonus to buying the cookies were to calm my mouth down after I ate the dish Lisa had ordered! It was spicy man! The scale I’ve come up with is:

10 out of 10 is bonkers spicy. You mouth is numbed by the Sichuan peppercorns.

6 out of 10 is very spicy. You feel your mouth, lips and throat burning with little respite.

3 out of 10 is spicy. The spice taste is still quite dominant, you still feel it burn.

1 out of 10 is a little spicy. You can actually taste the food as well as the spice.

0 out of 10 is .. Well, everything is spicy here so it’s gotta be a tiny bit eh? I’d say most Brits are this…..

I’ve managed to work my tolerance level up to a three and Lisa can definitely handle a six. The dish we had was around a five or six. The burn! Nevertheless it filled the hole in our stomachs. To quell the fire I had an ice cream at a place called Caffe Bene and Lisa had an iced tea. Sometimes I feel guilty for going to franchises and proper shops because she prefers to eat the local things. But a girl has gotta eat when she wants to eat so… 

We spent the evening in a shopping district called ChunXi Road. I was on the hunt for a t-shirt that had the numbers ’21’ on it but was unsuccessful. However Lisa bought two bargains: a top from a local store and beautiful black maxi dress from H&M which was thirty kuai! That’s £3! She seemed pretty chuffed which I think made up for the tragedy of the trip to the Buddha earlier on. At half past nine we trudged home shattered.

The life of a traveller! 

Wednesday 10th June 

Today is Panda day. I was also reunited with Saisha, my flat mate, and Vivienne, Juliet and Molly’s flat mate who lived opposite us. It was lovely to see them! It was an early start but utterly worth it. We met in the lobby at half past seven and set off in a minibus to the Panda Research Centre. It took around half an hour to arrive and soon enough we were face to face with some of the most adorable animals on this planet. At first I was rather disappointed because the first pandas we saw were in small cage-like rooms which hadn’t been mucked out recently. Many people were taking my photos but I couldn’t bring myself to. It felt cruel. I had expected all the pandas to be out in the open! As we made our way through the park it got better and better. After seeing the first few, the rest were all outside in large grassy pens. The best bit was the ten month old pandas! They were adooooorable. No one could resist their cuteness. Luckily they were quite active, they ran about the pen, chased each other, climbed trees and fell of some of the wood climbing frame. By falling off, I don’t mean they injure themselves but rather they fall onto their backs with a thud but are cushioned by their thick skin and fur! So funny. We stayed watching them for an hour! The time just seemed to fly…We also saw some red pandas and were able to get up close and have a picture with them. I think they are also quite adorable but the others don’t seem to agree. The panda reserve was really good in the end and definitely twice as good as seeing the Leshan Great Buddha. 😆 We arrived back at the hostel at about midday. I ate my subway whilst Saisha had beans on toast at the hostel then we set off for a pedestrian street called 锦里街 ‘JinLi Jie’. The architecture was rather interesting but it wasn’t the best we’ve been to. Lisa tried lots of food and Vivienne had lunch too. We tried Rabbits Head…… And have written about it in our review! That’s all I say… Hehe. I managed to track down one good postcard but unfortunately the woman who sold a good pack had none left. And she refused to sell me the ones on show despite me offering to buy all of them! Man alive. I bought a magnet which made me a little happier and by four o’clock we had done the street. Saisha and Vivienne headed back to the hostel as they were exhausted from their own travels so Lisa and I went in hunt of a supermarket for snacks. Carrefour was the one we targeted. We bought a few bits – I bought olives! Yum! – to eat on the bus the next day and in the park. Lisa still seemed to have energy to do something but I just wanted to sit down. So, thankfully, we headed back to the hostel. 

Unfortunately, as we had mentioned that we were going to JiuZhaiGou after Chengdu, Lisa’s Uncle and his wife had leapt at the chance to offer us things. Although this is incredibly generous and unnecessary, I use the word ‘unfortunately’ because it’s now become quite a delicate topic with Lisa. She is a very lovely and generous person herself but this has been quite difficult for us both to talk about. The Uncle’s wife has a brother in JiuZhaiGou and had offered for him to pick us up, take us to his restaurant, see a show and arrange for a cab to take us to the airport on Saturday morning. When Lisa told me this I felt very grateful but utterly torn. None of it was necessary but I don’t want to appear rude and decline so I left it to Lisa. From my experience with my ex’s family, it is really hard to decline things that are offered. I did say this to her and, sadly, I don’t think it helped. She spent the next half an hour talking to her mum about what to do and was rather stressed. I just wanted to say, “just say no then”. But I don’t feel like I have a say in a family matter that is not my own. She perceived it as a situation where we were just ‘take take take’. I just didn’t know what to think. Eventually we settled on a plan. We’ll give some money to her Uncle and the brother in the Chinese red envelopes so that we can pay them back but not offend their generosity. Sorted! Even though I can’t shift the black cloud of guilt over my head, I hope Lisa feels happier about the outcome…

We went for dinner somewhere local. Vivienne ordered a dish of stir fried aubergine in a sauce with rice. As it was so humid I chose to order a cold dish and it was not what I expected. It was noodles with carrot and cucumber in a really spicy sauce. Shamefully inedible. 😕 Today was just going downhill. Once back at the hostel we waved off Saisha and Vivienne who were off to Thailand and we got ready for bed. It was only half past eight but we were rather tired. I even managed to fall asleep with the main room light on which is a rarity for me…

Thursday 11th June

A ten hour long bus. That’s all I need to say. 

… Okay. Not quite. Although that is the bulk of it! The journey was rather easy. However the bathrooms at all the service stops are the worst I’ve been in. Funnily enough it wasn’t because it wasn’t clean, they were rather spotless, but the layout is rather cringey. They didn’t have stalls with doors. All the stalls only reach around waist height and are L-shaped with a gap to enter. In the centre there is a trough that runs through all of them. So it means when you walk in, you can’t see people doing their business, but when you walk out you can see everything if you look the wrong way. Eeek….. On the bus I read my book, wrote this blog, listened to music whilst Lisa wrote her diary at times and slept for most of it. She really can sleep. During the last two loooong hours I was listening to music and just letting the world go by. Sadly I wasn’t by the window so I couldn’t look out at the beautiful scenery. Instead there was a guy cross from me who spent a lot of time picking his chin hairs out. Riveting stuff! 

As we know, long journeys can make us think deeply, go into day dreams or memories. It’s four days until my birthday. Twenty one. And that just makes me review the last year of my life and everything else! I’m crazy I know. With ‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa (featured in Fast and Furious 7), I am in a pensive trance. A year ago I was on my way to Paris with my wonderful friends Georgia, Richard, Dave, Huy and Christine. Second year exams were done, the year abroad still felt like ages away. I was feeling utterly frightened at the idea of being an au pair and upset at the idea of not seeing Will for ages. I almost can’t fathom how much has changed. Today I’m sat on a bus consumed by two feelings: one being dread that it is forecast to rain all of tomorrow in the park. We’re having a “Yellow Mountain Moment” and are hoping to have a different outcome: that it won’t rain.The second feeling is mixed negativity and guilt about all this fuss with Lisa’s family and how she is feeling. Totally different eh? But to put a positive spin on things, I’m going to be in a country that I love for my birthday. I am also so excited to return back to the normality of British life, to see the wonderful friends who still make the effort to exchange messages with me. Sometimes, to just do everything in one language for once! Life… 🙂

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it mean it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”

Xo.