Nothing Rhymes with ‘Pagoda’

Gonna be a bit photo heavy today. You know what they say, a picture absolves you from the responsibility of writing roughly a thousand words.

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The little village of Quanzhou, population around 1,000,000 people, was my first ‘proper’ trip since I got here. After the initial honeymoon period started to wane I was pretty eager to get out of Fuzhou and see some of the rest of the area.

This was also my first experience of the trains here, which are absolutely brilliant. Clean, fast and dirt cheap they’re completely the opposite of what I’m used to back in the UK. The journey was interesting too. I don’t know if it was from exhausted hysteria or not but two of us ended up pissing ourselves laughing at a piece of what was blatant Chinese propaganda on the TV. The problem was the programme was clearly designed to be moving in quite a different way so I’m pretty sure we were offending almost everyone on the train. It was a programme about a couple who are both in the army and haven’t seen their child for ages for whatever reason. It was astonishingly heavy handed, various shots of the child crying next to photos of their parents and then some kind of bizarre reality TV show involving getting the parents up on stage in uniform then making them watch videos of their child before presenting them with the kid in front of various celebrities. I’m guessing they were trying to make a show of appreciating the sacrifices the armed forces make but my god it was outrageous, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Anyway, the trip was a couple of hours, not bad for 50RMB. First noticable thing upon arrival was how much cleaner the air was. Now this is still China clean, not everywhere else clean, but it was a relief. The cough I’ve had ever since I’ve been here even subsided for a while! Second biggest change was the lack of high rise buildings. All the buildings are small and feel very ‘oriental’. More what you’d expect from a smaller Chinese town, less like the Fuzhouian pseudo-modern monstrosities I’ve been getting used to.

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The hostel was also absolutely gorgeous. Once again, much more in line with what you visualise a ‘picturesque’ China to look like. Image

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The design, small courtyard with surrounding rooms, is pretty traditional, especially up north, and lends itself really well to a hostel. Very social. Or I imagine it is if other people are there, it was very quiet as we weren’t in a national holiday. Just what I wanted though, a bit of peace and quiet.

So the first day we went off to have a bit of an explore. Plenty of stuff to do. Old stuff.

First among the old stuff was Qingjing Mosque. It was pretty mosque-y and pretty old. Built in 1009 apparently, the oldest ‘of its type’ according to wikipedia. Not sure what type that is exactly. Is a surviving mosque a type of mosque?

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Then to the park. Most cities here have a ‘West Lake’ park. Pretty much carbon copied from place to place, but this one was pretty nice.

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After all this we decided we were obliged, as lǎowài on tour, to go out drinking. Had a few drinks in the hostel, pretty sober. Head out to the bar street and I see the most inexplicable thing I have ever seen in China.

There’s a couple with their child. Bear in the mind this is the bar street at about 9-10 at night.

But wait there’s more. The child is on a drip. The mother has the saline bag tied to the end of a wooden stick and is casually carrying it above the childs head like an umbrella.

WHAT.

Believe me I was sober as hell after that. Lucky, then, that we decided to play a drinking game I’ve never played before. Irish Poker. It doesn’t resemble Poker at all, and is only Irish in so far as it involves drinking. It does, however, get you completely and utterly shitted

Normally I find drinking games often actually slow your drinking as you have to wait to fail at whatever ridiculous task has been assigned to the group of people. This one is not one of those. We entered the bar, bought a long island iced tea each and 24 beers, pretty much dead sober. Around 7-8 minutes later we had to stumble embarrassingly towards the bar to buy another 48 beers. Ridiculous scenes.

Fast forward 12 hours. We require food. We lurch, with some great effort, towards a stunning Italian restaurant we had heard about. That was us for about 6 hours of spaghetti coffee aided recovery. And it was bliss!

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Reversion to a standard biological state brought with that horrible guilt ‘We better go and do shit’. So off we went to Kaiyuan Temple. The biggest Buddhist temple in the whole province, the place was a great area to end the trip. It was built in around 600AD originally and felt very well preserved. The grounds complimented the architecture in a way other temples I have seen haven’t really managed, would thoroughly recommend if you happen to be nearby. For whatever reason. It could happen!

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A great place anyway.

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I Don’t Mean To Impose, But I Am Nature

Bloody hell it can rain here. I mean really rain. It was raining so hard last week my bus driver got out of his seat and hit the bloke standing next to me in the face. (May have just been inexplicable Chinese behaviour, but it was raining like hell)

I thought I was pretty familiar with rain living in Cumbria, I thought we had a solid relationship wherein I understood basic things like roughly when it would occur, how to prevent being soaked by it etc. But I understood it about as well as someone who has lit a cigarette understands catastrophic wildfire.

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(The above street will have been dry literally 5 minutes earlier.)

Here it comes out of nowhere. There is a very real ‘here we go…’ factor. No warning, just surprise torrential downpour. And with it comes the thunder and lightning. Of course, like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m glad of the roof on the apartment, a tropical storm at night, when it’s really going for it, is something to behold.

We are getting one really solid storm about once a week at the moment, summer is starting to kick in. Today was about 32 degrees and 90%-95% humidity.. Pretty rough to be honest and it’s not even the height of summer.  But just now it has started to break and the lightning has begun, which means tomorrow should be nicer. The humidity just builds and builds and then explodes, resetting the whole thing.

Glad I’ve got my trusty new fan. My new favourite possession, it has various unnecessary settings, such as simulated wind which alternates the speed and direction at random, which persuaded me to purchase it and I have no regrets other than that I genuinely need a ridiculous fan like this. Bring on the winter.

Chasing your tail.

OK I suppose this is going to have to fit into a new category of post which I will dub ‘ramblings’.

Currently sat at my computer, massively hungover. It’s days like this that I sometimes get travelling guilt. It’s the feeling that “Damn, I’m in China! I should be doing something, not sat here hanging.”. This is a feeling you get more often than many if you’re teaching ESL, I suppose. I forget sometimes that I have a job here, jobs require downtime or you burn out. Further to this, I am in China. 6 months ago I’d have been happy with that, that was the point right? Try and just live here. I’m still experiencing China by moping about my local area on a quest for a bottle of coke and paracetamol. This is the Catch 22 of attempting to ‘travel’ as an activity. If you set this as your purpose you’re setting yourself an endless task.

More than that, it’s a task that continually gets bigger. Not that this is unique, in fact I suppose it’s true of most things. The more you do/better you get at anything the more you realise how much more there is that can be done. But what can be hard, in particular, with ‘travelling’ (hate using this word in this way but seems appropriate) is that it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that you cannot do everything, and it’s likely that what you’ve done is be pretty damn cool!

But still, once you travel somewhere you learn more about it, learn what there is to do nearby. You become aware of places you didn’t even know existed before you arrived and feel compelled to visit them to. Prime example of this was going to Estonia, a country I knew nothing about beforehand. I had a great time, of course, but left knowing much more about that area of Europe and, as such, wanting to visit all these places I’d heard about there! So what starts out as, ‘Oh lets visit Estonia, would be nice to do and it’s another country I can tick off’. Bullshit. You never tick anywhere off, quite the opposite. You just make yourself aware of how little you’ve seen there.

I think this can get people down sometimes. Or maybe it’s just me? But I have occasions where I lose perspective and just think about how much there is to do and how little time there is. But that’s the beauty of it, thinking like that is positive really. You can’t do everything, no more than anyone partaking in any activity can really complete/perfect it. But knowing this is actually something to be proud of.

That’s what I loved about my degree. You leave a Philosophy degree realising you, in your life, really don’t know anything. Not for sure. So in a sense that philosophical pursuit just served to elucidate the fact that the pursuit of philosophy/knowledge is completely endless. But an awareness of this is something I wouldn’t have got otherwise and not something to be concerned about, in fact I feel it affects my life quite positively. And so it is with visiting China and other places. And this is fine!

Perspective is important and this is part of why I suppose this blog will be nice to have, to read back through and remember what I’ve done/seen.

This list of things to do in whatever you’re busying yourself with is getting exponentially longer, but the list of what has been done is ambling along just fine, don’t worry about it.

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