Wednesday, 30 November 2016

2016: Nonstop November!

November has so far been nonstop, quite literally I don't know if this month will ever end! I was ordered to move out of my apartment, worked a weekend and that wasn't the half of it! Getting my life this November it has been a busier affair compared to that of last year, how I enjoyed the honeymoon period of the first semester at my then new ESL job! Get it Wu!

I had lived in the same apartment in Shangdu, Guanggu Square for seventeen months from the day I arrived in Wuhan's Optics Valley. My then landlady took a very relaxed approach to solving the damp problem that I had discovered a week or so before my 26th birthday. I had been assured things would be fixed, sitting unaware of a message that would shake-up my already long Monday I hadn't even opened my surprise birthday cake from one of my students parents. I had kept it together living in that apartment without a kitchen and with a bathroom that was questionable to say the least, it was all about the prime location it held. Checking that notification I was horrified to see I had been given little to no time to vacate the apartment, I switched, it may have been bad timing but no one puts a dampener on my birthday! Oh, hell no! Calling upon a source that needed to prove themselves, I made tracks at once!

Keeping my head in the game I had to get on with work whilst that ridiculous situation unfolded, I had a feeling that the source would pull through, contractually they had an obligation to fulfil! Packing up my belongings felt strange, I knew I had to get out because I wasn't going to continue paying for an apartment that wasn't in a fit state! Viewing four apartments in the other block of the same complex I was sold with the first, the others were laughable! I single-handedly carted my stuff from the old apartment to the new one, getting contracts signed and the initial monetary business taken care of, it felt amazing to have somewhere that I could cook proper meals! The new place has a small kitchenette, a washing machine that has the capability to wash clothes above freezing and a great view from the 30th floor. At the end of things I am glad the problem in my old apartment was managed poorly, it's given me a better standard of living! Oh yes, future landlady's please be warned!

OK, I admit that the next two segments happened in December 2016 but November saw so much happen it wouldn't feel right to place these events in a December blog. On the cusp of December I attended a 'sports meeting' from my kindergarten. Sports days in China don't mean the 'egg & spoon' race or the 'sprint' either because its all about formation routines and marching processions, not forgetting the raising of the Chinese flag. It happened to be a Saturday, representing my campus had to be done, going along with my camera I took some amazing snaps! I have grown attached to these children and it's always a great thing to spend time with them outside the kindergarten with their families in tow. Yes, I'm in-charge of the Bridging classes, these 70 children have stolen my heart, it was amazing to see them march in line for they have grown up a lot! I know I will be a mess when its time for us to say goodbye! Life!

After the routines and marches it was time for the morning games, I helped Damon take part in one of the games as his Dad wasn't there and his Mom had asked me so nicely I couldn't possibly of said no! The Dad's showed off during the tug of war that looked like a show for their Wives, it was entertaining for sure! The whole feel of the 'sports meeting' was really nice, the parents thankfully embraced me into the lives of their children as their English teacher, I might not be the best teacher but I know that they see their children are happy in my classes. For the parents who can speak English they have nothing but nice things to say to me and as for the others who can't speak English they are equally as gracious. I keep getting the awkward questions about my next move, I'm trying to keep my cards close to my chest, at the end of the day I aim to stay with Etonkids. Wuhan's just the beginning! Goodbye's done I returned home to nap before the absolute carnage of Saturday night. 

Blog wise November was a washout but thankfully posts can be scheduled to a previous day, I'm not usually so behind but it's truly nonstop right now! The hangover didn't hurt so bad that Sunday as December made an appearance, I loathe the chaos of Guanggu Square on a Sunday so I hopped on the metro to Zhongnan Road to get some head space. I originally planned to grab a Starbucks but I ended up wandering to a place that had a certain significance a few months ago, I just hadn't confronted that 'ish yet! Gazing from the bridge that fronts a different side of Zhongnan Road's glass and concrete style I took several moments to recognise that things and people had moved on, keeping it straight I have a plan and during that dazed period all kinds of distractions almost jepodardised those visions! Gathering my senses and pulling myself together for the final time, that pocket full of uncertainty disappeared. 

Returning to Guanggu was an almighty chore, I waited for three metros to pass before I could squeeze into one carriage bound for Optics Valley Square Station. Annoyingly, Sunday is a day that people choose to do their shopping and any other general bits as most people work a half day on a Saturday, the seventh day means Guanggu's central area is a crazy mess full of people hurrying to nowhere! November may well have been a nonstop month filled with drama and all that other good stuff but I secretly lived for it! It's definitely a first for a blog to slip through the net, pulling it out of the bag I managed to manipulate the pressures of time. Confronting a sight that need to be dealt with I now feel centred and with a new apartment I haven't stopped cooking for myself! I see a few more Saturdays at work but I know that the extra work will help me show my commitment to Etonkids and secure my transfer to Beijing. December, I'm going to be posting blogs on-time B! Will I really!?

Oh My Life!

Joseph Harrison 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

That Wuhan Weekender!

I don't do best friends but when I got to know Fiona Dade I had to re-evaluate that train of thought. Leaving my Guanggu location I spent another amazing weekend in North Hankou! Dongwu Avenue called me back, I didn't appreciate the Friday night rush hour but with a friend like Fiona it was worth it! It may have been a chilled weekend but we sure served Realness!

Hitting the horrendous Friday rush hour I was against the clock, my onward journey across Wuhan was going to be a long one! Being Friday, all I wanted was a glass or five of red wine but that 702 Optics Valley bound bus had other plans for me. Battling my way off that crowded bus on the wrong side of Optics Valley Station, barely keeping it together I got myself through the manic crowds without any further stress, boarding a Hankou bound metro felt good and I bagged a seat all the way to Xunlimen. Crossing the other side of the tracks I switched from Line 2 to Line 1 of the Wuhan Metro at Xunlimen. Taking longer than it should have, I was finally bound for Dongwu Avenue to see my best one. Putting the journey into perspective I crossed one side of the city to the other, adding my bus journey from school in the Upper Optics Valley it was almost three hours until Fiona greeted me! Where's my wine, girl?! Fiona!

Wal-Mart had plans for us but they had me crazy, apparently I couldn't take my small suitcase into the superstore! First of all I would never shoplift ever but in China of all places, are you dizzy or something?! Grabbing our bottles of red wine, nibbles for the evening and provisions for a fry up the next morning, we were all set the night ahead. Yes, teaching English and living in China is amazing but as soon as Friday whirls around it's all about wildin' out with a few drinks! We had it all planned out because we didn't need any basic energy around us! I had worked up quite a hunger since my questionable school dinner, I needed sustenance quick! Getting back to Fiona's felt great, chilled out to the max with Wal-Mart's finest red flowing nicely it was time to serve the realest! Cutting the crap it's always a pleasure putting the world to rights with Fiona after a week of teaching, recognising a basic nature we slayed! Calling our mums was funny, those two conversations gave us life! A top up F?

Feeling worse for ware, both us were not in a fit state to cook a fry up so we jumped on a bus towards Zhongshan Park. After being frog-marched by Fiona's flatmate, let me tell you I am never told to hurry up! Oh, no! Red Stone Room fronted us, a new eatery that I hadn't been to had been sold to me by Fiona and her flatmate before we had even crossed the threshold. A Full English Breakfast gave my hangover one less problem, accompanied by what tasted like Heinz Baked Beans I was practically in food heaven! I definitely had a diva moment, I borderline refused to eat with a knife and fork because I wanted to eat my breakfast with chopsticks! Fiona snapped me back into place, I knew I was acting the fool, there's no fooling our Fifi! We all enjoyed our food to the max, not going to lie it was great to see Fiona again because our communities are crazy far. Finishing our breakfast's it was back on Line 1 to Dongwu Ave!

Red Stone Room was amazing, it had the feel of a New York City eatery but in the heart of Central China's biggest city! We would definitely be making tracks back to Red Stone's in the next few weeks and then some! Our wine fueled Friday night was on-point but after the amount we sank it was the best plan to have a chilled afternoon in the flat, I wrote a blog about my top three best cities in China that I have visited so far and Fiona took an afternoon nap. How I would love a study like her apartment has! Feeling peckish it was decided me and Fiona would grab a bite to eat at her local barbecue place, Fiona got the food ordered and she didn't do badly at all because it all tasted so good! We had a laugh at some inebriated Chinese men who had their fair share of tonic that day, we didn't talk about the wine though! Calling it a night we settled in with 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills', don't get me started on the new series of the 'Gilmore Girls!' Yes, Fiona agrees it's not too good!

Feeling fresh on that November Sunday morning we were looking for a caffeine buzz, catching the metro to Zhuyehai I was introduced to a shopping centre that dwarfs Birmingham's Bullring! Fresh from our Starbucks fix we were reunited with our good friend Elli, moving onto Wuhan's own IKEA store, we were fronted by some serious uncivilised business! I had previously seen online that Chinese IKEA's resembled doss houses rather than the clean cut Swedish furniture giant like I've seen for myself in England and the United States but Wuhan took the biscuit! Sprawled out across the showrooms it was a sorry sight, it was a true state and no one was being challenged! I wasn't alone in thinking these thoughts as Fiona and Elli also took a side eyed glance at that disordered behaviour! But saving the bacon IKEA Wuhan served us an amazing lunch, I even bought a small bottle of red wine to retox! Fix up Wuhan IKEA! No!

Moving away from that messy situation Elli got her things for her apartment, she was on a mission! IKEA gave us some laughs, I acted the fool by photobombing a lady's photo as she dramatically posed with a fake flower in IKEA! I was like really?! Bidding our fond farewells at Zhuyehai Metro Station, it would of only been a matter of weeks until I made the journey back up to Fiona's Wuhan community within Qiaokou District. From the chaotic journey to serving truth with endless amount of vino it was another class act weekend in Wuhan! I know me and Fiona are both on the same page and have a no bars attitude to the basic things in life. We know that beyond our Wuhan weekends we will be reuniting for two weekenders in the United Kingdom, one in Liverpool and the other in her hometown of Helensburgh, Scotland! If Wuhan can't handle our razor sharp sense of Realness then god help those townsfolk! Thanks Fiona, I can't wait until our next North Hankou Weekender! Bye Fio!

Best Friend!

Joseph Harrison 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

26: Happy Birthday!

I am another year older, does that mean I will get any wiser? Anyhow, I recently celebrated by twenty-sixth birthday in China for the second time! I stayed in Wuhan for my birthday like I did last year, my actual birthday was on a Monday, it was a normal day! Beginning with a top Friday night out to finish off with a lovely meal at Paddyfield. Yes, my specials made it ace!

Wanting to get on my birthday hype I didn't waste any time! Making the most of a half day due to a compulsory health check for my kindergarten I napped in-preparation for my unofficial birthday night out! Yes, Guanggu Square was shining! Donning a slicked back hairstyle I served H&M Realness with my then new long black tee, I don't usually do Friday nights but I wasn't going to miss out on that one! Grabbing some street food for the win, loosing not a moment I made it to Optics Valley Station paying those un-coordinated individuals no mind. Going underground I was en-route to Wangjiadun East it was all about starting the night off with a bottle of red at Hankou's Beer Barn, a bottle bar that I can enjoy every now and then. Meeting my special, Fiona had taken a detour from her Dongwu Avenue location but we were ready for the night, that little delay didn't put us back at all. Oh, I was embracing that pre 26 moment!

Feeling that something basic was brewing it was off to Meso, a new Wuhan nightspot that had a 'Ladies Night' drinks promotion. Cramming into an unmarked people carrier seemed like a good idea at the time, we were only going down the road so it wasn't going to be a problem. Sticking close to the females in the group it was free drinks all round, getting my life to some Afro-beat music I fulfilled my fantasy on the dancefloor! Fiona held her own, we talked the talk and of course we didn't entertain that recurring basic tone. Saturday night is our usual our scene, keeping it one hundred because we don't sit in bars all night! Being real, those Wuhan clubs need to be torn up! But the strong free drinks tasted great, nabbing some champagne I was getting into the birthday mood early! Against all odds we got suitably inebriated, bidding a blurry farewell along Jianghan Road I was more than ready for my bed! Making up for a Monday birthday I was happy with that Friday night B!

Saturday was dedicated to ridding ourselves of an awful hangover, I am getting the hang of shaking off those Wuhan headaches after almost eighteen months. The previous year I took myself to Tanhualin for coffee and cakes as my 25th birthday fell on a Saturday rather than a Monday! Nevertheless, I wanted to make this years birthday celebrations as great as the previous b'day weekend in Wuhan, China. Saturday needed to finish because I was looking forward to a hearty meal, it gets tiresome eating rice and noodles all the blinding time! Joined by Elli, we met Fiona at Huangpu Road Metro Station to find Paddyfield Irish Bar & Restaurant. We had liked the review very much from Wuhan Social, the lure of home-cooked pub food had us running for a table without hesitation! Saturday's McDonald's delivery meal had worn off by then, I needed something more hearty to satisfy my appetite! A pint?! Yass girls!

Had we been transported to an authentic Irish pub? Quite possibly yes because Paddyfield's decor reminded me of my years living in an Irish pub in Wolverhampton, England. So, we were still standing in Wuhan, China but we had been transported to what felt like something closer to home, three pints of lager ordered our mouths watered as we deliberated at what we were going to order! The fish and chips were a winner, served with freshly made chips it was beyond amazing not to have any life-threatening bones hiding in the fish! Chatting away like the world was about to end it was mind-blowing to think that our time in China had past the half-way point, we took several seats to make the most of a rare sober gathering. Making mine the apple pie, I had no intention of sharing because it simply tasted too good! Finishing our two courses and well enjoyed pints, we left Paddyfield feeling very satisfied. Can you get a food hangover? Chinese food is nice but I need some home cooking! Like, now!

My twenty-sixth year had begun with a new week, fresh on that November 14th morning I was ready for a full day of teaching. I saw it as a normal day with a nice twist, I was busy with my everyday gig but I loved it when the children sung happy birthday to me, it was beautiful! November had so far been a nonstop month, having something nice like my birthday was nice to compliment the day. Making a fruit smoothie it was nice to leave the flashcards behind for one day, the children adored that healthy alternative to their usual fizzy drinks. Like I mentioned before I had the 25th birthday to myself to explore during my 25th birthday, being a worker now it was something I got on with, my weekday birthday was made special by doing what I'm loving here in China. If I remember correctly the lunch wasn't too bad, I didn't get the noodles like I did the previous year! Thanks for singing to me kids! They are the best!

Monday being my busy day, I prepared quickly for my weekly after-school lesson that starts not long after dismissal. I have been teaching this extra class since late September and it was a great addition to be teaching my after-school kids on my birthday, after our class I was surprised with a lovely birthday cake by one of the mothers, it was totally out of the blue and totally appreciated! More than tired I was ready to go home, to sleep to hopefully get over that hectic weekend! Beginning after that unplanned afternoon nap I was catapulted into a crazy and hungover weekend that included a delicious meal at Wuhan's Paddyfield, concluding with a blessed day of teaching and a lovely cake! I have every faith that my 26th year will be as great as the last one, China is a mad place to live and work in but I can see great things on the horizon! Keeping it simple I know that Wuhan has served me two great birthday weekends but I would love 27 to be a Beijing thing! Anyhow, I'm liking 26!


Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 10 November 2016

China: Chengdu, Xi'an & Guilin...

Oh, I could give a million reasons why any of the following Chinese cities are my top three since arriving in June 2015. Ranging from Giant Pandas, Terracotta Warriors and a Guilin wonder, I am going to need a few moments to get my facts straight. It begs the question, if one good reason could see me make a return? Let me pay attention to my best ones! Work Lady China!

Chengdu stood ready for a National Day marathon of crazy, even though it served a sense of chill compared to its Chongqing cousin I was immediately intoxicated by the inviting local dialect. Keeping things simple I followed what signs were given to me, I knew CDU would show me a legendary time regardless of my spontaneous path. Wenshu Monastery's tea garden presented itself as the first highlight of my Sichuan visit, I sipped my green tea brew without a care in the world. Finding some tea house culture in Chengdu definitely ticked one box for certain, I wanted to see the Pandas! I'll be honest by saying I wasn't as fresh as a daisy when I climbed into my Panda bound taxi after a scandalous night out, I wasn't going to miss my chance! Catching the sights of those beautiful Pandas was amazing, it was like nothing I had ever seen before! But compared to the others I wasn't acting the fool CN!

Going underground I was feeling reckless, people had said to me that Chengdu's liberal nature harboured a thriving Gay scene. Following some dodgy directions I found the rainbows, making my way over the threshold of MC Club I felt safe and euphoric because I thought I wouldn't see such a sight exist in China! Getting my groove on I had an amazing time, feeling like a celebrity I luxuriated being the only foreigner in the club! Did I leave by myself? Hell to the no! I always know how to play some tricks! Being invited to tables for free drinks I was treated like a celebrity for real, one lady thought I was a 'beautiful man!' Fulfilling my fantasy I got into the Chengdu groove with ease! Returning the following night I added to my previous unspeakable antics to ensure my National Day stint in China would end with a bang! I took a different exit from MC Club on my final scandalous Chengdu night out, I went underground in another sense but that will stay as my dark secret! I got that good!

2016 started with an almighty bang, getting my life I embraced the ancient city of Xi'an! Trusting those Terracotta Warriors I wasn't disappointed with the offerings of that provincial Shaanxi city! My highlight of that 2016 kick-starter had to be the bustling Beiyuanmen Muslim Street, it had my senses in a mess, it was a crazy, mental scene with what seemed like a million lights and smells fronting me! Getting it together I took some amazing photos of this foodie paradise, specialising in Hui Muslim Chinese food, I was sincerely in food heaven. Going in for the kill I bagged myself three or so lamb kebabs, they tasted amazing, not too much spice because that's not what I'm about! Re-hydrating I found some fresh Beijing yoghurt drink, I'm not going to lie I probably bought three bottles of the stuff! Roujiamo who? Yes, I found a Chinese hamburger, a Hui favourite snack that was delicious! Hui Chinese style Xi!

Waking up before the birds, the January weather bite like a bad one but I was on my way to see the legendary Terracotta Warriors! Being New Year's Day I used my brain unlike the other visitors to Xi'an by boarding my tourist bus before eight in the morning! Leaving the security of the walled city centre it was exciting to be heading towards Lintong District. Paying the tourist outlets no mind I was all about those 'warriors', getting to a birds eye view of their tight formation it felt amazing to have accomplished another China travel milestone! The lengthy bus queue for the 'warriors' made me laugh, get your 'ish together people! Heading back to the city I headed for the southern part of the city wall, not appreciating the hazy polluted skies I made the best of that historical sight. Why did Xi'an make my top three best cities in China? That Shaanxi wonder served nothing but Realness, adoring every second I took off for Wuhan feeling satisfied! New Year's 2017, no pressure boop!

Breaking my rule I took a scenic expedition to China's Guangxi Zhuang Autnomous Region, experiencing the mystical nature of Guilin and its mesmirising heaven like wonders! I had set my sights set on visiting Guilin from the moment I decided to explore my options of moving to China. Upon my descent into Guilin I was horrified to see so much mist, I didn't want my tour to the rice terraces to be a wash out! A pint-sized city centre Guilin was but it was perfectly formed, no need for a metro I made the best of my time getting around on foot. With the sun setting on my first day I marvelled at the dazzling Sun and Moon Pagodas, they shone effortlessly over the waters of Guilin's Fir Lake. I was sure ready for my trip to Huangluo Yao Village and the Longji Rice Terraces the next day. My main motivation of visiting Guilin would amaze me soon enough! I got so very lucky with my WADA Hostel flow! Yes, Yangshuo's next! Go!

Driving away from Guilin's city centre for a much more scenic view, Longsheng County had a thing or two to show me! Flipping their hair back and forth I had the chance to see the Long Haired Ladies of Huangluo Yao Village, set deep in the mountains these on-fleek ladies brought their jet-black sleek locks and served sass! Stopping for lunch within the wooden Huangluo Yao Village I enjoyed a top lunch, that bamboo steamed rice never tasted so good! Sweeping into the distance the beauty and mystery of the Longji Rice Terraces impressed me to levels that were created in my mind first when I gazed down at Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour a few months earlier to that Guilin time. Nervously making my way around the unguarded terrace path to where my driver was going to pick me up I had pull my senses together, the views may have been spectacular but my fear of heights was not welcomed that day! No way! Need I say no more why Guilin made the top three?! My wildcards are next!

Chengdu, You Were Nasty Good!

Joseph Harrison